Team mindset

If you want to start working as a remote developer, there are two must-to-have condition you have to have. One is your mindset, and the other is your team’s mindset. You will fail if one of these requirements are missing.

When I have started to work remotely I have not succeeded for the first time. Actually, it was a fail. I was an employee of the company that creates software that allows users to work from anywhere in the world but our team was not prepared to do that at all.

My fail

I was the first person in the history of the company who was allowed to work from home. And I had to figure out how to do my daily job between the new circumstances. I have decided to work as hard as it possible just to prove that was a good decision to make the exception with me.

Alone, far away from your team

In the other hand, I made a big mistake. I have calculated only with myself but not with my team. Actually, I could do anything that I want if my team acts like ’We do not care for you at all’. We should spend time on investigating the hardware and software requirements to involve me in the team’s life.

Personal issues

My team had about 8 members, they are all worked in the same open space. I was the exception who were 200 kilometers far away. They were never told me but it is clear to me: they did not want to work with a remote person at all. There were nothing personal in this. Maybe I was the pain in the ass for them and they couldn’t handle the extra effort.

Used to work together in the same room

For example, they involved me in the meeting only if there were no other choice. And nobody told me the important information or nobody sends me a memo about the decisions. They just ignored me and I had to collect a lot of information on my own.

Technical issues

When we had a meeting, we had only a telephone. They turned on the speaker but nobody cared about me. Usually, I have heard only one or two people and there were a lot of background noise. I asked them plenty of times to be closer to the microphone but nobody cared about it. When I asked, they did it for two minutes and forgot it immediately.

Later, we had a great meeting software, JoinMe. I thought it will be a huge step forward because everybody can use his own mic and we can share a screen with us. I thought great, that will be the breakthrough. And I have failed again. I have forgotten the most important part that is not the software but the people.

Mindset problems

They used to do a meeting in a separated meeting room. Always. And there is no exception. So they have figured out how it will go: They brought one notebook into the room, put it on a desk and started the JoinMe software. After I have joined the meeting, nobody took care of me. The didn’t share a screen and they still used only the whiteboard on the wall and I saw nothing. If you use JoinMe, it is not enough just to connect the meeting. You have to join with audio too. 8 times from 10, they just forgot to join with audio. That meant they didn’t hear me, and I didn’t hear them. Sometimes at the end of the meeting I got an excuse ’Sorry man, we have forgotten about you’.

Please do not misunderstand me, they were not a team of bad people and they did not want to harm me – They were just a group of people who have worked with an in-place team during their whole life. Working with somebody who is not in the room was a too hard job for them.

New project – new team

After about 18 months of suffering, I had a chance to choose between a lot of projects at the company. I knew that is my chance to change my life. I wanted to search a team that is able to handle me. Private talking with managers was a new field for me but I could finish my research with success: I have found a team who works in-place but their management is in another office. That means they have to have a culture about handling a remote person because both of the project manager and the technical leader worked a far distance from the team.

When we had to choose, I did not hesitate at all. I said goodbye to my formal team and started to work with the new one and everything changed. I have found everything is possible if the team has a proper mindset and everybody accepts that you are not in the same room.

Finally, success

Suddenly I have realized there are people who do not have to ask to do a JoinMe meeting – this is natural for them. There was no question about using the proper microphones, sharing the screen and the knowledge. Every time when I miss an important meeting, somebody calls me and tells the information that I missed. I see meeting memos and I we have flows to do the code reviews remotely.

A whole team can change

And what happened to my formal team? Life can bring changes and you can never figure out what will happen. Now they have a remote team member but everything has changed. The remote guy is my friend so I could talk with him and I see, a whole team can change. They have no issue with a remote developer at all. Maybe it took one additional year but they have developed their self: they are able to and willing to work with a teammate who works remotely.

How to organize a remote meeting

Scheduling a meeting is always a challenge. If you want some more challenges, schedule a meeting remotely.

Foreword

The internet is full of information about ‘How to schedule a meeting’ or ‘how to hold an effective meeting’ so I do not want to waste my time for an additional post on the topic. Instead of that, I am going to tell my experiences about remote meetings. Let’s see some examples of my mistakes and their resolutions.

Preparing Steps

As I mentioned earlier, when I talked about remote code reviews, it is important to prepare for the meeting. If you want to present a meeting, you have to write a short description about that: the topic that you want to discuss or present to the others and/or if you have a problem, what is the acceptable output of the meeting to solve that.

Do not invite the whole world to your meeting

You are responsible for the number of attendees. Let’s just think about that. You have a problem and you need the knowledge of your team to solve that. So you decide to hold a meeting about the problem in question. Are you sure that every single person is needed to attend the meeting or maybe it is just more simple to invite the whole team?

I think the best way to think about that is as follows. What would happen if you had to pay the salaries of the attendees? Are you sure that you have to invite eight people or if you choose wisely, you can solve the problem with only two of your teammates?

Use the proper tools to resolve problems

When I was a young junior developer I used to use Skype as a remote meeting tool. I did not even care about the other members. I just started the audio call, told my problem and waited for the solution.

Today, I tend to think more professional. I prefer to use JoinMe or GotoMeeting. I always show my desktop and I am planning to buy a camera to show myself. It just makes the meeting more personal. Both JoinMe and GotoMeeting is able to make a video recording.

Stop Getting Distracted

You can never eliminate all sources of distractions, but you can take some steps to minimalize them.

No Popups

When I start a meeting, I disable all other notifications. There will be no chimes, pop-ups, calls or chats. I want to focus on the meeting.

I create a meeting event in my Outlook calendar. That shows my teammates that I am busy, so “please do not disturb me”.

No Personal Info during the Meeting

It might sound strange, but please, hide your bookmark bar and as many icons as possible. I had never done that before, just used the drag and drop functionality of the Chrome browser if I found something interesting. About 3 months ago, I decided to learn about algorithms. After some search, I have found a Pluralsight course that has a section about how to learn algorithms. I thought it is great, I bookmark that and watch it during the evening when my family sleeps.

A single bookmark bar can crush your meeting

Actually, that was a huge mistake. The course name was ‘Preparing For a Job Interview’. Yes, the module was about algorithms but it seemed I wanted to prepare a job interview. To make it better, my manager was also attending at the meeting.

I have planned to have a short talk about a relatively small problem with my team that should take about 30 minutes. Instead of that, I had to convince my team I did not want to quit my job.

Clothes

When I was a college student I had my first project that paid some cash. I was so young and I had no idea about  ho to deal with people. We have decided to hold a one-hour meeting at 10 pm with the stakeholder about our ongoing tasks.

There were 3 people attending the meeting: I, one of my friends who were a student too, and the stakeholder: a young woman close to her thirties.

I wore pyjamas and drunk a beer. My friend had a singlet and also drunk a beer. The stakeholder has a full dress and makeup and drunk some water. We were just two children who wanted to code and she was a professional.

Conclusion

I hope you got my point. It seems to be an easy task to have an online meeting but it is not the truth. The truth is, you cannot just turn on the mic and eat your lunch during the meeting. You have to act in the same way as it was an in-person meeting. Do not show too much about youself, as you have to  avoid being the source of the distraction.

You have to define the goal of your meetings and you have to appreciate the time of the attendees. This way you can have a meeting with the same productivity as in the case of an in-person meeting.