Monday, 28 May 2012

Michal Jirásek

A Meeting with Michal Jirásek

Michal Jirásek, 22, is an exchange student from Czech Republic, Brno, which is the second largest city in the country. Brno is almost double the size of Tampere with its 400 000 inhabitants. Michal is studying International Business here at TAMK for a full academic year and is heading back home on May. He revealed some of the reasons why he chose Finland in the first place.

-          In my home country, Czech Republic, Finland has a really good reputation when it comes to its education system. I had visited Scandinavia several times before, and liked it, so I preferred to go somewhere north. This is my first time in Finland though.

In addition to his International Business studies, Michal was part of New Factory Demola's project. Demola is situated in Tampere’s idyllic Finlayson area. Demola connects capable students with real know-how to real life companies, whose operations need polishing or there is a specific problem to be solved. Students often work in multicultural teams with clear work distribution and roles.

Michal acted a project manager in a team that worked for SportOnline, a service designed to organize ice hockey tournaments for young players.

Michal got the first influence of Demola already during TAMK’s orientation days, before his actual business studies. Annually 400 students partake in Demola’s operations and projects. However, not everybody gets in, because there is a selection process.

-          It is important to show that you are enthusiastic about doing a certain project. I was applying to be the project manager, but I also mentioned in the interview - as our project was about a sports website – that I am interested in sports myself, too, Michal explains.

Demola has clearly invested in comfy and innovative premises. There are plenty of couches lying around, clever banners on the walls and all the work stations are equipped with top-notch technology, not to mention the inviting coffee room.

-          The first time I went to the Demola premises I felt as though the scene was from movies, a really innovative feeling, Michal says.

In Demola the students do not have a saying in assembling the project teams. Michal did not know who he was going to work with before the first team meeting at Demola premises, led by Demola’s own supervisor. This kind of an arrangement emphasizes tolerance and good interaction skills between the participating students. In Michal’s case the team consisted of two Spaniards - Alicia Fernandéz and Diego Pinedo Escribano - and one Indian, Simon Ranjith. The team also had one Pakistani member, but he decided to give up on the project halfway through. The unfortunate event shook the team’s grounds at first, but Diego and Simon were able to take over his tasks and the team could continue to operate without any major issues. Michal also pointed out that there was not any quarrel about the roles within the team. Everybody had a pretty clear vision of their skills and the roles formed accordingly.

SportOnline, the company the team collaborated with, is currently only focusing on ice-hockey. However, Marko Vihriälä, who worked as a supervisor and SportOnline’s representative in the project, revealed the company is planning on expanding its services in the future to other sports as well. These sports would include at least football and floor ball.

SportOnline’s task to the project group was to make the website appear more appealing, optimize its services and enhance the front-end user experience, a factor in which the company clearly was lacking. Michal describes the most fundamental issue as follows.

-          At first the whole company page included just a few paragraphs and it was not designed nicely. It was not representative.

Michal’s group had regular, weekly, meetings to evaluate the team’s progress and catch up with timely issues. Their supervisor actively participated in meetings to give insight and feedback.

-          He (Marko) was almost in every meeting, which was a somewhat different situation compared to other teams, Michal says.

Despite being actively present Marko gave the group plenty of own responsibility and decisive power.

The group also had a Demola supervisor, officially named ‘facilitator’. It is a standard procedure and each group operating in Demola gets one. It is through him the reporting to Demola takes place.

Michal’s team divided the work in three main packages for them to work on; outlook & business, homepage and tournament site. According to Michal the homepage was relatively easy to renew and did not take too much time. However, the actual tournament section of the site was the most challenging one.

-          Creating the homepage was not that difficult, because it was a static page mostly containing text. The tournament site was more difficult, because it included databases for instance, explains Michal.

Michal had never acted as a project manager before in his life. Especially at first he faced a lot of challenges and did some natural mistakes. Michal had some issues in the beginning to fully understand his role and obligations within the team. However, gradually he learned about things and really felt he was getting better and better at guiding the team.

Michal Jirásek

The SportOnline project is now finished. With some problems in financing the company has not been able to buy the license, at least not yet. The company was, however, happy with the outcome and Michal group’s work was well received. More important than the finished product, Michal thinks the process as a whole was the most beneficial for the company, as it generated plenty of valuable ideas and insight.

Michal is happy he decided to choose Demola and feels he has learned a bunch along the way.

-          To be fair, working there was really hard at first, but now I feel I have a better understanding in several different fields now.

Michal is leaving for Czech Republic at the end of May. He has enjoyed his stay here and wishes for bearable weather conditions for the rest of his stay.

Text and pictures: Joona Jylhälehto, Trainee at Tampere University of Applies Sciences

No comments: