“we are all remoties” at Netflix

[UPDATE: The newest version of this presentation is here. joduinn 12feb2014, 09nov2014]

Netflix asked me to present about how Mozilla handles distributed work groups – “we are all remoties” – in October. This invitation came about because Netflix RelEng team were impressed by the scale and efficiency of Mozilla’s RelEng group – and then totally impressed when they found out that Mozilla’s RelEng group was physically all remoties. Unheard of in Netflix.

Exciting, and a little daunting, all at the same time. Oh, and by the way, could it be recorded as part of their Netflix University training series?

To set context, its worth noting that Netflix has an explicit zero-remoties hiring policy, so this presentation generated quite some debate beforehand and during the Q+A sessions and afterwards.

Big thanks to everyone from Netflix who attended – the genuine curiosity and very direct, honest questions, with me and with each other, were great. After 5.75 years (and counting) in Mozilla’s very-distributed RelEng, I still forget that what feels “normal” for me is atypical for a lot of other companies. All the discussions helped me identify a bunch of assumptions that need to be called out in the presentation. Every time I have a chance to talk about remoties like this, I end up restructuring the presentation yet again to highlight missed assumptions. Thanks to all the Q+A here, the “remoties” presentation at MozCamp Singapore a month later was quite different and I hope much better (separate blog post coming).

Its still surprising to me how much I care about group organization. Done badly, its a big impediment to people getting their work done. Done well, it helps people be more effective. And, as noted by several people at Netflix, many aspects of our we-are-all-remoties group organization practices help even zero-remotie groups be more effective.

Many thanks to Curt Patrick, Gareth Bowles, Carl Quinn and Adrian Cockroft for helping make this happen, as well as for all the lively discussions before and since.

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