Marika Pyykkö |  From Corporate Executive to Professional Coach: My Transformative Journey

Author Marika Pyykkö

Published 5.6.2024

Coaching Leadership

Marika Pyykkö |  From Corporate Executive to Solopreneur Coach: My Transformative Journey

After spending over three decades in the corporate world as a senior executive,I began to reflect upon how I could turn the most fulfilling parts of my job into a more significant part of my career. As Marcus Buckingham wisely said,  

You need to turn the best of your job into the most of your job.

I wanted to merge personal passion with professional development for long-term success. This realisation led me to study Henley Business School’s Professional Certificate in Executive Coaching (PCEC), a programme that has since transformed my career and life. Today, I am a solopreneur, having taken the leap from the corporate world to pursue a fulfilling career as a professional coach. 

The Corporate Life

Reflecting on my career, I can see how my previous roles have provided valuable insights into the transformative power of coaching and its positive impact on business results, change initiatives, and increased engagement scores. Serving as the Country Manager for H&M Finland & Baltics for over a decade, I utilized coaching and various psychometric tools as strategic development instruments for our leadership team. 

Our achievements were the outcome of a long-term collaboration with external coaching providers. This partnership led to significant milestones, including the succesful launch of three new markets in under a year. Furthermore, our culture transformation efforts were acknowledged with a recognition as the 2nd best company in Finland’s large company category by the Great Place to Work institute. 

Inspired by these results and the valuable insights gained, I have over the past 15 years incorporated coaching skills as a fundamental part of my professional toolkit. As Jitske Kramer aptly put it,

People shape culture, and culture shapes people,

which perfectly illustrates the essence of our cultural transformation journey. 

Discovering Coaching 

With these insights, learnings, and growing self-awareness about which parts of my job felt more meaningful than others, I felt a desire to use my strengths with purpose. Recognising the pivotal role of coaching in fostering employee well-being and organisational success, I transitioned into the Global HR Team. This move required relocating to Stockholm for a 2-year commission, where I commuted home to my family on weekends. There, I leveraged my passion for coaching by becoming a certified Strengths Coach, and I was also a part of the Change Team supporting our leaders in navigating the transition from a Country to Regional structure. This change represented a substantial shift in ways of working across various business segments, impacting leaders, managers, and teams across international markets.  

This experience highlighted the essential role of coaching leaders to take on the responsibility in leading their teams through change and I realised the growing need for skilled coaches in the business world.  

Decision to Enrol at Henley Business School 

Choosing Henley Business School for my coaching certification was a strategic investment. With prior coaching experience, I sought a programme that offered the next step in coach training and accreditation. Henley’s PCEC programme, accredited by the ICF, EMCC, and AC, met these criteria perfectly. Additionally, it’s the only university-level coaching programme offered in Finland, which made it an even more compelling choice. The enrolment process was straightforward, and I was thrilled when my application was accepted, allowing me to embark on this transformative journey. 

The Learning Experience

The PCEC programme at Henley was transformative, combining theoretical knowledge with practical coaching sessions. Engaging with experienced faculty and peers from diverse backgrounds broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of effective coaching practices. It helped me identify my coaching approach, define success, and pinpoint areas for development. As Carol Dweck said,

Becoming is better than being.

This mindset of growth and continuous improvement was reinforced throughout the programme. 

The curriculum's foundation in ICF competencies was particularly valuable, clarifying what the coach needs to bring or display to meet the requirements of the role in today’s environment. Henley Business School provided a strong foundation, making the credentialing process smoother by covering all essential parts, such as personal approach statements, coaching hours logs, development plans, video recordings, transcripts, and additional coach mentoring and supervision hours. 

Transitioning to Solopreneur Coach  

I believe I’m a better coach because of this comprehensive training. How do I know? I’m receiving recommendations from clients and referrals to their colleagues and friends. The positive feedback, combined with me feeling happier working with something fully aligned with my values, confirmed what my inner voice was trying to tell me. Creating a business around my lifestyle also offered me the flexibility and independence that I’ve longed for.  

I also believe that the length of Henley’s training allowed for thorough skills development over a long period, building my confidence and competence, and enabling me to grow into my new role as a Professional Executive Coach step by step. I think that you know the moment is right to take the final step when you can’t stop thinking about it and the cost of not doing it is equally significant.  

Deciding to embark on this new chapter and follow my purpose has been one of the toughest and scariest decisions I’ve ever made. But as Richard Branson once said,

If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small,

and this decision indeed pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Saying goodbye to something I’ve cherished for so long was hard, yet I’m forever grateful for all the opportunities, challenges, and experiences that have shaped my growth and contributed to the person I have become. It also opened the door to new possibilities adventures aligned with my purpose.  

Impact and Reflections 

Today, I am setting up and managing my own coaching practice. I’m participating in professional communities, and I continue to update my skills and knowledge through professional development opportunities provided by ICF and EMCC. The Henley network has been invaluable, providing a supportive community and opportunities for collaboration and growth. 

The most rewarding aspect of my new career is witnessing the transformation in my clients. Assisting executives and professionals who are willing to bring their whole selves to our conversations to pause, engage in their best thinking, embrace new perspectives, and ultimately make informed decisions that positively impact the broader system in which they operate brings immense satisfaction. Reflecting on this transformative  journey, I feel a profound sense of fulfilment and alignment with my values. 

Inspiring Others 

To anyone considering a career in coaching, trust your instincts and pursue what ignites your passion. The PCEC programme at Henley Business School offered a robust foundation and transformative experience. It equipped me with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to thrive in the coaching profession. If you're passionate about personal and professional development and ready to take the leap, Henley's PCEC programme could be the key to unlocking your potential as an executive coach. As Albert Schweitzer said,

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. 



Marika Pyykkö

Marika Pyykkö

Marika P is a professional executive coach affiliated with ICF, holding a Senior Practitioner EMCC accreditation, and is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. She passionately advocates for a “coach approach to leadership,” believing that when leaders adopt a coaching mindset, everyone benefits. Marika P provides leadership coaching, training, and facilitation services to help organisations and leaders cultivate inclusive team and leadership cultures.