Oct 16 2008

Life in Estonia

Published by Targo at 1:33 am under Isiklik, Maad ja rahvad


Vahetult pärast Ameerikasse kolimist kirjutasin kodustele kirju sealsest elust, vähemalt nii kaua, kuni kõik veel uus ja huvitav tundus. Nüüd kirjutasin vastupidi, USAsse mahajäänutele. Tegelikult täitsa huvitav näha, kuidas Eesti elu teisest perspektiivist paistab, nii et panen selle siia ka kirja.

Hey folks,

How are y’all doing? I have been rather busy, so it’s been hard to find time to write.

As you can see, I’m still with Microsoft, working as a consultant in the local services org. In everyday life though, I work with a local software company called Webmedia, and my addressbook title says Chief Development Officer. My current goal is to build a team that will start doing various SharePoint deployment, customization and add-on development projects. In reality, I’ve been doing everything from sales and sitting in management meetings to coding and writing people’s reviews. I build fancier and fancier time management solutions for myself, but still seem to have more and more to do J


Now the main thing about Estonia is that it’s tiny. The whole country has some 1.4 million people; I live in the city of Tartu, it has about 100,000 inhabitants.

You can see the city map here: http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=58.374043~26.728878&style=r&lvl=13&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&where1=tartu&encType=1, Adam says it’s like spaghetti. If you didn’t know yet, Adam is also here and just received his living and working permit. But the street map is really neat, as it tends to be easier to walk to places, rather than drive. We have a weekly team lunch and always walk to some nearby downtown restaurant. Speaking of restaurants, between having lunches with a bunch of people all the time and being too excited about work to do much else, I’ve put on considerable extra weight L


The smallness of the country has some interesting effects. While small, we still have to have our own equivalent of the People magazine and the Wired magazine and so on, and as they have to fill the space, everybody in the country gets to be a celebrity every now and then. I made it to the cover of the Wired magazine equivalent two weeks after arriving.

It also enables the introduction of various neat IT solutions that could take decades to implement elsewhere. For example, I have a government-issued smartcard that serves as a universal ID. Every computer has a smart card reader, and I can use it for voting, banking, paying utility bills, buying a train ticket, signing documents (government institutions are mandated by law to accept digitally signed documents) etc etc.


Europe is multicultural in a different way than the US. In the US, everybody looks different, but speaks the same language. Here, everybody looks the same, but they speak different languages. I pay the equivalent of $20/mo for my Internet/TV/phone service. For that my TV package has channels in 13 different languages, plus 5 different adult channels.


But the thing that’s really, really different is the various company events. In Estonia, every organization is supposed to have an event called the „summer days“. Think of a typical US company picnic . Now add limitless alcohol, sauna and hot tubs. Remove all the typical HR rules in a US employee handbook. Stretch the event to about 24 hours or more. As a result, if something like this happened in the US, many people (starting with the top management) would not be working for the company the next morning. But here, it’s business as usual.

Coming from the US, you can get vertigo from the overall level of political incorrectness. If you attended a certain party at Jukka’s place, you might remember a certain video that Harpreet demonstrated. Apparently, here it got sent to a company-wide mailing list. Again, business as usual.


In cooler companies, there are also „winter days“, „fall days“ etc. Webmedia has won the best employer in Estonia award, so the various suborganizations have their own events (our support org had „Indian summer days“). Because I’m currently involved in all kinds of random stuff, I get to go to quite a few of them, plus the Microsoft events. Of the last 6 weekends, I’ve been out of town for 4, we’ll see how long I will last.


I mentioned the support org. Just like we had admins and internal IT people in Redmond, there are various support people here, but there are a lot more of them (seemingly 1 for every 10 employees or something). As a result, whenever I need something from a hotel reservation to new hardware to ordering some books, I send an email, and usually get a response within 15-30 minutes, saying that everything’s all set. Boy, do I love these people.


Take care now, and keep up the good work.



3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Life in Estonia”

  1. offf@perses.neton 16 Oct 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Mis asi on “HR rules”. Google nagu ka palju targemaks ei teinud. Vitsid tuua m6ne “HR rule” n2ite mida tuleb “company picnic” ajal j2rgida?

  2. Targoon 17 Oct 2008 at 12:35 am

    Hahahahaa :D
    HR ehk personaliosakond muretseb muuhulgas selle pärast, et töötajad üksteisele liiga ei teeks, mille jaoks on hulk igasuguseid reegleid ehk employee handbook. Just nagu töösisekorraeeskirjad Eestis, aga enamasti hulga mahukam. Näiteks reeglid, et ei tohi tööarvutiga pornot vaadata või paljaste naiste pilte seinale riputada, muidu lastakse sind lahti.
    Peale selle peavad korporatsioonid oma töötajaile õppevideosid näitama, kus mitmesuguseid eksimusi demonstreeritakse ja pärast vaatajate teadmisi kontrollitakse. Seda siis selleks, et kui keegi firma kohtusse kaebab, on neil võimalik kaitseks öelda, et nemad on kõik teinud, et intsidente ära hoida ja töötajaid harida.
    Mõned sellised kontrollküsimused leiad, kui vaatad nt http://www.bakercommunications.com/harassment_quiz.htm (view source näitab kohe ka kõiki vastuseid, muidu on seal mingi javascripti viga).
    Tüüpiline Eesti firmapidu on täpselt nagu sellisest õppevideost võetud lihtsalt, eriti, mis puudutab töötajatevahelisi intiimsuhteid või ka lihtsalt külgelöömist, seaduses näpuga järge ajades on see küllaltki libe pinnas.
    Alkoholiga seotud reeglitega on ka mingid asjad, et ülemus vastutab selle eest, mis toimub ja et keegi endale liiga ei teeks jne, nii et erilisest joomisest ei tule ametlikel üritustel suurt juttugi :)

  3. offf@perses.neton 19 Oct 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Lugesinl2bi. Appikuimasendav… sellisesse firmasse kyll eriti ei kutsu.

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