A home to world-class tech­no­lo­gy and work-life balance

Rafeeq Rafeeq is a newco­mer to Oulu. He moved to the city with his wife and two daugh­ters in Februa­ry 2022 to join the team that designs new elect­ro­nic sys­tems at Nokia.

“In India I couldn’t give much time to my wife and kids because my work was so hec­tic. The­re was no fixed time for doing work and for being off work. I often ended up wor­king in the eve­nings and also at the wee­kends.

“Fami­ly life was dif­ficult to mana­ge in India. Here in Oulu my wife and children are hap­py because we have a lot more time toget­her.”

Moving to Oulu has brought big chan­ges to Rafeeq’s life. In addi­tion to establis­hing a work-life balance, the hardwa­re desig­ner from Hyde­ra­bad has found a high-tech job that he’s pas­sio­na­te about.

“Hardwa­re, such as mic­ro­proces­sors or chips, is a big part of base sta­tions used by mobi­le pho­ne networks. My team’s work invol­ves desig­ning new chips,” he explains.

Rafeeq talks about the int­ricacies of his job with an air of con­fi­dence. He has a bril­liant abi­li­ty to desc­ri­be complex tech­nical proces­ses in a simple and clear lan­gua­ge.

“The­re are various sta­ges in chip design. The first invol­ves coding. The next step is to take the coding into elect­ro­nic design auto­ma­tion (EDA) softwa­re.

“That’s my place in the process: the bor­der between hardwa­re and softwa­re.”

“We ope­ra­te at the high end of
telecom­mu­nica­tion engi­nee­ring.”

Rafeeq Rafeeq

“My team uses the softwa­re to make sure that new semicon­duc­tor chips match the phy­sical envi­ron­ment they will ope­ra­te in.”

It’s a complex job that requi­res strong ana­ly­tical skills but Rafeeq is keen to point out that for a high­ly-qua­li­fied engi­neer, this kind of work is huge­ly enjo­y­able.

“There’s so much to explo­re. Basical­ly, our job is to design chips for cer­tain pro­ducts such as base sta­tions.”

“When a chip we’ve desig­ned cont­ri­bu­tes to the success of an end pro­duct like 5G Base­band Radio, I feel proud to be part of such a dis­rup­ti­ve tech­no­lo­gy.”

“It’s great to see how the hardwa­re beha­ves when we make cer­tain chan­ges. I can see what exact­ly is hap­pe­ning and how tho­se chan­ges affect other parts of the sys­tem.”

Rafeeq enjo­ys wor­king with world-class tech­no­lo­gy at Nokia, desig­ning chips to work with 5G and 6G mobi­le tech­no­lo­gy. “We ope­ra­te at the high end of telecom­mu­nica­tion engi­nee­ring,” he says proud­ly.

Job that invol­ves glo­bal expo­su­re

But why do we need to deve­lop new chips all the time? 

“What’s dri­ving deve­lop­ment with regards to chips in Mobi­le Radio is the same that we have seen with proces­sors in mobi­le pho­nes. We want to make them smal­ler, more cost-effec­ti­ve and we want them to use less power. At the same time we want to put more func­tio­na­li­ty in them. An example in Mobi­le networks would be to sup­port more cel­lu­lar subsc­ri­bers with bet­ter speed/coverage.”  

Rafeeq says that desig­ning chips to see if they meet the requi­re­ments in their ope­ra­ting envi­ron­ments is a rewar­ding job that has the poten­tial to make a glo­bal impact. He is keen­ly awa­re of the dif­fe­rence he can make for mil­lions of mobi­le pho­ne users around the world.

“It allows me to have a direct effect on people’s lives. The chan­ges I’m making during the design process will great­ly impro­ve the qua­li­ty of people’s mobi­le calls. It’s huge­ly satis­fying, knowing what I can achie­ve.”

Anot­her fac­tor that boosts Rafeeq’s mora­le is that he feels like he’s a valued mem­ber of the team who­se opi­nions are impor­tant. 

“My mana­gers value my exper­ti­se and ask for specia­list view and apprecia­te my feed­back. I can reach out to any­one in the orga­niza­tion. Com­mu­nica­tion is open and honest.”

Rafeeq has a fel­low Indian and a Nepa­le­se col­lea­gue in his Oulu team and he also works with Nokia col­lea­gues Fin­land and other count­ries around the world. “I like that my job invol­ves glo­bal expo­su­re,” he says. 

“In all my dea­ling with all the­se people of dif­fe­rent natio­na­li­ties, I’ve never expe­rienced any disc­ri­mi­na­tion or pre­ju­dice. We’re all trea­ted equal­ly at Nokia. It’s a plea­sant, welco­ming envi­ron­ment.”

The road from India to Oulu

Rafeeq is from Hyde­ra­bad in India. He comple­ted his Master’s in Mic­roe­lect­ro­nics & VLSI design Inter­na­tio­nal Ins­ti­tu­te of Infor­ma­tion Tech­no­lo­gy in Pune.

After wor­king for a deca­de in India, he moved to Lund in sout­hern Swe­den whe­re he spent two years wor­king for Erics­son as cont­rac­tor, befo­re accep­ting a job offer from Nokia in Oulu.

How easy was it to sett­le in Oulu with a five-year-old and an 18-month-old daugh­ter?

“It was very smooth. Oulu is a good place. People are warm and welco­ming. Fin­nish people are actual­ly very help­ful. They’re hap­py to talk to us, in our loca­li­ty for example.

“When you ask for infor­ma­tion, they often give you more details than what you’ve asked for but that’s good,” he smi­les.

The fami­ly apprecia­ted the sup­port they recei­ved from Nokia to faci­li­ta­te their move from India to Oulu. Nokia assig­ned them a con­sul­tant who hel­ped them open a bank account, find a house to rent in Oulu and sort paperwork for the Fin­nish admi­ni­stra­ti­ve and health sys­tems.

“They even hel­ped us with advice on what clot­hes we nee­ded for the cold weat­her in Oulu. We only saw snow once whe­re we lived in sout­hern Swe­den.

“By cont­rast it was ‑20C and a meter of snow when we moved to Oulu in Februa­ry. The advice we had recei­ved on layers tur­ned out to be super use­ful,” points out Rafeeq.

The fami­ly had been concer­ned about the Fin­nish lan­gua­ge befo­re moving to Oulu but they say they shouldn’t have been. They’ve found that most Finns speak good English. “If they don’t, Google Trans­la­te works well for English to Fin­nish trans­la­tions,” says Rafeeq.

Lan­gua­ge will soon be even less of an issue for the fami­ly as Rafeeq’s wife is taking part in the inte­gra­tion cour­se for immi­grants. It’s a pro­gram­me offe­red by the Fin­nish govern­ment whe­re she’s lear­ning the Fin­nish lan­gua­ge.

“It’s not an easy lan­gua­ge to learn but she real­ly likes the cour­se. There’s a lot of prac­tice and she’s making good progress,” Rafeeq says proud­ly.

Educa­tion and work-life-balance

After living in Oulu for half a year. Rafeeq has a clear ver­dict on why it’s a great idea for a fami­ly with young children to move here.

Top of his list is the qua­li­ty of Fin­nish educa­tion and work-life balance in Oulu.

“Both of our children are in dayca­re whe­re they’re loo­ked after very well. We had concerns about sen­ding the youn­ger one to dayca­re at such an ear­ly age: after all she’s only 18 months old. But she sett­led in easi­ly in a week or so.

“The teac­hers are all very good. They know how to hand­le kids. They seem to have a good know­led­ge of child psyc­ho­lo­gy.”

Rafeeq is clear­ly impres­sed by the Fin­nish ear­ly years’ educa­tion sys­tem, but he says the best thing about living in Oulu is “having his per­so­nal time.”

“Here everybody’s awa­re of whe­re the cut-off line is between work and pri­va­te life. Fami­ly life is res­pec­ted and that is very good.”

Rafeeq belie­ves that a clear divi­sion between work and pri­va­te life is dri­ven from the very top. “It’s part of Fin­nish cul­tu­re,” he adds. “The Fin­nish govern­ment also works accor­ding to the same principles.”

Wor­king in a hybrid model

Rafeeq works in Nokia’s Oulu offices for two days a week and he works three days from home. “This gives me great flexi­bi­li­ty,” he says.

At Nokia, staff can choo­se from three models of wor­king. One option is to work ful­ly remo­te­ly. Option two is what Rafeeq does: split­ting the week between wor­king in the office and at home. It’s cal­led a hybrid model. And tho­se who pre­fer to work in the office all the time are of cour­se allowed to do that.

The sys­tem is very flexible: it’s pos­sible to switch from one model to anot­her one.

“It’s great that Nokia gives people all the­se option,” says Rafeeq.

The month­ly gat­he­rings are acti­vi­ties orga­ni­sed by mana­gers for all the team to go out and have fun toget­her.

“When I came in Februa­ry, my mana­ger took us cross-count­ry skiing. He brought four or five ext­ra pairs of skis and boots for tho­se of us who didn’t have them.

“The next month we went bow­ling with the team, fol­lowed by a trip to a res­tau­rant.

The­re are people wor­king in anot­her team who also report to Rafeeq’s line mana­ger. They are invi­ted to the­se events as well.

“This is great because you get to meet all the folks wor­king toget­her — col­lea­gues whom you’d never nor­mal­ly meet otherwi­se — in a nice social envi­ron­ment.

“I find Fin­nish col­lea­gues real­ly easy to chat with, crac­king jokes. Befo­re we moved here, I thought Finns were reser­ved but I don’t think it’s true,” says Rafeeq.

Enjo­ying the great out­doors

Rafeeq and his fami­ly enjoy explo­ring the Fin­nish count­ry­si­de and spend time in the beau­ti­ful natu­ral envi­ron­ment sur­roun­ding Oulu.

The rec­rea­tion area of Koi­te­lin­kos­ki on the Kii­min­ki­jo­ki river, just 25 km from the cent­re of Oulu, is a fami­ly favou­ri­te.

The area con­sists of small islands which divi­de the river into smal­ler streams and rapids.

“I was amazed to see how clo­se you can go to the water on woo­den planks. The­re are lots of bar­becue places that any­bo­dy can use at any time of the year, even in the win­ter when there’s a lot of snow.”

Rafeeq says life is easy in Oulu. “It’s a small, laid-back city with no traf­fic jams. The dayca­re is clo­se to our house and the office is easy to get to.”

Rafeeq’s fami­ly in India kept asking about day­ti­me tem­pe­ra­tu­res in Oulu after they moved last Februa­ry, get­ting inc­rea­singly wor­ried as the weat­her took a fros­ty turn.

“We told them not to wor­ry. The house is warm and we’ve got the right jac­kets. We have no complaints.”

Eri­ka Ben­ke

Nokia crea­tes tech­no­lo­gy that helps the world act toget­her. Are you open to joi­ning Nokia?

Read more about wor­king in Oulu