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Nov 28, 2019 5:37:00 PM

Kaj Karhu joins Columbia Road

Olivia Helle

Marketing Lead, Finland

Kaj_KarhuHi Kaj, How did you get good at what you do?

I’ve always been passionate about people, software, and technology, and I feel that that passion has led me to learn my current skills. I did my M.Sc. degree in computer science at the University of Helsinki with a focus in software systems, statistics, management and leadership.

What I’ve found to be crucial in this industry is the ability to change one’s ways of working and to constantly keep learning new things. The software industry has drastically changed from what it was a decade ago when I started and has required me to learn by doing and approaching problems with a pragmatic mindset. It’s vital to be curious about how things work in practice and the impact behind.

Where have you earned your spurs?

My career started off in 2005 as a freelance designer/developer in a small company offering a project management software as a SaaS service of that time. In 2007 my road led me to work with ecommerce at Smilehouse. I got to work with a large variety of different ecommerce stores varying in size and industry, which taught me the complete process of building a successful ecommerce, including the background work and what pitfalls to avoid. I got to lead the R&D unit responsible for the development of Smilehouse’s ecommerce platform. Working at Smilehouse gave me a good deep dive into the Finnish ecommerce landscape.

I joined Nosto in 2013 at a very exciting time: just before their product launch. There I learned what goes into recommendation engines, what it means to launch a SaaS product to international markets and what it’s like to be part of a rapidly growing growth company. I worked as a senior software developer in the core R&D team. The moments when the features I had implemented had a direct concrete impact on the end users and the possibilities related to the product were extremely rewarding. One of the key philosophies at Nosto that also taught me a great deal about responsibility in software development was ownership: you own the deliverable (be it a feature, behind the scenes fix, etc.) that you develop and it's on your shoulders to handle the deployment as well. I also learnt something about the work culture in startups – you get to wear a lot of different kinds of hats.

Why Columbia Road?

The company culture and mindset resonated well with me – Columbia Road is a very lean and flat organisation with no unnecessary hierarchy, and a pragmatic approach to software development. Everyone is expected to take responsibility for their own work. I also really like Columbia Road’s approach for project delivery which means prioritising all actions from a business perspective rather than thinking technology first.

Sampo, what will make our clients love Kaj?

“Kaj has acquired vast expertise in the core things that we offer for our clients – he’s thoroughly experienced in scaling ecommerce businesses, and has all the necessary skill sets for building them: store front, backend processes, integrations, payments etc. The ecommerce full stack. Kaj has worked in a variety of roles from being a tech team lead to being the head of a R&D unit, and he possesses hands on experience of the product rollout process. Kaj is also a very friendly person to work with, who always keeps his calm no matter how turbulent things may get. He’s always eager to share and to put his knowledge to good use to help customers succeed with their projects,” says Sampo Hämäläinen, Managing Partner at Columbia Road.

What makes your heart beat a little faster?

“I enjoy playing games – board games, pc and console etc. from time to time. I’m also very much into challenging myself when it comes to sports, which makes triathlons the perfect sports for me. I really enjoy the thrill of pushing myself to my limits. I’ve already completed my first half distance Ironman, and I’m planning to complete the full Ironman 140.6 in 2020,” says Kaj.


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