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As engineering leaders reflect on the past year, many are facing up to the reality that remote working is still very much a part of their organization’s way of working, and could well be a permanent fixture.
What have engineering leaders learned from this rapid implementation of remote working? And what can still be improved upon to cultivate better working cultures and onboarding experiences for distributed teams?
Episode 1: Owning your onboarding in a remote world
In this article, Nielet D’Mello discusses the added challenges of joining a new company remotely, but also how these challenges can be eased by taking charge of your own onboarding. She takes the reader through the ways in which they can form their own process and the impact this can have on their onboarding experience. Her guidance ranges from setting expectations with yourself and your manager, tips on effective communication with the new team, to the power of being curious and learning through contributions; all within a remote environment.
Episode 2: Laying the foundations for remote success
In a year that flipped everyone’s lives upside down, the concept of ‘remote working’ has been on the minds of every engineering leader. But it isn’t just the practicalities of working from home that present challenges – how can leaders also create a supportive and empathetic culture for their distributed teams that works effectively?
This conversation looks at the different methods companies have been implementing to build a remote-first culture, with our panelists – Swati Vauthrin (VP of Engineering at Buzzfeed), Jay Shirley (Head of Tech Enablement and Remote Hub Site Lead at Stripe), Allison Malloy (Senior Development Manager at Shopify), Kristina Kemmer (Director of Engineering at Zapier) – and moderator – Neha Batra (Director of Engineering at GitHub) – discussing their own experiences.
During this discussion, our panelists explored:
- What their respective companies do to create a remote-first culture, and how that is different from when they used to be on-site
- The ways they have seen their teams and peers adjust to a more asynchronous way of getting unblocked
- How to navigate times of crisis remotely
- The unpredictability of remote working as a parent
- How to interview and onboard new hires successfully.
In 2020, Kiana Mohseni took on the role of Director of Engineering at Shopify soon after the company went fully remote. During such a turbulent year, would onboarding in this new world present the same challenges of uncertainty and alienation?
For Kiana, her onboarding experience was nothing but positive. In this article, she discusses the practices Shopify had put in place to ensure that starting a new job remotely was nothing to be feared. These practices included asynchronous communication, a company-wide understanding that onboarding takes time (180 days), a digital archive of meetings, and a concept called a ‘trust battery’.
In this article, Myra Fulton discusses the initiatives that Skyscanner has implemented to ease the transition to remote working for its teams. She shares the importance of ‘frequent and transparent two-way communication’, as well as giving team members the autonomy and flexibility to manage their own work schedules around the new, personal challenges that could be presenting themselves during the pandemic.
Myra also tells of the impact that internal team rotation had on employee morale. By allowing engineers to work across a range of user challenges, they could ‘empower people to work in spaces aligned with their career aspirations’. Myra states that ‘career development does not stop because the world we are working in is different. If anything, it becomes even more important to ensure we are having quality career conversations and helping grow our teams no matter our location.’
Finally, Myra explains how Skyscanner’s internal mentorship program helped to fill the social gap that working remotely leaves. The program is open for anyone to become a mentor or mentee, and Myra states how these relationships are ‘invaluable when people are working without the physical presence of their colleagues, helping people build connections and learn from each other.’
A final takeaway
The last twelve months have seen vast changes to the lives of engineering leaders and their teams. This series gives an insight into how organizations have fared in navigating the challenges that the pandemic has brought about in the workplace, from the onboarding process to the sustenance of a healthy company culture.
There is still a lot to learn on this journey into the new normal of engineering workplaces, but through knowledge-sharing, experimentation, and the act of putting the health and wellbeing of team members first, the content in this series shows that the move into remote working can be a positive change for everyone.