In less than two years, Aleksandr Muravev grew from a web developer to a product area lead. What next? He has set his eyes on new opportunities to grow.
The March air was chilly, and the pathway to the country house was covered in snow. Aleksandr and his friend got out of the car and started shovelling. Once the pathway to the house door was cleared, they carried in their belongings, lit a fire in the fireplace and settled in.
“To be at the cottage is relaxing for the mind, but not for the body. It is a lot of work, carrying in firewood, cleaning and carrying in drinking and cooking water. There is always something to do. Your mind gets a chance to rest, though”, Aleksandr says.
Life at the country house offers a chance to recharge for this Product Lead, whose work at Valamis revolves around communicating, managing projects and allowing developers to do their job in the best possible way. Aleksandr yearns for fresh air, open space and the slow pace of country life when working in the city of Petrozavodsk.
The role of product lead was not, however, Aleksandr’s goal when he first started at Valamis. Realising he might not end up as a Formula 1 driver, his childhood dream job, he decided he wanted to be like his cool uncle. A programmer.
A sleepless IT-student in Vaasa
Aleksandr had always been interested in computers, but it was his uncle who sparked the idea of a professional career.
Aleksandr remembers, “my uncle seemed like a cool guy. I asked my parents about his job, and they said he does something with computers. So, I made up my mind that it was something I wanted to do too”.
Aleksandr lived in Petrozavodsk but decided to study in Finland. He looked into universities and applied to Vaasa University of Applied Sciences. There he would complete an IT degree with a focus on software development. To Aleksandr, it seemed like the best option to get him closer to working in programming.
Programming seemed like rocket science, but when I started learning it, I realised it was possible for me, too, to become a developer and enter the IT business.
Aleksander enjoyed his studies in Vaasa. There was one issue; however, during those years he had trouble sleeping. He went out on his bike and spent the evenings cycling around the quiet city to calm his mind. Thanks to these bike rides around the city, the sleepless IT student got to know his local surroundings well.
“I used to bike around 20 kilometres every evening. I had my GPS on, so I could track the length of the ride. Each time it was the same”.
Back home to look for a place to grow
After three years in Vaasa, with no luck in getting a part-time job to cover his expenses, Aleksandr Muravev moved back to Petrozavodsk. Eager to get his career started, he got a job at a local company as a web developer.
“After a year I realised it wasn’t possible to grow within the company, so I started to look for other opportunities. I had heard good things about Valamis so I decided to apply. I knew the company could provide a lot of potential for growth and personal development”, stated Aleksandr.
There was only one open position at the time, a web developer, so Aleksandr applied for it. After a couple of interviews, he landed the job. In August 2018 Aleksandr joined the Valamis Petrozavodsk office and was met with a welcome cake, a tour around the office and a relaxed atmosphere.
“I’m rather an introvert, and I have to admit, it took me a while to get to know my colleagues. In the very beginning I worked with a team in Joensuu, with only one colleague here in Petrozavodsk. It required a couple of corporate events, restaurant reservations and sauna evenings to get to know everyone”.
Seizing unexpected opportunities
For the first few months Aleksander worked on valamis.com as a website developer, until a place in product development opened up. He found himself working on two projects at once for eight months. Although a stressful time, it was worth it, as Aleksandr found new strengths and switched to product development.
“We had to recruit a web developer to fill my shoes, so to say, so I helped the recruiting process by filming a video and talking about my job”.
Soon after moving to product development, Aleksandr was unexpectedly offered the position of product area lead.
“I talked with my mother and my grandfather, whom I always consult in big decisions. They both agreed I should take the position. Even though I had never ever considered that I would take a leading role, I saw it as a new path to grow. I said yes”.
Aleksandr did not love the idea of being in the spotlight nor of doing much talking. One and a half years as a product lead could not have proven his assumptions more wrong. It is the talking and communicating that motivate him in the job the most.
“Valamis does not have a strict hierarchy, which in turn is common in Russian companies. Here, we discuss and deliberate, and people are self-organised. I aim to be the person who supports others and arranges things so that my team can concentrate on their work”.
With no background in team leading, there have still been times when Aleksandr has been overwhelmed, but the company, and his team, have always had his back. Valamis supports product area leads with a training programme which provides insight on clients, their needs and challenges. The aim is to familiarise new product area leads with sales and increase their awareness of how Valamis can help clients.
We learn and grow together. The company culture is like that.
A chance to be yourself
Once Aleksandr became Product Area Lead, he sighed with relief and dyed his hair pink. He hadn’t only received a new position, but also new confidence and the courage to be himself. Pink hair was a way to celebrate this.
When it comes to growing as an IT professional, Aleksandr thinks he’s completely in the right place. A place he aims to stay at for a long time.
Aleksandr explains, “if you want to work in an international IT company in Petrozavodsk, Valamis provides the best opportunities. The company gives you a lot of freedom, good tools, corporate events and casual time with colleagues. The culture is very Finnish, which I like”.
By Finnish culture, Aleksandr refers to a good work-life balance. You can go on a holiday without interruptions from work, get support from colleagues and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere in the workplace.
“The amount of freedom the teams get is outstanding. One has to be available during certain working hours and for meetings, but otherwise you can pretty much decide where and how you work”.
Working, learning, fixing and recharging
It takes more than six hours to warm up the sauna at the country house. One has to know the tips and tricks, as simply filling up the sauna stove with wood is not enough. In a place full of chores, warming up the sauna feels more like a ritual.
Besides a hot sauna and coming to the country house to enjoy the fresh air and space, Aleksandr enjoys board games, video games and building radio-controlled cars.
Building the cars is 90 per cent work and 10 per cent fun, but it is fulfilling to understand how things work and get the cars running.
Alongside the radio-controlled cars, Aleksandr’s bike is in line to be fixed. He needs a new frame for the bike – the existing one is too low, making his back hurt when he bikes. Working on things, fixing them, or aiming to tackle a game take Aleksandr’s mind off work. He retreats to his personal space and finds time to recharge.
The country house provides just that. In the future Aleksandr hopes to have a house outside town and live outside the buzzing city, in more serene surroundings. Since his memories of Vaasa are so good, Aleksandr could see himself living in Finland in the future.
Once in a while Aleksandr thinks about his past studies and partly regrets never graduating. Even without a diploma, everything has worked out.
At Valamis, I have learnt everything and grown professionally by doing.
Writer: Eveliina Salomaa
Photographer: Maria Smirnova