Announcements, Technology

Our road to Lisbon: How we set out to build the next node in Europe’s best tech community

It took no more than a week in Lisbon to know that it was meant to be. And that our next CTO may very well come from Portugal.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 

Let us introduce ourselves: We are the two guys celebrating the successes of and losing sleep over our new office in Lisbon. Nizar is in charge of recruitment, while Joni takes care of the operational side of things.

While opening and operating the Lisbon office is a joint effort between all Reaktor offices, the two of us are responsible for European talent communities’ smooth growth and making sure our people find happiness and meaning in their work. 

We’re here to tell the story of how the next phase of scaling Reaktor’s business to international waters took us to Lisbon, Portugal, the city of fresh pastel de natas and Europe’s fastest-growing tech ecosystem.

How it started: From getting hit by waves to getting hit by the pandemic 

The first time we visited Lisbon, Reaktorian tech community growth and due diligence in mind, was in 2019. 

As much as we’d like to say we toured potential office locations knowing fully well what we were looking for, armed with fancy analytical frameworks, that wouldn’t be entirely true.

While things like quality of life, universal language skills, and level of university education are all hygiene factors when an international company expands its influence, the main thing to note is this: We were looking for a vibe. A place in which all of these things come together. And, having had tons of meaningful conversations and participated in all meetups and events we got invited to, we were pretty sure we had found that place in Portugal.

Feet on the ground

While we were interviewing people, getting familiar with the local scene, and checking out locations, there was also just a lot of figuring out how to get around the city. Hence the map break here.

Getting to know the scene

We went to the Web summit, with about 50 000 others. Good news: We knew we were onto something. We're not the only ones growing tech presence in the city.

In the first two weeks here, we came to notice two things: 

  • One, the Portuguese tech scene seemed to be lacking a consultancy with people-first-perspective and strong maker culture. 
  • Two, the talent here is amazing. We camped out at Time Out Market in Lisbon, meeting local techies and interviewing three candidates a day. It was exhausting but exhilarating. People here are talented, easygoing, and honest about what they can do. 

After only a couple of visits to the Portuguese capital, we were excited and ready to take the next step in setting up a permanent new home here.

Then suddenly, the pandemic hit.

As we all know, investments and ambitious initiatives all around the world came to a grinding halt. At Reaktor, we were equally scared and confused. As an agile tech company, our ways of working adapt to a situation like this more so than many other businesses. However, going fully remote was new to us as well, and took some adjusting

First Lisbon camp

We camped out at Time Out Market in Lisbon, meeting local techies and interviewing three candidates a day. It was exhausting but exhilarating. People here are talented, easygoing, and honest about what they can do.

Location, location, location

When we were looking for offices, we had pretty high demands. But reasonable demands, we think. We want our people to love the place they spend their time in, that's the only way to stay creative and motivated. This one for sure had us admiring the views.

How it’s going: Coming back stronger than ever 

We’re not here to downplay the devastation and distress of the humans and industries that suffered the most. However, one and a half years in, we see some very concrete upsides to the changes in business culture:

Left with no other option but remote work, our industry as a whole has come to realize that we truly can work from wherever, whenever, remote, onsite, in different time zones. During the times of universal WFH, Reaktor’s multi-site delivery quickly leveled up in every aspect.

As a result, our dream of borderless software projects started to come true. Imagine having teams in Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Helsinki all working for a German client. While tomorrow’s top-notch tech work does not care about country borders, in this setting, Lisbon’s extremely convenient location in between the US and Europe comes in very handy. 

After the pandemic eased its grip on Europe and on Portugal, we were back in Lisbon with masks on, talking to people, hunting for offices, feeling the vibe.

On the move again

This summer, we got back to Lisbon. Goals: checking potential offices, meeting old friends.

Happiness is the key

Our business is our people, so prioritizing future Reaktorians’ standard of living is vitally important to us. In terms of internationality, accessibility, level of ambition, and quality of the food, Lisbon ticks all the boxes.

And! This summer, we decided it was time to make the move, start a Portuguese company, and finish what we started in 2019.

We found an office in Rossio we love.  We’re sending out the first cultural ambassadors from the Helsinki and Amsterdam offices this December. 

Our first OKR is to have the office up and running by December 22nd. We know we’ve succeeded when project delivery, talent growth, onboarding, and a training schedule all function seamlessly.

Our second OKR is to throw an unforgettable opening party for the new hub.

Home, finally

The new Reaktor hub will be in an old Rossio railway station, built all the way back in 1891. We absolutely love the central location and slightly quirky decor. More on that next.

Window to Europe – and to North America

With an ambitious and talented tech community, easy access to both Central Europe and the United States, and a competitive international business scene, this is the perfect next chapter in Reaktor’s story.

How it will look like

Reaktor offices always aim to be a refuge away from home, include some Finnish tradition, and provide space to let ideas simmer.

An illustration of the new Reaktor office in Lisbon

Becoming a next-gen tech community

What’s in it for us devs, then? In growing our tech competence here in Lisbon, we plan to differentiate in two things: developing a tight community and setting up a system for advancing our tech skills.

Lisbon is exactly the kind of environment in which the core values of Reaktor flourish: an international, get-things-done mindset, endless curiosity towards the unknown, and not being afraid of putting a bit of extra effort in when going gets tough. Needless to say, finding the right soil to grow our metaphorical roots in isn’t only about what we want, but what the market needs, as well.

Reaktor teams work in an autonomous setting, have no hierarchy, and do bigger things than complete individual Jira tasks. We take on projects with real-life impact. CI/CD and functional programming are hygiene at Reaktor: what comes next is our thing.

When we talk to local developers, we tell the story of our culture through day-to-day anecdotes and stories of projects past. We emphasize transparency, so we cover both epic wins and painful memories. Candidates are given the opportunity to reverse interview us on each of the three rounds (attitude, tech, and closing) of interviews. 

Our humble quest is to become the best possible place for developers to learn from other equally passionate professionals, grow in their profession, and have a damn good time doing it.

That’s what we intend to do here, anyway.

Become a part of our journey in Lisbon: Check out our open positions.

And now, we're here

This is literally just the beginning.

Never miss a post