Of Course I Still #ValoLove You

This post was most recently updated on September 19th, 2021.

6 min read.

Long story short: My 6-year career with Valo is now coming to an end. Today was my last day at Valo.

This is the longest I’ve ever worked at a company, and I’ve had the time of my life in the many positions I’ve held within Valo / Blue Meteorite. Rarely does a company offer you so many different possibilities and options – and let you grow into the role that you’re looking to fill, with any support you might need.

Anyway – to take a step back: A few years ago, I made the conscious decision not to steer clear of any cool opportunities life might throw my way. It may sound empty, but my default mindset is that of staying in my comfort zone – so being genuinely open-minded about new challenges and opportunities DOES deviate significantly from what I used to do.

Valo team in 2018 Helsinki Bootcamp

Valo has been the best of places to fulfill that decision, but I can’t really turn down outside opportunities either, can I? 😅

What a ride it’s been!

Valo has taken me to live and work in 6 cities in 3 countries on 2 continents. Quite an adventure. And I’ve had the chance to work on quite a few different things with Blue Meteorite and Valo:

  • SharePoint Developer / Consultant / Tech Lead
  • Partner Support Engineer / Escalation Engineer
  • Digital Marketing Specialist
  • Public Speaker & Sales Support
  • .NET / Azure Architect / Tech Lead

The last couple of years I was architecting some planet-scale services with the focus on business continuity (so there was plenty of DevOps included!) which was an awesome challenge – but all good things come to an end.

But let’s take a quick look back – how did we get here?

2015: The most annoying competitor

In 2015 I was living in a beautiful Finnish university town, Jyväskylä. Earlier that year I left my then-employer to join a kind-of-a-competitor, Blue Meteorite. A tough decision made easier by the round of layoffs hitting a lot of my colleagues and friends at the time.

Why layoffs? In IT?

One reason was that bigger SharePoint projects were becoming a lot more uncommon. And one of the reasons was an annoying competitor who had an impressive product they would always offer – and even if customers ended up wanting a completely customized intranet, the standard delivery as a starting point was a huge boon to sales, it seemed.

So in early 2015, I started at Blue Meteorite’s consulting business and spent the first 1½ years happily hacking away at a backlog of projects. The biggest of which was – surprise, surprise – a highly customized SharePoint intranet, based loosely on the standard delivery of Valo 2.0. Exactly the annoying competitor I then learned to know quite well :)

But in late 2016 all changed.

My first team photo as part of the Valo team in 2016 – most of these people are still in the team!

2016-2018: Supporting the growing #ValoFamily

This picture has so many typos I’m not sure which ones are intentional and which ones aren’t! It’s a sign welcoming me to Blue Meteorite’s Kalasatama office in Helsinki.

In 2016, I told my managers that I was moving to the United States for a while since my wife was going to finish her degree in a university there. And that turned out to be the bait that Valo bit into right away! Then-VP, the late father of Valo, Jari Pullinen asked me to join the team, as they needed someone to debug the Azure and SharePoint issues our partners were encountering.

Having the opportunity to start something new is immensely exciting, and that’s exactly what I was offered. Working in the US with Sebastien Levert – another current Valo alumnus, located in Canada – in building and supporting the growing Valo partner network in North America, I jumped right on it. How could I say no, after all?

Spending 6 months 7-8 hours away from the rest of the team would’ve made me crazy if it wasn’t for a couple of colleagues working late in Finland and a couple of events per month where I could at least occasionally see my colleagues. And Microsoft Teams having just launched and immediately replacing Skype for us was in the end quite convenient.

But when my Visa was running out (and my wife graduated), I moved back to Finland and had the chance to instead live in Helsinki and work at our Kalasatama office.

Late-night hackathon activities at one Valo team member’s summer cottage in the Fall of 2017

But that wasn’t for long. At the end of 2017, Jari Pullinen – again – asked if I’d be interested in moving to Canada to keep the train rolling in North America.

And how would I turn THAT opportunity down?

When your office doesn’t have any desks yet…

So in early 2018, I moved to Canada to continue the work in building the partner network. That meant a lot of debugging, traveling, and debugging while traveling.

That also meant being a part of a new team with multiple different heritages, languages, and backgrounds all working in one physical office – a new one, at that – while working for a newly started Canadian company and still supporting the ever-growing partner network. It was chaotic and demanding… But one of the most fun times I’ve ever had in my entire life!

Zip trekking at Mt. Tremblay with most of the Valo North America team back in the day

But alas – nothing lasts forever. After almost 2 years, it was time to head back to Finland again.

Last night in Montréal

2019-2020: New Beginnings

At the end of 2019, we decided to move back to Finland for family reasons. It’s way easier to bring your kids up and just have a family in general when you’re close to your relatives. Huge props to anyone dealing with that abroad, because it can be really tough.

At the same time, I transitioned back to a primary software development role (for the first time since late 2016!). I thoroughly enjoy spending some quality time in Visual Studio, but that had only covered perhaps 25% of my workdays since I joined Support, so I welcomed this change.

My last event was in Boston in 2019. A session with the awesome Vlad Catrinescu.

This meant taking on the responsibilities of building the background services supporting Valo’s business – and a set of APIs used by all Valo products. It was a unique challenge, and was the source for many of my articles on this site :)

The last team-wide event was in Barcelona in 2019 – after that, COVID struck!

And we ended up accidentally choosing the exact right moment to move – moving back a few months before COVID started to be a thing was lucky, to say the least.

The 1½ years focusing almost entirely on Azure & .NET was amazing. Having a small and nimble team that’s in charge of a 24/7 running service had its ups and downs, but this is probably the team most laser-focused on delivering value to stakeholders over time I’ve ever worked in.

2021: The end is nigh

Even after years of jumping on fun opportunities, sometimes a time comes to try new things. I resigned in February and started offloading my responsibilities and onboarding my replacements.

Remote farewell whisky tasting? That worked out decently, except it was a little bit

My stint might be over, but the #ValoLove remains. 🥰🤩

Just Read The Instructions

… I suppose that could’ve been this article’s headline, too, but it’s not as Valofiable. 😉

During my time with Valo, I learned so incredibly much about team dynamics, product portfolio management, and working with people from all walks of life. I attained great mentors and hopefully was an adequate mentor for a few others. I built things, maintained some other things, and finally moved on from all of them.

And obviously, I learned a thing or two about Microsoft 365 and Azure, too.

It was a phenomenal 6 years, and the last few weeks have been bittersweet. Onboarding your team members to replace you, and scrambling to finalize documentation is surprisingly taxing mentally. Have you ever tried to document your tacit knowledge – you don’t even know what you know exactly, so it’s actually pretty tough!

But that exercise is now over, and I’m taking a few days off before heading off for new challenges next week. 😄

And so, all good things must come to an end

Thank you Valo team
2015-2021
💖

PS. Valo is recruiting – if you’re an Azure/M365 developer, drop them a line! 😉

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