This blog was written by Ricardo Chavarria. As Admios’ Director of South American Delivery and Operations Ric has managed remote teams spanning 9 countries on projects ranging from web applications to complex data pipelines. In his spare time he codes mobile games. Learn more about Ric here.
If you’re a software engineering manager or director, odds are you are now managing a remote team. Some may have had experience in remote management before but for others this will be new.
I want to show the way we’ve managed remote developers at Admios over the last 5 years, while thinking how it could help all those abruptly introduced to remote work.
I am not going to go into detail about every management task or responsibility. Instead I’ll highlight a few key situations where I think new remote managers can get tripped up.
Remote management starts with our recruitment process. Over the years we’ve iterated on our recruiting process and refined our evaluation criteria to the following:
- Cultural fit
- Technical expertise for the role
- Ability to self manage (critical for remote working environments)
- Takes ownership of their work
- Flexible and can adapt to changes
We evaluate each criteria throughout our recruiting process. One in particular is very important: cultural fit. Our candidates are made aware of the kind of culture we provide and expect at Admios, where personal responsibility and effective communication are key.
I strongly encourage you to communicate your company and team culture to candidates early in the process.
2. NEW HIRES
Just like working in the same physical space, working with a remote team requires developing professional relationships, creating personal bonds, and sharing mutual interests and personal stories about each other. While these social dynamics come naturally in a physical environment, they must be intentionally scheduled when working remotely. In many ways, remote work requires deeper relationships, similar to the ones we have with close friends who no longer live close to us.
Having said that, we look for developers that work intelligently and take responsibility for their work, but also feel they work within a team that supports them. The idea is the whole company can provide help when they need it - but they are expected to learn from the process and make personal improvements.
We bring all of our developers to share some time in Panama with us, within the first couple of months of their tenure. Meeting the team in person and starting a personal connection will go a long way.
3. WHEN PROBLEMS ARISE
This is, perhaps, the most difficult situation to manage when working remotely. First, you’ll need to identify that there is a problem and second, you’ll need to resolve it. Some of the things to look for:
- Week-to-week conversations about the same issues, with no clear planned goals or way forward
- Constantly missed deadlines
- Frequent negative feedback about the client and relationship with no feedback or ideas on how to improve things
- Difficulties reading or identifying client expectations
The most common reasons for such issues are:
- There’s a leadership and ownership problem: Individuals or teams cannot identify problems and are not proactive in fixing them
- Developers cannot take their work to completion
- There is a technology or knowledge gap
It is best addressing these issues as early as possible so they don’t snowball resulting in larger impact. Be honest and direct with the individual and always reinforce that you and the company are there to ensure success for everyone. Nobody likes having conversations like these but it is much easier to do early than wait months when the negative impact spreads to further employees or teams.
4. BE REASONABLE AND UNDERSTANDING
We’ve all been rocked by the sudden change in our way of living and interacting with others. In this time, more than ever before, knowing how to handle an emergency is key.
Our developers all know how to work from home, but in this situation, there’s other people involved - wife, kids, parents and family in general. These new responsibilities of working while taking care of the day-to-day can take some adjusting to. Also, being unable to change routine or work environment even in the slightest means that productivity will most likely be affected.
This is where Emotional Intelligence comes in. There’s things that we can expect of our developers at all times - commitment, ownership, good communication - but understanding they need flexibility and respect for the situation is what will make or break the long term relationship.
Frequent check-ins with the team, not to check their progress or performance, but to see what their personal life is like and how they’re handling basic things will go a long way to normalize situations.
Finally, I want to say that managing remote teams is an act of respect. Respect for the company we work for, respect for the person we’re dealing with and respect for the individual situations each of us are presented with.
Accounting for these situations and being flexible to the ebbs and flows of life will make everyone’s life easier and help your team grow stronger.
- Ric Chavarria, Director of South American Delivery and Operations
If your team is growing and you'd like to see if nearshore software developers might be a good fit, click here to get in touch for a quick conversation.