Even though we have a lot of information here at the website, we still naturally get a lot of questions in job interviews. This is wonderful, because it shows that the applicants are interested for real! However, we wanted to bring these frequently asked questions and answers to our site too.
The purpose here is to lower the threshold of applying but also to enhance our culture of transparency. As always, we say things how they are and we’re not afraid of addressing the negative things too.
We’ve repeatedly heard how our new employees have been surprised of how well VALA has matched their expectations. This is something we want to strongly cherish in the future too.
We always try to enable multiple project opportunities for our people and more often than not we succeed in this. We know our people’s project wishes and look for matches for them relentlessly. We don’t waste our time in project opportunities that don’t match the needs of the employee in question.
Sometimes there’s only one opportunity and in these cases one naturally don’t have the opportunity to choose between projects. However, it’s very important to note that at VALA, no one is ever forced into a project that he/she doesn’t feel comfortable with. So, if there’s only one opportunity on the table, but it doesn’t feel right, we’ll just keep on looking!
It varies a lot. Sometimes we do POC’s (Proof of Concept) for example and these can last as little as a couple of weeks. On the other end the longest projects have lasted around five years. The average project length is around 6 to 18 months.
Our clients represent many different industries and sizes. The smallest are startups and on the other end there are some of the largest companies in Finland. Industrywise our strongest ones are: finance, telecommunications, media, gaming and industrial.
Starting to sound like a broken record but it varies… On one hand we have clients like MTV where we are in charge of a particular entity (at MTV it’s the QA of their digital services) and we have a large team working on that . On the other hand we also have a few clients where we only have one person from VALA. Our goal is that in the future there will be more than one person from VALA in all our projects.
Most VALA people work at customers’ premises or remotely from where they feel best. At the time of writing, in fall 2020, we are all working remotely due to the pandemic.
Our office at Erottaja, Helsinki, has two floors. One contains our more casual, team work spaces, and the other one is better suited for independent working. Before the pandemic we had about 10 to 20 people working at the office daily. VALA admin team works mainly at the office (though many work remotely some days in a week).
Salary and benefits
Good question! We’ve researched the topic quite a lot and our assumption is that compared to other similar companies in our industry, our salaries are equal or better. Naturally, salaries are a complex issue and comparisons are difficult because there’s so many variables. For instance, we are quite certain that our people are more skilled than the average employee in our industry. If this is true, we should have higher than average salaries.
Here are the salaries of our technical experts from September 2020:
Average monthly salary: 4457 €
Median monthly salary: 4579 €
We are updating our benefits package for 2021. The goal is to make a package which is more personalized, meaning that everyone would have more choice in what kind of benefits they want. We’ll update the new model here once it’s ready. Until that, our benefits are as follows:
- Annual personal education budget
- Lunch-, Recreational- and Phone benefits
- Personal trainer services
- On your behalf, we compensate the carbon footprint of an average person living in Finland
- Possibility for remote work on our office in Malaga
- Possibility for child care for a sick child
We are also refreshing our salary model for 2021. We want to offer an equal, fair and clearer model than before. We’re working on the model at the moment and will update it here once it’s ready. Until that, our salaries are determined according to the following criteria:
Meaning what you do at your work (eg. software architect or explorative tester)
Meaning how good you are at your work (here we don’t look at the experience years but actual performance in your work tasks)
Meaning how good is your attitude towards colleagues, VALA and the work itself
Meaning how well you live by our company values in your daily work
On top of these basic criteria, one might raise his/her salary by showing:
activity, positivity, respect and motivation towards self development.
At the moment (fall 2020) we do have one. We have had an engagement program and according to it we have executed two option rounds in 2018 and 2019. The last option round of this current engagement program is ongoing right now.
The current engagement program was created for three years (one option round per year) and now the last round will be executed. This means that now we have to start thinking about the next step. The next program hasn’t been planned yet and because of that we can not state anything about it at the moment. However, our intention is to continue to engage our people, one way or another.
We have many kinds of professionals at VALA. Whether a business person or a software developer, one thing we all have in common is a strong focus in quality.
In the fall of 2020 we are more than 110 in total. 17 of these are working at VALA as freelancers. However, as syrupy cliche it is, at VALA we are all one family. This means that everyone is treated the same and practically the only differences between employees and freelancers are related to financial incentives (like salary/price, benefits, engagement program). Moreover employees naturally enjoy the stability of permanent employment. 14 of us are currently working in admin types of roles.
What comes to technical expertise, we have classified our roles into four categories. This is a very simplified categorisation and many people could easily belong to two or more categories. However, here they are (the number shows the percentage of technical employees in that category):
Test Automation and CI/CD21%
Software development 26%
VALA is a self directed organization. For us this means first and foremost that people are trusted here and people get to make decisions as they feel best. Everyone at VALA decides his/her own development path and receives all the needed support for following it. Self directedness brings with it a great deal of freedom and responsibility.
Self directedness at VALA means that everyone gets more than enough support for self development, career path, project work and practically anything else too. No one is left alone with her challenges. BUT, one must understand that self directedness means that one has to ask for this support.
At VALA we don’t push people in a certain direction. People first need to find their own direction (of course we help in this too!), and then they have to have the motivation to follow that path, ask for guidance and require for support.
To sum up, it all starts with yourself. If you have the drive to improve and make things happen, there are no barriers for this whatsoever. If something doesn’t please you, by all means figure out a better way and fix it. On the other hand, if you’re a person who expects active guidance in your work, then your progress probably stagnates at VALA. But remember that this is totally fine too if it’s your own preference!
We want to believe that there is no hierarchy at VALA. We have people, called Project contacts, who are responsible for the wellbeing of our technical people. These Project contacts are the ones who are responsible for the salary negotiations. So Project contacts have some tasks that are typical for supervisors. But still, we don’t want to call them supervisors because it just wouldn’t be appropriate in our culture.
Most important thing to understand is that Project contacts are at VALA to enhance the wellbeing of our technical people. PC’s primary task is to make sure our people feel well, are motivated and have meaningful work to do.
In the fall of 2020 there’s 14 people in the admin team. Their tasks can be roughly categorised as follows:
Sales and customer management, six people
People team (HR & wellbeing), three people
Competence development, one person
Finance, one person
Marketing, one person
Office & IT, one person
In our strategy, we have listed seven most important values for us: Empathy, Autonomy, Transparency, Sustainability, Life-long learning, Impact over numbers and Automation mindset.
Company culture can be seen and felt everywhere. Because of that, the development work is quite all-encompassing. Company culture develops – in one way or another – in all human interactions. Now that face to face interaction is limited, we need to focus more and more on online interactions. This has been developed in the past too at VALA, but since the pandemic it’s taken a whole new kick start.
We try to bring VALA culture to our people, regardless of where they are physically. Especially now in a time of remote work, we’ve made some adjustments to make our events suitable for remote participation. On top of everyday work, culture development at VALA means actively involving people in the company development and joint discussions; encouraging people for self development is also part of culture development.
It’s important to understand that culture should not be pushed too much in a certain direction, but rather let it evolve in the direction where people collectively drive it. At VALA, we develop our culture together with all VALA people and we trust that this way it will evolve to the direction suitable for our people.
Company development at VALA begins with listening. We listen to what our people say (directly and between the lines) and ask feedback. We regularly and often find out what is going well and where we could improve. Moreover, in the spirit of self directedness, we encourage people to act on their own development ideas.
In the big picture, company strategy indicates the direction for the development of the company. What’s nice at VALA is that our strategy is made together with all VALA people. At the moment we are just beginning with a strategy refresh round. This time we will form a team of ten people which will be responsible for the strategy process. However, this team will not make decisions about the strategy alone! The purpose of the team is more to be a facilitator for the process and it’s most important goal is to make sure all VALA people get their voices heard.
Also when our company grows, it also evolves naturally. Working methods, processes etc. need to be adjusted often. Actually, we have multiple development projects ongoing all the time. When something gets “ready”, there’s already a new project waiting to get started.
Personal development at VALA always begins with goal setting. We don’t offer a ready made development path. Instead, we help you find your own interests and development path. Only after that can we help you follow it.
The practical means to following your personal development path are:
- Finding the right project where you can learn by doing
- Using your personal development budget as you feel best
- Taking some days off the project for learning purposes
We want to take advantage of the vast knowledge we have at VALA. For this, we have been developing and continue to develop various platforms where our people can share knowledge with each other. One concrete example of this is mentoring. Everyone at VALA can become a mentor for someone else, or be mentored by someone else. Also, we’ve founded multiple competence communities where we share knowledge with each other around the topic in question.
Competence development is challenging and requires continuous development. To tackle this, our Test Lead Leena Saari will begin working full time as the person in charge of VALA’s competence development.
Career at VALA
Career at VALA means meaningful and versatile work, personal development, challenging oneself, good friends, successes and failures. You can expect these things and these will be demanded from you if you decide to join us. If you feel that these aspects of work are meaningful to you, read more from our career page!