Hive x Papukaya: Why Should Companies Hire Junior Talent?

Some companies rely on senior-level talent only but… Why? In this blog, Drussila Hollanda and Johannes Ahvenniemi from Papukaya share their insight on why companies should rethink their approach to talent. In their experience, bringing junior talent into a company has many benefits.

Papukaya is a Helsinki-based mobile games studio that wants to bring the joy of gaming to new audiences. Papukaya was founded by, as they call themselves, two gaming veterans Drussila Hollanda and Johannes Ahvenniemi. They are on a mission to challenge the way the games are made by rethinking what type of games are developed, who will develop them and how to create the right kind of culture to support the work.

In this blog, we’re diving more specifically into their insight and experiences of working with junior coders and developers. Papukaya recently recruited a Hive intern who then got hired as a full-time Junior Game Programmer only halfway into the internship, after two months of working with the team. What type of benefits do Drussila and Johannes see junior talent can bring to companies? How to make those hires successful and support the company’s objectives? Without further ado – let’s get started!

You recently hired an intern, Lukas, from Hive. What has your experience been like?

Johannes: The experience was extremely positive. We started the internship with open minds: We didn't know exactly what to expect, would we gain anything from it, could we even make it work. It was like a leap of faith for us. But only in a matter of weeks, we were seeing positive signs. Lukas was proactively implementing and fixing things, picking up all kinds of responsibilities here and there, and really felt like a core team member.

Two months in we knew we wanted to hold on to him and offered a permanent contract, which luckily he accepted! All in all, we're really happy we did it, and that we also did it at such an early stage of our company. Now that we know there is such a large pool of great developers out there, we feel more confident about our future growth.

Drussila: We knew we wanted to try hiring from Hive as early as possible to support our company mission to build a diverse team with different perspectives that enable us to build games for broader audiences. In this regard, we were happy to confirm our hypothesis. Even though Lukas had never made games before joining Papukaya, he was curious and learned about all aspects of the business quickly. Soon he was not only contributing on the coding side, but also made the product better with a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas.

Lukas at Papukaya

Why do we need fresh talent and what kinds of benefits do they bring to companies?

Johannes: A big challenge in our industry, and many others, is that the talent pool is too small. Because we're constantly in a pinch it's hard to make the right hires, or any hires at all for that matter. A good fit for a role is not only about skills, it's also about other traits. Some people are passionate, some are pedantic, some are sociable. Someone likes systematic checklists, someone likes creative exploration. All of these traits are needed in different roles, but matching these traits with high skill requirements in a competitive market is extremely hard.

One way out of the pinch is to embrace the fact that skills can be learned. This opens up a much larger pool of talent. By investing in mentoring it becomes much easier to find people who are a great fit for the company. With this approach, the only skill required is the skill to learn – which Hivers have proven to be extremely good at.

Drussila: Juniors also give you an opportunity to build on blank canvases. They bring energy, fresh perspectives, curiosity and the growth mindset any company needs, without being already set in their ways. There’s nothing for them to “unlearn”. They’ll seamlessly blend into your way of working and company culture, which also fosters loyalty. In addition, investing in juniors is a great way to build a more diverse talent pipeline which many companies are currently struggling with.

How to make a junior-level hire successful? What is needed from the company?

Johannes: First of all we had quite an extensive interview process. It ended up being longer than we thought, only because all of the candidates were really good but we could only choose one. The process started with a very light assignment designed to test the capability of learning new things. It was also a good chance for the candidate to better undestand what the job would be like. Then we had multiple discussions, sometimes with the whole team. We also shared the game we're working on, asked for feedback, and tried to see who is most interested in the project. In the end, it all paid off. We made an excellent hire.

We also took onboarding seriously. The first priority was to have Lukas make his first commit to the code, giving him ownership. From there it's been a balance of giving freedom and helping out. But mostly giving freedom, always aiming to give more ownership. It's not a time sink at all!

What would you say to companies and decision-makers who think hiring junior talent isn’t going to work for them?

Drussila: I think a lot of the hesitancy comes from confusing mentorship with hand-holding. While providing support and good onboarding is important for a junior to thrive, Hivers are proactive and collaborative problem-solvers. Many of them already had work experience in different fields. They’ll adapt in no time!

Johannes: Hiring an intern from Hive is a very low-risk experiment. If it doesn't work out, it's only four months. But it's quite likely that it will work out. People have a tendency to surprise positively!

Well, nothing to add here. Thank you, Johannes and Drussila!

If you are interested in hiring a Hiver, or learning more about the collaboration between Hive and companies across all industries, contact Emilia Puschmann (, Hive’s Head of Career Services.