Building A Remote Engineering Team and Culture: 5 Tips from Hireology

By Adam Robinson,
August 11, 2014

This is a guest blog post by Hireology’s lead engineer, Jen Payne

When Hireology set out to find top engineering talent, we opened our virtual doors to developers across the country searching within, and outside of, our Chicago base.  Finding talent is not always easy but when the right people (the majority of those outside of the Chicago area) were hired and made members of the team, another difficult task was faced: building a remote engineering team and culture as amazing as the culture in our Chicago headquarters. While there will always be hiccups when it comes to working remotely together and improvements can be made in various areas, we truly believe that we have fostered an outstanding remote engineering culture. 

Here are five ways we make working remotely work.

1. Communication

Everyone knows that to be a successful group, communication is key.  Our methods of communicating have evolved as additional team members have been added, and we now primarily use online tools such as GitHub, HipChat, Google Hangout, and Skype to stay connected. Whether it’s discussing upcoming features in a release, performing code reviews, pairing, participating in meetings, talking about our day, or what’s going on after work we’re constantly communicating. We’re communicating with the office too.  Each morning an office-wide standup is held, and those of us who work remotely join via Google Hangout, which is visible on a large television by everyone onsite. When meetings and monthly town halls are held, we’re there too, via video, but participating and taking in information as if we are there in the room.  It’s important for engineers who work remotely to not feel as if they’re alone on an island, and regular communication between team members and others in the company helps alleviate this feeling.

2. Autonomy and Accountability

While communication is important, so is leaving someone alone so that he or she can focus in order to complete the task at hand.  It’s easy to want to micro-manage remote employees.  After all, you have no idea if they’re even at their desk working.  Even though they appear ‘Available’ in HipChat, there’s no way to really tell if they are crushing the newest feature or surfing the web.  At Hireology, it’s always pretty busy.  There are new features to develop, improvements to make, bugs that need fixing, tests to write.  We are held accountable by our output. We hire engineers with whom we can forge a relationship built on trust.  As teammates, we trust each other to do what needs to be done in order to make Hireology the best hiring platform available.

3. Quarterly Visits

Some honest face time is important, even for a team that is almost entirely remote.  The engineers visit the office once per quarter to sit together and plan, work out issues, and just get to know each other and the Chicago-based employees. Waiting until the engineers are in the office to have important company-wide events (such as lab coat ceremonies, talent shows, and bowling competitions) sends the message that even though remote employees are not always seen, they are important and welcome. Being together, face-to-face, builds camaraderie, not only between engineering team members, but also between the team and members of other departments in the company.

4. Passion for People

Hireology’s purpose is to ‘rid the world of bad hires’ and we take this mantra very seriously within our own company and teams.  Becoming a member of the engineering team here at Hireology takes work – there are various stages of interviewing, completing a homework assignment sufficiently, and lastly fielding off-the-wall questions from your potential future coworkers. In the end, we have a passion for people who have a passion for their craft and for their team. Even as we grow, we remain a closely-knit team and stay that way by following Hireology’s proven process for finding individuals who we know will be successful in their role. 

5. We’re Not So Serious

Spend one day in our main HipChat room and you’ll discover that while we are a team who is dedicated to great work, we are also a team that likes to have fun.  You’ll find links to crazy YouTube videos, memes, animated gifs, and more emoji than tween girls at a One Direction concert.  We’ve had puppets show up on screen for meetings, crazy hat days, and times where one or more people burst into song just for the heck of it. The point is that we enjoy working and having fun together, even though we’re not physically in the same office.  Silliness is not only permitted, it’s encouraged.

Making the decision to be open to hiring engineers who are not necessarily local has paid off because we are finding the best engineering talent available anywhere.  We’re growing rapidly, as a team and as a company, and yet are able to remain connected and involved.  Hopefully these five tips can help you build a remote engineering culture as well!

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About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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