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Humans, Technology, and the Future of Digital Twins With Tiina Lappalainen From Futurice

In this episode of Wonderful Work, we chat with Tiina Lappalainen about finding one's passion, women in intelligent automation, and the power of digital twins.

Tiina is an out-of-the-box thinker but also has a focused and logical mind. Her role as the global head of data and IT at Futurice keeps her feet on the ground by day. But by night, her pilot license keeps her head in the clouds. Tiina truly is a woman who reaches for the stars.

What makes Tiina wonderful in the workplace

"I would like to contest that I'm wonderful," Tiina jokes. "I'm pretty good at what I do, but there's always room for improvement." Tiina believes that it's the quest for knowledge that makes her wonderful in the workplace. She's also incredibly good with people and has a human–centric approach to work.

"My job is to bring the best out of people. I'm a technology leader, but I don't really believe technology is important. People are important! When I think about my mission in life, I have one goal. I ask where people want to go, and I try to lift them towards that goal," says Tiina.

How Tiina ended up working in tech

Tiina didn't grow up with ambitions of working in tech. "My entire life has just been a sequence of unbelievable accidents,” Tiina remembers with a smile. "Technology is no different."

As a child, Tiina wanted to be the first-ever female Finnish fighter pilot. "Now I know that I never would've been the first one. That trophy would've always gone to a wonderful and great lady called Inka Niskanen, who is my absolute hero.”

But Tiina's love of planes did put her on the path to a career in tech. Planes brought her to the airport, which introduced her to logistics. "I found this cool new program called industrial engineering, which combined computers, which was a hobby, and logistics. I thought, well, that kind of fits," Tiina says.

During her logistics studies, Tiina wanted to try IT. "I fell in love with it, and 20 years later, I'm still here," Tiina explains.

The importance of finding your passion

Like many intelligent business leaders, Tiina found school to be boring and unchallenging, mostly because she liked to work out real-world problems rather than listen to a teacher read a book.

"But once I stumbled into IT, I absolutely fell in love with studying," she says. "Now, I see so many people who seem to just be exercising their life away. But once they find their passion, it's as if they've seen the light. It takes people to a whole different level. So if you haven't found your passion yet, go out and look for it! Life is too short to do something that doesn't give you any energy," she insists.

Did you need much advice early in your career?

"Oh God, Yes! Nowadays, I mentor young females in the IT industry. When it comes to helping others, especially young girls, the very first thing I tell them is to raise their hand," Tiina explains. 


Tiina advises that if you want a raise, a job, a new project, etc., you should tell people your ambitions and never be silent about it.

"Even if what you want isn't on offer, still talk to someone. Talk to your parents, talk to your friends, say it out loud. There's a chance that the person who hears your dream can help you achieve it," Tiina says.

How Tiina explains digital twins to a ten-year-old

"First, we have to understand that a digital twin is half of a twin. There's the digital twin and the physical twin," Tiina explains. Digital twins are two sides of the exact same thing. A digital twin is made to perfectly represent its real-world twin. This can be a product, a process, a facility, a person. It can even be an entire city.

"Flight simulator is an excellent example of digital twins," Tiina says. "You have the plane and the flight simulator, which is the digital twin. On the more mundane side, there's Google Maps. Google Maps is essentially a digital twin for a transport system."  

What industries would benefit from digital twins but have not adopted them?

"I don't think there's any industry that wouldn't benefit from digital twins," says Tiina

According to Tiina, digital twins are already used a lot in manufacturing, logistics, urban planning, education, and transportation. "In healthcare, professionals can now start testing procedures and tools before trying them on humans," says Tiina.

What are the most common mistakes companies make when implementing digital twins?

"Essentially, digital twins are data models," Tiina explains. "The mistake is the same done on almost every other data project, which is going for too big of a data set." Amassing massive amounts of data without knowing what to do with it results in massive data lakes and data warehouses that people try to figure out.

"Don't do that," Tiina warns. "First, come up with ideas, come up with concepts with a hypothesis. Then, find the data and verify your hypothesis. It's hard to dig into a mountain. But It's much easier with precise tools."

Tiina's new business venture

Tiina believes that staying still closes doors, so it came as no surprise to hear she's embarking on a new adventure. We asked her to tell us more about this exciting new chapter.

"There are a few projects I'm working on. One of them is a company called the thebunch.io, which focuses on the area of staffing. It's much like Airbnb meeting LinkedIn, meeting Tinder," Tiina says.

The Bunch aims to find the best people for any project. Tiina believes that the way people match talent to work is inefficient. "When recruiting or matching work to talent, people just look at hard skills. But, while I've been recruiting, I've never bet on skills. I've always bet on people.

I don't really care what people know. I care what they think and what they can do tomorrow. In the tech sector, there's always something new coming around the corner. Ultimately, I aim to create a world where people can find projects based on their passion!".   

Where do you see digital twins going in the next five years?

"Five years is a long time in this field. But that doesn't mean we can't do some guesswork here."

According to Tiina, we'll be somewhere completely different from where we are now. They will harvest more data and will become autonomous in that work. Tiina also predicts digital twins to penetrate every part of our lives, whether we notice them or not. 

"Already, people don't think of Google Maps as a digital twin. They don't see their phone as a digital twin of themselves. But essentially, it is, and this will keep penetrating people's lives more and more.”

In five years, we may have already moved beyond digital twins to utilize co-creation. Co-creation is about bringing separate twins closer together to create swarms of intelligence.

"I know that might scare some listeners," Tiina says. "We've all seen those movies, haven't we? In reality, it's just about making things more complete by combining the efforts and data from digital twins to see the bigger picture."

Find more information on digital twins

"There's no great authority on digital twins," Tiina says. She advises looking at the brilliant publications on IEEE and that "Google is your best friend."

"Universities are doing fantastic research on this subject right now. But I think the best thing is still podcasts and blogs.” Companies normally publish their latest projects on their blog page to show viewers real-world examples of what they've done.

"Reading those blogs opens up your mind to the world of tomorrow," Tiina concludes.  

The Wonderful Work podcast 

If you'd like to learn more about Tiina and her views on women in tech and digital twins, check out Joe and Tiina's full chat on the Wonderful Work podcast

Written by

Josef Konderla

Content Marketing Manager