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Aalto University names digitalisation expert to executive programme

Esteemed professor and former Nokia Vice-President Henry Tirri has been named the latest Executive in Residence at Aalto University, part of the institution's ongoing bid to better combine the worlds of academia and business.

Bruce Oreck, Henry Tirri sekä Esko Aho
Bruce Oreck, Henry Tirri sekä Esko Aho Image: Lehtikuva ja Yle

Henry Tirri is the latest in a series of top professionals hired by Helsinki's Aalto University to bring international business know-how from the working world to students. His official title at the university is 'Executive in Residence', used in reference to respected top figures in management, academia or society invited to work at the university for a fixed period of time. His predecessors include former US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck and politician Esko Aho.

In his new position, one of Tirri's key tasks will be to provide students with the latest information on the growth, strategies and management of high-tech companies. Along with Aalto researchers, Tirri will also participate in domestic discussion of the digital transformation.

“I extend a warm welcome to Henry Tirri as he strengthens Aalto University's digital competence. He is able to combine a business orientation with an in-depth understanding of technology in an outstanding manner. Tirri's extensive contacts with Silicon Valley business life and top universities will also give our students great perspectives on the topic,” says Ingmar Björkman, Dean of Aalto University's School of Business, in a university press release.

Academic experience plus business acumen

Tirri worked in Silicon Valley for 20 years and has taught at the universities of Stanford and Berkeley. In addition, he has held top posts at Nokia, acting as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer from 2011 to 2015. He says there should be more people like him teaching -- hybrids who have academic research and lecturing experience but who have also worked in the business world.

Ville Veijola, Head of Future Solutions at OP-Services Banking Group, says businesses and universities need to work together more closely in order create solutions that help solve business challenges.

According to Aalto University's Professor of Enterprise Systems Matti Rossi, it's a win-win situation for both sides, as students tackle and solve more than one hundred real-life predicaments for companies each year.

“Even when money is tight, the university is interested in participating in large research projects. Private companies have access to resources and even secret research that the university doesn't necessarily have,” says Rossi.

According to Tirri, the speed of change and innovation around the world in just about every sector should also be reflected in education. “People are the secret to success,” he says.

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