Read time 6 min
Dear future colleague,
I write this as I sit at Reaktor’s accommodation for traveling employees in NYC.
Just 12 hours ago, I was packing for the 8-hour flight (from my home base of Helsinki, Reaktor’s HQ). I pulled out my phone, checked into my flight, and hit the airport. Upon arrival, I cabbed it to a cafe downtown Manhattan, and picked up the keys. All the essentials for a cold shower, as well as fresh bedding, had already been laid out for me.
Things were not always this ‘seamless’ in my professional career, but I’ll get to that later.
Who am I? My name is Fern and I am a fruit salad of business, tech, and sheer hustle. Plain and simple. Who am I not? An engineer, developer, visual designer, or data scientist. You know, one of those clear-cut roles in a world that can rarely afford only specialists.
Born and raised in Colombia, I was an exchange student in Buffalo, New York at 16. I moved to Australia at 18 to study aerospace engineering and applied sciences. After that, I made the move to Northern Europe. It was during my last months in Australia that a realisation hit me – I didn’t love engineering as much as I enjoyed understanding what made people tick. And I loved the ways in which the internet amplifies all of that even more.
In case ‘innovation’ has made it onto your bullshit bingo word list
Now that we’ve established that I am, in fact, not your usual digital service company employee: what do I do at Reaktor? Well, I step into projects many others will not touch with a 10-foot pole.
Allow me to explain.
‘Innovation’ is at the tip of most corporations’ proverbial tongues nowadays, to the point many dismiss it as a dirty buzzword. This is due to the fact that not everyone seems to get that something new and unique does not necessarily constitute a true innovation. It is whether you can create and, more importantly, capture value, that determines success in innovation.
Many companies I have come across over the last 12 years struggle with ambidexterity. That means they could do better at exploring new opportunities and markets while exploiting their core business.
So my role is to engage key players and drive exploration within corporate venturing (prior to the concrete, world-class execution Reaktor is known for). In the heart-warming words of a Japanese client: Your team took a quick look at our business and understood it better than *insert big-name ICT consulting firm’s name here*. Now we actually have a working prototype to illustrate our vision (as opposed to another PowerPoint)!
Do you have a strong bias for action? Keep reading.
Become the best fruit salad you can, i.e. it’s not just about management school
Ambiguity and ambition are an explosive mixture, to be handled with care. Innovation requires subject matter knowledge and tact, as well as instinct and a keen compass for navigating corporate politics and hierarchies. Knowing when to bite your tongue is as important as knowing when to fight tooth-and-nail over an idea you believe in.
If you’re able to take the resources at your disposal (rather than think about your limitations) and create solutions that tackle hairy and/or ill-defined problems – all the meanwhile keeping your understanding of technology sharp – we’ll get along like a house on fire.
Switching between left and right sides of the brain without missing a beat is key.
At Reaktor, we look for the rare people who are poised to handle these types of challenges. To step into our client companies, take a brief and honest yet holistic look at them. Then get cracking on unveiling the opportunities ahead. To break things down into smaller chunks so our dev rockstars can get to work.
Ask yourself: where do I derive inspiration from?
I have a lot of respect for the grassroots ingenuity I’ve had the chance to witness through the years.
My colourful past around the world has left me with some invaluable lessons I put to use in professional life. For example, that solutions to certain problems in the US might hold solutions to challenges in Australian immigration. That the ingenuity displayed by grassroots entrepreneurs in Colombia in order to feed their families (not just to become the next Bezos or Zuckerberg), may well hold inspiration or answers to problems in Finland. And so and so on.
So, if you, too, can derive lessons from the Dabbawallahs in Mumbai and apply them to supply chain innovation – or have a strong opinion about how an ad-free internet might be viable – get in touch.
Every challenge holds a lesson, so take notes
Oh yeah, I promised to share how the not-seamless life was when I last lived in NY. Precisely on this day just four years ago I sat in my tiny, windowless room in a five-bedroom share in Chinatown, contemplating where I’d gone wrong (this time).
After agreeing to take a small equity stake and a considerable pay cut to work at a blooming startup in Manhattan, I gave up all the comforts and relative security of life in Finland, only to realise in time that the company I had joined suffered from a toxic culture of overworking, and employees were all, bar our CEO and COO, considered ‘replaceable’. Burnout was seen as a weakness, and I learned to begrudge any mention of paying your dues.
I sat at the wrong end of innovation.
However, this experience left me better off in the long run. It spurred me on to deepen my studies in innovation management, start my third business (with just 100 EUR!) and join Reaktor, where I get to enjoy the thrill of solving nut-cracking problems in a different industry (almost) every month.
Furthermore, it made me appreciate working with a team full of crazy-smart, but crazy-kind people, as well as Reaktor’s Finnish employer pedigree – which translates into people first, people second, people third.
So, if you are the kind of person that thinks ahead, can connect the dots before most others in the room, and agree that (in spite of all the buzzwords and self-touted experts of the world) it is still old-fashioned picking up the phone and showing up that can work miracles in business – you might just thrive working at Reaktor.
Without further ado, I urge you to go check out our open positions. If you’d like to further discuss innovation and resident entrepreneur positions in a company like Reaktor, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to talking to you.