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Career stories: Dups & Niklas

We sat down with our CTO Dups and Head of Custom Connectors Niklas to chat about how they ended up at Supermetrics and what makes them stay.

Let’s start with introductions. Who are you two?

Niklas: I’m Niklas; I’ve been working at Supermetrics for three years now. I’ve been programming professionally since 2000. Before joining, I did programming in various languages, had my own company for 16 years, sold it, had the opportunity to join Supermetrics, and here I am. Currently, I work here as the Head of Custom Connectors.

Dups: It’s been almost exactly four years since I first met Mikael (the CEO). There were only about ten people in the company when I joined. I’ve been working in “Internet stuff” for 30 years. I’m Canadian, and I used to work for a company called BioWare, went to work for another Finland-founded company MySQL and then started my own company Empire Avenue. Once we sold that (was a lot of fun), I took a couple of years off helping friends and then started asking around if there were other interesting startups. A Finnish friend recommended Supermetrics, and I thought to myself, how come I’ve never seen this company? Supermetrics would’ve saved so much of my time!

What made you join Supermetrics?

Niklas: Supermetrics was looking for a Lead Developer, and I was open to new opportunities. Mikael, our CEO, first contacted me on Linkedin. I studied the company a bit, and that was it. The whole process was really quick: a few rounds of interviews and an offer. I was employee number 18, and back then, the development team was very small: there were only eight of us. I know this sounds cheesy, but it was kind of like coming home. The atmosphere was very warm. It was an easy start from day one.

Dups: The reason why I joined was the people Mikael had already hired. And the little office with the fake grass and foosball table, of course.  The product was incredible,  but it's the diverse team that built it that encouraged me to join, and that is what I think makes this company successful. All the people were very different from Mikael, and he wasn’t afraid of hiring people different from himself. We all think very differently, and that’s important when building a global product.

What was the moment you knew you’d made the right decision to work here?

Niklas: To me, it was even before I started. I was invited to join the Christmas party before I joined the company. In the interview, when I spoke to Dups and a few other people, I immediately understood that these guys know what they’re doing.

I think that actually describes Supermetrics pretty well. Because we do know what we’re doing. And we have fun together as well.

Dups: Moving countries is not an easy decision to make. Moving halfway around the world isn’t easy. I know exactly how it feels, and it’s a stressful decision. You don’t know if you’re passing the probation, you don’t know if the company is good, and so on. I  knew that I had made the right decision the day after I joined, when Mikael said: ”Ok, well, I’m going off on this thing called summer holidays. I’ll be gone for a month, and I would really like no phone calls during this time.”

Niklas: Welcome to Supermetrics!

Dups:  I was like, what?! And what is this monthly holiday you have, I’ve never heard of this?

Tell me about a time when you had to stretch your skills and capabilities.

Dups: One of the interesting challenges here is always going to be the fact that we have a diverse workforce that works in English. There are only a few native English people in the company, and working with different cultures, understanding how to speak with people, not getting caught up in the wrong words wasn’t easy at the beginning. I have had to learn how to work with very introverted Finns, as well. I used to go into a meeting to get silent treatment after a one-word answer. I thought to myself, “this is torture”. Ever since, I have learned how to be a bit more quiet.

Niklas: I think your mouth runs like, all the time.

[SILENCE]

Niklas: But seriously. We both talk all the time, even if we don’t have anything to say. I, instead, have had to learn to communicate in English better. On the programming side, I’ve had the possibility to work with very smart people who know a lot more than I do, and it’s made me a better programmer. If I would start another company now, I would definitely not hire only Finns because I’ve seen the benefit of diversity.

Dups: When Niklas and I started at Supermetrics, we basically had only four servers. That was it. Now, we have hundreds of servers and hundreds of terabytes of data flowing everywhere. Just to keep that going has required us to change and learn a lot. That shows the level of expertise we hire as well.

What kind of career growth have you experienced since joining?

Niklas: Since I joined to be a Lead Developer of a team, the team has grown to closer to 20 people. I had a team in two countries; I traveled between Helsinki and Vilnius quite a lot. I’ve been given so much freedom to do what I want: now it feels like I’m kind of a mini CEO for custom connectors.

Dups: At Supermetrics, you can choose whether you want to become a manager or go from team lead to an expert, and then back again. We have to foster a culture where being a manager doesn’t prevent you from doing other things as well. Dealing with people can be exhausting, but also, dealing with code can be exhausting. You have to be able to switch between the two roles.

Niklas: And that’s pretty much what happened to me: I went from Lead Dev to a team lead, then Lead of Connector, the lead of the team leads. Then I was offered the possibility to head Custom Connectors, and I obviously went for it. It’s been super great; I get to use pretty much all the skills that I have. I’m collaborating with developers, different teams, product managers, marketing, design, and external partners.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Dups: People. Seeing progress. There are companies you can work for where you do something all week, and you don’t see the result of it. It’s demoralizing. Here, it feels so nice when you put something out there, and it’s actually being used by our customers. Your work actually has an impact on the daily lives of customers. That’s what’s meaningful.

Niklas: I’m happy with what I do, and I’m having so much fun doing all this, talking with all the different stakeholders, making custom connectors happen. Everyone here has a voice.

Where have you seen our company values in action?

Niklas: We’re big on transparency, honesty, and teamwork. And I agree 100%. They align very well with what we do and with the company culture. For example, if you make a mistake, you don’t have to hide it.

For example, when I was very new to the company, I made a mistake which may have had huge consequences to the company. When I realized what I had done and almost panicked, I went to Dups and told him what happened.  I was expecting him to be mad, kill me, or fire me on the spot, or all these things. The cool thing was that Dups was as calm as he is right now. He was just focusing on solving the issue, told me not to panic, and just focus on solving the issue – which I did in an hour or so. For the record, the mistake had luckily not caused any damage, so no harm done but a lesson learned.

The moral of the story is that even if you make a big mistake, it’s okay as long as you learn from it. Nothing like that has happened since.

Dups: Our engineering team also has its own values: we value quality in our products and quality in the workplace. We’re also super customer-focused. And we avoid being arrogant.

Niklas: Keep yourself humble. That’s very important.

What’s something that happened that can only happen here?

Niklas: I ate cardboard.

Dups: Let’s say that porridge is like a Finnish national meal. But in reality, it is only food that food eats. It’s not real food.

We were at lunch, and I told Niklas that porridge tastes like cardboard and that I can prove it. I said: “You wouldn’t notice the difference between eating porridge or cardboard.” So we made a bet; I boiled cardboard, mixed it with berries. Mikael then had the brilliant and truly evil idea that I should make both samples out of cardboard and ensure that Niklas ends up eating… I presented these plates to Niklas; he looked at both and said, “this one actually looks like cardboard,” and picked the other one. Yes, he did eat some of the porridge!

The funny thing was that we left the two boxes of “porridge” there. Later that night at the office, I  turned around and saw someone eating the “porridge” while saying it tasted so good.

What makes you stay at Supermetrics?

Niklas: I get to do what I love with great people. I get to see the results of my own work and have fun while doing it. I don’t know why I would go somewhere else.

Even though I’ve been at Supermetrics for three years, just last weekend, I told my wife that I have this urge to get back to work and to get to do some of the exciting stuff I have going on right now.

Dups: I’m getting to a point in life where I realize how time is an important limited quantity. The amount of money that you make doesn’t matter if you wake up in the morning and realize that everything you do is a waste of time. At Supermetrics, I definitely know that’s not the case! I wake up every morning, and I can’t wait to get started.

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