Artikel5 september 2023 · 7 min lästid
There was a time when Kati Laine, originally a programmer, thought she’d ended up in the wrong line of work. Then something happened that shepherded Kati towards agile working, and finally to Nitor as an Enterprise Coach.
Let’s begin our chat with a peek into history. Could you start us off by telling how your path to becoming an Enterprise Coach began?
Originally, my studies in the fields of information science and mathematics led to brief employment as a programmer. Then, by happenstance, I began to lead projects as well.
That almost ended my career before it had even begun. I started to question why projects were lined with vastly specific plans of action, even though it was clear from the offset that not all twists and turns could be foreseen. Most projects wouldn’t advance very far until it was apparent that the rigorous and meticulous beforehand planning couldn’t hold up in the face of real-world tribulations.
What really started to grind my gears was the fact that even though surprises were a common occurrence when working with the latest technology, these were seen as setbacks. Not to mention the mindset that all good ideas should’ve been brought forth during the pre-phase. There was always uncertainty and hardship ahead if something was implemented afterwards. Premade plans needed to be precise and infallible, even when the aim was to spearhead development and test the boundaries of new technologies, for example.
Managing changes within projects was hard work and rife with bureaucracy. As project plans were drafted for vast groups of people and stretching far into the future, even the smallest change required a significant amount of updating. It certainly didn’t make it easy to view surprises and fresh ideas as inspirational sources for learning and betterment.
That certainly sounds draining. What happened next?
Before I made any drastic moves regarding my career, I witnessed a colleague working on an experimental project using agile methods. I got the opportunity to peer over their shoulder at the process. This set a light at the end of the tunnel. After that, I applied for the role of Scrum Master at F-Secure and got the job.
I ended up working for F-Secure for about ten years. I had the chance to lead teams operating on many different levels, teams within teams, and product development units, always approaching tasks ahead from the agile viewpoint. Each day entailed internalising what agility meant on a practical level. I taught, and I learned. That’s the path I’m still on.
Being employed as a problem solver must be challenging. How are the principles of agile working applied and followed at Nitor?
I’ve been working at Nitor for over six years, and during that time, my mission has been to help our client organisations to get the most out of agile thinking and methods. Although the model for agile working was born into the realm of software development, the principles and methods are hugely useful in practically any environment imaginable.
Organisations breed their own culture, which impacts the nature of what types of troubles and challenges they face. My greatest challenge as Enterprise Coach has been the discovery of how to aid client companies I’m not familiar with beforehand. My role tends to be a flexible combination of instructor, mentor, and coach. I’m very rarely the one solving the problems, but rather a supportive force helping the client find solutions on their own. After all, they’re the ones who know their organisation best. I can assist in giving a clearer view on the situation, help finding the most impactful areas to develop, as well as the best route to achieve them.
Kati has a brilliant analytical mind that allows her to see the underlying patterns in big and small organisations and teams, and then the brilliant skill of finding just the right way of helping them onto a better path of collaboration and joint accomplishments. The best part is that she does all these things while still being herself, not hiding behind a professional role or mask. She is a great role model for women in the IT industry and I feel lucky to be able to call her my colleague and friend.
– Annika Madejska, Senior Designer
Aiding people in finding solutions is socially and communicatively intensive work, one of the most challenging positions one could imagine. What sorts of obstacles have you had to climb over during your career?
In client situations, I often face scenarios where people working in different roles have very different views on the nature of the situation. That’s why it’s important to build a comprehensive outline of the employees’ shared situation and delve deeper into the issues people are facing, so we can uncover the underlying issues behind the symptoms. Discussion on remedies should commence only after this phase is completed.
It is next to impossible to begin developing processes, enhance work environments, and thereby impact the bottom line, if the people intrinsic to these areas aren’t taking part in the reforms. There is no third party who can waltz in with the perfect solution and fix everything with the sleight of a magic wand.
How does your partnership with a client usually begin?
We start with a rundown on how the client sees the prevailing situation, and where they see room for improvement. After that we determine which tools we’ll be using – training, facilitated workshops, one-on-one coaching, mentoring. The shape of my work varies greatly. Depending on the client case my deployment may take days or weeks, sometimes even years.
This path must be even further challenging by the virtue that it is generally shared by many individuals?
In my view, the heart of agile work is that if you want to achieve something truly valuable and useful, it can’t be achieved alone. Cultivating a great idea into a new service of functionality for the end user requires a wealth of different expertise, thereby many experts and key personnel. In big tech projects specialisation and aptitude tend to run very deep, so people in administrative roles need to be able to trust that everyone involved is giving their very best so that the jointly laid-out plans come to fruition.
These days the mindset isn’t to work in silos, but rather to gather all the necessary talent around the same table and peer into what the shared goal is. When a project involves a large group of programmers, graphic designers, copywriters, UI designers, and technical writers, there’s simply no room for single entities to govern dedicated experts on the work they’re conducting. No one possesses that kind of all-encompassing knowledge. However, when people are given tools to peer into the shared playing field and whether cooperation is working as intended – then we are moving in the right direction. The agile direction.
You’ve worked at Nitor for six years, not to mention in the realm of Lean-Agile for a whopping 17 years. How would you say the mental landscape of a Senior Lean-Agile Coach funnels into being a Nitorean Digital Engineer?
I think my know-how falls beautifully in line with that of other Nitoreans! Our developers, architects, designers, and enterprise coaches are all professionals in problem solving. Only the viewpoint varies.
Our clients’ needs are to conduct better business in better work environments, which is something we at Nitor also strive for. We are all experts in our respective fields, bringing different tools into the equation. They are, however, wielded towards the same purpose. Pragmatism is one key unifier. Every Nitorean is always striving to understand and internalise what the client is trying to achieve, regardless of one’s job description.
That must make everyone’s work easier and smoother. What do you find are the best parts of the work community at Nitor?
We are given a great deal of agency and responsibility to make independent decisions. The atmosphere of trust is very strong. Still, I can always approach my colleagues for advice – which is something I often do – but success in one’s own field is ultimately in ones’ own hands. I am given the freedom to operate as I best see fit.
It’s simply easier to work knowing I am trusted. It also makes me trust in myself more.
That’s awesome to hear! In closing, what advice would you give future Nitoreans?
Always keep your eye on the big picture! Put your work into perspective. Strive to understand what your work adds to the whole. Paint a mental picture of the shared goal that stretches beyond your role. That will enable you to understand your own role with deeper insight, enabling you to bring even more impactful ideas and solutions to the table!
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.