Everything in its right place: interview with Jussi Kivilinna, Haltian Chief Architect Embedded Software
It’s been said that it takes about 10 000 hours of practice to become really good at something, or indeed, anything.
Bill Gates had the good fortune of attending Lakeside, which had one of the first mainframes, where he spent thousands of hours before having a computer of his own and starting what we now know as Microsoft. The Beatles clocked their hours playing 12 hours a day in Hamburg for months, becoming ready for their first album, and it’s fair to say every single athlete at the top has pretty much lived at the training course, regardless of the sport. No matter how much we’d like to have it handed to us on a plate, talent just doesn’t appear out of nowhere.
Same goes for Jussi Kivilinna, Haltian’s Chief Architect Embedded Software. He started programming in 1993 when he was 12, when a friend from school brought him a copy of Turbo Pascal from school. From Turbo Pascal, he moved on to game mods and anti-cheat software, learning C and Assembler in the process, giving himself a deep knowledge of the languages and the way games were programmed and staying passionate about it. “Sometimes I worked 16 hours a day, but these days I’ve learned that it’s not worth it.” To be clear about it, let’s remember that those days coding was a hobby for him, not a job.
Programming was a hobby that took over
For someone with an architect in his title, Kivilinna has his fingers in many pies. Like the conventional architect, he needs to see that the dynamics of the program collaborate accordingly. But he does a lot more besides. Of course, he does quite a bit of programming, but also finds errors in the code, and errors in the errors – he calls himself a jack of all trades. Is this something that is usual in the work of a software architect? “I have no idea”, he says, and continues noting that he’s only worked in programming in Haltian.
The reason to this is that he was studying chemistry in the university when he decided to switch his studies to computer science. At first he was hesitant, not wanting to lose a good hobby for a profession. “At that time, I used to program Linux kernel drivers after school.” But after receiving his bachelor’s degree, he decided that maybe coding could be more than a pastime taken very seriously, and still be interesting.
Deep-diving into the code
What he likes in his work is the diversity of projects, with similarities in methods. “I like to hone things to perfection. Make the energy consumption as low as possible. Things like that”, he says. The diversity shows: where Snowfox was small and very energy efficient, his latest project is AC powered and energy isn’t an issue, but mesh connectivity and independent routing is. Rather than think about a favorite kind of project, he says he likes certain tasks that become different in every project.
Regardless of what he’s doing, it all ends up with code. “It’s easy to get lost in the code, saying ‘I’ll just fix this’, and suddenly it’s an hour later. And you still say it, and then realize you’re two hours late of something.” But he can’t help it. “The best bugs are those that are impossible to catch at first, so you start to dig deeper into the code, and then you find more bugs. And all the while you understand the code better, delving into the details of the program.” But he says that regardless – or maybe because – of all that deep-diving into the code, sometimes the solution is clear in his mind in the morning, after a good night’s sleep. “It’s somewhere in the subconscious.”