I already knew before I was in school that I would become an engineer, says Marja-Terttu Tanttinen
The world of technology was opened to Marja-Terttu Tanttinen by her father, who worked as a foreman at Schauman's factory in Jyväskylä. ‘With my father, I got to see the machines in the factory. Factory visits organized by my father and especially the foundry, which was gloomy and dark, but a fascinating place where the embers of the fire glowed in the dark, awakened my interest in technology. When I saw the teekkari (student of technology) caps during Vappu (1st of May), I thought that I want a cap like that too.’
Tanttinen got into the textile department but switched into industrial engineering and management by chance. ‘I bumped into my friend's boyfriend in Jyväskylä, who told me that he got into the department of industrial engineering and management and told me to apply there too! So, in the fall I marched to the rector’s office, and he accepted my request. This was one of the best coincidences of my life.’
Active guild years
Tanttinen lived in Otaniemi during her studies. ‘Our course was wonderful! We were a close-knit core group that had things going on all the time. At that time, the teaching was course-like, and we were together both in lectures and in our free time.’
During the studies, students did excursions abroad, mostly to inexpensive Eastern Europe countries. Fundraising for the excursions required ingenuity. ‘One time, the boys marched to the general manager of SYP and told them that they needed money. They suggested that we spin markka coins around the city and advertise SYP. And that's how we got money!’
‘Another time, the boys went to KOP's general manager and told that we have Retupärän WPK and a tram that we could use to drive from one office to another and wash windows. And we got money again.’
The most dramatic trip was to Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1968. ‘The day before the Hungarian, Russian and Polish troops rolled into Prague, we left for Warsaw from there. At night we could hear the planes flying back and forth.
We didn't know what had happened because all the media were shut down. We took a bus from Warsaw to East Berlin, from where we had a flight to Helsinki. The plane was the last to leave Eastern Europe for the West.’
During her studies, Tanttinen served both as the hostess of Prodeko and the Guild Mechanical Engineers and as the first female president of the Guild Mechanical Engineers. ‘One evening, my fellow students from Prodeko came to sing the Cuban serenade, the theme song of the Guild Mechanical Engineers, under my balcony. They might have been partying and decided to come and sing for Marte, as I was called.’
Tanttinen has kept a connection with his alma mater by participating in the Aalto Women network as well as in the alumni activities of Aalto University and Prodeko.
Keeping contact with old course mates has, in turn, been wave-like. ‘Years may go by when we don't meet, and then when we do, it's as if we just met. It's awfully easy to be with them,’ says Tanttinen.
A versatile career
Tanttinen feels that her studies gave her a good foundation for working life, which she already started while doing her thesis at Ammattikasvatushallitus (now Finnish National Agency for Education). ‘They couldn't afford to pay me a salary, but they organized a scholarship from the President Urho Kekkonen's vocational education foundation. In honor of that, Kekkonen invited the scholarship recipients to raise a toast in Smolna."
From Ammattikasvatushallitus, Tanttinen moved to the Rationalization Association as an ergonomics instructor. For most of her career, she worked in the Technology Industry, more than 30 years. ‘I was offered other positions, but my job in the Technology Industry was a vantage point and my duties changed regularly, so I decided to stay there.’
’At first, I was responsible for publishing and professional development, from which I moved to the production technology department. From there, my path led through the statistics department to occupational safety and health to the legal department. In addition to interesting tasks, the working community was nice. And even though I worked in a male-dominated field my entire career, I was always treated fairly and equally.’
Work in the Technology Industry was international. Tanttinen especially remembers the trip to Britain, where a British lord introduced the upper house of the parliament and took the group to dinner at Britain's oldest gentleman's club. ‘I also received an invitation from the Lord to a charity dance. The party was supposed to be the same week that Diana died, so the event was cancelled. I went to Kensington Palace to write my name in the memorial book.’
Tanttinen has served on the boards of many organizations and companies and worked on behalf of her interests.
‘In the 1980s, my father was placed in long-term care, which made me pay attention to caring for the elderly with dignity. In the Finnish Patient Association, I organized a campaign Now you can make a difference, highlighting the challenges of elderly care. Based on the campaign, I made a broad summary of the problems and needs of elderly care, and it gained wide visibility.’
’Unfortunately, we are still dealing with the same problems, even though twenty years have already passed. Maybe today the situation is even worse.’
’The cooperation with the Defense Forces was also an interesting part of my work and life. I participated in the national defense course no. 145 and in 1998 I was accepted as the member of the Brotherhood of the Cross of Joutselä. At the same time, I was awarded Joutselä cross number 654.’
Support for girls and Prodeko-fund
Supporting girls and women has been close to Tanttinen's heart. She has donated to UN Women and has been a member of Women’s Bank for a long time. At the Jyväskylä Normal Lyceum, Tanttinen has a small incentive fund from which scholarships are given to girls in the eighth grade who are interested in mathematics.
Aalto University has a fund bearing Tanttinen's name, which started with a donation to the Helsinki University of Technology. The motive for establishing the fund was to encourage girls to work and study in the field of technology. ‘I wanted to tell the girls about the career opportunities offered by technology and how fun and interesting studying technology is.’
The funds of the Tanttinen fund are used to support the Shaking Up Tech event, which aims to encourage girls to study technology.
Tanttinen targeted her most recent donation to the Prodeko fund and is now one of its founding donors.
‘For some time, I had been thinking about how much studying industrial engineering and management gave me during my studies and later in my relationships. I thought that donating to the fund is a good way to support the field and thus give back.’
Tanttinen encourages young people to study technology. ‘Studying technology gives you the skills to do almost anything. Nowadays, you can study a lot of fields that didn't even exist in my time, such as biotechnology and space technology, for example.’
Our heartfelt thanks to you Marja-Terttu for your donation and foe sharing your story!
Interview and text: Helena Salminen
Photos: Marja-Terttu Tanttinen's photo album.
The Prodeko Fund of Industrial Engineering and Management
Support the development of production and economic excellence and the future of technology entrepreneurship through the new Prodeko Fund of Industrial Engineering and Management!