When Rubicon Project employees show up for work each day, they step into the set for the Counter Terrorist Unit in the TV show “24.”
The Los Angeles-based company uses cutting-edge technology to run an online advertising marketplace that handles more than 120 billion ad trades per month between ad space buyers and sellers, reaching more than 600 million viewers monthly. With more than 1,500 servers deployed worldwide in four redundant data centers, it’s a pulsating moment-to-moment operation whose real-time readouts on giant screens looks more like a financial trading floor rather than an advertising business.
Why the bustling open plan layout? Mallory Maske, Director of People and Culture, says it ties into some of the company’s 11 cultural values that have been part of the corporate DNA since day one. “Our office design helps us with transparency, communication, and speed,” she says. “We believe that we build better products in teams than we could as individuals, and this environment encourages people to pull up chairs and start whiteboarding ideas. No one is intimidated to speak up, and we find things actually get done faster this way.”
Guided by a small and very hands-on circle of executives who, among other things, host a monthly “all hands on deck” meeting to communicate the company’s current status, tech teams work together to innovative the “big data” solutions that billions of monthly transactions demand.
One tech topic that’s top of mind at the Rubicon Project is DevOps, the enabling of collaboration and integration between software development and IT operations teams. Bridging these two domains is vital for a transaction-dependent company that’s focused on rapidly producing software solutions and services.
Praise and rewards are frequent at the Rubicon Project. The company has several ways for employees to point out each others’ good work, most notably a Yammer system (a sort of internal Twitter feed) which operates, “totally by the people and for the people,” Maske says, in order to share ideas and celebrate wins. The Rubicon Project also doles out gift certificates and other rewards.
The company provides three catered meals a day, plus the occasional barbecue or happy hour. Ping pong and pool tables are also available by the free soda machines. Outside the office, the company participates in community service events such as planting trees or beach cleanups each quarter.
Getting in the Door
“We try to hire the best of the best,” says Maske, “people who are naturally competitive and who will thrive in our unique environment.” With three to five new hires per month, the Rubicon Project continues to grow not only in L.A., but also in satellite offices in Seattle, New York, Europe and Australia.
“Our hires come from diverse backgrounds,” says Maske. “We do hire some people right out of college for spots on our UI team, in our Network Operations Center, and to work on up-and-coming technologies like Hadoop. We also hire the types of senior engineers who have worked at Amazon for ten years or have built big data centers.”
Maske also notes a strong culture of internal promotions. “As long as someone shows an interest and the ability, he or she will be considered.” And what you wear doesn’t matter. As one developer put it, “It’s nice to have the freedom to dress how you want to dress and look how you want to look and still be able to advance in a corporate environment.”