Dear designer and designer-to-be,
Pritika Sekar and Riikka Sutinen joined Reaktor as designer trainees earlier this year. In this post, they reveal what it was like to apply and what their day-to-day looks like now. Hint: It’s a colorful mix of dance games, technical nitty-gritties, and growing as a professional.
So, why Reaktor? What drew you to Reaktor in the first place?
Pritika: Back when I moved to Finland in 2019 and began looking at different design agencies in Helsinki, I immediately knew I wanted to work at Reaktor. What initially attracted me was the diversity of clients and projects that Reaktor took on. Where else can you work with clients like Lego, Adidas, or Supercell!
Riikka: I joined an excursion to Reaktor back in 2019 without any pre-existing thoughts about the company. I was positively surprised by the authenticity of the people we got to talk to – and by the nice food and drinks! I liked the relaxed atmosphere, there was no design task nor case presentation, it was an actual discussion.
We’ve been working on our trainee process for years. There’s an assignment and application phase, and then interview rounds. But what did you think of it? What was it like applying to Reaktor?
Riikka: I had actually applied to Reaktor a couple of times before. The feedback for my portfolio has always been super helpful and nice and really helped me improve. This time around, I figured I had nothing to lose by applying.
Pritika: The same for me actually, I had applied once earlier too and was able to make my application better based on the feedback. The application process was one of the most well-planned I have had the opportunity to partake in!
Riikka: In general, the communication from Reaktor in the process was transparent and made me feel like the recruiters care about my time and effort.
Pritika: What surprised me the most (very pleasantly, I might add) was that even though there was an assignment, Reaktor understood that as applicants, our time is just as important. They specified and gave me a clear idea of the level of detail and execution that was needed. We weren’t asked for unicorns or fairy dust through assignments. Reaktor already showed that they cared about employees.
Riikka: I felt quite intimidated and scared about “getting the assignment right”. But in the end, just getting to work and doing it felt good. I was happy that I could show more of my skills in the task because I didn’t have any additional projects in my portfolio since my previous application.
“We weren’t asked for unicorns or fairy dust through assignments”
The assignments then got you to interviews. Our trainee process includes two interviews, in which you had a chance to meet your potential future colleagues. How did you feel about the interviews?
Riikka: Everyone in my interviews was so nice!
Pritika: I wasn’t used to being asked what kind of projects I wanted to work on. I was slightly stumped but mentioned that I did want to be placed with a more senior designer so I could observe and learn from them. And that’s exactly what I got!
Riikka: During the interviews, I felt really calm. They weren’t there to catch me from a mistake or hear the answers of a perfect designer. I felt like they wanted to just get to know who I was and why I made certain decisions in my assignment.
So then you’re in! What’s it like to work at Reaktor? Tell us about your average day.
Pritika: Everyone is really interested in the work they are doing and always find ways to make the customer experience better without compromising on the business.
Riikka: Reaktor is a flat organisation. It means employees get a lot of responsibility, but freedom too. Nobody’s stopping you if you want to make something happen. And if you need advice, you can get it from the people who’re affected by the matter, and not some pre-designated boss person.
Pritika: Since the clients I was working with were based in the US, we had our daily meetings in the afternoon. This gave us the morning to put our heads down and get some work done. We would also often have demo sessions or design discussions with the client where we would present design concepts to the rest of the team and get their feedback.
“Where else can you work with clients like Lego, Adidas, or Supercell!”
Riikka: I’ve noticed that if you’re active and keep talking to people and following the Slack channels, you can always find something more to do at Reaktor. I have helped a client team with research, done creative benchmarking, and made a survey for consumers about shopping for sports apparel and analyzing the answers.
Pritika: This has been my first time working alongside developers. It’s been great to see how they approach the product and the problems that we’ve encountered.
“The process was transparent and made me feel like the recruiters care about my time and effort.”
Is there anything that’s surprised you – about the company, your colleagues, or yourself?
Riikka: Reaktor really invests in everyone’s wellbeing. I had the expectation that the work/life balance is great, but I had no idea about the parties, Thursday dinners, and hobby groups I would find myself getting into.
Pritika: I was already beginning to realize that the stereotype about Finns being introverted and quiet was somewhat untrue, but Reaktor really proved that wrong. Everyone is so welcoming and talkative!
Another thing we do at Reaktor are development talks. This means that all Reaktorians are encouraged to gather feedback from a group of colleagues, and contemplate it with a senior colleague. You’ve had your first Talk now too. What was that like?
Pritika: I’ve had several feedback sessions with other designers where they’ve given me tips on how to improve and how to make myself better. This has been great because I have then been able to apply these tips and tricks to my next project.
We do take professional growth seriously here. Any areas you feel like you’ve really gotten to develop your skills?
Riikka: Reaktor has had a lot of cool internal trainings since I started. The latest thing I’ve learned was about simulation-based design, it’s a design process I hadn’t heard of before.
Pritika: I took the same one! I have learned innumerable skills, right from the nitty-gritties of Figma to overarching design methodologies. But I’ve really enjoyed being able to learn different ways of approaching design problems. The courses we have challenge your thinking resulting in more profound growth as a designer.
“Nobody’s stopping you if you want to make something happen.”
Any tips for designers-to-be or designers taking the first steps towards their ambitions? Or you know, someone looking at this post with the next trainee application task at hand.
Riikka: Gather all the positive feedback you’ve ever received. If you haven’t received any, ask your school or workmates! This will help you to assess your strengths and to bring them out in your application. It also helped me in silencing my impostor syndrome which is the part of me that is constantly downplaying all of my achievements.