Scott Wayatt & Myles Gordon are experts in remote working with Cali Style Technologies, a real-time marketing team collaboration dashboard. Scott and Myles took some time out of their hectic schedules to answer some questions for anyone looking to learn more about finding and succeeding in a remote role.
Tell us about Cali Style Technologies!
Scott: We are a homegrown group of entrepreneurs and that has been a staple of our business since we opened our doors. We focus on web technology, and over the years that has taken us about everywhere from helping companies sell things like beard products, to social media for the scientific community.
Myles: We founded our company on the grass roots of culture first, the "Cali Style" way of doing things. The 'culture' of the company is not the typical big business feel of suit and tie, but of flip flops and meetings over beer. It might sound off-the-beaten path but clients really feel at home when they meet us because they can be themselves.
How do you find your talent?
Myles: Great question - and not an easy one to answer. Talent has been one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle to fill. I started off by going to craigslist at first, then I've gone to job boards, head hunters, meetup groups, you name it. The most successful one thus far has been our contribution to open source technology. We've had the pleasure of connecting with curators of awesome web technologies this way, as well as there's a great pool of talent within the Git Community.
What qualities and habits do you look for in a successful remote worker?
Myles: First the person has to know they want to work remotely - meaning they have to have the drive to get up without an alarm clock, be motivated and driven to complete their task at hand without someone breathing over their shoulder. Secondly, the confidence to know they are able to work remotely and still be able to get the tasks completed. It's hard sometimes with so many distractions, you have to be determined to not get side-tracked.
Scott: A remote worker should feel self employed, and find their own balance between work and their life. Preferably, we want people whose life goals align with their business goals, and have found a way to learn and teach remotely first before they are ready to work remotely.
How do you start working remotely?
Scott: One of the best ways I know is to carve out your own remote space in your current job. Convince your boss that you are willing to help pilot a remote work policy and show them the advantages and studies done on the subject. I’d encourage everyone to at least start at a brick and mortar for a few months before moving to remote, especially if it’s your first career job. I think it’s important to know what the other side does for better perspective of what it will be like when you are setting your remote environment.
What challenges do developers working remotely face?
Scott: Time differences can be painful, especially when deadlines start coming closer. Working remote is not a 9-5, which can feel intrusive when you get an urgent phone call in the middle of the night.
Myles: It can be hard to separate work from home. This has been one of the largest challenges I've personally faced. You'll find your office piled with food and caffeine from keeping you fueled, sometimes even a blow up mattress in your office, when your bed is 10 steps away.
What advice can you offer a developer looking for or starting a new remote gig?
Myles: Well to start off, I would look for gigs on places that are relevant to your trade. If you're a coder, go to some freelance sites or local meetup groups and introduce yourself. Once you've found a viable lead source you'll probably start meeting with your clients to talk about their gigs - what to do? You don't have an office to bring your new prospect to, so you could have them to come your house, but you haven't cleaned up for a month and it's a wreck, scratch that idea. I would start off on a mutual ground, take them to a coffee shop - suggest that there's wifi there so we can be online and talk more about the gig.
Be sure to be in constant communication with your prospects as you don't have an office to just "drop by" to - be sure to let them know your best form of communication: text, email, slack, skype, etc. This will help with them not even knowing you are remote - they'll feel that they can reach you at any time.
What tools do you use to keep your team connected?
Scott: Our backbone for communication is Slack. From there we use a variety of video conference software. We avoid email at all cost.
Myles: We started off using Skype for years, now we've moved over to a combination of both Skype and Slack. We have also setup project management software such as Flow and Asana in combination with Harvest for time tracking. For spreadsheets and documents we mostly use Google Drive.
On the side, we play online video games together to work on our team building skills and communication, you'd be amazed what this can do for moral as well.
What makes a successful remote development team, and how to you foster culture?
Scott: I think that a lot of remote developers are all bound by many of the same ideals and goals that made them want to work remotely in the first place. One thing that makes us particularly good at it is that we are all remote, so that gives a good starting point. The biggest thing that influences our culture is constant communication. We talk a lot and have less meetings. We tend to take a Dutch approach for meetings where we talk 0 business for the first few minutes before shifting to agendas.
Myles: A successful remote team is like watching the Lakers in their prime on the game court winning NBA Championships. It's something that's hard to put words to, it's like how peanut butter and jelly goes together, it just does. The team is always in constant communication since you don't have an office to pop your head in and ask a question. We all know what's happening at a given time on everything we're working on, and everyone has their task.
What do you enjoy the most about working remotely?
Scott: I think there is an amazing opportunity that working remotely offers. I’ve worked from 9 different countries and travelled the world. During that, I observed other cultures that I think makes me better at my job and also made life long friends. If you work remotely and aren’t traveling for at least a few months out of the year, then you are really missing one the best advantages.
Myles: Setting my own schedule. I'm able to juggle so many things within life by being able to work remotely, like take vacations away from the home office and those Tuesday afternoons you want off for a nap. You just have to have the passion and drive to want to do remote work and make it a point to stay on track.