The Six Things I’ve Learned While Spending My Summer At Sievo
Hello, dear blog reader! My name is Niko, and I have been working here at Sievo for about four months now. I also study at Aalto University where my field is Industrial Engineering and Management. The Summer is nearing its course as the darkness and rainstorms of September draws closer. I was given the opportunity to reflect on what I learned here at Sievo, and I came up with over 50 different things! These are six of my favourite things I learned while working at this nifty Finnish software company.
You won’t get to know all 150 people you’ll be working with – but they will all treat you like you’ve known forever
Let’s be frank: I am a Finnish guy. I don’t talk to people I don’t know beforehand. I suck at small talk. So, you can probably all imagine my despair on the first day as someone started to talk to me, while I was getting coffee, about the different taste of oat milk and regular milk. The rush of blood in my body as adrenaline filled my frame. My first thoughts were to find the nearest exit – I even thought about stopping drinking coffee altogether, if the price was having conversations with strangers, and usually in English, I might add! However, in a week or so I started to get used to it. Now, I sometimes dare to start a conversation by myself! It’s a great way to get to know people working in different parts of the business, and if you get brave, you might find yourself a new friend!
We, at Sievo, have people from over 20 nationalities, so the office space is filled with different types of personalities and people from different cultures. The feeling around the firm is like in a big multicultural family: You won’t get to know all the people around, but you know that if you need someone’s help, they will deliver!
Learn new exciting things and get paid while doing it!
Learning new things has always been fascinating to me. It doesn’t matter if it’s about machine learning, postmodern decadence literature or how to make the best ravioli in the World, I am always eager to engulf as much new information as possible. At Sievo, we actually can spend 8 hours a month on learning things that interest us (and hopefully will also benefit our work somehow). Some people read books, some learn how to code. For me, I learned more about Artificial Intelligence by taking a MOOC from Helsinki University and a Finnish software company called Reaktor. The course was enjoyable, well made and I also got two credits for my university degree! And, I got paid while doing it!
When you give feedback to the firm’s co-founder, you’ll get credit, not fired
During this Summer, I read two books by an organisational psychologist Dr Adam Grant, one was called Give and Take and the other Originals. In the latter book, Dr Grant talked about a term called radical transparency. He argued that if people spoke up their minds, almost everything we do would be more productive. As an example, he wrote about a company called Bridgewater Associates – World’s largest investment firm, and its Founder/CEO Ray Dalio. They have a corporate culture where no one should hold a critical opinion without speaking their mind about it. Whether it is the performance of the company’s CEO in a meeting or the taste of coffee in the morning, you should speak up your mind about it.
At Sievo, we also have an open culture and a shallow hierarchy. Maybe not as exceptional as they have at Bridgewater’s, but we’re moving up there. I was a summer trainee I was encouraged to speak my mind about things that I thought were somehow not done well or that could be done better. It didn’t matter if the person I talked to was another intern, my boss or even the co-founder of the company. My thoughts were taken into account and I had a real feeling that I could make an impact here. For instance, as an afterthought, I talked to Janina (our recruitment superstar) that some of Sievo’s websites are not to the company’s high standards, and it took less than 24 hours before I had a meeting with our marketing chief on how to improve them!
Active noise cancelling headphones might make you seem anti-social, but you’ll at least get something done
For me, personally, it’s quite difficult to concentrate when there is a lot of things happening around. We at Sievo have an open office plan. This means that everywhere around you, people are walking, talking, drinking and typing. This can (and will) lead to audiovisual disturbance and for me at least (a guy who has the attention span of a goldfish), drew my attention from getting actual work done. The solution: active noise cancelling headphones. I learnt that there are two camps in the market for these headphones: Team Bose and Team Sony. Both are great (albeit expensive) by the sound quality and noise cancelling, and I would recommend everyone buying a pair if you love to listen to music or podcasts while working or studying. These things will render the distracting conversations obsolete and let you focus on what’s important.
The downside of this though is that you’ll seem like an antisocial people hater! I started to experience that people no longer talked to me as much as they used, probably because I looked so focused on whatever I was doing at the time. It went so far that people next to me started to message me on Slack about something they could ask me face-to-face! Thankfully, I could always redeem myself by asking someone to play a game of billiards with me, where we could have a friendly chat.
Beer at work on Fridays is a productivity move – not only enjoyment
Having worked at a large multinational company before, the culture shift I experienced here at Sievo was out of my mind. One of the strangest things was that on Fridays, people go to the kitchen, grab a can of beer or soda. At the first time, I was nervous making my pilgrimage to the refrigerator, moreover opening a can of that malty goodness at the office! I thought at some point, my boss would come by me and say: You know its only 2 pm and you’re here drinking beer, right? For the first time, I felt somehow guilty, but it quickly became a laid-back thing to do at the office as everyone is doing it.
At some point, I started to wonder why does a company like Sievo offer these types of beverages to its employees. Was it just a fair thing to do or is it a remnant from more wild startuppy days? I think it could be both, but I’ve got a theory of my own: It has all to do with productivity. As Friday and the promise of the weekend looms closer, people get anxious. A lot of people in my previous occupations usually took the Friday as a day off or worked remotely, but not so much here at Sievo. They’ll get some more work done on the most unproductive days of the week (maybe discounting Saturday/Sunday mornings by some people) and catch up with other people around the office in a relaxed atmosphere. As a result, people will get more stuff done and at the same time, create a more open and friendly office culture.
Amongst all the fun, it’s still serious and hard work for the most part
At some point, my friends asked me if we at Sievo get anything serious done at all. I have shared stories about weekly coffee breaks with cake, the infamous Friday beer, team days playing paintball and company getaways to Europe, so no wonder that they might have the feeling that life at Sievo is just fun and games! That is, however, not the case. Most of our typical days are typical work like in any other workplace. I am thrilled to be working at a company filled with talented and ambitious people that all share the vision of making the World a better place. We all try to help companies all over the Globe to waste less and to make better decisions for a more sustainable society. That vision of a better World doesn’t come to reality with just having fun, but it takes hard work and collaboration. I am thankful for this experience I was given by Sievo, and can’t wait what my future will behold as I got the opportunity to continue working here with a part-time contract in parallel to my studies.