I've moved to Vienna, and I'm about to leave Last.fm. Looking back, here are 10 reasons why I love to work for Last.fm:
My colleagues turn work into play and have created an environment that feels like a family. I've learned a lot from many of them. Some have become very close friends. All of them have inspired me with their passion, enthusiasm, motivation and curiosity for everything related to technology and music. Also they've always been very patient with me and always very helpful. I admire their intelligence, creativity, and how determined they are to make music more enjoyable.
There is a constant flow of very valuable feedback from our users. Many are as passionate about Last.fm as we are. They have enabled us to run countless experiments (A/B tests and similar) - from which we learned more than we could have ever learned in a standard academic environment.
If you love data mining and working with large data sets, you'll love working at Last.fm. There are a lot of fascinating things that can be learned about music from Last.fm's data. And there is a lot of fascinating things to learn about dealing with data at such a scale.
Last.fm has been on the front-line of some very interesting developments. Always using the tools that work best and developing new ones when needed. Always trying to push scalability limits and trying to make things work faster and better. Before joining Last.fm I didn't realize how fascinating technology can be that solves large scale problems. I've learned new programming languages, things like Hadoop, and many algorithms I had never heard of before. I caught a glimpse of the amazing technology (both software and hardware) behind serving tens of millions every month. If you love technology, you'll love working at Last.fm.
The data is easily available through APIs. Last.fm staffers constantly contribute to open source projects and parts of Last.fm are open source. Every staff member (even I) can post anything they want on the company blog. We are constantly attending events where we talk about the things we do and share our experiences. Also the communication within Last.fm is very open.
We have a table tennis table standing around in the office, a foosball table, there was always a skateboard around, and for a while we even turned one of the meeting rooms into a ball pit (and had meetings in there). There were remote controlled helicopters flying around in the office, XBoxes, we have colored bears telling us about the state of our code, highlight words on IRC include "pub", on IRC we also constantly share the newest coolest stuff we find on the Internet, servers have names like "badger", ...
6. Lunch Discussions & Techmosis
One of the things I've already started missing since I moved to Vienna are the daily (informal) lunch discussions. In particular the discussions in which Norman Casagrande was involved - he's like a living encyclopedia. We talked about why C++ templates are so useful, how to solve the problems in the middle east, inconsistencies in religious beliefs, objectivity as a concept, world history, politics, the daily show, ...
We also have something we call Techmosis, where we teach each other things. Usually Friday evenings we reserve a one hour slot to learn about something cool. Sometimes we'd also have non-staffers teach us. Today it will be a presentation on manga by Japanese manga artists. Generally I found the atmosphere of teaching each other extremely inspiring.
London is an amazing city. There is so much happening, there is more stuff to check out every day than I could absorb in a year. I'd love to move Last.fm to Vienna, but I can see why East London is the perfect place for Last.fm. As one of my colleagues says: it rubs off on you. If you haven't lived in London yet, you should definitely give it a try.
8. Free Stuff
My favorites are my Last.fm t-shirts (one of which I'm wearing right now) and the fruit. (I herewith admit that every week I probably eat about half of our weekly supplies all on my own.) Pizza lunches and the occasional pub visits with a company credit card were nice to have, too.
9. Rooftop Barbecues
We made sure our neighbors knew they lived (or worked) next to us. But I think the best part always was how the parties just seemed to spontaneously happen.
Last on this list, but not least: If you love music, you'll have a hard time finding a better place to work than Last.fm where you are surrounded by music, and people who love music. You might also like the band practice room.