Our Office Space

Or our permanent quest to optimize the wokspace experience

September 15, 2015

Our Office Space

Introduction

Looking back at the beginnings, one can easily say it has been an exciting journey so far. We started to operate from a co-working space in Maadi, Cairo, called “The District”. The District had a really great and diverse community from all fields and backgrounds. It was really an enriching experience for our team. But our team was steadily outgrowing the available resources and facilities, and it became inevitable moving out to our own office.

Choosing the office

Because it is one of our core values that “people are first”, we started setting some criteria that would make our team members lives better once we move to our new office. For example, back then we had multiple cyclists among our team members, and they occasionally planned a “cycle to office” day, where they met at a central meeting point, and then cycled to work. It is really hard cycling in Cairo streets, we decided to choose an office with multiple rest rooms, and at least one of those rest rooms should support having a nice shower for the sport lovers among us.

We started thoroughly surveying other offices in Maadi. The survey process included taking pictures of the office from all corners in all rooms, and taking extra detailed notes about everything, from the squared meter space, to the finishing of the office, to the surrounding views, ease of transportation, and more. These notes were later shown to all team members, and we did multiple phases of voting to come up with a final list of candidate offices.

We then did some filed trips to the selected office, and discussed various layout design decisions, until we came up with a final choice, and hooray, we got us a lease contract!

Office Location

location

Our office is now located in Degla, Maadi. The neighborhood is a lovely and quiet neighborhood. You can find people jogging at any given hour, day or night. Everywhere you look you will be surrounded with beautiful and relaxing green scenery, from all office windows. The location is easily accessible, and there are lots of nearby interesting places to visit, eat, drink, or just hang out.

The Office Door Key Problem

The first problem we decided to solve was the office door’s key problem! It was a problem we all faced in previous working places, where you would have to wait for the person with the office keys to arrive, or where the company had to maintain different copies of keys. It was just too much hassle. It becomes even more hassle when your company has flexible working hours, and working from home policies.

We decided to forgo the whole key thing, and install a keypad lock on the office’s front door. After multiple surveys, we ended up choosing a Schalge keypad lock, and we purchased it while in a visit to the New Orleans office. Turns out that explaining to the carpenter how to install it was much harder than surveying and buying it.

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Now every team member has a combination they chose themselves, and come and go any time, day or night, without having to carry keys around or wake up the person who has a copy. It was really amazing seeing how a little detail like this can have such a big impact on improving the office space experience.

Working Spaces

We believe that a good working space should be treated as an investment, not as an item to be checked off your todo list. To construct our working spaces, we did a countless visits to an endless list of vendors to survey and choose the best we could. Some of the visits would last long beyond midnight.

The efforts payed off well. We reached a really cool setup. Every engineer has a spacious desk, an ergonomic comfy chair, as many screens as they want, a top of the line laptop, a docking station to eliminate the hassle of attaching and detaching cables, and -my personal favorite- a desk lamp like the one that appears in the famous Pixar movie entrance!

office-space

Whiteboards Everywhere! And Glass Too!

We take whiteboards seriously. We have a whiteboard almost in every room in the office. Boards can be used for almost anything. They can be used for breaking down a problem, discussing a design decision, drawing, leaving a message for a colleague, or even voting what we are going to order for lunch.

We have different sizes of whiteboards, and we even have a huge movable whiteboard. We have all kinds and colors of markers at the office.

We even went the extra mile and claimed all glass in the office to be boards too. Do you remember the scene in the epic movie “A Beautiful Mind” where John Nash writes using a white marker on the glass? Those are the liquid chalk markers we got at office to be able to utilize glass the same way as boards.

It is a lovely scene to enter the office and see all these diagrams and information on the boards and glass wherever you look.

Big Screens Everywhere

We have 3 big screens at the office. They are usually being used in presenting slide decks, video conferencing with the New Orleans team, and showing cool stats here and then about various events.

We have a screen installed in the area where our engineers work. We have another screen in the meeting room. And we have a third Smart TV in the entertainment room.

The Meeting Rooms

We have setup a dedicated meeting room for team wide meeting, or meetings with our team abroad. But we also have a smaller meeting room for smaller groups or one-on-one meetings.

The meeting rooms were created by installing glass partitions. We wanted the glass partitions to provide privacy, while maintaining transparency and openness. We surveyed what kind of stripes we should have on the glass. We then came up with a crazy idea of applying the Golden Ratio to the stripes, and turns out they looked really pretty! It was a difficult task explaining that to the craftsmen doing the stripes, they thought we were nuts, but we thought it was well worth it.

The main meeting room is equipped with a cool meeting table, a whiteboard -of course-, a Polycom telephony system with 2 extension microphones, to capture input from everyone attending the meeting.

We have an especially cool setup for the meeting room’s screen. We have an Intel NUC computer attached to the screen, and we have wireless keyboard linked to that NUC. The NUC is connected to the Polycom device. We also have a fancy webcam with a wide view and high resolution installed on top of the screen. We do all our video conferencing using this setup.

This setup is somehow replicated to an extent in the smaller meeting room.

We also installed two clocks on the wall. One shows the local time in Cairo, Egypt, and the other shows the local time in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The kitchen

We have a real cozy kitchen. We have two coffee machines at place. Espresso machines to be exact. The first machine is a Nespresso machine, and the second is a Lavazza. Life is good and coffee never tasted better.

We also have a fridge containing various beverages. We have soda drinks, and different juice flavors, pure and otherwise. The fridge also has skimmed, half cream, and full cream milk.

We also have a collection of different hot drinks, like hot chocolate, instant coffee, almost all kinds of tea, and other herbs as well.

We provide a diverse selection of snacks and cereals. We try to make it as diverse as possible, and we also try to make it healthy as possible. We also serve a daily bowl of fresh fruits.

We have a microwave to make life easier for team member who bring their own lunch from home.

As with all things we do, we constantly try to get feedback from our team members on what they think would be cool to add or remove from our snacks and beverages lists.

The Balcony

The view from the balcony is marvelous, green and relaxing. We capitalized on that and set up a table and two chairs for a lovely morning coffee, a friendly chat, or a period of uninterrupted focus while working.

We also installed artificial grass covering all the balcony’s floor. The end result is amazing.

The Break Room

We’ve got a spacious entertainment room. After a round of surveys, we got a portable ping-pong table , which we assembled and installed ourselves. We got the smart 50” TV, that is connected to our wifi network. We contracted with a carpenter to build custom lockers for our team members. We have a set of comfortable bean bags, and we are planning on some exciting expansions planned for our break room, including building a small gym at the office, but that’s a story for another time.

On the entertainment’s room door we installed a pull-up bar with a weight support system for assisted pull-ups.

Toys & Swag

10-elephants

We love to have fun, a lot! Occasionally we would buy some toys to make the office a little bit more fun. We bought multiple DIY models of catapults matching Leonardo Da Vinci original designs. Those were fun building and shooting at each other with. We also have a bunch of PHP elephants wandering around in our offices.

Epilogue

In the next part we will be talking about many things. We will talk about our future plans for the break room, we will be talking about our setup to be immune to power outages, we will be talking about our multi-ISP load-balanced internet setup, and about our lighting system. Stay tuned!