Full-Stack Developer Aleksi is not only one of the co-founders and owners of Sangre but also a part-time rock star. We spoke to Aleksi about balancing a day job with touring, what's happening in the Warsaw office and what the future holds for Sangre. Spoiler alert: there will be robots.
First, the question we ask everyone. What do you do at Sangre?
I'm a full-stack developer with a front-end focus. I mostly work on our React (Native) front-end solutions, but I tend to dabble in all sort of stuff, ranging from Java/Node/PHP backends to some light DevOps, with software architecture on the side.
You're one of the owners and original founders of the company. Tell us a bit about how this thing called Sangre came into being.
I joined Jouni's company - Twinkle - back in 2005. We worked mostly on PHP and various content management projects for years and remained pretty much a three-man company until we met the guys from (previous) Sangre, who had worked together for some time at that point.
Around 2014 we - as Twinkle - were doing technical consulting for an ill-fated project, for which Sangre started doing service design, and we noticed rather quickly that we got along really well, and our skill sets perfectly complemented each other. We had technical expertise, while they had excellent design skills, so after a while of talks, we decided to combine our forces to form a bigger, better and bolder company.
How did you guys end up setting up an office in Warsaw quite early on?
I moved to Warsaw with my wife in late 2014, and basically we founded the Polish company so that I could, you know, be paid. When we started growing rapidly after the merger, we quickly realised the benefits of owning a company in Warsaw: being able to hire from Poland allowed us access to much bigger developer pool than Finland alone would have. Now we have four people working full-time in the Warsaw office.
"When we started growing rapidly after the merger, we quickly realised the benefits of owning a company in Warsaw: being able to hire from Poland allowed us access to much bigger developer pool than Finland alone would have."
What's new with the Warsaw gang? Heard there is a new office in the works?
We have made developing the Warsaw office a priority this year. We kind of overlooked developing an office culture here, and honestly, the previous office we had was pretty uninspiring in that regard. Luckily, we just found a beautiful office space on a great location, which we're just setting up with our latest hire, our office manager Arletta. I'm really excited about the current developments, and what the future has to bring!
Not everyone knows this, but you're also a world-famous rock star! Tell us about this alter-ego of yours. What was that nickname again?
"Famous" and "rock star" might both be bit of overstatements, but yes, I have been in an internationally touring band, and it did earn me a nickname Angry Keyboard Player - thanks metalsucks.net (http://www.metalsucks.net/tag/angry-keyboard-player/)!
I played in Swallow the Sun for some 15 years, released 7 albums and toured a lot: once we did 150 shows within a year. I had to quit the band in late 2016 due to a burn-out.
In addition to Swallow the Sun, I've worked for multiple albums and bands, most notably Insomnium and the late Ghost Brigade, doing keyboard arrangements and production. I've worked on about 26 albums over the years, and Insomnium's 8th album is currently in production.
How do you balance work life in your day job and touring with the band?
I always worked while on tour. Even though it made it a bit more difficult, it actually gave me something to ground myself on. Instead of falling into the play-drink-sleep-repeat cycle of touring life, I had something meaningful and challenging to do. Working on the tours also allowed me to save my vacation time for actually vacationing, which made retaining my sanity - or what's left of it - a lot easier.
"I always worked while on tour. Even though it made it a bit more difficult, it actually gave me something to ground myself on."
You also spend a lot of time in the States. How do you find the time difference and all that with remote working?
My wife is from Detroit, so I've spent considerable time over there, especially before we moved to Warsaw. Before the merger I would mostly work alone on my projects, and back then the 7 hour time difference with Finland was awesome; I would wake up early, have 2 hours of efficient correspondence time with Finland before the office hours were over, and then work the rest of the day without any distractions.
Nowadays though, as the way we work has become a lot more team-oriented, I've found the time difference difficult, and I've tried to minimise the time spent working from there, and concentrated on vacationing. Which is nice too.
What inspires you the most in your work currently?
In general development - both front- and backend - is much more rewarding nowadays than, say, 10 years ago. The frameworks and libraries of today are super expressive, and writing things that have been traditionally difficult to implement is generally easy these days, letting us as developers to concentrate on things that matter - quality, UI/UX and design, to name a few.
"New patterns, paradigms and technologies emerge all the time, and that means that one has to be ready to completely re-learn and/or unlearn things on a very short notice. Some find this anxiety-inducing, personally I find it exhilarating."
What are the next big trends we're going to see in app development?
I'm pretty bad at predicting trends, even though I'm quite proficient in adopting them, but what I would guess is that GraphQL is going to be even bigger than it already is. Combined with Apollo it is really powerful, allowing writing truly "dumb" front-ends with minimal knowledge of the business logic and entity relations.
Where will Sangre be in 5 years' time? Will there be robots in the office?
Hopefully in at least 2 more countries, and as that will put pressure on telepresence solutions, there probably definitely should be a brigade of robots, equipped with 360-degree cameras, that can be remotely controlled in VR. Would be nice to robo-walk around the Helsinki office from home. Design cues can - and should - be taken from Robocop, and eventually, this can be scaled up to a world-domination scheme.
Thank you, Aleksi!
Photo: Elisa Catozzi