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Empowering every Community Manager to provide a seamless customer experience

Algolia is the heart of WeWork’s inventory search navigation system... It’s stable, it does exactly what we want it to do, and it’s doing a great job.

Fernando Padilla

Software Engineer @ WeWork
Wework
Use case

SaaS

Headquarters

New York, NY, USA

Customer since

since 2015

Feature usage

Faceting, Filtering, Geo Search, Native Mobile Integration

Powering search in
  • 120 cities

  • 700 locations

  • 2.5 million queries /mo.

  • +2,400 Community employees support front-end daily

Key results
  • A more seamless member and internal employee experience

  • A flexible and reliable solution that “just works”

  • More time for other priorities due to less time on search maintenance

The challenges

  • 1.

    Poor search experience with slow load times

  • 2.

    Inability to test, tweak, and optimize search on a regular basis

  • 3.

    Inflexible platform provided a poor developer experience

The solution

  • 1.

    Easy to implement and is easy maintain

  • 2.

    Flexible and scalable

The result

  • 1.

    A more seamless member and internal employee experience

  • 2.

    More time for other priorities due to less time on search maintenance

  • 3.

    Lightening fast and relevant search experience

Building community experiences where employees can do their best work

Since opening their first shared workspace in New York City in 2010, WeWork has grown exponentially, now providing shared offices for businesses and their employees in more than 700 locations around the globe. 

When asked to describe WeWork’s focus, Fernando Padilla, a Software Engineer at WeWork, said “it’s all about providing a flexible space and the future of work.” Padilla went on to describe WeWork as a company that he’s observed in his two and a half years of working there and highlighted its commitment to creating “a clean, comfortable, and beneficial space with great member service and flexibility to fit the member’s needs (the employers and employees).” 

Everyday, the WeWork team is reimagining the traditional workspace to create a space where people and companies, no matter the position or industry, can come together and form a community, network with fellow professionals, and learn from one another.

Using search to boost member experience

So how does Padilla and the team at WeWork complete their mission of providing a world class experience for their members? In addition to offering pristine and delightful offices, WeWork employs an operational team of Community Managers at every location. This large team of more than 2000 Community employees worldwide each serves their location’s member’s needs, from onboarding new members to booking conference rooms (and everything else in between). And to do this quickly and effectively they use an internal tool called Spacestation. 

Spacestation is WeWork’s internal inventory and member management system, serving as the Community Managers main administrative tool, used daily. 

And, as you may have guessed, search and navigation are the core tasks that the Community Managers are doing within Spacestation everyday. Search needs to be fast, efficient, and purposeful to enable their Community Managers to provide that concierge experience that best serves their members.

Evolving from a local startup to global organization

When WeWork launched their first workspace more than a decade ago, like most businesses in tech, the team was startup minded. They aimed to “get things done and get things out as fast as possible.” 

WeWork is still using Ruby on Rails (“Rails,” for short), and PostgreSQL. Rails is a free and open-source development framework written in the Ruby programming language. Rails, and PostgreSQL continue to offer the Engineering team good outcomes with great security. However, as time went on and WeWork’s global footprint expanded, the team needed another solution to help the company grow.

WeWork image 1

WeWork’s development team’s main priority is ensuring that their tool, Spacestation, removes the overhead and negative aspects from the Community team’s work, ensuring they’re able to solely focus on their members. It became clear that WeWork needed a better performing, more flexible development solution. A foundation that could continue to perform the monthly two and a half million queries most effectively, as the business continued to scale. Additionally, with their legacy code needing constant upkeep, the team needed a solution that would be easy to implement and maintain, leaving them time to focus on other priorities. 

“Our engineering team was doing some database searching and it wasn’t very efficient.” says Padilla. “They needed to move to an indexing system, to isolate from the database, protect the database, and go to a more efficient indexing system.”

One API to Rule Them All

After evaluating multiple solutions, including open-source solutions like ElasticSearch, the Engineering team determined Algolia was the best fit for their needs. “They really liked the idea of Algolia being a SaaS solution and a distributed index,” said Padilla, “because that way, if Spacestation or any user using any of the UIs powered by this Algolia index, wherever they are in the world, they get the most efficient experience.” 

“Additionally, the implementation and maintenance of Algolia was and is extremely easy,” Padilla continues. “We just had to pull an API key and could start powering any experience.” Rather than having engineers build their own database, backend, and indexing system, they were able to load it all into Algolia and “the frontend just works.” 

wework image 2

“I mean, rather than trying to maintain our own back-end API and figuring out how to get that back-end API co-located around the world, the idea that it's an index in the cloud that's distributed efficiently, it's just a cool feature, there's no way around it.” 

Today, Padilla and his team have implemented Algolia within their inventory system that stores all of the available rental spaces, sizes, and prices. Community Managers and members can view what’s available today and what’s available next month, and so on. 

Algolia drives their main website’s inventory search experience through an IQS inventory query system, which behind the scenes is backed by Algolia. 

According to Padilla, “Algolia is the heart of [their] inventory search navigation system.” 

With Algolia, when Community Managers use Spacestation or a member searches on the website, they are provided a quick experience that serves up the closest open spaces quickly and with ease. 

“Algolia has a nicely distributed search network, backed by a CDN. So, it makes it efficient. When the website actually tries to gather information it hits the closest Algolia index and it's fast, so it doesn’t have to go to a specific API backend that we host. It allowed us to build a website without having to build a backend with a specific database. We can just throw stuff into the index and it works.”

Stable, Reliable, and Fast

With an internal framework that is still largely running on legacy code, the Engineering team must find time to clean up and maintain these old systems constantly. Having to do this often takes away from their abilities to optimize new tools and make them better, as well as building new systems and features. 

This makes the reliability of Algolia that much more valuable for WeWork’s engineers, freeing up their time spent on Spacestation search and navigation, allowing more time for addressing technical debt and innovating with new features. To create a flexible workspace with a reliable and seamless member experience, it’s no wonder the team at WeWork selected a tool that is just that: reliable and flexible. Algolia, Padilla says, is “stable, it does exactly what we want it to do and it’s doing a great job.” 

For the Community Manager team, Padilla said, Spacestation “is like breathing or Googling. It works, and if we took it away they’d go crazy.” That’s why it’s imperative that the WeWork Engineering team provide a fast and reliable inventory management system. And Algolia helps them do just that!

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