I started in May 16th 2011, so it's been 10 years now for me at Alma Media; I guess it's a good time to reflect a bit.
How it all started ¶
I had been doing freelance work, stuff like graphic design and web development (if you're interested about my background, do checkout the about -page), but as a day job besides studies I was working at a print house… I wanted to switch from print to working with web. I applied to few places without any luck, which might have been due to my lacking effort. Then suddenly one late Friday night I spotted this video being shared by a random Facebook connection. After seeing that and realizing it was a recruitment ad for a website which at the time was the tenth biggest Finnish website by traffic, I really felt that I wanted to work at a place where such a silly recruitment video is OK 😅 Even though it was after the deadline, I decided to send an application with a link to my portfolio website at the time and weirdly enough I got lucky: Few weeks later - on May 16th 2011 - I started as a Frontend Developer for Telkku.com.
At the time, I didn't even know anything about “Alma Media, the corporation”… at first I thought I was going to work with a small team; Which was partly true, we had a fun small team with top-notch professionals, but it was actually part of Iltalehti business unit (Iltalehti.fi is one of the biggest news sites in Finland) - which in turn was part of Alma Media Corporation. And so my journey at Alma started.
Most of all, I want to thank my ex-colleague & team lead at the time - with whom I've become good friends since - Kai for taking the change with me and recruiting me to work with these big websites!
Reasons to stay ¶
I guess in this day and age it's quite rare for a software developer to stay within a single company for several years or let alone a decade.
There's been good times and also the not-so-good times (it's called work, it can't be always just fun & games), but luckily more of the good times! And the only constant is change: I've been through multiple large organizational changes and also on a personal level I've had several situations where I've had to step up my game due to a change in team and/or in my personal role.
I think the main reasons (besides reasonable compensation) why I've stayed and still enjoy working at Alma are:
- Ability to Grow
- Trust & Lack of Micromanagement
- Awesome Colleagues & Meeting New People
Ability to Grow ¶
The journey from Frontend Developer to “Cloud Specialist” might not be the most usual one, but that's exactly one the biggest reasons why I've stayed at Alma: The ability to grow and take on new responsibilities. For me it happened by first taking on more backend development tasks (i.e. “being more full-stack”), then getting into a Senior Developer role where I was mentoring others & looking after the code quality & tooling for the whole team, and finally applying to a role of a Solution Architect - which especially was a huge leap for me personally and meant that I spent the following years studying a lot. In 2020 I was promoted to a role of “Lead Technologist”, where I both advocate & teach best practises internally, but I'm also responsible for the architecture for many shared services supporting some of the biggest websites in Finland.
All these steps didn't happen by accident, it was the combination of personal willingness to learn & grow combined with a company culture supporting that.
In some sense the roles/titles are irrelevant, for me it's always been important to be able to work with “cool” and interesting technologies - even bleeding edge ones. I've been lucky, that during the years I've been able to pretty much choose with what technologies I work with: Those being things like modular jQuery & Sass back in the day, my first steps into configuration management with Puppet & Vagrant in 2012, jumping into ReactJS bandwagon in 2013-2014 (including server-side rendering), learning about Docker & containers, jumping into Go in 2015 (which I still think is one of the best programming languages out there), AWS serverless since 2016, CDK in 2018 and TypeScript.
Working with somewhat large'ish scale is another aspect I like, since at Alma we're working with some of the biggest media & service brands in Finland. Some numbers regarding our scale and use of AWS Serverless Technologies:
~1 billionLambda invocations / month
1+ billionAPI Gateway REST API requests / month
~200 millionAppSync GraphQL API requests / month
Trust & Lack of Micromanagement ¶
I've always had good managers who've trusted their employees, so there hasn't been any micromanagement. The important thing are the results.
Awesome Colleagues & Meeting New People ¶
I have and had many, many, awesome colleagues throughout the years, so it makes no sense to namedrop each and everyone of them; But I want to give a shoutout to Niilo who is an awesome colleague, even though we've never even worked in a same unit! He's been great at bouncing ideas, going to meetups and organizing events with!
In a company that employs 1500 people, you get to meet a lot of new people all the time. I love that! One reason I can't wait to get rid of this COVID-19 pandemic is to be able to meet people face-to-face.
Time: I've never been a morning person, so being able to work with a flexible daily schedule has been a huge upside. Also in the darkest days during Finnish winter, I like to often take a break for hour or two, just to go outside while there is some sunlight!
Location: Even before the pandemic (and every company forced to support remote work), I had worked almost 4 years mainly remotely from the countryside of western Finland.
Going Forwards ¶
I like the direction the company is heading and I think there's a lot of super interesting technical challenges to solve!
Besides the normal recruitment, the annual “Alma Developer & Designer” -program (originally named “Alma Developer Trainee”) is running for the fifth consecutive year now, we've recruited over 60 people via it and it's most probably going to continue in the future as well, which means we're constantly getting new people with fresh ideas into the company!
Now I am going to have a beer! 🍻