School of Electrical Engineering Alumnus of the Year 2022 Pekka Tiitinen: Electricity sector training opens up diverse career opportunities
Managing Director of ABB Finland Pekka Tiitinen, who graduated from the Electrical Department of the Helsinki University of Technology in 1990, has fond memories of his four years of study in Otaniemi. His studies at HUT, the predecessor to Aalto University, focused on electrical power technology with special expertise in electric drives, control technology and robotics.
“Electrical engineering brings together different actors. There are relatively few companies such as ABB, where electricity is the main focus – but our customer base is broad, ranging from pulp mills and mines to ships and hospitals. Studying electrical engineering opens up many career opportunities, as electricity relates to so many things,” he says.
The electricity sector plays an important role in a world where climate change requires action from all of us. Tiitinen points out that it is essential these days for everyone to understand the importance of sustainable business.
With operations in more than 100 countries, ABB wants to set an example for ecologically, economically and socially sustainable business.
“At ABB, we are implementing sustainability strategy 2030. Through this strategy, we are developing our own operations and using our solutions and expertise help our customers. The goal is to reduce customers’ annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 100 megatonnes, which corresponds to the annual emissions of 30 million cars with internal combustion engines,” says Tiitinen.
ABB’s leading technology and the connected research and development work are therefore at the heart of global efforts to mitigate climate change.
"In order to tackle climate change, the world must become electrified. As electricity consumption continues to grow, we need smarter, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective solutions,” Tiitinen emphasises.
“At the moment, electrical engineering is needed both for solving the energy crisis currently affecting all of Europe as well as the green transition taking place throughout the world. There is plenty of work for those with the skills, and this work is also really important for our entire planet,” emphasises Tiitinen, who also has a good perspective on research activities thanks to his role as Chairman of the Board at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
Getting to know the world
"My studies in Otaniemi went quickly. Alongside my normal studies, I received and learned a lot from traineeships in different companies – ranging from the heavy processing industry to the food industry – as well as installation and design assignments for teaching tasks. I spent the third summer of my studies as a trainee in the United States, and for my last year I worked as an assistant for control technology calculation exercises in the power electronics laboratories. I learned these things quite thoroughly in Otaniemi,” he recalls.
After his master’s thesis, Tiitinen started working for ABB in the product development of frequency converters. From there, his career progressed into managerial positions all the way up to division management and eventually becoming a member of the ABB Group Executive Committee. Following his Zurich years, Tiitinen has now been Managing Director of ABB Finland for the past six years. He is also responsible for the northern European sales of ABB’s Motion business area.
“I've seen a lot of the world through my work, and got to know people from many countries – this has certainly been one of the most rewarding aspects of my work. Also, back at the beginning of my career, one of my most memorable moments was the launch of the DC frequency converter technology in London in 1994,” he adds.
He considers the most important outcome of his work to be getting things done – especially in management, one must get people and the organisation to succeed and perform well.
“Aalto University is an excellent place for students to combine studies from different fields. This can really help you in working life, so it is worth taking advantage of. During one’s studies, it is also worth investing in establishing a good knowledge base and acquiring diverse experience of the business world,” he adds.
Close cooperation between ABB and Aalto
Aalto and ABB have been working together in different ways for 130 years. Under Tiitinen’s leadership, this collaboration has now intensified, particularly in relation to the number of doctoral programmes. The main focus of the cooperation has been the control of electric drives and grid-connected converters. Other areas of cooperation have included the development of ship bridges and energy solutions and, in relation to electric drives, areas such as digital twins, power electronics, electricity networks, process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Every year, Aalto students produce dozens of Master’s degree theses and doctoral dissertations for ABB, and the company is also a significant employer of Aalto students and alumni.
Pekka Tiitinen received the Alumni of the Year award of the School of Electrical Engineering on Saturday 29 October 2022 at the AlumniWeekend seminar in Otaniemi. Dean Jyri Hämäläinen had the following words to say about his selection for the award: “ABB is one of Aalto’s strategic partners, and Pekka has been actively involved in developing cooperation between Aalto and ABB, taking concrete steps to carry it forward. Our research cooperation with ABB is comprehensive and multidisciplinary, currently covering all six Aalto schools. Pekka has not forgotten his student days, and has a clear desire to promote the success of Aalto and its students.”
"I am truly thankful to you for honouring me in this way. Success requires an understanding of customer needs, effective research and product development, and university collaboration. During my past six years as Managing Director of ABB Finland, I have wanted to focus on intensifying our cooperation with Aalto. These efforts have been fruitful, which is an important outcome both for ABB and for myself personally,” says Alumnus of the Year Pekka Tiitinen.
Tiitinen points out that high efficiency motors and the frequency converters that control them will have a huge impact on the future of our planet. In a world where 45% of global electricity is used to electric motors in buildings and industries, improving energy efficiency is an essential strategy for achieving the climate goals set in line with the Paris Agreement.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), improvements in energy efficiency could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% over the next 20 years, with half of this decrease achieved in industrial sectors.
“Increasing energy efficiency is one of the most effective ways of mitigating climate change. It is also important in a context where corporate responsibility requirements are increasing while companies are also seeking opportunities to curb rising energy costs.”