In good company
Ilkka Pollari, who runs Kemira’s product stewardship organisation, learned a lot during his study years – especially outside the lectures.
Why did you apply to the school and what did you learn here?
For me, the Department of Chemistry was a lucky second choice. I’ve consoled myself during many difficult situations by considering what my life would have been like if I had actually been accepted to the Department of Applied Physics.
For technology students, I think it’s most important to learn broad-ranging vision, solution orientation and co-operation. I was successful in these areas.
Where did you go after graduation and how did you end up in your current job?
A plant design assignment at Kemira led to a summer trainee position, a workplace thesis position and, right after the army, my first permanent job. I’ve worked for the same company for my entire career – about 34 years in total. I’ve moved from process and plant design to project manager positions, marketing, managing the formic acid business and, most recently, working with patents and running the product stewardship organisation. I’ve also spent three longer periods working abroad, and I’m very grateful for those opportunities.
What part of your learning here has been most useful in your present work and why? Have you had anything to do with your old department or fellow students since you graduated?
I consider the things that I learned in the Polytech Choir, Chemistry Guild, KK=Circus and Paineenpäästäjät to be more important than the chemistry and chemical technology theory that I somehow managed to absorb despite my active leisure time. I’ve always been eager to work with good people to create new things and participate in various project assignments, and Otaniemi provided a great setting for all of this in the 1970s. I only really understood chemical technology after entering industry, and I’ve always solved actual chemical problems by going out and asking people who know more than me.
A lot of my fellow students have always worked at Kemira, and the same applies to the business world and society in general. This has made it easy to network through them. I’ve worked as a mentor at Helsinki University of Technology and at Aalto, and I occasionally speak on behalf of innovation and water technology. During the International Year of Chemistry 2011, I wrote a play about our Nobel prize winner A. I. Virtanen, which was performed at Otaniemi by chemistry teaching students from the University of Helsinki. Since 2010, I have been working with Aalto people to organise the programme for the Water Group at the international Millennium Youth Camp.
What would you like to say to students at the School of Chemical Technology?
Be good and be brave!
Marjo Matikainen-Kallström sees her degree as a driving licence for life; having one gives courage to take unexpected paths.
Why did you apply to this school?
I spent my childhood and youth in a mining area. I knew the products and the business, but I did not know the theory and I wanted to learn more. That is why the former Department of Mining and Metallurgy was a natural choice.
Where did you go after graduating and how did you end up in your present job?
I did the traineeships that were linked to my studies at Ovako in Sweden, at their hot rolling mill and hard chrome plating plant. I wrote my master's thesis at the Neste refinery in Sköldvik at the corrosion unit. When I graduated I was recruited by the Imatran Voima nuclear energy unit to work as a metallurgist, and when Posiva was set up I was hired to go there.
Drifting into politics was the result of a number of coincidences. I graduated during the recession of the 1990s and I went into labour market politics. I was elected to the European Parliament twice, and now I’m in my third term in the Finnish Parliament. At the same time I completed my eMBA degree with financing as my main subject. I have also concentrated on questions related to the economy, technology and energy throughout my political career.
Of the things that you have learned here, what has been the most useful in your present work and why?
Logical thinking and understanding of technology and science. A broad-based way of thinking is important, as are networks established while studying.
What would you have to say to those coming to study at the School of Chemical Technology?
A degree is a driving licence for life. Sciences are the basis of everything onto which it is good to build a future. Graduate as quickly as possible, but don't forget student life and traineeships, and move forward into working life to learn more!
Dean Janne Laine believes that acquiring a versatile education and seizing opportunities can take you almost anywhere.
Why did you apply to this school and what did you learn here?
I didn't have a specific dream job, but I had studied natural sciences in upper secondary school and I was also interested in technology and various branches of industry. That's why Otaniemi was a natural choice for me, although I also considered Viikki Food Science and the Helsinki School of Economics.
My major subject was wood chemistry and my minor subjects were chemical plant design and industrial management, so I acquired a versatile education. One of the important things that I learnt during my studies was the balance of freedom and responsibility. I didn't want to choose courses based on what my friends were studying, but make my own choices. The freedom of university studies required responsibility: teachers may have borne some of the responsibility at school, but at university the responsibility for making progress was mine alone. I learnt a lot in my summer jobs in industry. Working at the Department of Forest Products Technology during my studies and thus becoming part of the team at an early stage was also useful.
Where did you go after graduation and how did you find your current job?
I began writing my doctoral dissertation immediately after completing my Master Of Science in Technology degree and then accepted a position as a post doc researcher at the Institute of Surface Chemistry in Sweden before the public examination of my dissertation had even been held. Then the adjacent Swedish Pulp and Paper Research Institute persuaded me to begin managing one of their research labs and I worked there for five years performing research in paper chemistry and cellulose.
I returned to Finland in 2001. I first worked as a senior research scientist at TKK for a couple of years and then received a professorship (pro tem) in 2003. I was appointed to a permanent position as a professor in 2004. My job as the dean of the School of Chemical Technology began at the beginning of this year.
Which skills learnt here are of most use in your current position and why?
A general education in chemistry is naturally a must. I spent my first three years at university in a group of chemists so I acquired good skills in chemical forest products technology. The matters covered on courses in plant design and industrial management, such as processes, organisation management and funding, are also extremely important in the work of a dean. However, university cannot teach students one important thing: character. I would like to encourage all young people to adopt a way of thinking where education alone does not determine your future, but acts as a strong foundation upon which you can build almost anything. I could just as well have become a seller of chemicals or a researcher working in industry. However, the opportunities that came my way and seizing them made me a professor and then a member of university management. The point is that the same education provides you with a large range of opportunities.
What would you like to say to the students of the School of Chemical Technology?
Studying always pays off. Have the courage to seize opportunities and challenges.
The sky is the limit
With will and courage it is possible to reach any goal, says Trang Ly, who has studied at the School of Chemical Technology.
Trang Ly, who moved to Finland 20 years ago, has made great advances herself. Her studies, with paper converting and packaging technology as her major and strategic management as her minor, proved to be a combination that functioned well. Now she works as the product manager of a large company in the packaging business.
‘In our field engineers are well employed; in other words, the education is appreciated’, Trang Ly says.
‘There are also very good opportunities for practical training, and nowadays there is more encouragement to train abroad’, she adds.
The international aspect was one of the criteria for her choice of a place to study. As technology was also something that interested Trang Ly, the choice was ultimately very appropriate, and not one that she has had to regret.
‘Much of the studies are in English. The studies were independent at times, but there is also lots of group work involved, both with students from your own degree programme and students from other degree programmes. The best thing is that everyone is working for a common goal. No one is left behind’, she smiles.
To whom would Trang Ly recommend the School of Chemical Technology as a place to study?
‘You should apply to study here if you’re interested in inventing and developing new things, and if you’re ready for international tasks. For multicultural students, I would say that studying is truly worthwhile, especially in Finland, where it is free. The sky is the limit; with enough courage and will it is possible to study and end up with a job that is as interesting as you can imagine.’