Brave New Work – Are you ready to re-invent your organisation by Aaron Dignan

I want to help you to grow your mindset and to share my passion for impact. Thus, in this blog series, I have hand-picked the bestselling publications and essential managerial tools. This enables you to make a sustainable renewal to your business and personal life. The goal of this first season is to build a common body of knowledge and starting platform for you. Depending on your experience with the subject matter, some of the issues represented might be obvious to you. However, try to dig deeper and connect any missing dots for your own benefit. By reading further you will:

  • save your scarce reading time on renewal, culture and the best performing teams
  • extend your leadership toolbox to support your business decisions
  • build your personal growth-mindset, required to excel as an evolutionary leader

Re-inventing organisations

The Brave New work (2019) by Aaron Dignan is about unleashing the full potential of complex human systems. It can be done by changing the fundamental principles and practices (ie. the operating systems) that shape organisational culture.
My purpose is to give you insights and make you think about some of the new ways of working with evidenced growth in terms of financials and people motivation. By reading this blog and watching the vlog:

  • You learn how to recode the future of work through self-determination, trust and transparency.
  • You are introduced to the key concepts of people positive and complexity conscious.
  • You get two, easy to apply, managerial tools to grow your leadership capabilities.

Future of Work

According to studies referred to in the book, return on assets (ROA) is declining and the financial and technical debts of organisations are simultaneously growing globally. There is constantly more organisational debt – meaning any structure or policy that no longer serve the organisation is present. In addition, nowadays people are nowadays expecting more presence and mediation of continuous participatory change from their leaders.
As referred in my last blog about Netflix building a culture of radical freedom and responsibility the winning organizations looks quite different in their DNA than we are used to in our taylorism driven world of economics. According to the writer, the future of work is about organisations that reflect in their leadership culture and operating systems purpose, transparency and reputation as an employer. Brave new work is built around freedom and responsibility.

People Positive and Complexity Conscious

Aaron Dignan introduces two core concepts of brave new work: people positive and complexity conscious. What do these terms mean in practice?
People positivity is about a positive mindset towards people´s potential. Any individual is seen more as a contributor rather than a cost. People positivity has its roots in the human work motivation and management research work by Douglas McGregor while he was working at the MIT Sloan School of Management in the 1950s, and developed further in the 1960s. The two theories of X and Y 1 proposed by McGregor describe contrasting models of workforce motivation applied by managers in human resource managementorganisational behaviourorganisational communication and organisational development. Theory X explains the importance of heightened supervision, external rewards, and penalties, while Theory Y highlights the motivating role of job satisfaction and encourages workers to approach tasks without direct supervision, the latter is presented as the driver of people positivity.

Also, the self-determination theory (SDT) of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan highlights people´s desire for autonomy, competence development and relatedness. The researchers claim that humans are inherently proactive with their potential and mastering their inner forces (such as drive and emotion). Humans have an inherent tendency toward growth development and integrated functioning. Optimal development and actions are inherent in humans, but they don’t happen automatically.2
In short people positive means that, as a leader, we assume and expect the best of everyone as a starting point.
Complexity conscious tells us how we see and define the world around us. For example, how do we differ complicated challenges vs. complex ones? The main difference is that complicated matters are causal systems that can be controlled and fixed. On the other hand, complex ones are dispositional, they can be predicted and influenced, but not controlled. The complexity conscious idea stems from the Cynefin decision framework 3 by Snowden published in 1999 (see picture below).

Cynefin framework, source 

New Operating System
The operating system is the DNA of an organisation. It is where people work and how the organisation works. It lays down the foundations of co-operation, motivation and success. As W. Edwards Deming (the “father of total quality management”) already said decades ago:
“94% of the problems in an organisation are caused by the system, only 6% by people”
The traditional management mindset is that errors and defects are caused by bad employees or employees who just don’t care. This might not be the case, as mentioned earlier, with people positiveness and complexity consciousness. Is your organisation like an intersection where cars need to stop and wait, or is it like a smooth roundabout? A working operating system is the latter one.
One tool presented in the book is the OS Canvas with the following 12 key critical domain. A clear understanding of these is required for any leaders to succeed. They are the following:

  1. Purpose
  2. Authority
  3. Structure
  4. Strategy
  5. Resources
  6. Innovation
  7. Workflow
  8. Meetings
  9. Information
  10. Membership
  11. Mastery
  12. Compensation

Currently, the OS Canvas is its second edition with same themes, but a new version of a 3X3 type matrix. However, the initial OS Canvas purpose has not changed. The concept is to pick a domain topic and work it through one by one with the following questions:

  • What are our principles in this area?
  • What do we believe?
  • What are our current practices in this area?
  • What do we actually do in this area?
  • Are they (actions) serving us?
  • Are our actions and outcomes consistent with our values?

In short, getting to the root-cause of any development area and defining it clearly whilst, at the same, time taking into consideration the organisation´s strategy, purpose and values. By building those domain themes together with an in-house or external facilitator helps you to create a common visual and documented guide for your new successful operating system.

Psychological Safety
No frank, honest and successful operating systems can be achieved if psychological safety is not felt present at work. In my experience within a multitude of industries in various countries, to create such an environment of trust, transparency and appreciation should be the number one task for a great leader with a willingness to grow.
How to excel? How to build psychological safety in your organisation? One good tool presented in the book is ICBD method4 by Alexandra Jamieson. The method is a discussion/questioning format where you can get your people heard, engaged and make them raise their concerns proactively in order to pursue, together and at the same pace, your strategic intent and goals. The sequence of questions asked is the following:

  1. Intentions – ask “why do you want to be a part of this project?”
  2. Concerns – ask “what are you worried about in our team or plan?”
  3. Borders – ask “what rules or standards will help our team to be the best?”
  4. Dreams – ask “how will we feel, where we will be?”

These earlier questions can help you to build trust, the foundation of every successful team or group which is very well stated by Patrick Lencioni in his bestselling management book of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
To conclude, when you create an environment of psychological safety, you can unleash the untapped potential of your people and make miracles happen without heavy investments. You can get growth and incremental results fast.

The key question for you to ask yourself when becoming a leader with a growth-mindset

  • What is stopping you creating the best workplace of the future, today?

My next blog will be published in early January 2020. It will be about tribal leadership and getting organised in a new way to grow. Keep following.
4 Getting to Hell Yes: The conversation that will change your business (and the rest of your life),Jamieson and Gower, 2018

Jere Talonen – Your co-pilot helping you to bridge the gap between strategy, values and behaviours from the boardroom to the shop floor by combining EX with CX. In the blog series, he shares his learnings from a multi-industry international career extending over 20 years as a leader, entrepreneur, business coach & consultant, as well as an executive team and board member. Currently, Jere acts as Principal Consultant – Recoding Culture and the Future of work at Gofore Plc.

Jere Talonen

Jere works at Gofore as a lead and service culture development consultant. He has over 20 years of management level business experience from global consumer brands in nine countries and three continents. In addition Jere is also a seasoned entrepreneur of start-up ecosystem and network building.

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I​ was sure I’d fail. In my earlier attempts to cut down minutes,​ hours and days I spend on social​ media, I had managed to avoid it for some time, but ended up using it either as much or even more when I allowed it back into my life. I needed another strategy.​​

More​ than anything, I wanted to understand what I was looking for in these technologies. You see, I didn’t know. What I knew was that something wasn’t quite right. That’s when I discovered digital minimalism.​

Hiding​ in bare daylight​

According​ to a 2011 study, 47% of the U.S. adult population is estimated to have suffered from maladaptive signs of at least one addictive disorder during the last 12 months. There are several hooks available, social media being only one of them.​

Adam​  Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at New York University and author of​ Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive​ Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked describes​ each behavioural addiction to include one or many of the following elements:​

  • Compelling​ goals that are just beyond reach​
  • Irresistible and unpredictable positive feedback​
  • Sense​ of incremental progress and improvement​
  • Tasks that become slightly more difficult over time​
  • Unresolved tensions that demand resolution​
  • Strong​ social connections​

According​ to Alter, any experience that a person returns to compulsively in the short term even if it has a negative impact on a person’s well-being in at least one aspect in the long term counts as a behavioural addiction. The damage can have a mixture of social, physical​ and financial aspects. When compared to substance addictions, behavioural addictions are easier to hide which can maintain the unhealthy situation for a long time.​

Because​ behavioural addictions are common, it may be tempting to question the need for their diagnosis and normalize the situation. However, we need the diagnosis for comparing reality to what is normal and healthy. The big picture should scare the hell out of us,​ and then trigger us to action, including me as a designer. We​ at Gofore aim at developing ethically sustainable solutions. In the end, our values define what kind of impact we want to create in this world. What actually happens depends on the actions that stem from those values. Supporting sustainable technology use​ is one way of caring for humanity and taking responsibility.​

What​ is digital minimalism​

Digital​ minimalism offers building blocks for sustainable technology use. By definition, it is a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value,​ and then happily miss out on everything else. Cal Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, describes the approach in detail in​ Digital Minimalism: Choosing​ a Focused Life in a Noisy World.​

The​ idea behind digital minimalism is to increase one’s awareness of optional technologies and to help in making deliberate decisions on what to use, for what end and how. It is about throwing a strategy at something we can’t otherwise control,​ knowing that​ there are products that are addictive by design, taking more than we intend to give.​

In​ order to adopt the lifestyle of a digital minimalist, Newport suggests a rapid digital declutter process:​​

  • Take​ a 30 days break from all optional technologies in your life.​
  • During​ the break, look for activities and behaviours that you find meaningful.​
  • ​After​ 30 days, reintroduce optional technologies into your life. For each technology, evaluate the value it serves. You should allow the technology back into your life only if it serves something you deeply value, is the best way to serve this value, and has a clearly​ defined role in your life, including information on when and how you use it.​

​There​ is an option to avoiding everything, however. It is possible to create predefined rules for selected technologies which would apply during the declutter period. It would mean using a certain technology but changing something in the way to use it. If you’re​ binge watching alone, for example, you could set an episode limit and ask a friend to join you.​ 

But​ why all this trouble? The declutter period is there to help you​ to clear your mind before rushing to conclusions about the value each technology serves. But avoiding technologies for some time isn’t the hardest part. It is being honest to yourself that can be excruciating, and that happens at the very end of the declutter​ period, when you return to evaluate each technology. If the technology offers you only some value, you should let it go. At the same time, you are leaving behind that part of yourself, and farewells are always hard.​

My​ experiment​

My​ rules were simple. No Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. I moved the app icons away from my phone’s main screen so that I wouldn’t touch them out of habit. As suggested by the book, I had planned activities for those moments where I’d normally reach​ for my phone. Nothing fancy there. I needed these activities the most during the first week when I had to remind myself for being in charge of the situation I had put myself into.​​

On​ the third week, a disturbing thought flickered across my mind. A sense of freedom, the kind you’d feel after an escape. But was I running from technology, or myself as a user?​ Is there a difference?​​

I​ could tell you what I did with the time that was released by avoiding technologies, but what I find far more interesting is the evaluation process that followed the declutter period. I got stuck at the very first question of the technology screening: does​ this technology directly support something that I deeply value? I simply didn’t know what those values were. That part of the big picture was gone.​

This​ was a fundamental moment. As most people, I have a narrative for each application to rationalize my usage, but there was a mismatch between my goals and behaviour I couldn’t explain away. What was most upsetting, however, was the fact that I couldn’t connect​ those goals to the values I care deeply about. The arrows pointed somewhere else. It didn’t end there, of course. I knew better ways to reach those goals, too. As a final punch, when it comes to living to my values, I have a long way ahead of me.​

After 30 days, ​I re-entered social media​. After a while, I raised my gaze and made a decision. I’m still here, somewhere beyond, and for now, I’ll stay.

Kati Virtanen

Kati Virtanen is UX designer helping organizations learn from their customers and discover what truly matters together with them. One of her methods is user testing, where the client has an active role in all phases.

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Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom & Responsibility at Netflix by Patty McCord

I want to help you to grow your mindset and share my passion for impact. Thus, in this blog series, I have hand-picked the bestselling publications and essential managerial tools. This enables you to make a sustainable renewal to your business and personal life. The goal of the first season is to build a common body of knowledge and a starting platform for you. Depending on your experience with the subject matter, some of the issues represented might be obvious to you, however, try to dig deeper and connect any missing dots for your benefit. By reading further you will:

  • save your scarce reading time on renewal, culture and the best performing teams
  • extend your leadership toolbox to support your business decisions
  • build your personal growth-mindset, required to excel as an evolutionary leader

Netflix Culture of Freedom & Responsibility 

The focus of this episode is on the best organisational culture practices of Netflix during the time when Patty McCord was working as chief talent officer in the company. The basis of this blog is her book published in 2018 and the Netflix open-source culture deck.
The first slide of Netflix´s culture deck, viewed over 15 million times, communicates that the company has two values; freedom and responsibility, which work together to create a mutually inclusive whole. Both cultural themes of Netflix are co-dependent and mandatory. The second slide of the culture deck sets the cultural standards for the organisation to seek excellence. The role of the company´s culture in achieving that is clearly stated.
“Our culture focuses on helping us to achieve excellence” 
My purpose is to dig deeper into these expected ‘best cultural daily behaviours and practices’ at Netflix that have generated them financial growth with higher employee motivation. By reading this blog and watching my related video:

  • You learn, concretely, how a small market entrant company can swiftly conquer an entire industry
  • You see, in a compelling way, how responsibility and freedom, normally considered as counterforces, can work well combined
  • You get insights into the Netflix combination of EX and CX creates growth and excellent financial results

Culture = Values + Behaviors

As mentioned in my previous blogs; cultures are a group phenomenon and unique to every single organisation in relation to time, operating system, market environment, managerial legacy, espoused values, resources available and personal relationships involved. Culture is the way people behave and the output is the evolution of the organisation, hopefully into an expected direction. Therefore, there doesn’t exist a right or wrong culture and “the Holy Grail of the best culture” can not be found. Culture is one of the most profound and, at the same time fragile, competitive advantages of any organisation and cannot be just copied to any other organisation.
What is important to understand is that the building blocks of culture are shared values, but in the end, it is the daily behaviours are those that count. As Simon Sinek defines in his new book2, “Culture equals values plus behaviours”. Culture is constantly progressing. This evolution should be systematically led and communicated but, unfortunately, according to Harvard Business Review1 study, this vital leadership action is very often neglected, leading to situations where the strategic intent of management doesn´t materialize.

Netflix Operating System

Before going into the radical freedom present at Netflix, let´s look at where their success comes from. The growth drivers of Netflix have been a high-performance focus and leadership through context, not control. The basis of leadership is trust in people rather than over-controlling them. However, trust doesn´t mean allowing for any possibility to deviate from the ethical code of conduct. At Netflix, leaders are expected to not lie, cheat or steal and to not tolerate these from anyone in the company hierarchy.
These two drivers related to performance and leadership have created the space for Netflix to grow in a fast, big and bold way.  In addition, the way people operate on a daily basis at Netflix makes a difference. People at the company say that they are surrounded by “stunning colleagues”. At Netflix people do not consider themselves as a family, but rather like a sports team playing for a common goal helping each other to succeed during good and bad times.
The seven building blocks of Netflix culture are:

  • Values are what we value
  • High performance, without accepting free-riders
  • Leadership thru context, not control
  • Teams are highly aligned, but loosely coupled
  • At the high end of market compensation
  • Promotions and development are primarily within the company
  • Operating with freedom and responsibility 

Talent density

The key to Netflix success has been to increase talent intensity meaning acquiring a higher number of the best talent and keeping them in-house when they adhere to the Netflix culture buildings blocks. How does Netflix increase talent density?

Some of these actions are straightforward, no-brainers. Unfortunately, they are often not prioritised, and effort is not put on them in our organisations. Why it is so? What stops us acting in the same way?
In short at Netflix this means:

  • To attract the best talent and nourish them with top-line compensation
  • To give people the freedom to create impact, making daily work more meaningful
  • To demand high performance and integrity from everyone, especially leaders

As we all know, recruitment is very costly in time, effort and money. When the talent finally has been hired, it is important to proactively think about how to keep them happy and performing. The keeper test – the question at Netflix, which is also valid for every leader is:

  • Which of my people would I fight to keep at my company?

Radical Freedom

Radical freedom at Netflix means to question time-consuming company policies and approvals procedures constantly to find a better way. The goal is to have less and less of them to serve the company´s purpose and to achieve better customer delivery.  If there is a need for such policies, they should always be short & sweet like, for example, “Act for the company’s best interest”, nothing else. There is no need for a hundred pages of manuals.  At Netflix flexibility comes first, efficiency second.
Building a culture of freedom and responsibility at Netflix means scaling talent density with radical freedom. This means understanding as a leader that people have power, they will make or break your business. It is vital to surround people with other stunning colleagues who have ‘high performance’. This also increases talent flexibility that supports growth. Diminishing the number of policies, approvals and other unnecessary not value-generating internal procedures speeds up the business and decreases related costs. At the same time increasing motivation and meaningful work. This requires a leadership style beyond command and control based on trusting your people more. More trust allows for faster growth as an individual, team or organisation.
A key question for you to ask yourself when becoming a leader with a growth-mindset

  • Are your people allowed to disagree with authority? When? How often?


My next blog will be about self-directed successful workplaces, where empowered and happy people deliver sustainable performance. Keep following.
1 HBR, Jan-Feb. 2018 : Changing your organization’s culture can improve its performance by Groysberg, Lee, Price, and Yo-Jud Cheng
2 Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game (11/2019)
Jere Talonen – Your co-pilot helping you to bridge the gap between strategy, values and behaviours from the boardroom to the shop floor by combining EX with CX. In the blog series, he shares his learnings from a multi-industry international career extending over 20 years as a leader, entrepreneur, business coach & consultant, as well as an executive team and board member. Currently, Jere acts as Principal Consultant – Recoding Culture and the Future of work at Gofore Plc.

Jere Talonen

Jere works at Gofore as a lead and service culture development consultant. He has over 20 years of management level business experience from global consumer brands in nine countries and three continents. In addition Jere is also a seasoned entrepreneur of start-up ecosystem and network building.

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Information on parenting and learning is crucial for families. Gofore is involved in several Finnish early childhood education projects, aimed at creating better digital services for families. The projects are also important steps towards creating smarter cities.
A child’s education path begins in day care and continues far beyond. Ensuring a smooth and happy daily life depends on understanding how a child experiences and explains an issue to its parents, as well as communication between parents and day care and teaching staff.
A tremendous amount of knowledge is accumulated along the learning path – even before day care begins. Can we use such knowledge to make everyday life smoother and happier? Can we provide services which families with children do not yet have – or develop activities currently viewed as challenging? Although the key communication forum is the dialogue between parent and child, we can develop other interaction through digitalisation.
Gofore is involved in several early childhood education development projects in Finland. In addition to improved service interaction for families with children, a smarter city is being built. Data can be used to make everyday life easier and respond proactively to residents’ service needs.
“At Gofore, we are strongly involved in the SmartCity development project, exploring how to use data more intelligently for the benefit of urban citizens, and how it can help people to make smarter and more sustainable choices,” says Simo Turunen, Business Manager, Cities, at Gofore.
Towards a unified digital education path in Helsinki
Day care centres in Helsinki have lacked a digital system that enables communication between early childhood education professionals and parents. This is now being developed, while shaking up digital systems along the entire education path. Wilma, the school communication system used in Helsinki schools, is obsolete and must be developed alongside other services.
The development project for ASTI (common transaction information system), a public interaction system launched in Helsinki, aims to create a unified digital education path for children: from early childhood education through to secondary school. This is an outstanding opportunity to consider what we really want from a digital interaction system – now and in the future. Gofore is strongly involved in developing a digital system for early childhood education. For Simo, the project involves a much larger mission than this suggests.
“The public debate in Helsinki has largely been about replacing Wilma, but we need to see the bigger picture. Digital systems for teaching and early childhood education will become much more comprehensive, service-oriented and customer-friendly.” 
Towards development and an end result that responds to change
Digitalising early childhood education in Helsinki is no small project, but a joint development effort that will take years. Our multi-talented team at Gofore will ensure that future technology meets the requirements in question, and works. In addition, the collaboration between the public and private sectors will be strengthened, as city officials join forces with software development teams to shape development work.
“If we just go ahead and make a ‘finished’ product, it will be obsolete in 10 years’ time. People love digital products, but who ensures that such products are kept up to date? Deeper cooperation between businesses and the public sector will provide a range of opportunities for urban service development,” Simo explains.
Developing – or creating new and better –  services is not always about big investments and budgets. It is more about challenging existing practices and taking them to a new level. Can we genuinely create savings by developing our current practices and activities?
Gofore has a strong track record of steady development of urban services through agile development principles. Instead of thinking that we know everything from the start and working to a pre-set plan, we believe in moving forward on a thoughtful and collaborative basis.
“By identifying current operational problems and finding user-friendly solutions in close collaboration with a range of stakeholders, we can create well-functioning services and ease the everyday lives of residents,” says Simo.

Gofore Oyj

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The Culture Code – The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

I want to help you to grow your mindset and share my passion for impact. Thus, in this blog series I have hand-picked the bestselling publications and essential managerial tools. This enables you to make a sustainable renewal to your business and personal life. The goal of the first season is to build a common body of knowledge and starting platform for you. By reading further you will:

  • save your scarce reading time on renewal, culture and the best performing teams
  • extend your leadership toolbox to support your business decisions
  • build your personal growth-mindset, required to excel as an evolutionary leader

Common ground

In this episode, our focus is on the extensive practical research on the best performing groups done by Daniel Coyle.

  • You get an outlook of common factors and themes of how the best performing groups operate, what makes those groups tick and how team cohesion is created.
  • You get insights on what are those verbal and physical cues of safety, vulnerability and purpose that keep these groups performing and co-operating extremely well.
  • In short, you learn what makes the best performing groups in any industry, at any time.

Any culture is always a group phenomenon, as it was reflected on in Edgar Schein´s life-time research covered in the first episode of this series. The building blocks of an organizational culture are its espoused values and daily behaviors. Therefore, no organizational culture change program should be performed, if no real clearly defined performance development challenge or problem of a group exists. Otherwise more harm than good is done throughout the organization, which is very difficult to correct later.
Coyle´s recent research was performed in the fields of education, entertainment, the military, sports, and even crime. This cross-industry organizational research pinpointed best practices of team behaviors within the Pixar and Google design teams, US Special Forces / SEALS and the San Antonio Spurs NBA basketball team. Let´s dig deeper into those verbal and physical cues that keep these groups performing and co-operating extremely well. 

Building Safety

How to build psychological safety in a group? According to Coyle group chemistry doesn´t happen by chance. As a leader you need to focus more on your listening skills and body language in different interpersonal situations. As you might have heard earlier, if you want to succeed, use your communication means (eyes, mouth and ears) in the same ratio that you have been provided with them. Think about your leadership communication – do you speak more than you listen to your team and colleagues?
Another way to make your fellow members safer in a group is to show transparency by being approachable, treating others warmly and encouraging people to participate. As it has been tested by MIT psychologists and evidenced in real-life, at Google, without a status or seniority way of working this encourages people to become closer to each other. The outcome has been to produce more innovative ideas to the market faster.
Thus, in order to feel a sense of belonging to a group there must be safety, some type of connection established, and an expected future shown. In the book there was a great example of such an environment created by the head-coach, Gregg Popovich, of the San Antonio Spurs NBA basketball team. He has been famous for being extremely rigid on the court, but very caring, thoughtful and warm outside the court. He went out of his way to find ways to show caring towards his team of coaches and players both during moments of joy and hardship. He had a high mutually inclusive respect towards his team which resulted in high motivation and consecutive successes as a unified coherent professional basketball team.

Tools for growth-minded leaders

What & why?

  • Group chemistry builds powerful connection
  • To be safe and close allows more innovation, and faster
  • Presence of safety strengthens belonging


  • More listening. less talking
  • Showing transparent leadership
  • Being approachable and thankful

Sharing Vulnerability

Historically, a leader’s role in organizations has been the authority who knows everything and makes no mistakes. This is quite different to the new expected role of leadership to be vulnerable. Vulnerability in a business leadership context means to be able to admit and accept one’s own weaknesses, as well as to ask for help whenever needed. This does not happen when there is no trust towards every single member of the group.
Developing trust within a group is to open individual insecurities and weaknesses for the entire group. Many recent studies have evidenced that for a group to perform at its best, there needs to be trusted relationships present. This means in practice that as a member of a group you must be able to put your own well-being and priorities after the group´s success. You need to show a habit to develop your courage and candor. Be authentic in speaking the truth out loud and be able to listen objectively to find solutions together. Genuinely caring and showing empathy towards your group members are key competencies of a leadership growth journey which are expressed in words of ‘we’ and ‘us’, rather than ‘me’ and ‘I’.

Tools for growth-minded leaders

What & why?

  • Showing weaknesses leads to increased co-operation
  • Calmness helps in coping with stress and pressure
  • Vulnerability loop, insecurities tackled, set trust in motion within a group


  • Sharing mutual weaknesses as a group, it’s the leader´s responsibility to start
  • Putting the group´s well-being over personal needs and wants
  • Developing a habit of helping others

Establishing Purpose

Purpose is the common noble cause towards which the best performing groups are heading while helping each other. Often this intent is expressed in credos which are short action and future-oriented taglines. The credo is showing everyone’s purpose in the organization, common shared identity and how success will look like. It promotes direction and togetherness.
In order to achieve a group´s purpose there needs to be proficiency and creativity simultaneously that drives the group further. Every group member must be reminded often thru a multitude of communication means, both individually, and as as a group of their sense of belonging. Ranking priorities helps to clarify focus. Acceptance and readiness to fail speeds up innovations and results.
In short, for the team to perform at its highest level, there needs to be mutual respect, trust, transparency, mutual support and internal motivation for continuous learning.

Tools for growth-minded leaders

What & why?

  • Credos describe everyone´s purpose within the group
  • Common identity and goal
  • Empathy over others comes before skills


  • Sharing signals of mutual support, motivation and connectedness, often
  • Ranking business priorities in a group
  • Giving a sense of direction with readiness to fail

Secrets of highly successful groups

  1. Relationships > prioritizing harmony to build up a strong foundation and safety
  2. Authenticity > showing vulnerability creates a platform for ultimate performance
  3. Purpose > building identity by clarifying individuals’ purpose and key tasks
  4. Parallel focus > proficiency (= same quality all the time) and creativity (new things from scratch)
  5. Catchphrases & Credos > though cliché, important for common direction and sense of belonging
  6. Transparency > in information, leadership, weaknesses and mistakes
  7. Retrospectives > learning and growth approach for better results

Key question for you to ask yourself when becoming a leader of high performing groups

  • How well are you prepared to express safety, vulnerability and purpose in public?


The next blog will be about building cultures of freedom and responsibility. Keep following.
Jere Talonen – Your co-pilot helping you to bridge the gap between strategy, values and behaviours from the boardroom to the shop floor by combining EX with CX. In the blog series, he shares his learnings from a multi-industry international career extending over 20 years as a leader, entrepreneur, business coach & consultant, as well as an executive team and board member. Sharing is caring. Currently, Jere acts as Principal Consultant – Recoding Culture and the Future of work at Gofore Plc.

Jere Talonen

Jere works at Gofore as a lead and service culture development consultant. He has over 20 years of management level business experience from global consumer brands in nine countries and three continents. In addition Jere is also a seasoned entrepreneur of start-up ecosystem and network building.

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Organization Culture and Leadership by Edgar & Peter Schein

I want to help you to grow your mindset and share my passion for impact. Thus, in this blog series, I have hand-picked the bestselling publications and essential managerial tools. This enables you to make a sustainable renewal of your business and personal life. The goal of the first season is to build a common body of knowledge and a starting platform for you. By reading further you will:

  • save scarce time reading about renewal, culture and the best performing teams
  • extend your leadership toolbox to support your business decisions
  • build a personal growth-mindset required to excel as an evolutionary leader 

Organizational culture

Our growth mindset journey starts with the book, Organizational Culture & Leadership written by Edgar Schein and his son, Peter. Peter adds some good insights to this fifth revised version of the “Bible” of organizational culture with his refreshed insights on the cultural effects of digitalization and questions the outcomes of the new era of business building, mostly on the “better faster” – mentality.
In my opinion, this book is the basic platform for us to better understand the underlying factors and motivations of organizations to operate effectively towards the same purpose and direction. The book is very hands-on with past cases corporate of culture evolution, successes, challenges and failures. These public and private organizational examples from the DEC Corporation, the Singapore Development Office and Ciba-Ceigy are still very relevant today, just place your 2020 organization´s name in their place and be surprised?
The basic findings, learnings and challenges of the book on the people side of business come back again and again. Maybe it’s because the common memory of humankind, especially in the business context, seems to often be very shortsighted and short-term gains driven?

Influencing, not commanding

Culture by definition according to Schein is challenging because it is an abstract, deep-wide-complex and multi-dimensional. It is always a group phenomenon, any kind of a social unit that shares the same interests and direction. The strength of the group´s culture depends on the length of time together, the stability of memberships in the group, joint historical learning experiences and emotional intensity described also as “togetherness”. The last depends on level 1 vs. 2 relationships that are explained deeper in the book. Concretely this means, for example, what a specific group like an executive team or a team of engineers have learned hands-on and concretely together to survive, grow, deal with the external world and to organize itself for the best outcomes.
According to many of the latest studies’ organizational cultures (including occupational sub-cultures) are, on many occasions, stronger than national cultures. However, macro-cultures should also always be considered in culture works with multi-national organizations or with any company with a multi-cultural workforce. With my own background in the global hospitality industry, this has already been the case for many decades. How about in your business and industry?
It is important for you as a leader to understand that you can influence the groups’ unconscious behaviour, but you cannot command it. Therefore, the time for command & control is gone and it might work only on crisis situations like natural disasters or ad-hoc difficult humane situations. Even armies are changing their organizational cultures from the old way of a chain of command & control to more open, self-directed and joint efforts with great success and better impact. Culture needs to be led.
Leadership needs to get involved actively in the creation of culture at each of the three stages of organizational cultural evolution from foundation to growth to maturity. Schein clearly identifies in the book these organizational culture and leadership stages with different types of actions, leadership styles, communication and the structures required for the cultural journey.

Three levels of culture 

In the book, Schein defines the basic foundations to assess organizational culture. This managerial tool/model is like an iceberg where only level 1 is visible and two other levels are, at times, hidden underneath the surface. In order to understand well enough and be able to influence your organizational culture, you should be aware of all levels affecting from the past and now your working environment, resources and operating system.
At the tip of the cultural iceberg are the visible elements called artefacts. These are the tangible and ‘feelable’ structures and processes like brand, marketing materials, office spaces, uniforms etc. These include behaviours that can be observed, but which, however, are sometimes difficult to decipher for a non-insider. Therefore, do not jump too fast to conclusions on any organization´s culture based only on your subjective visual of the artefacts.
The first level under the surface is espoused values. These are ideals, goals, values, aspirations, ideologies and rationalizations which may or may not be interlinked to visible behaviours or artefacts. These are accepted and supported values which sometimes are not identical to the publicly stated or written ones.
The underlying assumptions are the deepest level of culture. They are ways to indirectly, in a hidden way, to confront, operate and appreciate other members of the organization. These are often unconscious and ‘taken-for-granted’ beliefs and values which are determined thru behaviours, perceptions, thoughts and feelings.

Learning oriented leader

I want to emphasize that no culture changes should be done just for personal managerial reasons or just for the sake of improving. On some occasions, the root-cause might not be culture-based at all.
According to my experience, cultural development initiatives always create some kind of hassle and frustration in any organization. In the end, every individual wants to know “what is in it for me?” Thus, any cultural development focus should always be clearly targeted to where performance should be developed. In order to do so, a real and clear concrete cultural problem should be measured, analyzed, synthesized and shared together within the organization´s proprietary words.
As a leader, you are mainly responsible that the strategy of your organization has a positive impact on your key organizational drivers. What is planned is done and materialized thru your actions, but even more important through your people´s results, motivation and performance. In order to make your strategy successful and live in everyday work life, you need to align it with the culture and get your people engaged. The key is to work on three levels of culture and get your people along in that work in order to show appreciation and trust towards them as individuals and experts. In my opinion, strategy is the guiding force, your common (and hopefully shared) direction and navigation map. The culture is the driving force and the boat engine, giving the right time and resources related pace. It always takes two to tango, you and your people together. Culture and strategy are mutually-inclusive elements – the heart and veins of your company – making or breaking your expected cultural evolution.
The culture evolution journey starts with every one of us. Edgar Schein concludes, very well in his book on learning-oriented leadership – “Know the cultures that are inside you”.
Key questions for you to consider to become a culture, conscious leader

  • In a situation where there is a need for change, prior to acting, do you know enough about the espoused values and underlying assumptions of your organization?
  • How do you build an engaged, growth-minded and strategically aligned organizational culture?


The next blog will be about the secrets of highly successful groups. Keep following.
Jere Talonen – Your co-pilot helping you to bridge the gap between strategy, values and behaviours from the boardroom to the shop floor by combining EX with CX. In the blog series, he shares his learnings from a multi-industry international career extending over 20 years as a leader, entrepreneur, business coach & consultant, as well as an executive team and board member. Sharing is caring. Currently, Jere acts as Principal Consultant – Recoding Culture and the Future of work at Gofore Plc.

Jere Talonen

Jere works at Gofore as a lead and service culture development consultant. He has over 20 years of management level business experience from global consumer brands in nine countries and three continents. In addition Jere is also a seasoned entrepreneur of start-up ecosystem and network building.

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Could this be your summer 2020?

Hey, you summer applicant! Do you want to hear the experiences of our last year summer employees? Alan, Ossian and Tommi will tell you how the summer recruitment process went and what happened after that. And sorry for the spoiler, but in the end, there are also their tips for applying to Gofore. Check those too!

Who are you?

Alan: Heyo, I’m Alan. I’m working as a UX designer, currently improving our own Slack bots intended to help goforeans. Study-wise, I’ve been in Information Networks at Aalto University since 2016 and look to finish my Bachelors’ degree soon (I promise). Before coming to Gofore, I had very little work experience, most of my strengths were gathered by self-learning via YouTube tutorials and own projects.
Ossian: Hey I’m Ossian, a junior software developer working on one of Gofore’s internal bots, Granny. In September I moved to Helsinki and started pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at Aalto University. At the time of applying to Gofore though, I was living in Turku and finishing up my bachelor’s degree in information and communication technology (in Finnish ‘tietotekniikka’) at the University of Turku. I’ve also previously studied and worked in the U.S. but prior to Gofore I hadn’t yet had a tech job on Finnish soil.
Tommi: Howdy! I’m Tommi and I’m working as a Software developer developing our internal chatbots. I study Computer Science at Aalto University as a master’s student. Previously I have worked as a summer trainee for a couple of summers in different companies.

Why did you apply for a summer job at Gofore?

Alan: I saw a summer job ad in the Athene’s (Information Networks guild) recruitment letter. The whole application concept seemed unique, so I decided to look more into the company behind it. The more I read about Gofore, the more I started to fancy it. I thought to myself that even if I don’t get in if I get to the hackathon, I gain a project for my portfolio during the application process and can show that to my benefit while applying elsewhere. So, there was no way I’d lose applying to Gofore.
Ossian: I had never heard of Gofore before applying and if wasn’t for my sister, I would have missed the opening. She had spotted Gofore’s ad and told me about it. What had really caught her eye, was that instead of traditional interviews or coding tests, Gofore was organizing a one-day hackathon. I figured that even if I wouldn’t be offered a job, just participating in the hackathon would be a valuable and fun experience in itself (and I’d get free food) and thus worth my time regardless of the outcome. Additionally, I was happy to see that Gofore had an office also in Turku so I could potentially enjoy summer in my college town before moving to the Helsinki area to continue my studies.
Tommi: Gofore seemed an interesting company to work for as I had heard good things about the company before applying. Gofore also had an interesting hiring process for summer employees last year and I wanted to showcase my skills in a hackathon.

Having fun with summer colleagues

What was the application process like?

Alan: It was really straightforward. This year’s summer job hackathon felt more like an opportunity to learn and put my skills into practice. The only interview I attended was held during the hackathon and it was kept really short. The hackathon itself was a nice way to get to know goforeans and other applicants as well. The hackathon was held on a Saturday and the following week on Thursday I got a happy call that I was offered a summer job, so I was very pleased with the speed of the application process as well.
Ossian: Going into the hackathon I was extremely nervous. We had been instructed to pick a few interesting data sets from but otherwise I had no idea what we would be doing. However, once I had met my group and we started planning our project, I was able to relax, and my focus shifted from getting the job to getting our product to work. After about eight hours of hammering away at our keyboards, we got to admire everyone’s final products as well as to just hang out for a few hours with each other and some current employees that had spent the day with us. That was both a relaxing way to end a pretty intense day and a good opportunity to learn more about Gofore and goforeans.
Tommi: It was different compared to other companies as there was no pre-assignment. I only had to send my application and spend one Saturday at a hackathon at Gofore’s office in Kamppi. The hackathon day was a super nice event and it also helped me to get to know the company better. Less than a week after the hackathon I already got a call offering me a summer job that I happily accepted.

How was starting out?

Alan: I didn’t have a project ready for me to hop into right away, so in the first week I mainly tried to get to know Gofore and goforeans. After a week I had the opportunity to help in an internal project interviewing goforeans regarding our feedback culture. Tea Latvala told me in the first meeting something along the lines of: We’re going to have the first interviews in two days, you’ll be the interviewer and I’ll take notes.  I was really nervous and anxious to jump straight into something that isn’t my forté, but at the same time, it felt nice to be trusted from the get-go.
Ossian: I started at the Turku office in early May and I was quickly given a new internal project to develop on my own. Gofore has some chatbots that are used internally to replace middle management and to automate boring and repetitive tasks such as reporting work hours. I was given the task to both designs and implement a new internal chatbot that would answer any questions that goforeans are frequently asking. I didn’t really have any prior experience of chatbot design or development or natural language processing so to start I spent some time reading both design articles and documentation for the chatbot tool Dialogflow as well as messing around with the development tools.
Tommi: Starting was made easy and comfortable. The first day was spent getting to know the company and its culture better. I was assigned immediately to an internal project. It was nice that from the very beginning I was considered as a fully-fledged team member and not just a summer employee.

What else did you do this summer?

Alan: After the project with Tea, I had the opportunity to help in another customer interview project for a private customer. For the majority of my summer, I spent time with a public sector client doing UX in a large team. I learned how to use Sketch and picked up tons of small tips and tricks from co-workers every day. In hindsight, it was really nice that I got to work on an internal project, for a private sector client and also for the public sector, because I gained brief experience on all sides.
Ossian: Since I worked on the FAQ bot, I spent most of my summer asking a lot of questions and then teaching those, as well as the answers to the bot as well as writing a Node backend for the bot. However, I got to also utilise my other skills as I helped a colleague by editing a video and took some photos of summer employee day activities and created some graphics for marketing our bots at the Shift Business festival where I got to represent Gofore with my colleagues.
Tommi: As I stated before I developed our internal chatbots. It has been a nice project to start with and I have learned a lot during the summer. I never thought that building a chatbot could be this complex and interesting project.

What makes Gofore a good summer employer?

Alan: As a junior employee, it’s nice to be valued and trusted as an equal contributor from day one. During the summer I was trusted with three different projects and had full support throughout. I feel like I could ask anyone for help, and they’d give it gladly. I came in as a narrow UI oriented student and by the end of summer felt like a more capable UX designer having gained skills outside of my small comfort zone.
Ossian: First I was surprised by how much freedom I was given and how much trust was placed in me, but once I got used to it, I’ve been loving it. Still, I’m not alone in my work and have found help and support when I’ve needed it. Also, it’s great to be surrounded by people in a variety of different roles: service, UX and UI designers, data scientists, service architects, developers… And though I’m primarily a developer, I’m not limited by my role and love that I’ve been able to sneak bits of graphics design and photography into my work.
Tommi: Gofore offers a great place to improve your skills and learn new things as well. You are valued as an individual and you get to work in the same projects as the regular employees.  Also, one of Gofore’s values is that “Gofore is a great workplace.” and it really shows in everyday life. You get help from others when you need it and having a break over a game of pool or table football gets your mind off work problems for a moment. Gofore also encourages people to spend time on their personal development which is a big plus.

What skills and experience that you have helped get the job and do well?

Alan: My studies in the Information Networks program are a huge asset. With more of a generalist education, I can use my broad studies to my benefit when discussing decisions and justifying them with multiple viewpoints. More concretely what helped me to get the summer job was that I learned Adobe Xd through YouTube tutorials and made a mobile app prototype for my application. The prototype was hacked together in two evenings and in the end, didn’t even work properly, but I think it showed my eagerness to learn and actually use and show the things I’ve learned. Having done two or three own projects made me more confident in my abilities.
Ossian: Obviously, I can only guess what got me to the hackathon and then hired. Maybe it was the personal projects I included in my resume to make up for my limited work experience. To keep this recent and interesting (and to not just list my Github highlights) I added a few sillier things such as this running CSS dinosaur.
It’s a cliché, but I’ve always been curious and loved learning and asking questions and that was exactly what I did this summer. And since developing a chatbot is as much a design job as development work, having the ability to put me in the user’s shoes was really instrumental.
Tommi: I think the most important skill is a willingness to learn. Working as a software developer is constantly learning and you are never ready. Of course, it helps if you know a thing or two about software development beforehand. Another key skill that I think is required is communication. You must be able to communicate your thoughts within your team clearly. Doing school projects and personal development projects help me to become a better programmer and they look good in your portfolio.

Here are some tips for you when applying to Gofore:

  • If you don’t have many projects to show, making something small for your application is a great way to start. You learn a thing or two along the way and show your skills doing so.
  • Be honest and believe in yourself. We are hundreds of individuals and no one is “perfect” or “normal” whatever that means so just be yourself and know that’s more than enough. You can do it!
  • When attending the workshop, focus on the task at hand and how you can do the best you can as a group. It’s understandable to want to show off your skills, but don’t do it at the cost of your group’s success. After all, work-life is most of the time, about teamwork and excelling as a team rather than about flexing your muscles.
  • Related to a previous point, especially for summer jobs, your “soft skills” such as communication and teamwork skills and ability and eagerness to learn are more important than specific technical skills. So rather than trying to show off what you know now, demonstrate that you are willing and able to learn.
  • The projects you add to your resumé or portfolio don’t need to be huge or complex. Including some smaller and more recent projects show your more recent skills and that you’re constantly learning.

It’s already time to plan summer 2020. Apply for a summer job at Gofore in summer 2020 ➡️➡️

Gofore Oyj

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Double the money, triple the fun?

I’m Minna Vänskä, a service designer at Gofore. I’ve been working in the tech world now for 21 years. By training, I’m a Master of Arts. Earlier in this blog series Jaana told how she focused on mathematics instead of English. Funnily enough, now I’m working with Jaana side by side for the same customer at Gofore and I did study English as my main subject at the university. 🙂 Other studies included information studies (earlier library science), journalism and mass media, multimedia and audio-visual culture. And now that I look back on it, it’s a pretty perfect combo together with the years of experience in IT and added with some studies in service design.

While growing up I remember wanting to be a queen or an archaeologist. I was telling (lecturing) people everything I knew about king Tut at the age of 8. Then, of course, everyone wanted to be a ‘lakasukoneenkuljettaja’, basically driving a Zamboni, or ice resurfacer to be exact. I’ve always liked to make stuff: To create a doll out of a used shampoo bottle, to paint and do renovations. The kind of problem-solving that I like is to construct and sew a winter jacket or cut and build a stained-glass lamp from scratch.

Being part of a product building machine

At the age of 22 I got a summer job at Nokia, I did my thesis there and got paid for it, something that is still too rare in the Arts faculties. By the time I was 25 I had graduated and was busy writing the user guide for the first-ever Symbian OS phone. At Nokia I got to work with amazingly talented, world-class specialists, experts, and product builders, I learned about mobile technologies, customer care, logistics, factory setup, design for sustainability, and package design to name a few. And I think we were among the first to try out the legal design. I got enthusiastic about user research, observing people in context, about analytics and visual communication. I still think that one of my greatest career achievements has been the Visual user guide for the emerging markets: innovating and creating something new, a visual user guide, serving millions of customers better with a deliverable that cost 0.01€, it saved money and the environment.

I’ve always worked in a male-dominant workplace with an 80/20, or even 90/10 ratio and if you weren’t technically trained or “an engineer” you really were the odd one out. We used to joke about the elevators at Nokia, if a man didn’t crush you at the doors, he must be a lawyer. Being from an arts background didn’t make me a lesser employee for the company though. I remember the HR being brilliant at the time. If someone was able to get the work done and stand the scheduling pressures, they wanted to keep you. And no, not everyone could stand the pressure or be able to handle the complexity of 5 simultaneous product programs and their 200+ different SW variants and that didn’t have anything to do with gender or training.

Systemic problems cannot be solved in silos

I had heard about service design already when working at Nokia and saw it as a solution to the many systemic problems that I had seen. I strongly believe that multi-disciplinary teams working towards a shared goal of customer success is the most efficient way for organisations to a) invent new solutions and b) fix customer issues. However, organisational structures are often preventing this, teams are incentivised wrongly and rarely are decisions made based on data.
Currently, at Gofore I’m responsible for user needs studies, design sprints, innovation, concepting and service design. I like to arrange multi-disciplinary workshops, involve users by applying service design methods.  My eyes shine in the moments when I see teams gathered around a customer journey or customer problem and working hard together to fix it. What I currently want to focus even more on are:

  • AI and robotics combined with the understanding of human behaviour
  • helping companies to be more knowledge lead with the help of analytics and data visualisation
  • building services that bridge the digital and physical realms and, for example, use drama exercises in testing these out

Equal support for your career

My career in tech has taken me to a London park for a morning run, to Texas, Georgia, Poland, Italy, Belgium, and Lapland. Early on I realised that a career in tech would be a much better provider than many of the possible careers in arts. Being a teacher or a librarian would’ve meant maybe half of the salary. But there’s no glory unless you’re enjoying it all. For me having a partner to balance the load has been essential. It’s not easy having small kids and mom off to London semi-regularly.

I’m a third generation of women with a university degree. But things are not always progressing for the better. My granny had 5 kids and worked in industry as an economist. But unlike many mommies nowadays she didn’t even try to shine in every area of life. In the 1950’s she had both a housekeeper and a nanny to help her. And in the summer kids were sent to the “farm” out of the way. Today, women try to be perfect on all fronts of life. For me, it’s been a life long path to finding balance, deciding what I like to focus on, what I value most, where I enjoy being and not worry about the rest so much.

Keep at it

I was listening to the keynote talks from Charity Wanjiku of Strauss Energy Ltd. and Laura Tirkkonen-Rajasalo of Sulapac at the WiT event on Friday and the experiences felt similar. Don’t mind what society is telling you your role or path should be like, you can do it. Perseverance or ‘sisu” is key and 99% of achievement is showing up every day and doing the work. Also, don’t shy away from new opportunities, it’s OK to be scared and by practice, you can overcome your fears.
My motto is from Virkkukoukkunen:

Lentäminen on asennekysymys – To fly is all about the attitude.

Read the previous parts of this Women in tech blog series here:
Passion for continuous improvement
A love for mathematics led the way
Subconscious career design
Value your skills – they are needed in tech
My career in tech – a continuous learning curve
Finding my own material to design
Working as a woman in tech

Minna Vänskä

Minna has several years of experience working with international teams, across organizational boundaries, running UX studies, concepting, development and quality improvement projects. She is an experienced user researcher and communication specialist. At Gofore she is responsible for user research, user experience design, and service design projects. Minna loves to apply service design methods in user research and to involve organisations and people to discover the insights.

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I have worked in tech all my professional life. In high school that was not my plan though. I dreamed about studying the English language and becoming a translator. Luckily, I didn’t get in when applying to university 😀

It can be said that my career is more or less a coincidence. And it has been affected by two men, my father and my high school math teacher. My father gave me an example of how easy and fun mathematics can be and my high school teacher encouraged (or pushed) me to apply to study mathematics at university (even though it was only my second choice). Fortunately, I got in and have not regretted a single day. At the age of 19, I could not imagine what a future in the technology industry would bring, and it has been quite a journey.

I had always loved mathematics in school and when I started my studies at university it was quite a shock. I soon realized that mathematics is a lot of work. But it is worth it, trust me. Hard work has been the key to my success throughout my career. There is no way you can quit and say this is not working. You just have to try another approach and there will always be a solution. It might not be what you thought it would be, but things will work out one way or another. Studying mathematics has taught me a lot of problem-solving skills and a logical way of thinking – things that are still at the core of technology and software development.

At that time (in the early 90’) there was no subject called computer science, it was called applied mathematics. But I loved it and felt I had found my home. Creating software was inspiring and there were a lot of things to learn. It was so much fun trying to find a bug in the program and fix it. Or maybe I just have a crooked mind. Still today I sometimes miss the times when I was writing code.

After I finished my studies (in the mid 90’), I ended up working for Nokia. It was a ride that lasted almost 16 years. I started in coding, did some project management tasks and ended up doing standardization and technology insights. I got to travel around the world, work in different roles and learnt a lot. I admit, when I (finally) got the notice of employment termination in November 2011, I felt relieved. One door closed and another opened for me.

After being unemployed I planned to stay at home with my 2-year-old daughter, but another coincidence happened and changed my plans. I had applied to a study program and is had an internship as part of the program. In the first info session about the program, the organizer told me that they had already sent my CV to Gofore for the internship and that I had an interview with them the next day. In that interview I said that I didn’t need any study program and that I wanted to work for Gofore without any internship. Two weeks later I signed a contract. So, I ended up working for Gofore without ever even applying to the company. And once again I have not regretted a single day. It has now been 7,5 years.

I was hired as a software developer and I got to write code and find bugs for the first 3 years at Gofore. I was also handling some project management tasks and gradually shifted totally onto that path. Currently my title is technical project manager and I’m so proud of it. I get to work actively with customers to find out their actual needs. And as I have a coding background it gives me a lot of understanding on the technical details and restrictions that might need to be considered with the customer. And the other way around, I can make the message from a technical level more understandable for the customer. So, my job is mostly communication.

Throughout my career my background in mathematics and problem-solving has helped me. Problems vary and nowadays they are not technical, but still there is always a solution for them. And it is my job to find it. Even though I didn’t get into studying English, I ended up as a translator. A translator between customers and software developers.

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my high school math teacher: “There are too many linguists, but the world needs mathematicians”.
Mathematics is not just for boys. And studying it will help you no matter where your career takes you. Logical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential in almost all occupations. I hope I can be an example of that to my daughter.


Read the previous parts of this Women in tech blog series here:
Subconscious career design
Value your skills – they are needed in tech
My career in tech – a continuous learning curve
Finding my own material to design
Working as a woman in tech

Jaana Majakangas

Jaana is Gofore's technical project manager. She has twenty years of experience in a variety of roles within the IT industry including extensive knowledge of the public sector and how digitalisation can benefit society.

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Subconscious career design

I have a confession to make – I have never had a 5-year plan for my career.

Yet I have managed to combine several things I love in my working life – research, education and designing experiences. At the crossroads of life, I have always made decisions based on how to open more doors. In the end, this type of reasoning has benefited me. Looking back now, 5-10-15 years ago, I never could have imagined the job that I have right now.

When I grow up, I want to be…

As a little girl I wanted to be at least one of the following: 1) A teacher, 2) A florist, and/or 3) Master of Science.
For some, this list would have seemed odd, but for me it made all the sense in the world. Although, at that time, I didn’t even know what it meant to be a Master of Science. But my dad was, and my dad knew everything about everything. So, I wanted to be like him. My mom was a teacher, but despite her love for teaching, she wanted me to pursue some other career than the one she had chosen. And florist…well, I guess it was just about my love for flowers.

When I graduate I want to be…

Answering this question is probably one of the most difficult things one can ask for from a person in their late teens. At this stage I remember wanting to pursue a career in sports journalism or marketing. But the math-loving little engineer inside reminded me that I could get more options if I enrolled in a technical university.
The use of technology in work life is ever increasing in all industries. Having even basic knowledge about, for instance, information systems, automatisation and manufacturing processes combined with business knowledge opens a whole new set of possibilities career wise.  I’ve never considered myself a very technical person, but I wanted to go a little bit out of my comfort zone. I still sometimes have nightmares about not being able to connect my laptop when having to present something in a workshop or a speech.

But I’ve always been aware of some traits that could be beneficial in a technical industry:
1) I’m a researcher at heart – I want to find solutions to problems.
2) I’m process-oriented and analytical – I see the world as a continuum of imperfect processes waiting to be fixed.
3) I’m empathic by nature – I easily jump into other people’s shoes and try to understand their perspectives.

So, I figured that studying Industrial Management would fit these traits. I could study how organisations work and create value for different stakeholders, how industrial firms try to pave their way into service business, and how to define a strategy that would gain momentum. Also, becoming a Master of Science would not predetermine the industry or position that I would work in but give access to a bunch of interesting opportunities.

When my world is perfect, I’m going to be…

After graduation I realized that I wanted to continue with research. Also, my interest in teaching had emerged during my University years. I figured that the best way to combine these would be to pursue an academic career. I taught market research and focused on design and user/customer experience in a business-to-business context in my dissertation. Receiving the funny-looking black top-hat was in a way, and end of an era for me. I loved my work, but my pragmatic nature sought for something other than theorizing findings. I wanted to create functioning solutions to real-life problems. Even though I lacked the technical skills, I recognized I could be the person who can define the requirements of users and customers. And after a very determined search for work, I became a Business Designer. First, at Leadin, then at Gofore.

The basis of my work consists of helping our customer companies do better business and more informed decisions based on customer understanding. Every project that I’ve done includes research – whether with people working for our customer, their customers, users or other stakeholders. Why I love my job so much is that I’ve had the chance to work with people from so many different industries: children’s hospitals, education, manufacturing and engineering, dairy and fish farming, telecommunication, and financial services, to name a few. In addition, I’m responsible for developing our Business Design capability at Gofore.
In the end, I did reach some of the dreams I had growing up; I was able to teach and, occasionally still do whenever I get the chance. I upgraded my master’s degree to a Doctoral one. And though I’m not an expert in keeping flowers or plants alive, I still enjoy having pink carnations on our kitchen table.

Looking back, it seems as though I had everything planned out. And in a way, I guess I always knew what I wanted to do growing up. I just didn’t have the right term for it. Maybe now is the time to make my first five-year plan and see where that path will lead me.

An advice to my younger self: Choose happiness as a metric for success and understand what makes you happy.


Read the previous parts of this Women in tech blog series here:
Value your skills – they are needed in tech
My career in tech – a continuous learning curve
Finding my own material to design
Working as a woman in tech

Hanna-Riikka Sundberg

Hanna-Riikka works as a Senior Business Designer at Gofore. She is responsible for creating new business models and services by bringing the needs of customers and users into strategic decision-making. This she has done for OP, Telia, MTV, Tikkurila, Raisioagro, Wärtsilä, and Andritz, among others. Hanna-Riikka holds a PhD in Industrial Management (with distinction). She is also an Executive MBA (EMBA) trainer at Edutech in the Customer and user experience in business development program. She is the author of the Business Design booklet.

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