József Geréby

From exchange student to permanent employee

Senior Software Developer József Geréby moved to Joensuu to study, returned there to work and settled down for his passion’s sake.

Nowadays, József Geréby has two names. He has his real name and then the nickname, Jooseppi. Jooseppi is the name his colleagues call him at the Valamis office.

The great mind behind the nickname is a colleague of his named Aki, who immediately started to ‘Finnish-ize’ the Hungarian after he had started as a trainee at Valamis’ Joensuu office in 2012.
“Aki created a chart that showed what steps I needed to complete in order to become more Finnish. The steps included diverse tasks, such as watching Kummeli, a famous Finnish television sketch show. I never managed to proceed to the kalsarikännit level, though, where you are supposed to get drunk home alone in your underwear,” 26-year-old Jooseppi contemplates by his desk.

On his desk, there are two large screens, a coffee mug that looks like a camera lens, and a Finnish-Hungarian dictionary. The dictionary reminds him to do his grammar homework before his Finnish class in the afternoon. He studies Finnish every week four times: twice with a Finnish language instructor hired by the office, once in a private session and once in a group class among other colleagues with foreign background. Nevertheless, the most important language in his job is Java.

At the end of his exchange year in Finland, Jooseppi sent an application for a traineeship opportunity at Valamis in 2010, and he did not know any Java code at all. 
“I got a response that they had a Java assignment for you. I thought, well OK, I have to study Java a bit and then complete an assignment. Based on the assignment I completed, I was invited to interview.”

Jooseppi openly admitted that the Java code was completely new territory for him.
“Here, the interviewers are not too focused on what the applicant is able to do at the moment, but rather what she or he can become. It’s wonderful.”

The best option after Sweden 

Jooseppi came to Finland by accident. He spent his childhood in a tiny Hungarian village until the Soviet occupation ended. Little József’s idolized his grandfather, who saw Sweden as the promised land.

Jooseppi inherited his grandfather’s enthusiasm for the Nordic countries from his grandfather. In the middle of his IT studies in 2010, Jooseppi applied for a year-long student exchange program in Stockholm. He didn’t get admitted, but, instead, Karelia University of Applied Sciences welcomed him. Eastern Finland was not quite Stockholm but it was close enough.
“I arrived on a January night. It was -13 degrees Fahrenheit, due to the snow, everything felt very magical and serene. The atmosphere got me hooked immediately.”

The quality of tuition made a great impact on Jooseppi, so he decided to return to Joensuu to write his master’s thesis. This time, he found a girlfriend at another exchange students’ party.
“And just like that, it was crystal clear that I would return to Finland to work after my graduation. Before returning home, I started to look for traineeship opportunities here.”

Then, life happened. The girlfriend was left behind, but Jooseppi was offered a traineeship at Valamis. In June 2012, Jooseppi was offered a permanent position after his trainee period, and the feeling was ‘phenomenal’.
“It sealed my decision to settle down in Finland.”

Finding love in a salsa class

In the morning, Jooseppi packed his camera and a couple of lenses into his work bag. In the Joensuu city center, fall colors have peaked, and Jooseppi is planning to take some photos after work. 

His love for taking photos was began when as a boy, he received a Canon camera from his grandfather. In their courtyard, he photographed flowers and animals using his Canon. Now, the nature in Joensuu, for instance the Ilosaari island, is one of his favorite things to photograph.

Aside from his love for photography, Jooseppi also likes to salsa, to which he was introduced by the very same colleague, Aku, who gave him his Finnish nickname. Jooseppi mentions, laughing, that his parents still do not believe that their son is shaking his hips in the rhythm of Latin American music. 
“Now, I have managed to develop some kind of salsa dancing skills,” Jooseppi states.

A year ago, he found more than just dance moves in his dance class.
“A nice girl joined the class and we started to talk. Later, I learned that she’s Polish. Our native countries are very close. Naturally, we understood each other perfectly.”

The immediate crush between the two later turned into love. After her student exchange period, his girlfriend returned to Poland where Jooseppi often visits her. Their plan is to, someday, settle down together in Joensuu.

Hungarian food for “poor” Finns

Recently, Jooseppi has skipped several salsa classes due to an especially demanding work project. Yesterday, for instance, he suddenly realized that the time had flown by so fast without him noticing.
“Each project is challenging and exciting, and my proposals are always taken into account. Not too many people can say that they collaborate with NASA.”

Even fewer can say that they have beaten an astronaut in a billiard game, like Jooseppi has, during the astronaut, Charles Camara’s visit to the Joensuu office. Also now, a few Valamis employees are spending their coffee break by the billiard table. Today, all the NASA enthusiasts must remember to go home early since they will meet again in the evening to go to see The Martian space movie together.

For a very short moment, the focused atmosphere by the coder’s corner in the open office space is interrupted when a colleague calls out behind an office partition screen that he has time today to discuss with Jooseppi over his demanding project.
“This way others jump along and help to visualize and generate ideas. Everyone helps everyone. Sometimes only a half an hour is enough to make a huge difference in overcoming a challenge,” Jooseppi says.

His Finnish colleagues have already found a way to his heart although, at first, he wondered why they always responded just ‘yes’ to every question.

As a passionate chef, Jooseppi has decided to give the poor Finns some of his Hungarian casserole delicacies. A while ago, he organized a Hungarian dinner event at the office’s sauna area. Nearly every week, some event takes place at the sauna area.

Even though Jooseppi has found his way to Joensuu he does not feel that his path is that exceptional.
“This is life. If my grandfather hadn’t survived from the war, I wouldn’t be here. If my father hadn’t met my mother, I wouldn’t be here. This is how it goes. Life is funny, and I am lucky to have ended up being exactly where I am meant to be.”

Writer: Pauliina Suominen
Photographer: Jirina Alanko

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