Every November, employees at Boingo Wireless ditch their razors and scheduled haircuts for a month.
What started a few years ago as a way to drive awareness about men’s cancers and support the Movember movement has turned into one of Chief Technology Officer Derek Peterson’s favorite team traditions.
“We let the mustaches, beards and hair grow, embrace the wild looks, and have fun supporting our team members and a charitable organization that is impacting the lives of many,” Peterson said.
As executive leadership team member and department lead, Peterson plays a key role in Boingo’s culture. But, he’s also the company’s lead technical strategist. It’s his job — and the job of his team — to connect our physical and digital worlds wirelessly.
The engineering team does that by solving complex wireless challenges and developing network solutions using a broad range of technologies, like 5G, private networks and Wi-Fi. Boingo provides connectivity within venues like LAX, the World Trade Center Oculus, Hollywood Bowl, and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
Boingo’s engineering team boasts multiple industry firsts, like the first commercial Distributed Antenna System (DAS), which launched in 1999. Those firsts have continued under Peterson’s leadership. Since he joined as CTO in 2011, Boingo launched the first Passpoint network in 2013 and the first Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) at a major airport in 2018 and deployed the first Wi-Fi 6 at a major airport in 2019.
“5G is changing how we live and work by connecting not only billions of people, but also billions of things.”
Now, Peterson and the engineering team are implementing 5G-enabled use cases for biometric scanners, people-counting tools for security and safety, machine learning and process automation.
“We are always innovating,” Peterson said. “Our team stays ahead of the curve.”
Built In sat down with Peterson to learn more about how he’s built a collaborative and fun team culture — including space to get creative and share passions — while pushing employees to grow and innovate.
How do you build team culture?
I believe in putting people first. At the end of the day, it’s our colleagues who make the workplace enjoyable and memorable. It is also the incredible people who make us successful as a company. So, if you have a secret passion for extreme sports, a minor obsession with outer space, are raising kids or all of the above like me, I love to know about it and talk about it.
Collaboration also plays a starring role in our team culture. It’s all about fostering an open environment that encourages and celebrates creative thinking, new ideas and innovation.
What was the last team event you hosted?
The Boingo Hackathon was back this year, and it was a blast. The entire company joins in, and we were divided into teams to solve some of our biggest business challenges. It was an amazing day. The entire organization came together to brainstorm, get creative and share ideas.
How do you help your team grow their careers? What tools and support do you offer to allow them to stretch their skills?
On the engineering team we have recent graduates and seasoned professionals who have worked at Boingo Wireless for more than 10 years. Boingo is a place where you can grow, learn and be challenged.
We support employees in furthering their education. We also have a strong mentoring and buddy network. We work cross-functionally with other business units every day and encourage participation in our employee resource groups.
Engineers tend to have an insatiable appetite for knowledge. There is never a dull moment at Boingo. We are constantly learning and growing our skills across the entire tech stack.
“Our partners are prioritizing digital transformation, automation and AI at all levels. Boingo’s converged wireless networks allow them to adapt, scale and improve outcomes to move their business forward.”
What impact does working at Boingo have on someone’s career?
Boingo partners with companies across the entire connectivity ecosystem, from mobile carriers to device manufacturers, standards bodies and everyone in between. You get a unique perspective into the entire wireless industry, especially because our business spans a number of industries: military, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, sports and entertainment and more.
I promise you’ll learn a lot, meet great people and have your finger on the pulse of what’s next.