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.
Check out Ubiquiti’s open positions on MeetFrank:
🔵 How do you keep your employees engaged?
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.