A Day in the Life: Jani Evakallio (VP Engineering, Formidable)

Jani Evakallio (VP Engineering, Formidable)

What has been your journey in tech so far?

I made my first “professional” website in 1999 using the equipment at my school’s computer lab. I spent the criminally small sum of money I made on my first PC, and for the last two decades I’ve been ceaselessly building products, teams, and most recently the European business for Formidable here in London.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced moving into your current role?

I don’t really know what a “VP Engineering” does elsewhere, but for me it’s been a full-body experience of learning how to scale up a team, maintain a healthy engineering culture, acquire new business, keep our clients happy and quality of our work high, all while making sure every employee at any level of seniority is constantly learning and growing.

Briefly describe your stack and workflow

We’re an engineering consultancy, and instead of trying to do a bit of everything for everyone, we have a simple but not very humble mission: To be the best JavaScript team money can buy.

What does your typical day look like?

Every day for me is different, which is a blessing because I never grew up and can’t really handle routine. Some days I visit our teams at our clients’ offices and help them facilitate important projects or solve trickier issues. Other days I roll in just before lunch, hang back at the studio, listen to trashy trap music and try to push our internal initiatives forward between job interviews, pair-coding mentoring sessions, and 1-on-1s.

How do you interact with your team?

I believe in informal communication structures, which is a very formal way of saying that I try to make it easy for people to speak to me. There’s a thing or two I may be able to teach them, but I also learn every day from team members 10 years my junior, and that’s reflected in how we interact.

Formidable staff lunch meeting

Which tools or processes you use to organise yourself?

If someone saw my working process, they’d probably describe it as barely managed chaos — and they’d be right! I rely heavily on Slack for communication and Notion for my notes, to-do lists and workflows, but my email inbox is a lost cause and I should probably burn it to the ground and start over again.

What’s the best and worst part of your job?

My favourite part is building the team: hiring talented individuals and helping them grow as people and professionals. One day when someone leaves the team, as long as they go do bigger and more ambitious things than they could have done before they joined Formidable, I’ll be happy for them.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

One day many years ago, my manager sat me down and told me:

There’s only so far you can go by just being a stronger and faster developer. The only way to keep growing your impact is by mentoring and teaching others to make them stronger and faster.

It took me a while to digest that feedback, but that was the advice that made me break past the individual contributor stage of my career, and although I sometimes miss my IC days, I can’t argue that my work is now wildly more impactful, which is the only thing that matters.

What is your most useful resource?

Twitter.com. Being on top of the latest industry trends, problems people are experiencing and solutions they are experimenting with is key to being an effective technology leader.

What’s one thing you’d like to learn, develop or work on in 2019?

As my team grows and I no longer directly manage every engineer, I’m pivoting from mentorship to sponsorship, and I want to learn how to become more effective sponsor to people’s ideas and an enabler to their ambitions.

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