Minttu Mäkäläinen is Alumni of The Year 2022 at Jamk University of Applied Sciences

Minttu Mäkäläinen (Bachelor of Engineering, Information Technology) believes in the power of leadership by example. An alumni can serve as a role model for students and is a valuable link between higher education and working life. As an alumna, Mäkäläinen wants to encourage in particular women to apply for studies and jobs in the technical field.

The Alumni of the Year award is given annually to the graduate of Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, who has promoted co-operation between the University of Applied Sciences and working life.

Warm congratulations on your Award, Jamk's Alumni of the Year Minttu Mäkäläinen!

Youthtime’s interest in computers leads to a career path

Minttu Mäkäläinen, pleasantly surprised by her Award, stopped to recall her own study path. What made Mäkäläinen choose a technical career?

From an early age, Minttu Mäkäläinen has been interested in computers. So, after comprehensive school, she chose to study electronics on vocational education. In 2005 – as the only girl in her class – Mäkäläinen graduated as an electronics installer from Jyväskylä Vocational College (now Gradia Jyväskylä).

Many life changes had occurred in the years after graduation, and Mäkäläinen decided to give up her study place at University of Applied Sciences on the field of Automation Technology. Working life took a significant part of Mäkäläinen´s time. Mainly interested in technology, she also took new challenging duties in ​​customer service. ”Despite of everything this was useful,” says Mäkäläinen and encourages others to take up challenging assignments. ”Yes, work educates us!”

Inspiring engineering studies

In the middle of the 2010s, Minttu Mäkäläinen saw the need of development for her career and applied to Jamk University of Applied Sciences to study on Information and Communication Technology programme. This decision has proved to be critical in many ways and opened new doors.

Learning something new was rewarding. Mäkäläinen was especially surprised when she got interested in game programming. As a visual person, Mäkäläinen enjoyed the combination of creativity, colour, atmosphere and the fact that the results of the work are immediately visible in game programming.

Through her studies, Minttu Mäkäläinen also became interested in user-oriented software design. ”The software must be functional, but also user friendly.” – Mäkäläinen emphasizes. Mäkäläinen also began to wonder as to why there were so few women in the study groups. As a part of alumni actives, Minttu Mäkäläinen has been especially motivated to support the study process and career paths of female engineering students.

Jamk provided support and increased faith in own skills

What has University of Applied Sciences given Minttu Mäkäläinen? ”The faith in your own abilities, success and competence.” – Mäkäläinen answers immediately. It was easy to realize that the learning outcomes presented in the first lesson of each course did not really need to be achieved immediately, Jamk gives an opportunity to learn over time.

”You shouldn’t be worried if you don’t understand everything right away.” – Mäkäläinen encourages. She also points out that higher education makes it possible to apply for new and interesting job positions. Sometimes, a degree diploma looming in front of you is motivating, even though at times stydying is exhausting.

During her own time in Jamk, Minttu Mäkäläinen found that Swedish language studies and physics were the most difficult for her. ”On the other hand, I propably had the best learning experiences in these subjects.” – Mäkäläinen continues and praises Jamk´s patient and pedagogically skilled teachers who supported, believed, and encouraged students on their learning path. Afterwards, these difficult subjects revealed some unpredictable benefits – recently, Mäkäläinen realized that she needed knowledge of physics in her current job.

The ground-breaking WIMMA Lab

The most important part of Minttu Mäkäläinen’s engineering studies was the intensive study module called WIMMA Lab. In the WIMMA Lab, which is held during the summer, multidisciplinary groups solve the set of tasks and challenges that can occur in working life. At the same time, participants learn responsibility, organizational skills and how to work smoothly on the job place.

Teamwork, practicality, and visits from working partners to follow up with the lab´s activities inspired Mäkäläinen. ”As an alumna, I may also bring my own working life skills and networks to Jamk’s study process.” – Mäkäläinen noticed.

WIMMA Lab also was a generator of a good thesis topic opportunity, which Mäkäläinen grabbed so enthusiastically that the thesis work was completed already at the end of the summer. The thesis Tuotekehityksen trendit WIMMA Lab -kontekstissa: Case: WIMMA Lab 2018 (Product Development Trends in the WIMMA Lab Context: Case: WIMMA Lab) contains a guidebook for WIMMA Lab´s operations.

With the help of WIMMA Lab, Minttu Mäkäläinen also got an interesting job at Combitech and started working there before she graduated in the year 2019.

Continuous learning in working life

In her post-graduation work as a Scrum Master, Minttu Mäkäläinen was able to utilize both her knowledge obtained during recent degree studies, and the skills learned on her previous work experience, e.g., working with different people. Mäkäläinen states that she ended up fulfilling slightly different tasks than her fellow students, who initially graduated as coders.

A few years after graduation, Mäkäläinen again missed additional challenges and applied to Airbus Defence and Space as a project manager. Team coaching, development assignments and project management have once again proved to be interesting, and the employer’s strong commitment to the continuous learning of the staff is to be commended.

An alumni leads others by being an example

Minttu Mäkäläinen encourages recent graduates to bravely take on challenging tasks and follow new paths in the world of continuous learning. Specifically, Mäkäläinen herself has done alumni work by visiting Jamk’s study courses and attracting other colleagues to get acquainted with e.g., WIMMA Lab operations.

”It is motivational and valuable for students when the representative of working life is genuinely interested in the student’s views and appreciates their solutions, for example as a part of work with the project.” For instance, Mäkäläinen believes in the power of leadership and an alumni can serve as a model of how a student’s path can develop.

Particularly, Mäkäläinen wants to encourage women to apply for studies in the technical field. In her current job, she has once again stated that she is the only woman in her team. As an alumni, Mäkäläinen has built a network to support women studying to be engineers, e.g. free-form Relaamo meetings and the Nice-ICT network.

We wish to thank Minttu Mäkäläinen for the close and versatile cooperation as Jamk’s alumna and give warm congratulations to the Alumni of the Year!

The Alumni of the Year is selected annually, based on proposals from staff and students. The selection is made by Jamk's rector in collaboration with the Alumni Team. 

Selection criteria: “The Alumni of The Year has been active in one way or another during their studies in a role of a developer, a critic, a goal settler, or a positive influence for the whole team. The alumni may have had an elaborate and laborious study path, or the alumni may have completed their studies in record time. However, the most important criterion is that the alumni has been a positive JAMK ambassador since graduation.”