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.
Just 20 years ago Jüri Tarkpea, now the VP of Platform Engineering at Fleet Complete, had a software company in a small Estonian town called Tartu. Their one-of-a-kind GPS tracker first caught the eye of Skype founder Toivo Annus and just 3 years ago the whole business was acquired by a huge global player Fleet Complete. Talk about a success story! 📈
Fleet Complete is the global leader in providing IoT solutions with the goal to reduce waste around anything that involves vehicles 🚚.. As their product falls on the B2B side, the wider audience might not be aware of all the Fleet Complete devices that surround us. But be well assured, they make our daily life a lot easier.
According to Jüri, Fleet Complete is like a fox 🦊 – agile and adaptive to every situation. Small enough to be flexible and fast. Big enough to serve huge global partners.
Read the interview to find out how the team gets stuff done and how they work with influential clients like Ford, AT&T and many more.
No mission statement is better than an insider giving us the overview of the company. Please tell us what does Fleet Complete do? Where could one find your product?
Essentially, we have two core values that we provide to our customers.
Firstly, reducing waste around everything that involves vehicles and other assets of a company. In addition to that, we also try to maximize the benefits that come out of these assets. Usually, it involves location tracking.
Location visibility is the cornerstone of our service, because once you get to the location, you can do business calculations, maintenance reminders and all sorts of reporting about anything related to the vehicles and assets. So, what we really do is help fleets thrive.
What exactly do you mean by “fleets”?
In our case they are bicycles, cars, heavy trucks, helicopters, boats and everything in between. If one knew where to look, this is exactly where our products are to be found — attached to all sorts of vehicles. Of course, in reality there are few who know where to search.
In fact, as we operate on the B2B side of the business world, the knowledge about us in general public is not high at all so that sometimes even the employees of the companies that use our products don’t know about all the systems we are providing them. They might know that some devices are being used but not if they are provided by Fleet Complete or somebody else.
We look at it as a good thing, after all, one of our ideals is that we take away the problems, not replace them with new ones. In that sense, being unknown is a really good thing — because everybody remembers troublemakers.
What is your career story in the company? How did you find Fleet Complete or how did Fleet Complete find you?
My career started almost 20 years ago as a developer with two friends. At the time we had a little software company in Tartu with a few map applications. There was one specific app that allowed one to see one’s location on an old soviet military map, using GPS trackers. At that time, it was a unique offering.
What is maybe interesting to mention is that Toivo Annus, the founder of Skype and one of the first business leaders in technology, used to have a hobby for off-road vehicles’ orientation back in 2004-2005. People who drove those vehicles started buying the software to know where the bogs and trenches are and this is how Toivo found out about us.
One of the companies he had invested in was Oskando which was focusing on GPS trackers´ hardware, so at one point it was only natural that he came to us and made an offer to merge.
Following that, we expanded to Baltics and found the first resellers in Eastern Europe and Nordics. Then we merged with a Danish company and we started growing bigger than just a Baltics’ company.
Three years ago, this whole thing was acquired by Fleet Complete and today I serve as the Global VP of Engineering. I think that most of the people working in the Estonian office today are on the same trajectory of one day contributing to this company and team at the highest possible level.
Wow, that’s one interesting journey you had! What is the common value that connects different international experts in the team?
“Getting stuff done”. In the corporate environment it can be really hard to maintain our own face and the personal style of communication.
Luckily, I believe that we have managed to do that. We are not afraid to express our opinions and we all bring our best to the table for the mutual goal of getting stuff done. So, I guess it is the common mindset that most connects us.
During these unprecedented times, how are things going with Fleet Complete?
When the first wave of COVID hit, very soon after, we started breaking many monthly records in sales. Our products and services proved to be extra valuable during these unprecedented times when life needed to become more digitalized in order to minimize physical contact between people.
So, the year has turned out quite well. In fact, so well that we have started a new hiring cycle to keep up with the customer demands.
At the same time internally, we switched to remote work mode from day 1 without any impact on the business. So, we are very flexible and allow everyone to decide what is the best working setup for them. Also, during that time we were offering virtual workout sessions with coaches on wellbeing as well as physical exercise.
While the company’s headquarter is in Toronto, Fleet Complete has 12 offices all around the world. Picture from Tartu office opening.
The company is rapidly expanding and Fleet Complete just opened a new office in Tallinn. Congratulations! Who are you looking for to join the team?
Indeed, thank you!
As I mentioned earlier, “getting stuff done” mindset plays a big role in our company. Therefore, we are first and foremost looking for people who align with that mindset.
In addition to that I want to say that we have seen too many success stories over the years of people who on the paper should have not been hired but aligned with the mindset, had grit and have now achieved great things.
Working in a company that is growing that fast is not always easy. It means that we also look for people who are searching for professional challenges. We do not have the luxury to decide everything for our employees, on the contrary, we are counting on them to make up their own mind and in case of urgency have the confidence to make the decision on their own.
If you are looking for professional challenges, share the “getting stuff done” mindset and are ready to take the lead when needed, we are a perfect match.
Specifically, we are looking at the moment: mobile developers, QA engineers, full-stack developers, UX lead and many more. Feel free to join the team:
You said that switching to remote work happened rather smoothly. Do you have any secrets on how you did that?
We support productivity. You should work where you are the most productive, be it the office, home or remote office — it doesn’t matter.
In addition to that I believe we are a supportive bunch that want to achieve great things and to have fun along the way.
Also, the self-development aspect is worth mentioning. During a short period of time you can see the strengths of each employee and we try to play on their strengths, we try to encourage their personal growth. From a materialistic perspective, our employees can choose their work equipment. We don’t offer golden laptops, but we’ll do as much as possible to help our employees to be more productive.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! To end the interview, we’ve got 5 rapid-fire questions to you.
If Fleet Complete would be an animal, what animal would it be?
A fox, because of agility and ability to find solutions. Adaptive to every situation.
What is the best thing that happened to the whole team this month?
Excellent question! We just launched our next generation web platform product for retail customers of AT&T of US.
Who is Fleet Complete’s biggest client in the world, in Estonia?
AT&T globally and Eesti Energia in Estonia.
What’s your favourite part of your current job?
Never had a boring day.
What do you believe is the biggest strength of your company right now?
Small enough to be agile and be able to execute rapidly. We are also big enough that we serve as partners for world’s biggest car manufacturers (Ford, General Motors, Daimler, Mitsubishi) and telecom companies.