You have to enjoy solving challenging real-life problems using coding
Every so often, an innovation so vital comes about greatly impacting our lives. Think fire, mobile phones and Fuzu of course. Atte Keinanen, is part of a very technically talented team based in Finland that works hard to make things that are not only beautiful but supremely functional as well as ensuring this invention called Fuzu, only gets better.
At an age when most kids have fun and play on their mind, Atte was busy learning how to program. The lean 26-year-old Programmer joined Fuzu recently making it a computational powerhouse having gained experience and earned a reputation in Silicon Valley.
Give us a brief background on who Atte is.
I was born in Helsinki, Finland. I studied there and finished my University a few months ago. Last year, I was doing my internship at Metabase in Silicon Valley which is a data analytics start up. It was a cool learning experience working with the best developers and seeing how you make something that’s really complicated but easy to use.
How was your experience at Silicon Valley?
It was interesting to be in the epicentre of tech for a year. There’s like all of the most famous technology companies down there. You get to meet people from Google, Airbnb and Twitter. Because we use services like Facebook and Google every day, they affect how we think and behave. I got a chance to visit the Facebook headquarters.
Was leaving Silicon Valley a hard decision?
I don’t know how I can describe it but what I really enjoyed was the weather, it’s like 20° C around the year as it is also here in Nairobi without the rains. The people and the culture were welcoming. It was really easy to start conversations with anyone as they are really good in small talk. But simultaneously, I found that Silicon Valley is all about tech. It was hard finding people who weren’t working on tech, like people working on arts. It’s good to be in a different environment when you leave work and discuss other things.
The other difficulty was the visibility of inequality. In the middle of downtown there are super rich tech people and there are also poor homeless people living in their tents and they are all living next to each other. There are people who might have been doing well but something terrible happened and the American society hasn’t taken care of them. They are homeless and sick and no one cares about them. That made me want to return back home. And being away from family and friends, the 10-hour difference was a lot.
Speaking of small talk, you seem not to be that much into small talk.
That’s part of my personality. I’ve challenged myself to do more small talk. Part of it is also linked to my professional identity. It’s hard to get things done if you are talking most of the time. Coding work requires intense attention.
For anyone aspiring to be a kick ass programmer what codes should they live by?
Of course, you must be interested in technology and analytical problem solving. You have to enjoy solving challenging real-life problems using coding. For example, matching companies with real talent. You also have to be really patient because it’s hard to achieve anything in one day. Developing something great might take a number of years. When you are developing a platform like Fuzu, currently it's a little over 2 years old but what I’m currently writing can still be used after another 2 or 5 years. You should think about the long-term goal.
Going back to analytics, was Math your favourite subject?
I’m good at it but my favourite subject was writing because the other important skill that defines a good programmer is that you have to be able to communicate very well especially in writing. You have to be very good at arguing why your solution is better than other solutions.
Would you call yourself a geek?
Of course, yes(Chuckles).
What do you do to improve your programming skills?
I like to follow professional media but more of it is also by having inspirational people around me like learning from my colleagues who are more experienced coders. It is also important to be thorough when writing code. It’s not so much about knowing the latest technologies, it’s about communication skills and taking into account all the different scenarios especially, end users.
Fuzu has got unique features unlike no other platform. What feature (s) are you most impressed by?
The job matching and job recommendations are astounding taking into account how much of a small team we have. The advance machine learning is fascinating as well as the personality and skill tests. I haven’t seen them on any other platform.
It’s your first time in Africa. How do you like Nairobi so far?
I really enjoy it. I enjoy the climate and the people. Kenyans are easy to start a conversation with. Although Nairobi is the financial capital of East Africa, it’s still pretty laid back.
Take us back to the first time you sat in front of a computer to try out programming and thought, “I love this! This is what I want to do.”
I think I got my first computer when I was 6 years old. I made my first website when I was 8 years old. I started programming when I was 11. My neighbour gave me a book on how to make games and I started learning how to make games.
The Fuzu team is based in both Finland & Kenya. What would you say is the biggest challenge of teams working in different geographic locations? (collaborative efforts)
The biggest challenge is not being able to see each other face to face so you don't get to know your colleagues at a personal level. It is important to have a personal connection with your team mates. The other challenge is understanding the cultural context because Kenya and Finland are different. The Finish team has to understand how Kenyans think, how business works here, what’s the real-life situation of our users and what challenges do they encounter in their lives. That’s really hard when you are on a different side of the world.
Between the Kenyan and Finish Fuzu team, which is the most fun team to work with?
Of course, the Kenya team! It’s easy to go for dinner with a colleague here. You also have Fuzu Fridays and it’s really fun to play games with the team. The team here is more easy going. In Finland, people have lots of hobbies which makes them pretty busy so it’s hard to have after office hours and have fun with your colleagues
What’s your hobby?
I sing in a mixed choir of 60 people who come from different backgrounds and professions. I get to meet people in a different environment. I also try to take care of my body, so I started doing Yoga this year. I also do some running and cycling.