Meet the talent: Viktoriia Karasenko

Finland was a cultural shock, but in a pleasing and liberating way, when I look at it in retrospect.

Meet the talent: Viktoriia Karasenko

Like many other millennials out there I love The Office, the sitcom brings me comfort and joy no matter how many times I watch it over and over again. Ironically, this time I felt a bit of a zing when I heard this line, because as much as I worry about Michael’s well-being in the series, I could definitely feel that my own career path was taking unexpected turns, and I had no idea what to do.

But first things first, I was born and raised in Ukraine, and due to unprecedented events, I had to leave my country in 2014. I was incredibly lucky because my parents live in a small city called Longyearbyen, which is located on the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. I moved there for a year and got my first job as a waitress. That is when I absolutely fell in love with the hospitality and restaurant business. A year and plenty of aurora borealis after, in 2015, I moved to Finland to study a bachelor's degree in Hospitality, Tourism, and Experience Management at Haaga-Helia UAS.

Finland was a cultural shock, but in a pleasing and liberating way, when I look at it in retrospect.  Moving to a new country at 18 and alone is a scary thing to do, however, it also builds a character for many other future shake-ups in life. During my studies, I started working in a restaurant, while also taking part in school activities (e.g helping organize internal events, and volunteering at Slush and small business fairs). I got a glimpse of other possibilities out there, other perspectives, things that would inspire people to take risks and invent something without a fear of failing. I think my visits to the Maria 01 office, and meeting startups as a part of my work at Slush, have planted the seed of curiosity towards startups and tech inside my brain. During the next 5 years, I finished my studies, gained a scary amount of transferable professional skills that can be applied almost everywhere, and built a successful career within the hospitality industry, becoming a restaurant manager in the very heart of Helsinki only at 24.

And then, in the middle of the summer of 2022, I took an absolute leap of faith and quit my job to pursue a new career path.

The funny thing about the hospitality industry is that when you are out of it, you are on your own. I felt that there was not much room left to grow inside the restaurants, where I would actually feel inspired, grow professionally and be happy as a person, so I knew exactly what to do. I was ready for a big change, the change was not ready for me, however. It was a brave and scary decision,  which I am proud of, but after 4 months of futile job search, the reality hits hard with the struggles of being a foreigner with a very specific education and vibrant work experience, but only based on a specific industry. So here I am, world:)

I am a strong believer in chances, and that it only takes one person to believe in you and give you the possibility to prove yourself. The rest is on you. So when my good friends Elena Popovici and Unai Egiguren told me about the Herizon and the Growth Hacking Internship, which they went through themselves and praised so much, I felt that this was my jam. And maybe after many months of being in a haze of unsuccessful job search, in a much more real sense, I actually might have an idea of what to do.

As this is the community that focuses on supporting immigrant women in tech and startup culture, I immediately knew that it was the place to be. I have been doing a lot of self-studying about growth hacking, and it seems like an amazing next step in my career to utilize all of my previous experiences and gain so much more at every step. With the support of this amazing community, my own burning motivation, willingness to learn and do anything to become a successful professional, I believe that only amazing things will come out of this internship.