Recruiting Young Developers - A Look at Both Sides of the Table

Otto Hilska Jun 15 2016 9 AM | 4 min read




Sami Kukkonen is a 22-year-old Economics and Computer Science student, who started working with us at as a Software Engineer four months ago. He’s a beginner golfer and an avid foodie. Here’s a look at why we wanted to hire him and why he decided to join the team.

From his original hoods in Oulu, Sami has worked his way down the map of Finland, taking a pit stop at Turku School of Economics, and finally ending up in Helsinki. He has been involved in programming since age 11 and started his first professional coding projects already in middle school.

During his time in Turku, Sami was involved in a startup as a technical lead, and he ran his own IT company, which mainly focused on consulting local businesses in Ruby on Rails. In 2014, Sami joined Venuu, a Helsinki-based startup as a Software Engineer.

In addition to his early enthusiasm for code, Sami is also interested in business. “I don’t want to build my career solely on programming, as I’m also truly interested in working closely with clients. In the long-term, I want to grow my skills in more fields than one, and navigate my path to being more people-oriented.”

Sami first heard about at a party back in 2014. ”At first, I didn’t pay too much attention, but at some point I started to realize what bright people they were hiring. I thought to myself that there has to be something special about that company, if all those top-notch people go there and stay there.”


An engineering recruiting perspective

The engineering interviews at are very thorough and elaborate. We want our team members to be as full stack as possible, not only skills-wise but in terms of their interests, so we go through diverse topics ranging from frontend to backend, and from databases to cyber security.

Sami represents the characteristics we’re looking for in young recruits very well. He has programming experience from a very young age. He has experience in technologies that we consider interesting and useful, like Ruby on Rails and React.js. In addition, Sami’s IT consulting and involvement in an early stage startup translate to us as a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Sami was also familiar with the trends in web development plus the startup scene in general, and him being sincerely interested in the business side of things didn’t hurt either.


Not just code

Sami’s first four months at have been full of action. In addition to his daily work, he has, for example, been modernizing the stack from Angular to React, and he’s started mentoring a new team member himself.

“Primarily, my work consists of software engineering, but I’ve been able to do much more than just write code. One of the reasons I chose was that I knew that I’d have solid opportunities to interact with clients and solve their problems. I’ve already flown to Berlin with account managers to meet clients face-to-face”, Sami says.


On recruiting young engineers

Until very recently, Sami held the record of being the youngest Smartly on the team. When hiring young talents, companies need to pay more attention to potential that hasn’t yet been unleashed. Many times recruiters focus solely on red flags - that the candidate is missing this or that attribute or experience - when they should focus on green flags, too.

Personally, I can say that a good part of the greatest engineering hires throughout my career have been 1st or 2nd year students. Sami is living proof of the fact that you don’t have to have 20 years of professional programming experience in order to get hired at We value other experience and attributes, too.

Young, talented engineers have an immensely fast rate of professional growth. At, we pay extra attention to matching them with a great team and supporting their rocketing professional growth. “But it isn’t completely up to the company - you have to be proactive and pinpoint the areas in which you yourself want to grow.” Sami says. “Personally, I feel like I’m on a fast track in learning both programming and marketing.”


So, what’s up next for Sami?

At the end of June, Sami will fly to San Francisco for three weeks on a developer rotation, which is an ongoing practice at where engineers visit our offices in San Francisco, Singapore and Berlin. Thanks to the rotation, everyone is familiar with everyone across offices, clients have an engineer available to help them 24/5, and engineers have an opportunity to get more familiar with our clients around the world.

“Being able to travel and work abroad was one of the reasons why I chose to join, so if I get a chance to travel, I travel. Going to San Francisco has been my dream for a while already, and it’s really cool to see it come true.”

Would you like to work at We’re hiring Software Developers and more! Check the open positions here and apply!

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Otto Hilska

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