If you are reading this post as a new arrival to Laurea Masters Program, I salute you. Congratulations of getting in for this ride. It’s a ride where you get to meet awesome people and it will provide you in-depth knowledge about service design and all that it has to offer companies. I promise you will leave this program with confidence and knowledge you need to improve your career.
Although I have not graduated just yet, I can now say that I survived the Laurea Masters with decent grades. I came with the patch of 25 students who passed the 2011 entrance test. We were the second patch ever to be accepted to Laurea Service Innovation & Design Masters degree program.
My background is bachelor of Laurea and I have worked for eight years as a marketing manager at a mid-size tile importing firm. So I am not a designer by education or profession, more of marketing pro. The reason why I applied to the program was because I do not want to be shouting how good offerings companies provide, but to be developing new offerings that beat the old ones. I also believe that while traditional manufacturing companies have moved to cheaper countries, developing new kind of services is the next big thing.
Without further babbling about me, here´s a few pointers. When you start the degree program, you should start by reading a book about service design. I promise this will help you start your journey. I recommend Designing Services with Innovative Methods: Perspectives on Service Designs by Satu Miettinen and Mikko Koivisto (who you might meet during the program). Also the book This Is Service Design Thinking by Mark Stickdorn is an easy read and provides a holistic view on what you are studying. See http://www.servicedesignbooks.org for more books on Service Design.
After you have read the book, decide your thesis subject. Yes, really, before even starting your studies. It sounds crazy, I know. But you have to decide your thesis subject there and then. The studies compile of courses where you need to make 5-25 page long literature reviews, learning diaries, project summaries and other writings. If you have your thesis subject ready, you can add these writings directly to your thesis. I give you an example. My thesis is to develop a new service for architects. In the Deep Insight to Customers and End Users course I wrote 28 page long literature review about ethnographic research and in-depth interviews. I could use the material directly to my thesis work. You need to have your thesis subject ready in order to spot these chances to write your thesis during the courses.
So how do you select a thesis subject? I chose to gather customer insight with an interview method and to develop a new service offering for the firm I work for. I did not discuss about the topic with my boss, because the thesis is for my learning and it has to come from my own interest. My style was to present here is what I am going to do. If you let your boss figure out your thesis, you will not learn things that are useful and interesting to you. Remember, a thesis is only practicing to work. You can for example make a new service to your current customers (or internal customers) with the tools you like. It is that simple. To admit, my first target group was housing cooperatives, but I changed it to architects, tough I was curious how they make decisions how they design buildings. Key point is that my subject was designed so that I could switch jobs or customer group and wouldn´t have to change my thesis subject.
After you land at Laurea, get to know your fellow students. I have never met as many extroverts in one room and I was stunned how people connected in the same level as our patch did. We had engineers, marketing people and design people in the same room and boy did we have a great time. I will probably miss the days we spent at school; tough I really enjoyed the people there. After all, you will all share the same pain of getting the tasks done. We organized parties and started our own Facebook-group to discuss topics related to service design and to get in touch with each other. Service design is a relatively un-known topic in firms and you probably do not have a lot of colleagues with the same education as you, so it helps if you bond with people at your class. They might be the only ones who get you when you are talking about service design.
The most important thing in order to survive the Masters Program is to do everything that you are told in the given time. I will make myself clear, that everything you leave behind will haunt your mind all year around. Do yourself the favor of not letting tasks deadlines pass a day. Your mentors are more forgiving to you than you will be on yourself. There are people at my class who have had to redo some courses because they didn´t do their project on time or at all. Mark every deadline to your calendar and make a schedule for every task you have to do. I once had about 65 pages to write to a few courses, but luckily I had one month time to do them. If I would have waited a week before getting my hands on the tasks some projects would have definitely slipped my fingers. I showed my study schedule to my wife at times to keep her informed that I would not be looking after the family at these times.
At class do some notes. I chose to take my laptop with me at every class, tough you have to make a lot of summaries what you have learned during the courses. It helps if you have some notes you can easily convert to understandable paragraphs and where you make notes of your own thoughts about the subject. You might also need the notes when starting to do a project work for the course.
Don´t be alarmed about the amount of pages you have to write. When you use Laurea´s writing principles you have one page for cover, an index page, abstract page, and sources page. Before you have written anything you have four pages already! If you write one page with Times 8 pt font it equals almost three pages in Laurea settings. So don´t concentrate on the number of pages. You will easily make up 10-20 pages. Just concentrate on the quality of your writing. Note your references correctly and try to discuss about the subject more than copy-paste nice quotes. There are no exams at Laurea MBA program, the pages you write will make up most of your grade.
An important thing is to sell this at the office and at home. You need backup to get this degree done. Ask if you can get the session days paid as education days. Also make sure your boss knows what service design is and what you are able to do with it. Inform what courses you are taking right now. At home you need about 6-10 hours a week to do the given tasks. This means you might have to skip some hobbies and do some night-time studying, but it´s easier if your spouse can take care of the kids or walk the dog when you read and write. I explained my dream of an MBA to my wife and she totally got it. I have dropped photography for a while to concentrate on my studies.
I hope you are not only here to get the diploma. I hope you are curious and will use the skills you learn here. There is no point of acquiring this kind of competence, if you do not use it. I suggest you start using the methods you learn at lectures on Monday at work. Don´t wait until your thesis is ready or when you get your diploma. At Aalto University a 3 day course of service design costs 2750 euros (+ vad). The people who go there will definitely need to use the methods to get their money’s worth. You need to do the same, even though the lectures cost nothing to you. Know that you are privileged. Know that your schooling costs a lot to society and people at Laurea expect you to transform your organization to a service-oriented from inside-out.
How to survive the Laurea Masters program
- Start by reading a service design book
- Get support at work and at home
- Decide your thesis subject before school starts
- Get to know your fellow students and teachers
- Do your tasks on time. Make a study calendar. Stick to it.
- Take notes at class
- Concentrate on quality of your writing
- Enjoy the ride
Best wishes to good luck to you on your Laurea service journey.
Soon to be ex-student in Laurea Service Innovation & Design Masters Program