13 - 9 - 2019 - Career stories

From expat manager to software consultant

How did a manager working abroad transform into a hands-on software developer? Here is the story of how I started working for Insta Digital a few months after returning from several years of expatriating.

Software development

I started my career at Nokia in 1997 as a software developer, in Tampere. I worked in multiple roles and positions until 2008, when I relocated first to China and then to Taiwan. Over the years, my software development tasks changed to software management responsibilities.

Nokia mobile phone business was bought by Microsoft while I was in Taiwan, and after a few years, I decided to return to Tampere and look for new opportunities without any pressure. I considered several alternatives, but Intopalo (now Insta Digital) surfaced as the most interesting option after I had a good chat with my ex-Nokian colleague working there. I got interested in the company’s culture and the credibility of its business regardless of its size back then in 2015.

Things got quickly forward: I successfully implemented a recruitment coding exercise, had a good conversation with the CEO, agreed on salary and benefits - and with no time I was a software consultant! The start was smooth despite my jump from the corporate world to the then twenty-person company. I have to admit that the self-organizing working environment fit me like a glove and made me feel at home from day zero.

Manager does code

Before Intopalo, I hadn't implemented any production code for more than ten years. I had been a full-blown manager. However, I had continued coding as a hobby, programming quite a lot in my free time, for example working with Open Source projects. Thus my coding skills were pretty sharp and reigniting real programming was not that hard. Of course, certain technologies needed updating, but working in this industry means continuous learning anyway.

My current work allows me to focus on coding, doing problem-solving for customers. When the problem is interesting, it is easy to get in the flow and enjoy brain crunching about the solution - sometimes Friday comes too soon and you just eagerly wait for Monday to be able to continue. Yes, at Insta Digital the work-life balance is fitting, and I appreciate that I do not have to work in the evenings or during weekends.

I have been working on several projects: writing Python for machine vision study to help epilepsy patients, C++ / Qt software on Android device to control agricultural devices and robots, a mobile application for instant messaging, managing point clouds with millions of 3D pixels and implementing some backend security software.

Working with Professionals

When being assigned to these various areas of software development, it has been a great benefit to exchange ideas, ask advice and review solutions with peers. Probably the best thing at Insta Digital are the colleagues, people with a vast area of knowledge and talent, who always have time to support a colleague wrestling with a topic. From seasoned seniors to freshmen juniors, there is a huge amount of mastery and skills to share.

It is great to work for customer projects when colleagues contribute their experience and vision - that helps us to add more value instead of just being hired pairs of hands writing code, and it makes working days interesting and enjoyable.

Having been over five years now at Insta Digital, now a part of the Insta group, I can see being employed here was a very successful move. Recently a new interest in adding a managerial role again and taking on more responsibilities has awakened - but undoubtedly I want to keep my main focus on the “real work” as we programmers would call it, and the company is happy with that.

Markus Mertama

Markus Mertama

Senior Software Developer, Insta Advance

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