FACC INTERVIEW: JOONAS MAKKONEN FROM REAKTOR NORTH AMERICA: “WE DON’T HIRE DICKS”
Finnish creative technology house Reaktor has had its offices in New York City for 1,5 years. Reaktor builds digital services for organizations specializing in finance, retail, media, telecommunications, in-flight services and the public sector. Their clients in New York include HBO, Nasdaq, and Michael Kors. FACC interviewed Joonas Makkonen, the CEO of Reaktor North America, to find out how to recruit the best talents and find the most interesting clients.
How did Reaktor end up in New York? We got a call from a movie producer who asked us to pitch an idea for HBO. We were given five days to come up with a technological solution for their new digital project. Five days later we were pitching our idea in Midtown and they told us that it was the best tech and design know-how they had ever seen. We started having so much business in New York that we needed to set up an office here. Our clients are all based in NYC.
You have offices in Helsinki, Tokyo and New York. How substantial is NY for you in terms of revenue and growth? Last year, half of Reaktor’s growth came from New York. This year, about 20 percent of our revenue will come from NY. Finnish tech know-how here is extraordinary. In New York, you can find the best of the best but at the same time most of the local tech people are not that competent.
You’ve been awarded as the best workplace in Europe for several times. Do people appreciate different things as employees here in the States? Same things that work in Europe work here. People think that professionals in the U.S. are more about money and career, but that is only partially true. Those who do it for the money will end up in corporations but there are still loads of people who want to work for companies like us. We can hire people from Amazon, Google and Facebook even when we can pay them less than those companies would. It feels like it is becoming more and more common in New York to appreciate the quality of life instead of just work.
How has Reaktor managed to become such an appealing workplace? We have no hierarchy, we work in teams. There are only good people working for us, people who want to help each other succeed and dare to ask for help. We only hire responsible, experienced and motivated people. We don’t hire dicks – no matter how skilled you are, if you are not a nice person, you can’t work with us.
What is your recruitment process like, then? Very thorough. We usually have 3-5 rounds of interviews. The first round is meant for finding out whether the applicant's personality fits into Reaktor, the second round tests expertise and the third round is kind of a final sanity check.
How does one make it in New York? It takes a lot of luck. Persistent, hard-working people are more likely to catch a lucky break since they meet more people and introduce themselves. New York is great for networking – you can meet the most surprising people in the most surprising situations. It’s a lot of fun in here.
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