Alumna of the Year Kirsi Karlamaa: ‘If you want to change society, study electrical engineering’

The School of Electrical Engineering Alumna of the Year 2019 is Kirsi Karlamaa, Director-General of The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.
ELEC vuoden alumni kirsi karlamaa, traficom kuva: Annamari Tolonen
Alumni of the Year 2019 was awarded at the AlumniStudent Weekend seminar on 26th of October 2019. Image: Annamari Tolonen / Aalto University

The Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering Alumna of the Year 2019 is Kirsi Karlamaa, Director-General of The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom. According to the judging panel, Karlamaa has excelled in her career and has been an active advocate for studying electrical engineering.

‘The proportion of women in the industry is still small, and only about 15% of new students are women. Karlamaa is an excellent role model for both men and women. She has visited the students at our school to talk about her career and has actively encouraged and supported young people to study and plan their future careers in the field of electrical engineering,’ said Jyri Hämäläinen, Dean of the School of Electrical Engineering.

Karlamaa graduated in 2000 with a Master’s degree in Radio Engineering from the Electrical Department from what was then known as the Helsinki University of Technology. She has worked as Director of Administration of Radio Frequencies, Director of Security, Director of the Cyber Security Center and as the Director-General at the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA). She currently serves as Director-General of Traficom, which was established at the turn of 2019 through a merger of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi, the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, and parts of the Finnish Transport Agency.

Kirsi Karlamaa, what did your studies bring to your career?

The studies have developed my attitudes and values, above all, my perseverance and curiosity, and a belief that anything can be learned if there is enough will. As far as I can remember, out of about 300 students in my year, only six were women, half of whom completed their studies. Working in a very male dominated technology industry has sometimes been challenging and has required effort to build credibility.

Studies in space technology and radio engineering were interesting, and they have provided me with excellent foundations to understand and structure the world. Some of the other great benefits of studies are networking skills and being part of a community of graduates. It's always a pleasure to bump into a student acquaintance, and friends from school can also offer professional help and support.

I also have great memories of good teachers from my study days, especially in electromagnetics. Every now and then remembering my overall student times puts a twinkle in my eye!

What have been the highlights of your career?

I have been building a safe, smooth and service centric digital society in the administrative sector of the Ministry of Transport and Communications for almost 20 years. I have been heavily involved in implementing changes that affect the whole society, such as the transfer of terrestrial TV broadcasting from analogue to digital and now to the world of high-definition. Changes in mobile technology and the transformation of service from 2G to 5G have always been part of my work as well.

Why is studying electrical engineering important now and in the future? 

I think that studying technology and being able to see what technology can do in the future is very important. Expertise in electrical engineering is a resource that, for example, enables us to create a more sustainable and cleaner environment by developing our energy production. This expertise will be heavily involved in creating future smart transport, smart city solutions and innovation potential.

Breakthroughs in radio technology will not end with 5G networks, but will continue with 6G networks and other solutions that follow. If you want to be changing society and be part of creating a vision for the future, you should study electrical engineering!

How do you feel about the Alumni of the Year award?

I am surprised, humbled and grateful to receive the recognition. At the same time, I hope that I can create confidence in current and future students that there are attractive and interesting jobs in this field.

Alumni of the Year 2019 was awarded at the AlumniStudent Weekend seminar on 26th of October 2019. The seminar was organised by students guilds Automaatio- ja systeemitekniikan kilta, Sähköinsinöörikilta and Inkubio together with alumni association Automaatio- ja systeemitekniikan alumnit, alumni & student club  Sähköklubi, student club Sähkövoimatekniikan kerho, professional association Energiajohtajat ry and Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering.

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