“We are ALL Remoties” (Nov2014 edition)

Its been a while since I last blogged about “remoties”, but it continues to be a very popular topic! In addition to Twilio in February, I’ve given presentations at Automattic (best known for WordPress), RiotGames (twice) and Haas, UCBerkeley (twice), as well as smaller private discussions with several other companies.

You can get the slides in PDF format by clicking on the thumbnail of the first slide. (I’m happy to share the original very large keynote file, just let me know and we’ll figure out a way to share without hammering my poor website.)

Remoties are clearly something that people care deeply about. Geo-distributed teams are becoming more commonplace, and yet the challenges continue to be very real. The interest before each presentation is cautiously high, while the Q+A discussions during/afterwards are very engaged and lively. Every time, I find myself tweaking, honing and refining the presentation again and again… yet, the core principles remain the same:

  • remoties / geo-distributed teams can be very effective, and can be sustained over time.
  • remoties != compromise. In fact, a geo-distributed team means you can hire best-available, not “just” best-willing-to-relocate.
  • easy to use, cheap, technologies work just fine if used correctly (maybe even better then expensive systems?)
  • crisp, careful organization of human processes is essential
  • in a geo-distributed team, *everyone* is a remotie, even people who happen to sit in an office. If you are remote from someone else, that makes you *both* remoties. Hence the working title “we are ALL remoties”.

Given how this topic impacts people’s jobs, and their lives, I’m not surprised by the passionate responses, and each time, the lively discussions encourage me to keep talking about this. As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or good/bad stories about working in a remote or geo-distributed teams, please let me know – I’d love to hear them.


ps: I noticed in my website logs that a lot of people were still downloading my original remoties slides, first posted in apr2012, even though I’d posted multiple revisions of the slides since. So, I’ve gone back and updated my earlier “remoties” blog posts to all point to these latest-and-greatest slides.

7 thoughts on ““We are ALL Remoties” (Nov2014 edition)

  1. Great post and presentation, John.

    Having been a “remotie” for the last 6 years I think I can qualify to comment on the topic.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed working remotely, the modality has definitely pros and cons.

    – You can laundry at the same time as you take am “All Hands” conference call
    – I do not have to shave everyday unless I have web conferences to attend
    – Save on “business casual attire” most of my days I wear t-shirts and jeans
    – No peers coming and bugging you every minute. Offices are distracting and depending on the company policies/political climate, some abuse the “socializing” privileges. If I am working remotely and need quiet, I can just mark myself off chatroom and voilà!

    – I find myself working longer hours. I can’t stay away! Being bound to an office in a larger city forces you to get out of the office on time to avoid heavy traffic. However, working remotely, dealing with a 3-second commute time, and not having to worry about traffic, I tend to push myself “just another 5 minutes” (multiple times). I think my boss is really happy about that.
    – Less exercise between breaks overall
    – Sometimes inter-office gossip is a necessary evil. Working remotie is hard to get the lates on who is getting the axe, or what is the latest company direction, who is moving to a different department and leaving a vacancy you would like to fill… hint, hint… wait… someone already spoke for it before me? Darn!
    – Some times (very, very few times, really) working in an office is advantageous. let say you needed to have quick 5-minute conversations with 3 separate people, you can accomplish that in 15 mins before lunch by just getting up from your cubicle. Doing it remotely takes longer to arrange the chats.

    I fully agree with John in that Companies (and sometimes applicants as well) miss out on great opportunities in hiring and getting hired because of the relocation element. There have been a few jobs I have had to pass because I was not willing to relocate and they weren’t willing to ease their onsite requirements. Well more their loss than mine I guess.