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Leadin: Native speakers are excellent bridge-builders

Internationalisation has been one of Leadin’s goals ever since the company was established in 2009. Specialising in user experience, Leadin works where the customers are – which is why internationalisation means both opening new offices abroad and recruiting international experts in Finland.

“The more diverse and international the people are who we have within the company, the easier it is for us to understand other cultures and work with them”, says CEO Topi Koskinen.

Topi Koskinen, CEO of Leadin.

Leadin helps its customers make their products better: better suited to the application, more comfortable, more stylish, safer… The customers include both traditional industrial companies and companies in consumer services, so the list of references includes names ranging from Sandvik and Wärtsilä to OP Financial Group. Since the company deals with user experience, one of the starting points of its work is meeting users.

“We get on the site, interview the people, make observations and try to understand what the daily lives of the users are like. What works and what they need”, Koskinen says.

Leadin currently employs almost 80 people (February 2017), most of them in Finland, about twenty in Britain, four in Germany and one in Denmark. These numbers are changing fast – last year, Leadin recruited more than 30 people, and this year’s goal is to hire around 50 new employees.

A prerequisite for the quick growth and development is hiring international specialists. As certain kinds of designers and software developers are highly sought after in Finland, it makes sense for the company to make use of all the opportunities.

“There are foreign university students in Finland who have problems finding a job even after five years of studies because they don’t speak Finnish. This is unused potential”, Koskinen notes.

Leadin’s recruiters try to find skilled employees who fit the team, regardless of their nationality. The proportion of employees with a foreign background has increased, and it has been clear from the outset that the daily operations of the company must be run in English.

“Many of us have a background at Nokia or other big companies, so using English came quite naturally. The threshold to start speaking may sometimes be high, but it will become easier when you just start doing it, everyone in their own way.”

At Leadin, English is used in all written materials, at all meetings involving the entire staff and even in more informal discussions when there are employees present who do not know Finnish.

“This is to ensure that everyone feels like they belong”, Koskinen says.

UX Designer Trainee Daniella Pitaro from the United States and Software Developer Johannes Feig from Germany enjoy the work atmosphere at Leadin.

Leadin’s employees Daniella Pitaro and Johannes Feig are thankful for the reception they have been given at the company. At the beginning, both of them had a mentor who familiarised the newcomers with the company’s operating methods. The atmosphere is friendly and the colleagues are prepared to share their know-how – and also spend free time together. On the day of the interview, for example, some of Leadin’s people were going to a sauna and ice-swimming with Johannes.

How do the skills of the international experts actually show in the company’s daily operations? Software Developer Johannes Feig has been working for Leadin for about a year, and Daniella Pitaro started as a UX Designer Trainee around six months ago. Pitaro just returned from the United States, where Leadin’s Finnish, internationally operating customer wanted to test the viability of its solution in the local environment.

“At that point, it was great to be able to send in our own American user specialist, who truly knows the local language and culture”, Koskinen says.

Correspondingly, Johannes Feig has been involved in conducting user surveys in Germany and acted as a bridge-builder at meetings with German customers.

“Bringing along a native speaker will certainly facilitate the success of any project. He or she also understands the nuances and incidental remarks in discussions, which may easily go unnoticed by the rest of us.”

Daniella Pitaro and Johannes Feig having a discussion with Topi Koskinen.

Hiring international experts has involved only very few problems and challenges, according to Koskinen. He thinks that fears expressed beforehand are often greater than the actual problems. For Leadin, the most serious cause for concern had to do with bureaucracy.

“However, we soon noticed that hiring an EU citizen is easy; you can hire a German, for example, as easily as a Finn. Things get a bit more complicated when the employee comes from outside the EU or EEA, but these things can also be worked out”, Koskinen says.

Photo: Leadin

Translation: Lingoneer Oy