Marika Seppälä: Continuous learning and supplementing competence set challenges for fast evolving field of technology
Marika Seppälä, a sporty team player was to become a sports journalist when she grew up. Well, she didn´t. Instead of journalists, her team now consists of a hundred professionals from the field of technology. Marika works as the Dean in the Faculty of Technology.
The Faculty of Technology includes e.g. automation, robotics and artificial intelligence as well as intelligent water and energy technology, all of which are important to the economy in the region.
– The field of technology is a perfect chance for a person, regardless of gender, who wants to be involved in a fast evolving and developing field, states Marika Seppälä.
But how did a woman from Vammala end up in her present position?
– After upper secondary school, I started studying newspaper and radio journalism in Lahti because I was set to become a sports journalist. The highlight of my career as a trainee in Urheilu (Sport) magazine was an interview with a Czech ice hockey player Otakar Janecký, the star of ice hockey team Jokerit, Marika tells us.
However, career plans changed and after various stages she ended up in Pori in the mid-90s to study Total Quality Management and Business Processes at SAMK. After graduation, the road led to Tampere and Nokia Mobile Phones unit, where she first worked as a quality engineer and after that as a team leader for quality assurance and a project manager of software integration projects for nine years.
– Then I started to feel that maybe work could include something else than mobile phones. SAMK was looking for a placement officer promoting international practical training in the Faculty of Technology and Maritime Management and I thought that higher education environment might be interesting.
– I was chosen and soon my tasks extended to e.g. teaching. Along the way, I became the team leader of energy and environmental engineering and the international relations coordinator. The next step was the position of the Dean of the Faculty of Technology, when the position became available along with internal changes.
Continuous learning is a challenge and a possibility
Marika believes in continuous learning, both personally and for the faculty.
– When I came to SAMK, I started also studying for a Master´s degree at SAMK and conducting pedagogical studies and last I graduated with a Master´s degree in Economic Sciences, all in the field of Management.
– Continuous learning is a present and future challenge also in our faculty: how to offer especially people in Satakunta region possibilities to update their competence and graduate with degrees alongside work. There are many who are considering changing the field or further education, but because of work this should be done alongside work.
According to Marika Seppälä multiform online studies are the future, even though all engineering studies, such as laboratory work, still cannot be conducted online.
Girl power needed in the field!
The basis built on mathematics and science does not change in engineering studies, but the ways this information is utilized in companies is nowadays often highly automated.
There are still too few girls entering the field. In Marika´s opinion girls are capable but in the beginning they don’t have the same kind of self-confidence connected to the field as boys do.
– At the moment energy and environmental engineering interests girls the most. I´m delighted that also digitalization, automation and robotics have started to interest girls. The enterprises in Satakunta will have several new professionals in future.
I want to encourage girls to believe in themselves and that they are good enough to manage in the field of technology. At SAMK we have a learning environment where you learn by doing, which is shown by our brilliant student stories.
In the field of technology you learn in projects
The faculty of technology has a personnel of about a hundred people and approximately half of them are involved in projects. SAMK has more than one hundred projects going on, and about half of them are carried out in technology and a third of them are international projects.
– When the personnel is involved in projects, we simultaneously give our students a possibility to participate in projects through which they integrate into the tasks and working methods of the corporate world at an early stage, Marika tells us.
Industrial higher education serves the industry and commerce in the region
SAMK has been profiled as an industrial higher education establishment and Satakunta is a strong robotics region. Marika Seppälä believes that the progress will continue in the same direction in the future.
– We have such excellent competence at SAMK in the fields of renewable energy, energy engineering and water technology that I believe they will be in the forefront in the future, too. For example building hygiene competence is exported together with business partners.
In the field of construction engineering energy efficiency, climate issues and recycling as well as sustainable development attract wide attention.
– Climate and environmental issues are being emphasized more and more, whatever field the company operates in. Legislation becomes stricter and the awareness of people grows. Companies need to meet the challenges, and then there will be demand for experts in the field of energy and environmental engineering, regardless of the line of business.
In addition, mechanical engineering competence is important when considering the business in Satakunta. The employment rate is good in the field and for example designers are needed.
– We recently received good news from Rauma where the shipyard got an order of warships. This means new jobs in the region. Likewise, the Pori – Tampere railway improvement was allocated money. Industrial higher education establishment concept serves us well and correspondingly, we in turn want to serve the region, Marika summarizes.
SAMK invests in multidisciplinary and international approach
Besides these, Marika highlights the multidisciplinary nature of SAMK.
– It is important that technology competence is connected to competences in other fields of SAMK. A good example of this is welfare technology, where competences in both technology and the field of wellbeing are utilized.
Internationalization should not be forgotten to meet the labour needs.
– Even though education in Finnish is still the backbone of our operations, more education in English will be introduced to meet the internationalization development of the companies in the region. Artificial intelligence and robotics education in particular are in great demand also abroad.