ArticleMarch 15, 2023 · 5 min read time
Learning something new inspires and excites us. In addition to our customer projects, we use our work time to learn new skills by studying, participating in interesting events, and advancing projects close to our hearts. This time used for Nitor's internal development programs and our personal projects is called Core time.
At Nitor, we can allocate 10% of our work time to Core work, and each Nitorean can choose what to do with that time, when to use it, and how to work during their Core time. There are only two rules on how to use the core time: use it in projects that develop you personally as well as us as a whole, and share your results with the work community.
Employees can choose whether to work on their project alone or with a colleague or participate in Nitor's internal development projects. Or do they want to use the time developing an open-source application, for example? Some examples of our internal development projects are tools for acquiring new work equipment, a travel guide for our training trips, and an application for controlling our office's multi-room music system.
Nitoreans can work on their core project anytime they feel like it. We enable working together on the projects by organising a core week twice a year and holding monthly core days to work on the projects. Each month we get together to share our thoughts and accomplishments through lightning talks. We emphasise the freedom to choose the core work topic and support prioritising core work with other tasks. Nitoreans can thus freely choose when to work on their core project, as you never know when inspiration strikes.
Our yearly organised Core Awards Gala recognises the most interesting and delightful Core projects. Nitor's Core Jury, elected from the employees annually, awards the recognition. This year, we had seven different award categories. Some examples of the categories included projects with the highest customer value, the most surprising projects, the longest development project, and the most socially impactful work. In addition, we voted for the most inspiring blog post and lightning talk.
Read more about this year's awarded Core projects:
Twitter bot for speeding vehicles by Ville Saalo
Puksun Bussit is a Twitter bot that tracks busses in Eskolantie street in Pukinmäki, Helsinki, reporting their speeds to Twitter. The architect of the bot Ville Saalo (Senior Software Architect at Nitor) lives in Pukinmäki and got annoyed with how few cars and vehicles respect the speed limit of 30 km/h. A speed display on the street shows people speeding there regularly, even though there is a warning sign about kids, too.
The situation has been discussed within the neighbourhood's community, and a concerned email has been sent to the City of Helsinki. But since nothing has changed, Ville wanted to make the issue more visible. Because of the challenge of getting data about private vehicles, the bot only follows the busses for practical reasons. Their data is accessible via HSL's Digitransit API.
Ville built the first prototype of the Puksun Bussit bot in the summer of 2020 in Java. He only finished the bot in the fall of 2022 at Nitor's annual strategic training trip, this time in TypeScript.
Ethics evangelists Lotta & Annika - Winning award for the best lighting talk
Our Senior Designers, Annika Madjeska and Lotta Ahonen, held a lightning talk about Ethical thinking in the design and development process. In the lighting talk, they went through concrete tools in ethical thinking that will help to include ethical touch along the design process - not just have it as an afterthought.
The lightning talk was inspired by a workshop at <From Business to Buttons> conference where they got actionable tools to bring ethical thinking into the development process of services and daily work.
Annika and Lotta have also used their Core-time for building The Ethics in Tech -page in Nitor's intra. They have collected information to watch, read, and listen to lower the threshold of where to get started when a colleague wants to bring ethical thinking into their work process.
Read more about Annika's article We are the gatekeepers of our future.
Iron Bank application for work device orders and tracking by a team of Nitoreans
Iron Bank application is a comprehensive web application that Nitoreans use to order new work devices, keep track of existing ones, and handle redemptions. It also keeps track of individual Iron Bank budgets for each Nitorean.
Previously Iron Bank tracking was done with multiple Excel sheets and ordering devices by email. This was enough when Nitor was still small, but now that we are over 220 Nitoreans, we decided we need a proper system.
A team of Nitoreans created a web application with a serverless backend on AWS. Data is stored in a blockchain-based quantum ledger database. We also created a live stream that constantly pushes changes from Excel files to the database during the development phase so that the data is always automatically in sync with Excel.
On top of the core application, interfaces are available for other use cases, such as Iron Spy, which lets you see what other Nitoreans have bought with their Iron Bank budget. A dedicated system also enables to share analytics and additional relevant information to improve the Iron Bank process further.
Virtanen.ai reveals households' electricity consumption by utilising advanced analytics
Nitoreans were inspired by the desire to be part of energy-saving efforts. An idea was born for a service that shows the household's electricity consumption by appliance groups and calculates the costs caused by using different appliances according to the spot electricity price.
Virtanen.ai was created by a cross-functional team of Nitoreans, including data scientists and engineers working on artificial intelligence, as well as user interface designers and software developers who participated in the development of the service. Virtanen.ai implements a serverless architecture running on the AWS cloud platform, which makes the service scalable, minimises the need for maintenance, and optimises the costs.
Using the service only requires the consumer to make the effort of retrieving the data about their apartment from Fingrid's online service. The information is served in a user-friendly format, and the service is designed to be accessible and easy to use. Learn more about the service.
Above all, core time is for the joy of learning something new
Core work is for maintaining our expertise, and the essential aspect of it is the learning that comes from it. All core work is not meant to result in a code ready for production or a published article. Many of the core projects are prototypes or exciting experiments. Even though the Core Awards Gala rewards finalised projects, just as in product development, also experiments have their place. The value of core time is in learning, which is an essential investment in our expertise. Core Awards is one way we encourage our people always to keep learning.