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The Digital Engineers of Nitor: Anna approaches coding with the user first in mind

Published in People

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March 23, 2023 · 9 min read time

Anna Salo is a 3rd year Software Developer at Nitor, and hopes more women would find their way to a career in IT. To Anna, her job’s most important aspects are the meaningfulness of the work and being part of a community.

Anna, would you kindly start off by telling us a bit more about your background? 

Before starting at Nitor, I worked for a small B2B startup as a Full Stack Developer on a React native mobile application. It was my first long-term employment in the industry. After some time, I started to feel the need to expand my horizons but didn’t exactly know where to apply to. Eventually, our People Partner Janne invited me for a cup of coffee at Nitor. 

After I learned what kind of employer Nitor is, I felt like landing a job there would be as winning the lottery. It was hard to believe such a place exists. The company has amicable core values, and the people are super nice. I just couldn’t imagine that a junior developer with a few years of experience under her belt would have a chance to become a consultant at Nitor. However, things quickly escalated to the point where I was offered employment.

You started at Nitor during the pandemic, when everyone was social distancing, and remote work was a general recommendation at Nitor as well. How was it to start a new career under these circumstances? 

Things were difficult in the beginning because it was so hard to get to know people. Nitor is a highly communal company, and our culture is founded upon togetherness, but at the beginning of my career everyone was far apart from one another. When live events recommenced, I started feeling like a part of the community. Many of Nitor’s employees have since become my close friends. 

There are positives to remote work, too. I was new to consulting when I started at Nitor, so in the beginning it was actually easier to absorb all the new information I was receiving while working remotely. Every new Nitorean also gets to introduce themselves to an audience of over a hundred people, and to me, doing this over a video stream felt more comfortable. 

What are you mainly working on at Nitor? 

Most of my working hours are spent working with a client, developing a digital service and facilitating the day-to-day needs in the field of education. The service is used daily by tens of thousands of students, teachers, and university faculty members across Finland. I am a part of the front team, and our focus is to develop better accessibility features, and to make the software easier to use for both special needs students and other users in general. 

My expertise lays in mobile development with React, and my work at Nitor is heavily focused on front development. With my current client I’ve had the chance to develop web solutions via the Angular framework. It’s been enjoyable to find my own path and hone my expertise in a field where I feel I have the most aptitude.

As I’ve been working with this client for over two and a half years, I’ve also accumulated a lot of byline information. One of the most rewarding aspects has been the opportunity to share my knowledge and know-how with newly hired junior developers. 

Anna is a precise and thorough developer who dedicates to her tasks. Still, I think her most impressive skill is being a genuine human being who is always there to support and positively encourage her colleagues. Her personality, sense of humour, and talented developer skills are a joy to work with.

- Eero Suvanto, Software Developer

Sounds splendid! But do tell: what do you find most rewarding in your work? 

It is very important to me to feel like my work has meaning, and I didn’t really feel like this came to fruition until I started working for Nitor.

As the software we are developing is aimed at academic students and is in use at many universities, many of my close friends are our key users. This means I often receive direct constructive feedback on what’s working and what’s not. This has also given me the opportunity to experience firsthand how much my work impacts people’s lives. Some of my friends have, for example, found a bug or usability issue in the software, and I’ve been able to make improvements to the software thanks to their input. 

What would you say is the best thing about Nitor’s working community? 

It’s a special kind of warmth during both working hours and beyond. People look out for each other here. You can always approach anyone for a helping hand. No one is ever left hanging with a client case on their lonesome. Everyone is taken care of and receives a ton of support. 

We also have the Kamu peer support system, and we go through different aspects of our lives every six months. If something’s crowding your mind or laying too heavy a burden on your shoulders, you can bring it up with your support person. It’s more than okay to bring up personal things as long as the person feels comfortable and safe to do so. It’s massively important to me that everyone here is very serious when it comes to people’s wellbeing and energy capacity. 

Truly an important factor. Another good way to maintain wellbeing are public events. Word has it that you tend to DJ at Nitor’s parties. What kind of music do you prefer to spin on your decks? 

I like to play a lot of deep house, techno, and progressive electronic music. I do enjoy disco stuff and hits from the 80’s, too, if that suits the nature of the event better. So far, my turns as a DJ have been more of a nice hobby, but you never know what the future might bring. 

What other types of activities bring you joy? 

Post-covid I’ve started putting a lot more emphasis on physical wellbeing. During the week I go to the gym, do yoga, and partake in different activities such as climbing. I’d also like to start a dancing hobby at some point.

Especially yoga has proven to be very important for recharging. We have an instructor who comes to the office every Friday to hold a class. I haven’t yet dared to take part in a public class, but at the office it’s a lot of fun. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and yogis of every skill level take part. 

Physical activities have proven to be helpful when it comes to work life, too. I have a lot more daily energy, and exercise provides a natural counterbalance to my screen-heavy work. It has become a valuable tool for recovery, as well as an enjoyable part of my weekly routine. 

It’s important to know when to turn off the screen these days. What other abilities would you say a Nitorean Digital Engineer should possess? 

Cooperative skills and the ability to get along with people are at the top of the list. Being helpful towards others is important, but equally important is the ability to ask for help when you need it.

Here at Nitor practicality and problem-solving are valued traits, but these goals should be met while being mindful that you are on the same team with the client, even if everyone doesn’t always see eye-to-eye on what the best course of action should be to solve a current issue.

Nitor has an exceptionally good reputation in the industry and high customer satisfaction, which is of course a testament to the skills of Nitoreans. However, I feel that pure skill isn’t enough, as people also need to be approachable and easy to work with. 

Wise words indeed! Let’s continue down this path of wisdom. What would you like to say to other women who might be contemplating a career as a Software Developer, Coder, or Digital Engineer? 

When I started thinking about post-graduation at the end of high school, I was kind of lost. University entrance exams were a source of immense pressure, as I honestly had no idea what I wanted to focus on. Although I consider myself more of a humanist rather than an engineer type of person, I figured information processing sciences might be a good path to follow until I figure out what I really want to do.

However, when I began my studies, I remember being surprised at how well everything started to fall into place. As I delved deeper into the world of coding and got to work on different projects, it dawned on me that this could become my career. 

Especially in high school I had an image in my head that the IT world and coding were part of a bone-dry and bleak world. I think that’s part of the reason why so few women strive towards a career in the industry. This image is far from the truth. As a humanist, I’m a very creative person and have come to discover that I can funnel that side of my personality into my work in many ways. You don’t have to be super-versed in math and science studies to make it in this industry. 

It's good to wipe the dust off of outdated images! Any more refreshing insight you’d like to share with women who might be considering either applying to or switching over to IT? 

Many female applicants might think that coding is socially disengaged work with very little contact with other people. This is far from the truth. In my line of work, you get to provide input and insight on immensely impactful projects. The work also entails constant contact with other people. 

I would also suggest pondering the possibility via the lens of future employment. I’m a fairly pragmatic person, and I know what I want the future to hold for me. I want to have ample employment opportunities and have no desire to enroll in school again. To students, I’d recommend having a stab at coding by taking part in a university coding class, for example. After all, it’s no coincidence that coding is a part of the curriculum at comprehensive schools.

The world is continually more and more dependent on technical professionals, and by learning how to code one is giving themselves the opportunity to take part in building the future. 

In this campaign, we’ll introduce Nitoreans in different roles. Every Nitorean is a Digital Engineer: a pragmatic and solution-oriented helper who doesn’t settle for assumptions. Instead, they take one step further to seek the right questions and even better answers.

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