Interview with Team Helsinki: Hyvää vuosipäivää, Helsinki!

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Mar 14, 2022

Interview with Team Helsinki: Hyvää vuosipäivää, Helsinki!


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Mar 14, 2022

Exactly four years ago, Mapbox Oy was certified on the Finnish Trade Register. Hyvää vuosipäivää Helsinki means Happy Office Anniversary, Helsinki!

Today, as we celebrate our anniversary, we want to take a moment to recognize our team and reminisce about opening our office in Helsinki, Finland. To help us tell that story, we interviewed a couple of Mapboxers who are based in our Helsinki location, Thiago Santos and Bruno Abinader, Engineering Managers, and Jenni Harju, Office Manager.

Thiago, you were instrumental in opening our Helsinki office. Tell us about the decision making process and role you played with this location/office opening?

TS: The office was born when Bruno, Ivo, and I pitched the idea to our founder and CEO at the time, Eric Gundersen, on a trip to San Francisco. We had signed him up to speak at a startup and tech event in Helsinki called Slush as part of the plan. After Eric took centerstage to talk about Mapbox in what felt more like a rock festival venue than a stage, and after getting a taste of the tech scene in Finland, he was completely sold on the idea of growing in Helsinki.

Bruno, Eric, Ivo, and Thiago in front of the Helsinki city logo.

Our first unofficial office was in Espoo, to put it in map terms, at the centroid of our respective homes. There was no way it could have worked for others as we continued to grow, so eventually we moved to a coworking space at the heart of Helsinki when the company officially opened an office in 2018. That is where all the means of public transportation converge. When we outgrew the coworking space we had no choice but to stay in the city center because everyone loved the location. It was by far the most democratic place to be.

Espoo Office in 2015 and Espoo Office in 2017
First hire as Mapbox Oy joined in May 2018 (Misha). Helsinki Office in 2019, largest room of the coworking space.

With a lot of searching and a bit of luck, we found a place on top of the Casino Building (which is actually on top of an actual casino) that looked too perfect to be true because as far as I know (and can see) it has the only balcony to the main square. When choosing a location, we were given this abstract requirement that “the office must have a soul.” You can’t really explain what that means but you know when you see one. Our office definitely has a soul, it is perhaps the mix of cool people, a balcony, the arched columns, and a tall ceiling.

Mapbox neon lights in a rainy autumn day, as seen from the train station.

Over the past four years, what has been your favorite memory or accomplishment?

TS: There are many memories over the years that come to mind for me and many of those included bringing our community and team together to celebrate. 

Dominic, head of Office Spaces that put the first office together. Pre-COVID thanksgiving party in 2019.

But my favorite memory and accomplishment over the years was the day we put our logo on top of the building we are in now. Seeing that logo hit me and made this whole experience real and that there was no turning back! 

I recall getting many messages from the team, “Have you seen the logo? It is up already! You must see it!” I was at home and rushed to the office in excitement and left the metro from the central station to make a more dramatic approach. As I walked towards the office, I was full of emotions. When I got close enough, it was all laughter because they had put the “pin” upside down. I realized why the team wanted my reaction so badly and everybody was waiting for me at the office with a half-smile. It became a meme for a few days until it got fixed.

Mapbox Pin Logo, upside down

Jokes aside, that was a true milestone. A company putting their brand on arguably one of the busiest locations in the country is a sign of commitment and solidifies our presence. We are about to reach 50 headcount in the office, another milestone that just confirms our initial belief that Finland was the right place for a Mapbox office.

Bruno, you’re part of the Helsinki office as a co-founder. Tell us more about what you do and what the team in Helsinki works on.

BA: I joined Mapbox in 2015, just three months after Thiago, who invited me to join this “cool SF-based startup doing amazing tech with maps!” I started as a Software Engineer in the GL Native team and focused on the ongoing partnerships with our automotive customers which eventually led me into building a spin-off team named Core SDK in 2019, where I am currently an Engineering Manager.

First day at the Mapbox Espoo office in 2015. Mapbox featured in Rimac’s beautiful dashboard.

The Core SDK team initially was responsible for providing custom-tailored solutions to our automotive customers. That work has helped us to learn about opportunities for converging solutions across teams, and we have since changed its scope to being a platform team providing shared solutions to our internal SDK teams.

Today, the Helsinki team spans beyond hosting both GL Native and Core SDK teams, and also includes Android, iOS, graphics, and backend engineers, map designers, and many more exciting roles that we have open!

What are the biggest projects and customers you get to work with in Helsinki that you can share with us?

Mapbox featured in Qt’s Automotive and Rightware’s Kanzi UIs.

BA: My very first project at Mapbox was about adapting our maps rendering engine to run inside a leading EV manufacturer’s user interface. Back then, the customer had its UI implemented in Qt and Thiago had just the right proof of concept ready. Thus, the work Thiago and I did implementing the Mapbox Maps SDK for Qt has been key to some of our early automotive partnerships. Starting with our Qt framework official support, then leading to a Qt Navigation SDK for automotive and embedded devices, as well as implementing HD Vector Maps in Rightware’s Kanzi. I worked closely with automotive partners like the Qt Company, Rightware, and NNG, as well as customers like Rimac, Porsche, and others.

Jenni, you joined the team recently as the Office Manager and have been bringing exciting events to life in the office. Tell us about your most favorite memory so far.

JH: It’s impossible to pick just one! All live events are so special. But if I have to pick one, it was really cool when we hosted the end of year celebrations last November and had team members across all of our offices visiting from abroad.

It’s so great to bring people together and we know that the Helsinki office is growing! What are the team’s plans to expand space for our growing teams?

JH: Yes, the Helsinki team is definitely growing and we have exciting plans for the new office! We are not moving far - just three floors above where we are now. So we move within the same staircase (no need to send out new address cards, haha). The new office is under construction and we will move this spring. Estimated move-in time is May 2022.  Below are some snapshots from the office space (“under construction”).

Thank you all for sharing your stories. For anyone out there interested in joining Mapbox, can you tell us why you are at Mapbox?

TS: I will use the same line that got me hired: at Mapbox you can make a difference. We work on an exciting product that is making a positive impact on millions of people.

JH: I love Thiago’s response! That’s what really got me as well. Also, for me, it’s important to work for a company that aligns with your personal values.

BA: To me Mapbox has also been a place that provided me opportunities to grow professionally by being challenged with new roles that go beyond my comfort zone.

Interested in working at Mapbox? We have open roles in all our locations! Visit our careers page for the full list.

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