How Sami Hakala Balances 3 Careers (Musician, Coach, Corporate)

by | Sep 27, 2021

Meet Sami “Haxu” Hakala. He’s a talented multi-careerist who works a corporate job while also being a musician and coach. We struck up a conversation over LinkedIn, and I’m glad that we did. Here you’ll find his insights on how he’s built a hyphenated career that works for him.

Sami’s Careers

  • Development Director at Housemarque, Finland’s oldest video game company
  • Performing musician in National Nightmare, music producer, partner in Hawaji recording studio
  • Owner of Exciting Outcomes; coaching high performance teams and individuals and organizing tactical training

On his motivations for many careers

Being able to work with the best creative and tactical teams and experts is my top motivation. I am continually amazed and motivated by their skill, capability and commitment to their crafts and that makes me try harder and develop myself not just as a professional but as a human being too. I am very grateful that I have been accepted to the quite small circles of experts in games, music and tactics.

On how long he’s had these careers

I played my first paid gigs in 1991. I think that counts? It has to.

[In]1998 I started in games as a sound designer and music composer.

I’ve been coaching companies and individuals for the past ten years in project and product management, agile transformations, even before Exciting Outcomes, but as a tactical training organizer I am a late bloomer. Been doing that now for five years at a level that counts.

Advice to aspiring multi-careerists

Try it out ASAP. You miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take.

Time is special. You don’t have an unlimited supply of it. You waste time, you waste life. How do you want to use your limited supply of life? I want to be creative and do fun projects with great people. This alone would count as a success in my books. Maybe this could be your motivation too to start?

Overcoming obstacles

I push all three to the max. I have learned you can have only one point of main effort. When I was younger I had problems with scheduling and managing my downtime resulting in bad quality. Dividing focus between several complicated and complex efforts was too much. Then you take a step back, go back to basics, kick your problems to the middle of the room to re-prioritize, find your way out of the chaos to a domain where you can make an impact and get on with it again.

On how careers are mutually beneficial

I bring everything that I learn from the tactical side and music to my work in video games. To mention a few I have consulted weapons and tactical movement in motion capture, I have helped writers to make military radio communications more realistic and obviously I have my small part in sound design and music too. I run all three with mission-command (auftragstaktik) and agile principles and that actually has made me quite good at coaching those principles into organizations in different industries. From games I bring attention to detail, project management, presentation skills, facilitation techniques, conflict resolution, etc. to other two careers.

On finding balance

My spouse for 29 years has always been supportive and encouraged me to take prudent risk with my ambitions. She has a challenging engineering job and purposeful hobbies, and to manage our time we synchronize a shared family calendar together. It’s mostly smooth sailing between a producer and an engineer.

On something wishes to have learned sooner

That it’s possible to achieve a great level of success, skill and personal satisfaction in multiple demanding careers. There was a time when I focused solely on day job career building and I was if not unhappy, quite unsatisfied. I didn’t record any music, didn’t have an active band, no game contracting, I stopped going to jujutsu. I learned comparatively late, but not too late, that being disciplined and actively choosing where to spend your life points makes fun experiences and great things happen in life.

Suggested reading

Being organized, disciplined and a good leader is the key for me so I’d like to recommend two modern classics:

Overcoming the stigma of multiple careers

This has never been a problem for me. Maybe some people have wanted me to prove my level of professionalism more than with just one career?

I think the tactical training was the hardest to enter as a newbie. It took time building trust in those circles (and for a good reason obviously) and getting people to participate in training sessions arranged by someone who doesn’t do it full time.

On his ultimate goal

While I enjoy accomplishments a lot I enjoy the journey the most. This took me a while also to learn about myself. My ultimate goal is to keep doing these things or other things I might find and learn in the future until old age stops me. Luckily there are many ways to scale these careers to fit old physique and energy. I just hope my mind stays relatively sharp.

On what to share with corporate colleagues

I think my colleagues would say that “Sharing information on your other careers is not a problem for you, Sami.” I am like those crossfitters; I will let you know about them and I am quite skilled at plugging them in the conversation in innovative ways.

Housemarque is very supportive to all kinds of personal pursuits and people here have very ambitious hobbies. That means we also discuss them a lot and draw inspiration to the games we make.

On how to sublimate ego at the day job

Here I’d like to quote myself; “After an arena show nothing beats household chores to keep you grounded in reality.” Having a normal family life is the key.

My day job at the Housemarque is not at all banal – we make AAA video games and after Sony bought the company we are now part of the Sony Studios family.

If anything, my other careers suffer from my “banal” office job ego.

A Day in the Life

Discipline, routines and time management are my “secret” weapon.

  • 0600 Wake up, morning routine and commute/telecommute.
  • 0645 Work starts with Development Director Daily, an 11 item checklist ranging from reading Slack messages to checking project statuses.
  • 0700 Pre-booked focus work
  • 0900 Meetings start at Housemarque, if not in a meetings, then focus work
  • 1200 -1230 lunch
  • 1230 Meetings or pre-booked focus work
  • 1600 Daily Wrap Up 11 item checklist ranging from saving files to quick self reflection; what did I learn today?
  • 1700 Break and exercise.
  • 1900 Most weekday evenings; family time, National Nightmare promotion and music publishing, planning coaching and training sessions, band practice, reading/gaming, writing songs, relaxing and unwinding in good time before bed.

On Fridays I plan the following week with a checklist with tasks like “Book time for focus work” and most importantly, book time for recovery and reflection.

I also plan monthly goals for all careers. Helps to sync and prioritize them. I visualize everything into midterm timelines and long term roadmaps. Keeps me overexerting.

Quite many of my weekends are spent in a recording studio or at the shooting range or CQB houses.

Where to find Sami


Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.

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