Connecting Humanity

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Verena: Office ‘buddies’ in the online world

I never thought my remote working experience in over 15 years in Nokia would become extremely relevant in 2020/’21 for many other people around the world.

At my current job I was encouraged to write this blog post which I hope will also inspire people as part of the NokiaPeople community. So here it comes…I just added a few explanatory details, to be seen in brackets ().

Office ‘buddies’ in the online world

During a recent virtual Townhall at my workplace in a global corporation, we were all challenged to come up with ideas how we can help each other to lower stress levels among our colleagues, which is a certainly needed approach in these kind of exceptional times we currently live in. My idea came to my mind almost immediately. I think the idea had lingered already for a longer time and was just waiting for the right person to ask me about it.

I posted it as requested in Menti (a service which allows to leave comments/questions in an anonymous way to the presenter) and I just heard that our VP HR liked the idea so much that he had shared it with everyone in the 2nd Townhall in the afternoon. Bless his heart for doing so 🙂

If you are super busy and you just want to know the idea, just scroll down to the end of the text.

But if you are curious to learn more on how 15 years of remote working experience (in Nokia) and my wish to make people smile as well as my genuine interest in all the people I meet at work led to my idea, please keep on reading.

Almost 17 years ago, I was working in a company (called Nokia) which introduced a chat tool for communication across work colleagues. It helped me to improve my ‘10 finger blind typing’ skills tremendously and opened up a completely new level of fast and direct collaboration. Through the next 8 years, I was able to interact, collaborate and succeed together with people all over the world. From a simple laptop back in Germany, I was able to ‘knock’ on the virtual office door of everyone around the world.

This became an especially critical work asset in 2008 when I started a global job, which required close collaboration with a colleague in Sydney, Australia on a daily basis. Chatting became our second nature and we even found nicknames for each other “Miss E!” & “Miss V!”. 

This became our way to check in whether the other person was online, working and open for a work related chat. Keep in mind that we were separated by a 10 hours time difference and had 16.561km between us. Also the network quality was not good enough for video calls during those days. During a really tough global deployment we also started using emojis to support each other’s well-being at work. A virtual smile is almost as good as a real one if you meet only three times in person over two years.

When your work is mainly happening remotely for many years, you start to value and cherish every chance you get to meet people face to face. This might have played a role in my habit which I developed over the years: To bring chocolate with me on every business trip, to walk up to every desk and offer it to everyone I met with a big smile. This might also explain why I’m currently  known as the Chocolate Angel 🙂

To end where I started, here it comes the spontaneous idea to lower stress level:

If the people you are usually sitting next to at the office are not work colleagues, just reach out to him/her and ask how they are doing. You can also do this via chat or plan a remote coffee break with Google Meet (or any other virtual meeting tool in use) and have your cameras on. 🙂

Let’s make sure we take care of each other as we are all colleagues after all! 


p.s. If you feel a piece of chocolate or a ‘well-being check through chat’ won’t make a difference, I recommend a new book to read. It is full of similar examples and a wide range of scientific studies confirming that “Anyone in any job can make a meaningful difference”. The book from Bea Boccalandro is called “Do good at work – How Simple Acts of Social Purpose Drive Success and Wellbeing”. 

Susanne: A Nokia story turned into a life story

Back in 1994, when I was 23 and applied for a position at Nokia Telecommunications’ project office in Frankfurt, maybe I should have taken it as a sign of fate already that a distant friend, whom I had met as a teenager while camping in Portugal happened to work for this company. We hadn’t been in touch much, but when Nokia offered me the position, I remembered that he worked in telco and contacted him. I had another promising application going elsewhere and wanted his input. He encouraged me to take the job in Frankfurt, and I did. I started as a team assistant and later moved to the head office in Düsseldorf as Project Management Assistant for E-Plus, one of the biggest network implementation projects Nokia had going at the time. The company was growing significantly, and fast.

I hadn’t studied engineering but over the years learned a lot about the technology and responsibilities in project management. I loved the industry and felt that I was growing, too.

After four years, I began playing with the thought of going overseas. I had been to Australia before, on a holiday, and (unsurprisingly) loved it… so, early in 1998, I sent an open application to Nokia’s Sydney office. The reply: “We don’t have anything right now, but we’ll keep your details on file.” I wasn’t in a hurry and kept on with my busy life.

Skyline Nokia Optus
Skyline Optus Nokia

After four months, I got the phone call: “We have an opening in Sydney in the Optus project team. You have been in one of Nokia’s fastest GSM projects. You know the company workings. We’d like to interview you.”

Several phone calls and a hurried visa application later, I resigned from Nokia Germany and moved to North Sydney in September 1998, to start a new chapter on a two-year contract as National Project Coordinator.

After 10 months in the job, I got a bit homesick; I liked my work but felt lonely in my personal life. I put in my resignation letter and booked a flight to go back to Germany. My boss was great, he regretted that I wanted to leave, but he understood.

Susanne in Sydney 2000 – Olympic flame

In mid-July, three weeks before I was due to leave Australia, Optus and Nokia organised a party to celebrate the end-of-financial-year achievements. And this… was the night I fell in love with a deployment engineer at Optus who is now my husband of 18 years. When a few days after the party I went to talk to my boss (at the risk of him thinking that I am a complete nutter), I only got to: “I’ve met someone”. He jumped in straight away, saying: “And now you want to stay? Awesome!” I ended up working at Nokia Sydney for another two years.

So much more has happened since then; my husband and I have two daughters and we now live in Brisbane, in Queensland, the Sunshine State. I no longer work in telco but am running my own business. There are so many things that influence a person’s life path – and I am convinced that Nokia has been a key player in mine.

meeting notes sketch

Maarit: Mission possible – a small Nokia story

This story is going to be a slightly sweet. A little story. The story of an ordinary worker who decided to look through the good lenses. Connecting People. A mission that taught me what the inside of a company means. I learnt it by sketching on the grid paper.

The mission sums up the company’s business idea. That is the reason for company’s existence. Role in society. The foundation on which the activity is built. This is how the mission is described in the textbooks. How many company missions live and breathe in the actual operations of everyday life? The analytical definition often overlooks the emotion needed to accomplish the basic tasks. A feeling that makes the amygdala tickle. I cannot say if Connecting People ever achieved official mission status. For me, however, it was.

Maarit Lappalainen
Maarit Lappalainen

I sit with a consultant psychologist in a conference room planning coaching process for a group of Nokia people around the world. It was around the year 1998. As the conversation meanders, I draw a globe on the corner of a piece of paper, surrounded by a ring of smiling stick-man figures holding hands. The visual implementation is not attractive, and it is a bit childish too, but the meaning of Nokia’s basic mission opened to me. I named the sketch: Sea of ​​people. I think it was printed on the trainers’ t-shirts too.

The human was at the heart of Nokia, as the Connecting People mission says. Both the end-user on the streets and the company’s employees could identify with it. The mission was close to people and it was active. It was concrete enough and suitably open to new possibilities.

Connecting People served different business areas from phones to networks. I will call you. You call me. The brand was strong, visible, and coveted. With the help of the maps’ service, people found each other. Music connected worldwide. Games were played with friends. Photos were taken and shared. The global factory and logistics giant pumped products seamlessly in the integrated chain. Workers built the cutting edge of technologies regardless of skin colour. The teams were close. Family acquaintances were born, and kids were also born to Nokia couples. Beyond Nokia Facebook group instantly grew to a network of nearly 30,000 people. Examples of Connecting People could be listed endlessly.

To myself, Connecting People has meant hundreds of encounters in an international network. Living together in chaos during wild growth and sharing frustrations on a downhill slope. Sometimes the bad sides of life were shown. Fatigue. The stomachs were often laughed at in a curl. Pride was felt. We learned together. We combined tremendous ideas into a concrete product, services, or industry 4.0 approach. In my strategy work, bringing people together to build on common goals sums up for me Nokia mission. Connecting People opened the importance of process work when we described the activities between different parts of the organization. In product management and customization development, I worked at a node. We combined product development, production, purchasing, design, sales, and marketing, and, above all, customer wishes. Further, I interpret my role as a developer as a bridge builder in the spirit of the Connecting People mission.

Connecting People is all this and much more. The mission reached the age of 25 couple of years ago. We will remember longer. I am grateful to respect the colleagues with whom I was able to connect with people.

Rasmus: 20 years makes a difference

Twenty years ago Tampere was an especially interesting place to live for a small boy, who was into technology. It was a city of Nokia housing many kinds of activities of the company. I was born and raised there. I remember the Nokia buildings, I remember the exciting new phones, that weren’t so common as nowadays and I remember the ringtones – how cool were they!!

Especially well I remember when a relative showed me how images from his digital camera could be transferred to his Nokia 9210 Communicator and viewed from its screen. What magic was that back then! Also, I can’t forget seeing the staggeringly beautiful Nokia 8850 in real life for the first time. It was like a piece of jewellery, tiny, shiny, elegantly designed and colored, yet still featuring all the important functions. (At that time phones were usually so much bigger and a bit clumsy, as my mums 5110.) Obviously, I wanted to have both the Communicator and the 8850. My parents of course never bought me the hideously expensive phones, but one Christmas I was surprised. One present was a Nokia 8810 – dummy version – but nevertheless a beautiful piece. My dear dad had contacted Nokia and kindly they had provided a non-working sample for the young Nokia enthusiast! I was proud. I took the silvery phone everywhere, it was with me at friends and at parties. When it was time to start going to school I got my first actually operating phone, the 3310 with red Ferrari Xpress-on covers.

Through a number of Nokias (of which the 5310 XpressMusic is still my absolute favourite) we arrive to year 2008 when I was able to get some money of my own through a summer job. Suddenly I started to think how cool it would be to own those phones I wanted as a kid. I got the 8850 and the 9210 and boy was that sweet to have them finally! Also, around that time Nokia’s fairytale started to reach its end, unfortunately, and that sealed my future as a Nokia phone collector. It felt important to build a collection which could remind us about the company’s extraordinary story which changed the world forever. Because of this aspect, for a long time I had had in mind that I would like to arrange a phone exhibition. Finally, this year in February I got the chance and held a Nokia phone exhibition at my University’s library in Otaniemi. It turned out to be a success. It was awesome to meet many ex-Nokian’s there who were kind to share their stories with me! Also, originally the exhibition was planned to last 2 weeks, but the staff requested for the phones to stay on exhibit for a month. It also tells how much we all still love Nokia and the good old days!

A lot has changed in twenty years but even though Nokia doesn’t anymore manufacture phones, its impact can still be seen in our everyday lives; thanks to Nokia’s brilliant technologies we have the chance to stay connected safely during these exceptional times of Covid-19.


The author Rasmus Hakala has a collection of over 100 Nokia phones. He is also a petrol head with a great passion for cars – also for electric despite the expression : ) Currently he is studying  Industrial engineering and management at Master level in Aalto University and planning his future career. If he had been born twenty years earlier, his career plans would’ve been very clear!

Markku: Fairytale gone wild

20 years ago, I joined the skyrocketing Team Nokia and a group of the brightest minds and talent in emerging technologies. During my years in Nokia, I developed myself both personally and professionally, made lifelong memories and worked with many awesome people.

Being a part of Team Nokia allowed me to dive deep into the exciting world of the most advanced mobile services of the 2000s, such as Club Nokia, the birth of mobile gaming by N-Gage evolution, Mobile TV pilots, Nseries business devices and Nokia (Ovi) Store, just to mention some of the best known services and brands.

Running Nokia Store (Ovi) payment engine service taught me everything about service management and eBusiness, performing 17 million downloads per day, operator billing provided by 145 teleoperators in 190+ countries globally and 90% customized in the local language.

Those were crazy days, teams from Sydney to San Francisco were busy creating the very services that are now the bread and butter of the smart phone in your pocket. We saw the highest success in 2008 by selling 468 million devices that year. However, what we did not see coming was the new game innovated by Apple and Android. In 5 years, Nokia’s story of relentless growth and success was over, regardless of 300+ million low price phones sold during the final year. The last Made in Finland Nokia phones were the Lumia 800 and the N9, manufactured in 2012.

Many books have been written on Nokia’s demise, burning platform, shift to Microsoft and Lumia Windows technology, complete ramp-down, the rebirth of Nokia mobile brand by HMD in 2016, and finally a number of successful start-ups. This is a story that will always remain a remarkable chapter in the grand history of mobile technologies.

My all-time favorite Nokia products? The N-Gage and the Nokia tablets. In 2003, N-Gage was ahead of its time in many ways, despite some poor design features and a big price tag. Nokia Linux tablets published 2007-2008 were the forerunners of all today’s tablets.

Nokia’s story reminds us that technology is only as good as the services supporting it, and that technology is only useful when people make use of it. Yet, over the course of its golden years, Team Nokia truly changed the world, the way we communicate and behave nowadays. It is safe to say that Nokia is one of the most important businesses the world has ever seen.

By the way, the Turku City Theatre in Finland is launching a play on Nokia’s story on the November 25th, 2020. I am eager to see it.

David: My path from Nokian to author

I had always wanted a job where I made a difference and when I found myself working at Nokia, I was constantly aware that a mobile phone is one of those items which enables everything else in life. The teenager standing in a dark, shattered bus-stop having missed the last bus, saying into his phone, “Dad, can you give me lift?”; the woman stranded on the hard shoulder saying, “Yes, it starts at two and I’m the head bridesmaid!”; the man pacing the road outside the hospital squealing, “It’s a boy!” into his phone – and a million other conversations, all enabled by Nokia.

My team leader was ahead of her time and gave us huge freedom to work how we thought best and in that culture we were creative, ambitious and adaptable. I was a fairly inexperienced software engineer being led by some great senior engineers and under their guidance we used Model-Based Engineering years before I heard that term, we automated everything we could long before I developed the financial awareness to fully understand the benefits, we valued co-location and break-out areas and we were agile before I had ever seen the word with a capital “A” on it. It was the most eye-opening and educational period of my professional life.

Now, as a manager of a department of developers and testers, I check every decision I make by asking myself, “Is this going to make these engineers feel the way I did at Nokia?”

But at Nokia I learned as much about people as I did about software. There are lots of people in the world who care about their jobs and get stressed when things don’t go well, and lots of people who remain calm in crises because they never really cared what happened anyway, but at Nokia there were people who cared about their work and could still remain professional in difficult times. However, that was really put to the test in the last months at Southwood, UK, where I worked, in the months before the site was closed.

We were all worried about our futures and the transition to our next jobs Beyond Nokia. There were lots of questions to answer about how to hand the software over to overseas sites, but the interesting thing was that suddenly, technical problems seemed harder too. If you’d asked us whether it was possible for some arbitrary company to hand over software to some strangers abroad, we’d have said Yes, of course. But ask us whether it was possible to hand over our software to other people who might not cherish it as we had and we said No, it can’t be done. Why not? “Well… well, there are lots of technical issues, lots of them. Definitely. What are they? Um, hard to say. Sooooo many.”

We started talking about technical solutions but of course the problems weren’t technical, they were emotional. And to the credit of the senior engineers and the leadership team, we realised this in time to realign our thinking and we made a real success of the handover. That year, 2012, was a milestone for me: Before then, I had not realised that I lived in a world where we all create falsehoods in order to hide from uncomfortable truths. But after 2012, I have seen it and recognised it many times. Normally (and I most definitely include myself here) we see evidence, we use some rational thinking to draw conclusions, and then we might feel some emotional response to those conclusions. “It’s snowing so I reckon the pitch will be covered and the football will be cancelled – that’s a shame because I like football.”

But if life treads a little too close to issues to which we are particularly sensitive, we reverse our thinking. We believe whatever is helpful for us to believe and then we start looking for anything that can be twisted into some sketchy evidence that might support our beliefs. “I want to be respected at work but that junior guy has been promoted above me. Ouch. Ah! Maybe he bribed the director. Yes, and that would explain why he said he couldn’t afford to go on holiday next month. It all fits!”

We create our own personal bubbles of alternative reality in which we find it a little easier to live than in the real world. It helps us cope with life but, within our bubbles, we usually imagine ourselves as less flawed than we really are, and other people are more to blame than they really are. (Guess what – that guy didn’t really bribe the director and he doesn’t deserve to have that rumour spread about him but hey, it saves me from facing the fact that I’m not so great at my job, so don’t you go popping my personal bubble of false reality, thank you very much.)

So while I was learning from Nokia and using that experience in subsequent jobs, these thoughts were crystallizing in my mind and they were appearing in fiction that I was writing. I had always written short stories and had had some competition success and minor publication. I had written a novel which was, ahem, not great because I hadn’t really had anything in mind to write about so it was a story without a point. But after 2012, the more often I witnessed Unreality Bubbles (you heard the term here first) the more I wanted to write about them.

Hence novel #2 – The Weeping Beggar. Publisher feedback was good this time but the deal I thought I’d clinched fell through, so I published it as an eBook on Amazon. It depicts the harm and also the comedy caused by people deluding themselves in difficult times, and contrasts that with two characters who very deliberately and consciously lie to others in order to protect them from a great evil.

The professional experiences I had at Nokia have stayed in my thoughts since 2012, but so too have the personal experiences. We were very proud of the software we wrote and the techniques we used, but I’m even prouder of the way we handed over our livelihoods to others while seeing through the initial emotional confusion and by managing to straighten out our own thoughts.

David Brown, 20 Mar 2020

Wayne: The next chapter

I left Microsoft Mobile in late September 2014 after about seven years as a Nokian, first as an external and the Real McCoy from the beginning of 2011. After leaving Nokia House for the last time, I trekked across Europe with my life packed into an old VW Transporter van that I’d bought from a used car dealer in Vantaa, caught up with family and friends in England for a couple of months, then left for my new life in the Philippines, where I met and married my second wife.

I’ve loved writing since childhood, and have written lots of small things but never really seriously until my job as Community Manager at Nokia gave me the chance to

Ringtone – Something Unique About Nokia

Keeley Wilson

It was a sunny December afternoon in 2016. After an intense year of writing, we were close to finishing the first full draft of our book about the rise and fall of Nokia’s mobile phone business and we were on a call with our editor, Adam, to talk about practical things like schedules, cover design, marketing and the production process.

As our discussions were drawing to a close, Adam asked us if we had a title for the book. Funnily enough,

Team “Operation Elop”: Why and how the book?

We launched the free online book Operation Elop on February 11th in the Beyond Nokia group. In about 60 hours the book had 9000+ visits and 270 reads. Launch posts in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been viewed, liked or shared thousands of times. Already by now, the ebook has even been ripped off from its license terms and re-published without our permission. Wow. We feel humble and grateful. And happy. Maybe even a bit empty after the passionate final sprint in the project?

We? Who is we? And why did we make and launch this book?

Stefan: How will we make the future work for us?

Lately I  have posted the following statement and picture below on LinkedIn, some of you might have seen it, others not.

One is about the global world and the impact on our lives, mapping that ‘imaginary’ to the Pyramid of Maslow, the other one is more related to the effect share-holders and their requirements have on our life.

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