Written by: Kyle Rolnick, Maddy Han, Joyce Yao, Annie Powers and Miguel Moreno Rodriguez
Discovering a unique culture
As the Berkeley IBD team walked into Giosg’s office in a quiet, corporate area of Helsinki, we realized that the nice shoes we brought from the U.S. weren’t necessary. We stared at many shoes strewn about in the entryway, took our own off, felt the soft rug beneath our feet, and took a few steps into the office. The truly vibrant work environment Giosg – a fast-growing tech company that focuses on helping businesses interact in more meaningful ways with their customers – has created was almost immediately apparent.
Jussi, the company’s COO and our main contact throughout the project, met us shortly after we entered. It was very refreshing – and a bit surreal – to see him in person after talking with him so many time via video chat, and he was every bit as kind and welcoming in person as he’d been during the semester in Berkeley. The first order of business was a tour, which gave us a glimpse at not only employees in beanbag chairs working hard, but also colorful carpet, a poster showing Giosg’s values, and even a pinball machine. This is a quintessential tech workplace.
Getting down to business
That first day, we started our rounds of getting a better look at Giosg in person, and throughout the first week, we were introduced to people in sales, marketing, finance, and product to better understand the different perspectives that could help our project, which focuses on helping Giosg think about a new market entry.
The week also included an introduction to Finnish culture, of course. The Berkeley team was able to eat some traditional Finnish food, explore Helsinki’s chic city center, and even take a dip in the Baltic Sea (~50°F!) after heating up in a sauna at Löyly, a place that combines traditional saunas, drinks, and food all in one beautiful structure.
The highlight of the first week, though, was the Summer Party. An event Giosg has held since its early days, the Summer Party is one of two main parties for the company each year. Although the weather wasn’t perfect, heading to Suomenlinna and partying in an 18th-century fort was something to be remembered. The party was also a great chance to meet even more employees at the company and see the optimism and can-do spirit that pervades the company. “If we have a problem, I know we can solve it,” one employee told us.
An engaging presentation
Week two started off strong with a presentation to Giosg’s board, which was onsite at Giosg for two days of workshops and vision-setting. Our team outlined our work to date, key findings, and our direction for our remaining time in Finland. The board members asked some great, thought-provoking questions. After discussing the presentation and questions with Jussi, we refined our direction and put our nose to the grindstone to further synthesize our findings and do additional secondary research to support a strong recommendation.
On Thursday, our team got a nice break due to a Finnish holiday and explored nearby Tallinn, home of the most digitally connected government in the world. It was a beautiful day and walking the streets of the Old Town and the hip Depoo area was refreshing after a few days of rain back in Helsinki. The highlight of the week came on Friday morning, though, as we were able to join Giosg’s team for their weekly floorball game – and our very own Joyce Yao netted two goals!
A very special last week
Our last week in Finland was a whirlwind! We worked hard during the days and nights, but also soaked up every last bit of fun we could as the temperature heated up in Helsinki. On Monday night, Jussi led the team on an orienteering adventure. In orienteering, people race each other by navigating through the woods or other terrain with only a map and compass. This is a very popular activity in Finland and we could see why – it was a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature while putting your attention and mind to work navigating.
On Tuesday night, we got a glimpse of the beautiful Finnish countryside on the way up to Jussi’s summer cottage. Before we ate a traditional meal of smoked salmon and reindeer with lingonberry and mashed potatoes, Jussi, Ville (Giosg’s CEO), and the team enjoyed a more traditional sauna experience, including a nice dip in the lake after heating up.
Wednesday and Thursday were big days; we presented a total of 5 hours across three sessions to summarize our findings and recommendations for Giosg’s management team and employees. The presentations elicited some very good questions and it was exciting to hear feedback and questions from everyone after so many months of hard work. After wrapping up the final day, we got to enjoy one last outing in Helsinki, as three of Giosg’s employees invited us to join them in a sailing competition followed by a night out on the town.
So much work went into this project. Through the many hours of interviews, late nights reading research, design thinking sessions to synthesize findings, and more, we kept our focus on our big goal: providing as much value to Giosg as we could as they tackle new projects and growth opportunities. And we felt that responsibility deeply, as we connected with Giosg’s management and employees in a way that few of us expected possible when we heard we’d be heading to Finland last January and February.
The IBD project exceeded our expectations on many fronts and in ways that would take many more pages to describe. As we sought to provide as much value as possible to Giosg, so too we have all come out of this with a lot of value: much more knowledge, new friends, and a great experience to look back on during our second year at Berkeley and beyond.