ArticleOctober 19, 2021 · 4 min read time
What happened to Mika Kekäle, Nitor's Senior Software Developer, in Sweden?
Internationalisation enables new experiences for Nitor's digital engineers. So how did Mika end up working at Nitor's office in Stockholm for a couple of years? We talked with Mika and asked about his experiences during his two-year work exchange in Sweden.
Mika, you have been working as a software developer for many years. Why did you get interested in the field in the first place?
I got excited about coding already in upper secondary school when I read about a programming language called CoolBasic from Mikrobitti magazine. My interest in coding started then and there.
With CoolBasic, you could make simple 2D games, and it was super cool when you got the images moving. It awoke a passion for finding out how to create even better stuff. We still have a close community of CoolBasic enthusiasts that meets regularly; it's just awesome.
Pretty “cool”, I must say. How did you end up working for Nitor?
That’s a pretty funny story. Sami Airaksinen (also known as Simasami), who works at Nitor, contacted me via the instant messaging system IRC. And I thought, what the heck is Nitor? But after some googling, I got interested. I had also heard through friends that some solid, professional people were working at Nitor.
So, you ended up at Nitor via IRC, awesome! Where did you get the idea to leave for Stockholm? And what was the experience like?
I was initially working on a few client projects in Helsinki when I heard that Nitor was looking for someone interested in going to the Stockholm office to work on a project. My first reaction was a bit amused: now I’d have the opportunity to go to Stockholm, but I didn't know the language that well. However, after some thinking, I thought “Why not?”
I ended up on the Stockholm team for over two years and the experience was one of the best of my life. And the best thing was our team, it was amazing. There were others in the same situation as me; they had moved to Stockholm from Finland to work, so we naturally received peer support from each other and became a close community.
I also grew a lot professionally during that time. For example, I got to use brand new technologies and to start a project from scratch. I think that is the ideal situation for a developer, but the opportunities are rare. Back then, new technologies included Node.js and React. It was a really good learning environment as I received new information constantly from the team members. I also practised Swedish in a dog park with other dog walkers, for example.
Mika and Rudolf worked on the same project in Stockholm. Rudolf Grigel (right) is one of the software developers in our Stockholm office.
Your dog Hedda has sometimes been visiting our Helsinki office and our outdoor events, among other things. How did you find a home in Stockholm?
Hedda is involved in everything! Nitor really helped with the practical arrangements. We got our own realtor who was looking for a dog-friendly apartment that suited us. Nitor covered the cost of finding the apartment and even the rent.
In addition to ‘fika', the renowned Swedish coffee break, there are so many nice things to do in your spare time in Stockholm, right?
Yes! In addition to close teamwork, we also spent a lot of time with the project team in our spare time. We had a lot of fun together. We held retrospectives outdoors in the park enjoying ice creams, and solved the most tricky technical challenges together. We had adventures around Stockholm and went on road trips in Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. One of the best experiences was the Allsång på Skansen sing-along events.
It is easy to enjoy weekend trips to different parts of the Nordic countries from Stockholm. This one is from a trip to Norway with Hedda.
You have worked at Nitor for seven years. What makes Nitor the best place to work?
People are valued here as they are. Nitor has a relaxed working environment so you can really be yourself as long – as you don’t end up in a Nitor bathrobe in the bars of Mummotunneli, located downstairs of our Helsinki office.
Caring about people is reflected in everything, from the small roastery coffee packages to competence development on Code Camp weekends. Those weekends are just amazing! The idea of the Code Camps is to code together with Nitor employees, and after the weekend, the products will be presented to others. And of course, there is a sauna, a hot tub, and good food.
The Great Place to Work gala in Stockholm was also a great experience. It was awesome to celebrate that Nitor was selected as one of the best places to work in Europe.
The 2019 Great Place to Work Gala was held in the home of Nobel banquet, Stockholm City Hall.
Mika, you are also known at Nitor by the nickname Meme King. What is that about?
Thank you, colleagues, for this title! I have to admit that I do like to shovel a lot of memes into Nitor's Slack channels. I think the nickname originated from that.
These memes have indeed become familiar to most of us at Nitor.
Thanks for the interview Mika Kekäle, the Meme King and our traveller in Sweden!