You're originally from Greece, but you spent the last six years in Finland working on your PhD in Health Sciences. What made you decide to go for a PhD? What have you learnt during your journey?
As a child in Athens, Greece, I was dreaming of spending some years of my life somewhere very different from my culture. The reason for that was my inner voice motivating me to live a life completely different than in Southern Europe. I wanted to challenge myself, to explore my limits, to learn, to develop.
The decision to pursue a PhD was based on three factors. First, my curiosity to learn more about the field of eHealth. Mental health, education and technology are my passions, and Finland is the right country for someone who wants to investigate these fields. Second, my acquaintance with a bright Greek PhD candidate at the time - Dr. Evanthia Sakellari now - who inspired me to continue with my academic path. Third, the hunger to learn more, as during my clinical work as an occupational therapist I felt I could give so much more to my patients if I could strengthen my research skills.
The PhD process was a huge challenge and an amazing gift at the same time which taught me a lot. The main challenge was something that it is generally understated, how lonely path the PhD is. You are expected to learn a vast variety of different research -and not only- skills, adapt to the academic lifestyle, while maintaining the quality of life (relations and personal time) you had before the beginning of the PhD.
Although challenging, the PhD gave me opportunities, time and space to develop my academic, research, teaching, managerial and life skills, and meet many inspiring people around the world. The newly acquired skills and the people who came in my life taught me how to appreciate life more (e.g. be happy for having one hour of free time, or being out in the sun, etc.), to try and make my life more simple, yet fulfilling. Having a PhD certifies you to run a research and teach at the University.
However, for me the biggest lesson during the 6-year PhD journey, away from the security of my home country, taught me how to be more giving, more humble, to believe in the kindness of strangers, to be brave to tell the truth, to appreciate good health, a sunny day, a tasty meal, the physical presence of my loved ones and honest relationships.
What motivated you to start Knowledge Unicorn?
In 2012, during the second year of my PhD in Finland, I visited Boston to present at a conference at Harvard University. It was my first visit to United States and I was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship. I started thinking how I could use my knowledge and expertise in order to help people, not only through publishing research papers or providing only occupational therapy sessions.
Since then and until early 2017, along with my PhD study I participated in various entrepreneurial events and trainings to strengthen my entrepreneurial skills and way of thinking. However, I could not objectively judge if the business plan I created was good or worthy of implementing.
So, I decided to use this business plan and apply for the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI), a program in which 100 European entrepreneurs and innovators are selected and provided with the tools, networks, and resources to grow their enterprises. I though that if I would be selected, it would mean that my business idea was good and has to be implemented. Some days before my PhD defence, I received the acceptance letter that I would be the one to represent Finland for the YTILI fellowship.
I was happy, excited and at the same time scared because this was the sign I needed to expand my career. The valid proof that I should trust my instinct and pursue a career also as an entrepreneur. In the end, there are no limits, only those we set in our minds. I was fortunate that various people believed in this idea, were supportive and encouraging like the staff at, the University of Turku, the start-up community ‘SparkUp’ in Turku, the Turku Region Business Service Center ‘Potkuri’, the people I met through the YTILI fellowship.
+Your life motto?
It is a quote from Aristotle which guides me on a personal and a professional level: ‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’. So my mission is to never stop educating my mind and my heart, and support others via technology to do the same.
Christina Athanasopoulou is the Founder of Knowledge Unicorn, a PhD researcher, and an online teacher at the University of Turku, Finland. Christina is also a Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative 2017 Fellow and an Ambassador of Southwest Finland.
To find our more about Christina, visit: http://tinaturku.com/
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