Eficode goes east

The Software production company Eficode locates in GE building, the old industrial area in Vallila, Helsinki. Stepping in the building is like taking a leap from an industrial- to a postindustrial Finland. International atmosphere  hits you at the door.  The office could be anywhere in the western world. A dozen of the 90 employees in a bright open office come from all over the world, from China to Africa

Nur Sah Ketene

Eficode’s official working language is English and it is used always when there is any non Finnish-speaking person around.  Divesity of the staff is wide.  So is the age-range. Although the average age is around 30, they can’t be accused of age discrimination, because they also have employees over sixty years old

“Being an international company has been our aim from the beginning,” says Risto Virkkala the owner and MD of Eficode. “We consider international people being equal  with the Finns. That’s the way we got our international customers.”

Eficode is specialized in producing tailored software and related IT services for midsize and large businesses, as well as those in the public sector, such as National Land Survey of Finland (Maanmittauslaitos). Many of their customers are listed companies and international enterprises. Founded in 2005, Eficode hired the first employees the following year and has rapidly expanded all around the Eurasian continent.

“While Finnish companies normally expand to Central Europe, we swam against the mainstream, and went to the East. In addition to our offices in Copenhagen and Beijing we have a small sales office in St. Petersburg.”

“Typically IT companies go to China for the cheap labour, but we are exporting knowhow. We provide systems and support services, develop software products and help other IT companies to improve their software development processes. In China they have a large market and IT business is growing rapidly, but it is also a big challenge. They also have a huge bureaucracy, but because of our Chinese employees we had a kick-start in China. And our software is implemented to function also with Chinese characters.”

Eficode teaches Ruby on Rails web application framework at local universities and recruits employees before they graduate from the schools like University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Haaga-Helia. In May (2012), Eficode’s own Ruby on Rails experts coached at Rails Girls coding workshop for the first time. Rails Girls encourages women to learn to code and build web applications. Right now 13 females are working for Eficode; seven of them are coders, and the rest of them are in sales and management. 

Since Eficode operates in the General Electric premises, there are certain security standards in the building. Big American companies really look after their tenants and their health. A non -smoking environment  is nothing new here, but their dining room offers reduced salt and low fat  meals.  And they call Finland a “nanny state”.

 THERE’S A LOT OF FISH UNDER THE ICE

Software Production Improvement Consultant,  Nur Sah Ketene, 28,  from Ankara, Turkey has been working for Eficode from the beginning of this year.  Nur was hired while he was writing his thesis in Haaga- Helia where he was studying business Information Technologies.

In Turkey, Nur had first studied hydrobiology, but then decided, it was not for him. He first arrived in Finland in the winter 2008. Naturally that was first a bit of a culture shock.  A long dark season and distant quiet people can’t be that easy to handle for someone from the  Mediterranean zone. Nur was prepared for  the worst, but from the beginning he spent his time in multicultural surroundings and that helped to make a smooth landing in snow.  

At the time when Nur studied  in Haaga- Helia he used to run HHLinuxClub ry, a non-profit organization, trying to promote the use of open source technologies. He did it for three years and that, besides his studies, kept him more than busy. Someone may ask: Did he have time to study the local language at all?  

 “I’m a slow learner of Finnish,” says Nur.  “We had only three Finns in a classroom,”” he adds.

“But sometimes he mumbles something in Savo (a dialect from the heartlands),” says a colleague.

“Soon I learned that big personal space around a Finn was not really a barrier. In our company everybody helps you with everything. Even people from the different teams. You don’t have to be afraid ask anyone. And once you break  the ice, you can make true friends.

Even if ice hockey is not a big thing in Turkey, the  hockey gold last year and exploding celebration on the streets and squares of Helsinki helped Nur to find totally different quality in these reserved people. Unfortunately that happens only about once in a generation.

Nur visits Turkey about twice a year, but he has no plans to return there?  ”Or maybe, if Eficode sets up an office in Turkey… Let’s see what happens.”

“There is a lot of fish under the ice,” as an old saying, perhaps from Savo, goes.