Lego arrives in the metaverse

The Danish plastic brick manufacturer Lego is rapidly expanding its software development teams to meet the growing demand for virtual experiences, such as metaverse.

Lego is working to expand its software engineering teams to diversify from plastic bricks to bits and bytes, but can it compete with big tech companies to attract top talent? The Danish company is investing heavily to become a more technology-driven company, following the explosion in popularity of online brick building games such as Roblox and Minecraft (Microsoft). Seeing the missed opportunity, Lego announced a partnership with video game maker Epic in April 2022. The two companies will join forces to build experiences in the metaverse and blur the lines between digital and physical building experiences.

“Partnering with Epic is our journey into the metaverse, and there’s a lot of product to work on and a lot of technology to build for it,” said Atul Bhardwaj, executive vice president and Chief Digital & Technology Officer at Lego. To meet these opportunities, Lego is looking to expand its internal software engineering team with the goal of tripling its IT team to 1,800 people by the end of 2023, spread over offices in Copenhagen and Billund in Denmark. , London and Shanghai.

A digital transformation at Lego

To drive this transformation, Bhardwaj says he wants Lego to be more product, engineering and architecture focused. “I see it as being product-driven rather than project-driven,” he said, meaning “defining the problems you solve as a set of digital products that you create and build.” As for making the group more engineering-focused, Atul Bhardwaj wants to focus on architecture and craftsmanship. “What kind of engineering do you want to establish in order to be able to design world-class scalable systems? ” he asks.

Atul Bhardwaj joined The Lego Group in November 2020 as Executive Vice President and Chief digital & technology officer. He is responsible for the Lego Group’s digital and technology teams and oversees its digital transformation. (Credit: Lego Group)

Of course, software engineers will play an important role, but new IT recruits will be complemented by digital designers, product managers and technical program managers as the digital team grows. All these ambitions must be supported by a solid digital architecture. Atul Bhardwaj wants Lego to build systems that are “scalable, running 24/7, flexible, open and easy to connect”.

Build cloud-native infrastructure

The company is building a unified data platform and updating its infrastructure to be more flexible and cloud-native. From very little cloud usage 18 months ago, Lego now hosts 54% of workloads in the cloud, with ambitions to be 100% in the public cloud in the future. “We’re looking for the speed, responsiveness and flexibility that the cloud gives us,” Bhardwaj said.

The Lego Group uses a wide range of languages ​​and frameworks, from Unity for some of the latest consumer products, to React for, to SAP ABAP for back-office systems. “We have a little bit of everything,” said Atul Bhardwaj. “In the data platform we use Scala and Python. What’s trending today, we use it. If you’re an engineer interested in a modern technology stack, you’ll find it here.”

A link to the company’s history

Software and Lego have gone hand in hand for a long time, as many engineers enjoy building physical models in their spare time when they want to get away from their workstations. “Everyone I interview has a Lego story,” Bhardwaj said. “There’s a connective tissue there with the mark.” Modular software components have long been marketed for their Lego-like tools that can “talk” to other components. This idea now extends to the way the company itself builds its software, through loosely coupled systems and heavy use of APIs.

“When I describe fantastic architecture, it’s like Lego blocks, where you can relatively easily build something, take it apart and rebuild something. That’s what we’re trying to create here,” said Mr. Bhardwaj. The toy company also expects its engineers to work in loosely-knit teams with autonomy to build features as needed. “We want to build a culture of empowered teams that have the freedom to solve problems in the way that suits them best,” said Atul Bhardwaj. “We are a fun company where play is rooted in what we do. It’s a big part of our culture.”

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