Moving back to my homeland: Estonia!
2018 was the fourth consecutive year when Estonian net migration was positive (Statistics Estonia, 2019). 17,547 people took up residence in Estonia and 10,476 people left Estonia. Immigration did not change compared to the previous year, but there were a few thousand fewer emigrants. As a result, net migration was higher than 2017 by 1,800 people. Estonian citizens accounted for the highest share of both immigrants and emigrants: 45 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Still, the net migration of Estonian citizens was positive.
I, myself, recently moved back to Estonia after living in the UK for six years. I had moved to the UK to experience life abroad. After completing my university in Bournemouth I managed to secure a graduate scheme in England. My growth within the company I was working with was fast, however, I was not satisfied with the work culture. In fact, there was little to no effort put into creating a productive culture.
Therefore, I started casually looking for jobs in Estonia. After visiting Tallinn in the summer of 2018, I felt Estonia has achieved a lot as a country and things have changed during the 6 years I had been away. To me, people here seemed happier and more motivated than a lot more people from different countries. Moreover, I noticed how the salaries in Estonia had gone up drastically and the quality of life was as good as its other scandinavian neighbours.
Soon I came across Thorgate via Work in Estonia. I researched the company and could immediately tell that the work culture at Thorgate is different: people seemed positive and happy. After my application, Thorgate got in touch with me immediately. The recruitment process was very smooth and efficient, including pleasant interviews with no scripted questions as I had mostly seen in the UK. I truly felt that the entire recruitment process was designed for me to know the company better as the team tries to get to know me. On identifying a culture and job fit, Thorgate offered to fly me over to spend a day at the office as the last stage of the hiring process.
This one trial day in the office was very interesting for me as people were extremely friendly and the whole company had a happy vibe. I was truly surprised by how much the company invests in people development. The culture was carefully engineered and the management made sure people were feeling good in their roles.
I have worked for Thorgate for almost four months now and I still get positively surprised by the attention to detail when it comes to keeping the team happy and motivated. The key factor in this is the transparency at Thorgate that allows for smooth communication between teams. Even though there’s a lot of different teams within Thorgate, the whole company is very well integrated. My personal favourite are the ‘chill room chats’ with different people over the coffee machine when we get to discuss our small wins and challenges. Another thing I love about Thorgate is the diversity. Thirty percent of our team comes from foreign countries. It is so interesting because we have so much to learn from each other. Everyone embraces the Thorgate value of being open-minded and transparent. My first experience of this was the monthly CEO grilling where everyone can ask anonymous questions from the CEO and he responds to everything honestly, this ritual is also what I still enjoy the most.
Interestingly, I am not the only Estonian in the company to have moved back from abroad. With a little different story but similar experience is our project manager Magnus Skonberg. Magnus and his parents were born in the US, however all his grandparents were born in Estonia and had left the country during the Second World War. Magnus mentioned that somewhat like me, he had visited Estonia last summer but on leaving he felt like he was leaving home. Soon, he decided to come back to his roots by moving to Estonia.
Magnus met Janar, a co-founder at Thorgate, over the summer while attending the island of Kihnu’s Sea Days. Magnus expressed his interest in moving to Estonia and Janar connected him with Thorgate.
Magnus appreciated that Thorgate works on different products that are impacting the world in their own little ways. Since joining, he has mentioned how he loves the transparency here as well: people think what they say and are very open. “People are always considering the bigger picture and are very open-minded compared to the US” said Magnus, “At Thorgate, the management always wants your input. Also, there’s immense focus on personal development, even when people leave there’s a lot of coaching.”
Both Magnus and I have discussed the many things we’ve enjoyed in Thorgate during our last few months and given our feedback to strengthen the culture here. Magnus also enjoyed the 'CEO grillings'. He said prior to experiencing the CEO grilling he didn't really know what to expect and it was a big question mark to him - he didn't know whether the questions would get personal, would be about the 'big picture', or simply uncomfortable. Upon walking into the room, he said he remembers it was cool to see that every employee was there and team leads made it a point to ensure such. The session started with an announcement of what could have been 'difficult news' yet its presentation, explanation and openness to questioning and feedback created a positive air. One of 'we're learning from one another' and 'every one of our team members matter'. Once this news had been discussed, Thorgate CEO, Raido took the floor and answered the questions he'd been posed. Every one of the questions was answered with no dodging. They ranged from difficult discussions on employee retention to exciting 'big picture' related queries, and Raido was incredibly transparent in presentation.
Having been a part of two companies, one big and one small, prior to joining Thorgate, Magnus feels he has never experienced this level of transparency and team alignment before.
Moving back to our home country, or where our roots are from is a surreal experience for both of us, and integrating here has only been made easy by being part of Thorgate. Thorgate’s work culture has helped us both learn so much in so little time, all while being a part of this company that we believe is truly improving the world with technology!