You don’t speak Finnish? We don’t mind! You don’t speak Finnish? We don’t mind!

By Tiina Knight


- From the very beginning, we decided that Intopalo will be a global company. Instead of limiting our operations within the borders of Finland, we’d have both an international customer base and international talents working on our projects, says CEO Juha Latvala. - We had a lot of tech know-how from Finnish industries and universities in-house but wanted to go beyond that.

Currently, among the 60+ IT professionals at Intopalo, 9 different nationalities are represented. The working language is English, and Finnish skills are not required in recruitment. Instead, we look at the technical skills, the motivation, and the way the candidate would fit the company culture.

- It’s not always that easy for foreigners to find a job in Finland, says Peng Wu, a software engineer from China. - Here, many employees have international work experience or background, so the company feels more open to foreigners in many ways. I enjoy working here, as the work is flexible, employees are trusted, and there are plenty of opportunities for both personal and professional growth.

Working with both Finnish and international customers

Some companies are hesitant to recruit non-Finnish speakers as working with domestic customers would not be possible for them. At Intopalo, there are enough Finnish employees to handle the projects that actually have to be done in Finnish, but those cases are somewhat rare. Instead, we have international talents working with Finnish customers in English.

- Even though I only work with Finnish customers I have never run into a situation where I had to be able to speak Finnish, says Danish Simon Clement. - Everything from chit-chat to highly technical discussions is conducted in English and we have never had any problems understanding each other.

With international customers, the threshold of being the customer interface and managing a project in English is lower, as the work is discussed in English also internally.

The Intopaloan down under

Besides the Tampere office having a nice mix of cultures, some coworkers are working remotely from different parts of the world. For example, Australian Lorn Potter has been working with Intopalo since the beginning of 2017.

- Being on the opposite side of the earth presents challenges of space and time. But these are easier to handle as we routinely use technology that helps long - and close - distance collaboration. However, flexibility with work hours is needed so at least part of the workday overlaps. At certain times when I get stuck with some specific code, I have to take a break until Finland wakes up, Lorn says.

Thanks to technology, many projects don’t need people working physically close together. However, having people working remotely in different time zones and coming from different working cultures has required creating common play rules. Communicating one’s thoughts and ideas in a way the other person can understand even without non-verbal communication, as well as finding a way to work together but yet independently from one another, requires work from all parties.

What about coffee break talks?

At Intopalo, a non-Finnish speaker doesn’t need to worry about feeling like an outsider during social interaction at lunch, coffee breaks, or company leisure events. When someone who doesn’t speak Finnish is present the conversation gets automatically switched into English. Sometimes it is even seen as a disadvantage, as many international talents are working hard to acquire Finnish skills and would desire to speak Finnish whenever they get the chance. Then a friendly reminder to a colleague is needed: ”Puhu minulle suomea.”

Next step: Munich

As we have a large customer base in Central Europe, the next logical step is to have stronger presence there. In the beginning of 2018, we open our first branch office in the Munich area in Germany. On the site, Finnish employees assigned to work in Germany for a fixed period of time will work together with local professionals, and even tough German skills are a bonus, the company language will continue to be English.

- This is just the beginning. Having a strong international mindset from the beginning lets us seize new opportunities more boldly, Juha Latvala says.

If you are an international talent and looking for opportunities to work in Finland, check our open positions!

In the picture: Simon, Attila, Peng, Zita, Mathieu, Jiri and Juan who all work in Tampere office