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Dear Future Colleague,
In April 2021, I opened LinkedIn and found a direct message from a recruiter.
Like most people in the tech industry, being headhunted on the platform was a pretty common experience. But on this occasion, something made me pause before I pressed delete. After the typical, “I was so excited to come across your profile!” it said this:
One of our partners, Reaktor, is searching for a Lead Product Designer and I get the sense that you’d fit the bill. If you’re new to Reaktor, they’re a creative technology partner for forward-thinking brands like Adidas, HBO, and Michael Kors.
We love them for a slew of reasons, including their emphasis on crafting a role that works for you. Seriously! Reaktor doesn’t follow predefined job descriptions.
There are lots of “weird” backgrounds on the team, so take the job description with a grain of salt and think about what you want in your next position. I think Reaktor can make it happen.
At the time, I’d already been a designer at a bunch of places. The mix of agencies and startups I’d worked at gave me a variety of projects, clients, and industries to learn and grow from. But it still felt like something was missing.
I reread the DM. “Craft a role that works for you.” “Take the job description with a grain of salt and think about what you want in your next position.”
What did I want? After some soul searching, I came up with a short list.
- A global firm
- A more established design culture
- The ability to grow into a role and gain more leadership experience
If I could get all of those things, that would be amazing. So, even though I was a little skeptical, I reached out to Reaktor. The interviews bolstered my belief that this could actually work and gave me confidence to accept an offer at the North American office. Thus began my journey of ‘crafting a role that works for me.’ After about a year and a half, here’s where I’m at.
Before I came here, I’d only worked for U.S. (and really NYC-based) organizations. Reaktor is a Finnish company with offices in Helsinki, New York City, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Lisbon, and beyond, so our reach is quite extensive. Our employee roster is very diverse as well — we represent well over 30 nationalities. Beyond that, we work for clients all around the world.
In practice, I don’t get to team up much with designers from other offices. Some projects call for it, but I haven’t been on one yet. However, I do talk to my international colleagues on Slack a lot to get their opinions on things I’m working on and to see what they’re doing. So I get a lot of the benefits without all the hassle of making time zones work.
Recently I returned from orientation in Helsinki. Normally, we do this for new hires within their first few months at the company. But because of the pandemic, I ended up attending about one year after my start date. There were people from each location and in all kinds of roles: designers, engineers, developers, human resources, and more. It was great to feel our international camaraderie firsthand. The company also makes a point to gather the entire global team at least once a year so we can get to know each other and strengthen the bonds.
More Established Design Culture
Reaktor’s been around for almost 25 years, and while it did get started by a bunch of engineers and developers, designers were brought in pretty early on. At HQ in Helsinki, there’s a large cohort of designers and the group there has things really nailed down. I’ll admit, in NYC, we still have some work to do to establish an identity and a design practice. But we have an excellent local Community of Practice (CoP) that meets weekly and really has each other’s backs. And we can tap into the larger design community that exists across Reaktor globally—whether it’s seeing what’s already worked for Finland or finding out what Tokyo and Amsterdam are doing to build up their team. I also feel like the company’s low hierarchy allows me to make meaningful contributions to define what design is at Reaktor.
Grow Into a Role / Gain More Leadership Experience
Reaktor is all about growth and exploring what you want to do — no matter who you are. Have a desire to be involved in talent growth? Do it. Know something about a particular topic and want to share it with your coworkers? Feel free to start a workshop. Always been sheltered from the customer in previous jobs? Explore your client management skills.
On my projects I’m given a lot of autonomy to do things the way I think is best. That’s forced me to take ownership for my decisions. When things go well, I delight in the successes. And when they don’t, I have the space to reflect on the things that didn’t work out. I’m excited to see how this trust and responsibility offered by Reaktor will help me continue to make progress in my professional — and personal— development.
That day back in April 2021, I wasn’t looking for something new. But a part of me realized I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Now, I’m in a place where getting what I want is largely up to me. I’ve got my list, and slowly but surely I’m checking things off.
So, dear future colleague, do as that recruiter encouraged me to do: Think about what you want in your next position. I
think know Reaktor can make it happen.
Dear Future Colleague: A series of letters written by Reaktorians. Come join us, as you are.