Reaktor got into my sight when I was preparing for two weeks in Helsinki. I went through my notes and found the only brief article about the company. It described that Reaktor won Best Place to Work in Europe award two times. Nevertheless, I got hooked. My interest grew considerably after I had visited their website and watched the video below. Reaktor’s own band recorded it and they use it “to make recruiting the summer help a whole lot more fun”.
Their culture intrigued me. I couldn’t wait to meet Lasse Koskela who kindly agreed to tell me more about the company.
Reaktor is a IT consultant company specialising in demanding software solutions. To serve their customers better they create small cross-functional teams. These teams work at customer premises in a direct contact with subject matter experts.
For an organisation with around 300 employees they have almost no structure in place. Teams decide how to satisfy customers, to resolve conflicts, to keep project profitable and etc. As Lasse said,
[…] we currently have less structure than we should. […] However, as we haven’t identified what that structure should be like we’ve erred on the side of too little. Partially because our culture has grown into being somewhat hostile to even the smallest hint of bureaucracy.
To survive this chaotic environment, Reaktor motivates newcomers to get together and visit clients. A team member working at client premises usually arranges a meeting to show what the business of a customer looks like and what Reaktor’s folks are doing there. In a period of one month new employees could visit up to 5-6 clients which gives a good understanding of current state.
When a client project ends people get back to Reaktor’s office and spend some time “on a bench”, waiting for the next job. To make this time more enjoyable and valuable for both the company and the employees Reaktor launched Labs.
Labs is the place where the employees develop internal projects. Everyone who wants to take part gather once a week. They choose what products they’re going to do, create teams and start working. This approach has two main advantages. First, bigger products could be implemented. Knowledge about them is passed from person to person and from week to week. If a developer or a designer has to move back to a client project, her team members keep working on the product. Second, new employees could develop side by side with old ones. This way Labs also helps with an onboarding process.
Reaktor’s biggest challenge, in Lasse’s opinion, is to keep the level of connectedness high. They achieve it by organising regular company-wide events and nurturing self-organised communities of practice. Code camps is an example of such events:
[…] ~30 people spend a weekend in a cabin somewhere hacking around a specific theme such as “single page apps”, “functional programming”, “internet of things”, etc.
One thing that stroke me most during our conversation with Lasse was his style of speech. Whenever we talked about people he said “they should”, “we suggest” or “we motivate”. Autonomy is one of Reaktor’s values and I felt it with all my fibres. The way how they implanted UX into their development processes is a good example of it.
Back in 2005 teams were strong advocates of extreme programming. When the first UX specialist was hired online flame wars began. Developers didn’t want to hear about design up front; UX specialists didn’t understand how to make good products without preliminary prototyping. These wars had lasted for about two years before the groups learned to work together. During that time the management didn’t try to impose any rules waiting while people would figure out their own way. Two years may sound as a long time period and it is. On the other hand this evolutionary approach works very well for Reaktor.
Lasse told me many interesting facts and features about their culture. I’ll put it all into a bigger article somewhere this month. It will include more stories about professional development, hiring, onboarding and investments.
Follow me to stay tuned!
And don’t miss another gorgeous video from Reaktor! It tells you more about the company a thousand words.