MeetFrank, a job search app for remote work, has been growing rapidly as tech talent is looking for new opportunities across borders.
“The demand for remote jobs is exploding — The number of applications has risen 400% in just half a year,” says Kaarel Holm, Co-Founder and CEO of MeetFrank. Indeed, remote work is now more popular than ever, with major employers announcing a shift to a fully remote workforce seemingly every week.
The rise in popularity, which was accelerated by the pandemic, is not a surprise as remote jobs bring many benefits to talents. In addition to flexibility in work time and location, remote work often comes with a sizable salary increase. For example, a mid-senior marketer working fully remotely for a company in the Netherlands might make up to 80% more than if working in the same position in Portugal.
Even considering the benefits, actually finding a remote job might seem like a tedious task. MeetFrank has tackled this problem by developing a clever algorithm that recommends the best jobs out of 150,000+ active offers. After setting up your preferences, like skills and expected salary, the app keeps you up to date with the best job offers available for you.
To make sure great job offers won’t go unnoticed, MeetFrank has already added over 5,000 companies to the platform, including the top tech employers like Airbnb, Spotify, Revolut and Nord Security. “There are the most remote job offers in software engineering, sales, and data analysis. But there’s also quite a lot of demand for marketers and designers,” concludes Kaarel Holm.
As businesses around the world start heading towards a data-oriented approach, they are looking for automated ways to analyze publicly available data. Such is the solution provided by Oxylabs, a company that provides data API platforms like scrapers and proxy-related infrastructure.
Recently we sat down with Zydrunas Tamasauskas, Head of Product Development, to learn about how they manage fast-moving engineering teams, their go-to technologies and the overall approach to developing new products used by Fortune 500 companies.
🔵 Tell us a bit about Oxylabs as a company. What are your products and what’s unique about them?
Oxylabs really stands as a great, fast-moving tech company developing data services. We work with world-class engineering solutions and product development activities, where uniqueness comes in many forms. Our engineering department builds solutions that are yet to be patented or even applied in practice with high load and distributed computing systems.
Our main products are proxy and web-scraping tools. To put it simply, we provide an infrastructure to gather large-scale public data using web-scraping technology. What’s distinct about our services is the quality – our clients are among the largest companies in the world, many being listed in Fortune 500.
🔵 What drives you forward in the competitive market?
Being one of the top 3 products in the field is a great motivation by itself. The question is how to move up from there?
We have no singular path forward, which is why we love to experiment, innovate and fail fast to stay competitive. I’d say this drives us the most. The notion of building something faster, more effective, and completely new to the world drives engineering teams forward and thus affects product and marketing too. This makes us feel like inventors that bring change to the market.
🔵 Are you a product or a data-driven company? How do you measure the success of your products?
I believe as a company, we are product-led and data-informed. Data can be inaccurate and misleading, so sometimes, we just need to trust our hearts and minds. Being one of the leaders in the industry means that there are no footsteps to follow. That’s why we use our qualitative and quantitative data to get an idea of what we are going to build next.
As we strive to build better products, we measure metrics like customer satisfaction, ease of use, adoption rate, support issues, and similar. Of course, from the business perspective, product revenue always plays an important role. On a personal level, positive feedback from our customers who use the product daily and love it makes us proud and drives us to do even better.
🔵 Is there a way to predict the next big thing in the market that might just be the game-changer?
Since we are pioneers in our field, a large share of the innovation comes from our own people. Most of the developers at Oxylabs have been using proxies or data scraping at some point in their careers, so we try to build products for ourselves. This helps us figure out new product ideas and use cases. Then we start with building an MVP (minimum viable product) and check if something sticks. If it doesn’t, we scrap it and go for another big idea.
Some MVPs can be done even without writing a single line of code by using no-code or low code tools. We live by the idea of failing fast, improving faster. So, to answer the question: we don’t try to predict the next big thing. We just observe what features our users adapt and keep polishing them.
🔵 What, if any, are the go-to technologies at Oxylabs?
We don’t consider ourselves ‘tech-purists’, so we constantly incorporate something new to our tech stack, but it also depends on the hiring market.
Here in Vilnius, PHP is the most popular language, which is quite a nice language for writing APIs. We use Python for parsing, scraping, and data analysis due to its awesome libraries. In the front-end, React is a no-brainer as we also build browser extensions, mobile apps, and desktop apps (Electron, React Native). Golang is a fast language, so it was crucial to use it in our infrastructure, which gets an insane amount of load. As our front-end developers are switching to full-stack, we are now also incorporating Node.js, which gives them a lot of new cool stuff to learn.
🔵 How do you know what is the right technology to go with? How to stay relevant?
The choices depend on what we are doing with the technology, the appliances or goals that we strive to achieve, and what talent pool we have internally to use it. We already have a stable technology stack, and we evaluate new ones if we see them potentially beneficial for the product or the engineering community.
At some point, there might be a situation where previously widespread technology or framework falls in popularity, degrades in quality, or the hiring market dries up. Then we have to take action and replace it with something new and more exciting. Relevancy is an important topic for us given the scale of operations – we currently provide services in 216 countries and sell over 100M IPs while offering 24/7 service reliability.
🔵 Technology, engineering, and challenges – Is it a golden ratio for tech employees?
Yes, I tend to agree. Times have passed when you could impress potential employees with the latest hardware. For tech people to feel appreciated is to create conditions for personal growth, trying new things, and bringing new ideas to keep boredom away.
Tech talent wants to contribute, to have colleagues that support them throughout, and probably most importantly – they want to solve challenges that expand their knowledge base. People naturally want to grow. What makes you thrive as an employer is providing talent with challenges and tools so they can achieve personal growth.
🔵 How do you maintain this golden ratio? What are the management challenges?
The management challenges are relatively small. Most of the management at Oxylabs has a technology background, so they have faced similar challenges and know both inefficiencies and best practices. Specifically, in engineering teams, we thrive in a feedback culture. We listen to people, help them remove any roadblocks, and welcome all internal initiatives.
This lets us make fast decisions and allows pivoting from one technology to another if engineers are looking for a change of pace. Some examples might be switching from PHP to Golang, React.js to Node.js, Python or Django to Fast API. The best thing is the absence of a lengthy approval process – in most cases, only the Project Manager’s or Tech Lead’s approval is needed before an engineer can change the tech they’re working with, as long as it will do its job and is stable.
🔵 And what about quality & customer satisfaction? What part does it play in product development?
Quality and customer satisfaction are interrelated and cannot be separated, as we are a product-led company. At Oxylabs, we employ dedicated teams for parts of the product life cycle. Technology, product metrics, product-market strategy, sales, and all other relevant fields – these are all just pieces of a single puzzle. Our people stand united and motivated to deliver the very best possible product.
It is reflected by our Trustpilot rating of 4.7 with over 300 reviews from paid customers. Since we are led by our product and not necessarily the market, user feedback is crucial. The e-commerce self-service world is harsh, and customers tend to turn away if they are not happy. When thinking about our delivery to the end-user, we always strive to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Founded in Sweden in 2016, Favro is a collaborative planning platform for fast-growing SaaS and live games companies. They raised $4.3 million in seed funding at the end of 2021, led by pan-Baltic venture capital fund Practica Capital and followed by Scale Capital and serial entrepreneur Christopher Beselin. Previous investors Inbox Capital and Creandum, an early investor in Spotify, also participated in the round.
The investment will help Favro scale its Lithuanian office, which will be the global center for marketing, sales, account management, and agile advisory. Edvinas Vosylius, Chief Sales Officer at Favro, told us everything you need to know.
🔵 Let’s start the interview by briefly discussing the product itself. We have all used Trello/Asana/Scoro/Notion/pick-your-productivity-tool. Why do teams around the world need another productivity app? How Favro differs from others?
Favro was created by industry veterans. They previously built Hansoft, a successful platform for agile software development, which is used by large companies in telecom, defence, electronics, and game development. Today, startups, enterprises, and game developers are all becoming SaaS businesses. Favro’s founders realised that to stay competitive, these companies have to make the whole organisation agile, not just development.
Favro was designed to tackle these challenges with collaborative agile planning that allows all teams to stay in sync autonomously. Executives and managers can apply a modern approach to leadership – be facilitators managing the flow of work rather than micromanagers of tasks.
🔵 Favro launched in Sweden back in 2016. Where are you today?
At the moment, Favro has more than 1500 clients, including world-renowned brands such as Wolt, Xbox, Disney, SAP and EA. Our team is only 26 people with international talent from 6 different countries.
🔵 In addition to HQ in Sweden, Favro already has offices in Vietnam & Ukraine, and now you are expanding to Lithuania. How did Favro find Lithuania and you as the head of its global sales operations?
In order to build an international team and attract multinational tech companies as clients, one needs a global network.
I met Patric Palm, CEO & Founder of Favro, in 2017 at one of Rotary’s global events. We kept in touch afterwards, and I found myself discussing SaaS and global expansion with Patric in December 2019. It turned out that my experience and Favro’s needs matched perfectly. Now, our Lithuanian office already has 8 employees.
🔵 Why do you think Vilnius is the best place for a new office out of all the potential options?
Vilnius has a unique community of young, ambitious, experienced, yet humble professionals. The local talent is appreciated due to their business mindset and strong drive. The work done over the past decade to develop the startup ecosystem shows tangible results, but there’s always room to improve.
🔵 Patric Palm, Founder and CEO of Favro, said that the Vilnius office launch coincides with a shift from “organic growth to more structured organisation development”. Could you expand on what that means?
For the first three years, Favro’s growth was solely led by the product, with the help of some social media marketing. The company didn’t have a team for sales and account management.
However, we noticed that both enterprises and startups were eager to speak with us since the product builds upon deep agile management thought-leadership. They want to learn straight from the experts before buying the product. So, we developed a new strategy to support global growth with a team for sales, account management and product/agile advisory based in Lithuania.
We are also recruiting more developers, but that team is fully remote so brilliant candidates for those positions can really live anywhere.
Favro’s go-to-market leadership team. From the left: Edvinas Vosylius, Chief Sales Officer, Patric Palm, CEO & Founder, and Jarune Preiksaite, Chief Marketing Officer.
🔵 How do you plan to build those teams out? What are your plans to attract top talent to join the company?
The Favro Lithuania team already has eight full-time employees. They were headhunted for their already proven brilliant skills. I build teams on the highest level of trust, where the right attitudes, drive, and ability to work autonomously is more important than a long CV.
Stock options are a key part of our talent attraction efforts. Once they have passed the trial period, every employee is included in our stock options program. This way, everyone is personally invested in the growth of the company – If Favro grows, the value of stock options grows as well.
The third reason for top talent to consider joining Favro is the possibility to work directly with senior leaders at Fortune 500 clients and hyper-innovative companies using Favro. There are not many startups in Lithuania where you could close deals with Electronic Arts, Amazon, Xbox, Wolt, SAP or Tobii. It’s one thing to close SMB customers, but working with globally recognised brands is a totally different experience.
🔵 Who are you hiring at the moment? What are the main qualities you look for in new people joining your team?
We follow the principle that “A-players” want to work with other “A-players”. So even though Favro’s team is only 26 people strong, our results look like we had an army. We operate with a very flat organisation where everyone is trusted with a lot of autonomy to manage their work in alignment with company objectives.
At the moment, we are looking for Sales Development Representatives, Account Executives, Account Managers, Marketing Specialists, e.g., Content Managers, Digital Media Specialists (PPC). We especially value candidates with experience working with agile methods and/or at a startup. Gamers are extra welcome – We would love to hear what games you like to play.
🔵 And the final question. I know that you officially opened Favro’s Lithuanian office only recently, in autumn 2021, but where do you think it will be in the next 2-3 years?
The plan for the Lithuanian office was to hire a top team of sales and marketing professionals and raise a successful seed round by the end of 2021. We successfully reached those goals. This year, the Favro Lithuania office will grow to 20 people and then we will go full speed towards an IPO in a few years.
Team of Favro Lithuania with CEO & Founder Patric Palm (in the middle).
It goes almost without saying that scaling an organisation by 10x is difficult. Maksim Grigorjev, a Senior Enterprise Architect at Adform, offered us an inside look at the growth journey of the tech team in the adtech industry.
He answered our questions ranging from working with massive datasets and managing microservices to dividing work between a 200 people strong tech team and maintaining a healthy technical community inside a large organisation.
🔵 How would you describe Adform as a product for the people outside the adtech industry?
Adform is a technology powering the open internet – a modern and effortless digital-advertisement toolkit enabling the publishers to effectively monetize their ad space and advertisers to reach the most relevant audience.
🔵 You have spent almost 12 years at the company. Do you remember why you chose to join in the first place?
From the early days of my professional career, I always enjoyed data-design and data-processing related tasks the most. With each subsequent position, I focused more and more on the data-related topics, accumulating practical experience as well as building a theoretical foundation from books and papers. Tools and approaches used in data-related tasks differ highly based on the size and amount of the data.
Twelve years ago, there weren’t that many companies in Lithuania working with data warehouses of such a massive scale. After the first interview, I already knew that it was a perfect match for my technical area of interest and a great learning opportunity. Time has shown that data is not the only interesting technical challenge that Adform provides, but it was the one that lured me in.
🔵 During your time in Adform, the organisation has grown rapidly and continues to do so. How much has your business and team grown over the past 10-12 years? How has it felt inside the company?
Currently, I have the privilege to work with ten times more colleagues compared to when I joined the company. Our technical stack likely has grown even more during those years. As one of the first scrum masters in the company, I also saw the company-wide agile transformation first-hand, which was a major cultural shift and a great learning opportunity.
It has been a compelling experience to see the company reimagining itself and adjusting to both the organizational and technical challenges that come with rapid growth. Making mistakes is unavoidable, and not all approaches work out in the end, so you learn to value flexibility, experimentation and not being afraid of failing fast. Rapid growth also means that you need to learn how to onboard new teams and work effectively on the same product in parallel with a much greater capacity.
We also had to change our architecture to reflect the changes in the organisation. For example, moving away from monoliths towards microservices came naturally because, otherwise, dependency management and work parallelization would’ve become too painful and error-prone. We learned the hard way that microservices alone do not give sufficient productivity boost if not supported by the powerful internal platforms taking care of cross-cutting concerns in a unified way.
🔵 How large is your technical organisation at the moment? How have you divided the work between teams?
Dev & IT is around 200 people now, split into four development groups, an IT department and several supporting teams. Each development group is responsible for the specific horizontal layer of our product (high load, big data, business application and web) and supported by the dedicated solution architect.
We made a conscious decision to organize our teams around a specific layer or a platform (instead of a product). For example, all our domain APIs are owned by the same development group and all client-facing user interfaces by another group. This approach allows our developers to specialize and excel in a reasonably small set of technologies and find common, consistent and highly reusable solutions to the same technical challenges across all of our products.
The IT department is responsible for our physical infrastructure, internal cloud platform, databases, security and multiple centralized DevOps services (monitoring, logging, deployment pipelines, etc.).
🔵 As a senior-level enterprise architect, you are constantly thinking about the big picture. What unique challenges does working at adtech offer to developers?
Adtech as an industry is quite challenging and very fast-paced. It’s still in its early days, very open to innovation and the product landscape changes every year.
Market participants are constantly finding more and more effective ways to collaborate and provide the end-user with the most relevant, optimized and engaging advertisement. The majority of market participants are both integration partners and competitors. On the one hand, you need to be well-connected and maintain compliance with industry standards, but at the same time also distinguish yourself from the competition. It is also a highly regulated industry with an emphasis on privacy, which puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders to keep the data safe, correct and protected against fraud.
All this allows developers to work on a portfolio of products not isolated from the outer world but highly integrated with clients, partners, exchanges, vendors and data providers. Industry standards also require constant evolution, and it is not uncommon for our lead engineers to take an active role in the industry working groups shaping them.
🔵 Could you give us a sense of the scale of datasets Adform’s products use? What challenges come with it?
We crossed the petabyte-scale threshold a while back and every day we process tens of billions of new transactions. This scale requires careful consideration in designing how the data is loaded, transported, processed, aggregated and queried. It also raises complexity in testing the pipelines, handling spikes, recovering from failures and ensuring the high availability and predictable latencies.
At its core, we use technologies that are well-known in the industry and have a proven track record to perform well in big data environments (Kafka, Hadoop, Storm, Spark, Vertica, Aerospike, etc.) with components written in-house for data loading, transformation, aggregation and query generation.
At such scale, it is not possible to dump all raw, unstructured data in one place and use it as a source for real-time, end-client reporting or augmenting the user interface with relevant KPIs. Therefore we invest a lot in cleansing, structuring and pre-processing the data to push as many calculations upfront as possible.
We also carefully design effective aggregates which would give sufficient flexibility and predictable querying latencies to the end client, but at the same time preserve enough row-level data for offline analysis or asynchronous exports.
🔵 How many microservices do you have? What’s your approach to developing and maintaining them?
We have several thousand deployable units – the exact number changes as new units are developed, and old ones are put on the path for deprecation.
Newer services are all based on the same tech stack, deployed as containers, and utilize central platform services, like monitoring, logging, alerting, deployment pipelines, etc. We aim to offload all repeatable or cross-cutting concerns into centralized platform offerings to make sure we solve the issues once and then apply them consistently. We also aim to minimize the boilerplate in new service development and ideally have developers focus explicitly on the business logic.
Our products have always been quite interconnected, so we struggled to find a common approach for data exchange between domain-private data stores and data synchronization between microservices. As a result, we invested in building an internal data distribution platform with all business domains exposing their public contracts by default without any change in the service itself. All consumers interested in a particular dataset can subscribe to the change streams exposed from those domains and build local read models of that data.
🔵 We have talked about data and back-end infrastructure quite a lot. However, for the end-user, a well-designed interface is also a must. How has Adform managed designing web applications?
User-experience and effective workflows are indeed very important for end-users as it directly impacts their productivity. Quite often, it is a deciding factor between our products and others.
Historically, we struggled with multiple segregated web applications which all looked somewhat similar but always had a slightly different look & feel and inconsistent feature sets. Three years ago, we realised this approach leads nowhere, so we decided to replace ~80 web applications with one new and modern application rewritten and redesigned from scratch. All user workflows are now based on a single framework, a single library of components and follow consistent functional patterns and design stereotypes. It was a highly rewarding project that received positive feedback from our users, gained industry recognition, and eventually won the prestigious Red Dot Design Award.
🔵 And finally, we heard in a previous interview that Adform people share a special vibe. How would you describe the company culture inside the technical organization?
I think there are a few factors why we have an open, positive and friendly technical community:
Even though we have more than one product in our portfolio, all of those are interconnected and often offered as a package to the end client. As a result, all the teams feel that they contribute to the common goal, eliminating the internal competition.
Customer success and product organizations work closely with development to get input from the developers and also pass along feedback about new features. This is crucial for the technical organization to feel like a fundamental part of the company and maintain the feedback loop between your effort and the results.
Using a common stack of technologies allows our developers to contribute to projects, features or incidents outside their direct ownership. This grows developers’ overall domain knowledge, expands the social circles and also cross-pollinates ideas and best practices across the organisation.
We hold regular tech talks where the technical community shares the insights, challenges and lessons from the latest component developments.