Juhani Sibakov creates new bakery products at Fazer: "I get to influence what the majority of Finns eat"
How did you end up studying chemical engineering?
"I have always been interested in creating something new. Even as a kid, I liked to come up with all sorts of weird food mixtures. For example, my friends and I would mix ketchup, milk and toothpaste and compete to see who could taste it. In high school, my favourite subjects were chemistry and biology, so it seemed natural to apply to Aalto University's chemical engineering department."
What was it like studying?
"The freshman year is what I remember most about my studies. We had a good group of people who bonded closely together. We still see my year group of friends several times a year, even though we graduated more than ten years ago.
The teaching was of a very high standard in chemical engineering. I particularly liked the laboratory and applied courses, where you could see what you were learning in practice. Many of the chemical engineering professors had worked in industry and could tell you how things were done in practice. It was in the advanced studies that the pieces fell into place for what I wanted to do in my job."
What kind of work have you done in your career?
"I've worked in food my whole career: first in brewing, then in oats and now in bakery development. I was commissioned to write my thesis for a joint project between Sinebrychoff and the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) to study the development of non-alcoholic beverages. After graduating, I stayed on as a researcher at VTT, where I studied brewing products and oat fibre processing, among other things. At the time, I also did a PhD on oats at Aalto University alongside my work.
For the last six years I have been working at Fazer, first as a research manager in the group's research team and now as a product development manager at Fazer Bakery. I am responsible for developing new savoury and sweet bakery products for Fazer. In my job, I have to keep my eyes and ears constantly open as the industry and consumer needs are constantly changing. We need to constantly evolve and follow trends to understand what consumers want to eat next."
Juhani Sibakov, Head of Innovation, Fazer Bakeries
My education has given me good skills to search for and interpret new information. It is important to be able to relate things to each other
Why is your job important?
"In a big food company, I get to influence what a large proportion of Finns eat. When we design products, we decide, for example, how much salt to put in them or how high in fibre to make them. It matters for nutrition.
I also influence the sustainability of our operations, such as food waste and raw materials. For example, we try to minimise and, where necessary, sell or donate the food waste we produce. I have also been involved in the development of new sustainable products, such as Fazer's Sirkkale bread, which contains house cricket powder. We wanted to offer Finns a new source of protein through insects."
What kind of skills has studying chemical engineering given you?
"I learned a lot about chemistry and the design of technical equipment and processes at the School of Chemical Engineering. My education has given me good skills to search for and interpret new information. It is important to be able to relate things to each other and understand the bigger picture.
In my current job, I work with my team to develop new versions of products using existing equipment or raw materials, as well as completely new products that require new technological solutions to succeed. It is therefore important to understand how the raw materials and the different steps in the process affect the end result."
What greetings would you like to send to young people considering their choice of studies?
"Many high school graduates still don't know what they want to study or do for a living. Chemical engineering is a very broad field of study, and you can supplement your studies with other subjects offered at Aalto University. For example, my circle of friends covers the whole spectrum from researcher to CEO. So you can get a really wide range of jobs in a variety of fields and positions in chemical engineering."
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School of Chemical Engineering combines natural sciences and engineering to refine research results and put them into practice as sustainable innovations.