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.

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