People, Passion & Product: How 3D Printing Company Formlabs Became a Best Place to Work
Maxim Lobovsky wasted no time after receiving his master’s from MIT’s Media Arts and Sciences program in 2011. That very same year, he also founded and became CEO of Formlabs — a company dedicated to bringing high-resolution 3D printers to market at a reasonable price. Fast forward just six years later, and the company has produced 25,000+ printers, grown to several hundred employees and most recently, been honored as a Best Place to Work in Glassdoor’s 2018 Employees’ Choice Awards.
Employees rave about the company’s groundbreaking product and the tremendous impact that it has.
“Pros: Opportunity to work on projects you wouldn’t have the chance to touch elsewhere. Working for a company with an amazing mission, and an astonishing product,” says one current employee.
Glassdoor’s Emily Moore recently chatted with Lobovsky to learn more about Formlabs’ big win, why employees love working there and the many amazing ways their printers are being used — here’s what he had to say.
Glassdoor: What’s the best part about working at Formlabs?
Maxim Lobovsky: I think that there are two elements that you need in order to be happy and enjoy your job. More important than anything is working with the right people — people that you respect and learn from and enjoy spending time with. For me, the smart, hardworking, passionate people we have at Formlabs definitely fit that category. After that, it’s about working on something that you’re passionate about and believe in — something that you feel makes a positive impact on the world. It’s easy to feel that way about 3D printing because there are so many different ways it can be used.
Glassdoor: That actually dovetails really nicely into my next question — what are some of the coolest, most innovative ways that your products are being used?
Maxim Lobovsky: There’s a huge list — I could go on and on. Recently, a visual effects studio that works on Stranger Things used the Form 2 during their development process to visualize some of the creatures in real life. We have an engineer who has been developing robotic prosthetic hands for children. Usually, prosthetics like these are really expensive — a lot of people don’t have them either because they can’t afford them or they don’t fit very well, and it’s especially a problem for children because they’re constantly growing. But this engineer had the idea to 3D print a lot of the different parts of the hands so that they can be custom fit per person at a lower cost than what anyone else has done. I also printed my wife’s engagement ring. We have castable materials that jewelers can use to print a plastic pattern and then cast into a precious metal. And at this point, there’s been more than 50,000 dental implants created by Formlabs-printed surgical guides, which make the procedure more reliable and faster.
Glassdoor: What 3-5 words would you use to describe your company culture, and why?
Maxim Lobovsky: Definitely “curious.” When we’re interviewing, that’s something that we look for in particular — someone who tries to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and the context around their work, and who also tries to learn about other fields. It’s particularly relevant for a company in a new, evolving field where you need to constantly reach outside of what you’re doing to understand where everything fits. Within our company culture, that curiosity manifests itself as people feeling comfortable walking over to someone and asking, “what are you working on?” Another one is “quantitative” or “results-driven.” People here are really good about asking, “Is this making an impact? And if so, how?” Then, I’d say “quirky.” There’s a wide variety of personalities and preferences, and it makes things more interesting.
Glassdoor: You went right from grad school to becoming CEO of your own company — what was that experience like? What have you learned about leadership along the way?
Maxim Lobovsky: It’s great — I can’t imagine a better job. But it certainly has been a rollercoaster and has required learning and leveling up as quickly as possible. [As the company grows], my role changes every year and that’s one of my strengths: I’m good at adapting.
My leadership style is all about getting people to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and why that’s important. There are people who focus more on getting people to be loyal to them and follow their lead, but I think ultimately, if you want everyone doing the best job they can, they need to understand the big picture, where they fit into the puzzle and how they contribute. I try as rarely as possible to say, “you have to do this.”
Another piece that I’ve been learning, especially in the last two years or so as we’ve reached a bigger scale, is that interacting one-on-one with a person is very different than communicating to a large group of people. And it just becomes more and more important as I can’t regularly speak to everyone one-on-one anymore.
Glassdoor: What do you look for in candidates applying to your company? Any questions you like to ask them in particular?
Maxim Lobovsky: We, probably more than most companies, look for talent over experience. We want people who are excellent at what they do, even if they haven’t had extremely relevant experience. Part of that is because 3D printing is a relatively small and growing field, and also because our product is a new class of products. Then we really look for those values I mentioned earlier, like being curious and results-driven. One of my favorite interview questions is always, “How do you know if what you did was successful? How do you evaluate it?”
Glassdoor: What’s one of the coolest or most unique perks you offer?
Maxim Lobovsky: The most unique one is unlimited 3D printing. There’s 3D printers all over the office — probably one for every three or four people. It’s pretty fun to see the different things people make, like characters and models from games and movies. Some people make gifts for their kids or families.
Glassdoor: Now for a fun one — what’s on your go-to work playlist?
Maxim Lobovsky: I don’t listen to as much music while I work as I did a few years ago because now, I’m interrupted every ten minutes or so. But when I do get some time, it definitely has to be instrumental, sort of airy and atmospheric like Explosions in the Sky or M83.
Glassdoor: Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Maxim Lobovsky: When I was starting, I was always really focused on the impact of what we were doing — I didn’t realize how rewarding it would be to create a great place for people to work. Now, it’s become one of the biggest reasons why this job is rewarding. People spend a third of their waking lives at work, and most people don’t enjoy it. So the fact that for at least a few hundred people, I’ve contributed toward making work an enjoyable experience means a lot to me.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.