Case Study: work in the Project Unit and motherhood combined

Three years ago, Anastasiia Krekoten made a radical shift. An international economist, she attended Beetroot Academy courses for refugees from Donbas and received her first job offer on the second week after graduation. Nastya is a WordPress developer at Beetroot now.

She talks about the power of multitasking, her inspiring Project Unit experience and how to get back to work with an infant in your arms.

Anastasia Krekoten, WP Developer at Beetroot

The Project Unit is an internal Beetroot team that works primarily with WordPress, PHP, and JS frameworks.

By the way, there are several open vacancies in the Project Unit: WP developers are wanted. Maybe it’s you we are looking for?

All of a sudden, a WP developer

I never thought that I would be a WordPress developer. But here I am! This feeling, when you create something from scratch, is incredible. You eventually turn a set of characters into a properly working site. It’s a kind of magic!

I’ve started working with WP using ACF, Visual Composer and Slider Revolution plug-ins. Next, I learned how to use WPML, BuddyPress, Woocommerce, later on – Google Analytics, AMP and Optimizely. At the same time, I learned PHP, JavaScript, jQuery library. In the past few years I worked on different projects – from corporate sites to online stores, on projects developed from scratch and support for ongoing ones.

In my profession, every day is a new challenge: you must to be a fast learner here! And the easiest way to learn is to practice. Fortunately, at Beetroot I have both practice and support: there is always someone to help you out, advise or assist. On a colleague’s recommendation, I am reading Fullstack React. The Complete Book on ReactJS and Friends – a useful book for my new project on React.js.

Project Unit — no “big boss”, no pressure

Generally, in Beetroot’s Project Unit there is no concept of “subordinates and superiors.” Developers are responsible for the result and are free to manage their working hours at their will. This is very convenient: instead of having a “big boss” who’s in charge of everything you have a stable and friendly relationship in the team.

Of course, we do have a Team Lead. He may wonder if we need help, ask for updates on a project as a whole, but he will never ever put pressure on us or baselessly criticize us The only thing greater than that is direct communication with the client. That helps us avoid Chinese whispers a lot.

Beetroot Work

WP for USA, Kuwait and Sweden

We had a pretty good relationship with clients from different countries. And I never faced any stereotypical problems that are usually attributed to foreigners. But, I admit, some cultural specifics did exist.

For example, we had a real project-shifter from Kuwait. As you probably know, Arabic writing, unlike ours, is inverted – from right to left. While working on the website, I had to ensure that everything in both the Arabic and English language versions worked properly and that all translations were correctly uploaded. This task was a tough one, and at one point I caught myself trying to read a book backwards

In addition, the clients in Kuwait were tempted to put three dots at the end of each message. And what in the world would that mean? Americans, on the contrary, used another form of nonverbal expression and often wrote messages in capitals. Only with the Swedes did I not have any inconveniences – we found a common language from the very moment the conversation started.

It’s been hard to go and hard to come back

I have a little son now. Throughout the pregnancy I felt so comfortable at work and absolutely did not wanted any breaks. I worked till the last day. Literally! I did take maternity leave… and after three days welcomed my firstborn.

I really wanted to come back to work ASAP, but oh, how little I knew about working while taking care of this little gentlemen! Especially with no relatives anywhere around to help out. A colleague of mine managed to get back to work three months after giving birth – once a week she even worked from the office in order not to lose the skills and socialize. I was able to start working remotely only after my son was six months old. Fortunately, my client easily agreed to my “special” working conditions.

On my return, for the first two weeks I tried to refresh my memory and find some rhythm. It’s hard to get on track after such a long break. I felt stiff. Now I work from home at a 75% load: when my son is sleeping or playing, if possible, I can work for an hour or two. When he’s awake or needs attention – I’m there for him. I’ve spoken to my Team Lead and client and we decided to give it a try. So far, everything is going great.

I had the experience of simultaneous work on several different sites before. Perhaps that’s how I’ve learned to efficiently switch between tasks. I know that for some people, working from home or multitasking is not an option, but for me it works just fine. I can concentrate on a task and be productive even if it’s only for an hour. I can get into the flow.

We have an article about that phenomenon of “flow”. Click here to give it a quick look!

My experience proved that “impossible“ is just a word! You need a strong will to start something new without fear of change and complexities. Yes, at the very beginning of the journey, it may seem too hard. Try not to give up; ask for support if things are getting tough. Maybe you are on the very turning point?

Everyone who dares to leave their comfort zone has been where you are now. For you, the choice is to overcome the challenges and push yourself further to the exciting Unknown. Or go back to your roots. I chose the first. And I have never regretted it: now I have a great job that gives me a lot of positive vibes and also friends who are just as passionate about their profession as I am.

Swedishness in business

Let’s imagine for a second a beautiful sunny day back in the 10th century. You’ve just finished doing chores when a local alchemist comes by and asks you: “hey, what do you think about Swedes?”. Probably, at that moment you’d have a micro heart attack because Swedes were associated with savage Vikings wearing those funny horned hats. Modern Swedes do not quite live up to that image. We picture them as tall blonde guys, who like lagom, tolerance, and herring. But these things don’t even start covering all the cultural differences Scandinavian countries have. And it’s not a big surprise that those differences intrigue us.

Now that it is much safer to visit Sweden than it was in the 10th century, the number of Ukrainian travelers has grown significantly. Swedish culture fascinates us, even if this interest shows only in binge-watching Vikings or Bridge. But do we have a clear understanding of what it’s like to work at a Swedish company? Well, we do. And you’ll also find it out after reading this.

Lagom

Let’s get this one straight off the bat. A couple of years ago it became popular to live like a Scandinavian. Hygge boomed first, and when its fame faded out, we discovered a new kid on the block — lagom. It’s a Swedish word, which means “not too much, not too little, just right”. At some point, it became so huge that it grew into a fully-fledged philosophy of living.

The truth is — drum roll — not all Swedes follow the lagom concept in business. It’s not a panacea, nor is it the only right way to do things. On the other hand, keeping a healthy work-life balance is quite a Swedish thing.

Since 2015, Swedish organizations have been experimenting with a 6-hour working day. These experiments were limited to a handful of companies, but the results were encouraging, so Swedes keep looking for alternative approaches to the work schedule.

Even in the most conservative offices, overtime is not appreciated. Bearing in mind the potential outcomes of burnouts, Swedes opt for spending quality time with their families and friends. If their kids are sick, they can always stay at home and take care of them. In Swedish such practice is called Vård av Barn. Plus, Swedish companies encourage their employees to stay fit by promoting fitness hours in offices.

The picture might be different for young Swedish entrepreneurs, who keep working even during third-class train travel (yeah, we’re talking about Beetroot’s founders here). But, in general, working at a Swedish company means that no one will judge you for leaving earlier to see your kids’ school play. Maybe this is the reason why Sweden ranks so high on the list of the happiest countries to work in.

Teamwork

Putting it in an oversimplified way, Swedes love spending long hours on team discussions and making collective decisions. In fact, a lot of Swedish companies are built around the concept of flat, non-hierarchical organizations. For us, people who grew in post-Soviet countries, this approach might be unusual. Although some Ukrainian companies have also tried to flatten their structures, the majority of them still rely on the traditional way of doing things.

 

For Swedes, it is important to reach a consensus when making decisions. They listen to everyone on the team, regardless of their seniority or position. With that in mind, Swedish teams are usually very informal. Traditional borders between managers and subordinates are quite blurred. Seeing an intern interrupting a chief officer with a random idea is a typical picture in Sweden.

For sure, such way of working has its downsides. Sometimes the decision-making process can stretch out for days or even weeks. Sometimes it’s impossible to find a decision, which makes everyone happy. But this inclusiveness and collective work can become a great creativity booster. After all, not only senior managers can generate cool ideas, right?

Tolerance and equality

Sweden is frequently pictured as a super-tolerant country. Sometimes it’s even mocked for being so. But similarly to the cases with lagom and teamwork, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Swedish business is not a la-la-land, where people of all races, gender, and age have equal representation. But at least, it’s trying to get there. According to the EU Report, Sweden scores 82.6 points on gender equality, which makes it the highest ranking country in Europe. Probably, the best illustration of this high score can be seen, when some of the Swedish employees are having a baby. Swedish law provides each parent with 240 days of parental leave, and half of these days are non-transferable. It means, that if parents want to receive 80% of their salary during the parental leave, each of them should babysit a newborn for three months. After the introduction of this policy, 45% of Swedish dads opted to take parental leaves.

When Swedes build companies in other countries they can’t bring their homeland laws with them, but they try to create cultures of inclusiveness and equality. If you’re applying for a job at a Swedish company, you can be sure that you won’t be discriminated based on your gender, religion or age.

We can talk about Swedish business culture for a very long time. Seriously, it’s hard to stop once we’ve started. But experiencing a culture is always better than reading about it. Here, at Beetroot, we’ve soaked our working environment with the Swedish vibe. If you are up to dive into it, check out our vacancies or come listen to our CMO during his talk about how Swedishness helps us create family vibe at work and support the teams’ wellbeing. It will take place at the Mental Health & Emotional Well-being Conference for Business in Kyiv on Match 13th.