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Talent Story – Antti-Jussi Kovalainen, Frontend Developer, Designer & Digital Nomad

05 Oct 2018 by Maria Kotaniemi

Talented specializes in helping developers find the best IT jobs and projects. Here Antti-Jussi Kovalainen, a a frontend developer, designer and a digital nomad, shares his experience with Talented.

Who is Antti-Jussi, aka AJ?

Hi there! I’m a software developer & designer from Finland. I work remotely for UpCloud as a frontend developer & designer. Currently, I’m in my home base: Tampere!
I started hobby programming & designing around the year 2000 and went to the Tampere University of Technology in 2006 to learn the classical Computer Science thingies. I never graduated as I got a job during my 2nd year, and I’ve been working since then. I recently spent a little over a year traveling as a “digital nomad”. 🙂

Mr. Worldwide, can you tell a little bit about your travels and what it’s like to work as a nomad? For whom would you recommend it?

Hehee! The story began with my first IT job at UPM in 2007! My coworkers kept half-joking, half-suggesting that I’d go to Australia to maintain UPM’s systems there, and the idea of going to Australia kinda just stuck to me :). In 2015 my wife and I left for a 9 month trip to Australia, Singapore & Japan. Soon after we went for a European tour (autumn 2016), and then Asia-Australia-New Zealand sprint in 2016-2017 when winter temps hit -15°C in Finland. The highlight of this latest trip was definitely Seoul. It was -20°C in Seoul most of the time and we didn’t really mind it at all! We also almost froze our toes off rooting for Kaisa at the Winter Olympics, but nothing a hot chicken & beer combo couldn’t fix. Right now we are thinking about having a 2-3 month winter escape to China.
Anyone with interest in digital nomading should try it! Mainly you need to find an employer who supports the idea. It’s also good to have a budget and research how you want to live in another country. Some nomads stay in cheap hostels & work from cafes. I couldn’t do that myself as I need my own space, so my wife & I did monthly stays in Airbnbs. I usually contacted the host about staying one or two months and if they could give a discount for such a long stay (which they usually did!).
We were basically living our normal lives, just in a strange place. On weekdays I worked my usual hours, sometimes trying to sync with the Finnish work schedule (e.g. sometimes working in the evenings). I could then spend the other half of the day playing video games, exploring the city, going to interesting places to eat, etc. I worked mostly from the apartment/room that we had as I like to have my own place & peace. I did do one month in a coworking place in Brisbane as the chair & desk in our place were a bit uncomfortable, and I also wanted to try something else for a change. It was a nice change and I met a few cool people there! On weekends we did whatever. Watched Netflix, ordered food in or went on trips to interesting places nearby.
I highly recommend staying put at least a month in one place. Moving to a new city/place constantly is very exhausting in my opinion. Anyways… I could go on for ages, so hit me up on Twitter @Darep or in real life at events if you want to hear more!

What are the best things in remote work? Are there any downsides?

Best thing is constructing your own work on your own terms, so you can be most productive. Like minimizing distractions for work. And minimizing distractions for others as well, as I’m a bit notorious for making a racket and distracting my coworkers at the workplace, haha. I also like that remote work can happen organically. If I’m not feeling productive, I can stop & go do chores or play video games and get back to work later. If I had to be at the office, working from nine to five or something, I would probably just idle & waste time (which I don’t like). And leaving early & coming back to the office later to finish is very poor use of time (which is the only real hard limit for life). I guess digital nomading is an efficient use of time as well: you are working, but also near all the exciting things you want to travel to.
The biggest downside that I’ve experienced is the radical timezone difference to Finland from New Zealand. It was very hard to schedule things and “see” coworkers and friends during that one month I spent in New Zealand. I hear working remotely can also be lonely, and you can get stuck in a “bubble”, though I personally travel with my wife and live with roommates in Tampere. Also, sometimes the Airbnb or hotel might have no chairs or table to work properly, which was always a bummer.

What hardware do you use?

For the past ~eight years I’ve used a MacBook. Currently on a 15″ 2017 MacBook Pro. As of late, I’ve been looking into Windows machines as well, as I’ve had some gripes with the latest MacBooks. But the macOS ecosystem has kept me hooked for now. When traveling I have a Roost laptop stand, a Logitech G403 wireless mouse, SteelSeries QCK mat, and the compact Apple wireless keyboard with me.

And what software?

Code: Terminal, Visual Studio Code, git
Design: Sketch, Zeplin, Photoshop, Illustrator
General: SourceTree, SimpleNote, Slack

What would be your dream setup?

A light 15″ macOS-based laptop with a gaming-grade graphics card. I would also love if Docker worked natively on macOS, e.g. could utilize all CPU threads and worked great with the filesystem.

What is your favorite programming language and why?

I don’t have a favorite as I’ve worked with so many languages. They each have their own thing going on for them. Currently, I’m enjoying writing Ruby and JavaScript. They both have rich ecosystems with loads of gems/npm packages, and are really fast to bring ideas to life! Most of the time I work with JavaScript as my main interest is in crafting user interfaces and JS let’s me get there quickly. And on the other hand, I like for example the compiled goodness of .NET with C#, but the library ecosystem is way smaller.

How did you hear about Talented and did you have any preconceptions about us/recruiting companies?

I first heard about Talented at Koodiklinikka and later at some events. I didn’t have any previous experience with Talented or any other recruiting companies.

When you came to Talented, what were the features/preferences you looked for in a new job/company?

a) Preferably a product company
b) Remote work & digital nomad friendly
c) Not too small, with a bit of structure in place
d) On a solid ground
e) Relaxed atmosphere
UpCloud matched all of these! 🙂

Has your new job matched your expectations?

It’s been great! UpCloud is one of the world’s fastest cloud providers. Our servers can run Magento better than AWS or Azure ;). Working at UpCloud has been a blast so far. The atmosphere is relaxed, we work with modern things, and the pace is comfortable for me. Met my expectations well (as described above in the previous question!).

How would you describe Talented to a friend or anyone who is looking for new challenges?

Talented is pretty chill and their take on recruitment feels fresh!


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