In spring of 2008 I submitted my resume to Nokia jobs portal, after developing some simple Maemo, Debian based Embedded Linux platform applications for N800 device (WiFi, Skype, browser, no GSM yet) which I purchased in Key center in St.Petersburg. Working on Debian based Embedded Linux platform (using Scratchbox) was LOTS of Fun!
Some time later Nokia managers got in touch with me and invited me for a face to face interview in Nokia Research Center (NRC), located in Ruoholahti district of Helsinki, near Rouholahti Metro station.
As a "home work" I had to develop some new GL graphics application modeling movement of stars under force of gravity. It was rather interesting exercise (with a bit of Physics in it) to make this app and see how N stars would behave as a cluster.
After that I had to visit Helsinki several more times for HR related interviews focusing on "People Management" and communication skills, required for Tech PM position I applied for. Nokia paid for all those trips on quite comfortable train St. Petersburg - Helsinki.
The train was always served by the same nice team.
One interview was especially memorable: there was a group of people I have not met before, and among them was a person (as I realized much later, after joining Nokia!) who was essentially my competitor for that position. We were supposed to find a solution for a tricky situation in a remote Nokia facility facing difficult problem finding skilled personnel in that area.
Also it soon became clear to me that Finnish language is NOT the easiest one and has almost NO connections to European family of languages (English, German, Italian, French, Russian, etc).
The picture below with schedule of sightseeing boat trips, may give you an idea what Finnish add looks like :-)
Fortunately there are translations into other languages:
most frequently in English (World Language), Russian (Grand Neighbor), other important languages.
All going well, in the middle of June 2008, after final f2f interview at NRC, Nokia Maemo RTComm manager (A.L.) made me a job offer and I submitted my documents for Finnish work Visa!
Things at St. Petersburg were at that moment going from bad to worse: plutocrats in Kremlin/KGB were long unhappy about my political views and I felt permanent pressure from some strange people following my every step!
On the day of my relocation to Nokia NRC there was some new team meeting me on Finnish railway station! At the time of boarding the train I still did not realize that it was ALL about little me!
When I came into sleeping coach, I found NO customs declaration on the table, as it ALWAYS was during several previous interview visits of Helsinki!
Faces of the new team were NOT exactly smiling like normal people!
But I felt tired after packaging my things the night before and had ONLY 3k Euros in cash in my wallet (far below 10kUSD limit allowed to carry over without customs declaration). So I fell asleep as soon as I reached my bed and did not ask new conductor, WHY there was no customs declaration that day!
When I woke up few hours later near border, a woman with Swedish passport who was my fellow passenger, disappeared somewhere, and I was alone in the compartment.
When customs official arrived and asked me how much money I had on me I answered: 3k Euros.
Then she asked me why I did not filled out customs declaration. I replied that 3k Euros is FAR BELOW limit allowed to carry over border without declaring it.
Customs woman (aka KGB agent) face was far from pretty. Very Far! And behind the door stood another customs man listening to our conversation, without being seen!!!
My explanations that there was NO customs declaration on the table did not please them, and they DEMANDED that I leave the train and follow them to the customs office in Vyborg!!!
In the office their commanding officer announced to me that I will be fined 1000 Rubles (about 30 USD at the time), and then I will have to wait until evening train (from Moscow)!
After I paid those 1000 Rubles I asked the customs (aka KGB) woman who played the key role in this KGB spectacle: why there was no declaration that day?
KGB agent (as ALL customs employees are!) happily smiled at me and said: it was UNDER your MADRAS in the compartment!!!
And her family name (printed on the document they gave me) was quite telling: BLANK! Like Bolsheviks gang leader Lenin mother Maria (maiden) last name!
Charging by her fat and rather untidy appearance she was of the same ethnic origins as most leading Bolsheviks who did 1917 in Russia.
When evening train from Moscow arrived they placed me in the sitting carriage and I finally moved to Helsinki/Europe.
Second customs official who assisted Blank in that "gebnia show" followed the carriage till the end of the platform, looking at me attentively, as if waiting for me to say or show something rude to him...
Poor dog was looking REALLY MISERABLE, condemned to "enjoy" 100% Corrupt and Criminal Post Soviet "liliputia" till his final days.
Last moments on Russian soil left quite memorable and LASTING IMPRESSION!
EXACTLY what the organizers of that "gebnia spectacle" wanted!
When I arrived to nice Hotel room booked by Nokia at around midnight I sent a message to Nokia HR contact and to my line manager, who quickly realized that it was a set-up by "gebnia"!
After initial couple of weeks in hotel, my relocation assistant found modest, 1 room with a kitchen, but quite nice apartment for me in Eira district located near water, my job at NRC and walking distance to Stockman Bookshop/Department store in central Helsinki!
The location was PERFECT!
Moreover, from windows of my first European apartment I could see towers of beautiful Johanneskyrkan, located on the next street!
Something that later played important role in my personal development!
Eira district of Helsinki is VERY beautiful and stylish, with many elegant shops, restaurants close to water, yacht clubs and green areas for dog lovers (there are many among Finns).
I loved the district and used to take long promenades along the gulf, looking at fine sailing boats, people, dogs and swans.
But things at Maemo RTComm department were far from perfect: Skype product owner (aka manager, Annika H.) was hoping to sign a new contract (for N900 hardware) with Skype already when I first visited NRC and met my RTComm line manager in June, but still had not signed it in mid August!
Days after my contract signing at Old Good Nokia House (in Espoo not far from NRC) were marked by daily discussions around Skype/N900 Connection Manager and how to avoid delays because of missing contract with Skype.
And Skype (which was still Swedish company) turned out to be VERY difficult partner and by the time Skype connection manager team, that I was leading, integrated Skype with Maemo N900 platform and made ALL device contacts available for Maemo Connection Manager, the contract was still NOT signed and as a result Skype team was left out in a limbo at the time Maemo Applications demo took place in mid August.
We simply did not have Skype binary called skyhost for the new N900 device hardware and thus could not make a final test: Skype call to another device!
Which was VERY Frustrating, to put it politely...
This predictably resulted in some stressful discussions among the team and total loss of clarity at RTComm as to who was supposed to do what!
For me as Skype Tech PM it meant that I decided to send my resume to Swedish consultancy company called Teleca (in attempt to avoid too much stress). Teleca got interested in my skills and resume, promptly conducted phone interview with me and in September invited me to Stockholm for a f2f interview in Kista ("Swedish Silicon Valley").
The hole period July-August-September 2008 was marked by LOTS of TURBULENCE and Uncertainty, which is characteristic of periods between and around Eclipses!
As much as I liked Maemo Linux platform and new N900, Nokias first and LAST Linux GSM device, in the end of August I sent a message to RTComm manager asking him to find someone else for the troubled Skype project...
My first project with Nokia was over (in record 2 months!!) because of "poor logistics" (aka RTComm mis-management) and lack of contract with Skype!
NO MATTER what people expect and PLAN to do, the GOD will decide what is going to happen next! That was my main conclusion after failed Skype project with Nokia!
On windy Halloween night 2008 I flew from Helsinki to Göteborg to start my new life in Beautiful, Swedish-English speaking Sweden! And I am still quite happy about that!
Lord works in mysterious ways...