Sara has the most interesting background you can imagine, starting in Iran for her bachelor's in Industrial Engineering, and including society-changing projects and fascinating doctoral research into tech investment. Hear about her journey and how she is keeping up the learning as a supply chain consultant at aioneers.
My name is Sara Tilabi and I am a supply chain business consultant at aioneers. Outside of my professional life, I spend most of my time hiking because I love being in nature and I like to keep active. Aside from hiking, I spend lots of time listening to podcasts. My favorite ones are ‘No Stupid Questions’, ‘Freakonomics Radio’, and ‘Fifth Floor’.
Building on a love of math
During high school, I was very good at math. Therefore, when I was choosing a field to study within university, I was interested in finding a subject that contained math elements. On the other hand, I was not interested in studying pure science, as I wanted to establish my career in a field that had clear, practical applications. That is why I applied for some engineering fields for my bachelor's study at university and ultimately, I chose industrial engineering. Industrial engineering is a diverse field that uses different analytical tools to address and solve real-life business problems from the operational level to the strategic level. And this is what I like about it.
Having gotten to grips with lots of different subjects in the field of industrial engineering, I decided to focus on supply chain. Everything in our daily life is related to supply chain, and I wanted to work in such a relevant field. Plus, lots of business-related challenges are in fact supply chain issues. So, supply chain is a very urgent area and is a great chance for contributing towards solving current challenges like fighting climate change or offering higher and stable service level for the people and society during crises. Because of this, supply chain offered a meaningful career path which is most important to me.
From Iran to Finland
I studied in Tehran, and afterwards I was drawn to the idea of working in a manufacturing site. I wanted to get experience in different parts of production like inventory management, quality control, production planning, and other similar areas, which all had connections with industrial engineering. I had a great opportunity to work in a pioneering manufacturer of audio and video door phone systems. This was an excellent opportunity for me, partly for the work I would be doing and partly because the company was very close to my home – a big determining factor when you are living in a city as big and widespread as Tehran!
Still, I had wanted to work internationally, exploring new cultures and new ways of living since my adolescence. Therefore, after a couple of years of working, I decided to do a master's in a European country. I got accepted by a Finnish university in the field of industrial management and travelled over. Initially, the weather was a big challenge for me. But after a while, I got used to that and eventually, I learned how to enjoy the darkness of night in the middle of the day and the brightness of the day at the heart of the night.
Dynamic path: from social housing projects to tech investments
I stayed longer in Finland and started working on a project regarding social housing. To start, I must mention the social housing system of Finland is one of the most successful ones in EU. It’s based on the ‘housing first’ model. The crux of this model is to provide unconditional housing, meaning that a home should be the secure foundation that allows people to build their lives, rather than it being conditional on other aspects of a person’s life. In any social housing system, three main different stakeholders play roles: the state (and or municipalities), for-profit organizations, and of course customers. These stakeholders have different and sometimes contradictory interests. A successful system is one that detects and satisfies the needs of all these three stakeholders simultaneously. In our longitudinal project, we detected the needs of these three stakeholders and measured their satisfaction over time. Additionally, we proposed solutions to enhance the satisfaction of these stakeholders over time. This project was conducted at the strategic level and the basic principles of supply chain e.g. demand forecasting, facility location, network analysis was widely applied. This was a great example for me of how the field of the supply chain can be active in such important areas. I learned how the facility location (meaning finding appropriate spots in the city for social houses) helps in creating an inclusive society and supports sustainable development.
I also did my PhD in Finland, in the field of economics and business administration. My doctoral dissertation was about technology investment which is an extremely important topic for firms. On the one side, it supports innovation. On the other, excessive investments in technology can be risky, because launching new products too frequently prevents firms from gaining a satisfactory return of investment. Therefore, finding a perfect balance is always a paramount concern for firms. In my doctoral thesis I developed and validated a technique that facilitates decision-making process related to technology investment. As we are in the era of digitalization, we see continuous and fast advances in technology, all occurring at double the speed of at any time in the past. In this regard, a technique that assists in technology choices will prove immensely beneficial to all companies.
And now, to aioneers!
I defended my Ph.D. in June 2020. Afterward, I started to work for a Finnish start-up, but I was keen to develop myself further and gain more international work experience. Specifically, from the supply chain perspective, Germany is among the highest performing countries in Europe. I finally joined aioneers in May 2021. I have been working at aioneers for more than a year now and I am very happy about it. I have a very different background to a lot of people from aioneers, which makes it interesting for me. I have spent many years working and studying in supply chain, mainly at the strategic level and less at the operational level, and I can still find new things to learn at aioneers. The learning curves I face are a big part of what motivates me to work and continue working at aioneers.
The other big factor is that it is a great pleasure to work with highly motivated and talented colleagues on various interesting supply chain-related topics. I must admit it was not the easiest choice for me initially as I had already built my life and social network in Finland, but now, having lived and worked in Germany, I developed myself both personally and professionally. Of course, none of the valuable choices in life are easy, and this one was certainly the right one.
I think choosing a career path is one of these valuable choices. In my opinion, there are very few people who know what they want to achieve exactly from the starting point. For many of us, we start from some point and as we proceed it becomes more and more clear and precise about what we want to achieve ultimately. And to me, it is completely reasonable because we gain more knowledge about ourselves and available opportunities over time. So, in this regard, the career path is more like a dynamic concept rather than the static one. I think we should put our best at different steps on this path no matter if the work is big or small. And at each step, we can evaluate if we are in the right direction or if we need to seek new challenges and explore new paths.
Thanks to Sara for such an eloquent look into your career. If you are also looking for a challenge, why not apply as a Senior Consultant at aioneers?