Interview with the Coaches – Minttu & Joni

Last Friday afternoon Communication & Social Media Marketing group got the chance to meet the very busy but always cheerful and energetic coaches Minttu Ripatti and Joni Ramu. They started at Y-kampus just a bit before the global pandemic was to determine completely new confines within working life, compelling them to create positive interaction and build relationships through online tools. From the beginning of the Summer Challenges 2020, we have been wondering how they are doing behind the scenes – and what has it all been like from the viewpoint of the two most important characters in the course?

What were their expectations for the Summer 2020?

In the beginning of the course the coaches did not have too many expectations for it, since it is the first time that something like this is carried out remotely. The open mindset has actually made room for the possibility that anything can happen. However, the overall feeling and experience has been very positive, and the coaches feel like their sessions with the innovation teams have been successful. Ensuring that people are getting the most out of the experience and that the help given is sufficient, are demanding aspects to consider as there are different individuals, and therefore, different needs. The mid-course feedback received from the students has had very encouraging effect, as it has helped the coaches to see things in new ways and to move forward with a better overall vision.

Behind the Scenes

Our coaches’ days are full of meetings with the assisting coaches and other coaches, Y-kampus team and other supporters, commissioners and the innovation teams. As a coach it is very important to be as interactive with the teams as possible. Minttu really enjoys being in contact with people; for her, listening to the students and offering emotional support with the guidance of her intuition are the key ways of functioning. Joni wants to make sure that the teams keep pushing and going forward by offering options to help them in their work. In order to coach effectively, he considers catching up with all the teams and creating a clear vision of this course and the goals as priorities.

Positivity as a Core Attitude

There is a lot of work in managing all the various channels where is simultaneously so much going on – and keeping up to date with the great amount of created data every day does not happen by itself. In any case, it is the little things that make the difference for the better in daily communication.

Firstly, the coaches keep their cameras on in every meeting. Minttu also wants to emphasize to the students that she is in the same level with them, showing that she is a human being with her faults and that she also makes mistakes. It has been very valuable for her to share stories from her past and to underline that it was thanks to the hard times she has been able to create the positive attitude that is very present in her actions nowadays.

Choose the positive side of things, always. Being kind to others and saying things nicely can be extremely helpful in creating the atmosphere in which teams can show their ideas openly. “I was worried that I would not be able to be as present as I wanted, but it has also been a positive surprise that we’ve been able to divide our time as coaches so that the teams have got the feeling that we can keep present and participate and sort of create that atmosphere of safety and trust, so that all those “dare to suck” moments can be presented to us as well,” Minttu says. Joni believes that everyone can be nice to each other through the web also and says: “You can always use empathy, say things nicely and be kind. All of that, good manners and all are forwarded through online tools also.”

The concept of Mentoring online    

Working remotely has caused occasional uneasy times for Minttu and Joni, because it’s much harder to control everything that is going on through online tools. Joni says the most challenging thing has been not being able to follow up all the innovation teams and their progress as it is impossible to be present everywhere at the same time. Mentoring someone and not meeting them face to face – that definitely adds up to the complexity of communication.

Minttu has also felt that the concept of control is rather vague online. Not being able to affect the things going on has made her anxious at times, since she is a perfectionist and a problem solver as well. She seeks for the answers to questions and the solutions for problems. However, during this course it has become harder for her to do that since she has had to realize she cannot control everything going on in many teams. It is challenging to let things be.

Providing opportunity for everyone

On the flipside of the remote working, there have been some realizations such as trusting your instincts in determining what has been useful in coaching sessions. Another one is the importance of gaining empathy and building trust when you cannot meet face to face. It has been one of the most rewarding things for the coaches to learn things from the students as well. “I have actually learned to stay quiet and let the solution emerge from the students’ special knowledge,” says Minttu. Joni thinks he has learned something new from the students every day, saying: “I have been amazed by how students have learned about mind mapping and making ideas concrete for instance.” He is proud of seeing the progress students make and how pleased the commissioners have been by the results so far.

Social distancing has had its toll on some of the students more than others. For instance, providing an opportunity for people to stay in contact with someone in this situation has been one of the most fulfilling things for Minttu. Sitting down and having meetings about life-changing issues with the students has helped her to stay positive and continue coaching that matters.

The importance of stress relief and mindfulness

“When I am having a very rough day, I usually go to shower and put music on while I am there. I neutralize stress like this , it is like starting a new day,” Joni says. He thinks that mindfulness practices are a valuable tool to keep your mental fitness, and sometimes taking things a little easier is a good way of releasing stress. “I usually start my mornings by going for a long walk or running,” says Minttu. She tries to avoid huge adrenaline peaks by doing small activities regularly. For Minttu, it is also very important to break boundaries and talk about mental health with others, partly because she has suffered two burnouts during her lifetime and she finds it valuable that people open up to each other even about the toughest issues.

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, not worrying about the past or the future. Minttu has concrete and simple, yet beautiful examples for keeping yourself here and now: “I have tried to really get my senses open, so I have tried to listen what the sound under my sneakers sound and how the birds sing and what does the sea sound like, you know the waves in the sea, and how the spring smells and stuff like that.”

Coaches’ tips: Get Energized by Empowering Your Attitude and Having Fun!

We all need some strong and inspiring role models to emulate. We can possibly gain some of their strengths if we are lucky enough to be in their presence, yet sometimes one simple sentence in the right situation might well do the same. Here are some of our shining coaches’ thoughts on how to keep motivated and to gain energy.

“It is the curiosity about life, I am always waiting for what’s happening next. One of my mottos is that “just let the winds blow” meaning that I will, of course always plan things at work, but in my spare time I will never plan anything, I am ready for everything.” -Joni

“If I think about my life six years back, I would have never thought that it is even possible. I started the university when I was 30 years old and I never went to college in Finland. So, I only took degrees from 1 to 9 and then became a practical nurse. So being able to share my life experience with the students now, it has been a remarkable thing for me so far. There is nothing to be worried about.” Minttu

“I have had a little bit of struggle during my lifetime so for me getting up every day and working my dream job and getting to do these kinds of things, I am super happy and excited about it. So that is what gives me so much energy.” -Minttu

“I do not know what is going to happen in the next six hours but I’m somehow excited about it.” Joni

“Things come and things go, enjoy the ride.” -Minttu

“People who feel appreciated, will always do more than anticipated.” -Joni

What’s Up for the Summer after the Challenges?

After the Summer Challenges 2020, Minttu will have a long holiday dedicated to the family before her youngest child starts school. Her favorite summer activity is swimming in the public swimming pool in Helsinki where she has spent most of her summers.

Joni will have a bit less free time than Minttu. But when he will, he is probably going to head on a terrace (if possible) and have a laugh with his friends. He really enjoys living in the moment.


Text: Laura Palosaari (Communication and Social Media Marketing Intern at Learning Lab)