Why developers of ABBYY Mobile Neural Network, Museum and Random Coffee
Hello, Habr! Back in 2005, the first mobile SDK appeared in ABBYY. And in 2007, a separate ABBYY Mobile department was formed in the company, and technologies began to be born that became the basis of our applications - ABBYY Business Card Reader, ABBYY FineScanner and ABBYY TextGrabber. In 2009, our pioneer Business Card Reader was released on mobile (push-button!) Nokia phones running Symbian. And very soon, on March 19, 2019, we will celebrate the first decade.
In this post we will tell and show how the life and work of ABBYY Mobile is designed from within, what technologies we develop, where we go on business trips and much more.
How space works
ABBYY office is located in Otradnoe, in a technopark with the sonorous name ITradnoe, in which we managed to accommodate more than 700 people. Many employees rent or buy an apartment right next to the office (I go to work for 12 minutes). Technopark
development plan .
We're here in this redshade building with the letter P, and the trees on the left are the artist’s clear imagination)
The mobile department is growing and expanding every year, now we have 30 people, and by the end of the year we plan to expand to 50. When we began to grow, we started a small repair and, first of all, collected the staff’s requirements for office space. As a result, 2 groups were formed - openspace lovers and admirers of personal space. Thus, we decided to organize an office: on the one hand, to break down the walls to make a zone for “communication”, on the other - to leave cubicles for thoughtful work on complex and interesting tasks in silence.
The jobs of developers and testers are small “houses” in which our guys are doing. Here you can hang your favorite posters on the wall, put musical instruments and generally equip your workplace as you like.
Our iOS developers created their “mega-cube” for 2 people.
The marketing and product management team works in openspace: walls would create an obstacle to the constant exchange of ideas and thoughts.
Probably, no one needs to talk about the positive effect of green color on the human condition. In our office, you can take a walk on the lawn, cut from alpine meadows, and check out the writing of the ABBYY logo in grass-green color. Every day on our lawn we have a stand-up (the whole department shares its work plans for the day), including with remote employees. To do this, put a big TV, wide-angle camera ( Logitech C930e ) and straight is a real blogger omnidirectional microphone ( Blue Yeti), so that all could be seen and heard.
A cozy workplace with a comfortable chair is, of course, wonderful, but movement is life. How to combine business with pleasure? It is enough to get off the lawn on a treadmill, without being distracted from work.
Lovers of nostalgia often look into the mobile museum, where we have gathered some cool smartphones and push-button telephones. We can try out various ABBYY applications that we have been doing in different years for Symbian, Windows Mobile, iOS, Android, physical business card scanners and even the text recognition system for Google Glass. The museum is still in the form of MVP, but after the renovation, which we are planning in Q2, it will be super cool there.
Health geek and environmental care
3 years ago, inspired by the experience of colleagues from Zeptolab, we decided that, in addition to breakfast and lunch, it would be nice to be able to have a snack, but healthy. After a brief discussion, it was decided that it would be fresh fruit. As part of the “beta test group,” we bought fruit for a week and savored delicious mandarins, bananas, apples, and sometimes even pineapples, passion fruit and strawberries.
The tests were successful and the project is now “commercially launched” throughout the company. Every day in the ABBYY kitchens, any employee can have a snack with a variety of fruits and drink freshly squeezed orange juice.
ABBYY also focuses on eco-friendly activities, thanks to which many of us have completely changed our approach to our own life.
Eco-stand on the 5th floor of our office
In addition to collecting old equipment and clothing or helping charities, you can also dispose of a bunch of different things, such as batteries and light bulbs, as well as take part in helping social institutions, animal shelters or museums. For example, they recently helped to care for trees in the estate of Leo Tolstoy, and this year they cleared the gardens of Abramtsevo. More about the eco-initiatives ABBYY we already told on Habré - here .
Secrets of a productive day
The company has many interesting activities that help you work productively every day. For example, a truly free schedule that you can build as you like. You can have time to pick up children from the garden-school, go to a football match, and then work out in the mornings / evenings or on weekends without any millions of pieces of paper or questions to the head and accounting department.
I am also pleased with the real children's room, in which you can bring a child from 3 years old, with pleasure to have lunch with him in the dining room and go home in the evening. About her often write and shoot stories of different media.
We also love to play video games. In addition to the Playstation 4 Pro, which are often played in FIFA and Guitar Heroes,
We, on the advice of the employees, also acquired for ourselves, and then transferred to the common playing area the SNES Classic Mini prefix, on which we rolled many old school hits! Tanchiki cause constant loading consoles, as well as Super Mario, Battle Toads and Super Contra. Just an incredible feeling!
Another thing I like about the company is employee training. At one time we did finance meetings, participated in the creation of several guilds, and within the framework of the ABBYY Talks project, we listened to stories about nutrition from professional athletes, about environmental friendliness from Greenpeace, about safety from Lisa Alert, about smart cities and AI from solution developers and scientists and so on. But what I like most is the corporate library. Its key feature is “free shipping”. You can write a request for the desired book (and if it is not there for a purchase), and someone from the “book fairies” will deliver you a book directly to the workplace! Care in its purest form!
Our internal systems are fairly standard:
- JIRA as task tracker
- Confluence for requirements and all sorts of notes and documents
- OneDrive as a corporate cloud
- Slack as a team messenger
- Another Teams messenger - for the whole company + calls
- TeamCity as CI
- Outlook for mail
- Workplace - internal social network
- Zoom - negotiation for phoning via the Internet
- And a bunch of internal samopisnyh systems from notifications of birthdays to purchases and budgets.
For more than 4 years, we have absorbed the best values of Agile: flexibility, teamwork and empathy, and have gone through several “levels”. Now the main task is automation, openness and to some extent even the happiness of employees.
For example, we regularly practice 1-on-1 meetings in which you can discuss not only the quality of work or passions in the latest release on Friday evening, but also life news, future plans and your own development in general.
For example, my February 14th.
In order not to become attached to the monthly cycles, after several iterations, we came to the opportunity at any time to give feedback to the employee in Google-form, which looks like this :
This approach allows you to give frank feedback, not forgetting the good and thinking about the growth of a person, rather than trying to humiliate or insult him. We also wrote a script that, after saving the form, sends an email with feedback to the employee’s mailbox. You can either leave it anonymously or subscribe.
Based on the feedback, the distribution of the cash bonus is also formed. Each employee each quarter has 30 "Soviet" rubles (we call them bitcoins), which he can distribute in any quantity to all employees of the department. Those who received the most “bitcoins” from their colleagues, according to the results of the quarter, will be rewarded with a large cash bonus. Who has less "Soviet" rubles, the premium may be more variable - from standard to large, already at the discretion of the head. Thus, employees themselves influence the amount of remuneration. This allows you to mark everyone who shows excellent personal qualities, such as mutual assistance, responsibility, activity, help, to extend them to the whole team.
The evolution of excellent feedback is a kudo card. Each employee can write such a “postcard” by hand to any other employee and hand it both personally and as part of a retrospective.
By the way, retrospectives are historically held with ice cream.
We also made a comic vote for the best employees of the department. Moreover, both formal, such as iOS-developer of the year, and completely informal ones such as “company soul” or “wise guru”. A gift to staff was a superhero kinder surprise.
Another interesting project that went through a successful trial and gradually unfolds within the company, this is Random Coffee. Such an idea (she was born from this article): the company employs hundreds of cool professionals who actually do not know so much about each other’s work in general and the interests of each other in particular. Let's give random people the opportunity to meet and just talk on informal topics? And it turned out that this is just what you need! Email with a request to confirm that you are ready to participate in the adventure, and then a letter with a randomly chosen companion with an offer to drink coffee (tea, cocoa, mineral water) together - this is what unites fan, mutual understanding, and innovation at the junction of departments. I recommend to everyone!
ABBYY recruits interns each summer. For us, this is an important part of the growth of students of the ABBYY department at MIPT, and the renewal of the team by a fresh generation with their own views, ideas and approaches. In 2018, only 14 people came to the mobile phone, and 5 people continued to work with us after the summer holidays. This year we plan to announce the program in early March, but now you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org
I liked how one of the guys noted: colleagues “poured” in the team. Can not argue with that. All kinds of help and support, excursions around the office, joint table tennis, consoles, barbecues, ice cream, good mood - and, behold, you are a part of ABBYY Mobile.
Trainee developers do not work with us for support or minor tasks, but for real projects, prototyping innovations, improving them and introducing them into products. What has been done on such internships? A few examples:
- integration of Siri Shortcuts into ABBYY FineScanner and ABBYY TextGrabber ,
- augmented reality scenarios ,
- recognition on the Raspberry Pi and in tricky cameras ,
- PDF tools ,
- overlay text on top of image in TextGrabber Android
- filter photos using machine learning in FineScanner, which automatically determines which images have text on it,
- extensions for importing images into FineScanner and TextGrabber
- and much more.
As you can see, a lot of this already works in our products.
Some trainees are engaged in tuning machine learning models, which will significantly improve the usability of applications. Instead of numerical algorithms, we are increasingly using neural networks. Due to this, data sorting, operation speed, recognition quality, and personal experience are improved.
Work on applications: what's new?
ABBYY Mobile is developing applications for the mass users and for the corporate sector, we want you to never have to manually enter data from paper media. In our plans -
- Realize the potential of FineScanner as a document scanner that can be used “in the fields”, with data extraction and export to any storage.
- Turn the Business Card Reader into a mini-CRM and a system for convenient work with contacts and export to corporate CRM.
- Make TextGrabber a convenient tool for filling out forms and translating texts.
- Use FlexiCapture Mobile and current SDKs as a mobile input tool in various RPA scenarios, such as client boarding or filling out a loan application from a smartphone.
- Implement mobile SDK for image capture and data recognition for quickly building enterprise applications, for example, by ID recognition.
- Implement several innovative projects. They are related to IoT , web technologies, augmented reality, voice assistants, capturing images in non-standard conditions and working with third-party applications.
Of course, in addition to developing applications, ABBYY Mobile developers are constantly improving intelligent information processing technologies. We are actively exploring the possibility of translating image processing algorithms (for example, trimming a document, searching words in an image) to the use of neural network technologies. Plus, the developments in the NLP are also transferred to mobile phones. Keras, Tensorflow, CoreML - with all these technologies, our developers have been on “you” for several years.
For 2018, we have pretty well pumped our applications:
- Improved Voice Over in TextGrabber;
- They taught the Business Card Reader to search in social networks;
- Added real-time translation in TextGrabber iOS and Android ;
- Made the import to TextGrabber and FineScanner more convenient;
- We taught TextGrabber and FineScanner to work with Siri Shortcuts.
- Added a new mode of displaying the recognized text and translation in the TextGrabber Android - now it is superimposed on the original.
Most of the activities are hidden behind the seals of corporate implementations, but of course we love and want to inspire all our customers. And here the main changes, of course, are ahead.
Since ABBYY technologies are used by companies around the world (Tesla, SpaceX, Daimler, Volkswagen, UPS, Pepsi, Walmart, Samsung, UIPath, PwC, Xerox, HP, Sberbank, Tinkoff, Point) are among our customers, our employees have to travel a lot . In 2018, our colleagues attended the most important conferences in the world of mobile (and not only) technology. Visiting such events is an important part of our work. First of all, we must be aware of the development of mobile technologies in order to introduce them into our applications among the first. As it was, for example, with “ PDF Editing Tools” and Drag-and-Drop in iOS 11 or “ Siri Voice Commands ””In iOS 12. Secondly, pumping skills. What can be better than live communication, exchange of experience and methods of work? Only live chat and experience sharing somewhere in San Francisco! Thirdly, any events are new contacts, product presentations, communication with corporate clients.
We conditionally divide the activities into three types:
- Mandatory (major conferences and exhibitions).
- Exhibitions and conferences for communication and development. Here you can vary the composition of participants from us (for example, send only PR) or watch the broadcast.
- Professional: several specialized events on verticals: developers, testers, marketers, analysts, designers, and so on. Without this, nowhere - trends and technologies are developing very quickly.
In 2018, at WWDC in California, the head of the sales marketing department, Mikhail Shubin, along with a Mac developer, listened about the future of working with the Apple platform and what “amazing, beautiful and stunning” products are being prepared by Apple, received feedback on ABBYY products and helped promote applications to the American and European App Store teams.
In the same sunny California, I was the first to find out about Android updates on Google I / O. The main interest for us were the updates that Google announced for the Android camera, as well as the machine learning tools on the device. We already use the announced technologies. Unfortunately, not everyone last year managed to make American visas, so this year the developers will do in advance.
After 2 weeks, a big landing from ABBYY will fly to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona. Come to our booth - NEXTech Hall 8.0, Stand 8.0J25
Speaking of travel
Or rather, about spontaneous travel. This fall, five guys, namely tester Vitalik Petunin, marketer Anya Boyko, project manager Sonya Oronova and two developers Alexei Efimov and Maxim Dmitriev went to St. Petersburg. And no, not to the conference, but just to see the northern capital and have fun. It can not but rejoice that colleagues become friends and travel together.
Finally, about the tradition that also helps to see the world outside the office - ABBYY Road. This is a motor race in which ABBYY employees have been participating for 9 years. The trip takes two days off: departure on Saturday morning, back on Sunday evening. Each year, the company comes up with several routes, and employees vote and choose where ABBYY motorcade will go. In May 2018, the journey was on the route Moscow - Podolsk - Tarusa - Tula - Moscow. In addition to walking around the city, we visited a lot of museums, attractions and activities. It makes you very close!
Why do I need to take a spare T-shirt
You must have thought about the nerve meetings with the bosses? No, we are all good. A few parties in table football or tennis - that's what makes you sweat in a good way. The most "hot" games are obtained when you meet in the game room with aces in the disciplines. By skill level, you can determine how long a person works in ABBYY. This is a great adrenaline rush and a “work reset”. And for the office, which allows space, table football, tennis or hockey - Masthev.
Sometimes in the evenings we go to one of the negotiations, but not to discuss pressing problems, but to play board games. There are many different games available: EkeyWookie, Genga, Archipelago, What? Where? When? And much more. Everyone will find something to taste.
We also love outdoor events that we organize both from the company and from ourselves. Over the past month, 4 went to Panda Park, played at the Laser-Tag command
and chopped stones and brushes in Curling.
In general, this article would like to remove the prejudice that ABBYY is a “hardcore scientific research institute”, because in reality this is not at all the case. And if you want to take a look at our office with your own eyes and join the mobile team, respond to our vacancies:
We always welcome cool people in the team. Come yourself and recommend to friends!