Working together over unit and team borders

Author: Jenni Sara

Aalto University had the honour of organising Opintoasiainpäivät from the 27th – to the 28 of September. Opintoasiainpäivät is national event put on by the OHA forum annually where people from student, teaching and learning services can meet and network with colleagues from other universities.

The event is organised by one university at a time and therefore there is no ready-made organisation or team to organise such an event. In a LES forum gathering in early spring 2017, Head of Learning Services Eija Zitting asked volunteers to organise the event. I hadn’t heard of the Opintoasiainpäivät before, but I volunteered from personal reasons. I like organising events and such, although my daily work or job description doesn’t include these kinds of tasks. I’m thankful that such an opportunity was offered widely to the staff and I got to be a part of it.

The core organising team met first in spring.  There were some familiar faces and people that I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with or to get to know before. As planning proceeded more people came along. Some members of the organising team had experience from different aspects of organising events. The way the tasks were spread between the team members was flexible and done with consensus. There was a good team spirit throughout the whole organising period and during the event.

Team members came from different units around the Otaniemi campus. At first we had meetings less frequently and at the end at least once a week. In the final weeks before the Opintoasiainpäivät event I felt that there were no longer unit or team borders as in Aalto University’s organisational structure. We were all just a team working tightly together towards a common goal.  One of the core things was to share information with the organising team’s members. We had the wiki site and other ways to keep in contact. Email was the best way to stay in connect with all the different aspects of the organising period. In some occasions a commonly used chatting system would have been useful.

The number of attendees expected at the event was 120, but the actual total numbered nearly 200 over the two days. I think this was a reflection of the good spirit we had during the whole organising period and, of course, that everything was done before the event and things ran smoothly. During the event, everybody in the organising team was ready to help in whatever task were needed.

The best thing for me as part of the organising team was to get to know colleagues in the other units and to find out about their expertise and skills. The same situation has happened also in many training sessions I have attended. People have said that the best thing of the training was meeting people from different units and teams and hearing how things are done in other units.

I have already used the organising team’s connections in other occasions and consulted the team members. In my opinion, in the end we had a great shared experience and we now know that we can contact each other whenever there is a need to consult regarding some matter. I hope there will be other opportunities to work with these people again or with other staff members over the unit and team borders. Here are some comments from other members of the organising team.

Opintoasiainpäivät 2017 was a fantastic example of project-based cross-functional cooperation, as it is the way of working we will increasingly promote in our university. To professionally run the show, we needed expertise e.g. in event planning, finance, practical arrangements, facilitation, social media and digital tools, campus and photography. Being part of the organising team offered a great opportunity to learn a lot from people I don’t otherwise work with in my daily HR role.  -Riikka Rissanen, HRD Specialist (HR Services / People and organisation development)

This cheerful experience enhanced my thinking that we are not just workers of a specific unit. Most importantly, we are members of Aalto! -Miia / U-LES

I am pleased I was asked to work at the event. It was a nice change for me and I met many new colleagues. More co-operation and work beyond the team borders at Aalto University. Great experience!  -Marja Leppäharju, Coordinator at the Aalto ELEC Doctoral Team.

Author: Jenni Sara