Aalto University alumnus Petteri Isotupa: ‘Dare to think and to ask why’

Master of Science studies in mechanical engineering gave Petteri Isotupa an excellent starting point for his career. In his will, he wants to remember Aalto University and support future generations’ opportunities for a good education.
Petteri Isotupa

Petteri Isotupa learned about technology at an early age, as the family had a metal and electronics workshop in his childhood home. ‘One time, my father towed a car into the yard, brought me a box with a replacement engine and said: When you get the engine mounted and have the car inspected, it's yours,’ Isotupa says with a smile and continues that he has always enjoyed solving problems.

Isotupa did not need to think twice where he wanted to study. After the upper secondary school, he headed for the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) and its mechanical engineering department. He completed the advanced courses of his mechatronics studies in design automation. 

‘The study years were hectic, as alongside my studies, I worked part-time almost all the time, not forgetting the social life either. I worked at Wärtsilä Shipyard's CAD team (computer aided design) and later as CAD application development engineer at Kemira Systems. I also worked as an assistant at HUT.’

Isotupa did his master's thesis in mechanical engineering on the development of the geographic information system for facilities management and graduated as Master of Science in Technology from Otaniemi in 1992. After his graduation, he moved to Canada, where he has lived and worked ever since.

Isotupa fondly remembers the engineering studies of his youth. With his bequest to Aalto University, he contributes to supporting the future generations’ opportunities to study. ‘I want to support Aalto University’s field of technology in my will.  My Alma Mater “TKK” offered me such a good education and starting point for my work as an expert in my field and my further career development. This donation is my way of giving back to my university.’

Back to school

Over the years, his work with design automation applications has allowed Isotupa to get acquainted with a variety of fields, ranging from shipbuilding to risk management at an oil and gas company, and from urban design and landscaping to oil refinery structures. When solving clients' problems, Isotupa says that he often returns to the lessons Matti Kleimola, his professor at HUT, taught him about what innovating is all about.

‘Kleimola advised us that it is much more important to understand why something is done than what solution you are aiming for. When we realise this, we are not necessarily bound by the solution proposed by the client, but we think outside the box, which may lead to a completely different outcome. When I come across an impossible to unresolve problem in my work, I go back to the question: why do we do this, could this be done differently?’

In his work, Isotupa has needed not only an open attitude but also a desire and enthusiasm to learn and adopt new things. He also went back to school and completed an MBA degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, his home province.

‘It was really nice to go back to school after having gained work experience and perspective on the real world. Like me, my fellow students were also studying part-time, and we had many productive discussions that also allowed us to challenge each other.’

After completing his MBA, Isotupa has managed IT application development projects in several different companies. For the past ten years, he has worked in the Openlink software company on developing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for agricultural commodities.

Aalto gives you a good education that teaches you to think. Dare to do things, dare to think, and remember to ask why.

Petteri Isotupa, Aalto alumnus, Master of Science in mechanical engineering

Support for university and students

Isotupa actively follows the activities of Aalto University, even though he has lived in Canada for decades. The thing that particularly interests him in Aalto's multidisciplinary approach is how the University combines creative sectors and industrial design with engineering expertise.

‘Whether talking about a technical device or an everyday tool, the user interface is of great importance today. Designing it requires cooperation between different fields and consideration of usage from new perspectives. The importance of user interfaces will certainly continue to grow if companies want to compete in the global market with their products.’

Isotupa visits Finland every year but has no plans to move back to his native country. His home is in Canada. ‘My wife is professor of mathematics and associate dean at the Lazaridis School of Business at Wilfrid Laurier University. Our home is quite often filled with students. My wife has also made a bequest to her own university. Universities have played a big part in the lives of both of us, and, with our donations, we want to support students and teaching.’

What would you like to say to current Aalto students? ‘Aalto gives you a good education that teaches you to think. How you manage your career after that is up to you; you must dare to do things and, first and foremost, you must dare to think. And remember to ask why.’

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

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Petteri Isotupa serves also as an active volunteer, as a local contact person to students and alumni in Canada, in the Ontario area.

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 Nora Rahnasto

Nora Rahnasto

Donor Engagement, Individual Giving and Legacy Gifts
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