Starter for 10: Meet Toni Kuokkanen, Nordcloud’s new Solution Strategist

Joining a hyper growth company during a pandemic

Toni Kuokkanen joined Nordcloud as a Solution Strategist aiming to supercharge customers into the next phase of their cloud journey. As part of our ‘Starter for 10’ series, we talk to Toni about his first impressions, plus his take on the cloud and how it aligns with Nordcloud’s vision.

Q1: What’s your background and how does this fit with Nordcloud?

I have a long background in the IT field and I have seen a lot of different kinds of approaches to bringing new employees into the organization. When I decided to join Nordcloud I was curious and eager to see how I would fit in. As my style of working and starting in a new company is quite fast-paced, I like to learn everything from a new company as quickly as I can, which can sometimes be a bit challenging if there is not enough information available. This was not the case with Nordcloud, and I enjoyed a smooth and fast start.

Q2: You call yourself a ‘Jack of all trades’ – can you elaborate on this?

It means that my interests are broad, I have worked with all aspects of IT in the past and I like to learn more every day. I don’t focus on a single subject but always try to see the bigger picture. I believe you can’t just be very good at one specific one thing if you don’t understand the other aspects around it on some level.

Q3: Why Nordcloud?

I have followed Nordcloud for a few years and admired the way the company and team have taken the cloud space here in Finland by storm (and now in Europe, too). As my friends here all had great things to say about working for Nordcloud, it was an easy decision for me.

Q4: So, what were your first impressions?

As mentioned, I like to think of myself as a generalist in nature. I do things maybe a little differently, so running through a one-size-fits-all induction process would be a bit of a pain for me. But my worries were quickly forgotten as I saw that Nordcloud had polished the induction process to work nicely with every type of person. Fast-paced sessions were filled with useful information and no nonsense or corporate mumbo jumbo.

I really like how well organized all the starter stuff has been. I got my home office equipment shipped ahead of time so I had all the setup from day one. It might be a small thing to some, but I really like to feel ready to go with everything I need from day one.

Q5: How does it feel to be joining such a fast growing company?

The overall feeling in the company is really energetic, you can feel the growth that Nordcloud is going through right now and everyone I meet seems to be excited about that, and the possibilities they see for the future.

Q6: What’s different about Nordcloud?

For me what has a big impact on how the company feels is the discussions I see in less official channels. It gives that certain vibe about how people feel about working for the company. At Nordcloud this gives a warm and fuzzy feeling, Nordcloud is very international so all the chatter brings in multiple nationalities. Also the threshold to open a discussion is low and that is super important when you are a newbie here. 

Also everyone seems to be proud to be working here, which isn’t always the case from my experience elsewhere. It definitely brings something extra to the feeling of the company.

Q7: What’s been helpful for your role so far?

My work as a solution strategist is very self-driven so I’ve really appreciated how all the documentation is centrally located and easily available. It allows me to quickly bring myself up to speed and understand the picture for each customer. This is not so easy for other companies where documentation can be scattered around. 

Q8: What’s your vision of the cloud, and how will you play your part in this?

My vision is that the cloud will move more into native models. I see that IaaS will eventually fade away or at least be a minor aspect. Containers and serverless architecture will rule the earth, until something more elegant perhaps comes to the fore. My role in all this is to be a guide for our customers, to help them choose the best way to move forward and use the cloud to its full potential. Nordcloud will be an integral part of this as we have world class talent and capabilities in this space.

Q9: What haven’t you experienced yet that you’re looking forward to?

As I have worked just over a month here I am sure I have lots of exciting things ahead of me, plenty of experiences and ups and downs. But what I am most excited about is achieving that feeling when you complete something big – a time-consuming project with an outcome that you had in your mind months or even years ago. Seeing your vision come to reality and flourish is a reward that you never get bored of.

Q10: How can people connect with you?

Connect with me on LinkedIn or send me a message. And, as I have worked here for just a little over a month, I will write another update on how things are going later on, as I’m looking forward to an exciting time ahead… Until next time. 

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    Starter for 10: Meet Max Guhl, Nordcloud’s Global FinOps Advisory Lead

    When people start working with Nordcloud, they generally comment on 2 things. First, how friendly and knowledgeable everyone is. Second, how fast Nordcloud is growing.

    This blog series gives you insight into both those elements – the great people and the supercharged growth. In this article, we talk to Max Guhl, Global FinOps Advisory Lead, about his first impressions as a Nordcloudian and the cloud-native future.

    Q1: You joined Nordcloud fairly recently, but how did you first get involved in FinOps?

    When I first became a cloud enthusiast, my focus was on anything but costs. I was more interested in how to make cloud work at scale, automating services and digging through the huge amount of hyperscaler tools available. 

    The cost issue first really became a focus during a project a couple of years ago, in a previous role.  The customer and the team I was working with realised how much cheaper it was to run things in Lambda / Dynamo DB / API Gateway than in the original application architecture. A few tweaks to the architecture diagram took us down from well above €1,000 a month on AWS to a mere €50. 

    That was a real eye-opener. Of course, we all hear that ‘cloud-native can be cheaper’, but I never realised quite how much cheaper! 

    Q2: From your experience, how is FinOps different from ‘normal’ technical work?

    Most other challenges in the cloud space are answered with direct, technical solutions. So, if you’re looking to autoscale, activate autoscale. If you’re looking to automate, we have automation tools. 

    FinOps is different. With FinOps, people always link smaller technical activities to that to save costs, but it’s not that simple. It can be more complex initially, with many fine adjustments. It actually requires a shift in people’s understanding, and their processes. FinOps is not just a solution, it’s not just a one-time action. It’s a continuous process that needs to be established and optimised.

    Q3: What resources do you recommend for people who want to learn more about FinOps?

    Firstly, I’d definitely recommend having O’Reilly’s Cloud FinOps on your bookshelf as a starter. Also, check out the FinOps Foundation community for a range of helpful basics and, if you’re looking for a real deep dive, prove your knowledge with the FinOps Practitioner certification, which I have done myself. 

    And at Nordcloud we’re providing some great tips for those interested in FinOps.  Our FinOps guide gives a great base level understanding, while our FinOps 101 and FinOps 102 blogs answer some key questions around the topic.

    Q4: You’re currently building a team of FinOps experts. What are the typical traits and skills you’re looking for?

    It’s important to have an understanding of the technical and financial sides of things. FinOps experts have to be mediators between the architects and the management and financial teams. It’s a unique area, where you need to be able to understand numbers, understand the technical side, and explain things in a clear way to every level and stakeholder. 

    Q5: You have an interest in Quantum Computing – do you see any correlations between FinOps and Quantum?

    It’s an interesting comparison. Quantum computing is becoming more and more democratised and accessible. Hyperscalers are super keen to provide quantum resources for tests and use cases. The resources are readily available, which makes it quite easy to access, experiment with, and eventually figure out use cases and business cases for the future. 

    So why is this interesting when thinking about FinOps? Well, FinOps – even if some find it a boring topic – is actually a pathway to innovation. FinOps will help businesses optimise their cloud infrastructure and processes, making them more cost-efficient, and in-turn enabling innovative technologies – like Quantum.

    You can run jobs thousands of times faster than before. This means less cost, faster results, faster speed to market. 

    It will be easier to process and manage data. Businesses won’t need to worry about the resource needed to oversee data or processes over long periods of time, because workflows will be so fast.  This fits perfectly into the notion of cloud being flexible, pay-as-you-go, just tapping resources when you need them.

    Q6: What’s the biggest misconception around FinOps?

    Sometimes, when we talk to businesses about FinOps, people think the result will be ‘I just have to resize servers”, or ‘I just need to scale back there’, or ‘I’ve done FinOps now, I’m finished, check.’ This is not the case. FinOps is really a culture.

    It’s a lifecycle: inform, operate, optimise. It’s a continuous activity, but many don’t understand the process, or the potential results. 

    Also, some say it’s a blocker for everything, much like they see security or compliance services. It won’t stop anything, it’s easy to integrate and, once up and running, will provide incredible value. It gives teams the possibility to innovate, be cost efficient, and fulfil the real potential of public cloud.

    Q7: What are we doing differently at Nordcloud around FinOps?

    While FinOps is very often seen as a blocker or a simple task, here at Nordcloud, we’re really trying to change this in the eyes of our clients and the market. We want to make it the cool part of cloud, something fun to do. We make it attractive and actionable.

    Also, with Nordcloud Klarity tools, I think we’re making it more actionable, more automated – this ‘autopilot’ approach that I think makes it more appealing. And we’re not stopping, we’ve got a great product and delivery teams here focused on making things better. It’s an exciting time for FinOps, for sure.

    Q8: Do you think that there will be a time when you feel like you are ‘done with FinOps’ and start to focus on other topics?

    I see FinOps as an evolving journey with lots of turns and iterations of the concept itself. Just like DevOps, it has a start, but at this point I’d say it also has no real end. This is just a new pattern of how to operate applications in the cloud and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Companies will need to adapt and learn fast to remain agile and effective on the budgeting and cost control side. By 2025, it will be too late to start thinking about regaining control over your cloud spend, and doing so not just from above, but from bottom-up preferably.

    Q9: How would you describe the characteristic ‘Max Guhl’ style?

    When people have a cloud consultant in mind, it’s usually a certain type of person. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s funny, I do believe that when people meet me they don’t expect a highly professional, high-performing cloud or FinOps expert. 

    In some ways, I take pride in this – I am relaxed, personable, and build excellent relationships with clients and colleagues, and I know my work speaks for itself. I can express myself, but I am also able to deliver at such a high level.

    Q10: How can people connect with you?

    Connect with me on LinkedIn or send me a messageI am quite active on my LinkedIn, so I’d encourage people to connect with me there. I like to share content, engage in conversations, speaking gigs, podcasts, all with the passion I have for everything cloud, technology, and FinOps. 

    Get in Touch.

    Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.

      Starter for 10: Meet Jonna Iljin, Nordcloud’s Head of Design

      When people start working with Nordcloud, they generally comment on 2 things. First, how friendly and knowledgeable everyone is. Second, how fast Nordcloud is growing.

      This blog series gives you insight into both those elements – the great people and the supercharged growth. In this article, we talk to Jonna Iljin, our new Head of Design, about her first impressions as a Nordcloudian and the cloud-native future.

      Q1: First impressions, Jonna: what struck you about your first week at Nordcloud?

      If I go back in time and think back to the interviews with different people, what I loved was the dynamic atmosphere and the energy that the people had. There is a very open and informal way of talking and sharing which gave me the confidence in joining.

      I was surprised by how easy it has been to reach out to people, and how friendly everyone is. Having all this energy and growth around me has been very welcoming.

      Q2: What made you decide to join Nordcloud?

      I would say, in simple terms, there were two main ingredients;

      The first is the energy of the people, and the second is that, as a team, we are able to impact where we are going from a design angle.

      We don’t really know what the finishing line looks like and it is inspiring to be part of this growth journey and to be involved in shaping how design is utilised and harnessed in this context. 

      For some designers, coming into a complex tech company might be perceived as challenging, but for me I see huge potential. Technology is driving a lot of what is happening in the world today and what Nordcloud is dealing with is deeply interesting, varied and new. Services and features which were previously not feasible are now available for use, providing new solutions and possibilities. Combining these factors with leading the design and development in a practical way makes this a very exciting challenge.

      Q3: Tell us a bit more about your background and journey to this point?

      I first started working in digital design during the dotcom bubble when digital businesses were booming and many companies were investing heavily into building and creating the first web services. It may not have been the ‘healthiest’ start to my career in terms of a normal work life – it was a crazy time in many ways – but was super interesting and inspiring!

      I would say I have had quite a logical path, every now and then changing roles, the approach, and point of view. I have always been keen to learn, and moved quite quickly from practical roles into more conceptual ones; what and why we are doing with a focus on user experience. I’ve worked at different consultancy companies, collecting experiences from different fields and organisations along the way.

      At one stage I really wanted to focus on business fundamentals, so I took a slight sidetrack, running a business for 2 years, gaining a different perspective into the day to day running of a digital business, an experience which has really helped me to this day.

      I jumped back into design and consultancy at a time where the whole design approach seemed to be broadening in the area of digital solution development. And now as the Head of Design at Nordcloud, I am operating in the intersection of strategic and UX design leading a team of designers within a fast-moving space.

      Q4: What do you see as your most exciting challenge as Nordcloud’s new Design lead?

      For me it’s that we’re only just starting to see the full potential and benefits of design within an IT context. Human-driven design and traditional IT used to be very far from each other, but now we start to see that gap finally closing in. And through that, we actually end up talking about larger transformation within organisations, than “just” IT infrastructure development. It’s a larger phenomena, where design has an essential role.

      And even though this might sound visionary, our approach is very practical: We’re focusing on the human-aspect of processes and great user experience of digital services. We’re not selling design…well, for the sake of selling “design”. Design alone has no value, it needs to be utilised in a context – for example in new service innovations, digital process development or organisational transformation.

      Design influences the way we feel, the decisions we make and the actions we take. In our case, we need to define what this means within a cloud native company. 

      Q5: What should Nordcloud customers look out for over the next 12 months?

      We are working closely with customers to have a more strategic level partnership, ensuring we can help clients throughout their cloud journey, being it about cloud driven transformation or new digital business creation. With design I think you see this embedded throughout these journeys and not just as an add-on at implementation.

      Q6: What does the term ‘cloud native’ mean to you?

      Cloud native can be interpreted differently by different people depending on the context. For me in design, cloud native means the tools and processes that allow us to embrace the cloud.

      The immediate obvious elements relate to speed and utlisation of the most modern technologies. New tools make it possible to create things in a different way than they used to. With advances such as AI and machine learning we’re able to create totally new concepts, things which were not possible earlier. And even better yet, we get to implement these solution concepts fast, making them tangible and functional early on – and thus we get to deliver value to client organisations fast.

      Q7: How do you see the IBM and Nordcloud philosophies working together?

      From within the growing design team at Nordcloud, I see the acquisition with IBM as a “joining of forces.” Especially with resources and skills, there is a lot that can be shared. IBM has been working on combining cloud and design for some time already, so I’m eager to dive more into this and how we can work together.

      Q8: How would you describe the characteristic ‘Jonna Iljin’ style?

      I would say my signature style is positive, empowering, collaborative, systematic and process-driven. I tend to create processes to tackle a problem – everything is a process to me. 

      My personal approach is that I strongly believe in people and their capabilities. There are a lot of great skills and abilities, often hidden within people, so I like to try to make that visible and to support that person to grow and develop. This benefits the organisation on many levels, from culture through to business performance.

      Q9: What do you like doing outside of work?

      Outside of work you can find me in the Alps, doing mountain sports. I have also climbed some of the “high mountains” – The Andes and The Himalayas.

      Fun fact: I used to work as a mountain travel-leader while I was freelancing, and while it’s certainly different to design, in both fields I’ve always been keen to help people on that journey up the mountain. And to reach that summit, you gotta enjoy the process along the way!

      Q10: How can people connect with you?

      Connect with me on LinkedIn or send me a message.

      Get in Touch.

      Let’s discuss how we can help with your cloud journey. Our experts are standing by to talk about your migration, modernisation, development and skills challenges.