Team skills that really matter. Interview with Business Unit Lead, Jukka Halttunen
Thinking of working at Proekspert? Jukka Halttunen, Business Unit Lead, describes the work of his embedded software team and the type of person who fits in.
How long have you been at Proekspert?
I have been here for about a year and a half.
Please introduce your unit.
Our unit is called Embedded Software and Systems unit, previously called the Device Unit, which means that we do embedded software development and support for mainly electrical devices.
Our biggest client is Danfoss. We’ve worked with them since 2002. From 2003-2014, we were a part of the Danfoss Group. In 2015, Proekspert bought the shares back and we have continued to have a close relationship. Both companies wanted to continue working together and we’ve been doing so since. We have about 25 to 30 people working on Danfoss projects, mainly software development for the drives to use devices to control and regulate electric motors.
We have other clients as well, some in the medical sector and one new client from Sweden who makes testing devices.
In total, we have around 40 people, most of them embedded software developers, some of them testers. Then we have a Business Unit Lead, which is my role, and a Delivery Lead.
Embedded software systems unit takes care of all the clients for whom we’re doing embedded software development. So yes, Danfoss is one of them, but our objective for our organizational structure, and the biggest challenge for our unit, is to find new clients in addition to our good partner Danfoss. This is something we’re working on right now.
In June we took part in the Embedded World 2022 trade fair in Nuremberg, Germany. It was very interesting for us, we met a lot of new people, and made new contacts. One of them was a company that brings screens to life. Another is moving from product-only offerings to complete solutions for the end customer, software included. To do this they need a lot of software development, and this is where we can help.
Can you tell us what a “regular” week at work looks like? What are the assignments and jobs?
We usually start our week with a stand-up meeting where the teams decide and agree among themselves how they’re going to work and how they’re going to deliver projects. Of course, they take into account the client’s wishes while doing so.
Take Danfoss projects as an example. We usually have a few stand-ups during the week. Depending on the scrum sprints (we usually use the agile-scrum method), which on average are one to two weeks, the team agrees on what they will deliver, and at the end of the sprint they do a review. This is basic procedure that varies from time to time, depending on the project – because on some projects we develop new products or embedded platforms, and in other projects we support existing products, which is why the processes can be very different.
Then there is a lot of teamwork if we’re developing new features or improving old features, depending on the product and projects the team is involved with. Additionally, we have testers doing testing assignments.
What does it take to join your unit?
When it comes to the Embedded Software and Systems unit, if you’re a software developer then we assume that your interest is in electronics, more specifically in embedded development. Also, if a person has some experience in electronics, they will understand the bigger picture around the projects. We are also looking for people who are interested in developing new things. Why I point this out is because we’re looking for opportunities all the time where we can create and own the products or package a service.
Let’s say that we have been creating a feature or solution for a specific area, and we see that we can put this service into a package and use it repeatedly from time to time. Sometimes we need a physical product next to it, which we can develop together with our partners, or if it’s purely a service-based sort of product or package, then we can develop that, as well.
So we’re looking for people with embedded software development skills, an understanding of electronics, and an interest in the workings of electronics.
What’s challenging in this kind of work but also rewarding?
Let’s take Danfoss, for example. We are working with their R&D department, building very new, complicated and innovative solutions. Simply working on such projects, where you create something new from scratch, is a real reward for developers.
Sometimes, for some developers, maintaining old systems can also be exciting, but this might not be for everyone.
You could work anywhere you want. What’s kept you at Proekspert?
Proekspert is an excellent place to work! I say this because there are many things, not just one, that keep me here. First of all, I want to thank my colleagues. They are really great people, and I enjoy working with them. I also enjoy the flexibility.
I see that at Proekspert we have great opportunities thanks to new strategies that have been created in the past year. We have a clear focus, and our goals are clear. The Embedded Software and Systems unit is really at the heart of that strategy. This kind of work is really challenging, as well as rewarding.
I think that when we’re looking at the big picture of where we’re headed, how products and things are developing as they become more complicated, there are always new opportunities for embedded development. For example, with electric cars, electrical products connected to solar panels, and things like that. And the electricity network is getting more complicated, which always opens new opportunities in the field of embedded development for electrical devices.
Together we have a really good combination of services we can offer to our clients, since they are getting really good value out of it.
Concerning junior staff, what advice would you give to them if they’re thinking of applying to Proekspert?
Just apply. We don’t bite.
First, I encourage everyone to apply for new positions. Besides your technical skills, we appreciate it if you tell us about your background. Why am I telling you this? Because at Proekspert, it’s very important for us to know how good of a match you are with the team, with our people. Of course, technical skills are needed. When we’re looking for new people, we do team interviews where you meet your potential new colleagues. They’re there to get to know a little bit more about you. This is a very friendly and warm way to see if we match with you. Don’t worry if you’re not the best communicator. Just be yourself.
Sometimes I see that a person has great technical skills but is shy and not as good at communicating. We’re not searching for extroverts in particular. We don’t care if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. You don’t have to be really talkative. Team skills for us do not always mean being social. It’s a way of working.
What distinguishes Proekspert from other IT companies?
When talking about differentiating in Estonia, then the biggest difference is that a very significant part of our work is related to embedded software development, which is something we do for private companies, unlike much of our competition which mainly serves the public sector. Our embedded software development is focused on electronics.
Many IT companies in Estonia are primarily focused on big public procurements where they’re doing development work for government, like building healthcare portals. Those are big projects, and there are different developments needed. Our focus is electrical equipment manufacturers who produce and develop devices and machines that include electronics. We provide embedded software development for those machines and devices, and that makes us different.
We’ve been doing it since Proekspert was founded, almost 30 years now.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’d like to encourage people just starting their careers to apply. We have big plans to grow our unit. We’re looking for about eight to 10 new people this year, some software developers, some testers, and some product owners. So, if you can’t make it this year, we encourage you to apply next year!
There are a lot of exciting opportunities coming, new developments, and our own developments and products to come. We’re just getting up to speed with our growth.
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