"I have made many Finnish friends here who have helped me to adapt to Finnish culture."

 Get to know more about Shiho via LinkedIn.
Finland Works

My career: From start to Finnish

Shiho Kaneko, Japan
Quality assurance junior engineer

Much has been said about the importance of building networks in Finland. Shiho’s story is another great example of this.

When she was about to graduate from a master’s degree programme and was looking for an internship in Oulu, Shiho met an employee from Fingersoft through a friend. The games studio had some connections with Japan, and its games also needed to be translated to Japanese.

Soon, Shiho was employed there as a translator and assisted with business development. After working as an intern for four months, she got a chance to receive some training in the quality assurance (QA) department. Shiho was interested in learning how games work, so she took up the opportunity, which eventually led to her current position as a QA junior engineer.

Shiho decided to stay in Finland after she graduated from a master’s degree programme. Image: Shiho Kaneko

The Finnish word that best describes working here is… joustava (flexible). We can take a day off or holidays with flexible working hours in accordance with our schedule. When you are a bit sick or have to look after your kids, you can choose to work from home.

What I have noticed about working life in Finland is… firstly, there is little hierarchy among employees; relationships here are quite flat. I feel everybody’s opinions are well heard and respected regardless of their age, work experiences, gender and nationality, which I believe can lead to enhancing cohesion among employees.

The other point I noticed is openness. I take part in a weekly meeting for all the employees and a QA meeting every other week. Even though I’m mainly working on two projects, these meetings allow me to grasp the latest status of all the projects and things happening in the company.

Oulu landscape from above

The northern Finnish city of Oulu is known for its thriving tech and startup scene. Image: Adobe

Also, we are sometimes asked for feedback on games in other projects and invited to meetings and events, like prototype days, regardless of your work at the company. I believe such openness or sharing what you are working on with other people who are not directly involved in the project is quite important for creative work.

The first thing that attracted me to the Finnish games industry was… well, actually, I wasn’t particularly interested in the gaming industry at first, but I had an impression that game companies here were more international than other companies. My great interest in Finland brought me here, but at the same time I had always wanted to place myself in an international environment. Studying in the international master’s programme realised that dream, but I didn’t want to lose it after graduation.

I really enjoy the international aspect of our company. Besides our global audience, our company has employees from many parts of the world, and everybody communicates in English, which attracted me a lot when I first learned about the company. I’m happy with the fact that I am able to continue learning about various countries, as well as Finnish culture. I also enjoy the fact that there are some colleagues who are eager to study Japanese. We sometimes do Finnish-Japanese language tandem during lunch time or coffee break.

Shiho Kenako at work at Fingersoft

Shiho started out as an intern at the games studio Fingersoft before moving to a full-time position as a quality assurance junior engineer. Image: Fingersoft

I’ve never really thought about being a woman working in the tech industry before. Yes, all of my colleagues in QA are men at the moment, but that never bothers my work. I’ve never felt that I am expected to make tea for my male colleagues or dress up nicely (which is sometimes the case in Japan). But when it comes to salary and promotion, I have no idea. I don’t have a male counterpart to compare with.

The hobbies that I have really enjoyed practising in Finland are… baking sourdough bread from scratch, since last summer. I was inspired by my friends here. Since sourdough starter is a living thing, I need to feed him twice a week and find a good place to store him with the best temperature. I gave him a name and look after him like my pet.

Besides bread making, I’m particularly interested in fermented food. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos on various fermented foods around the world. The next projects on my list are natto- and kimchi-making.

The challenges that I have encountered and overcome while adjusting to working life in Finland are… when I first joined the company, I felt I was a bit left alone since there was nobody who explained everything from A to Z about my work and the company. These days the onboarding process for new employees is much better, and more information is shared at the beginning.

Shiho Kenako seated at table

The flexibility afforded to workers is one particularly appealing aspect of working in Finland for Shiho. Image: Shiho Kaneko

Later, I learned that people here work autonomously. If you need some help, you are the one who should go ask for help instead of waiting for others to come to you. I enjoy the freedom I have, and I feel that my colleagues trust me, but it sometimes can give me a feeling that I need to sort all the issues out on my own. Even though I know my colleagues are very supportive and friendly, I still tend to think my questions bother them and I don’t feel completely comfortable asking for help. I’m still trying to get used to this.

The words of advice I would have for someone thinking about moving here for work are… well, it depends on the country you are from, but at least compared to my country, I suppose the work-life balance in Finland is good, and you have a lot of holidays and free time. However, there might be less entertainment options here, so it’s probably good to have some good hobbies you can enjoy at home.

My life in Oulu is… is slower, calmer and relaxing. I’m happy that I have plenty of time to enjoy my hobbies and explore new things. For me, the most important thing is the people. I have made many Finnish friends here who have helped me to adapt to Finnish culture. Even though Oulu is a small city compared to my hometown, it is still quite international. I’m so happy to be able to take part in the various international events here such as the international food market.

Shiho Kenako baking

Shiho enjoys baking – so much so that she has given a name to the sourdough starter she uses when baking bread. Image: Shiho Kaneko

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