Rapid7 strive to revolutionize working in the cybersecurity sector

  • With new offices and a hybrid-first approach, Belfast-based Rapid7 uncover the effort they’re making to encourage a collaborative and creative company culture. 

    Rapid7 is on a mission to create a secure digital world for all. With a global team, they are committed to protecting organisations around the world facing increasingly sophisticated and complex cyber attacks while providing employees with an opportunity to build a career doing something that matters. As a hybrid-first company, Rapid7 understands the importance of providing their teams with cutting-edge tools and spaces that foster creativity and collaboration across a globally distributed workforce. 

    The company’s next-generation office in Belfast was purposely designed to create the best possible environment to stimulate innovation and collaboration resulting in arguably one of the most productive, exciting and motivating workplaces in Belfast. Located in the heart of the city, this creative office spacespans over eight floors, offeringa mix of central spaces where people work together to solve customer challenges, quiet areas - including their very own library - for independent thought work, and two cafe spaces for more informal meetups.  

    In addition to the array of workspaces, the Rapid7 Belfast office provides areas for employees to take breaks and spend time with other team members, including a games room, state-of-the-art gym and exercise studio, and a creative space with 3D printers.  

    We spoke with a few employees to understand the work they do at Rapid7 and understand how they best utilise the office space.   

    Thomas McGuinness, Rapid7 

    As a lead software engineer, what would you consider to be the main attributes of good software? 

    From a lead perspective, it definitely needs to be very testable. Everything we do at Rapid7 is around making sure everything is testable and nothing goes out without a proper unit test in place. So what that means is that if somebody changes a piece of software down the line we have this raft of tests that we can just run and say, okay, it still works as expected from before, including whatever new things we've added on top of it. Secondly, I would have to say simplicity is a crucial attribute. Yes, things can be complicated but you should be able to break it down so you can explain to a non-technical audience.  

    It is said that good software engineers need to have good coding and algorithm skills. What other skills and qualities do you look for in your team? 

    Communication definitely is the main one, especially at Rapid7 where we pride ourselves on having great communication across the entire business. For example, every day I typically have a stand-up with my team which involves a simple 15 minutes to share what we have done, what we plan to do and if there are any blockers that we need to remove. We go around the team and through that communication, we know exactly where everybody is and what we need to put in place to help everyone reach their goals. The most important thing is that they are communicating effectively and if anything is going wrong we can identify the issue and are able to move quickly to rectify it.  

    What is something that you've worked on, which has impacted a Rapid7 customer?  

    Actually, two things immediately come to mind related to the importance of simplicity and making processes more efficient.  

    On a recent project, we looked at a product we had that would do a rescan of a website and bring back any vulnerabilities using a public API.  By tweaking the API, it allowed us to automate the system and inform the client once the scan was complete so they could examine the results which eliminated the need for manual API calls. 

    Another ongoing project we are working on at the moment will bring three separate systems together into one cohesive view so customers can  immediately tell how vulnerable their product actually is. From the preliminary feedback we're getting from customers, this is exactly what they want.  

    How do your team use Rapid7's innovative office spaces to achieve great collaboration opportunities? 

    All our rooms, big and small, are kitted out with whatever tech or amenities we could ever need whether that’s wireless connectivity, TVs and whiteboards. Regardless whether it’s a one-to-one meeting or a bigger team meeting, you grab any size of room and it will have everything you need. If for whatever reason someone is working from home on a particular day, we still have the ability to share screens and have whiteboards online so we can Zoom call and still be collaborative. In practical terms, everything is built to be user-friendly and ergonomic for the individual so there are standing desks and another simple but effective feature is that in each of the desks, all of the drawers pull out to make soft seating areas for anyone to sit down beside you and talk over a screen. It’s the simple things like that just make collaboration so much easier.  

    Rapid7 offices are obviously designed to be much more than just a workspace. What are your favourite parts? 

    For me, the kitchen and dining area are good just to get away as a dedicated space for just eating and chatting away. I always make sure I spend my lunch hour there and avoid eating at my desk. I've worked at previous companies that didn't have that real dedicated area and it meant eating at your desk, so it's just really good to have that disconnect. We have other incredible spaces like the coffee bar, library, games room and even a gym so you can work and relax in the same building.  

    Tara McAllister, UX Designer. Rapid7 

    What inspired you to study interactive design at University and has working as a UX designer measured up to your expectations?  

    I've always been creative and I also really liked the process-driven subjects in school and so I wanted something that combined creativity and technology. I’m someone who is fascinated by the human brain and how humans work in terms of psychology, sociology and anthropology and UX typically combines all of those aspects. We need to understand how people interact with the user interface and make those user interfaces work optimally to help them do their jobs well and make their life a little bit easier. If we look at Cyber security professionals as an example, they are typically under-resourced and work in a highly stressful environment, preparing for the next big attack, so it’s simple things like, "this process should take me five minutes but because your user interface is set up in such a way it actually takes me 10 minutes". For one task, just losing five minutes of their time each day obviously adds up in the long term.  

    People can have a false expectation of UX, as they might think it's just about what it looks like but actually it's very much about how it works and how it helps solve the problem that they're facing. For me, I particularly enjoy how UX is about collaborative working with the engineering teams, product managers, our customer specialists and InfoSec teams. By working with our customers and talking to them about what they're trying to achieve, then distilling that down into tasks, workflows and user experience canvases we can then process all of this into a set workflow that they can achieve in the interface itself. 

    What are the main drivers for innovation in UX design today? 

    I think empathy-driven design has been steadily growing within the UX community for a while now. Whether it’s someone simply wanting to buy a pair of shoes or designing a user interface to support a cyber security specialist, you need to understand the entire process to enable them to complete their task. Empathy really helps focus your designs and workflows to help them get what they need done efficiently and with the minimum amount of stress. 

    Can you share an example that changed how a Rapid7 customer uses your products? 

    I'm currently working on one of our cornerstone products on the console transformation project for over 8000 of our clients and upgrading our tech stack while improving the user experience at the same time; the customer feedback has been incredibly positive. During post-release and in usability testing sessions, we showed the current experience alongside the new experience that we're implementing. It was simple things they pointed out like "I used to have to do a five-step process to make this work and now it's just a simple click of button that saves me hours every day". It’s always very satisfying to see how much we help our customers and we will continue to see that even more as the project develops.  

    How does this new Rapid7 innovative workspace help with collaboration and creativity within your team? 

    UX is very collaborative across multiple teams in Rapid7 so we are very fortunate to have lots of whiteboards and spaces to stand around and draw out all the different flows, screens and components that we need to build in order to fix each problem we're trying to solve. We have so many different places where we can brainstorm really easily, with huge team spaces and big meeting rooms so all of your team can sit talking while not disturbing anyone else. There's lots of other smaller private spaces too or if you prefer, you can meet in the café, have a coffee and talk in a relaxed environment which is great.  

    Rapid7 offices are designed to be much more than just a workspace. What are your favourite spaces? 

    I think a lot of people would probably say the games room and I like that if you're stuck in a problem, you can go off, play a game of pool then you come back with fresh eyes to your work. Personally, the space I appreciate most right now is a large private room where all the women in the office sit in a circle for a meeting every two weeks called ‘Girl Talk’. It could be something like "what's something that people assume about you that isn't true" and everyone gets to say their piece. It's a good way to build community as you learn a lot from other people and at the same time make really good friendships. 

    This article appears in the summer edition of Sync NI magazine. To receive a free copy click here

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