Still dreaming of a Star Trek holodeck and a food replicator. Jarno Kekäläinen interview


First, I would like to welcome you with Finnish “Terve!” (eng. “Hey”)! I’m fascinated by your language so I couldn’t resist. Mitä kuuluu? (eng. “How are you?”)

Thank you, Mateusz, and for greeting me in my native language. I am actually practicing different languages by using Dualingo app. In the spring the language of choice was Japanese and now in the summer it has been Turkish. I need to take Polish next so I can visit Warsaw and Kraków and have at least a short conversation in native language, but in short, doing good. Thanks for asking.

Jarno, you spent many years in the telecoms, industry working for the Telia group. Do you still enjoy working in this specific industry?

Yes, I spent 19 years on the Telco landscape and was fortunate to take a next step to the IT. Telecommunication is an important backbone for all communication, but business and use cases are more and more about services on top of that backbone.

I appreciate the know-how I have accumulated over the years, but lately I’ve been getting excited about what you are building on top of that backbone. This is where IT solutions come into play. I can dream of solutions that we don’t yet see today, but also appreciate what we take for granted today. Teams, e-mail, cloud solutions. Our work has been liberated from location and time zones. Still dreaming of a Star Trek holodeck and a food replicator. Warp drive would also be nice, as I like to travel but don’t want to spend hours sitting in a plane.

We hear from time to time in media complaints from communication service providers that 5G is a financial failure and they will not go for 6G in close future. On other hand, the standardisation bodies claim that 6G will fix what did not worked well in 5G. Am I the only one who has deja-vu about radio technology announcements from the past? What’s your take on that?

I hate to say it, but I agree with your notion regarding the need for 5G. As a consumer, I don’t see the need for this, as the current 4G speeds are sufficient for what I use my mobile and fixed mobile connections for. As it is, 5G is just a speed class for consumers and B2B customers, not a radically different value proposition. I might think differently if I were a gamer who needed microsecond latency. Or a stock or currency trader with a real need for best-in-class speeds and latency, but on the other hand I would then be on a fixed connection and using tools other than my phone.

I can understand that if you have a gold mine where you have a spliced network to operate your autonomous excavators and so on, the security and speed of 5G come into play. But as long as there are no services or applications that require near to real-time connection, 5G is a nice-to-have service. However, still for IT companies, 5G and wireless connections are a great resource, and future gains in speed and latency with 6G and beoyond will be fantastic opportunities.

What challenges do you see currently in IT, especially in Nordics?

More we digitize our business and lives, more vulnerable we become to exposing ourselves to cyber threats, whether it is criminals or rogue states. Nordics in the past have been a “smallish” market and often overlooked, but not anymore as AI / ML / etc. come into play. These tools enable tailored attacks on a whole new level of precision. For example, micro personalized scams, like faking the identities of ones children etc.

Another challenge that I see is the access to professional workforce. As you may know, our “native” population is diminishing. We have highly skilled people, but as we accelerate our IT efforts for the benefit of the business or society, professional numbers cannot keep up with the pace. That is why I think we need to broaden our horizon out of the national borders and partner with companies in other countries.

Please let me leave technology aside for a moment and talk about people. The name of our company is not by chance. 🙂 Over 20 years ago I spent a lot of time in Finland. I remember the Finns as very hard-working, but rather modest people. Has anything changed here?

In many cases it is the same. Finns have a very high working morale and being straightforward and honest has been instilled to us. They say that modesty is a virtue, but it is not when you are in a business world. Finns work hard, come up with great innovations, but they don’t keep enough noise about themselves when they should. It is all about marketing, rest is just hard work. Now we just seem to work hard. But I am confident that this SoMe generation is not going to be shy and silent, when there is something, they are proud of.

From what I remember, Finnish IT companies were very innovative and mostly successful. Is this coming from something you call “sisu”, your educational system, or something else?

I might go wrong here but being a northern borderland country for centuries have taught Finns about practicality. You see a problem and you have relatively limited access to capital, so let’s think of something to solve the problem anyway. Of course, rate of innovation and imagination has increased, with the education system and access to internet. But I still believe that it stems from that practicality. Love the problem, because then you can solve it.

Mateusz Cieślak