You may think you are just another cog in the wheel but have you ever zoomed out to take a look at the bigger picture? Ever thought about how your job impacts society? Meet our ‘face of the month’, Maria Kultanen, a young engineer who believes in using “tech for good”. She has made it her mission to make techies question what they are enabling.
Any young graduate would jump at the first opportunity to get a job at a big multinational. Not Maria Kultanen. Even before she graduated, working with environmental technology, she got an early sneak-peak into the industry and was questioning her role as an engineer and the bigger purpose of technology in this world. “I picked environment tech because I am passionate about it. But I didn’t want to be part of something that didn’t sync with my ethics,” says Maria.
Some may see it as being too idealistic, even immature, but Maria wanted to challenge that notion. “People said it won’t be easy to find a job that supports my career growth while doing something that I believed in. So, I took it up as a challenge,” says Maria.
Maria was looking for a company that matched her ideals and would broaden her view of biotechnology when she found Nightingale — or should we say, Nightingale found her. She joined as the company’s first intern in 2016. “I am told that the founders were looking for new faces on LinkedIn when my profile popped up and the rest is history,” says Maria. She interned for two consecutive summers, then went on to write her final year thesis on Nightingale’s tech platform and stayed back after graduating. Maria had found a home and Nightingale had found its seventh team member.
Maria recalls that her first task as a summer intern at Nightingale was to make ‘requirement specifications’ for a mobile app. “Back then, I didn’t even know what it meant. So I Google-searched the term and made a few calls to my friends in IT,” she confesses. “But that’s the thing about Nightingale. It’s baptism by fire. But you also get enough support and encouragement to accomplish your goals. I learnt on the job as well,” she adds. Of course, Maria was able to check off “mobile app requirement specifications” from her to-do list soon enough. But that was three summers ago as an intern. Since then she has come a long way… growing as fast as the company itself.
In her current role, Maria works as a business and growth manager at Nightingale’s Wellness Business Unit. In short, she is in charge of everything operations. So, although she has a background in engineering, she’s also heavily involved with quality and regulations. “I like that because it’s a trait you need in this industry. That is, you know how to juggle in the jungle of standards and regulation,” says Maria.
In reality, Maria juggles much more than just standards and regulations. She’s a major part of the company’s international expansion team and has been leading laboratory establishment projects outside Finland. “When the overseas projects are more active, I do my ‘Finland work’ in the morning, go home, cook or jog and then continue when people on the other side of the Atlantic are awake,” explains Maria.
Maria says there are many upsides to this exposure. For one, she now knows quite a lot about international negotiations and communication. Also, she has a good grip on what different stakeholders like, think and how they operate. “Plus, travelling and the cultural exposure adds a nice spice to daily work,” she admits.
However, we all know that travel isn’t the real incentive that’s keeping Maria at Nightingale. “The best thing about my job is that I don’t just plan or build products. I get to implement them,” says Maria. “It’s humbling to see how Nightingale’s technology impacts people’s lives, improving their health, quality of life and sometimes even saving them. That’s something not many companies can say. So, it's quite a unique opportunity to create business and applications for Nightingale,” she adds.
From being an engineering student who was frustrated with the environmental tech industry to finding her feet in health tech, the learning curve has been quite sharp for Maria. “I think I now have a more mature understanding of the impact tech can have,” she says. “It can make or break the world. So, as an engineer, I feel even more responsible to question and ensure that we are enabling the right technology,” she adds.
Maria is committed to spreading this message so that only tech that enables good survives. She is one of the speakers at this year’s Women in Tech Forum in Helsinki. There, she’ll be talking about how technology has become today’s politics.
When not carrying the good-tech flag, you can see how passionate Maria is still about the environment. It’s easy to spot her table in between the greys and whites of the office interiors. Just look for green.