Mar 4, 2019 IN Pixel Life
My Finnish adventure
Recently, I attended an educational program of the Aalto University in Finland for people who manage game developing teams. It was two of us at the program from Pixel Federation - me and Adam, the producer of our currently most successful game.
Adam was the first person I hired at the company. Since then, we have gone our separate ways within the company, each overwhelmed with their own schedule. This week was a pleasant re-discovery of an old friendship. The week’s schedule filled with activities was also a refreshing getaway from my regular routine. For me, personally, it is always difficult going away from the family, my kids. It is a logistical challenge trying to organize their school, activities, food for the smaller and bigger member of the household. Before I get to the door, it is a mad carousel of neverending requests. But the moment the door shuts behind me, I am fully focused on what’s ahead of me. So what did the Finland trip bring? I would summarize it into five points.
The program was somewhat shaken up on the day of our arrival, as its director was dismissed under circumstances that were not officially communicated to us, so the first day suffered a little as a result. During activities that replaced the Pitching workshop (which should have been the main part of the first day), it was apparent that they were thrown together at the last minute and were more about teambuilding. Oh well. Our evening visit of the law firm Fondia was pleasantly refreshing. It was the most unusual law firm I have ever seen. No one was wearing a suit, everyone called each other by their first name, and they even had a room full of candy (candy room). The following days were filled with practical application to theoretical frameworks, lectured to us by professors or experts from many successful Finnish companies, We got the “best practice” of complex issues in game development. Entries in areas like marketing (particularly acquisition), creating value for players and monetization, and studio management were especially valuable. The evening part consisted of visiting game studios - EA, Yousitian Games Factory. A particular comment stuck in my head. It was from Petri, director of SimCity be EA, who holds pride in good product and culture. When I asked him how he would define their company culture, he smiled. He knew where I was from as we had met before, and answered: “It is interesting that I get this question mostly from Eastern Europeans.” Something to think about.
The people were the most pleasant surprise (as usual). At the actual program, there were two Slovaks, three Finns, two Brazilians, four Iranians, one Kazakh, one Dane, and a Jordanian. The Iranians gave me a déjà vu. To get to the United States, they have to go apply for a visa to Turkey. Often they are just turned away at the door and their visa application refused without any reason given. It reminded me of the late 90s when I would travel by bus to Great Britain and the whole way there I was stressed out about whether the inviting letter from my friend would pass the strict check at the border, or whether I would be turned around and sent home. Their situation is very different from the others. The game market and finances in it are under the government’s control. Still, they are trying and succeeding in doing many interesting activities for the youth and attracting more women to the game industry.
Networking brought the most added value to me. Other than just exchanging knowledge and experience within our group, Adam and I met up with acquaintances old and new from various game studios. We agreed with some on visits to our studio, for mutual learning. Meanwhile, we managed to get one of the experts to come to Slovakia and organized some educational activities for our Pixel Federation people, Butterfly Effects students, and Game Execs Breakfast for the game community.
Finland as a whole is always an inspiration for me. This time, multiculturalism caught my eye the most. Though the Finnish culture might not seem completely open, the opposite is true. At every studio we visited, the main spoken language was English and their employees were from all over the world. Every taxi driver can speak English. The academic grounds are full of guest professors from various renowned universities of the world. Why not apply it here? We are taking the steps towards that both at Pixel Federation and at Butterly Effect.
We were not long for oddities. There were two particular ones that stood out. Since I have a new obsession - swimming - I was very excited to find a beautiful swimming pool in the Helsinki city center, I was surprised to see that entries for men and women were on different days, but I didn’t pay much attention to this detail. So on Wednesday at 6:30, I came to the wonderful pool ready to get my two kilometers in and was shocked to see that in my swimsuit and goggles I was an abnormal anomaly among nude Finns, just floating around all over the pool. The second humorous moment was when a classmate from Finland talked about pork blood, which is regularly available in Finland at stores, and a delicacy they make out of it - blood pancakes. A breakfast indulgence. So he brought us some to taste. It was an offer we just could not refuse. I will not be forgetting the individual reactions of people to this delicacy any time soon.
The author is a co-founder of PIXEL FEDERATION, a mother of three with a passion for innovation, education, games, her children, creative joy, and sustainable growth. She has managed projects in the field of human resources for corporate institutions, from analyzing training needs in the public sector, managing IT projects, to even starting her own company. Currently, she manages development programs for PIXEL FEDERATION. Her second subject is managing the Edufactory activities by Pixel Federation, which are aimed at the support and creation of educational projects.