People story

Hybrid work stories: Arto Santala

Arto Santala Software Architect, Solita

Published 22 May 2023

Reading time 5 min

What is your role? Which team?

My name is Arto Santala, and I am working as a hands-on Software Architect in the Development Unit. It means I alternate between coding, technical design, documentation, and any other tasks that help the customer projects.

What are you working on?

Currently, I share my time across customer work and internal development. Customer work at the moment includes building better tools for people to enable more flexibility and streamline their business processes. In other words, let the computers compute, and people can concentrate on the business instead. On the Solita side, I participate in pre-sales work, and dabble a bit with marketing and recruitment as well. A big part of my internal work is making our Dev Blog bigger than ever. It’s a vast knowledge base of developer know-how and proves an awesome window to software developer life.

How is your typical workday?

I currently work in hybrid mode: Most of my days I do from my home office. But I also visit regularly Solita offices and customer premises, for the things that work best face-to-face. That tends to be design and innovation-related things. My current team is distributed across Finland, I am in Riihimäki, and other members come from Helsinki, Tampere, and Kuopio. So we see face to face about once a month, other than that we organise the work over Teams pretty much.

That does not mean however working alone. Hybrid mode working has its benefits, but can also take a toll. So we experiment with things that make the hybrid mode of working more pleasurable and functional, basically finding how to connect while working in different cities. This includes things like daily standups over Slack huddle, weekly meetings online, pair programming over Teams when it makes sense, monthly face-to-face days to solve difficult problems, share information, or just try to improve in one area or another.

The most beautiful thing about hybrid work is flexibility and work/life balance. It also offers a superior focus for programming work, unlike modern open office spaces with their distractions. I happen to have an excellent space for my home office, and over the years I’ve set it up with an electric desk, an ergonomic multi-monitor setup, and all the other essentials, so it’s very easy to work from here.

On the other hand, back at the office, while there might still be a lot of Teams meetings, and more distractions for coding, it offers beautiful opportunities for random encounters, ad hoc innovation ideas over the coffee breaks, shared lunch breaks, etc. A sense of community is a hard thing to develop when working only remotely.

So it’s good to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of your way of working and figure out how to make the most of it, how to tackle the risks and downsides, how to find a model that works and does not stop the ability to learn, improve, enjoy the workdays. Perfect balance is also a bit of a personal thing, as coders are in different positions on an introvert/extrovert scale. So everyone has a different answer, but it’s a good thing to keep on trying to improve, whatever your goal and motivation.

What do you love about your job? How long have you worked at Solita?

This year marks my 8th year in Solita. Very interesting years those have been. When I started in 2015, there were only 300 of us, now we are almost 1700 people working to shape the future of digitalisation, and growing quite fast.

I love the possibility to dive into different domains every now and then and solve various business problems with technical excellency. I love to stay up to date with what are the best tools of the day. I love being able to apply those tools to solve problems as efficiently as possible. I love interaction with fellow Solitans, as well as, customer teams and other great IT vendors in Finland. There is a great feeling of satisfaction in solving impossible problems, as well as seeing great minds at their best.

What’s your biggest passion(s)?

Well, work is one – these days, especially the problem-solving part. I enjoy immensely when I can be part of a solution for making the world just a bit better every day.

In my free time, I have a family of four, plus two Romanian rescue dogs, Nemi and Kalevi, and plenty of beloved hobbies to keep me busy. I managed to build a little Crossfit gym in my home, so am fortunate to be able to work out while working from home.

Arto Santala Hybrid work

What’s your most impactful experience at Solita so far?

Typically when I see the result after working on something for a few months, I’ve experienced that many times. Some of the coolest things of course are under NDA, so cannot be shared. But I wrote a blog on one impactful experience, making our seas safer and cleaner in our Sea Traffic Management project.

Many of the projects we are working on will have concrete effects on people’s everyday life, including my own. I am very privileged to be part of that work, and it also allows me to make sure future systems and services are more robust, more pleasant to use, and wiser than ever before. A good test for anything I do is: Is it intuitive to use it on Monday morning before the first cup of coffee? Is it fun?

What brightens your day?

I love getting a hold of a difficult problem, that I manage to solve. Best days include suitable challenges. Another thing that brings a spark into my eye is when I get to brainstorm, innovate, and try to improve that 1% every week, in any area I can, especially with a bunch of like-minded people. Those are the best days for me.

I also love taking good breaks, because sometimes I forget to do that and my mind goes on endless recursion that goes nowhere. So when I notice that is happening, it’s awesome to be able to grab my coat and take the dogs along for a nice walk in sunshine. Recharge and reset my mind and then come back to the thing I was working on. Nine times out of the problem just solves itself immediately!

Enjoy your days of making a positive impact! – Arto

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