If you’ve worked with us, you’ll know that unlike other Business Units (BU) within Foxit Software, the Foxit SDK team is a remote-first BU. We don’t always share an office or even the same time zone! Our team is spread out all over the world including locations such as:
- South Africa
In this blog post, I wanted to take a look at the complexities of both why we work as a remote-first team, and what challenges we face because of it.
Why remote work makes sense
When I say remote work, you probably think of Digital Nomads: people who travel around the world while working from their laptops at a heaven-like beach somewhere in the South Pacific, thanks to this great thing called the Internet. But for us it’s not always like that. In fact, most of us live in our hometowns and have lived here even before we joined Foxit.
You see, at Foxit, we believe we have the opportunity to not only be market-leaders, but also thought leaders inside the PDF industry. We work hard to raise the bar when it comes to the standard for PDF technology.
When you are deep in uncharted territory, and you are working to be first, you need the best available talent, no matter who they are or where they are. Sometimes, they just don’t want to relocate to your main office, so at that point: do you go with a sub-optimal candidate, or do you adapt the reality of your candidate? At Foxit SDK, we choose the latter.
Making remote work
Let’s not be naive about the subject: many companies don’t know how to properly manage remote work. I’ve had some bad experiences with it, and I’ve had some very great experiences with it (like here at Foxit). Here are some of main reasons that we’re able to thrive as a remote team here at Foxit:
We have a sense of ownership over our field
At Foxit SDK, we all work together, but we’re given our own fields to have ownership over and be held accountable for. For me, that’s Marketing and Sales Systems, which means I’m responsible for things like the quality of our website and our blog, for example. Because I own that, I really care about the experience you have. I care about putting out content you will want to read. I care about you having a good experience on our website. I care about not spamming you. The best part is we all seem to share that approach to work inside our BU; from sales to product teams.
We hold each other accountable
We hold weekly team progress meetings where we basically talk about what we are up to, the progress of our individual projects, and how we can help each other find success. This is good for two reasons. First, we get to chat and share our work with our colleagues. Second, we encourage high-performance. These meetings work as show-and-tells. We talk about what we did, what we are going to do, and whether we need help or not. If you remember doing show-and-tells at school (I do), you didn’t want to be the kid with nothing to show. It’s the same here – everyone subconsciously or not – works hard during the week to be able to show something nice on Wednesdays.
We keep each other constantly updated though email and text. We talk about everything, even the things that seem very basic/logical. There is nothing worse than assuming somebody knows something only to later find out they really didn’t.
Communication is particularly pivotal between sales and product teams. Sales people need to be up to date with our latest releases so they can provide better customer service, and product teams need direct customer feedback to drive their development roadmaps.
We genuinely like each other
This is so underrated, but so important for me. I like saying that if you wouldn’t be friends outside of work with your team, you work in the wrong team. I believe real speed is only unlocked when a team deeply cares about each other and is willing to go out of their way to help each other out.
That’s why a bad ‘hang’ is never a worthwhile investment in a team, no matter how talented they are. They are momentum-killers, and end up decreasing the overall productivity (and happiness) of a team.
If you wouldn’t go grab a beer with any of your colleagues on a Saturday and talk about something completely unrelated to work, go get yourself new colleagues. Even better, come work with us.
The ROI of our reunions
So, if everything is so great, why do we get together twice a year?
First and foremost, even if for remote team standards we communicate a lot, there is no such thing as enough communication. Some things still remain unsaid, and some questions unanswered, so our get-togethers, where we spend 16+ hours a day together, are the perfect time to have those conversations.
Also, they are great for brainstorming. Every time we get together for a couple days, we come out with 50 to 60 ideas which end up becoming action points for the following quarter. People are much more likely to voice their ideas and concerns face to face, so if you keep your ears and your mind open, you come out of the meeting room with gold.
Lastly, face to face time really matters. Remote work (from the employee’s point of view) is great for a number of reasons, but it can be isolating at times, and isolation may lead to disengagement, and disengagement leads to the dark side. Right after a get together, I think it is safe to say that our team is at our most engaged, motivated and productive.
Our latest reunion: Malaga (February 2017)
I personally hosted our latest get together in Malaga (Spain), my hometown, last February.
It was a weekend full of fun, Spanish food, and, admittedly, some work, under some great winter weather (if you can call 20ºC temperatures and clear skies winter weather). We did yoga together, bathed and got massages in an Arab Hammam and ate (maybe) too much ham, cheese and fish by the Mediterranean coast.
It was great being able to be the host, and show the team around the city I love. I think everyone enjoyed their time and I’ve been able to see the positive impact the reunion has had in our performance.
I, and I think it’s safe to say the rest of the team, can’t wait until the next one. 😊
Maybe I’ll see you there? A shameless plug
We are always hiring Tier-A talent. If you are a difference-maker and want to be part of a high-performance remote team in a leading position, drop me a line at Nicolas_derico@foxitsoftware.com. It will be my pleasure to put you in touch with the right person inside our organization.