Sunday, July 8, 2012

An Estonian Weekend and a Finnish Afternoon

I am currently sitting in the airport in Riga, Latvia waiting to board a plane to go back to Vilnius after spending a weekend in Tallinn, Estonia. We arrived here early Friday afternoon. In the taxi ride from the airport to the hostel I almost felt that I could be somewhere in the United States. Tallinn felt much more western than Vilnius. The taxi was much nicer, the roads were wider, and the buildings newer. We determined that it may be because, as opposed to Vilnius, Tallinn is a port city which may make it more modernized. The first think that we did was go to Tallinn University to have a short lecture on the history of Estonia. At the lecture we were told just how old Estonia was and that there are a lot of buildings that are left from medieval times. Through the rest of the weekend I found it interesting that while driving through Tallinn you might see a medieval-looking tower and in the same block a very modern glass skyscraper.
After the history lecture we went on a tour of the Skype headquarters. The tour was short but I think we all enjoyed it. Skype seems like it would be an amazing place to work because of the culture and the atmosphere. I have made a list of the top five things I liked best about Skype, here they are:
1.All of the office space was open with no cubicle walls or closed off manager’s offices. The woman who gave us the tour told us that they believe that employees should be able to openly interact with their managers and so the managers desk will be with everyone else’s.
2. You don’t have to share a desk. I haven’t heard of many places that you have to share your desk and computer with other places but we were told that Microsoft is one place. What this means for the employees is that they are able to make their workspace their own. What this meant for us is that we saw some very interestingly decorated desks!
3. They have made many rooms designed specifically for…. Skyping! Some of them have adjustable lighting and the acoustics set up for optimal Skyping. There are others that are just sound proof with comfy chairs that are perfect for just taking some time to you.
4.The color. That may not seem like all that important of a detail but I think it did. The office building itself was fairly old with many of the walls being plain concrete. They made up for this with some great decorating. There were so many random places with colorful cushions, pillows, beanbags, and couches. It made the whole building feel very inviting.
5.They had many break rooms with coffee, tea, and snacks and also a cafeteria where everything was free. We were told that they believe that by providing these things there employees will be more productive and that it has paid off because a lot of work really does get done in the cafeteria. While we were there they were actually in the process of construction of a new, larger cafeteria.
Even though it made for a busy and somewhat exhausting day I am glad that I was able to go to Estonia and see what Skype was like. It definitely has made me more interested in them as a company.
On Saturday the group of us decided that we were going to take a ferry to Finland. Half the group got on a the ferry at 7:30 a.m. but one girl from UNC, two girls from Portugal and I missed the ferry and ended up taking one that left at 10:30 a.m. The trip was only about two hours so that gave us about six hours for us to tour Helsinki. We walked around looking at all of the old, beautiful buildings and large cathedrals. We also toured an art museum doing a show about a Finnish artist named Helene Schjerfbeck and did some shopping. Overall we decided that Helsinki was maybe not the most exciting place to spend your day but we were definitely glad that we went.
Now we are headed back to Vilnius bringing my first weekend in Europe to an end!


  1. Karla Mom & David DadJuly 8, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    You are becoming quite the world traveler.
    Why did you miss the ferry though? Are there going to be other trips out of the country or just around Lithuania? We are waiting with baited breath for more pictures.

    1. It is sort of a long story about why we missed the ferry but it was because we ended up waiting for a taxi that wasn't comming and had to call a new taxi. We got to the port 10 minutes before the ferry left but you had to be there 20 before to be able to board the ferry.

      We do not have any other trips planned to leave Lithuania but this weekend we will be going to the beach, Palanga. I will post more pictures as soon as I can.

  2. I know, I can't wait to see pix. We're just gonna have to make a day of it when you get back. One comment about the Skype headquarters: I'm not so sure it would be that great for the managers to have their desks right in the middle of everyone else's because then there's no privacy for things like talking to an employee about their job performance. I suppose you could go in a conference room or something, but it seems like having an office would be more convenient. And I will add that I understand the need for cubicles to reduce background noise when there is a lot of phone work being done. Even if the equipment is good enough that the caller could only hear me, I might have difficulty hearing the caller. But maybe that's why I don't work in a place like that. And maybe Ben has some input...?

    1. Even in places like I've worked in which are semi-cubicaled it can sometimes be hard to hear the person on the other end of the phone. Especially when you have a single-earpiece headset. The double-earpiece headsets are very helpful in blocking out background noise but sometimes I still have to put my hands over them and press the earpieces tight in order to hear the customer.

  3. It was actually very quiet in the office. I guess just not as many people talking on phones than you think there would be. Also, there are just so many little rooms and small meeting rooms that they used for things like phone calls and meetings (including like you were talking about with managers and employees). And also, it apparently works for them, otherwise they would not keep it that way, or be so successful.

  4. So is the class a History class? I am pretty sure you already told me but no surprise I forgot. Is it more of a classroom lecture or a tour around town lecture?

    I would love to work there. It sounds like fun. How could you miss a ferry to Finland lol. As long as you do not miss the plane back home, I think you are safe. Miss you.

  5. So all it was in Estonia was a one time lecture on the history, in a classroom. It would have been very interesting if it was a tour around town history lesson because there were plenty of buildings that I would have loved to know the history on.

    And to answer your other question, we missed the ferry to Finland because we ended up waiting too long for a taxi to take us to the port that never ended up comming.