Construction industry influencer Maija Jokela has been named School of Engineering Alumna of the Year 2022

’Sustainable development and energy efficiency are at the heart of planning in construction projects. Together with Aalto University, we are working to make strides in these themes as well.’
Maija Jokela
Maija Jokela, Alumna of the Year 2022, Aalto University School of Engineering. Photo: Ramboll Finland Oy

Maija Jokela, Managing Director at Ramboll Finland, has been named Aalto University School of Engineering Alumna of the Year 2022. This is the seventh time the recognition has been awarded by the school. Jokela is a well-known influencer in the construction industry.

‘Sustainable planning of the built environment guarantees that in the future the use of buildings, roads and green areas will adapt to changes in society and serve the needs of different people. Maija Jokela has long experience, especially in managing large projects and demanding teams of experts. As an expert in the design of construction projects she has shown that it is possible to influence the sustainable and energy-efficient development of society as a whole. Her career is an excellent example of how the traditionally male-dominated construction industry offers great opportunities for women as well,’ says Dean Gary Marquis.

‘I am really happy about this appointment. Aalto University is an important partner for us, and we cooperate in a variety of ways, a concrete example being our own office in the university's premises. Together with the Ramboll Foundation and Aalto University, we are able to invest in research and ensure that the field continues to receive research information and top-class practical know-how. We are thinking about ways to promote international cooperation. I also consider the Building2030 consortium, which develops a vision for the Finnish construction industry, to be an important cooperation activity,’ says Managing Director Maija Jokela.

Jokela graduated with a master's degree in Building Construction Economics and Construction Materials from the Helsinki University of Technology in 2006, majoring in construction economics. After graduating, she worked for several years at Sweco, for example in charge of the project management and construction division. In September 2021, she was appointed Managing Director of Ramboll Finland Oy. Jokela holds several positions of trust and has served as the vice-chairman of the board of SKOL, an industry association of engineering and consulting companies. Technology Industries of Finland listed her among the TOP 5 young leaders in 2016. RIL, the Association of Construction Engineers, selected her as the Construction engineer of the year 2021.

Aalto University's School of Engineering appoints the Alumnus of the Year to support the school's work with stakeholders and thus promotes discussion between the school and alumni with societal influence. This year was the seventh time the School of Engineering chose the Alumnus / Alumna of the Year.

Introducing Alumni of the Year 2022 Maija Jokela

Would you tell us about yourself and your career path? How did you become the Managing Director of a large engineering and consultancy company?

I originally wanted to become a doctor, but I applied for other places to study just to be sure. A friend told me about the Helsinki University of Technology. At first, I wasn't sure of my choice, but little by little, as my studies progressed, I noticed that the choice was the correct one. The first years of study, however, were spent more in guild and professional subject club activities than in actual lectures.

But after getting a summer job at a construction consultant company, I better understood how important and influential the construction industry is in our society as a whole and what different career paths it offers. From there, my career continued in project management jobs, then in the management team of Sweco PM Oy, which bought the summer work company, and finally as Managing Director of the entire company. When I started looking for new challenges, Sweco PM changed to the much bigger Ramboll.

As a person, I am open and straightforward. In order for us to be able to respond to climate challenges together and implement projects in the best possible way, I think we need to learn to understand and listen to each other even better.

What is the most interesting thing in the industry right now?

Definitely sustainability themes. Designing our living environment to be diverse and flexible is crucial in order to be able to adapt to climate change and reduce the vulnerability of people and nature. Engineering and expert companies play a significant role in this. For example, we create new information about energy-efficient construction and sustainable  mobility, investigate the effects of construction projects on the environment, design sustainable and vibrant cities, and purify wastewater and rehabilitate polluted land areas.

What kind of career paths does the construction industry offer young people?

There are very versatile expert jobs available in the construction industry. For example, Finnish engineering expertise is so strong that it is worth investing in it as an export product. A career path doesn't have to be straight-forward but can sometimes include steps to the side as well. The most important thing is to listen to your own voice and seek out interesting things.

What is your advice for students considering a career in engineering? What should you study and what kind of skills should you develop for the future?

In the future, a working career may well consist of varying roles and jumping into new directions, so I believe that the desire to learn new things and the courage to challenge oneself to renew oneself are important. Language skills are becoming a necessary requirement in the internationalising job market, as are good communication skills. Curiosity, an open mind, and the ability to listen to different points of view are important in all kinds of work.

The best lesson learned during your studies that has been helpful in working life?

I consider the activities of guilds and subject associations during my studies to be very valuable. Acting as a Freshmen Captain, organising events and excursions, cooperating with different people and entities, and searching for funding and partners taught me coordination and management skills and gave me direct links to companies. The friendships and networks created during my studies are still important to me.

What do you think is the best climate act?

Finland has one of the most ambitious carbon neutrality goals in the world. I believe that good climate action comes from thinking together with customers and partners about what kind of solutions we can use to achieve this. And we should boldly take our know-how to the world. I also try to live sustainably myself. I think everyone has their own personal responsibility to do so.

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