How We Work #2: A sneak peek into life in Icefire

Wonder what’s life like in other tech companies? How they work and what they do? And why on earth are you still looking for the right fit while some of your friends have happily been in the same company for years? It’s obviously more complex than a cool office with a ping-pong table.

Meet Maari, Taavi Kalle and Ulvi — three of our own, who share their experiences about life in Icefire. What makes a good learning environment, what has influenced their professional development and what kind of support they have received from their teams during this journey.

Maari joined Icefire six months ago as an intern after completing a retraining program initiated by the government of Estonia to encourage adults to try out a career in IT. “What really boosted my learning process during the short internship was that I worked on actual projects for real clients, rather than being given play or test tasks. It gave me a real understanding of what a programmer’s daily work looks like and I was quickly able to see whether it is something for me.”

Before deciding to pursuit a career in IT, Maari worked in a medical lab for six years. Her biology degree and previous work experience made it easier to become a developer. Photo: Sandra Palm

“I soon saw that Icefire was the type of company that invests in the learning and training of people, we have good mentors who see you as a potential asset for the future. Yes, the mentors and team leaders have to put in a little more work at first, but they are certain it pays off in the long run.”

Maari definitely made the right choice changing her career, saying that she is totally excited about programming. “You have to be independent, resilient, analytical. If something goes wrong, don’t give up and try to search for a solution.”

Culture as a factor of success

Whereas Maari is a newcomer to both software development and to Icefire, Ulvi joined the company in 2005, when it was a group of 20 people.

Ulvi is one of the people who left Icefire, but after a brief time away, found her way back.

“I started out as a quality engineer, then moved on to analysis and further on to programming — Icefire’s culture encourages speaking up and actively participating in the development of your career.”

Interdisciplinarity is also an important keyword here. Our developers know about our business and our analysts and project managers know about the latest trends in technology. Naturally, having been in the banking and financial services business for such a long time, we have gathered a wealth of knowledge, that goes far beyond technology.

“At least in Icefire, being a programmer is much more than just writing elegant code,” Ulvi comments. “You are expected to look at the bigger picture, be creative and solve challenges on the go. We rarely dictate everything a programmer has to do — instead, we want to leave them space to come up with their own solutions and think outside the box,” she adds.

Although Ulvi joined Icefire a long time ago, she was also tempted to look around and see life in other tech companies. After a brief time away, she found her way back to Icefire.

“What brought me back, were the people,” she admits. “Trust between co-workers is very important to me, and sense of togetherness. Although Icefire has grown from a small company to 110 people, the mutual understanding and sense of community have been preserved.”

Trying out different roles

Ulvi is a self-starter and she sees her strengths in initiating and driving projects. She hopes that she can shape her career in Icefire more towards that. “The exact path how you get from one role to another depends on the person. Of course, it is easy to do things that you know well and are good at, however, you have to recognise the point where you stop evolving and then do something about it.”

Taavi Kalle has also experienced rotation in Icefire first-hand. He started out as a junior front-end developer, but in two years has gone from front-end to full-stack development. Furthermore, he has also acquainted himself with the architectural side of the development spectre. “The great thing is that I acquired these new skills on the job and with the support I had, it was not hard at all.”

Taavi Kalle has had the opportunity to work on different projects. He sees that this is especially good for entry-level specialists, allowing to gain new skills quickly. Photo: Lina Vonsavičiūtė

According to Taavi Kalle, what matters is being open and curious and having the desire to learn and develop. With a solid support structure, moving across teams and performing different tasks is the perfect way to broaden one’s skill set and develop professionally.

How to find comfort outside of your comfort zone?

“I think it is a matter of company culture — if there is an environment of trust then it is easier — you trust your team to let you learn and take your time in unfamiliar situations and your team trusts you to rise to the occasion,” Taavi Kalle says. “You can even compare it to being thrown into open water, but you get a life buoy in the form of supporting colleagues and team who want you to succeed.”

For Taavi, the learning experience has been easy and smooth. Now, he is rarely worried when standing face-to-face with an unfamiliar task — he has learned to love challenges and enjoys pushing himself further.

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Want to know more about what it’s like to work in Icefire? Check out our careers page.

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Written by: Anna Penne

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