Updated: Apr 17
Robin.ly | TalentSeer Tech Leadership Webinar
As numerous companies around the globe shifted to mandatory remote working amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes more critical to effectively engage and manage a remote engineering team and start developing a remote-friendly culture for the future.
Robin.ly and TalentSeer co-hosted the special Tech Leadership Webinar on April 9, 2020, to offer timely expert insights and pro tips for the tech community during this challenging time. Our featured guest speakers include:
CTO @ Verishop; Former Sr Director of Engineering @ Snapchat
Dr. Rong Yan is currently the CTO for Verishop Inc, an e-commerce platform that combines quality curation and discovery with the convenience you’ve come to expect. He also served in several engineering leadership roles previously in Snapchat, Square, and Facebook. Dr. Yan received his M.Sc. (2004) and Ph.D. (2006) degree from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science with research interests in large-scale machine learning, data mining, social media, multimedia information retrieval, and computer vision.
Senior Manager of AI & ML @ Adobe
Omar Rahman is a Senior Manager of AI/ML at Adobe. In his current role, Omar leads a team of Data Scientists, Machine Learning Engineers, and Data Engineers in creating state of the art machine learning solutions for Adobe’s customers. Omar holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University. Omar loves to play chess and volunteers his free time to guide and mentor graduate students in AI.
Read a summary of key learnings from the event by Margaret Laffan.
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Full Interview Transcripts
Today's session is about “How to manage remote engineering teams? Best practices during COVID-19 and Beyond”. We're doing this because there's been many discussions among engineering leaders, especially around how it is that you manage productivity, around remote working readiness, infrastructure, and engagement and so forth. And of course, we want to talk about what happens next after this. So that's part of what we're going to cover today. We'll be looking to both of you to share more around for your best practices and give guidance and leadership during this time.
Briefly before we jump into a few other things in terms of introductions, and for those who are not familiar with or who know TalentSeer. My name is Margaret Laffan and I'm the Vice President of Business Development at TalentSeer and host of Robin.ly. TalentSeer is an AI talent search firm. We work with clients here in the Bay Area and beyond across the US, Europe and Asia, and help companies build out their engineering teams and business teams within the AI space and of course in the non AI-space as well. In terms of Robin.ly, we've built out these last few years a great thriving community of over 200K subscribers. And here we talk a lot around AI content, it's focused on AI research into commercialization. We've talked to many great scientists, leaders in the research world such as Yoshua Bengio at NeurIPS, Chris Manning when we were at CVPR last year, and we talk to business leaders about how it is that they see products maturing and so forth within the AI space, we talked to a lot of researchers and VCs as well in terms of their investment in this area. This podcast will be available on Robin.ly after this. We welcome you to see the replay there and to check out TalentSeer as well.
Before we jump in, how are you both doing today? How are your families? How are you getting through this right now?
First, thank you for having me, it's a really great opportunity to actually share the experience with the community and hear what people think in general. But I really hope that you and your family stay safe in these unusual times. I know this is a once in the lifetime experience that probably none of us has ever experienced before. But one thing I also mentioned to Shannon, a little bit earlier before this conversation is that I also think this will be a great opportunity, for a lot of people who would love to work in this community, because challenges and opportunities always exist at the same height. That's why I will love to share this kind of optimism to the groups also during this conversation. A little bit about my background here. I recently joined a company called Verishop, and that's a new type of eCommerce platform that combines quality curations with brand discovery, with convenience for the users. Before I joined Verishop I spent five and a half years in Snapchat, and I was a senior engineering director of Apollo engineering for the company. There were about 250 people in my team across six different locations, and two of them are outside us. So that's why we did a lot of remote team management at that time. And especially for my groups, we were responsible for developing and maintaining the core product features for Snapchat. And before that, I was the director for data science and infrastructure in Square, managing about 50 people there. And then engineering manager for ads relevance and qualities in Facebook, managing about 10 people in Facebook. That's roughly my background.
You've got a good a lot of geo experience managing medium and growing teams as well, Rong, that's great. Omar an intro to you. Tell us first how are you doing? How is your family and then a bit around your background, elevator pitch on Adobe and your current work today?
Omar Rahman: Thanks. Again, to reiterate, it's a pleasure to be here and share my experiences. We are doing well with my family, we're keeping safe so far so good one day at a time. These are unprecedented times for sure. Like Rong mentioned. We're just taking it day by day, week over week and we get out of it as soon as possible. With regard to my background, about a year and a half ago, I took up the lead role at Adobe to manage the machine learning group across two locations, Seattle and San Mateo. But beyond the direct responsibilities of managing people, I also have the overarching responsibility to the world AI solutions and AI capabilities within the B2B marketing space with Adobe. In doing so I have dotted line responsibilities of locations from San Jose and Bangalore. That's my experience in terms of managing, you know, globally distributed teams.
Right. You're working across different Geos as well, Omar, and various team sizes as well.
2. Infrastructure and Processes for Remote teams
Let's talk about infrastructure processes for a remote team. So remote working is different for every company. They have different structures, cultural maturity around how it is that they manage this. Now, from an engineering perspective, some companies do, but many companies don't have a remote engineering working culture. Or they have very different ways to set up which depends on the maturity of the company.
For Adobe, and Verishop, can you share with us how it is in your current practices today? And then did something change in terms of the shelter in place that you had to do differently from an infrastructure or a process setup. Help us understand a little bit more around how that transition, what that was, and then how did that transition happen as well. And any challenges that you had come up through that and unique opportunities to solve for these challenges? Omar Rahman: We are a large company with, you know, globally distributed teams. We are used to remote work, most of our processes, tools, software are built for remote access. We haven't had to change fundamentally over tools and processes. It's more about the mindset that we're having to deal with.
When it comes to distributed development, we use Git, which most tech companies use nowadays, so the collaboration is as before, we have the standard communication tools and slack or blue jeans, etc. From that aspect, we are well covered.
There are a few interesting challenges that keep coming up. So one example, for instance, is we have interns that will be onboarding over the course of summer and it's the first time this will be a remote internship completely, which means that these interns will not get access to internal machines or to be laptops and they'd be working on the machine. In the world of machine learning, if you cannot access data, you can't do much. So now, how do you make sure these interns are productive now that they will not have access to our internal secure environments or the laptops and stuff like that. We are having to synthetically generate data for them, mimics how the real data looks like so that they can still be productive and contribute to our work. These are some of the interesting challenges along with the overall mindset of just you know, we wish to work from home always.
Omar, just want to ask you there because you mentioned that you also have a team in India and I know having spoken to many other engineering leaders and in Asia, there's not such, and India, there's not such a great remote working culture, that's still quite new. So has that been a challenge for your team?
We are starting to see some minor challenges that we are having to deal with. Network connectivity, for instance, especially in these times, a lot of our colleagues in India have gone back to their hometowns. The network connectivity is not as great as in the big cities, things like that. But, you know, it’s just so that we have to deal with these. And if it means that certain people would need additional time to complete their work, or cannot dial into some meetings, via videoconferencing, it's fine. We just have to work our way around it. Margaret Laffan: Rong. Same type of question for you, right from the top, any adjustments, what is your culture overall? Do you have a remote working culture right now? Rong Yan: Both Snapchat, which is my past company, and Verishop, it's actually viewed as a globally distributed workforce environment. So that's why we have been very careful about building a culture that will make sure that our remote team can work effectively in our company. I probably bring up a few challenges for when we're managing a remote team. In particular, in the previous introduction, I mentioned that I have six different locations for my teams. Four of them are in the United States, two of them are outside United States. One is in China, the other is in Australia. Actually, especially for the teams that are outside the United States that bring even more challenges for us. I can probably bring up a few things. One, is that sometimes remote teams would consider themselves as a second class citizens to the headquarter teams, so they feel like they will be a little bit late in terms of their access to the company information and in some situations, they would get additional constraints in terms of data access, such as China and things like that.
So that's one challenge. The second thing is about communication. Communications is becoming more difficult on both sides. No matter when you want to pass information from the headquarters to the remote team or to the remote team back to the headquarter, they will feel like less sort of happy about the lack of information flow. The third thing, Omar just mentioned is a time zone issue. When you have a 12-hour difference between one place and the other places, and the potential overlapping in personal time between those two places becomes minimum. For example, all the meetings that we can have with Australia, and China have to happen in the afternoons. For like four or five hours, and that's probably the common overlap points that we can have between those two teams. These are all the challenges I've been seeing when you're managing remote teams like that.
In order to adjust it, there is effort we need to do on both sides. One, is that, in the headquarters, we need to eliminate the bias of considering a particular place as headquarters in our culture. Essentially what we ended up doing is that we are no longer calling Los Angeles as the headquarters of the company. We just call it this is Los Angeles. That's China. That's Australia. And we get rid of that concept. And that also helps us to eliminate the bias.
For example, when we are setting a meeting, we always need to consider that we want to set up a meeting that fits with all the remote teams schedule instead of a static only, setting a convenient time for the West Coast and stay with that. You need to have always have this kind of mindset baked in, when you are dealing with other cross locations discussion and things like that.
The second thing is that for the remote team, we were encouraging people to rely more on written communication to actually present the information, part of the reason is that in-person communication will become more difficult and challenging for those teams. That's why they have to learn, and they have to force themselves to actually do more about written (communication). So written is the best way for you to distribute information more broadly to the audience.
Another thing is about what I call proactive communication. So sometimes it could be a cultural issue. Sometimes it could be just like the distance issues, people tend not to communicate as frequently as that between the remote team and the main team or the local team. We, as a leadership keeps emphasizing the importance of not just waiting for people to collect information from you, instead, you should be the one that will be on the driver's seat to actually proactively share this information. It seems like when a lot of people, are sitting in the center of the information flow, they are not going to ask everyone to get additional information, but you are not in that situation. You have to push yourself to actually push this information out to the people that actually need to make decisions. That's also another mindset that we want to make sure all the remote team members are going to embrace. These are a lot of strategies that we've been trying to use.
But taking a step back, remote management, to me is still a difficult problem, still an unsolved problem. We are always trying to collect enough best practices for us to think about what we can do to make it better in the future.
This is the perfect time to be doing that as well. But don't go too deep into the communication aspect, because we do want to talk about engagement further on and get some more specifics from you around that too.
At this time, I had mentioned polls at the start, we do have a poll that Shannon's going to put up now, which is around what your teams are doing to stay connected during this. The first poll is: "Was your company set up for remote working?"
Okay, so we're going to take a few moments for that to come in. As we are talking about that, so we've covered a bit around the infrastructure, the challenges, some new challenges that you're seeing, but a lot of what you work with in terms of remote working still exists. That's still there. But new challenges around connectivity, especially if folks have, as you mentioned, Omar, in some parts (of India), the bandwidth and connectivity might not be as great as it typically is, if you're at the office.
I see here that a lot of people, actually, over 70% did have a remote working plan in place before this. That their company was set up for remote working. Okay, so much of this might be some shared experiences that they have, but then we see some nuances and the mindset, of course, is very important. I like what you said there, Rong, as well, around taking away that headquarter mentality. That everybody is seen more as equals as opposed to differentiated by the (location) hierarchy that exists.
3. Collaboration and Communication
Let's talk about tips and tricks for collaboration, communication. Rong, you had started to touch on it, we know that engagement is key during this time. Of course, it's key for team success at all times. But during this time, more importantly, because we need to stay engaged, connected, and communicate often with our teams. A little bit more detail around if you've implemented any new communication channels, or collaboration tools to keep everybody on track. Here we're trying to understand more around how that works for each of you. Omar, why don't you go first? Omar Rahman: We've done a few things to increase the communication we have, we have the stump floating around called over-communicate, that essentially translate, in the past, if you need to discuss something you will walk to your colleague, you will whiteboard something off and it was well understood across both the team members. But now you're having to deal with messages over slack or emails or maybe video conferencing and with certain things it's not easy to get your point across. So we are having to stress the fact that if you want to discuss maybe a technical topic make sure you do so with an example, write down the logic that you are expecting from your colleague in a particular, let's say methods, to be deep diving into how we work in our world. So that's the mindset we are going with; our standups which are usually 15 minutes have been extended, we are taking longer now. We are like literally; we are not standing up so it's okay for it to go longer. I'm having to deal with extended 1 on 1's with my colleagues more frequent 1 on 1's with my team members, just to make sure that we are all on the same page, that we're doing okay in terms of our product timelines. Margaret Laffan: As you mentioned slack and chats, there's a great quote there from Jason Fried, who said that "chat puts conversations on conveyor belts that are perpetually moving away from you. And if you're not at your station when the conversation rolls by, you'll never get a chance to get your two cents in". And we see that might happen for current decisions that need to be made. For remote teams coming online how do you mitigate against them having to go through streams of chat conversations to find out where the current status is of what it is that they need to work on? Or what decisions have been made? Have you experienced this and then have you any specifics that you've implemented around that?
It does get long and lengthy sometimes on a Slack channel, what we try to do is send out a summary immediately post conversation, just like meeting minutes, for example, somebody will do a similar thing to just capture a snapshot on who needs to do what, for instance. Margaret Laffan: So you keep it tight then. You have a good overall overview and insight into that.
That has happened a few times and that is how we are taking care of it.
Rong, you've talked about some of your communication techniques and what you've been adjusting to. More specifically, how about finding any fun or creative ways for the team to get more connected? Is that on your radar? Or do you keep things pretty solid business as is? Rong Yan: One quick comment about the additional strategies that we are trying to do here. I just want to quickly bring this up because our company and my past company were actually built for a distributed workforce. That's why we have always been thinking about how we encourage our people to be effective in a remote working environment. To some degree, this COVID situation doesn't really change our strategies. But it's actually forced us to be become more disciplined, in this case. One thing that Omar just mentioned, for example, Slack, they're using slack as communication, we also use the same things here, we're just using slack in a more disciplined way. It adds just structure and weight. For example, right now we have a central information spreadsheet that documents all the key metadata for the area. For example, when is the upcoming release coming? what are the corresponding slack channels that you're using? What is the corresponding point of contact that you are having? A lot of those kinds of things used to happen in a hallway conversation among people. At this moment, we're basically putting a process to force everyone to put the information into one single place. In that case, it’s not just the stakeholders that have the visibility, but the entire company has visibility on what's going to happen for the company. We also send out meeting minutes, we also send out weekly updates, from the major teams. People have been doing this kind of practice, like just in the past, some people do it, some people don't do it. And now this is a great opportunity to force every single team to follow the best practice so that we can actually double down on the remote working environment and the remote working culture that we want to be across the company. I take that as a positive direction that the company is moving into.
Back to your original question on what about the fun activities that keep the team connected? To be honest, like we've been thinking about this, a lot of ideas have been prevented by this virtual situation. One thing that we do is a virtual lunch. We used to have a group lunch happening on a weekly basis, we cannot do group lunch anymore. That's why we still want to see, maybe it should be the right time for people to get together on a regular basis in a non-watching environment. So, we keep doing a virtual lunch, people bring in lunch in front of their computer, and then like call in using Google Hangout. And then people have lunch together, but just chatting about some random stuff. This is like one thing that we are doing as a fun activity. But I don't know whether, although Omar may have other ideas on this, but I don't think we're putting too many thoughts around that.
On the topic of fun activities, we are actually doing happy hours, me and my team we go on a happy hour on Friday afternoons. We've just taken that to be more virtual now. And we're also trying to play some games during these happy hours. This Friday would be a trivia night happy hour. We're trying to see if we could play Pictionary, something like that, just something to keep the morale high for all the team members. Because I think that's what most people are missing right now you know, just being able to meet and go as a group to hang out together and have those discussions, just now it’s virtual.
There's a lot around that aspect too, the engagement and productivity to connection are key.
At this time, the next poll has gone up, and you have some multi-choice answers here. "What are your team doing to stay connected during this time?
While the poll is running, what I hear from both of you is that it is most definitely business as is, and a lot of the structure that you've built into your teams and how you operate you're maintaining. And then some of the newer things that are happening are that the transparency has increased. If you are in this Slack discussion or chats discussion, I'm hearing from you #1., Omar, that you do summaries out of those so that folks don't have to spend time getting back into that, because it's a very active space. And then there's also transparency in that and you've talked about this Rong as well, in terms of, you're doing a daily update, and it's written communication. So that is building out more transparency because people across the company are seeing that.
And just as we do this, the answers are in so thanks to everybody. And it seems like that there's definitely that mix of, businesses as is, a lot of people are using the same usual communication techniques, there's additional group, video calls, meetings and so forth, and then some online activities as well to, keep that momentum and engagement there with everybody.
4. Maintaining Productivity
Why don't we move into the last few sections we want to cover here around productivity? We know OKR's are in place and of course, are being set and business needs to continue, and folks need to be focused so that you've high performance in spite of everything else that's happening as well. How do you keep track of the team's productivity without making the team feel uncomfortable or that they're being micromanaged? Omar, are there any specifics or something that you're doing differently that helps ease the situation?
Productivity tracking in our line of work was never about people being physically present in the office for a certain number of hours, only support deliveries on time, making sure you can complete your stuff, with the right quality and on time. And that hasn't changed much. What has changed is, maybe we add a little bit of buffer as leaders and project managers into the project plan itself. So, you know, historically if you look, when you do a project plan, you would consider the fact that if your teams are globally distributed, you would have some time baked into that just to make sure you can meet your expectations. You just now take that and multiply it with the factor whatever because everyone has certain data models. Think of everyone just working in some corner of the world now you'll have to bake it into your project plan, but fundamentally, in terms of assessing the productivity, we haven't changed our OKR's, our system stays the same.
How do you maintain trust? How do you maintain that constant delivery, the specifics that you need to take charge of?
That's an important question. I think trust in these times the way we treat employees as leaders, or companies or brands, that's going be the defining factor on how we are going to be perceived. A lot of it boils down to empathy. I'm having to connect at a personal level with my team members to understand their particular situation, some are having to deal with kids being at home for instance, they are probably not as productive during the core hours of the day, but maybe they are a lot more productive from nine to 11 in the night, and then you just give them the option to work at their own pace, to be flexible. If I need to send an email, I know I'm not going to be expecting a response until maybe late in the night and that's okay. These are difficult times; people are having to deal with a lot. There are maybe situations where somebody has an elderly at home that you need to take care of, or you're personally sick and you need to take time off. All these challenges are sort of, you know, dealing with empathy and making sure that people are in the right frame of mind.
You're bringing in emotional intelligence there, Omar, as a leader. And make sure you've got the compassion and empathy for your teams. Emotional intelligence has always been a critical part of leadership. Rong, the same type of question for you, in terms of what are you doing to continue to build trust and foster this and ensure that people are being productive and so forth? And again, knowing that you already exist in a remote environment, is there anything different that you're doing to balance this out during this time?
The first thing I want to mention is that like trust is the foundation of my management principle here. If any of you have read the book called Five Dysfunctions of a team, that's basically the number one principle for managing teams and any process any principle or any methodology cannot be built without having a trust layer. So that's why, whenever I start seeing conflicts from the teams, whenever I see like a potential ineffectiveness of the teams the number one thing I will ask; Do you think you and your colleagues, or your partners actually have the right trust relationships? And then if they don't have that, then I'm going to step in to actually coach them and help to mentor them to help them to build these relationships in that case.
I always do that, encouraging transparency, encouraging communications, just to give a very recent example is that, some of my team members were having a very heated discussion in a group meeting environment, and then I started to talk to them to ask, okay, do you think this is a healthy discussion or not? We can judge as a leader, whenever a discussion goes into a direction of being personnel, or not being focused on things, instead focused on the judgment of the opinions, then you start to sense there is a mistrust problem. Then what you need to face is to make sure that they get rid of the personal perspective from the discussion and trying to be very open to the position, to the opinions that they bring in and do a right sort of pros and con's analysis regarding of the person. That's the timestamp when I was telling them that, the two of you need to have a very transparent discussions or this sort of, open 1on1 conversation with each other to sort this out. So, when it happened afterwards, it happened really well. And in that case, like the two people are no longer treating each other, like as incompatible team members instead, they start to work really well afterwards with each other.
That's one thing I want to take this opportunity to re-emphasize, trust is the foundation, not just in a remote working environment here. But remote working makes this become even more important. If people don't trust each other no matter what process or what principle your setup is you're not going to set fixed issues. And then the one thing I want to just add is that like we have the COVID-19 situations it makes that become more important for us to understand the challenges that people have been facing, for example, for the kids situation, they need to stay at home, or for some health situation that they're having recently, we have team remember either getting fever for whatever reason, or they need to spend like 50% of their regular working time taking care of the family. We need to show our empathy around that. It's really important for us to make sure that we have the right kind of thinking for this type of situation so that we can earn their trust during this process.
All of this starts to come together, Omar, you had started at the beginning talking about the type of mindset that you bring to the table, and especially during this time, and I've had many conversations with other folks who've talked about just the fact that we're all taking a pause and showing, I would certainly say a lot more compassion and kindness and understanding to each other, this is a very positive that's coming out of what is you know, quite a negative situation as well, in terms of what's happening outside there.
But this is really good for people that they're reconnecting back in with their emotional intelligence as well and looking at what they can do to offer support to their team members, and then to also figure things out, because they realize that the situation will manifest itself in negative ways, if they don't have that. It's really encouraging to hear that both of you are taking, this type of leadership role within your respective companies, to ensure that people, there's compassion, there's empathy. And then you're helping people figure out, any misalignments that they might have had, that you're giving that opportunity to spend more time on it and understanding each other's perspective. So that's, again, very encouraging. And thank you for that.
We have another poll that we're going to put up which is around "Are you more inclined to join a company that has a remote working culture", and that's for our audience as well to see what they're thinking in terms of future opportunities and for folks to think of it differently for talent leaders in terms of how their companies are set up currently.
5. Working Remote Longer Term
As that's going on, I do have another question for Omar and Rong, when we think beyond this current situation and longer-term and again, Rong, you said your company's already working on this. Experts talk about the trend of having a fully remote management team. And that if on a regular trend that is two to three years out. However, we're currently in a deep social experiment in remote working right now, how do you see this impacting remote working culture and team organization longer term, especially for engineering teams, but also from a leadership perspective? Both of you are involved where you've oversight into other functions. And we want to talk about that and then I'll come back into the results of this quick poll. Rong Yan: This is a very good question. I will talk about some of our observation in this week's staff meetings among our leadership. One thing I believe is that many people actually start to realize working from home is probably more effective than most people expected, especially with the improvement of the recent, teleconference technologies and network infrastructures. I definitely see all the challenges that we have here but on the positive side, it actually incentivizes people on several good things. One is that they will only create meetings whenever it's necessary and then that is creating fewer disruptions for people or for the other people, when they need a big chunk of time to focus. The second thing is that people tend to do more better preparations before the meeting because they know everyone is actually remote. It's important to do preparations. The last thing is that they actually learn to practice how to do active listening during the calls. So previously, when you have in-person conversations, there were a lot more interruptions happening when you see each other in person. In a remote environment, it's going to become more natural for people to listen and find the right time to actually come in to offer their opinions. So active listening is a very good thing for people to practice in this kind of thing. I think previously when people have a concern about remote working, mostly because when you have a mixed set of people, some are in the company, some are not, the people are in the company and getting the unfair advantage of being able to be more vocal and champion to offer their opinions, which makes the other side sound like less effective. But in this environment, everyone's equal now, everyone is taking equal positions. And now the dynamic has started changing a lot afterward, to some degree that becomes a positive dynamic, like when people start to not just place into an equal situation, but they also seem to understand the challenges from the remote team. And then I'd love to behave more positively towards that way adding additional empathy from that side. I think there will be a pretty profound change, like the leadership’s opinions towards remote working going forward after this big social experiment. That's just my two cents.
That's very interesting that your observations are this way inclined, that you see that the remote teams feel that there's a better level playing field number one, and then there's been you know, that turnaround effects. For folks who might have been at headquarters and in person all the time, are now having this experience of what it is to be a remote team member. It encourages all the other activities that you say like better observation, active listening, preparation before meetings and so forth. It's really interesting that you're observing that this is where the dynamic is leading. That's great to hear. Omar, how about your team? Omar Rahman: We see that as well, this will have a profound impact going forward on how we're going to be perceived as working remotely or versus being in the office. Having said that, I don't see the work from the office going away completely, I think we, a lot of people are still missing that. There is definitely a benefit to be had when people are together in the same room. So those benefits cannot be completely discounted and say that, you know, come 2021 we are all going be always remote. There are pros and cons to each side. But definitely the remote work culture will see significant uptake. And I think to all the points that Rong mentioned, those are really the positives that will come out of it. As he mentioned in the beginning as well any challenge comes with a broad set of opportunities, and we need to make sure we incorporate those learnings and opportunities going forward.
In terms of our poll answer, yes, we had an overwhelming, positive inclination to join a company that has a remote working culture. It seems that we are in a very different phase of maturity around team development and that people are welcoming and would like to pursue as well.
Q & A
Before we get into some of the questions that we have here in the chat, and of course, inviting out for any other questions that folks want to put in because we're going to move into that section now. Omar, Rong, is there anything that you want to ask each other? Just while we're doing this. I've been asking all the questions here. So maybe you have some questions for each other.
Omar Rahman: I know that the startup world, for instance, Rong, they can typically benefit a lot. Maybe your company is different. You're foreseeing, you know, distributed work environment, but in startup culture, usually, you hear about these garage-style work environments where people are banging on their keyboard sitting to each other, how do you see that affecting startups being remote?
That’s a very good question and probably because like as the reason I mentioned this, in our company, we not only have Los Angeles people, but we also have Argentina people, we also have people in the other places, we sort of a form a natural habit among the engineer. We should not just rely on those kinds of pair programming are required. Leveraging the physical convenience to do the coding type of practice. That's why I would say most of the people not taking that as their first choice. As they are regular practice, and that actually helps us in this environment is, we can no longer do that anymore. Seems like that's not the very common things that we do. I feel like the impact, it's actually not much at this moment. Then hopefully after this period of time, they also understand, okay, what's the reason behind that? And then, I definitely will still leave that to the engineering engineer to make their choices at some point. But this is actually one just good time for them to learn, why encouraging, remote working, sort of discipline, it's actually important for the business in the long term. Rong Yan:
Omar, I know, Adobe, it's a very big company. I think for remote working, is probably not just affecting your team internally, but probably potentially affecting how your team is working with the other teams. How do you guys manage their situations, in this case, especially with different functions of the company, things like that?
It goes back to similar points that I don't want to beat on a dead horse, but it's going back to, being a lot more disciplined, over-communicating, documenting things that you have discussed, sharing meeting minutes very diligently all those things combined together, you're just having to up your game a little bit now when you're remote working. Margaret Laffan: I'm going to take a few questions here. "What are the top three things that leaders can do to create a good remote culture". I know you've both covered a lot, give us your top three. Omar Rahman: Empathy is number one, be conscious of people's times and give them the flexibility or they want to divide their time across the day. And just be more, be a good listener, especially at these times and people have certain situations to deal with. Just listen to them and, try to help them out as much as possible.
My first point well, it's actually similar to Omar is around empathy. But I will say, trying to leverage written communication as much as possible. And also, consider putting certain data into a central data source, I don't care if it's a spreadsheet or it's a database or anything like that. But there should be one single place for you to document all the information. So then like everyone in the company can get access to this information. Another thing it's about adopting the best practice for remote meetings. For example, prepare before the meeting, practice active listening, and also sending out the meeting notes or action item after the meetings. Try to adopt those best practice as much as possible.
That's great. Thank you both for that. And we have one final question. "Any advice suggestions on joining a company remotely as a people manager?" Rong Yan: This is the, I would say, this is the interesting one. In the sense that at least when I was doing the hiring for my leadership people, I think, of course, like the manager doesn't need to be in the headquarters, but they should stay with the remote teams. But on the other hand, if we are having a situation that the people manager was actually in a different location with their team members, I think that situation will become more challenging. I don't want to hide the potential challenges here. But in that case, I do things like to some degree, you may need to sacrifice yourself by traveling more frequently to actually to the tech team member that you manage, at least in order to build that trust layer first. Building a trust layer, it's actually very important, at least in the first three to six months. And once you believe that you have the right trust between you and your new team, then you can start to do a little bit more remote management, but remote management, I don't want to hide it, it's tough. So that's why we need to find a lot more ways for the managers to manage it.
It sounds, Rong, that you guys also view it in terms of location. The team size the work that the team is going to be doing as well. It's a bigger conversation. It's not just a quick yes, no. Omar, anything additional?
It’s definitely important for people managers to be closer to the team. People management is almost always 100% of the people, the rest everything is secondary. When you're in the same location with the team this does definitely add value. The secondary option is to have a lot more frequent travel if you were to be remote. When our travel opens up, I think that's the way again. Margaret Laffan: There's a lot of similarities in your view there. We're just about over on time by a minute. I want to wrap this up. Thank you both for sharing your time with us today and your perspectives and so forth. We got a lot of great discussion points from you. It certainly seems to me like that there's a lot here around trust that we can spend more time with. And that might be the topic for a future podcast that we do with engineering leaders in terms of how you build that out and so forth.
At this point, I want to thank you both. We're going to publish this on robin.ly. And so folks can see it afterward who weren't able to attend. I want to thank our audience for their questions and for participating in the polls as well.