From time to time, we hold Q&A sessions for the members of the Talented Developer Community Slack, where techies can ask questions from different software companies’ developers. This time it was Gofore’s turn, and they hoped for a proper roast – and that’s what they got!
The most common topics that came up at the Gofore Q&A roast were the following: Gofore as an employer, career paths for developers, salaries and working on the public sector’s projects. The questions were answered by: Jaakko Alanen, Software Developer, Sami Mäkelä, Senior Software Developer, Aapo Tanskanen, Data Scientist, Jaakko Salonen, Software Architect, Mikael Harju, Software Developer, Tero Paavolainen, Software Designer and Tommi Talja, Recruiter.
“What makes Gofore different from other consulting companies?”
One thing I was interested in when joining Gofore was the middle-management slack bots. Most noticeable is Seppo. I guess because he is telling our utilization rates, allowing us to book travel tickets through him and doing queries about personnel.
Instead of middle management there’s a people person for everyone that “stamps” holidays/sick leaves/etc. Most of the time it’s more important to discuss holidays/leaves with the project team than they. They are there to discuss career development and salary raises and to address personal problems/opportunities with work/life balance. They often are not part of the client project the person is in, so they often rely on information from peers in decision making. E.g. Decision for a raise is based on feedback from peers. So, all in all I’d say we at least are quite a flat organization, but I’m sure there might be other flat consultancies too.
Biggest difference for me compared to any company is sharing information. If I want to know really the details of what is going on in the sales or management etc, I can. Previously I did not have that information available on this scale.
Location! Gofore is the only modern consultancy in Jyväskylä. Gofore Jyväskylä currently has ~1000 m2 modern office in the central location. Employees can flexibly use the office during evenings / weekends for meetups and gatherings. It has also been used for common good like holding events for registered associations. In Jyväskylä, it is not granted at all that company premises can be used like this.
Ecological commitments. Gofore is committed to drive down and offset carbon emissions. And there are many other initiatives towards making an impact in the sustainability sector.
Work arrangements are super flexible. I have been working 80% time for a year, then back to 100% and I could go back to 80 % or maybe 60 % if I really wanted to. I’ve taken extra family vacations as unpaid leaves; I’ve accumulated hours and used them as vacation. I’ve worked remote from the amusement park and from my friend’s summer cottage well because I can, and I wanted to work while also spending time with my family and friends.
“How have you handled managing a flat organization with the fast growth rate?”
Surprisingly well, I’d say. We still have no middle-managers, no approval chains or non-sense reporting. Though a stock-company, we’re extremely transparent. Of course, we have had to create some processes that didn’t exist previously because otherwise it would be hard to be fair and equal.
“If a freelancer comes through subcontracting to you, for example, for a public sector project, how much does the freelancer be able to charge? So how much does Gofore charge in between?”
So, when freelancing in a public sector project, Gofore aims for a 10% cut. If the need is high the % could be lower than that.
“How does Gofore manage salary transparency? Do people know each other’s salaries and basis for those?”
The company cannot force anyone to disclose their salary. We do have a conflu page where everyone can share their salary if they wish to.
“How big of a percentage of employees have shared that information? Has management shared their salaries/total compensation?”
Management also shares general salary statistics. As in company wide salary statistics based on role, location etc.
There are two levels to salary transparency: First, about twice a year an anonymous list of every person’s salary is published internally. That list includes the office and role of the person though. So, you get a ballpark how much your peers are making. Second, you can also publish your salary (and salary history) with your own name. Most of the management team has shared their salaries. Currently there are about ~150 names on this list.
“How many women developers do you have? And why so few?”
Just like many of our dear competitors, we struggle with the lack of applications from women/nonbinary people. From this frustration the #ITclusive, a collective of people from all large IT companies in Finland is trying to figure out how to support women/nonbinary to apply and increase the inclusivity and diversity in the IT field in Finland. Also, Mimmit Koodaa, Future Female, Level UP koodarit, Rails Girls, Women in Tech etc. have all been set up to encourage and give support to women/nonbinary in their careers in IT. All in all, our total number of women/nonbinaries of our workforce is around 25%.
“Have those programs helped? more non men applicants now?”
We started collaborating with Future Female, Mimmit Koodaa and Women in Tech couple of years ago and it has definitely increased awareness and visibility of the IT scene to these applicants and I know from my own experience that my email and LinkedIn has had many more women/non binary contacting me personally for advice since we started these collaborations. I wouldn’t know exact numbers of increased applications though.
“How does Gofore’s company model (a public corporation) help in the talent competition? Doesn’t the fact that the shareholders need to extract a fifth of the turnover become quite a handicap as the competition for talent is growing more demanding?”
If the question is about dividends, then this is easy to answer since it’s publicly stated. “Gofore aims to distribute at least 40% of its net profit as dividends annually.” Don’t know if I can do this very well but some ideas: Being public leverages the amount of visibility a company can give -> better opportunities. Some larger clients may prefer to work with listed companies -> better opportunities. Publicly listed companies can implement various compensation systems (Gofore has a stock savings program), with stock that has liquidity -> better compensation.
“How will Gofore be a different company next year than it is today? What about five years from now?”
Vision is to always be:
- Growing and profitable
- Constantly renewing
- Impactful and responsible
So something like:
In five years, we will have grown considerably and hope to be in the main list in the stock exchange. We have also expanded internationally. Our larger size allows us to participate in projects that have an even larger positive impact in the world.
Work at Gofore as a developer
“How many rounds of interviews does a potential employee need to go through before getting the final answer?”
“Let’s say that I’d work at Gofore. I like it and would like to stay, but then I get a 1k€/mo. better offer with similar terms from another consulting company. Does Gofore match salaries to keep employees?”
Something must be wrong if a competing consultancy could offer you 1k€/mos. more, given they’d have the same business model as we do. So yes, Gofore does offer competitive salaries. Every salary discussion is of course decided case by case and I’d argue that there is no automatic matching to other offers just to keep people at the office.
“What’s the career path for a junior developer (straight out of university) at Gofore? Do you even hire “fresh meat” or just try to cherry pick seniors?”
Getting juniors into the workforce is the chicken-and-egg dilemma I think every consultancy wishes to solve somehow. Some solutions that I know, have been applied in Gofore:
We have held a cloud academy (8 weeks I think) that was used to leverage skills of both fresh and old meat in cloud skills. Other consultancies have similar initiatives and I hope we continue in this track too. We have held quite a few meetups / excursions etc. to students. People have talked in universities, given guest lectures, etc. We have held hackathons to students, career nights, etc. At least in Jyväskylä I know we are constantly trying to find good places to recruit junior devs. At a point we had the idea that we would always try to recruit a junior, find a good spot in the company in projects and then straight away recruit the next one. The ratio of how much juniors vs. seniors you can have is unfortunately also dictated by clients. Biddings in public sector projects are notorious in this fashion -> since pricings of juniors often end up not being competitive, clients don’t want to hire them resulting in a loop that makes juniors unattractive hires. I think both public sector clients and contractors want and are trying to break this loop.
I haven’t counted any exact numbers or have been involved in any formal mentoring, but I would say I have strongly supported numerous junior dev colleagues in Gofore during my stay in the same projects. Similarly, how I received support myself when starting at Gofore. So no, not just seniors. A healthy company is diversified also in the age/seniority spectrum.
“How do you refresh old meat?”
Often people have good ideas in terms of courses or certifications that they’d need to develop. The approach is rather self-directing alongside the idea that you do not have a manager. If you think you need a certification or go through a course, you just take that course.
“How much people do that, and would people do that more if it was more pushed. Or do you feel that it’s just everyone’s own desire that should be the only deciding factor?”
Some courses and certs are encouraged, e.g. being at a specific level in the AWS partner Network requires Gofore to have N amount of Associate, Professional and Specialty certs. I wouldn’t say that it needs a push or that it’d be pushed.
“Is study time for certification your own time or company time?”
We can use company time to study for certs. E.g. I’ve used hours for getting ready for the Azure cert.
“Do you have (or hire) part-time people? And not in a meaning of 20% zombies or so, but a part time job?”
Yes, we have several people working part time who are still in university. It’s also common for people to do 4-day weeks.
“How can one progress in one’s career path inside Gofore? What are the possible paths for example if someone starts as a developer? Is it possible, easy, difficult to make a role switch from something to something else? Do people do that?”
People do that, yes. There aren’t any defined paths as it all depends on where the person in question wants to take their career. Typically, developers move onto more architectural roles, but I also know developers who have moved to sales or design.
In general, Gofore does not have the traditional vertical career paths as there is low to no hierarchy. You can progress in seniority, which in developer context usually means junior>expert>senior>architect to put it black n white. However, it is very possible to broaden your skills and progress horizontally depending on your own desires. E.g. a developer moving more into data things or cloud/DevOps, or backend guy learning to do frontend.
“How long is it OK to say “no” to projects and stay on bench at Gofore before social pressure from management and/or peers forces one to join a sucky project? “
Our internal CV database includes listing areas that you want to do and are interested in doing. Sales does investigate this and current competencies – what people have stated that they want to do / want to develop in. Sales wouldn’t want to win over projects that it knows people would prefer not to work if given the choice.
Not sure what you mean with “sucky projects”, but this area is something that is considered already quite early in the pipeline. We do not compete over 100% of all available projects.
(Continuation of the previous question) “Project can suck for many reasons. If the answer depends on this, these could be the categories: Technology domain is something that doesn’t enable learning. I’ve already “served my term” in a bulk project and would like to have something interesting from technology PoV next. Colleagues in that project have said that client /project sucks big time. Micromanagement from the customer side for example.”
I am pretty sure one key motivator for working as a consultant is the ability to learn new things. And if you end up in a long-running forever project with stack from the 1980’s you will pretty sure start thinking why the hell I am not in an established product company with the same work and better salary. Couple of opposing ideas:
- Technology domain: if learning new stuff is your priority, be vocal about it and make sure it’s considered on project selection.
- Quite often clients hire consultants so that they would catalyse change. If, as a consultant, you are not helping clients to refresh tech stack, you are probably not doing something right.
- Same applies to colleagues / clients. Having a “sucky” project / client / colleagues is not a static state. It is something that you can actively work on every day.
- I have seen quite a few of such “sucky” things that we have managed to turn into something people desire to get into. The real art is on how and who can make that change happen. And that is I think where you found out who is a genuinely experienced tech consultant.
“How do you see the current Covid-19 situation, remote work etc. affecting the future work habits in Gofore?”
At least in my current project the experience in remote working has been very positive (like bigger planning events in large scale projects) and I hope this can be done also in the future.
“How do you value wide (generalist) vs. deep (specialist) skills and knowledge at Gofore? Which pays better? What kind of roles and job descriptions are associated with people considering this spectrum?”
Both are necessary and valuable of course. Salary at Gofore is partly based on how valuable you are so if you have deep or wide knowledge in areas that are in demand your salary should reflect that. Roles at Gofore are quite flexible so they wouldn’t differ much, i.e. a generalist and a specialist would most likely be called Software Developer / Engineer / Designer and their day-to-day jobs would be quite similar.
“How being in the stock listing is visible to Gofore’s employees? Pro’s and con’s?”
Answering as someone having been part of the company before and after First North IPO. Since the company has grown along the way quite strongly, it’s very difficult to pinpoint which changes have been due to IPO and which have not. I am not very familiar with stock market rules whatsoever, but the biggest change is that larger deals no longer can be handled transparently inside the company. So, for instance if there is a planned acquisition or large client contract coming up, this information cannot be shared internally before the information is made public like as an announcement or so. Besides that, I don’t know if I can pinpoint any specific changes. But regarding how the company I feel has changed since the acquisition (trying the pros/cons):
- Company has matured a lot. Many things that were imo very ad-hoc and chaotic are now very clear. List of such stuff: recruiting, resourcing, sales, personal development, healthcare, client management, local site management, marketing, internal communications.
- Attracting new and larger clients. As a developer, a larger company means a larger pool of opportunities.
- It’s impossible to know everyone personally. In a smaller company that was still doable.
- Less opportunities for micro/small sized clients. There are many reasons for this, but generally speaking clients are bigger.
“Is Gofore perceived differently based on which office you happen to sit in? Are there any differences to work for e.g. Helsinki or Tampere offices? Are events and training always happening in some specific office?”
The major differences between offices are size and the amount of time spent at the customer. Outside of that, I don’t think there are that many differences. Events and training are happening at all offices and many are streamed company wide. However, if you want to attend a training that won’t be streamed you can always travel to that office.
“How does Gofore deal with 100% remote work? Are all employees near by company offices and customers?”
I think that there has always been some Gofore people who work only remotely.
At least in Jyväskylä. In Turku people tend to come to the office more regularly and in the Helsinki area they work more often on client premises. From an HR point of view, job contracts are always tied to a certain city/office. Salary, perks, travel expenses etc. are tied to that location. From a client point of view, as we know clients can have wishes / preferences (100% onsite, partial onsite, remote, etc.) Right now, of course much of the work happens 100% remote. But as for the question: I think most employees are near company offices, but not all. As long as there is an agreement on how the job contract is handled HR wise it’s only a matter of how to deal with the distance.
“Do you sometimes feel that doing public sector projects is robbing taxpayer’s money?”
Not really, at least when things roll well. Some of the projects feel quite gratifying for being in the public sector. Maybe more in a situation when things aren’t going smoothly and there’s wasted work due to conflicting interests from client’s end (someone wants A to work like A and someone else wants A to be B).
“Is it true that public sector projects are boring? Are your developers happy with those projects or is that they don’t know better?”
That was also my hypothesis until people told me that there are a lot of things that public sector projects have even better than private ones. E.g. modern tech stacks and team processes. But I haven’t worked in the public sector myself, so this is also a hearsay of several colleagues.
When I did consult, I tended to enjoy the public projects way more. Whereas most private gigs were just working with a web store or some WordPress site and quite repetitive. Problems the public sector were solving were stuff like strong identity validation, digitalizing school exams, building dragnet surveillance apparatus. Overall, way more interesting problems to solve with significantly higher importance than most private companies had.
“What kind of deep learning applications has Gofore built?”
For one farming customer who has fish farming pools to grow fish we developed a deep learning-based system to detect from video camera feed when those fish start eating and when they stop eating. So, it was a deep learning computer vision project and the goal was to monitor fish eating automatically. Recently, for one energy company we developed a prediction system to predict energy production needs for the next 1-2 days based on historical data, production data and local weather forecast data. At first, we tried multiple different ML and deep learning methods to compare their performances but if I remember correctly a bit simpler ML solution was chosen for production usage instead of the more complex deep learning solutions. It has been running in production for some time now and I heard its predictions have been much better than the previous human intuition guessed predictions. In addition, we have been doing quite many customer analyses with unsupervised clustering methods, NLP text classifications and other more basic data analyses.
“If a customer does not have a server environment of their own, what kind of decision process is there to decide where the service is going to be hosted? What kind of decisions have you made in the past about the hosting environment?”
Regarding your question about who will set up the cloud environment the answer is us. We have currently 26 cloud specialists working with AWS, Azure and GCP and typically one project employs 1-2 cloud specialists, sometimes more and obviously depending on project needs. An ongoing project with Aimo Park (previously QPark) had at one point four of my colleagues working with setting up a whole new AWS environment for them. As Gofore doesn’t want to own the environments (servers, virtual machines, containers) where the clients services run, the decision boils down to the clients desires as well as our recommendations. In some extremely rare cases it might mean an actual physical server, but by default our recommendation is always one of the three major public cloud platforms. Clients occasionally have fears and doubts about public cloud adoption as opposed to physical servers, but from our experience it’s an easy decision once the benefits of public cloud are explained.
“How do you organize the maintenance over the environment if the customer decides to go with e.g. AWS? Especially when a development project has ended, is it Gofore who maintains the AWS environment?”
The customer is by default free to choose how they wish to continue after the project ends. About maintenance, when it comes to cloud environments, we don’t offer 24/7 maintenance per se. We don’t believe in the old-fashioned way of having separate teams that build and others that maintain. Therefore, we have for example no handovers either. The reason for this is that we build all our cloud solutions custom tailored to the client’s specific needs in a Cloud-native way. By default, we aim for an architecture where things can fail, because there will always be automatism behind the curtains that brings things back up. We’ll just check what happened when the next working day comes and then adjust so it won’t happen again. This eliminates the need for 24/7 maintenance.
“What does Gofore think about block chain or cryptocurrencies?”
I think the rule of thumb has been Gofore as the company does not have a CTO. Whatever technology decisions are made, they are made in the grassroots levels by the folks involved. Maybe a relevant pointer would be the Code of Ethics.
We have established ethical foundations on what we do and why. Our daily work and actions affect how these foundations are eventually represented.
Cryptocurrencies are not perhaps that controversial, but I can see a slice of this discussion sneaking in on those as well.
“Does Gofore have employees who would work only with their own flavor of Linux distro on their computer and are not willing to use Windows or other crappy M$ products?”
There is freedom of choice on which devices you want to use (laptop, mobile).
“Does Gofore deliver more specialized services aside from standard CRUD-web app projects and programming? To continue: Can Gofore deliver good opportunities for more niche specialists? E.g. Data scientists, network engineers, usability enthusiasts, infosec professionals, graphics specialists?”
Short answer, yes. The careers page of Gofore only lists six roles as far as I see: Full Stack-dev, backend-dev, cloud-dev, mobile-dev, architect and open application.
“How should one from e.g. above specializations interpret that?”
I think you can just leave an open application for let’s say you are a good InfoSec professional.
“What kind of gigs really good InfoSec professionals land in Gofore? will they end up programming crud-apps along with the rest or is there demand for special infosec roles?”
Penetration tests, technical or non-technical security assessments, training / workshops and helping customers to implement fixes based on findings. And pay-per-hour consulting as security architect or security consultant.
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