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‘You can change the world in this field!’ – Two technology alumni talk about their careers

Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Niina Kajovuori, who work with testing automation at Vaisala, encourage students to choose courses covering different fields
Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Niina Kajovuori/ Vaisala/ Aalto University alumni/ image: Vaisala
Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Niina Kajovuori. Image: Vaisala

Maaret Pyhäjärvi and Niina Kajovuori have a lot in common. Both have graduated as Masters of Science in Technology from Otaniemi and both work in testing automation at Vaisala, a company that manufactures measuring instruments. Their thoughts on studying and the field of technology are also very similar – they were students only a couple of decades after one another.

Maaret and Niina are passionate about their work and feel that they are working on important issues. It is also more enjoyable to go to work with the knowledge that there are meaningful and versatile tasks waiting.

For Niina, the coronavirus crisis in the spring of 2020 was a reminder of how much society relies on the equipment she works with. One example is the hydrogen peroxide vapour sensors manufactured by Vaisala that have been useful for cleaning different spaces.

‘You can truly change the world in this field!’

Attracted by campus community

Maaret began her studies in Otaniemi in 1993. Initially, she was studying mechanical engineering, but later she switched to computer science and engineering. She had no clear aim of going into engineering after upper secondary school; it was more of a coincidence.

‘I wouldn't have ended up in Otaniemi if my friend hadn't needed a ride to entrance exams. I was also offered a study place elsewhere, but I wanted to go to Otaniemi because there was a strong sense of community and such a fun atmosphere’, Maaret says. 

The road to engineering was not straightforward for Niina, either. After upper secondary school, she initially studied mathematics at the University of Helsinki. She eventually switched to the School of Electrical Engineering because she liked the feeling of community at the Aalto campus, and she preferred the practical nature of the studies. Niina ended up changing her major in the middle of her studies as well.

‘I started as a major in bioinformation technology in 2011, but I ended up taking courses in electrical engineering and electronics, such as programming, electronics and embedded systems’, says Niina.

Long-lasting team spirit and networks from student times

Maaret feels that, even after decades, things she learned at university are useful in working life. She still recalls certain teachers and what they taught.

‘I was really active in student life, so things like the student union and the technology students’ theatre productions have been very memorable. They taught me how to work with all kinds of people’, says Maaret.

In Maaret’s opinion, people and the sense of community were the best part of her studies. Recently, Maaret had a memorable experience at the airport when she ran into a student friend whom she had not seen in 20 years.

‘It's wonderful to bump into old friends after a long time and notice that the sense of community we had when we were studying is still strong’, Maaret says.

In Niina's opinion, the best thing about her studies was that they were concrete and oriented towards working life, with courses such as the Electrical Engineering Workshop and the Electronics Workshop where she worked as an assistant. Niina is also a living example of how studies can create useful working life contacts. She first encountered her current job at a recruitment fair, where she met her future supervisor.

During her 25-year career, Maaret has had time to establish herself as an international testing expert, but she still feels she has learned new lessons from her younger colleague.

‘Nina doesn’t always even realise how cool the things she knows are. Alongside my working days, I’ve been tweeting about what a great colleague I have. Niina has the makings of an idol!’ says Maaret.

Versatile competence is an asset in working life

Many young people seem to think that, in order to apply to the field, they must already have a long background of coding, although programming starts from the basics in the programme. As it stands, both women want to encourage young girls and women in particular to boldly apply to the field.

‘Many girls think they don't know mathematics or understand engineering, even though it's not true. This field needs perspectives from different walks of life, instead of having all devices designed by one gender’, Maaret says.

Niina encourages getting expertise in many areas. During the master's stage, it is worthwhile to pick courses from here and there, and not to be afraid if one subject starts to be more interesting than your major.

‘Working life needs people who know how to code but who also have an understanding of some other area of expertise in engineering. It has been really valuable for me that I studied both electronics and programming’, Niina says.

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