10 years at Opera

Exactly 10 years ago today, at 10 in the morning on February 1, 2001, I walked into the Opera office for my first day as an Opera employee. I was young, full of energy, and ready to take on the world! At least the world of browsers. Or Opera, at the very least. …

According to my t-shirt from Opera's 10 year anniversary party, I was employee number 42. I'm not sure if that was the actual number of employees at the time or if it was the total number of employees ever, but I do know that the first few years of my time at Opera, everyone basically knew who everyone else was. I think it goes without saying that the company has changed dramatically since then. With more than 700 employees worldwide, it's no longer possible to keep track of everyone.

Anyway, I was hired to do technical support, primarily through e-mail. However, one of my first tasks involved doing some testing on an old iMac. If I remember correctly, this was to allow me to learn more about Opera before I took on the support task for real. I obviously know quite a few things about Opera already (I got the job, after all), but I was amazed at how many things I did not know. I probably still don't know everything.

Even though I'm still working on the desktop version, I have been involved in a lot of different things, and my job and tasks have changed quite a bit over time.

Screenshot of the intranet the day I joined.
For some reason, I had saved a copy of the page
(but much of the styling seems to be missing)

As I mentioned, I started out with e-mail support. There were several of us, and we were supposed to reply to every single incoming e-mail to the support address. After using just an e-mail client to download mails directly from the server, we eventually got a real ticketing system (eJournal, and the name alone brings up some bad memories). Needless to say, though, this didn't really scale, and we eventually had to start charging for personal e-mail support (enter the now-defunct Premium Support) because there was no other way for us to be able to handle the incoming support requests.

But even as I was doing e-mail support, the Customer Service Department was getting requests for help from other departments. Our bug tracking system was available for public reports, and they needed someone to take care of that. Like with incoming support e-mail, every single incoming bug report was to be handled manually by someone at Opera. So our department helped out with that.

Eventually, handling incoming bug reports became one of my main tasks. The introduction of Premium Support drastically reduced the amount of incoming support requests, so that became a smaller and smaller part of it. But in addition to e-mail support and bug handling, I also found myself doing documentation tasks. I was one of the people desperately trying to find time to keep the knowledge base up to date, for example.

eJournal (grr) and BTS work at the same time. Viewed in Opera 7.
The full picture gives you a glimpse of one of our old bug trackers.

In addition to doing desktop-related tasks, I have also been involved in B2B projects. Early on, I was on dual systems, Windows and Linux, due to my knowledge of Linux. This also meant that the people doing Linux B2B related stuff brought me in to help out with a bit of testing and documentation. I think I wrote some parts of the first documentation for the Opera Linux SDK, for example.

I was actually given an offer: I could continue doing what I was doing, or I could work exclusively on B2B deliveries. I feel that I chose the right path when I decided that "my heart is with desktop". That's not to say that it would have been cool to be part of some of the things we have made for various devices, but the desktop version made more sense to me. I have not regretted this decision ever since.

But back to my evolving tasks at Opera: Somewhere along the way, the desktop team needed help with testing. So guess what, my department and I (called "Services and Documentation" at the time, IIRC) stepped in. When a new desktop version was about to be shipped, we would help out and do complete test runs to make sure nothing obvious broke. Another inevitable step on my path to becoming a full-fledged Desktop QA.

But since I was a "support" (and a lot of other things) person at the time, I was obviously quite aware of what was going on in our user base. In fact, one of my tasks after a while was to organize the feedback we were getting, or creating overviews of the most common/important things our users were talking about. This could be bugs, general problems, or even feature requests.

As part of this, I started monitoring our public "forums", that is, our public mailing lists and newsgroups. This gave me even more information to work with, and due to my knowledge of the community and user base in general, I was often brought in when there were questions about future priorities. I had been pushing for better processes to handle feedback from users, and as part of this, I found myself in various meetings with other departments, in order to help shape the future of the browser, from our users' perspective.

A monitor in the reception area a few years back
was showing pictures from Opera Mini users.

In other words, it has always been important to me to keep an eye on the community. This was eventually done in a more and more organized manner, and I was often brought in to consult others on what users seemed to find important. For some time, I acted as a kind of contact person between the "support team" and various other departments.

One of the most important changes to our interaction with the community was, I think, the creation of the My Opera forums. I had been wanting web-based forums basically since I started at Opera, but I didn't seem to be able to get the management on board. Then H-kon joined the company (he hasn't been around for a few years now). Somehow, he managed to convince TPTB of the value of a web-based forum, or at least contributed to bringing it to their attention (having been a moderator in a large forum himself for quite some time).

I was involved in the new My Opera community/forum from the start, and to this day I still have moderator rights on the site. It is definitely not my primary task at work, as doing Desktop QA takes up plenty of time in itself. But I still think it's important to stay on top of what's going on in the community, and I actually do quite a bit of moderation, mostly of spam, in my spare time.

Icelandic speciality: Rotten shark. Eaten using toothpicks.
Part of the "international lunch" initiative at Opera, IIRC.

Something else I wish I could take credit for was making Opera free (removing the ads). Again, it was something I had wanted us to do for some time, and I was bringing it up regularly. But rather than making Opera more available to people, someone at Opera actually had the crazy idea to tighten up our licensing. We would require online activation to remove the ads! Truth be told, I doubt the suggestion had much support at Opera (no one I personally talked to about it liked the idea), but it was apparently seriously considered at some point. Luckily, the management figured out that it was possible to make money by forwarding searches to Google, and the idea, possibly one of the worst ideas in the history of the company, was scrapped. Thank $deity for that.

Today I'm in the Desktop department, as part of the QA team. One of my main tasks is to test fixed bugs or new features, depending on when I'm done with something else, and what needs to be done at the time. This doesn't just mean doing some random testing. No, we need to write proper testcases for fixed bugs, and complete testsuites for new features. As you can imagine, this takes time, but I think the end-result is a much better product. There are various other tasks that may pop up as well, but I won't go into them here. Maybe in 10 years?

Back in 2003, I found a floppy containing Opera 1.0 Beta 1.
Not sure where it is now, unfortunately.

My history at Opera is a long and complex one. I have been involved in a lot of different things at Opera, including some B2B work, and yes, even Opera Web Mail early on (oh, Opera Web Mail. I could probably do an entire blog post just on that subject. And I might just do something once we get a little something out of the way). I started out doing e-mail support, and today I'm doing Desktop QA. Between that, I probably couldn't list all the tasks I've been involved in at Opera. I think I have seen most of the company at some point, including PR and marketing (who do you think came up with the iPhone Counter? ;)).

The company has obviously changed a lot since I started here. Sometimes I miss knowing who everyone is and what they are doing, but Opera Software of today is a much more streamlined and professional organization than it was when I started there. We have better processes, our products are of much higher quality, and best of all, we are still growing.

Celebrating 500 employees in 2008.
With cake, of course.

Now, will I still be around at Opera in 10 years? That, I guess, is something only time will tell. I may actually have some possible plans for the next few years ready, but what they are, you'll just have to wait and see.

Once thing's for certain, though: My time at Opera so far has been a great experience overall. If you ever get the chance to work at Opera, I heartily recommend it.

TL;DR, today is exactly 10 years since I started at Opera. I've been doing a lot of different things, and started out doing technical support, did various other tasks too, including B2B deliveries. Today I'm doing desktop QA (and then some).

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56 thoughts on “10 years at Opera

  1. Congratulations, Haavard! You started a couple of weeks before me it seems, we discussed who was first at some point ;)My, that screenshot of eJournal and the old BTS brings back some memories! I didn't really dislike eJournal that much, but probably mostly because I used great old Proxomitron and a set of ad-hoc Proxo filters to make eJournal work the way I wanted. Re-ordering buttons, adding fields, opening things in new windows rather than in the frameset and whatnot. The old BTS too, BTW 🙂

  2. Rits: The number shirts were a little garbled for the early arrivals (mine's 31, nyah, nyah), because the lack of kept record and the tricky question when you became an employee. I started late summer 2000 when there were around 50 employees, by the intranet numbering of the day I was employee #76 or #72 or thereabout, so if there were some dummy records that means that there were around 20 ex-employees by then, and likely another 50-ish at the Opera 10 year party in 2005.

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