By Ragnar Kestis | 8.6.2022

When one door closes, another one opens: freedom of choice in practice

Culture – 7 min read

Are you in the best possible place you can be?

There is an expression in Norwegian: å være midt i smørøyet. Translate it word for word, and you find yourself in the middle of the butter-eye. Doesn’t sound too delightful, does it? In Norwegian, however, it means you are in the best possible place you can be. That is because when risgrøt (rice porridge) is served, it’s topped with a dollop of butter, and it’s exactly there where all the goodness is.

As far as being able to pursue the things you really enjoy, that’s where I feel I am at Applifting. I wager you’d be hard-pressed to find another place where a developer can start doing HR, only to then turn into a copy editor and 3D designer.

Failure isn’t the end unless you let it be

A little over three years ago, I joined Applifting as a pipsqueak trainee iOS developer. I was given an opportunity to learn under the wings of a more senior colleague, and a few months later, I was able to start work on an actual project. It was scary, but I was happy with my progress.

Nevertheless, not everything gets a storybook ending. The project was intricate and robust, and I was simply in over my head. I put in the effort, I bashed my head against the wall. It took someone else to point out that it just wasn’t working out. Not just for me, also for my mentor, who was my fellow team member. It was a couple of rocky months for us both.

One day, the two of us and the team leader of the project sat down together, and I was told that from here on out, I would no longer be participating in the project. This was a bit of a blow to my confidence, naturally. But it wasn’t the end of the world. If anything, it was a good learning moment: to not give up, to just swallow my pride and keep going. I wasn’t fired, after all, and there were other things I could take a stab at here. With no other iOS projects to hop onto, I started looking around for something else I could learn. Something a bit more junior friendly, perhaps. And then, practically out of nowhere, I was offered a place on the HR team. 

Skilled people will always find their place in Applifting

An innocent gesture can be all it takes

Earlier that year, I was an observer to a conversation between our then HR guardian angel Zuzka and another coworker. They were discussing sexist jokes and how tiring they get. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but something about it stuck with me. I kept mulling it over, and I realized I actually had no clue how exhausting it must be when you’re made the butt of a joke just for being a woman. In the end, I wound up sending Zuzka a long message about how it was the first time I thought I genuinely empathized. It was an endearing moment for both of us; she felt understood and appreciated, and I felt like I’d learned something important.

It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, but had it not happened, I most likely never would’ve started my journey through HR. I was told my empathy could make for a great advantage (along with my skills as a developer) and that I could find my own unique way in HR.

I didn’t take Zuzka up on her offer immediately. The idea was something I had never entertained. All I knew about the job was that you hire people (and even that I wasn’t really sure of). But a good challenge and a chance to learn new things is something I try to never pass up. When and where else would I have the freedom to try my hand at something like this?

A safe environment can open any door

I made my choice and grabbed the bull by the horns. An offer like this comes once in a lifetime, I thought, even if you know nothing. I learned the ropes, and eventually, I began to specialize in contracts and legal matters. Now I find myself nestled comfortably in recruitment. Last year, however, I noticed there was something else I could help out with. Something I’ve always genuinely enjoyed: copyediting and proofreading.

Languages are my jam, so when this opportunity presented itself, I pounced. I don’t have any formal education in the field, but I had spent countless hours editing all sorts of articles, publications, and emails to be confident enough to say I could do it.

Being able to say that you want to do something different is great. And to be able to do so in a safe, familiar environment is invaluable. It doesn’t matter if it’s just an extra task, a new project, or a new field entirely; the people here will support you. They will help you find a way to make it happen. What’s more, they’ll help you zero in on what you’re really good at. It’s one of the things I find really endearing about Applifting, something I have to constantly remind myself not to take for granted. 

Needless to say, it’s not a matter of snapping your fingers and doing something new the very next day. It’s about opening a dialogue and figuring out the best way (and time) to do it. Whenever something’s not working out for you, you can speak up. In fact, you’re encouraged to do so. If what you’re doing simply doesn’t spark joy, look around and see if anything else does. Even if it’s something that nobody else is doing yet. Talk to people, figure out if there’s a need for your talents. It’s possible there isn’t—maybe just not yet—but you’ll never know unless you try, right?

Ragnar with his ditigal art masterpiece

Time to cross the threshold

I find myself at that precipice again. But unlike last time, it’s one of my own making. I feel like I’ve grown and learned a bunch in these last three years, both professionally and personally. But there always comes that moment when change is necessary, and this is it for me. I know this is what I want to do. But I also want to push myself outside my comfort zone a bit, and once again, I see something I can lend a hand with: 3D design. With any luck, I’ll be able to improve in this area as well while introducing something new to Applifting.

The way forward for me now is clear. First of all, I will slowly hand over the reins of recruitment. I wouldn’t want to just disappear and leave others hanging. In the meantime, I’ll focus on getting my 3D skills up to speed and fill in some of the gaps I might be missing in copyediting. Then, when the time is right, I will face the challenge head-on.

I used to think it was somehow shameful that I’d abandoned development in favor of HR. Now that I’m a bit more mature, I don’t see it that way anymore. Instead, I hope I can encourage others to not be afraid to shake things up a bit. With people as supportive as they are here, the ride is a lot less bumpy.

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