Women in Engineering - Piia Karjalainen, MaaS Alliance

Women in Engineering


September 2020

As FISITA works to promote excellence and diversity in the advancement of automotive mobility systems engineering and associated technologies, we are committed in our support of ‘Women in Engineering’ campaigns and member activities.

As part of this initiative, we caught up with some influential women in the mobility industry worldwide to hear from them about why they are passionate about engineering and their advice for the next generation.

Ms Piia Karjalainen is Secretary General of the MaaS Alliance. She lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. The MaaS Alliance is an international public-private-partnership, established in 2015, bringing together 100 member organisations worldwide, supporting the development of Mobility as a Service ecosystem, based on the principles of openness, inclusivity, sustainability and user-centricity.

Karjalainen is leading and coordinating all the activities of this international Mobility as a Service community. Previously she has been working in various positions at the European Parliament and the Finnish Ministry of Transport & Communications, mainly dealing with transport strategies, ITS, Mobility as a Service, policymaking and EU regulation. She holds a Master of Science in Economics.

  • What attracted you to engineering/the mobility industry?

Having my education background in Economics, it was a pure incident – I got an internship at the Finnish Road Administration. But since the day 1 I’ve felt like home and now I’ve been working more than 15 years for the industry. Especially during the past 10 years the whole mobility sector has taken some giant leaps, adopting new technologies to make our everyday life safer and more sustainable. Even the most sci-fi technologies like autonomous vehicles and hyperloops are actually finding their place in our transport system. The reason I love this industry is that you are dealing with the topic that is so dominantly present at our everyday life and new smarter, safer and more sustainable ways of doing things can easily result in clear impacts in happiness of all of us.

  • What has been your greatest achievement, professionally or academically?

Improving our transport system is a team play, requiring aligned vision and efforts from numerous stakeholders, both from public and private sector. Therefore I don’t see a point to even try to underline a role of one individual. It has taken a village to bring a fully new concept, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), from vision to reality in many cities and made it well-known around the world but I feel proud to be part of that ride. There is a huge potential in MaaS and at the same time I feel that this have created a fully new dynamics and out-of-the-box thinking to transport sector with emergence of numerous new mobility and MaaS start-ups. At my current position I am surrounded with the most bright minds of this industry so everyday you’ll learn something new.

  • What would you recommend to young people considering a career in engineering/mobility?

Go for it! Today transport is a fast developing, high-tech industry. It’s very innovative and becoming much more user-centric. Business models are changing, as is behaviour, economics and allocation of public funding. Mobility is much closer link to societal discussion and policies than one would thought. There are thousands of opportunities to have an actual influence to how we move and interact with others. We’re all consumers in mobility, thus we’re essentially designing better services for ourselves.

  • Are there any major changes in engineering/mobility that you would like to see in the next ten years?

As I said, we’ve been moving really fast in past ten years and many new sustainable technologies has been brought from labs to market. However, I still feel that we sometimes fail to listen the customers; ask what they need and how they would like to get around. I would like to see better understanding of users’ preferences and building products and services based on their needs. Also, it goes without saying that sustainability and safety requirements will always be there. I expect that in future the most sustainable businesses are also the most profitable ones.

  • What field of engineering/mobility would you recommend young people today study, to be most useful after 2030?

There is definitely a need for high-level technical skillsets but I truly think that good understanding of human behaviour and systemic level causalities complementing the technical background make a winning combination.

Visit the FISITA Women in Engineering page.