ArticleAugust 24, 2022 · 6 min read time
Every Nitorean has an opportunity to use 10% of their work time for their own competence development and own projects - we call this Core time. Twice a year, Nitoreans can join Core week and dedicate a whole week to their Core time and work on something that makes them happy.
This spring, the Core week was held in hackathon style - each team worked on their project during the week and got to present a demo version during the wrap-up session where we got to see a lot of great ideas come to fruition.
The guidelines for Core projects are not very strict, and they can range from an article on self-development to solving a universal challenge. Often our colleagues choose to work on solutions that help all Nitoreans, so many projects are linked to our everyday office life and improving it with different innovations.
Creating innovations to improve our everyday work life
Lunch Companion app was created to help find lunch buddies with the same schedule and food cravings. The app connects people based on added information and suggests lunch plans for users.
“The idea for the Lunch app was an assignment that I did before Nitor. I knew it was a “pretty but no brains” idea, but somehow it still sounded like a fun Core week project. Julia liked the idea and so we got on with it. In hindsight, the most important part was the logic – how the user arrives from one screen to another, matching the lunch plans, voting for the restaurant – and we needed to do some serious brainstorming on that aspect”, tells Jyri Konttinen, Senior Digital Designer of Nitor.
“I thought this could actually get a lot of use among the Nitoreans, so I happily jumped on board. All in all, our Core week was definitely a success - we got to practice designer-developer collaboration, which once again showed us just how crucial effective communication between the two parties is for creating great products, and we simply had a blast working on something we both were so excited about”, Nitor’s Software Developer Julia Shumeyko continues.
Frontend: React, static frontend files are hosted in Nitor AWS S3
Integration: Personio data APIs, MyHelsinki Open API
Nitor Office application is a tool for controlling media devices at Nitor’s office in Helsinki. With the app, one can manage all the devices in different rooms using the same tool.
"Nitor Office App is a mobile application and backend for controlling lights, music and media streaming inside the Nitor Helsinki headquarters premises. We already had a solution that could basically do what the limited terminals could do in a mobile application, but we wanted to extend that functionality to control all media playback in the 20 or so televisions in the office and the few amplifiers connected to them. During the core week, we implemented a backend that could connect to all the LG televisions and Denon Amplifiers as well as the lights and sounds APIs. We essentially rewrote the mobile application with new styles and fonts and extended functionalities to also control TVs and amplifiers”, Nitor’s Managing Director Pasi Niemi describes their project.
In addition to these new solutions for the office, Core time was used to create a shared learning process of the Nitor Mentoring program. The documented learning process covers React basics and is meant to provide support for future mentoring pairs.
Developing the purchasing process of our work equipment
During this Core week, Nitoreans worked on two projects concerning the purchasing of our work equipment. Iron Spy lists all the purchases Nitoreans have made, and one can use it to explore and compare purchased devices and other work equipment and see what their setup could be missing.
Backend: N/A, static frontend files are hosted in Nitor AWS S3
Frontend: React, Next.js, Recharts
Integration: Personio data APIs, Nitor Image API, Iron Bank API
Iron Bank Application takes our purchasing process to the next level and makes it much easier in the future.
“Fun fact about this project is that it is just a PoC at this point but it’s already a hybrid cloud solution with data coming in from those pesky Excel sheets via Azure cloud to AWS. One could say that we are digitalizing a legacy process, so we’re eating our own dog food in terms of digitalization there”, Nitor’s Chief Technologist Mika Majakorpi describes.
Backend: Our own Vert.x based API Gateway, AWS Lambda functions with Node.js, Quantum Ledger Database, DynamoDB, Kinesis Data Streams
Outside of the box
As Core time can be used for any kind of work aimed at competence development, a lot of Nitoreans spend it working on creative outside-of-the-box projects. One of such projects is My beach -application, which tells the water temperature at Helsinki beaches and shows different illustrations that reflect the temperature level.
Also, we now have our own animated goat that reads out Nitor Recognitions - Nitoreans giving positive feedback to other Nitoreans - at our monthly meetings -. Here is how it works. The back-end Azure Function has one main endpoint that the Goat component uses. It takes the Nitor recognition data as an input which consists of the recognition proposers, receivers, and reasoning. A summarized version is created with Azure Cognitive Service for Language accompanied by other text analytics on the content like sentiment.
Putting in together the introduction and analytics results a final output is created. This is used to generate audible speech and viseme events (lip sync) with Azure Cognitive Services for Speech. The Goat component on the front-end uses the generated audio and viseme event data to output an animated response to the user. We plan to continue enhancing the Goat's capabilities and branch out to other front-ends as well in the future.
Frontend: Existing Nitor Recognitions React app, with an added animated cartoon Goat component
Backend: Azure Functions (with Node runtime)
Integration with Azure Cognitive Services for Language and Speech
It’s not the destination but the journey
Core week is not about winning or losing, it is about exceeding yourself, innovating, and, most of all, learning something new. With that in mind, we arrange a Core Awards after the project wrap-up session. Our Core Council evaluates the projects and acknowledges innovations that have excelled in different categories.
“Core Awards ceremony is about looking back and highlighting the great stuff we have been doing with our Core time. We want to recognize the people who have participated, so we collect a set of nominees to be “awarded” in different categories such as Biggest core team or Thinking outside the box.
Recognition is one thing but of course, we want to make this work visible for every Nitorean as well to either get more people to join our Core teams that are working on a bigger project or just to give some ideas and inspiration on what to do with Core time. Core time benefits individuals as well as the whole Nitor as a company.”, Nitor’s Senior Service Designer Jesse Enqvist tells.
This year, the prize for the “winners'' was to choose a donation recipient. On behalf of the Nitoreans, we donated a total of 3400€ to different charity organizations including Red Cross Ukraine, Unicef Ukraine children, The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, Polish Humanitarian Action, The Cancer Foundation, Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation (Luonnonperintösäätiö), MIELI Mental Health Finland, Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, The Finnish Nature League (Luonto-Liitto).
This sums up the foundation of the Core week - to give something back.
Until next Core week!