Look, Listen, Learn

Erik Vasaasen - CTO for Okay

I had a pretty normal Norwegian upbringing, with my early years spent in a rural tree-laden farming community. Most of my adult life has been lived in Oslo, which came after completing my Computer Science studies in Halden. Immediately after I graduated, I started working in the industry and did so for 5 consecutive years. However, I quickly learned that I didn’t have much interest in large conglomerates or multinational corporations. It felt too bureaucratic and slow-moving for my taste. So I gradually made my way over to freelance. That way, I could control who I worked with, what I worked with, and how I could best utilize my free time. 

Human Curiosity

Freelancing is how I have been able to work and study my passions at the same time. For me, knowledge means everything. Sure it is power, but it also fuels my curiosity about the world in which we live. If something sparks my interest for long enough, I see that as good of a reason as any to formally educate myself on it. This happened with Psychology - I first received a bachelor’s in the subject before getting my master’s in Work & Organizational Psychology. I thought this would be a great way to better understand why people work the way they do in business settings and how mental health issues affect the workplace.  

My master’s thesis was fascinating - it was on the topic of regret. The takeaway from my experiment? People are more likely to regret a loss if they change their minds than if they just stuck to their initial choice. 

After psychology, I took up a new degree in Political Science. I learned a lot about the history of cities and the way they were designed. I was very calculated about it and my efforts. I figured out that if I put in 60 hours per semester per class, it would be enough to get a solid grade. For me, it was never about being the best - it was just about learning enough to grasp the subject. However, my favorite subject always remained computer science. Looking back on it all now, I think the red thread that tied all these subjects together was the idea of a system. How things work, and the history behind it.

I, Robot?

Personally, I believe we can have systems modeled after almost anything except humans. While we can assume, I don’t think we can ever accurately predict human behavior to the extent of making fully functioning robots. Same with organizations: you can have theories and laws about how people work, but it is often not the case in practice. Perhaps the one exception that could get us close is collecting massive amounts of data over many years. Sure, Google and Facebook are doing this right now, but is it really that efficient? They collect our information to sell stuff through targeted advertisements. And do the majority of people actually buy from those ads? No. It’s why I think it’s more important to work on your product, not on your ads. The product should kind of sell itself; organic growth has much more value in this sense. 

Up until the age of 10, I wanted to be a librarian. That’s how much I loved books and reading. To this day, outside of work, reading is still one of the most significant parts of my life.

I love reading all sorts of things. Right now, I am really into Chinese fan translations, martial arts, and cultivation novels. I like the difference in cultural perspectives, especially when it’s a piece that has been written for a Chinese audience and translated by someone with appropriate cultural understanding. I believe its really important to never stop exercising your mind. I guess that’s also why I’ve loved studying so much. Taking a 3-hour exam is like running a marathon! Maybe Archeology will be next? World history? Art? Anything would be fun! That’s the beauty of my life - do more, read more, live more.