Joining the Unikie team prevailed over dreams of entrepreneurship

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A few years ago, software developer Lasse Räihä from Oulu was considering entrepreneurship as the next step in his career. Räihä, an experienced coder, had worked on client projects for years and seen that there is demand for skilled professionals and that a job done well also pays well. However, Unikie contacted him at this time and convinced him to put his dreams about his own business on hold for now. The discussions made Räihä feel that he could get the best sides of entrepreneurship also at Unikie.

In his Computer Science studies at the University of Oulu, Räihä focused on smart systems and found a passion for machine intelligence and machine vision. Räihä’s first job after getting his Master of Science in Engineering degree was at Intopii, after which he moved on to Digia and Qt Company. During his professional history of 15 years, Räihä has built his core competences around C++ and Qt/QML.

The Fara project taught much

Räihä is one of the rare top experts on Qt environments. There is high demand for skilled professionals in this field. When Räihä started at Unikie a few years ago, he joined the FARA client project in which Unikie built a software for terminals in public transport. Räihä’s expertise was needed in the design of an embedded user interface where software was created for the terminals of bus drivers based on the ITxPT standard.

“I was a part of a larger international team. My main responsibility was implementing the user interface. With the software, drivers can choose the bus lines to operate and control the screens and announcements on the bus, among other functionalities. The terminal also functions as a navigator. It’s currently being used in buses around the world”, Räihä says.

Unikie worked at the client’s premises for over a year. The project involved several experts from various fields. Räihä says he gained a lot of competence during the project.

“It was a big team, and the project required various kinds of expertise. You really learned new things there. And what was best, I got to meet so many new people with whom I’ve stayed in contact even after”, Räihä says.

Räihä believes that learning from other professionals has been key to his own expertise. He highlights that all his colleagues at Unikie are top professionals in their fields. Thus, his work does not involve instructing juniors. Instead, he can use his skills directly on the project with others and learn from them at the same time.

In charge of an entire system

Räihä describes himself as a pedantic worker. He thinks it is important to get your job right the first time, and preferably ahead of the deadline. For him, the greatest reward is seeing that the client is happy.

The clients have noticed this, too. Räihä shows that when you have the skills and the motivation, you get to achieve great things. As the first project was about to be finished, Räihä was called back to a client for which he had earlier worked for a few years.

Räihä provides remote services to the Norwegian company KSAT, which offers above-ground network services and monitoring services for seafaring. His handiwork can be seen in the system used by the client 24/7, with which the client can quickly react and report maritime events to its respective clients with satellite images and other types of data. Now, he focuses on developing the system according to the ever-changing needs of the client. When the client and the employee trust each other, even critical work can be done without trouble.

“I’m now developing software based on the client’s needs. Since the team is small, you need to be able to manage the entire system from start to finish. Then again, when you know the entire system, you can react to the client’s wishes and implement new features quickly”, Räihä says.

Working remotely, either from the Oulu office or home, goes smoothly. However, Unikie contacts the client organisation daily in connection with meetings. The project team includes a testing team on the client’s side and a backend developer. Another coder also works from Finland. A few times a year, Räihä also travels to the client in Norway.

If the Fara project involved a lot of learning, his current job mostly involves using his existing expertise.

“Even though the system in question isn’t actually machine vision or machine intelligence software, I’ve been able to utilise the various image processing algorithms also used in machine vision. With these algorithms, we’ve been able to automate many phases. Thanks to this, the client has been able to speed up their own services”, Räihä says.

Räihä believes that, after some time, new challenges may start to tempt him. However, the fairly good hourly salary does increase his motivation for his current job. It remains to be seen if that will suffice for this competitive and development-oriented person.

World-class expertise pays off

Currently, the demand for the best experts is high, and clients are ready to pay good hourly prices for their work. To employees with a monthly salary, the hourly prices rarely show up on the payslip. But things are different at Unikie: the employees receive a percentage of the client invoices.

“I think Unikie’s pay model is extremely fair and transparent. I respect that when you gain the client’s trust with your work and the client may even be ready to raise the hourly rates, you can see it on your own payslip, without needing to have negotiations about your salary”, Räihä says, praising his employer’s system.

Räihä says he has recommended working at Unikie to many of his friends. He believes Unikie is particularly suitable for people who are top experts in their field and have a dash of entrepreneurial spirit.

“If working at the clients’ premises or the changing work environments during projects is not a problem, this pay model is very appealing”, Räihä states.

“But they don’t offer that much entertainment, though,” he adds, with a twinkle in his eye.

Räihä describes himself as ‘sometimes too sociable’, a person who needs people to chat with at coffee breaks. Still, he is not all that excited about company parties. He believes that using common funds for ‘circus entertainment’ is unnecessary. Instead, as a sports fan, he gives thumbs up for sports events that improve the company’s team spirit. For example, the company’s floorball reservations and tournaments are a great way for this floorball enthusiast to get to know his co-workers.

Sports and family

Räihä prefers to spend his free time with his family. A couple of teenagers and school-aged children are keeping his daily life busy.  Even though Räihä does not believe he will receive the Father of the Year award, he tries to act as a good role model in his everyday life.

His current favourite hobbies include frisbee golf, floorball and going to the gym. The children also provide their share of a sport-focused lifestyle since Räihä’s three daughters all practise karate. Annual skiing trips are also an important part of the family’s shared activities.

And of course, there is always time for some ice hockey.

“My son and I follow the Finnish ice hockey league closely. Our team is Oulun Kärpät. And sometimes, we play some ice hockey together, but not seriously”, Räihä says.

Coding is naturally one of the software professional’s hobbies: Räihä has developed and implemented mobile games with some of his ex-colleagues. This amateur game group can be found at NotskiGames.com.

 

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