13 Aug 2019Blog

People, purpose, culture and projects – what does a Software Architect appreciate at work

What is it like to work as a Software Architect at Solita? Solitas experienced software professional Ville wrote about his feelings about projects, working environment and culture. Author is a Software Architect with almost 10 years of experience from Solita.

A while back I realized that this is my tenth year at Solita. Almost a decade, working for a single company! Given that the average seems to be more like four years, it seems pretty likely that there’s something good here (or who knows, maybe the management spikes the coffee).

Things, people and purpose

There is more than one way to skin a cat, and this is mine: for me, motivation consists of the what, the who and the why. Or put another way: things, people, and purpose.

Material things are necessary but they are not sufficient in and of themselves to really keep a person happy and willing to come to work day after day, year after year. I include into “things” stuff like computers, adjustable desks, amenities (subsidized Coke Zero! Nuts and fruit! Massages!) and, of course, the salary. For me these need to reach a certain minimum level so that I don’t feel underappreciated, but after that any extra is basically fluff. If Solita decided to cut some of these it’d crash my motivation, but a similar increase would not have a similar-sized positive effect.

Far more important, in any case, are the other parts that really keep me happy here. At Solita, I’ve had the incredible privilege of having been able to work with some of the nicest and most skilled people I’ve ever met. As a software architect my own work tends to cover quite a bit of ground (without really putting in roots anywhere, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor) so I work regularly with other devs, UX and service design experts, various business-side and management people — and also clients, end users, clients’ clients and so on.

One day I’d be talking about programming with other devs, the next day the conversation might concern “programming” (as in planning, scheduling) of bridge repairs for the next year, and involve an entirely different set of people. The huge variety of viewpoints and backgrounds that I’m constantly being exposed to is both exhausting and rewarding, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

At times I wonder why some consider an architect’s job to be entirely “technical”, given the level of empathy and communication abilities it requires!

Project work at Solita – my project

My current project, where I work within a public-private four-way alliance with the Finnish Transport Agency, has been especially valuable in this respect. Being able to sidestep the traditional supplier-client relationship and work more like a startup would have been invigorating, and I often think that this is the way all projects ought to be handled.

It turns out that when you think of your client as more like a colleague, some things become a lot easier. Even technical discussions such as comparing the merits of AWS security features with those available in on-premises datacenters, or modeling the migration of legacy data into a new model, are easier when held amongst people who see themselves as members of the same team.  Being able to be at the frontlines of new ways to work is something I really appreciate.

And, of course, some days I just geek out, put on my noise-cancelling headphones and hammer out a bit of Clojure code, design an AWS API Gateway integration (with associated Cloudformation template), or spend some prime hours debugging a misbehaving routing library. Oh, I got both kinds, I got country and western.

Culture – how it shows in our company

People cannot exist without culture, and we talk about culture quite a bit at Solita. Mission, vision and value statements tend to get ignored pretty much instantly unless they are visible in the day-to-day life of a workplace. Here, the unspoken rule is that everyone is responsible for maintaining and improving upon our core values and culture. While there have been missteps and fumbles, I’ve learned to trust management and my colleagues when they talk about how much diversity, openness and the will for continuous improvement mean to them. It helps that it’s easy to see small acts that demonstrate this, almost every day.

One of the things we take for granted is that in Finland it’s easy enough to be both ethical and successful at the same time. While we at Solita do a lot of stuff that’s more or less neutral ethics-wise, much of our work involves things that can honestly be said to better the society as a whole. I’ve been lucky with my projects here, all of them being in this category – from improving accountability, efficiency and transparency of the legal guardianship institution, to making railway travel safer and more efficient, to my current project of improving our ability to maintain our road network with the limited amount of funds we (as a society) have.

I like coming to work each morning and being able to believe that what I do today is not just increasing the value of some billionaire’s portfolio, but rather is something that might allow limited public resources to be wasted less and instead used where they are really needed.

Want to learn more about our developers and our projects? Visit our developers own tech-blog dev.solita.fi.

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