Friday March 17th, 2017
What a great way to learn and get employed!
Leadin has been working in close cooperation with Tampere University of Technology (TUT) for three years now by participating in project courses for Software Engineering students. During these project courses, students work on actual projects, for real clients.
Leadin’s second project with TUT, creating a virtual grocery store, began during the fall semester in 2015. Jaakko Alanen and Olli Pajuluoma were two of the seven students who teamed up for the project. The students all had specific roles. Jaakko was technical lead and Olli was project manager. Now they are both full-time “leadiners”. But how did they become a part of the #LeadinCrew
What was the project all about?
Leadin wanted to create a virtual grocery store that mimics an actual physical grocery store. The project team took a lot of time developing best practices since there were none for them to exploit.
“When we started the project, TUT didn’t have that much virtual reality stuff and the ‘big scale’ VR design was just starting to get wind beneath its wings”, Olli Pajuluoma explains.
“The VR glasses that we used were from the stone age, so they didn’t look good or work very well”, Jaakko Alanen says. “We also couldn’t find any articles online about how to build and develop virtual reality.”
So, the guys had to start from the ground up. This was, of course, a great opportunity to learn and they figured out all kinds of stuff along the way.
“We realised that impulse buying also happens in the virtual grocery store because you are walking between the shelves just like in a real store. For example, when you order something from a grocery store online, you just find the things you need from a list and order them”, Jaakko explains. “With the virtual grocery store, it is easier to impulse buy. That is good for the store.”
Resembling a regular grocery store
The team were also thinking about the dimensions of a regular grocery store. The shelves have depth because they need to have many packages of the same product. With the most popular products, there are also many product facings side-by-side. In virtual reality, this is not necessary.
“We decided to make the virtual grocery store resemble a regular grocery store, but we didn’t make the shelves as deep. We also left out all the structures of the real building, for example, pillars”, Olli says. “In a regular store, the aisles also need to be a certain width because of the shopping carts.”
In theory, it would be enough if there was one item of every product in the virtual grocery store, but people might have trouble finding what they want.
“The virtual reality store doesn’t require a wide shelf filled with the same product, but it is sensible for the store to show more of the most popular products”, Olli continues. “This would, of course, need some market research and testing. But I do think that if you have one favourite product, you will search for it even though the store only had one facing. The stores might also benefit from selling the space to the biggest brands. Like ‘if you want only one product on the shelf, it’s free, but if you want five in a row, it costs this much’.”
Planning from the users perspective
This kind of thinking shows that the team had been planning the VR from the user’s perspective, both the store’s and the customer’s.
“At TUT, some of the other project clients had very strict guidelines as to how they wanted the project made”, Jaakko says. “With Leadin, the project topics have always been wider. This gives students a chance to think and plan on their own. Also, the user-centric way of thinking is required, which is very good.”
Every two weeks, the students had a meeting with Leadin, where they went through what they had done so far and what they were planning on doing next. It was important to make sure that they agreed on everything.
From students to “leadiners”
The project course ended during the spring semester 2016 and by April, both Jaakko and Olli had a job at Leadin.
“I think the project course is a great recruitment channel!” Olli says.
“It is also a great way for students to get employed”, Jaakko continues.
The project course is not paid work for students, However,
“There were some prizes or something…” Jaakko tries to remember.
“Yeah, pizza and beer!” Olli fills in.
These project courses are very popular due to the recruitment possibilities. Jaakko and Olli wonder why TUT doesn’t do more cooperation with companies because it would be good for students.
“We told our Leadin contact person Mikko Nurmi that we had sent applications to Leadin. He put in a good word for us.”
And the rest is history.
It’s all about a good attitude
“After the first time I visited Leadin’s office and heard more about the company, I knew that this is where I want to work”, Jaakko says. “Probably without the project course, I wouldn’t have gotten an interview. It’s really hard to get the first job when you don’t have any experience.”
“It’s a shame that after five years of studying, most graduates only have a few exercises to show their knowledge with. They are not very good examples of a student’s know-how. That is why the project course is so good and useful”, Olli continues.
Thankfully Leadin understands that the most important thing is attitude.
“Once a student said that he won’t apply to Leadin because he didn’t have front-end development experience. Neither did we, but we were willing to learn”, Olli says. “Even though we both started with front-end development, I have had a chance to do a wide range of software development with new technologies.”
This year, Leadin had four projects with TUT students and the company has already employed three people straight from this course. During the past three years, seven people from the project courses have been employed by Leadin. Needless to say, Leadin also thinks the project course is a great recruitment channel!
Iina interviewed Jaakko and Olli over a coffee in the sunshine at our office next to the lake in Tampere, Finland. Jaakko and Olli are now part of the Leadin team and working on exciting client projects adding value and improving people’s lives with great design and excellent software. If you are graduating this year and would like to join Jaakko and Olli and the rest of #LeadinCrew then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with any of the team in Finland, Germany or the UK.