Remote Work At DataStax

65%

Remote

400+

Team Members

Santa Clara, CA

Headquarters

* As of October 2015

DataStax Remote Company Q&A

Martin Van Ryswyk, EVP Engineering - Interview with Remote.co

What does your remote-friendly company do?

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.

Did you switch to remote or start out that way?

Yes, we started out as a remote organization.  

What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?

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.

What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?

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.

What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?

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.

How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?

Via Google Hangout or Skype.

How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?

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.

What is your hiring process for remote workers?

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

Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?

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.

Do your remote team members meet in person?

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.

How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?

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.

What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?

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

What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?

We provide equipment to our remote employees.

What is your time off policy for remote workers?

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.

What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?

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

How did you implement a remote work policy?

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

How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?

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.

What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?

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.

What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?

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.

What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?

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

What has changed about how your remote team operates?

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.

How do you personally manage work-life balance?

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.

What is your favorite business book?

The latest fad book that overly simplifies very hard problems 🙂

Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?

“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!