Entain Baltics & Nordics is the largest iGaming operator in the Baltics with an ambition to expand well beyond, becoming one of the leading online gaming companies in other regions of Europe as well. The company offers iGaming products through many of its brands and is a truly diverse company with more than 720 people from more than 15 countries working from 7 different offices all across Europe.
We talked to Oleg Karpušenko, the head of the HR department at Entain Baltics & Nordics, about how to build a great company culture that values diversity and inclusiveness and what are the essential elements for creating a friendly and down-to-earth company culture.
🔵 Let’s start with the first question. What exactly does Entain Baltics & Nordics do?
Previously known as Enlabs we are now known as Entain Baltics & Nordics and we represent the iGaming industry, which is well developed in the Baltics. We’ve been in this business for nearly twenty years by now, ever since 2006.
We offer our customers five key products.
Online casino with a variety of games.
Live casino with an actual dealer on the other side of the screen who communicates with players.
Sportsbook, where it is possible to bet mostly on sports, but on specific occasions – also on elections, Eurovision, Academy Awards, etc.
We have a variety of brands with different products. “Optibet” and “Ninja Casino” are the biggest ones which perhaps you might have heard of. In total, we have eight brands as part of our company portfolio.
Essentially, we’re offering the purest form of entertainment. Compared to many illegal operators, which don’t have a license to operate on the market, we operate in the licensed and regulated markets with governmental institutions supervising and controlling our operations. We are on good terms and relations with these institutions, and we comply with every market’s rules and regulations.
We have also introduced different programs to address customer protection issues, and we have a department where our employees track the behaviour of players. If we see abnormalities, for example, someone is playing and losing non-stop, then we act upon it and limit or even restrict their activity. We have always said that we are up for fun, and as soon as the element of fun for our customers disappears, no one is winning.
🔵 Entain Baltics & Nordics operates globally, with offices in Tallinn, Riga, Marbella, Vilnius, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Valletta. In your opinion, what are the biggest advantages of a diverse workplace?
There are many aspects to it, but one peculiar thing is that a team consisting of diverse people will definitely help create better results, translating them into success for the company.
It has happened organically for us. There’s a reason why we have an office in all those locations. Having those gives us many opportunities and advantages. For example, people get to travel between different offices, change their environment, meet other people and exchange ideas.
🔵 What steps have you taken in your organisation to make Entain Baltics & Nordics a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Firstly, the decisions which have shaped Entain Baltics & Nordics into what it is today are because of actions the company has executed from top to bottom. One of the main key success factors is our CEO George Ustinov who has always supported all the crucial changes and trusted me as Head of HR as well as an entire function of HR and what it can bring to the table. There are quite many companies where CEOs see HR function only as a cost or as an administrative function tasked only with preparing employment contracts and doing the paperwork. I am happy and proud to say this is not the case with us.
We would never prefer to hire people from one specific country/region, only because it’s harder for us to relocate them or have a prejudice that they will not perform well. Sadly, if we look at this aspect broader, I think this kind of mindset seemingly exists in the heads of directors of departments and sometimes even CEOs. We have infused our philosophy and attitude into everyone within our company. That’s the first layer of diversity at our company.
Because of this trust from the top and a heavy support from my HR team, as well as fellow peers (heads of departments), we built the HR function the way I thought it had to function in the company. There is no internal company “culture” where there is a need to receive a formal approval for every little thing. I have heard and witnessed myself, from my previous experience, that in other companies there is a very high level of bureaucracy and over-formalised twenty-five layers of approvals to manage even the simplest things. This requires to go through unnecessarily plenty of approval stages, making it hard to get things done fast and efficiently.
Every day in our company we make an utmost effort to treat our people like they would want to be treated – we actually listen to them and make an effort to satisfy their needs when/if possible. We have built a very collective and friendly team where people communicate easily, openly and transparently. Yes, there is a certain hierarchy and a rational, logical, efficient organisational structure, but there aren’t too many unnecessary hierarchical levels which usually tend to complicate things. All our heads of departments/functions are friendly, down-to-earth, helpful, approachable and supportive. We do operate an “Open Doors” policy and, for example, if a junior level employee needs to talk to our CEO, they can just come in and do that. No need to “apply for an appointment” or operate other silly corporate “bs”.
Four and a half years ago, when I joined the company, we had under 200 employees. Today we are a Team of over 720 people. People choose to stay in the company and our employee turnover rate is healthy. Also other key HR KPIs such as overall engagement and motivation scores, as well as eNPS (Employee Net promoter score) are very good. This growth of the business and actual HR KPIs allow me to believe that everything I have just described about our culture, diversity, and inclusiveness is working in real life and correlates with reality and is just not existing in my utopian imagination.
🔵 In your opinion, why is diversity and inclusion in the workplace important?
Ultimately, it gives people the opportunity and an environment where they feel good, safe and protected. HR department employees, with a strong support of other heads of departments, are actively participating in creating this environment. The more diversity and inclusivity initiatives we do, the more present and happy people we get to have in our company. This directly translates into their output and performance and this in turn – directly into the company’s results and success.
I will gladly give another example of how we embrace, promote and celebrate diversity in our company. June, as you probably know, was the worldwide month of Pride celebration. For the first time in the history of our company this year we started talking candidly and openly about this topic with our employees, inviting the director of the LGBT Association in Estonia to discuss this topic during an open forum.
My logic is telling me – even if it is just one person who feels unsafe or insecure, and the same person sees or notices this effort from the company, my guess is that this person would think, “Okay, that’s good to know – I’m actually working in a company where they accept you being gay, lesbian, queer or transgender.”. If, let’s imagine, this employee comes back to their family and friends, and says “You know what? I am working in this awesome 21st century-minded company where they openly talk about these things!”, then for us in HR it is totally and completely worth our entire effort.
We are also aware and are openly discussing aspects where we know we are not exactly the best example when it comes to diversity. For instance, if I look at the top management team and the percentage of females represented on that level – I know for sure there is still room for improvement for us. And this is the exciting bit right here – we are aware where we can be better, and we are planning to work on that front to ensure higher gender equality and representation.
🔵 What metrics do you have in place to measure the success of your inclusiveness in the company?
We have quite a lot of metrics. Firstly, we have our key HR KPIs. We are constantly measuring and tracking our employee turnover rate (monthly, annual, voluntary, involuntary, etc.). We also consistently track our employee engagement scores, as well as eNPS. If we’re looking at more particular metrics, we have identified and set some specific diversity-related metrics, for instance, percentage of gender split.
Few other KPIs are related to pay equality. On that front – we have just done our internal analysis, and we are quite pleased with our findings. What is super important in my opinion is to measure those KPIs regularly, not doing an employee engagement survey once per year as some other companies still do. And this is exactly what we do in Entain – we follow and track our HR KPIs on a monthly, sometimes even on a weekly basis.
🔵 That’s an excellent thing! I’ve heard about companies doing their employee satisfaction surveys only once per year, usually during Christmas when everyone is happy because they received a bonus. That means they’re distorting reality.
The drawback in this situation is that most likely people in HR or heads of departments get a very tiny glimpse into employee satisfaction. They know how people felt on that specific day, once per year, giving them no valuable insights over the longer term.
We in our company are using an awesome HR tool called Officevibe, which enables us to track daily/weekly/monthly engagement rates and satisfaction, and measures happiness, relationships with peers, and a bunch of other relevant aspects. It allows employees to answer the questions completely anonymously.
Check out Entain Baltics & Nordicscareer page and open positions:
🔵 Could you name the essential insights, conclusions, or takeaways you’ve learned from the process of building a diverse and inclusive workplace?
I think the key to success here is actually quite simple: to genuinely, truthfully like and want to take care of people. Every time someone approaches you with an issue, question or complaint, it is essential to find the time and opportunity to listen to this person, give advice or consult, and help find a solution. It is vital to pay attention to your people. And the truth is quite sour in my opinion – if you are busy once and do not have time for that colleague the next time – very likely they will not come back to you. Ever.
I am hopeful that this behaviour of mine, and actions – the way I have been treating our employees throughout the years – have been noticed by my peers, superiors, subordinates, fellow colleagues, and that they have been inspired by it and have also adopted this way of thinking and the mindset of how people have to be treated in the organisation.
One more thing I will gladly share with you on a closing note – in order to build a diverse and inclusive workplace – you need to have a clear understanding, plan and a roadmap which combined will answer all of these questions: why do you want to build such an environment? What advantages will it give you? Do you have your CEO’s and colleagues’ back for it? Do you have the tools and resources for it? Are you sure it will be sustainable in your organisation? And most importantly – are people ready for it? If you have an answer for the majority of these questions – brace yourself and get ready for the journey! And I promise you it will be a very exciting and exhilarating one!
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.
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.
Httpool is a media company acting as an extended team for top media social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In recent years, the company has been growing at a speed that could make start-ups jealous.
We chatted with Robin Conley, Regional Marketing Manager and Oksana Adaskevica, Regional HR Manager Baltics, about their unique position in the advertising ecosystem and the many career opportunities working in a thriving global company presents.
🔵 How would you describe Httpool to people outside the firm?
Robin: Httpool fills the niche between advertisers and global platforms. The advertiser could be of any type: small or large business, start-up, agency. And platforms are Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other major media platforms. Httpool is between those two sides.
On the one hand, we are partners to the major media platforms by representing their sales interests in regions where they don’t have an office. At the same time, we also consider ourselves partners for the advertisers because we help them get the most out of the platforms and grow their business.
🔵 So not just another media agency?
Robin: Definitely not. I can understand why it might be confusing because traditionally, agencies are middlemen. People see that Httpool is between advertiser and platform and assume we fill the agency’s role, but it’s a very different relationship.
For example, Facebook hasn’t opened an office in Tallinn, and it’s unlikely they ever will. That’s where Httpool steps in – Facebook calls us ASPs or Authorised Sales Partners. Our role is to give advertisers in the region the Facebook experience in terms of consulting them, educating them and making sure they get the most out of the platform with each campaign.
🔵 What’s the scale of Httpool right now in terms of territories, offices, and clients? How large are you in the Baltics region?
Robin: We have over 35 offices worldwide at the moment, but I think nobody really knows the accurate number anymore as it grows constantly. (Laughing.) However, if you look at our parent company Aleph Holding Group, which also contains IMS, Wise.Blue and Social Snack, then we are present in approximately 90 markets worldwide. So it’s quite a lot.
Oksana: And in Baltics, we currently have 100+ employees, but the number is growing every week. So far in 2021, we have hired 50+ people just in the Baltics, and we still expect to increase this number by the end of the year.
🔵 Robin, when did you join Httpool? What attracted you to jump on board?
Robin: I’ve been here for one year, but it feels like five due to the number of projects and the sheer amount of learning.
Before joining Httpool, I had worked in a media agency for several years, and the work I was doing was fairly steady. So I just felt a need to enter a new environment that was very dynamic, fast-growing, international and exciting. Httpool certainly fits that description. The company is growing and evolving all the time, so there’s a lot of opportunities to take advantage of. You are trusted to tackle new projects with great responsibility, which makes the learning curve really steep. And that’s great!
🔵 Did you have any doubts regarding the company or the team? How has it worked out so far?
Robin: No, I didn’t hesitate, partly because I was already in the headspace that I wanted to take on a new challenge. But also, I met Arnis Ozols, the Regional Managing Director, before joining the company. I really liked his style and attitude – he’s got a very entrepreneurial spirit, and he’s also supportive and trusting.
🔵 You have worked in media for a long time – How’s Httpool different from an agency in your experience?
Robin: It’s a lot different. Httpool is in a very neutral position in the advertising ecosystem as we partner with the platforms, agencies, and advertisers all at once, allowing us to search for win-win-win solutions.
We don’t have a separate fee for advertisers to use our services – If a client uses Facebook ads and signs up for Httpool’s consulting and expert opinion, they are still only paying for their ad spend. So we can be very open and transparent about what’s best for advertisers.
🔵 How much do you get to collaborate with Httpool’s different regions around the world?
Robin: I am working with different countries and regions every single day. The marketing team is considered a centralised unit in Httpool, so my colleagues are in Austria, Slovenia, Dubai, Russia and India. Many of our meetings are online, but when COVID passes, there will be travelling involved too. For example, I have weekly calls with our group’s CMO from New York, but next month I’m finally meeting her in person.
Some jobs are more local, of course. People who consult local agencies and advertisers are still mostly working on the local level. Internally, however, Httpool is very much a global environment.
🔵 What new challenges and opportunities does the company’s striking growth trajectory present to you personally?
Robin: By working in Httpool, you are always part of the building process. We are growing so quickly, still building our teams, expanding and restructuring all the time, which means you get to create many of the processes as you go. You’re not just riding the rocket ship but also building it as it’s flying up into space. It’s challenging at times, but mostly really exciting because it’s not very often you get to put your opinion into building a major company.
Another cool thing is the relative importance of the Baltics inside the company. On a world level, our region is quite small, so usually, the Baltics are not prioritised strategically by global companies. Or somebody from a head office somewhere forgets to budget your country’s media spend because it simply didn’t enter their mind. (Laughing.)
In Httpool, it’s the opposite – The Baltics are a significant part of the business, and we are setting up global teams right here in the Riga office. So you have the opportunity to spearhead global processes from here.
Oksana: Baltics is indeed one of the strongest and biggest regions in the whole Httpool, and we’ve had the privilege to establish a hub here in Riga for several global teams. And I agree with Robin that every employee has the opportunity to contribute to building the processes at Httpool. I think it’s a great opportunity and challenge for everyone to be part of building something from scratch.
🔵 How is the vibe inside the company with fresh team members joining and projects steadily getting bigger?
Oksana: There are very positive vibes in the team, and it’s really a lot of fun. We love what we do and do what we love. Everyone is very passionate – this is something that unites us.
Robin: I don’t know if that’s part of Oksana’s hiring process, but she’s managed to hire people that are not stiff corporate types but are very personable and easy to get on with.
But I think that in general, people who enter advertising and marketing really tend to want to work in this area. Additionally, working in Httpool is a deliberate decision as people want to collaborate with the big platforms. People don’t end up here just by chance. So you get very enthusiastic personalities, which leads to a lot of productivity and new ideas. For people that want to achieve something, it’s a very fulfilling environment.
🔵 Do you plan to slow down your hiring rate any time soon?
Oksana: No, no way! (Laughing)
🔵 What are your hiring goals for the next 12 months?
Oksana: We don’t have an exact number yet, but I expect to expand our Baltics workforce next year by at least 30% as we are expanding all our teams.
🔵 Who would you encourage to apply to work at Httpool?
Oksana: People who are bright, smart, passionate, keen to learn and develop, positive, full of energy, creative. People who are ready to work with top digital experts, learn from them and become top experts themselves.
Robin: People who have a deep interest in digital marketing, and also some experience and success in this area, would love to work in Httpool because you’ll be challenged. And you’ll be working on a global scale. And you’ll be at the forefront of innovation, working with some of the most influential platforms on the planet. If you’re interested in digital marketing and think global, you can certainly go global with Httpool.
Dynatech is a unique tech company in many ways, as it employs over 250 technical people to support all the global brands in the Dyninno Group. Founded in 2016, the company utilizes modern technologies to develop the ever-expanding product portfolio while ensuring the high quality of the code.
We interviewed Jurijs Saveljevs, Lead Software Engineer, and Viesturs Teivans, Tech Lead, to find how they have set up their tech stack and daily work. The interview covers topics including the benefits of Node.JS & Typescript, what mistakes Dynatech has made when choosing technologies and how they approach data-driven decision-making.
🔵 To start at the beginning, what does the company Dynatech do exactly?
Jurijs: Dynatech is a global business center based in Riga, Latvia. Among others, we provide IT services and solutions for all the businesses within the Dyninno Group, consisting of three divisions: Travel, Entertainment and FinTech. There are many independent businesses within the conglomerate, and Dynatech is the unified technology company powering them. Mainly by IT services but also competencies in marketing, HR, project management, etc.
🔵 How is the work divided between different teams in Dynatech?
Viesturs: The work is divided mostly by product. Within each of these three areas of the Dyninno Group, we have specific products with specific teams. Sometimes teams have multiple projects at hand because some of them only need to be maintained. It’s also possible to migrate between them, for example, if a person is interested in a technical problem that involves a specific product.
We also have people like Jurijs who work on R&D. This is a shared team that supports the infrastructure of all our products. For example, they pick the new technologies and research the best practices for implementing them. That helped us a lot in migration to Kubernetes and automated pipelines.
🔵 Can you describe a bit what projects you are working on these days? What do you like the most about them?
Viesturs: I’m developing a new flight search product which consists of several Node.js applications. In addition to writing the code, I’m also very involved in managing the code quality to keep it easily maintainable and ensure that we have proper unit tests. A lot of it is automated, but we still make sure that people use this automation consistently, and we don’t end up with spaghetti code.
We’ve had several major refactors during the project, and those were mostly pretty easy. For example, we have changed the internal data structure for the search functionality two times, which is an enormous refactor for all the services that need to operate on it. I make sure that things like that go smoothly.
Jurijs: I’m working more on infrastructure and applying best practices to the application development flow. We’re currently moving to orchestrated environments, mostly Kubernetes, which means we run multiple clusters for multiple products in various Kubernetes installations. Mostly on AWS EKS, but we are also experimenting with DigitalOcean. We have some exposure in Russia, where we use Yandex.Cloud, and we are also researching some Asian cloud providers. So I’m into orchestration and bootstrapping applications for that.
The second thing I’m working on is application metrics, so whenever there is an anomaly in how the product or runtime behaves, we get alerted. And the third is ensuring the continuous deployment for our applications, including making sure that every application is built and containerized correctly, and doesn’t have any known security vulnerabilities or obvious bugs that we can catch with static code analysis.
Jurijs Saveljevs, Lead Software Engineer at Dynatech
🔵 What principles do you follow when choosing new technologies?
Jurijs: We indeed have some key factors that we value in technology choices. One of them is open-sourceness because whenever something doesn’t fit, you can identify the issue and improve it. We actively contribute to some open-source projects, especially to the infrastructure stuff where there aren’t many administrative tools for the job. We like Node.js & TypeScript especially because of the self debugging and profiling. These problems were solved a long time ago, and you don’t need to worry about them.
Viesturs: In the case of Node.JS, another great strength is the mature and highly active community. If you have an issue with some package, it’s likely that the solution already exists. Yes, it still might not be optimal, and you may need to contribute, but overall, it speeds up the development a lot.
🔵 Have you had any significant strategic mistakes when building your technology stack?
Jurijs: The major misdirections were probably related to how we make critical decisions. The first thing that comes to mind was the tendency to split everything up into microservices. We followed that trend too aggressively and spread the services too thin, this is now known as the nano service anti-pattern. Fortunately, we managed to fix it by reunifying some functionality, but we definitely had that problem back in the day.
The other misdirection was the tendency to build custom solutions for the things that already existed. It’s called the “not invented here” syndrome, which sometimes happens in huge companies. At some point, we were at around 300 tech tools, some of which were probably built just because folks wanted to try something new. Or there was one feature lacking, so they copied the entire product plus the one missing feature. We have fixed this issue by introducing a formal process for technology decisions.
Viesturs: We also have sometimes chosen the wrong technology for the project. One unhappy project is running on Hack, which is a version of PHP by Facebook. The major challenge with it is the lack of community, which means you have to write everything yourself. Even something as simple as ORM to use your database correctly. Although the ORM exists, it has issues, probably because someone somewhere didn’t have time to finish it properly. It’s a super weird scenario that wouldn’t happen with any normal open-source ORM. And in the end, Hack doesn’t solve much other than what PHP already does.
🔵 How do you ensure the quality of your codebase? How does your tech stack help you with the ease of refactoring?
The next thing is this decoupling of code, the modularity. During my time here, I have introduced a principle that if your application uses an external service, it has to have its own service around it. Therefore, if you change the API or the application requirements, you can simply create a bit of middleware that translates the input to whatever your application needs.
And finally, unit tests. All the interfaces won’t save you with major refactors, like changing the data structure for a service that’s already running. It may look like it’s working on the surface, but then some response comes back as the wrong type, etc. Once you have the unit tests, they can actually show you what’s working or not. And then you have to either update the test, if the data structure has changed, or update the code.
Viesturs Teivans, Tech Lead at Dynatech
🔵 Let’s talk about testing for a moment. How have you organised the testing major updates, so both the developers and business people stay happy?
Viesturs: For the business people, it’s the metrics. Are there enough requests? Do the clients react how we expected? If they don’t, then is it a bug? So monitoring is the big thing when we’re in production.
In the testing environment, we have automated unit tests for the Node.js applications. They run in the QA pipeline, and if something does not pass, we don’t merge it. The major releases are also tested semi-automatically by our QA people. They check things like if the user does something, does the correct log message happen? Do we get the correct change database?
Jurijs: We also use some functional tests in production to ensure the quality of service. Periodic tests, targeted at the production environment, are performing the users’ usual workflows. In the case of an online ticket agency, we might search for flight tickets or a destination. And we can verify if we find what we need. We have such tests for the vital functions of every service.
We also use stress and load testing to monitor known bottlenecks and search for unknown ones. We run the stress tests mostly on the production environment in off-peak hours. These tests don’t run periodically, but we perform them on-demand after notable component changes.
🔵 How did you come up with the data streaming approach for the microservices? What is it, and how do you use it currently?
Viesturs: I think it’s a pretty popular solution currently. The idea behind the data stream is that Redis is handling the data transfer between services. One of the advantages is reducing strain on the network. If you have numerous services trying to communicate with each other, you put enormous pressure on the network. Even in the case of internal services, there might be gigabytes of data flying here and there. People sometimes tend to ignore those internal processes as they don’t go over the internet, but if we have 300+ services that talk with each other, then the situation becomes pretty bad.
The second advantage is ensuring that the data ends up where it needs to. Because the data stays in the Redis, any service that needs it can get it. In some ways, it’s insurance against processing errors. For instance, if a service has an error and needs rebooting, then after coming back up, it can simply check the data and continue where it left off. In terms of the actual code, it’s also more understandable with data streaming. The data stream is usually observable, and the service that called it already has the context for maintaining the data.
Jurijs: Data streaming allows us to predictably design system communication. In a classical RPC flow, a service would send a request and then get results in return. But data streaming guarantees that we can provide the results. Also, you can ping results any time or share them across the systems as long as everyone is aware of the DTL. It allows very efficient contracts for spreading data across the system.
🔵 How do you use the data in daily discussions?
Jurijs: We genuinely believe in data-driven decision-making. In any argument, whether it’s tech-related or it’s business-related, the person who wins is the one who has numbers that are gathered correctly and prove his opinion. If we don’t already have the data, then we follow a pretty scientific process to collect it. For example, we might set out to test a hypothesis that building X will improve Y in some way. If you share this belief in data and the scientific method of doing things, you fit into our team very well.
Viesturs: And I guess most programmers probably do! (Laughing)
🔵 And finally, what type of developers would fit into the Dynatech team the best, in your opinion?
Jurijs: It might sound naive, but the answer is that we need people who share our values. We believe in quality: If you invest time in better design, optimisation or automation, from our experience, it usually pays off. We are searching for folks who believe the same.
Viesturs: I absolutely agree. We value people who are passionate and aim for quality in the code they deliver. Also, we expect that people can support their opinions with data. When it comes to tech choices, the “I want to try something new and cool” approach is not good enough. We have to pick the tools that are best for solving a specific problem.
For example, just before the interview, we were arguing with Jurijs about tech choices. We invite these arguments because the best solutions arise from the creative conflict. The idea is that you can bring your own opinion, but you also have to support it with a use case.