Aku Tolvanen

Analytics to the rhythm of heavy metal

Analyst Aku Tolvanen came to Valamis following Valamis’ acquisition of OlapCon.

Somewhere between the end of October and the beginning of November 2016 Aku Tolvanen’s workday was suddenly interrupted. He and his colleagues were informed that Valamis had bought OlapCon.

Calm as he is, Aku, who was raised in the Koli village located in eastern Finland, was not startled by the news. By the age of ten, Aku was hooked on horror films and, by the age of sixteen, he had already moved from home to live on his own.

“I was told that my job would remain the same, only the location would change. Immediately, an introductory evening was organized for us at the Valamis office, and everyone was partnered with a ‘Valamis Friend’ who would help make the integration process into the new work community as smooth as possible.”

Aku’s Valamis Friend was Jooseppi, who, by chance, was a former student at the very same university of applied sciences where Aku had studied and Aku had actually tutored during his engineering studies in information technology. Soon he came to realize, there were even more familiar faces at the new workplace.

“My friends had already asked me to join Valamis before the acquisition but I thought they only had coding positions available.”

After the company acquisition, the transfer was made possible because the merger did not affect the analyst’s job description. The only thing Aku had to do was pack his belongings into boxes and to remember to ride his bicycle to the new address on the Monday morning next week. A moving company delivered the boxes to the new office and Aku began his work with Valamis

Aku’s transition to a new workplace occurred just as smoothly as his transition to living on his own at age 16. It happened without much thought or worry.  

From countryside to city

There it was: Aku’s first computer. The year was 1992, and his closest neighbor was more than half a mile away. Besides the near forest, and the sheep and dogs living in the courtyard, there was not a lot where Aku lived. For a young boy growing up, Aku’s first encounter with technology was exciting and it sparked his imagination.

“I was inspired by computers immediately, and my future career became very clear.”

Still in preschool, Aku announced that his dream profession was a tractor driver – which is no surprise, since there were more tractors than regular cars in his neighborhood. However, after he finished school, his passion for technology influenced his decision to leave his hometown in the countryside.  

“Many people moved away to study. It wasn’t a big deal or anything new.”

Aku found his new home in Joensuu, eastern Finland. First, he got his vocational qualification in business information technology and after that he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering in information technology. Aku found his first job while studying at the university of applied sciences.

Aku’s first job was in the field he studied at university, based in Joensuu, Finland.

Motivated by change

For a period of four and half years, Aku traveled to the OlapCon office with his bicycle or car.  At his work desk, he put his headphones on, turned the volume up and started to type on his keyboard to the rhythm of progressive rock or heavy metal. Everything around him disappeared. Music is present in Aku’s everyday life, even outside of the workplace. The radio is always on in his car and nearly every month you can find him at the local club listening to heavy metal bands. During gigs, Aku tends to sit in the front of the mixing console, where the sound quality is best. Listening to music with his headphones at work might not be quite like the feeling of a live gig, but Aku aims to have the best sound quality regardless.

“There have been a few times where a colleague of mine has been talking to me for a while before I notice him. It is a good skill to have to be able to completely focus and become absorbed in your work.”

Even though Aku continued to be carried away by his work, the workplace at one point became routine and dull after four years. Aku was looking for new motivation for work, and then news of the acquisition came as if it was meant to be.

Strategy games and kart racing

The welcoming work community at Valamis impressed Aku immediately. Monthly themed evenings – for instance, one month was a Hungarian themed, one month was kart racing themed, one month was quality beer themed – all events where colleagues got together to bond outside of work. Additionally, Valamis had options to enjoy physical exercises like joint badminton sessions and other sporting events.

“Events and sporting opportunities communicate that the company thinks its employees are important; we are valued human beings. Pressuring to deliver results does not motivate you, a caring and good atmosphere does.”

Each week, a game session takes place at the office. Every day, Aku can be found by the billiard table and, once a week, at a board game evening. At board game evenings, no Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit is played. A group of players, including coders and analysts for instance, have taken the game evenings to a more challenging level.

“We play strategy games which might feel challenging to an ordinary board game player.

Anyone can join our game evenings.” Aku appreciates the low hierarchy environment that Valamis prides itself on.

“Here, you can go to lunch with anyone at all, even with the CEO. In fact, it’s encouraged.”

At Valamis, you do not have to be nervous around your manager. And, in general, getting stressed is not really Aku’s thing, even though his hobbies include activities that are high risk for accidents. For his hobbies, sometimes Aku heads from the office to the forest and sometimes to the ski slopes or to the movie theatre he built in his home.

The newcomer has turned into a regular participant of the board game evenings and is known for his team spirit. You would never know, but actually the only thing that makes Aku nervous is getting to know new people.

“Luckily, arriving to Valamis didn’t require a job interview. That would have made me tense. It was easy because I was just told where to go, and also, I had friends already working here.”

No fear

“Moving to a city interrupted my skiing hobby but now I am back skiing again.”

After a proper skiing session, Aku sits down by the home cinema he has built himself. At the age of ten, Aku got hooked on The X-Files television series and has loved thrillers and horror movies ever since.

Horror movies barely increase Aku’s pulse. Although, he does admit that a good horror movie makes him smile – if the sound world of the movie is authentic. An excellent pairing with a great movie is whiskey, which Aku states is one of his hobbies.  

“I have proposed a whiskey tasting evening as one of the themed evenings at the office.” Everything is possible at Valamis.

Aku has contributed to the development of the latest Valamis beer, and helped with the selection process of the company’s own coffee, Valamis Coffee..

The laid-back analyst is seemingly excited about the social community at work. Although the content of the work of an analyst consists mainly of a series of numbers inside a computer, the most important thing about the work is the people.

“Here, people honestly care about the well-being of the employees, both physical and mental,” Aku says with a smile on his face.

Writer: Eveliina Salomaa
Photographer: Jirina Alanko

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