One year as remoter11 Dec 2016
Ok, you are used to long time without posting, so no need to repeat it! Anyway, as you know we half accidentally moved to Colombia last year, and now it’s been a year since we left São Paulo, Brazil.
I’ts been quite great experiente, but in this post I’ll talk about how it is like to be working as a remoter.
I’ve worked with a dedicated team of 4 + me, plus a total of 22 people in a office with me as the only remoter of the company. More recently, had the chance to work with a team of 8 in 4 different timezones. Here are some tools and findings:
Hipchat is pretty useful tool, specially because mentionning someone offline will activate the person via email. Slack was also used but it doesn’t activate users using different channels. The result is that conversations rapidly grow and If you don’t reread the entire chats of channels you are left behind. Not only that, important decisions and changes are left behind. So how do we succeeded?
Well, Chats don’t replace old style email with
cced people. Don’t rely on chat history to communicate important decisions, project paths, direction changes. Make it visible via email and additionally store it in your wiki (Conflunce like). If you, while working in the same office as your colleagues, you send emails, don’t stop doing it if your work with a remote team.
Don’t expect people to reread chat history to find themselves if a important decision was made while they were offline.
GTD? not enough
Tools like Trello and Asana are pretty popular, but they are not fit for every scenario. For these two cases I had Trello perfectly working for one case, but neither Asana nor Trello working for the other.
Trellos is very tyring with card only view, Asana is tyring with list only view (and a poor descritpion/comment editor with no right to format what you are writing). Again we see people loosing interest in collaborating via these tools because they are simply ergonomically unconfortable, or because they know knowledge is lost among so many tasks. There is no follow up, no knowledge/decision broadcast.
Not only that, if only the IT team uses it, people from the business side may not realize we finished a request/feature. The old Issue Tracker is the best options for many scenarios. Even worse, if they request feature/changes using chats chances are we never realize they’ve asked a thing! The result is probably people disagreeing/arguing they said something in a chat channel but the coworker hadn’t seen it.
Always-On Camera is weird
For one of these cases, we’ve set a always on camera in the officer while I let open my lap top cam. Well, in the end we typed more than talked using the camera. A periodic video call showed to be more appropriate, less intimidating, less privacy disruptive than a always on camera.
For the other we almost had no video call, what was the opposite of the previous approach. A balanced will bring some benefit.
Bring your own tasks doesn’t work
We are sometimes tempted to let people record their job using tools like Asana and Trello by themselves. Well, they won’t. And if you have a minimal clear specification for a project, open the tasks/issues yourself and make the team go through each taks until the project is delivered.
Previously creatting tasks give people a sense of compromise and mission!
Text only spec can be enriched
Text only spec are not executble, so if a developer leave something behind, it will be left behind. The bigger the specification, bigger the chance someone to leave something behind. That’s why you’ll also likely have a business analyst or a product owner (not someone from the business not able to access his/her own smartphone settings, but a real technical professional product owner for God’s sake!).
Video calls without a summary email/wiki page is useless
Of course we have such quick calls that it doesn’t justify documenting it or sharing with others. Let’s call in taks calls. But if you have a more general weekly call, document it! Or don’t waste your time talking about topics will be lost as soon the call is ended.
Social network are not project/remote tools
Recently Facebook came up with Workplace, a supposedly working tool. I’ts likely you or your company are thristy to use it just because it was made by Facebook. Well, in fact this is just facebook. How can you ever be productive or do anything related to work using facebook? You can’t. This is shit, keep out.
So is Yammer, or anything like that. Use enterprise social network as a central point of broadcast, and some of them are useless for this purpose. They are whate they are, useless.
We kown remote working and specially remote teams are perfectly doable, but with the wrong tools/approach/people, this is a recipe for a disaster. Newcomers to remote work are likely to see it in a too romantic fashion and ruin everything. We need to be realistic!
You need to be disciplined and show you are. If you work at home but keep your TV on, your preferred smartphone game on, or your wife/husband Interrupting you all the time, please work on it before join a remote team.
If you think you can predict/suppose people emotions while reading what they wrote, well, you can’t. Then if you are super emotional person your are likely to create more problems than helping team to solve them.
Here a list of tools I believe is almost universal for remote jobs:
- Concluence - please document all your shit here
- Jira - No, project specific issue trackers (like availabe at Github/Bit Bucket) are not enough. It’s way common to have projects that uses microservices fashion approach, and even if it’s not about microservices, a modern app requires more than 2, 3 even 5 different repos.
- Slack. This is a chat, suppose this is people talking to each other as they would do in real word, so please don’t trust this as if it was your bible or the source of truth.
- Hangouts/Skype/Appear.in for video calls. A camera in the office (if there is a office) will cause more harm to privacy than help you to collaborate. Please schedule your calls and create wiki pages for summarizing them. If you think it’s waste of time to document all calls, keep a single project page with decisions and path changes.
Things to keep distance:
- Google docs - While important piece for creating documents, presentations, sheets, don’t expect to collaborate daily tasks using it. Keep project documentation in confluence
- Whats App - No comments
- Chat is your life approach - This you destroy your project and everything will be just disconnected
That is it. Hope a can continue to learn and improve remoting skills. Anything I should learn, I share with you!