As businesses around the world start heading towards a data-oriented approach, they are looking for automated ways to analyze publicly available data. Such is the solution provided by Oxylabs, a company that provides data API platforms like scrapers and proxy-related infrastructure.
Recently we sat down with Zydrunas Tamasauskas, Head of Product Development, to learn about how they manage fast-moving engineering teams, their go-to technologies and the overall approach to developing new products used by Fortune 500 companies.
🔵 Tell us a bit about Oxylabs as a company. What are your products and what’s unique about them?
Oxylabs really stands as a great, fast-moving tech company developing data services. We work with world-class engineering solutions and product development activities, where uniqueness comes in many forms. Our engineering department builds solutions that are yet to be patented or even applied in practice with high load and distributed computing systems.
Our main products are proxy and web-scraping tools. To put it simply, we provide an infrastructure to gather large-scale public data using web-scraping technology. What’s distinct about our services is the quality – our clients are among the largest companies in the world, many being listed in Fortune 500.
🔵 What drives you forward in the competitive market?
Being one of the top 3 products in the field is a great motivation by itself. The question is how to move up from there?
We have no singular path forward, which is why we love to experiment, innovate and fail fast to stay competitive. I’d say this drives us the most. The notion of building something faster, more effective, and completely new to the world drives engineering teams forward and thus affects product and marketing too. This makes us feel like inventors that bring change to the market.
🔵 Are you a product or a data-driven company? How do you measure the success of your products?
I believe as a company, we are product-led and data-informed. Data can be inaccurate and misleading, so sometimes, we just need to trust our hearts and minds. Being one of the leaders in the industry means that there are no footsteps to follow. That’s why we use our qualitative and quantitative data to get an idea of what we are going to build next.
As we strive to build better products, we measure metrics like customer satisfaction, ease of use, adoption rate, support issues, and similar. Of course, from the business perspective, product revenue always plays an important role. On a personal level, positive feedback from our customers who use the product daily and love it makes us proud and drives us to do even better.
🔵 Is there a way to predict the next big thing in the market that might just be the game-changer?
Since we are pioneers in our field, a large share of the innovation comes from our own people. Most of the developers at Oxylabs have been using proxies or data scraping at some point in their careers, so we try to build products for ourselves. This helps us figure out new product ideas and use cases. Then we start with building an MVP (minimum viable product) and check if something sticks. If it doesn’t, we scrap it and go for another big idea.
Some MVPs can be done even without writing a single line of code by using no-code or low code tools. We live by the idea of failing fast, improving faster. So, to answer the question: we don’t try to predict the next big thing. We just observe what features our users adapt and keep polishing them.
🔵 What, if any, are the go-to technologies at Oxylabs?
We don’t consider ourselves ‘tech-purists’, so we constantly incorporate something new to our tech stack, but it also depends on the hiring market.
Here in Vilnius, PHP is the most popular language, which is quite a nice language for writing APIs. We use Python for parsing, scraping, and data analysis due to its awesome libraries. In the front-end, React is a no-brainer as we also build browser extensions, mobile apps, and desktop apps (Electron, React Native). Golang is a fast language, so it was crucial to use it in our infrastructure, which gets an insane amount of load. As our front-end developers are switching to full-stack, we are now also incorporating Node.js, which gives them a lot of new cool stuff to learn.
🔵 How do you know what is the right technology to go with? How to stay relevant?
The choices depend on what we are doing with the technology, the appliances or goals that we strive to achieve, and what talent pool we have internally to use it. We already have a stable technology stack, and we evaluate new ones if we see them potentially beneficial for the product or the engineering community.
At some point, there might be a situation where previously widespread technology or framework falls in popularity, degrades in quality, or the hiring market dries up. Then we have to take action and replace it with something new and more exciting. Relevancy is an important topic for us given the scale of operations – we currently provide services in 216 countries and sell over 100M IPs while offering 24/7 service reliability.
🔵 Technology, engineering, and challenges – Is it a golden ratio for tech employees?
Yes, I tend to agree. Times have passed when you could impress potential employees with the latest hardware. For tech people to feel appreciated is to create conditions for personal growth, trying new things, and bringing new ideas to keep boredom away.
Tech talent wants to contribute, to have colleagues that support them throughout, and probably most importantly – they want to solve challenges that expand their knowledge base. People naturally want to grow. What makes you thrive as an employer is providing talent with challenges and tools so they can achieve personal growth.
🔵 How do you maintain this golden ratio? What are the management challenges?
The management challenges are relatively small. Most of the management at Oxylabs has a technology background, so they have faced similar challenges and know both inefficiencies and best practices. Specifically, in engineering teams, we thrive in a feedback culture. We listen to people, help them remove any roadblocks, and welcome all internal initiatives.
This lets us make fast decisions and allows pivoting from one technology to another if engineers are looking for a change of pace. Some examples might be switching from PHP to Golang, React.js to Node.js, Python or Django to Fast API. The best thing is the absence of a lengthy approval process – in most cases, only the Project Manager’s or Tech Lead’s approval is needed before an engineer can change the tech they’re working with, as long as it will do its job and is stable.
🔵 And what about quality & customer satisfaction? What part does it play in product development?
Quality and customer satisfaction are interrelated and cannot be separated, as we are a product-led company. At Oxylabs, we employ dedicated teams for parts of the product life cycle. Technology, product metrics, product-market strategy, sales, and all other relevant fields – these are all just pieces of a single puzzle. Our people stand united and motivated to deliver the very best possible product.
It is reflected by our Trustpilot rating of 4.7 with over 300 reviews from paid customers. Since we are led by our product and not necessarily the market, user feedback is crucial. The e-commerce self-service world is harsh, and customers tend to turn away if they are not happy. When thinking about our delivery to the end-user, we always strive to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Check out Oxylabs’ career page and open positions:
- Frontend Developer
- Data Analyst
- System Administrator
- Head of Product Marketing
- Head of Sales
- Motion Graphic Designer
🔵 Thank you for the conversation! The final question: What message would you want to send to future Oxylabs employees?
Be brave enough to try, fail, and learn from your mistakes to develop the future of the data world.