Jun 13, 2019

Niilo, VP of Engineering: “I was a Typescript and React guy who joined Wolt because of the people. Now I’m scaling our whole engineering team”.

Tech blog: Niilo Säämänen

Solid state-of-the-art technology. That’s what Wolt’s food delivery is built on. Our Apple-awarded app makes it incredibly easy to discover and get great food. Our world-class logistics platform allows our customers to get their food faster and our courier partners earn more per hour. Our internal tools let us ramp up new cities efficiently. In this series, we chat with our engineers to give you a glimpse into the dev life at Wolt. Today, we’re talking to Niilo Säämänen, our VP of Engineering. Niilo has been with us for 3,5 years and is working on scaling our 50+ people Engineering organization.

Niilo – what is it you actually do at Wolt?

I originally joined to build the first web version of Wolt, which I got to create pretty much alone. As we grew, I ended up running the whole engineering here. In addition to mainly waving my hands impressively, I’m super focused on how we scale our development team and culture.

You’re a technically and socially talented engineer that any tech company would hire in the blink of an eye – why Wolt?

I was previously trying to get my own gaming studio up and running. During that time, one of Wolt’s founders reached out and asked if I’d be interested. At first, I didn’t think the problem space would be that interesting. However, I ended up being super impressed by our CEO Miki and the team. For me, joining Wolt was about the amazing people. Having worked in tech for quite a while, you realize that what it really takes to build great things is a great team. These days, the tech we make is actually really interesting, too.   

What’s the most interesting technological challenge you’re currently working on, then?

The problem I’m solving now is how to scale and grow our team. We have a strong culture of every engineer having lots of ownership, and I want us to keep that as we grow. How do we continue to build product while embracing high autonomy, independence and ownership? How do we scale that? It’s a half technical, half cultural challenge. Not just scaling servers, but scaling our team and culture.  

“How do we continue to build product while having high autonomy, independence and ownership? How do we scale all that?”

What’s the most difficult technical problem you have encountered during your time at Wolt?

The way we do logistics optimization through aiming for efficiency and through understanding our customers is some really cool stuff. It’s not me personally working on it, but it’s very impressive.

What technologies do you like to use?

I personally used to be all about Typescript, React, various state management libraries, gently refactoring the world, mostly frontend, mostly beautiful things. Nowadays I’m especially good at waving my hands.

What’s your favorite programming language and why?  

I’ve always liked C# for the structured, typed nature of it combined with a gentle syntax and enough dynamic features on top. However, during my career I’ve ended up doing a sh*it ton of Javascript and I kind of love the anarchistic nature of the language. You can build great things with it in so many (mostly wrong) ways, but there are a few great, beautiful ways as well. In the end it’s kind of like in real life.

“I kind of love the anarchistic ways of Javascript, how you can build great things in so many (mostly wrong) ways with it.”

How can developers develop themselves at Wolt?

Our culture is based on ownership and excellence. We encourage our people to speak at conferences, do part of their projects open source, attend courses and so on. We give tons of freedom for our people to do what they want. For example, some of our people built a page-loading image optimizer that uses a modified subset of the JPEG compression – because they wanted to. And because it made sense for our problem. There’s tons of problems to solve, and we support you in learning how to solve them.

Want to join our team to build Wolt together? We’re hiring! Check out our open roles at 🚀

Read next