Listening to Aleksis Nokso-Koivisto describe his work career makes the listener feel almost out of breath, such is the number of career changes and leaps from one field to another made by this 40-year-old.
Aleksis Nokso-Koivisto

Nokso-Koivisto is known for Tussitaikurit, a company making whiteboard animations, for the Rapport crowdfunding platform that reformed journalism and for SmoothTeam, a company that coaches teams in work communities.

His career switches already started when he was a student. He changed from IT studies at Helsinki University of Technology in Otaniemi to studies at the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki and also completed a minor in pedagogy and courses in clowning at the Theatre Academy. He spent one year serving in the board of the National Union of University Students in Finland.

His master's thesis, awarded the highest marks, discussed copyrights in an international environment, but instead of continuing with the subject, Nokso-Koivisto moved on to work as a research assistant at Hanken School of Economics, the Swedish-speaking business school. Next, he worked in management consultation in a company called Synocus, and after that as the executive director of Otus, a research foundation for studying and education.

”There were two researchers, an occasional research assistant and myself. I changed from a permanent job to a ridiculously small organisation and to a job with a smaller salary. But I wanted to have a go at running the organisation which I had been following closely at Synocus. I found that thrilling.”

In four years, Nokso-Koivisto managed to increase funding for the foundation to the extent that, in the end, the number of employees rose to ten, including the part-time employees. After that, he became interested in whiteboard animation, which had just started to spread across the world. Nokso-Koivisto noticed that by drawing, it was possible to explain complicated matters in a way that people could understand.

Tussitaikurit, at which Nokso-Koivisto still serves as the chair of the board, was founded in 2012. With its fifteen employees, the company is currently the largest maker of whiteboard animations in Finland. Tussitaikurit has made a whiteboard animation on Europass, among other things.

In Africa at the age of six

”Almost everything I have done has been of benefit to me somewhere else,” says Nokso-Koivisto.

The year at the National Union of University Students in Finland taught him about working with people of different backgrounds. In the clowning courses, Nokso-Koivisto got to know Susanna Alanne, who was skilled in drawing and later became the artistic director of Tussitaikurit.

”When I worked as a taxi driver and a waiter, I learned a lot about working with people. With some people, I was on the same wavelength, while with others, nothing seemed to work. One customer even made a complaint about the colour of the restaurant's walls. Good and bad experiences teach us to work together with other people.”

Nokso-Koivisto's brother Oskari Nokso-Koivisto has often been involved in the same projects with him. The younger brother's career has been at least as diverse as the older one's: at the moment, the singer who recently graduated from Sibelius Academy works as an adviser for energy policy. The youngest of the three brothers, Olli Nokso-Koivisto, leads the rapidly growing software company LeadDesk.

One explanation for the brothers' rapid career changes and developments may be that there was no television in the Nokso-Koivisto family.

”It had nothing to do with religion and we were not banned from watching the tv, but my parents thought that chewing gum for the brain would not be good for us. We children of course disagreed with that, but thinking now, it was a good thing. When we did not have an entertainment device passivating us at home for two or three hours every night, we had to come up with different things to do.”

The family living in the small town of Nokia was not one of the most traditional families in the 1980's Finland in many other ways, either. The father, who was a doctor, and the mother, who worked in the IT sector, took the family to Nigeria for six months and have later lived some periods of time also in Zambia and Tanzania.

”I became international in Nigeria when I was six years old,” says Nokso-Koivisto.

New opportunities

It is time to start wrapping up the interview as Nokso-Koivisto must rush to Aalto University in Espoo. Having stepped down from the position of CEO of Tussitaikurit in summer 2016, Nokso-Koivisto has begun – alongside the position of CEO of SmoothTeam and his other projects – to study again. This time he is interested especially in storytelling.

”I am involved in the Aalto Ventures programme, which is related to leading start-ups. In addition, I am studying storytelling and how to act on a stage. I am interested in how a story helps to make the message understood.”

For those who struggle with career choices, Nokso-Koivisto has a comforting message.

”When you are young, the choices you have to make may seem huge and final. But the world is a complicated place, there will be new opportunities and you will be able to make new choices. Very few work careers today are so strictly defined that there would be only one pathway to follow.”
Nokso-Koivisto's own plans for the future are open again.

”Now I am going to see what comes up next. The important thing is to do your best in whatever you do, learn and find something new.”

Text: Silja Ylitalo