A year and a half in an Executive Director’s life

By Nina Pitkänen

Let’s be honest. The past year has not been what any of us expected. We have faced so many curveballs and plot twists that I’ve lost count of the times we have had to change our plans both as individuals and as a community. 

For KY, the pandemic situation has not been the only major thing going on. The selling of the KY Building and changes in the personnel have brought us to a situation we haven’t faced before. We have renewed our Code of Conduct and processes regarding it, and prior to the outbreak of the pandemic we also renewed our financial processes. So in summary, a lot has been going on for the past year and a half.

The Executive Director at KY is recruited for two years with an option to apply for a third year. This spring I was faced with the decision about whether to apply for an additional year and unlike I had planned when I applied for this position and thought for the most part of my term, I decided not to.

The main reason why I decided not to apply for an additional year was because I wanted to make sure that I could continue to take care of my wellbeing and wouldn’t become overloaded. Although rewarding, leading and carrying out big changes one after another and adapting to new situations on a daily basis is heavy.

So far I have been able to take care of my work life balance and my wellbeing but as the pandemic situation and uncertainty regarding our premises continue indefinitely, it requires more and more effort. In an airplane you are advised to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others, and in a way that is what I feel I’m doing now. Thus far I’ve been operating with my mask on, and I want to continue doing so for the rest of my time as the Executive Director.

In addition to my personal reasons, I feel now is the best time to change the person in charge also from the point of view of KY. We are in the middle of a strategy process and starting a new strategy term in the beginning of 2022. It feels only natural that the new strategy has also a new person leading and implementing it together with the KY Board.

When making the decision, I wrote down the things I have learned and gotten through my job. The list was long, so these are just some highlights from it:

  • The Executive Director has to keep the big picture and long term in mind and act accordingly. Thus I have learned to prioritize even when it means I have to say no to some projects that other people might feel are important.
  • I have learned so much about financial management, all the way from budgeting to everyday processes. 
  • I have learned a lot about HR and about being a manager. The Executive Director is the foreperson of all KY employees which means taking care of employees’ wellbeing, supporting them and taking care of the administrative side of employment (salaries, vacations, occupational health care etc).
  • I have learned to address very difficult topics. The Executive Director is together with the Chair of the KY Board the contact person for all inappropriate behavior cases at KY. The cases are rough, and it is important to process them all according to KY’s Code of Conduct and have conversations both with the victims and with the accused perpetrators.

All these reasons (and many more) are why I would definitely apply for this position if I hadn’t had the experiences already. It is unique to get this much responsibility at this age and point of career, and KY as a workplace is very communal, funny and ambitious. Although being one of the toughest periods in my life so far, working at KY is something that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The friends I’ve made, the things I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve had are something that I can and will cherish forever.

I’d like to say to the next Executive Director that this position has it all: a lot of responsibility, tight community, purposeful mission and possibility and freedom to execute your interpretation of KY’s strategy. I’m not going to lie – sometimes the work is really hard but it is also the most rewarding position I’ve ever had. It feels amazing that I have had the possibility to make a difference and do my part in changing our community for the better. A lot is still to be done, and that’s why we need you to make sure also the future KY generations will have the best possible opportunities to live the best student life in the world.


The application period for the role of the Executive Director will be open 7.-21.4.2021.


Nina Pitkänen


0500 430 546