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Remote Work at DataStax

Team Members
Santa Clara, CA
*As of October 2015
DataStax Remote Company Q&A
Martin Van Ryswyk, EVP Engineering - Interview with Remote.co

DataStax delivers Apache Cassandra™ in a database platform purpose-built for the performance and availability demands for IoT, Web and mobile applications. This gives enterprises a secure, always-on database technology that remains operationally simple when scaling in a single datacenter or across multiple datacenters and clouds.

With more than 500 customers in over 50 countries, DataStax is the database technology of choice for the world’s most innovative companies, such as Netflix, Safeway, ING, Adobe, Intuit and eBay. Based in Santa Clara, Calif., DataStax is backed by industry-leading investors including Comcast Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Meritech Capital, Premji Invest and Scale Venture Partners.

Yes, we started out as a remote organization.  

For engineering, the main benefit is being able to hire people who have the technical skills we need regardless of where they are located. That is our core culture. We derive secondary benefits like time zone coverage, but at the core it is to maintain a high technical bar.

DataStax provides products that are “wrapped around” open source software. The early employees were engineers who came from the open source world where there is no HQ and everyone already collaborated from around the world. We felt it was important to keep that culture as the company grew. Additionally, as the company matured and hired a worldwide sales team we found that much of sales was also remote.

We don’t look for any particular traits. We’re upfront with candidates to make sure they understand our culture so they can make their own decision. If an employee is willing to give it a try, even if they have not worked remote before, we are happy to work with them to ensure it is a good fit.

Via Google Hangout or Skype.

The interview process mimics our day to day life and is all done remotely via phone, Google Hangout or Skype. As we speak to candidates, we explain to them that our CEO is a huge proponent of a remote culture and he schedules his all hands calls, company meetings, etc. at a convenient time for everyone worldwide.

The process is the same and the bar is set just as high.

We’ve never had to set policies around communication as our employees are very self-motivated and if anything need to log off more often.

It is informal and unscheduled, but sometimes employees living near each other will get together for a lunch or dinner.  We also have our yearly company Sales Kickoff Meeting and Cassandra Summit where most remote employees fly to our company headquarters in Silicon Valley.

We measure productivity of remote employees the same way we measure for non-remote employees, by output and satisfaction of their downstream customers (internal or external). Seeing you in a seat isn’t something we measure.

Make sure there is not an “us vs. them” culture of HQ vs. remote workers. Treat everyone as remote, regardless of their location.

We provide equipment to our remote employees.

We prefer to trust employees to do the right thing with time off and provide a discretionary time off policy. To stay in compliance with local laws our policy is slightly different in different jurisdictions, but our overall culture is very time off friendly.

That it would be harder than it actually is. In fact, the management problems are the same regardless of location.

Remote work is a core part of our culture. It is not a policy.

We train our new employees on our company culture, which is based on Accountability, Visibility and Respect. We have weekly onboarding meetings for all new employees to learn about the company and where to access all important information. Also, each employee is emailed a coupon code to order DataStax branded items at our online New Hire Company Store.  This allows our remote employees to feel connected, regardless of where they live.

Commit to it fully. For instance, our CEO gives monthly company updates from his office while the employees in HQ are in the conference room next door. This ensures he treats all employees around the world the same. Have you ever been on a conference call where you can barely hear what is going on and people are drawing pictures on a board that you can’t see?  That is what we try to avoid.

Additionally, make sure you have executive sponsorship (HR, Legal, Finance) across the board so the whole company is supportive.

It’s not for everyone. We’ve had a few employees opt out because they really wanted to be in an office with their team, but this has been a very small percentage.

We use technology such as group chat, video chat and shared documents.

Adding more remote employees during this time of growth can create some challenges, but we try to get together in person twice a year to jump-start the relationships.

Daytime is generally for work. Night time is generally for life. Sometimes I need to work at night. Sometimes I have to do personal things in the day, but it all works out. What is important is everyone around me understands my passion and dedication to our mission.

The latest fad book that overly simplifies very hard problems 🙂

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

I think that sums up the startup life!