Oct 10, 2023

IONA Stories: Meet Levin, our Lead Developer from Manila

IONA Stories: Meet Levin, our Lead Developer from Manila

Levin joined IONA as a developer in 2021 and quickly made the move from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, to Helsinki. When he’s not in front of a computer, he’s out exploring nature and getting to know Helsinki with his partner and dog Azure.

What set you on the path toward becoming a developer?

I always loved video games as a child, which put me in front of computers. Soon, all of my hobbies were computer-based. If I had free time, the best place to find me was an internet cafe. When I started university, studying computers and learning about development and software was a natural choice. As someone from an underprivileged background, I wanted to work hard and give my best to build my career and have a better quality of life. I still love playing games today - particularly survival and open-world games.

What do you love about your job?

I was promoted to lead developer shortly after joining IONA. Leading a team is rewarding, and mentoring people is one of my favourite things. I love sharing my experiences and knowledge and, at the same time, learning from the people around me. It’s about communication, being a team player and helping each other build great things. It gives me energy. So there’s that collaborative team aspect, in addition to being in a challenging environment where you’re around people who can push you to grow.

You were based in Manila in The Philippines when you started at IONA?

I’ve been at IONA for two years and moved to Finland shortly after completing my probation. I wanted to relocate to the Helsinki office because I had heard about Finland’s reputation for pristine nature, clean air and a great work-life balance. Helsinki ranks best in the world for work-life balance; I wanted to experience that. When I arrived, it was during the pandemic, and most places were closed, so I’m still exploring much of the city now that things have opened up. I moved with my partner and my dog. My partner is also a developer who specialises in Android and has settled in well here too. Helsinki is a big tech/innovation hub, so it’s perfect for us.

Levin's Winter in Helsinki
Levin visited Hesinki's Christmas parade with his partner and dog.

What’s been hard, and what’s been wonderful about moving to Finland?

The winters are long and hard. The Finnish language is also difficult to learn, but I’ve enrolled on a language course at Aalto University to learn it. Apart from that, I love so many things about living in Finland. It’s clean and safe, and the people are so genuine. Public transportation is fast, the government is efficient, and it’s easy to access nature. I like the tranquillity of the city and how pet-friendly it is. As I said, I have a dog, and I love how people always welcome her (follow her adventures on Instagram and on YouTube). There are so many things I’m thankful for.

What’s it like working at IONA?

The Nordic work culture is really special. Working somewhere ranked the best place in the world for work-life balance is quite an experience. People value your personal time, and my colleagues are fun people to be around, even outside of work. Everyone has so many interests, and chatting about things that don’t revolve around work is inspiring. The cultural mindset is more balanced. My colleagues ask about my hobbies, and I’m never short on recommendations on what to explore or do in the city. For example, they recommended visiting the cherry blossom park (a famous happening in Helsinki in spring), taking a boat to the UNESCO heritage island Suomenlinna, or trying out the heat of a traditional sauna. There are so many islands around Helsinki too.

Levin and Mutte
Levin working at IONA's Helsinki office.

How would your colleagues describe you?

My colleagues say I’m trustworthy and reliable, which has helped us win and keep top accounts at IONA. The pre-sales team have told me I’m great at identifying the best solution for our client’s problems. I get to the heart of the issue, and I’m great at answering our clients’ technical questions. I’m collaborative and inclusive, especially when bringing a team together to reach a common goal. I believe in measuring output rather than ‘man hours’ - and IONA’s philosophy aligns with that value.

What projects are you working on?

I’m currently acting as the solutions architect for a prestigious global brand from Finland. We’re building an ecommerce site for a personalised product and helping them move towards composable architecture. I designed a solution together with the team, and we’re working on that blueprint and adjusting it according to needs as we progress. If change is needed, the team consults me, and then I validate the change by ensuring the business needs and technical needs are being met in a balanced way.

What do you do outside of work?

My hometown of Manila is very polluted, so I’ve always appreciated getting out of the city and being close to nature. In the Philippines, I would travel to beaches and go hiking in the mountains. There’s something really special about being in nature; it gives me inner peace and inspires me to live more, think more and become more self-aware. It’s meditative. In Helsinki, it’s so easy to access nature. I love walking our dog in the park or forests in the afternoon - and if I’m in the mood during the evenings, I still play games on my PC.

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