At the front­li­ne of high-tech inno­va­tion

Atul Saxe­na is pas­sio­na­te about engi­nee­ring and crea­ting new sta­te-of-the-art pro­ducts. A job with Nokia in Oulu has given him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do just that.

“We’re desig­ning the brains of a base sta­tion. Simple as that. We make it pos­sible for the sig­nal — which can be your voice or a text you’re typing — to reach a base sta­tion from which it will be trans­mit­ted to the pho­ne num­ber you wish to con­nect with.” 

Atul’s team works on pro­ducts for 5G and 6G telecom­mu­nica­tions networks. “That’s the front­li­ne of high-tech inno­va­tion which I find immen­se­ly satis­fying,” he says with a proud smi­le.

“We’re making the world a bet­ter place by making eve­ry­day tasks easier for people.”

A hardwa­re engi­neer from Uttar Pra­desh sta­te in India, Atul has 20 years’ expe­rience in the telecom­mu­nica­tions industry.  

“I’ve wor­ked in dif­fe­rent cul­tu­res. I first wor­ked in India for ten years, then in I was wor­king for Intel in Malay­sia for eight years befo­re moving back to India. After that I came to Oulu with my wife and two children, to take up a job with Nokia in May 2021.”

Work-life-balance at Nokia 

Atul is a tech­nical mana­ger at Nokia. He leads a team of six engi­neers. 

“I like cor­po­ra­te cul­tu­re here. First of all, the orga­ni­sa­tio­nal chart is qui­te flat,” he laughs.

“Second, work-life balance is very good.” 

It’s a very dif­fe­rent sys­tem from what Atul was used to in his pre­vious jobs in Asia.

“It’s a dif­fe­rent cul­tu­re here. The­re are times when I have to stretch but at the end of the day the ext­ra time I work will not cut into my per­so­nal time as I get fair com­pen­sa­tion for it, which is very satis­fying.”

Flexible wor­king

Atul works from home all the time. In gene­ral, Nokia offers dif­fe­rent options for its emplo­yees to select from – it is pos­sible to work at office full-time, come to office 2–3 days per week or work enti­re­ly remo­te­ly.

“What’s more, home is defi­ned as anyw­he­re in Fin­land so in theo­ry I could do my job from Hel­sin­ki or a remo­te cabin in Lapland if I wan­ted to. It’s great to know that the sys­tem allows such flexi­bi­li­ty,” Atul says.

I like cor­po­ra­te cul­tu­re here. The orga­ni­sa­tio­nal chart is qui­te flat

Atul Saxe­na

If per­so­nal circums­tances chan­ge, it’s pos­sible to switch from remo­te work to office work, or a com­bi­na­tion of the two, explains Atul.

Atul belie­ves flexible wor­king crea­tes a win-win situa­tion. 

“It allows me to sup­port my fami­ly pro­per­ly because I’m at home when my kids come home from school.

Fami­ly life

Atul’s wife, ten-year-old daugh­ter and eight-year-old son have all sett­led into their new lives in Oulu very easi­ly.

“They’re all very hap­py. I am the only one who gets a bit home­sick at times,” admits Atul.

“I miss my fami­ly and friends in India. But we have a 500-strong clo­se­ly-knit Indian com­mu­ni­ty in Oulu which helps great­ly to cope with home­sick­ness.”

“We go out and do things toget­her. For example, we celebra­te Hin­du fes­ti­vals. We’ve just had a bril­liant Diwa­li in Oulu,” he says with a big smi­le.

Atul says his wife has found ser­vices to help immi­grants sett­le, find work, and learn the Fin­nish lan­gua­ge very help­ful.

“There’s strong sup­port for inte­gra­tion in Fin­land. My wife is doing a free cour­se which inclu­des lear­ning the Fin­nish lan­gua­ge. She’s enjo­ying it a lot.

“She’s also a lot more inde­pen­dent here than she was in Malay­sia. The­re are more free­doms and more oppor­tu­ni­ties for her which she real­ly apprecia­tes.”

“There’s equal oppor­tu­ni­ty in Fin­land for eve­ry­one. My wife will start loo­king for a job when she’s finis­hed her cour­se — somet­hing she would not have been able to do in Malay­sia.”

Atul’s children go to Oulu Inter­na­tio­nal School: an IB (Inter­na­tio­nal Bacca­lau­rea­te) school run by the City of Oulu. It’s free to attend and the lan­gua­ge of tui­tion is English.

“There’s less pres­su­re at school on children than the­re is in India. School is less com­pe­ti­ti­ve.

“One thing I real­ly apprecia­te is how much Oulu Inter­na­tio­nal School sup­ports lear­ning foreign lan­gua­ges. For example, my children attend Hin­di clas­ses.

“They have a rule that they pro­vi­de clas­ses to learn any foreign lan­gua­ge if the parents of a mini­mum of six children request them. I think that’s bril­liant.”

Cycling in Oulu

“One of the best things about Oulu is the excel­lent biking infra­struc­tu­re,” says Atul.

Oulu has per­fect con­di­tions for cycling: it’s flat and it has a total of 900 km of segre­ga­ted bicycle roads so you can get eve­ryw­he­re by bike very easi­ly. And you don’t cycle on the road sur­roun­ded by cars: the bicycle paths are segre­ga­ted so you hard­ly ever have to cross a road.

Main­te­nance is also excel­lent: in win­ter cycle paths enjoy prio­ri­ty when it comes to clea­ring the snow. As a result, 50% of Oulu’s resi­dents con­ti­nue to use their bikes throug­hout the win­ter.

“It’s total­ly safe to ride your bike in Oulu. You can see a lot of children, inclu­ding very young children, going to school by bike,” points out Atul.

Living in natu­re in Oulu

Accor­ding to Atul, pris­ti­ne Arc­tic natu­re is anot­her big att­rac­tion in Oulu.

“Oulu is a city in the forest. Natu­re is at your doors­tep and it’s so easy to explo­re the forests, lakes and the sea­si­de. They’re awe­so­me in eve­ry sea­son.

Atul loves jum­ping on his bike to go to the forest with his fami­ly to pick blue­ber­ries and lin­gon­ber­ries in the sum­mer and autumn.

“But I don’t just cycle. I also love wal­king in the forest in Oulu. It’s an expe­rience that gives you a real feel for natu­re.”

The fami­ly saw snow for the first time in their lives after moving to Oulu. Last win­ter they also expe­rienced ext­re­me cold, tem­pe­ra­tu­res under minus 20℃.

Is it easy to make friends with Fin­nish people?

Atul says most of his friends are mem­bers of Oulu’s Indian com­mu­ni­ty, but he and his fami­ly were in for a surpri­se about Fin­nish people.

“Befo­re we moved here, we thought it would be dif­ficult to socia­li­se with Finns but we’ve found just the oppo­si­te.

“In fact, we’ve found that Fin­nish people are more poli­te and help­ful than people in other Nor­dic count­ries.

“When we try to com­mu­nica­te in Fin­nish, we get a very warm welco­me, especial­ly from older people who are real­ly hap­py when my wife and kids speak Fin­nish to them. Even a litt­le know­led­ge of the lan­gua­ge goes a long way.”

Atul says Nokia helps foreign staff learn Fin­nish if they are inte­res­ted in lear­ning the lan­gua­ge. But he and other inter­na­tio­nal rec­ruits don’t need to use any Fin­nish at work so lear­ning the lan­gua­ge is an optio­nal ext­ra. “My Fin­nish lan­gua­ge skills are the­re­fo­re lag­ging behind the rest of my fami­ly,” he adds with a smi­le.

Coping with dark win­ters

Is it pos­sible for a fami­ly from a tro­pical cli­ma­te to get used to the long dark win­ters just below the Arc­tic Circle? Atul has a remar­kably prag­ma­tic answer.

“It’s very cold in the win­ter but Finns say there’s no such thing as bad weat­her, just bad clot­hing, and I ful­ly agree with that,” he laughs.

He also has some use­ful advice for newco­mers to Oulu. “Eve­ry mor­ning befo­re I lea­ve the house I check the tem­pe­ra­tu­re, the wind speed and the “feels like” tem­pe­ra­tu­re, and dress accor­dingly. Wind chill makes a big dif­fe­rence, so you need to be awa­re of it.”

Atul says limi­ted day­light hours in Novem­ber and Decem­ber would pro­bably make him depres­sed if he wasn’t socia­li­sing. He says mee­ting friends regu­lar­ly and going to par­ties brings him joy even in the dar­kest times of the year.

“It’s also impor­tant to try to spend time out­doors during day­light hours. We go sled­ging and my children also enjoy skiing and ice-ska­ting in the win­ter,” he says.

“If you try to inte­gra­te into socie­ty, you can cope easi­ly in a new count­ry. If the­re is a will, eve­ryt­hing is easier, even in the col­dest win­ter.

“And if you get bored by win­ter in Fin­land, the­re are plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to tra­vel in Euro­pe.
Some people fly from Oulu for short breaks in war­mer count­ries in Euro­pe.

Atul is quick to add anot­her pers­pec­ti­ve to tra­vel­ling in Euro­pe.

“We love tra­vel­ling with the fami­ly throug­hout the year. We’ve tra­vel­led to the Bal­tic count­ries and made a road trip to the island of Lofo­ten in Norway. Next sum­mer we’re plan­ning a trip to Paris or Switzer­land. It’s easy: after all, dis­tances to tou­rist des­ti­na­tions are a lot shor­ter than what we were used to in Asia.”

Eri­ka Ben­ke

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

Read more about wor­king in Oulu