The Four Ps Of Great Technology Workplaces: Why Optibus Is My Favorite Place In A 20-Year Career

Naor Rosenberg

Naor Rosenberg

September 17, 2018

Think of it, if you were looking for a new job in technology right now, which criteria would be on top of your list? My 20-year career in high-tech taught me a lot about great and not-so-great places to work and about the huge impact they have on my quality of life.

I’ve narrowed my criteria to “the 4 Ps”: People, Product, Place and Plenty-of-other-things. I’ve been doing this for many years, and I can assure you it isn’t simple to get the 4 Ps in place: usually you need to compromise and have 3 Ps, or less. I’ve been at Optibus, as its VP R&D, for the past six months, and I now know that Optibus is one of those rare places that ranks a perfect 4 of 4.

  1. Great people! Super teamwork, synergy, no ego, everyone is willing to share their knowledge & is open to other people’s ideas. People here are highly professional. This means that everyone can have and has a big impact on the product and company success.
  2. Real product helping real people. Optibus has a SaaS platform that uses advanced optimization and AI to make mass transit work better. In case you think it’s all buzzwords – I’ll tell you we’re deployed with some of the world’s largest transit providers and create a continuous plan for mass transit in large cities all over the world. It’s a product that makes cities greener and less congested, and that addresses a challenge that is complex from both a technology and operational point of view. I personally like the fact that the product is for the greater good, it impacts the culture in the company. Mobility is an exciting domain to work on now, an industry that didn’t change for a century but that is now going through a revolution, and we’re part of it!
  3. Awesome place, not only the office space which is located in Tel-Aviv, a two minute walk from the train (we get free scooters if we take public transit to get to work ), but also the professional yet close-knit atmosphere is very unique. Everyone’s voice is heard, there are no “silly questions” and everybody is happy to help you, always.

and plenty of other things

  1. Technical challenge – Optibus is truly technology-centric. The Research/Algorithms team is the heart of our product, and these aren’t theoretical algorithms but real-life ones that aren’t trivial (tackling NP-hard problems), and that give us the edge over our competitors. Our Backend team implements these algorithms – this requires high math skills and deep computer science knowledge (e.g. Graph Theory). If your day-to-day work boils down to “IFs and FORs logic”, you know that most jobs don’t ever give your the opportunity to actually make use of the theoretical knowledge you studied in your CS degree. I love that. Our UI/UX is also exceptional and is at the heart of the product, it isn’t the “10th bullet in the marketing presentation” as in some other companies but a real differentiator that creates a lot of productivity gains for our customers, ones that they have not experienced before.
    I could have continued writing about serverless computing, deep learning, squeezing browser performance even when drawing thousands of elements, and what it takes to be a world leader in solving transportation optimization problems, but I guess you get the point by now.
  2. Production code – we’re not writing code for the drawer, we have a live product making huge impact on our clients’ day-to-day work. I visited a client last month and it was awesome to see the system on their screens in the control room! It makes a huge difference to know your work has a meaning for your users.
  3. Stage in startup lifecycle – we’re a startup but different, in a good way. What do I mean? We react quickly to changes, have no bureaucracy and the CEO sits in the open space, next to R&D and product teams. So what’s different? We have paying customers, we’re not the we-must-demo-next-month-or-else-we-shutdown kind of startup. It is rare for a young startup like us to have the leading public transportation companies in the world as its clients, be post Round A of funding and in hyper growth both in business and people wise.
  4. Work-life balance – we work hard, but we realize a good balance is key for retaining the top talent we recruited. We don’t have a clock you need to punch, we don’t measure our employees by the hours they’re in, and we’re flexible with combining work from home when needed (like the time the air condition technician saved my life back home). You don’t hear the “are you taking a day off?” joke if you leave at 16:00.
  5. Communication communication communication – we put a lot of emphasis on face-to-face communication, which is feasible since the entire R&D, QA, product and designer professionals sit on the same floor.
    In previous companies I used to receive dozens of emails every day, now I have 0-3 (yes, some days have ZERO emails!) and usually that’s just me emailing notes to myself. We use Telegram as the main communication channel in Optibus both as direct messaging and multicast, so we have Telegram groups for everything 🙂 team group, entire office, food ordering, knowledge sharing, mobility industry news and even for TLV Night Run participants. All automatic communication goes to (muted) groups like GitHub and Jira notifications. Important messages have high priority groups like Production Alerts and we even have “ask a dev” and “ask a product” groups, where there is always a quick answer to your question. This makes communication so much fun and efficient. The Telegram bots we developed are worth a different blog post.

Even if you don’t join Optibus, I hope this post makes you think about the four Ps in your work life: People, Place, Product and the Plenty of other things. All four matter equally, but as a software person, I can attest to the fact that not all software jobs are made equal, and that sometimes solving difficult problems with great technology and underlying theoretical power is simply a lot more fun.

Topics: Engineering, Corporate