Ubiquiti Inc is an American technology company founded in 2003 in San Jose, California. Ubiquiti manufactures and sells wired and wireless data communication products for enterprises and homes under multiple product line names. On October 13, 2011, Ubiquiti was listed on the NYSE and became a public company. As of January 2022, Ubiquiti had a market capitalization of around $18B.
Ubiquiti has 12 offices worldwide, and one of their Research and Development (R&D) offices is located in Riga, Latvia. We talked to Kristaps Rikans, the Regional Managing Director at Ubiquiti, to get some insights regarding how it is to work for Ubiquiti’s R&D office in Riga and the main technical challenges for engineers working at Ubiquiti.
🔵 Could you explain exactly what Ubiquiti is doing?
Ubiquiti develops, manufactures, and sells wired and wireless IT products for enterprises and homes under multiple brand names – UniFi, AmpliFi, AirMax. Airfiber and others.
Ubiquiti’s Riga office mainly focuses on product R&D, where we do the full cycle development, starting from the idea and scratch to the final product and mass production. We do industrial design, hardware, electronics, all layers of software – systems software, front-end, and back-end, UI/UX design, including mobile apps (iOS and Android).
🔵 What kind of technical challenges can people at Ubiquiti solve in their everyday work?
Our mission is to make the best IT products in the world – the fastest WiFi routers, greatest video surveillance cameras, routers, switches, and everything else related to IT infrastructure.
In our case, the most challenging technical questions are related to how we can make those traditionally complex but sophisticated wireless products, systems, and platforms as user-friendly as possible. The end goal is to make deploying and configuring those systems easy for everyone while still having the professional IT infrastructure.
Those challenges make the work for engineers inspiring because they have the chance to work with the latest technologies – WiFi 6, video streaming, Internet of things (IoT), Voice over IP (VoIP), Cloud and Web services, Artificial intelligence (AI), Augmented reality (AR), and others.
🔵 Could you describe the work in Ubiquiti’s Riga office? How many employees does Ubiquiti have globally, and how many work directly out of Riga’s office?
In total, we have more than a thousand engineers globally. Ubiquiti is a unique technology company globally, as there are no other companies that have shipped so many different IT products with such a small R&D team. Also, our revenue per engineer is unparalleled. Some companies have ten times more engineers but make less revenue, making us uniquely effective.
The same can be said about Riga – we have a small but very effective and talented team of 100+ engineers. While we’re growing like other IT companies in Riga, we are not trying to grow in the headcount, as our goal is to grow in talent level and culture.
🔵 What kind of roles and departments do you have in Riga’s office?
Our Riga office is very diverse. Mechanical and electrical engineers, all types of software developers – front end, back end, full-stack, mobile developers (both Android and iOS), embedded developers, cloud technology developers, wireless driver engineers, LCD driver engineers. In addition, we also have a very talented graphical user interface designers and DevOps team that is responsible for infrastructure related to the systems and platforms of our products.
It makes our Riga R&D center attractive for engineers because we don’t have 100 people working on the same thing. Instead, every engineer works on their specific part related to our different products used by millions of people. It’s exciting to walk around our office and explore different things that our engineers are working on and get inspired by other technologies or areas of expertise. So it’s essential that engineers working at Ubiquiti are interested in IT and hardware products.
🔵 How does Ubiquiti keep its employees happy, motivated and loyal?
If you’d ask any engineer in our company, you’d find out that many things make us an attractive employer. Our company was founded 18 years ago by a talented ex-Apple engineer, Robert Pera, who worked on the AirPort Extreme, which was the wireless router of Apple. Apple and Ubiquiti have similarities in the company culture as Robert brought some of those things over. Similarly to Apple, we focus on creating the greatest product, quality, user experience, and industrial design. There is no R&D center in Riga for Apple, but there is one for Ubiquiti.
Secondly, instead of simply working on software, you can build products that you, your family, and friends use at home. That’s inspiring. It gives you bragging rights in the social circle with your friends and family, where you can tell how you helped to build the wireless access point and how we have shipped one million of those across the world. So whenever you go into a restaurant, airport, or office building and see this little dish on the ceiling, you know that you’re part of it.
Unlike traditional companies, where you have clear guidelines of specs that say, ‘This is the product you’re going to be working on and here are the tasks that you need to accomplish’ and have very well defined project and product scopes, engineers working at Ubiquiti can also affect the product. That motivates engineers because you’re not just a tiny wheel in the big system. At Ubiquiti, you can ping our CEO and say, “Hey Robert, I think we can improve this part of the product by changing this or that turning this needle and make it much better”. So you have the chance to influence the product to make it better and more user-friendly.
🔵 I get that Ubiquiti is a very transparent and open organization, especially compared to other companies with a similar valuation?
We’re a very flat company, and there is no bureaucracy or corporate vibe. We operate like a startup. You can be vocal, reach out to the CEO, and influence the product and the culture. As we’re a publicly-traded company, people can see our financials, so I can add that we’re also a financially very healthy company, which allows us to reward our engineers and sometimes it can be life-changing.
🔵 What are the key values in Ubiquiti’s culture that everyone follows?
We care about the product, user experience, and quality. We follow the ‘outside-in thinking’, that’s similar to Apple. As I already mentioned earlier, a flat structure without bureaucracy or hierarchy allows us to be very effective. We work overnight to deliver the product when needed, as we’re agile and moving quickly. In terms of communication, we’re honest, straightforward.
We don’t have the traditional ‘nine to five’. That’s part of our culture. We care about output and deliverables, the value you bring to the final product and customer, not how many lines of code you have written or how many hours you have worked. An engineer can change the product with a minimal contribution code base but still impact the user experience for the better.
We occasionally have hackathon sessions. Currently, with the Covid-19, we work in the “hybrid mode”, but since we’re a hardware product and engineering company, we prefer to work from the office. Our engineers feel better if they come to the office and be in the hardware world. Our office is also one of the motivators because it’s a great place to be with different labs and hardware tools, the latest and greatest gadgets available for testing.
In addition, we have a thing called Home Labs, which means that everybody can test out our products in their home. We have a dedicated Slack channel for that, where our people share their feedback and options regarding user experience, report issues if someone has found something, etc. There’s even a term for it. It’s used internationally in the software community, “Eat your own dog food.”
We have free snacks, free pizza for lunch every now and then,the possibility to work from a hotel, movie nights, events etc. Due to Covid, this has changed a bit, but we still try to inspire our people.
SmartLynx Airlines is a charter airline based in Mārupe, Latvia, operating flights on wet-lease out (ACMI), holiday charter flights, and ad hoc passenger charter flights across Europe, Africa, and Asia. In 2022 SmartLynx Airlines will celebrate its 30th anniversary.
We talked with SmartLynx Airlines Chief of People & Culture, Mara Steinberga, about what does it mean to work in the aviation, what are the most exclusive things about working in this industry, and how does the average daily routine looks like at SmartLynx (spoiler: every day is unique).
🔵 What exactly does SmartLynx do?
We are an EU-based airline with headquarters in Riga, Latvia, and two subsidiaries in Estonia and Malta. Very soon we’ll open up our office in Vilnius. SmartLynx Airlines specializes in full-service ACMI aircraft lease services and is an acknowledged ACMI, cargo, and charter provider in the EU on Airbus A320, A321, and A330 aircraft. Recognized as one of the top choices for aircraft lease solutions, we support leading airlines with short and long-term ACMI services by operating flights in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
🔵 How is your business model different from your usual airBaltic, for example?
While airBaltic’s primary customers are passengers, SmartLynx is a B2B business, meaning our clients are other airlines that don’t have enough aircraft at a specific time.
In the previous answer, you may have noticed the letters ACMI, which stands for Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance. Meaning, when other airlines contact us, we provide them with the complete service – aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance. This business model allows us to serve clients globally.
For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, all airlines started to get rid of their most expensive asset – aircraft, but once the business picks up, it is not that quick to add aircraft to one’s fleet, so we as a service provider can quickly jump in.
🔵 How is working for the airliner and in the aviation industry different from the rest of the career opportunities?
I would like to believe that not many industries are as dynamic as aviation – every second counts, and the whole company needs to operate as well-oiled machinery. That’s the only way to provide the end result – flights on time. I would say that aviation is not for everybody – you either love it and never want to leave, or you hate it from the first second you start working. There is no in-between. The dynamic, the speed, the stressful situations, the fun, and the everchanging daily life is the new normal for all those working in our company, and we don’t know how it can be different?
🔵 What’s the most exclusive thing about working in the aviation industry?
You get to see the other side of aviation. Usually, we fly as passengers, and we tend to be irritated about delays and different hick-ups. Once you are on the other side of the aisle, you start to understand how everything works, and so many things begin to make sense. When you work in aviation and fly frequently, you still hear passengers being irritated, and it makes you want to sit down next to them and start explaining what aviation is all about.
🔵 Could you name the three most exciting challenges people could expect when working for SmartLynx?
Firstly, every day is different, and you will never experience a routine at SmartLynx, no matter the position.
Secondly, growth opportunities – we are proud to see how our employees develop and grow. We are also pleased to see the leaders we have developed and will continue developing in the future.
Last but not least, you have the possibility of working in a very multicultural environment – we are proud to have 40+ cultures represented in our company, and we are glad to explore the different cultures in our daily lives.
🔵 How has SmartLynx adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic situation to survive and come back bigger and stronger than before?
Covid-19 has significantly changed both what and how we do. Things we thought couldn’t be done remotely before the pandemic are now easily doable. This change has opened doors to international recruitment – we are happy to have new colleagues from all over the world, and we can still communicate with them through online platforms.
Additionally, I’d like to give big thumbs up to our management team. Thanks to their great strategic thinking and planning, we managed to secure our business and come out of the crisis even bigger than ever. We are currently experiencing the biggest expansion in our 30-year history.
🔵 What kind of specialties and expertise are you currently looking for at SmartLynx?
We want people who love a dynamic environment. We want people with positive energy and a smile. We want people who love changes and challenges. We want people who love to work in a team and achieve great results together. We want people who want to reach new heights both personally and professionally. We want people with ambitions and goals. We want people who are not bystanders and just let things slide past them – we want people who are not afraid to speak up and react. This is SmartLynx Airlines DNA.
🔵 What does the future hold for SmartLynx? What are your ambitions?
There are no limits for us – we want to grow and become market leaders globally. We are not having the “if that will happen” mindset, but the “when it will happen” one, so we are working very hard to get there. We celebrate our 30th anniversary this year, and it’s hard to contain our excitement for what this year and all following years will bring for SmartLynx – continuous growth and expansion in multiple directions.
Check out SmartLynx Airlines’ open positions on MeetFrank:
🔵 How would you describe your recruitment process?
Our recruitment process is pretty simple – once the candidate applies for a specific role, we review their CV and see if they are fit for the position. If the candidate is chosen for the next stage, they get a link for a one-way interview via our Hirevue platform. We are so happy to have this platform, as it gives the candidate the flexibility to do their interview whenever they are ready and available.
If the one-way interview is successful, the candidate is invited for a live interview and/or a practical task. Candidates for management-level positions have to get through additional tests, such as cognitive and psychometric tests.
And then voila – you are becoming the new member of the Smart Team!
🔵 Any tips on how a candidate could stand out in the process and increase the chances of being hired?
Make sure your CV is fresh, updated, neat-looking, and English. If you have a detailed description of main achievements in the roles, it will allow us to understand your background better.
During the one-way interview:
Do not worry and be yourself – this is even better than a live interview because you have a chance to re-record yourself if you don’t like the response. And each question gives you preparation time.
Make sure there are no distractions around you.
Try out the test video to make yourself comfortable by tweaking your sound, surroundings, and appearance.
We still appreciate candidates who participate in this one-way interview as if that would be a real-life interview – meaning that the candidate is dressed to impress.
When we have our live interviews, the main tips for candidates are:
Do some research about SmartLynx Airlines – we like it when candidates are prepared;
Prepare any questions you have about the job or the company – we will gladly answer all of them.
Try to keep your answers to questions short but saturated – answer all questions so that they’d be relevant to the role.
Be yourself and smile a lot – one smile generates at least one smile in return.
Surfshark is a cybersecurity company originating from Lithuania, and offers products such as a VPN (virtual private network service), a data leak detection system Alert, Antivirus, and a private search tool – Search.
Surfshark has over 3000 servers in 65 countries, and in 2020, they were named the best VPN of 2020 by CNN. By the end of 2020, they were among the top three most popular VPNs globally.
We talked with Regimantas Urbanas, Chief Marketing Officer of Surfshark, about its most significant achievements, stellar growth, cybersecurity trends, and much more.
🔵 Could you tell me about Surfshark’s journey – how did you get started, and what are some of the top achievements/milestones you’ve achieved to date?
The most significant milestone I’d say is that we managed to reach our first million paying customers in just 30 months. When comparing growth patterns with other companies, it’s similar to Spotify. Meanwhile, we’ve grown even faster than Netflix because it took them 42 months. So, we managed to get into the top positions of the VPN market very quickly. Within the first year of marketing, we established ourselves among the top five VPNs globally, and by the end of 2020, we were in the top three most popular VPN companies.
This is all thanks to our team of professionals. When I joined in the summer of 2018, we had only three people working in marketing. Now, it’s close to 60.
But we are not a VPN-only company. We’ve entered the broader cybersecurity and privacy field and launched three more products (Surfshark Alert, Surfshark Search, and Surfshark Antivirus) to offer our customers the complete security and privacy package. All of those products are also available in a package called Surfshark One.
🔵 How did you achieve such fast growth?
There have been internal and external reasons, but I’d say that we were in the right place at the right time. The world has been going through turbulent times over the past few years. For example, China increasingly started making aggressive actions in Hong Kong, and suddenly, all the neighbouring countries of China wanted to protect their internet searches, social media, etc. That’s when we saw a massive spike in adoption in countries like Taiwan or Hong Kong. Currently, we’re the number #1 VPN brand in Hong Kong.
We also operate in an industry that grew massively during the first wave of Covid. People stuck at home were both working and doing other things online. Many people got more interested in using VPNs, and we capitalized on that.
We had the capital to grow and take aggressive steps at the right time. Our goal was to humanize security and make it accessible to everyone. That’s why we started using comics and similar content in marketing, trying to be more human and relatable without overwhelming people with complex terms.
🔵 The foundation of a successful company is usually built upon a real-world pain that founders discovered because they experienced the pain or their market research was top notch. What kind of pain did you find when Surfshark got started?
The idea for Surfshark came from our CEO, Vytautas Kaziukonis. He discovered VPN technology 11-13 years ago, but it was a very niche product at that time. However, he is a visionary and saw where the world was moving – the time spent online was increasing, and there are always potential security threats tied to the internet. So he saw vast potential.
VPNs have historically been very complicated to use. His idea was to launch a product that is easy to use, which speaks the language of everyday customers and still offers all the security benefits of a classical VPN. Also, unlike our competitors, we were the first VPN brand that never had the word VPN in our brand, because we didn’t want to be defined by these three letters and knew that we would be willing to offer other security/privacy solutions.
🔵 Why is the cybersecurity field currently so trendy, not only for cybersecurity experts, but also for aspiring marketers, developers, etc?
All successful people want to work on products that are or can be successful because that’s your opportunity to make the most significant impact in the world. As a marketer, my personal reason for joining was the ability and chance to build a household name — a brand known for all the people who want to take care of their protection and security.
It’s quickly becoming a mass market, where our products are used by millions of customers. Since the beginning of Covid, an even larger share of our life has moved online. The more we depend on the online world, the more important it is to protect the data. There is no corporate office network that can protect your computer access at home, so you should be in charge of protecting that.
🔵 Could you talk a bit more about how Surfshark as a company works and functions?
Currently, over 300 people work at Surfshark. Our company consists of customer service reps, the marketing department, the infrastructure team, and developers.
Our customer-facing team is working with our customers to ensure that they have the best experience and understand how to extract value from Surfshark.
Our marketing team takes care of our messages to appeal to potential users across the world and makes sure that we’re communicating the value of our products. We’re a global company with users in more than 140 countries, so we want to be relevant and understandable in different languages.
As a VPN service provider, our primary technology is operating loads of servers (over 3000 worldwide), and Surfshark’s infrastructure team makes sure that they are as fast and reliable as possible. When planning the locations for our servers, we want to ensure that there’s always a physical server not further than 300 km from our users.
Surfshark is available on all possible platforms – Android, iOS, SmartTV, Windows, macOS – and we offer our customers a seamless user experience. This is possible because our developers and large UX team optimize each step of the customer journey of our products.
These are the key teams in Surfshark. In addition, there are supporting administrative functions like HR, Finance, and others.
🔵 What unique challenges does your industry present for developers, product managers or marketers?
Every team has different challenges. From the technical point of view, when offering security and privacy-related services, you need to take extra care of the security of your product because you would never allow your product to be compromised in any way. We’ve promised our users that we never collect any data about them, we don’t log their usage, and no one can intercept our connection or service. It’s a big challenge to keep the product as secure as people expect.
From a marketing perspective, it’s different from products that have a lot of data about their users and can upsell or cross-sell to specific segments. As a VPN provider, we don’t collect any specific data about our users.
🔵 Why should someone come and work for Surfshark?
We’re a disruptive, challenger brand, and we came here to change the status quo in that industry. It’s always more enjoyable to work for a company that wants to redefine and shift the industry by setting new standards. As a brand, that’s what we’re doing, and we have people who want to be the best in what they do.
As a CMO, I would love for Surfshark’s brand to become synonymous with online privacy and security. To build a brand that would pop up on top of your mind when thinking about internet security.
From the technical side, the leading product requires different solutions. It’s easy to be a mediocre product, but it takes a lot of mastery and skills to become number one.
When talking about benefits, there are plenty. Since the beginning of Covid, we’ve adopted a hybrid work model to give people the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds. We also offer two months of working from anywhere. And of course, there are many other typical benefits such as physiotherapists, loads of training, etc.
I’d say that Surfshark as a start-up is the best-kept secret of Lithuania at the moment. Many people know the product, but not so many know the connection to Lithuania.
🔵 What are three cybersecurity trends to watch out for in 2022?
People want to prevent the damage instead of fixing the damage. We’re developing products based on that insight, such as creating an alternative identity or reclaiming your data from websites to prevent them from getting exposed in a hack or data leak.
One trend that I see is the possibility of not putting your actual data in danger while surfing the web by using a one-time credit card and an alias instead of your real name. That’s just one idea on removing personal data from your online activities.
The second trend is that people don’t want to engage with security products actively. They want the security products to be effective, powerful, and work in the background without disturbing them.
Last but not least, companies that started as VPN or antivirus companies may now expand into neighboring territories. Everyone is trying to take a more significant share of the cake and offer full-service packages.
We want Surfshark to be like the Revolut of cybersecurity. Revolut became the super app for personal finance – enabling people to trade crypto and stocks, exchange currencies, put money into a savings account, and get insights about their savings, all in one place.
I would love it if Surfshark became a super app for privacy and security. A central app for everything related to your data and online privacy, where you can control what’s happening with your data and toggle various layers of protection.
Check out Surfshark’s open positions on MeetFrank:
Nitor works with their customers to create a better world through digital success stories. In essence, their code comes to life with the people who use it. But people are not machines; our needs change and evolve over time. The digital design takes this into account while adjusting to adopt new technologies and innovations as they emerge. That’s why Nitor weaves agility through the fabric of everything they do: to create solutions that adapt to change.
We talked to Nitor’s Chief Technologist, Mika Majakorpi, about how Nitor as a company operates, what makes their company culture stand out from the rest, recruitment process and more.
🔵 Every successful company has different principles, either when operating a business or hiring new people, for example. What are the three main principles that Nitor follows when recruiting new talent?
I’d say we are a very quality-oriented organization. In recruitment it used to mean that you had to have many years of working experience in the industry and a degree from one of the best technical schools in Finland to be considered a candidate at Nitor. During the last couple of years, that has shifted a bit and we have realized that not everyone has to have multiple years of experience in order to be highly valuable to our community and our customers. I think we have grown up in that aspect and look more for growth potential in a person, but we are still interested in established work history and great skills from the candidates.
Nowadays, we also have activities with different schools, educational institutions, universities, where we market ourselves among students. We are still quite selective to hire fresh graduates, but it happens nowadays for certain roles. Historically, we’ve looked for some years of work experience and the skills that come with that experience.
On top of that, cultural or chemistry fit with your to-be coworkers is essential. We try to make sure that during the recruitment process, the candidate gets to chat with people who are likely going to be their colleagues, so we can make sure there’s a fit. Other attributes we look for are curiosity to learn new things, action-orientedness, and a certain kind of pragmatism, which means even if you learned a subject, then the theory does not necessarily match practice. What gets results and delivers software is a pragmatic attitude rather than holding on to high ideals from the academic world.
🔵 There are hundreds, if not thousands, of methods to build a successful company culture. Some might not know that, but Nitor has claimed the first spot in Finland in the Great Place to Work competition two years in a row, which picks out the best workplaces in Europe. What kind of methods has Nitor used to achieve that incredible achievement?
Our company structure is very flat – today we have around 200 people, and we still don’t have the traditional hierarchy. There are different business units, but that’s it. Involving people is essential. In Nitor, we don’t feed them with top-down things but rather ask people how they see Nitor and generalize from there. There are so many things where we realize that the company needs something new or structure around some topics. People naturally interested in a particular subject come together, figure it out, and that becomes a company policy. With this approach, people feel at home in the company. That is the essence of the culture for me. If you were just given solutions to all problems, a person basically has to choose if they agree with it or not. People tend to agree with rules and policies better if they’ve been deeply involved in setting those.
🔵 How are Nitor’s recruitment processes designed? Different companies use different recruitment methods when hiring people – some companies like their applicants to go through intensive 3-4 rounds of interviews, others hire people just by looking into their faces during the first meeting. What experience can an applicant expect from Nitor?
I think we are in a group that does intensive rounds of interviews. Based on my experience, that’s the fair way to do it. After all, it’s a big step for the candidate who will be leaving something behind and coming to work for Nitor. It will also be fair to candidates to spend a reasonable amount of time with them before signing the contract. They’ll have a better understanding of what they’re entering into. We like to cover things from multiple angles and have numerous people do the interviews to ascertain that the candidate will be a good fit. One hour interview simply would not be enough. It also allows them to learn more about Nitor from different kinds of people and angles.
Our interviews have been described as very discussion-oriented, where people get together and chat around pertinent topics, skills, etc. Sometimes, we do assignments during the interview, where people are expected to write code or come up with a design, or whatever their field of expertise is, but that may not be the main point in the interviews. Through the discussions, you get a good idea of how the person thinks, what their personality is, are they going to be curious to learn more things, or are they thinking differently about their position in life. It’s about discovering the candidate as a person and learning about their capabilities.
🔵 Which is more important – skills or attitude? Why?
Skill is what gets the project delivered at that specific time. Looking at the longer term, then I’d say the attitude gets people into more exciting projects, better positions, and so on. It’s a mix of two, of course. I’d even say if the candidate comes in and doesn’t match exactly the kind of skill set that we’re looking for, then it isn’t a problem. Especially if they show a good attitude for continuous learning, problem-solving, and all these things. This kind of attitude helps people keep current skills and learn new ones. Of course, there’s also the attitude about how you conduct yourself among other people. The so-called chemistry fit is also an important aspect for us.
🔵 The difference between the skill and attitude is that you can learn new skills, but it’s hard to learn a new attitude. You might be very skillful at your work, but as a person, it’s not pleasant to be around you if your attitude doesn’t fit the company culture.
That’s a good point. We’re a consultancy company as you know, so at the end of the day, our people must be seen as friendly and team players. Before Covid-19, we did a lot of work at customer premises to give that edge over any desire for the customer to do offshoring or remote teams. Back then, it was crucial. With the current Covid-19 situation, that edge is no longer there because everyone’s remote. Despite that, it’s the moments you get with people, even if it happens over a video call because that’s when you get to show your attitude.
🔵 Investors usually say they don’t invest in the idea but the team when investing in a startup. How is Nitor investing into their most valuable resource – people?
We have a lot of things in this aspect. We have something that we call ‘10% time’. The idea is that every person, for one day every two weeks, can work on a personal or open-source project that he finds interesting. This is part of a person’s paid working hours, adding variety to regular work delivered for customers.
We ask that people share their learnings or results from the 10% time, so it becomes this kind of social event, where people share their learnings. We want to make sure that people spend time to keep learning. Some challenges may motivate people to use this 10% time because it’s so open. You could do anything, and people wonder, “Oh, if I’m working on this pet project of mine with a new programming language, is it a valid use case for this?”. We have to keep communicating that, yes, it is a valid use case. Sometimes it feels like people think that a good consultant is working on customer projects and generates income through that. In reality, we have to remind people that they can spend time otherwise, and it would be great if they did because they’ll learn more.
In addition to that 10% time, you could also take five days a year for conferences and personal training. It’s a more traditional approach where we don’t expect people to share their learnings necessarily. Of course, people attend conferences, and sometimes they feel like sharing it with others, which also works nicely.
Besides personal development, one of the things we have very well is choosing your equipment for work. We call it the Iron Bank, a Game of Thrones reference, but I’m not sure if it translates very well in English. Hardware is called iron in Finnish, and it’s a hardware bank, and it was a great gag for it when Game of Thrones was really popular. Everyone gets a starting budget/balance, and there’s a monthly allowance that you get, and you’re free to choose your work equipment within that budget. The only thing we ask is that you only acquire work-related equipment because otherwise, people might think about it very flexibly and then end up not being able to buy something. Mostly, it’s an excellent system, not having fixed choices for your setup – you can only choose between these three laptops. You can freely select your laptop or buy a desktop computer if that is more suitable for your setup, what kind of a monitor you have, or if you want to use an iPad with a pen, so you can draw your architecture design or whatever. That’s one of the things that people who’ve joined Nitor talk about a lot and appreciate.
One of the crucial things at Nitor that translates into employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction is that we do a lot of work to match people with client engagements where they feel motivated and passionate about the technologies and such. People get to work on things they are interested in, which directly translates into good customer satisfaction because customers see motivated people. These people are willing to go the extra mile to learn something new because they’re working with stuff they’re interested in.
🔵 What makes a great company culture? How would you describe your culture in Nitor, and why or how it stands out from the rest?
Nitor is like a platform for people where everybody has their own goals in life because people who get hired at Nitor have some idea of where they want to end up in life. If we can provide them with a platform that helps them reach their own goals and share that progress with others, that generates a supportive environment for personal development. I see that as a thing that allows Nitor as a whole to have a good culture. It’s basically about enabling people to do what they do the best.
Printify is a Latvian print-on-demand service startup that helps merchants make more money in a simple and easy way. As co-founders of Printify (James Berdigans, Gatis Dukurs & Artis Kehris) have said, Printify was created to make merchandise available to everyone.
We had a chance to talk to their Head of Recruitment, Benjamin Moris, about their culture and what makes Printify unique for employees. I have to admit, when I heard Benjamin’s answers, I was thinking of applying for a position at Printify myself because what he said was very inspirational.
🔵 If you had to explain to a kindergartener what Printify does, how would you describe it?
The best explanation would be that, let’s say, you made a nice drawing, your mom finds it beautiful, she thinks a lot of people would like it as well, and maybe we can even make some business and money out of it. Why don’t we go to Printify and create an opportunity for others to buy some products with this cute drawing you just created and make more people in the world proud of seeing what you can make?
🔵 One of the main unique selling points that Printify has is the possibility of having a career while working entirely remotely. Why have you chosen that as your main selling point?
It’s a principle we truly embrace. We’ve grown this way, we have had that as a part of our DNA from the moment when we started growing and hiring people at a larger scale, and for us it’s not a temporary thing, but something we strongly believe in and want to continue. It will always stay as a part of our DNA.
If we go into more details, I’d say that allowing people to work remotely gives us three new flexibilities: flexibility for employees to permanently settle down wherever they want, temporary flexibility for employees to work from wherever they want and flexibility for Printify to hire talents in untouched talent pools, away from traditional big markets.
It’s an important point for us because we feel that everything has changed in the last two years due to the Covid-19 situation. I recently watched an interview with the founder and CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky. He explained that the world was previously centered around three places for people – work, home, and travel during the holidays. Today, all of those things are related, and they CAN be flexible.
The right talent might be based somewhere where no big companies are hiring – can we find those people? Maybe people want to be based in smaller places, in countries with fewer business opportunities. In the past, there were often very talented developers who could only work on a short-term contract or as freelancers because they wouldn’t be hired full-time in the big companies that they liked, although they had the talent for it. However, their situation (the need to feed the family, for example) would push them to relocate to a specific place.
Today we can offer them not having to choose between a career in a great company and the lifestyle they want. We can give them that flexibility. If we look at this as a selling point for us as a company, trying to hire the right talent pool and looking at people who can be based anywhere really gives us added value.
First of all, it means massive access to diversity that allows us to mix cultures. It’s essential for Printify not to hire people based on a culture fit, but based on the culture add, because you don’t need people who all look the same; you need to look at people who will bring something to your company culture. We open up that pool by going to different places, traveling countries and experiencing differences.
It also allows us to be closer to our customers because they’re everywhere in the world and that way we can better understand what they want. And not less important is that by being remote we can get access to talents across the world who are looking for this kind of flexibility.
🔵 Trust seems to be the key element when it comes to remote working culture. For instance, one of the biggest and most influential banks globally issued a statement in April ’21, requiring all employees to return to their offices by July ’21. In my opinion, it sends a message to their employees that the company is not trusting them. Speaking about Printify, what processes do you have in place to help your managers trust employees, even if all of them are working entirely remotely?
Trust is essential. For me, trust starts with the company culture. We have defined our values and at Printify we have four of them.
The first one is that the customer is our compass. As we discussed before, a diverse workforce will allow us to be closer to our customers. It’s pretty crucial for us.
The second one is that we strive for excellence. We expect effort and strong work ethics from the people we hire, empowering them to be the best they can. We all aspire to be better. Therefore we hire people who want to embody this value and don’t need to be told daily what to do or where to sit.
The third value is ‘We learn it all’. It’s about the growth mindset and the learning culture. We also hire people who want to become better and learn again, not because we tell them, but because they want to. That’s also aligning with the trust.
The last value is that we play to win together. Team spirit to achieve big things together is very important. Over the previous two years, we’ve learned how to win together remotely, as initially we didn’t have a choice. Now we know it’s possible. It’s possible because we trust each other and we can still be a team on-location or remotely. It’s something that we’ve seen and demonstrated along the way.
Looking for people who are striving for excellence, want to keep learning and want to work as a team means that we are looking for mature people who are willing to achieve things for themselves and can also be trusted to work fully remotely.
🔵 Is it possible that remote work fits only for a certain type of company, with a specific culture? How would you describe that culture?
It’s a great question. I don’t think anyone has an answer of whether it fits every company or not. I think we will discover that down the road.
The culture starts with trust. And in my opinion the growth mindset is also essential. Having people who sincerely want to be a part of the journey and grow together with their company, not just count on the company to do things for them. It’s linked with the fact that the company needs to empower people. The element of transparency is critical here. In the past, I’ve worked in the headquarters of big companies, but also in a smaller office 12,000 kilometers away from the headquarters. In every small office, there is always a strong belief that all the decisions are made at the headquarters, that a few people in the center decide everything, and that when you’re remote, you don’t get access to the right level of information or you don’t necessarily have a word in determining what you can do there.
We need to start with the mindset of a company where there is no headquarter. I mean, there is one, but even top leaders of the company can be based in different places. The most important thing is that you need to share information a lot more broadly. Because you need to share it between offices, with everyone and different people inside the company. You create a culture of transparency which is usually very embodied in the early stages of a company.
Having a high level of transparency makes a difference in how you can give a chance to everyone based anywhere in the world to feel as a part of the company and not like a second class employee just because they don’t have access to what is decided in the HQ.
I truly believe that the right balance is achieved when employees want to put the company’s interests above their own, and also companies are willing to put their employees’ interests above theirs in a virtuous circle.
🔵 Before Covid-19, the primary motivation for working on-site for many was that you were able to socialize with your co-workers and mingle during the lunch/coffee breaks. In your opinion, has the Covid-19 pandemic broken that behavior?
Socializing and mingling is still a big part of people’s work life, but I think people have realized it’s not the only one. I believe COVID-19 has opened the door to people’s mindsets to recognize that other ways are also possible. The time you can’t spend mingling with your colleagues can be compensated by the time you spend exercising or playing with your children instead of being stuck on a bus or in a traffic jam during your commute. There are of course different approaches, but creating space for employees to mingle, whether online for non-work-related things or through in-person gatherings a few times a year, will still remain an essential part of remote company culture. It is, however, vital to give people a choice and not tell them what they should like or do. Give them a chance to experience it all and let everyone decide what works best.
In my team, a few people recently decided to meet twice a week, an equivalent of a mingling coffee break, where everyone who joins can talk about anything but work. It happens online, instead of being around the coffee table, and it’s working – people get to know each other. We’ve already seen colleagues who are not sharing the same office know each other better because of that. We want everyone to be part of it, and people who’ve joined from different places say that this kind of space is excellent and essential for them. We need to create it, but we don’t need to assume it’s the only way. If such an approach didn’t exist, the culture would most likely not be thriving in the company.
🔵 How does Printify keep their remotely working professionals engaged and motivated simultaneously, so they still have a sense of belonging, besides online coffee breaks?
I think people find their own way. Generally, what’s important is that we show them it’s possible. For me, it starts from the beginning and from the top.
‘From the beginning’ means from the early days in the company. For example, we have at Printify an onboarding process where we create empowerment and a sense of responsibility that genuinely shows what is possible for the individuals in the company. We do it from day one. During our onboarding process, people learn the most important facts about the company and its culture for the first four or five days. They also get to experience the journey of a merchant working with Printify, because we are trying not only to explain, but also show how Printify actually works. We are a fast-growing company, but still a very young company, and the whole onboarding process was designed when we were all already working remotely. It’s remote by essence, by design.
‘From the top’ means it starts with managers; it needs to come strongly from leaders who show their employees that what matters is that the work gets done. When you see your CEO or other people presenting in a virtual call to the entire company, and you see them with a beach, forest or mountain background, which is not a fake background they’ve inserted on Zoom or Google Meet, it shows everyone that it’s fully okay to do so. It also shows that managers should embrace the concept and lead by example. I’m also a bit of an example of that – I’m a French citizen, I was hired from Singapore by a Latvian company, and I’m taking our call from Portugal today. I’ve been in the company for five months, and I have not met a single person face-to-face yet. And things are going well.
Since I’ve joined Printify, I’ve hired people in my team remotely. I’ve hired employees in Latvia, Ukraine, Romania, Bosnia and Georgia. And that’s just for the recruitment team. For other teams, we’ve also hired people in Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, and I could give you a long list. We’ve recently even hired someone who started working remotely for us in Uruguay and just relocated them to Riga. Overall, today we have employees in more than 20 countries, and there are only four countries where we have more than five employees. When people join the company, they know that working remotely is the norm. They don’t feel lonely in their situation. They might sometimes feel lonely in their location, but never in their situation.
Printify’s management team (from left): Edgars Peics – Chief Technology Officer, Miks Lusitis – Head of Data, James Berdigans – CEO & Founder, Lauris Lietavietis – Chief Sales and Partnerships Officer, Valeria Kast – Head of Merchant Support, Artis Grizans – Chief Financial Officer
🔵 Is remote work here to stay when we have defeated the Covid-19, or do you expect many companies to adjust back to old ways of working?
Many companies will want to go back to the pre-COVID situation, and I think they will most likely fail at it. The mindsets have already shifted – less and less people feel that they should be told what to do, especially by their employers. Companies that position themselves correctly will definitely have the edge over the competition.
Our internal employee surveys show that most employees prefer to keep the flexibility of deciding where they work. When there were no COVID restrictions in our office in June and July, we still had a minority of employees visiting the office more than three times a week. Why would we change it? Just because suddenly there are no more restrictions? We won’t tell our people, “No, you need to come in!”.
I believe a lot of companies will display flexibility, but they will not embrace it. They will offer remote work for a few days a week, which will help some people, but will not completely change their lives.
🔵 Does Printify have any recruitment and human operation philosophy that you follow while recruiting?
Our recruitment philosophy is “Hire the best wherever they are. Find the person with the best mindset, best fit for the role and the company, location is just a detail.”
For the HR philosophy, it’s keeping it very transparent. We need to hire people, and every time we hire someone in a new place, it’s a rather complicated process. We need to find a local partner and get familiar with the local regulations, but we’re willing to do it because we feel it adds value. We need to be transparent about what we know and what we don’t know. We also have to take people through inconveniences sometimes, where we’re finding things out, and it’s essential that people trust us while we’re doing it. If something doesn’t work out, we’ll always tell them that. Honesty is fundamental.
The last, but certainly not least aspect from an HR perspective is to keep people happy. Make sure that your people like where they are and are happy working in the company; it’s essential. The last time I checked, we had a 4.8 rating on Glassdoor by employees. That’s pretty rare and unique. I’m not saying we’ll be able to make it last forever, but if we can make it last as long as possible and make sure we make people happy, that’s what is most important for us.