Category Archives: Business

Interviewee vs. Interviewer

Being in a job interview is usually, though maybe tenuously, linking an applicant and the part where said applicant is getting the job he once was interviewed for. That said, there are not only lots of different types of conducting an interview (e.g. some of the best questions) but also differing bargaining positions partly in relation to who has the higher stakes at play in the interview.

This time around, I had not applied for anything but instead the company contacted me by phone as I had left my contact information a few years before at their stand (while attending a competition with prizes in beer) in some convention. Interesting, to say the least. Maybe they really needed talented people with proven record, I thought. I told them I was already employed, but asked them to send some more information through email anyway.

In a way, the situation was upside down from what it has previously been. Getting my first real study-related boulot was a fascinating experience in itself and afterwards I prioritized continuing my working career without gaps while studying. Now, being employed and doing something I enjoy, I need something else to even remotely consider going somewhere else. Luckily, there is an unlikely solution to this dilemma. Why not simply sit down and chat about it? Instead of reading cheesy and polished up job descriptions, emailing back and forth and wasting a lot of time doing so.

So why go through the trouble? For starters, getting experience of these kinds of situations is something I am always looking forward to. In addition, I like to explore different kinds of options that may be available to me and within my reach. Moreover, it helps me gather a picture of how highly rated my current experience (or perhaps lack thereof) would be out there in the real world. And how about plain old curiosity? Of course, there are also the cool socializing and networking aspects involved. Alright, that is plenty of buzzwords for today.

An interview is, after all, a mutual information sharing and interest shaping session. One could even argue that the stronger the interviewee’s position, the better the outcome. Then again, if I do not have any reason or incentive to sell myself to you, spare me the marketing pitch and tell me why I would like to work with you. This is something I regard very highly.

All in all, I enjoyed the three hours I spent this week being interviewed – to my surprise – for something I had not originally thought of. This was a breath of fresh air and a starting point of sorts for a whole new thought process.

- Joona

Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!

“I actually don’t treat life any differently than an RPG. I’m always thinking of leveling up myself, which in this case, is actually myself, not my World of Warcraft character.” -Brian Wang, co-founder of Fitocracy.

What can I say? Someone has unknowingly answered my wishes. I alluded to the lack RPG-type real life achievements in the last couple of sentences of the first Sebaattori post, more than half a year ago. If I had had any functional knowledge in coding I would’ve attempted to create such a service myself. It would appear that in addition to not being possible, it is also no longer needed. Fitocracy is a service that has now been in beta since February. It offers its users experience, quests and achievements for logging real life physical exercises and sharing them with others. Tsumari, it’s like a HeiaHeia for gaming nerds and objectively the greatest invention since those cat ears that read your emotions.

At least that’s the image I’ve gotten from surfing around the site. I’ll need to test it in practice later tonight but it’s needless to say that I’m enthralled by the mere concept. Originally I was slightly reluctant to go to the gym today because it’s raining and the place is boring, lacking in fundamental equipment and whatnot, but the possibility of leveling up from doing a couple upper body exercises is far too tempting. Therein also lies the danger.

Yatta, yatta!

According to Owen Good of Kotaku, “[Fitocracy developers] are of course exploring ideas like mobile applications so you can ‘play’ at the gym; the community constantly asks if nutrition will be integrated into the XP system, and they’re considering that too. The manner in which I created my new weights workout was absolutely intended, and Fitocracy wants to grow that out in the quest system. “Character classes” or something approximating that are also a possibility, for those who want to specialize in, say, running, or weight training, weight loss or toning up or whatever.”

If Fitocracy is as effective an incentive as I currently believe, I may well die from exhaustion in the next couple of months while relentlessly trying to multiclass into a Runner/Leaper. I wish I was pumping iron already. That’s a first.

-Antti

Update: Reached level 3. Ding! Grats! Ding! Grats!

The Hidden Art of Presentation

Today at work I had the opportunity to take part in our company’s quarterly kickoff meeting where the CEO tells us commoners about the current situation of the company. This includes, but is not limited to, refreshing our strategy, declaring new goals and objectives and further strengthening our commitment to the company’s mission and vision. Naturally, all workforce is present as this is such a high-scale event to graciously set us off on our next thee-month journey.

Anyway, being a relatively new company listed in the Nasdaq OMX stock market, we had the rare opportunity today to learn about different rules and regulations that deal with working in such a company. I thought, perhaps, I will actually learn about what harmonized disclosure rules and having inside information might mean in my case. In addition, having a break from dealing with customers’ possible problems (or rather, specified features depending on the interpretation) with our software product was a welcome breeze of change during the day.

The man responsible for this ground-breaking lecture introduced himself as a director from a Finnish authority that is responsible for regulating stock exchange in said stock market. My hopes were high at this point, him being an expert on the topic and me knowing nothing much on the subject. I was certain that he was well prepared and had most likely given the same lecture to thousands of people before. And knowing the usual quality of presentations given at any corporate events I have attended so far, it could not be much worse than those!

But no. Right during the very first few seconds I realized my hopes had cruelly been trampled upon. There they lay, bruised and battered. To say the least, I felt ashamed and flustered at the same time as I was listening to the man giving his speech about what I thought to be his daily topic. He clearly had too much nonsense stuffed in his 45-minute lecture consisting (originally, as he reminded us) of 88 slides. He skipped back and forth, repeated himself over and over and even went so far as to casually belittle himself to try and shred off even the last drops of credibility that still lay there somewhere. 10 minutes into the lecture I hoped to be back in my cozy corner dealing with server errors. I could have learned more in 5 minutes by reading the rules and regulations summary instead.

I wonder what the underlying problem really is. It is not impossible to not add every word you are going to say to those PowerPoint slides. Granted, it is tempting, but hey – why not even try doing it differently for once. Giving excuses for the presentation’s quality while giving it is in my opinion nothing short of unacceptable. And even if the material is bad, the presentation does not have to be, right? Perhaps there was something else involved, like maybe telling the man 5 minutes before that his time would be, what, one third of what it was originally going to be. Even then there would have been too much nothing. Instead of merely wasting time, we would have also been bored to death. And while I am at it, always use a remote controller to switch slides and have a goddamn laser pointer at hand! Is this not common sense?

Today’s man in black is unfortunately not the only one guilty as charged. I see this happening every time. Even our official presentation slides – the ones shown to our potential customers – have so much text I could not even begin to fathom who bothers to read them. Is the point to just have the slides play their little game somewhere in the background? I would rather use no slides and a chalkboard instead! I understand that in the world of universities and knowledge, scientific publications and qualifications come first and not every professor is an able speaker. But why does this happen in the corporate world as well? There are plenty of courses available at different universities or commercial organizations on how to communicate or give presentations. If that is a no-go, then have someone else do it. Even if I do not like giving a speech, I would definitely and absolutely really strive to make an effort to make it worthwhile to listen to me. And why purposefully undermine your own credibility while giving the presentation? That is beyond my comprehension.

Finally, all of this made me think of the costs incurred to any kind of company having such wonderful learning opportunities. Let’s make a quick assumption that on the average an hour of any kind of work would be billed at the rate of 100 euros per hour. Thus having 100 persons present for one hour would cost said company in terms of lost income at least 10 000 euros. Somehow, I see a point in having an expert work his ass off at making that one hour’s education not only excellent but almost damn perfect. Talks of reducing costs and improving on efficiency mean little to me if the savings can so easily be out-weighed. Why not pay a qualified lecturer 5 000 euros instead to actually get the most out of it?

All in all, I did learn a few things about the topic of the lecturer. And in the end (after the notorious Thank you slide) he had reserved some time for questions which proved to be a whole lot more educating than the presentation itself. To sum these up for my own future reference:

  • key phrase of the day was “relevant impact on investors’ qualified opinion on the value of the company”
  • inside knowledge is any knowledge or information that could affect the situation described within the key phrase
  • rules and regulations must be followed precisely and they are strictly enforced
  • disclosures have to be simultaneous and well-distributed
  • any information regarding the key phrase should be made publicly available without delay
  • any publicly listed company should have some kind of policy on how to deal with the above

Over and out. Time to sleep.

- Joona

Medium Tank

As I was rummaging through Japanese news trends at work today, I came across a couple of interesting articles concerning the consequences of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and reports thereof. Again. Indeed, time is not yet ripe for me to post a wall of text about ramen, so I’ll rather use this post to provide some food for thought to outside observers.

I accidentally stumbled upon Gakuranman who had, to a large extent, published what I have been thinking and repeating to nearly everyone during the past three weeks:

“…The foreign press was scrambling for anything they could get, plastering the headlines with emotive words and shocking pictures. Fear mongering over the possibility of a repeat Chernobyl was rife as well as doomsaying about nuclear fallout over Tokyo, 200km south of the affected area. Misinformation about the units used to measure radiation levels began to spread, quickly overshadowing the plight of the people in the stricken areas of northern Japan. Even previously respectable newspapers seemed to be gripped by sensationalism and unable to report the basic facts needed to keep people free from worry. Many expats living in Tokyo and other areas left the country or moved further south due to pressure from relatives and embassies.

Something amazing was happening on Twitter though. Those of us in Japan and able to understand Japanese noticed a stark contrast between the relatively calm Japanese media and foreign press. We began translating live press conferences of the Chief Cabinet Secretary and linking to official radiation readings posted by Tokyo Electric Power Company. People with an understanding of nuclear radiation pitched in and started fleshing out our knowledge on the subject and others went into the stricken areas to volunteer at the shelters. A team of citizen journalists had assembled and were disseminating information that was not only factually correct, but balanced and peer-reviewed. A far cry from the exaggerated coverage by many professional journalists and in some cases, reporting that bordered on the unethical.”

I disagree with the last sentence, however. Most of the Finnish reporting that I saw during the first week following the catastrophe wasn’t even borderline unethical. Or journalism. There was a line in the sand somewhere, but they couldn’t even see the sand. Reporting professionals had moved out of the sand and gone into another region altogether.

Why not have a séance? Why not go mad?

I was able to identify myself with all of the actions mentioned above, from translating live press conferences to moving south due to company pressure. This was particularly important to me at a time where I’m beginning to doubt myself over my own attitudes vis-à-vis being scared shitless. After reading this article in the Yomiuri Online, it seems clear that being paranoid is the popular way to go:

“…Because of all this, I am now seeing patients visit my consultation room saying they are worried about radiation.

One said, “No matter how much I wash my hands, I can’t shake the worry that they might be tainted with radioactive substances.”

“I felt nauseated after drinking tea made with tap water,” another said.

In one extreme case, a person had been refraining from deep breathing out of fear of inhaling radiation, and they panicked after feeling a pain in their chest.”

Maybe those people aren’t wrong after all. Maybe I should forget everything I know and get frightened of everything for no rational reason whatsoever. I don’t think I could, though. There’s something wrong with my brain. I am utterly unable to make the connection between something that is not happening and what it might not cause in the future. If you stop breathing now because of the fear of radiation, you will most likely die sooner from the lack of oxygen than you would from thyroid cancer later on in life. Then again, if you follow Fox News, you might as well think that Fukushima is in downtown Utah. Parodia on mahdotonta, koska he tekevät sen itse.

But to mirror and expand the feelings of both writers quoted above, I think it is ludicrously selfish of people who are fine to project their paranoia around at a moment where actual people are in real peril. There is a difference between being worried about your family who was possibly swept away in a tsunami three weeks prior and being far from the epicenter, in perfect health, worried about a potentially large number of some radioactive unit you heard on the news and could not possibly comprehend.

On a lighter note, the situation in Nakamurabashi is becoming dire. Granted, chashuu was 30% off, but the supermarket at the station had now run out of both natto and beer. I long for the comfort of the grave.

-Antti

End of Procrastination

In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. – Wikipedia

True enough, that is exactly what I have been doing at least for the past month and a half, or the time I have been back home from my odd travels in Japan. However, lately I have felt this urge to try out new things. Or maybe this is another, more sophisticated, form of procrastination. For my own sake, in the end, I hope that is not the case.

Alright, writing in English is not exactly a new thing. Nonetheless, actually doing it with no ulterior motive and no exact, tangible motive, is just something I do not normally do. I do read blogs though, especially technology-oriented ones. All those well-written pieces of first-hand experiences of some new gadgets or programming techniques: I could spend all day just hopping from blog to blog. The sheer amount of people writing about their daily lives, projects and opinions is in the hundreds of millions. Then again, that is the point. Most people would not care, but the ones who do will care a lot.

First Steps to Writing

This is my homage to my arch nemesis Antti. I dare not compare my endeavours to the difficulties he may have encountered during the past few weeks of his stay in Japan. Yet, he has been able to produce legible, understandable and well-written English. I thought maybe I could try that as well. Nothing big and fancy at first. I want to improve as a writer and the only way I know to do that is… Writing.

Upon finally deciding to begin my work on my master’s thesis, I have been attending this course, in Finnish, on different techniques and tools to creating a successful oeuvre d’art. The lecturer made a fair point: creating is important and should be practiced by producing text, photos – whatever it is you need to ultimately create. In the end, the thesis is not my raison d’être and definitely not the reason I have spent the better part of my adulthood skipping classes and earning ECTS. I prefer not to slowly and aimlessly wander in the state of laissez-faire. It certainly is easier to not make an effort, or divert one’s concentration and efforts to something easily achievable, like playing and watching TV series.

The difference between talking about (and thinking of) doing something and then actually doing it is simply breathtaking. I realized that lately there has been too much of thinking and not enough of doing. I want to get to the source of this problem, ridding myself of my comfort zone.

Welcome to the Creator

There has been (or rather, there is and there always will be) a gap between where I am and where I would like to be. I would like to have a blog with cohesive posts, rants and whatnot. Overcoming the first step is to start writing. I do not think it even matters what you write about as long as you are being sincere. Perhaps later, looking back at my old washed-out thoughts and banal vanities, I might be taken aback on how naive I was. I believe in all honesty that I will be delighted to read those again some day.

Half a year ago I could not see myself writing. Yet even back then I had ideas on what to write about. I will aim to polish my rusty English and writing skills. Maybe, from this moment on, little by little, tout va s’arranger.

- Joona

Gotta be on the Web

You rarely feel more connected than when updating your facebook status while lying on a surgical operation table. Simultaneously your ear is being cut open. I mostly did the deed just because I can but also because I needed to think about something else than tissue being scraped out from under my skin. I’ve become the enemy. While social media, including facebook, are in general great ways to keep in touch with people you know or think you know, it’s also more often than not a way for attention whores to write about tedious bullshit day in day out.  I’d say 90% of all the status updates I read on facebook are either not compelling, from people I don’t care about, or both.

I try to keep my mundane updates to a minimum and avoid annoying people who might think like me and also to elude self-hatred, but is this really the right way to behave? Surely the point of timely status updates is to update them whenever something incredibly non-personal or interesting happens, be it a discovering a breast lump or waking up. It’s up to the audience to use their ignore list as best they know, and believe me, I learn fast. If one never updates, comments or posts anything the great will of web 2.0 is not fulfilled. In that case a social platform only functions as a free webpage, which is hardly ideal.

To quote a great song: “If you haven’t been bookmarked, retweeted and blogged, you might as well not have existed.” So everybody should keep being active on the social media front in any way they know. I will likely ignore you and hide your posts, but those who care won’t. And that’s all that matters.

-L

Of Words and Mouths

Just as I was walking home from school, I began thinking about which brands I particularly like and reminiscing about how I began liking them in the first place. This occurred to me due to a combination of two things: a) it was raining, b) my Lacoste jacket has a retardedly bad hood tightening thingamajig. Naturally the next step was to question myself as to why I like Lacoste although their design clearly sucks in this particular piece of garment. Easy answer. They have a cool crocodile logo. Problem solved. Moving on.

Whereas trendy rich people love Apple, I have a personal fanboy-relationship with Oakley, and the reason for that is quite simple and stupid. Originally I was introduced to Oakley when I was around 10 by a friend whom I’ve looked up to my entire life. He told me something along the lines of “these are the best sunglasses”. Now, he probably had no idea about why or if what he was saying was true (considering he was 11) but the thought struck with me. All I needed to embrace a brand I had never heard about was someone I trusted telling me that it was excellent. Granted, I was a child, but it is my belief that everybody has been at some point, so ignoring children as potential future consumers could prove detrimental to any business. Later on I realized Oakley makes shoes and clothes to my liking as well so I’ve been buying their products whenever I’ve had the chance since the last millennium, which is not often here in the cold North. Whether or not my opinion on Oakley has any impact on people around me (it doesn’t) remains to be seen, but at least everybody knows that I really like that brand. Were it not to increase sales, it definitely increases awareness.

I would have many other brands I could mention as examples of things that I’ve been introduced to by a friend or acquaintance. The common denominator being that if such a brand has lived up to expectations I probably still buy it once in a while and recommend it to others. Which leads me to the whole pièce de résistance of this post, word-of-mouth. Disregarding the fact that everything works more efficiently on a child, good friends or even acquaintances recommending something will most likely have a much bigger impact on people than any interruptive commercial. This has been researched over and over again so I’m not just pulling stuff out of my ass here. I am, however, too lazy to site sources.

If anyone ever reads this and wants to learn more about word-of-mouth and viral marketing I would suggest watching Seth Godin‘s speeches at TED.

-L

Broken Marketing

In terms of marketing, spamming via regular mail is right there on top of my hatelist along with door-to-door religious marketing and telemarketing. So no matter how beautifully personalized the message is (Dear N.N. and so on), stuffing trash through the mail slot in my door most likely will not make me buy whatever you’re trying to sell. It will, however, help the paper recycling business. In addition, the means through which the message arrived was not its only flaw.

The whole offer was meticulously composed in a way that made it impossible to clearly decipher how much the offering was actually going to cost. No, I don’t give a shit that it’s “the rest of the year for the price of 2 months” if you will not tell me how much exactly is two months in fucking real currency. Due to some brain lapse I was actually interested in seeing if ordering the newspaper in question would have any value for me, so I wasted 5 minutes of my life turning the A3-sized offer sheet around trying to find the only information I was interested in in the first place.  Alas, all the marketing department had had the wisdom to print was praise for all the useless “benefits” a potential customer would be getting. Oh, that, and of course how much money I would be saving. Apparently I don’t need to spend a dime. This is full of win.

Naturally, the attached order form had the actual price written on it but even there the box-checking system was confusingly stupid. I’m too lazy to scan the form so you’ll just have to take my word for that. The potential customer is always right.

-L

Boost Social

I just got back from the Boost Turku‘s social meetup and for some reason I felt like blogging about it. Yes. An event I decided to attend on a whim. Blogging seriously for the first time in 18 months. Miracles do happen.

I had to leave right after the guest speaker, Richard von Kauffmann of Zipipop (the last part isn’t actually his name), had finished his main presentation, which is unfortunate because it would have been interesting to stay and chat with him for a while afterwards. While he was no Seth and could use some additional presentation tips from Garr, I was still impressed enough to write about it, so I guess I have to admit that the presentation was, dans l’ensemble, very well done.

Technology, the internet and gaming have interested me since I cannot even remember but social media only really came in slowly with internet forums, IRC, web messaging and later on Friendster, Bebo and Facebook. Eventually, I made viral marketing in online communities the goddamn subject of my undergraduate’s thesis, which came out awesome.

For some reason I’ve been getting more and more involved in social media lately, although I initially have refused to join twitter, posterous or other places I just haven’t found any use for. Richard mentioned Yammer as a platform they use at Zipipop and I got the sudden urge to try it and shove it down all my friends’ throats in order to enhance communication. Apparently it requires company email adresses though, so fuck it.

In almost, but not completely unrelated news, I’ve now been following a plyometrics training program regularly for 8 weeks. Nobody cares, but this is a segue so keep reading anyway. Now, I don’t actually remember ever practicing any sport without laziness-induced interruption for this long, not even as a kid when my parents were in charge of taking me to practice different sports they felt were important but I couldn’t give two shits about, like field hockey. This leads me to a point Richard also briefly mentioned during his presentation: positive feedback and gratification. Although there are several reasons as to why I’ve suddenly taken up sports again, the reason why I haven’t quit is on the web, namely HeiaHeia. For me, it’s a brilliant means to keep track of what I’ve done, see what others are doing, cheer for them and get cheered on. The system is not perfect and I could think of a dozen of useful user interface features to add but it’s still good enough for me to keep using it.

Similarly to achievements in gaming, I would also need some kind of program that would reward me with achievements whenever my master’s thesis reaches a certain amount of pages or references or whatnot. I need those little virtual medals to be effective! You just don’t put as much effort into something that you’re not really sure is advancing at all and that won’t be finished in the foreseeable future as you would into something that would reward you step by step as you get closer to your goal. That’s why life really needs some kind of achievement collection feature. HeiaHeia is a good start but I’d love to see more.

-L