To commemorate F-Secure’s 30th year of innovation, we’re profiling 30 of our fellows from our more than 25 offices around the globe.
Finns tend to be quiet in elevators.
Yes, this is a stereotype, and stereotypes are usually pretty useless. This just happens to be a stereotype you may want to remember if you’re ever stuck in a lift in Helsinki, just so you don’t take the silence personally. And if it is personal, you’ll never know anyway.
“But all that disappears when we walk through the door to the seventh floor,” says Michael Sandelson, Content Editor at F-Secure.
In the just over five months that Michael has been working in the next-to-top of floor of F-Secure’s global headquarters, he’s found an atmosphere filled with Fellows eager to chat and have a laugh.
“Perhaps that’s because there are so many different nationalities working here, and almost everyone I’ve met always has time for a short conversation and a healthy exchange of dry humour,” he says.
And this openness has been really good because there was so much new information to digest.
“I wouldn’t say my brain got hit by a DDoS, but I was pretty tired after work for the first few weeks.”
Though Michael says that people he’s met since he moved to Helsinki in August have been overwhelmingly kind and welcoming, both Finland and cyber security are notorious for their ability to keep outsiders at bay. The Finnish language in particular – which Michael calls ‘Triple Dutch’ – is notoriously challenging.
But this is where his experience in journalism, which demands constant inquiries into the “Five Ws” and delving into new worlds, has aided this native Brit who spent almost two decades in Norway, before adapting to his new life here.
“But maybe the thick skin I developed as the editor of my own internet news and features site The Foreigner has complemented my dogged approach. I also like chucking myself in at the deep end.”
And the convivial attitude of his colleagues also aided the transition.
“Whether you need help or a device, you only need to ask,” he says. “There is also a clear chain of command, but no feeling of hierarchy.”
So the silence in the elevator has more to do with mutual respect and a firm sense of personal boundaries than judgement or recalcitrance.
“Colleagues trust in your skills. Finding your own way to tackle tasks is encouraged, and the work-life balance is great. There’s no-one standing with a stopwatch ensuring you are at your desk for 8 hours-a-day Monday to Friday.”
Just as he never expected to be working in Helsinki, the intricacies of securing things that go online rarely occupied much of his time until recently.
“Cyber security wasn’t really part of teaching piano, which I used to do, but journalism certainly upped my game in this area,” he says. “And in some way, perhaps the article I wrote about IMSI catchers in Oslo and AES 256 encryption some years ago was a good indication of the direction I was to take. Life is interesting.”
At F-Secure he’s acquired a bit of the paranoia that comes from dealing with the intricacies of cyber crime and he says his biggest takeaway is that cyber security doesn’t stop when you leave work.
“In cyberspace, almost anyone can see your screen.”
But he hasn’t lost his optimism and the belief that virtual connections will not replace real ones.
“This might sound utopian, but hopefully in the future, people will become less isolated, respect others’ dignity more, and give more positive attention to their fellow human beings,” he says. “Future technological advances might bring more people together, and in different ways than now, but hopefully never replace meeting offline.”
And Michael also looks forward to striking up a conversation with a Finn in, or even about an elevator… eventually.
Check out our open positions if you want to join Michael and the hundreds of other great fellows fighting to keep internet users safe from online threats.