Minwoo Lee, South Korea, Studio General Manager
Minwoo Lee, originally from South Korea, knows the games industry inside out. He has worked for global gaming companies in Asia and Europe for over 20 years. Nine years ago, as Minwoo and his partner welcomed their first child, he started to look for a location with a child-friendly environment and attractive career opportunities. He decided to give Helsinki and Finland a go.
The decision has paid off. Minwoo was pleasantly surprised by the talent and creativity of the Finnish gaming ecosystem. Eventually, this encouraged Minwoo to start his own games studio, under a global umbrella organisation, which he has successfully run for over a year. Minwoo has even embraced the Finnish winter weather and learnt that the best way to connect with Finns is in a sauna.
Minwoo’s daughter has grown up in Finland.Minwoo Lee
How I got my current job is… I’ve always wanted to establish and grow my own company. I learned that the Finnish games industry is active and respected by many companies and developers abroad. So I started to plan how to pitch a vision that would attract global investors or companies to establish a business here with me.
Previously, I’ve worked at well-known global games companies in Helsinki, and those experiences gave me the confidence to establish a studio here. They understood the vision of why it has to be Finland and what kind of unique values we can build only here.
What I enjoy most about working in the mobile games industry is… that it is evolving every day, week and month. The pace of innovation and creative development is very fast, providing many dynamic and new business opportunities.
Making successful mobile products requires a combination of data guidance and creative innovation. Both are different but equally important, and we must use them with the correct methodology. And that motivates me and makes my work dynamic and exciting every day.
“Finnish companies always find a way to amaze the world with very innovative mobile games.”
The main differences in working life in Finland compared to other countries where I have worked are… When I started working here, the very first and immediate thing I noticed was the welcoming atmosphere. It’s not always easy or smooth to work in a foreign country, and I have had some issues in my previous places, but I haven’t experienced anything very negative here.
I’ve worked in different companies in Finland in the last nine years, and I’ve always felt that I’m in a very safe and creative environment with good people despite the companies being different in terms of size, operation style, people, etc.
This stems from the Finnish culture, and the system here has formed with a good attitude, thoughtful thinking and social alignment. In the Finnish games industry, opportunities are open and equal to all people, no matter where you are from. At least, that is how I’ve felt and pursued my career in that way.
Being close to nature is important to Minwoo.Minwoo Lee
My typical day starts with… breakfast. Since my daughter is almost a teenager now, my mornings aren’t that busy anymore. So instead, my day begins with my cat, who wants to be fed. After that, I go to the office and spend most of my day there.
Sometimes I need to have a call with our headquarters or other studios in other countries in the evening. Still, I mostly try to relax by watching Netflix or playing games. In Finland, I have more chances to exercise even in the winter, and I try to keep up that habit.
My favourite thing about Finland is… I care a lot about interacting with people at the workplace and in personal relationships. I’ve made many friends in Finland, and I really enjoy spending time with them in a sauna, having food together or debating about salmiakki [salty liquorice, a common confection in Finland and other Nordic countries].
It interests me how the Finnish culture is very different, even from Central Europe. Typically Finns don’t speak that much, but I talk a lot with my colleagues and friends. Once we have got to know each other well, after a sauna or drinking beer together, I’ve found that we start to show our true nature inside, the true colours of who we are. It takes time, but it’s worth it because you will have friends for life.
Minwoo lived in South Korea, Canada, Singapore and the UK before moving to Finland.
The mobile game industry in Finland… and the ecosystem are unique and special. We don’t have that many developers, but Finnish companies always find a way to amaze or sometimes shock the world with very innovative mobile games.
The most interesting part is that Finnish mobile game studios are good at maintaining creativity and achieving lucrative business success. We can deliver successful mobile game products with a small number of developers, which is extraordinary. Only Finnish game companies can do it, and the reason is the people. The density of talent is one of the reasons why the industry and the ecosystem are so strong here. The culture is such that people concentrate 100 per cent during their work hours and don’t create situations where we need extra overtime or production failure.
I would advise anyone considering moving to Finland for work to… I know many people are curious about the dark and the cold in winter and what to do during the long winter. But there are many things to enjoy here with good people no matter the weather. And the Finnish summer is the best compared to other countries, too.
Minwoo has lived in Espoo for nine years and enjoys its calmness.Joonas Vinnari
The Finnish games industry is very open, and we are always looking for new talent. We need more people, and the opportunities are very promising. To find the right job, I recommend connecting with industry people and having a cup of coffee with them first, on Zoom or in person. The games industry network is well-established here; once you are connected, you can be introduced to many companies.
What I appreciate most about living in Espoo is… the calm, peaceful and family-friendly environment. It’s also very close to the Helsinki centre, only 20 minutes by bus or the metro.
Looking at the blue sky with no noise, only the birds chirping, always makes me happy. You can enjoy the forest and sea at the same time, and every time I feel I’m travelling to a different unique place.
The hobbies that I have really enjoyed practising in Finland are… Before I came here, I didn’t know there were so many Finnish metal bands and musicians. I liked Stratovarius, but I didn’t realise they were Finnish. I’m all the time asking my colleagues which Finnish band I should listen to this week, and I’m constantly expanding my knowledge of the local music scene.