Remote Work At DevriX
* As of February 2020
DevriX Remote Company Q&A
Mario Peshev, Founder, WordPress Architect - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We do provide technical and business solutions on top of WordPress focusing on our customers’ ongoing growth and business development plans. DevriX offers ongoing WordPress retainer plans including technical development, creative work, marketing and business consulting activities in the long run, acting as a reliable technical partner to a wide portfolio of accounts who can now focus on what they do best and leave the technical semantics to us.
Some of our customers are recognizable brands and large corporations in the automotive, airline, educational, banking industries, among others, and a good chunk of our work entails Software as a Service or WordPress multisite development, building software for the web (CRMs, invoicing software, 3rd party integrations, automated tools embedded in the backend).
How important is remote work to your business model?
It’s essential – finding talent shouldn’t be limited to a single location. Daily commuting or sticking to specific business hours is inefficient as we have clients in North America, Europe and Asia. And there are plenty of rock star developers living in a small house at the beach, willing to support your business without any reasonable incentive to relocate!
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Lack of wasted time commuting back and forth every single day, ability to work flexible hours, hiring talent across the world, more flexible hiring alternatives. Employees can spend more time with family or work from their home office or favorite coffee shop, or the beach even as long as they are happy, productive and tackle their backlog accordingly.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We were remote from day one. I used to commute for 3 hours a day to my last job, working solo from the office with merely a couple of hours overlap with my client’s time zone. The conservative old-school model was apparently doing it wrong, and it was my duty to ensure that innovative models supporting creativity and energy over presence are the pillars of our team.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
Many interviewees attend an interview without learning anything about our company or team members upfront. We have realized that there may be a huge gap between us and those people who apply randomly at different places and are not motivated to work with us exclusively.
Therefore, we admire people who explore our website, follow us on social media, and can quote some of our services or products during an interview. Our best team members apply based on certain things we offer and having followed our CEO or some of our team members for a while, being excited to join our team.
Additionally, we ask them to send us feedback, criticism, and “attack” us with various questions, including suggestions for our site, service offerings, documents, or products. Remote work requires proactiveness, creative thinking and excellent communication skills.
Since we’re very community-driven, we also lean toward candidates who have been involved with a community for a while, or have ran a business/freelance consultancy for a couple years. While this may sound odd to some, often it means that interviewees were able to provide complete services to customers, manage their time, priorities and responsibilities, and possess the required minimum for joining a distributed team that lets them deal with what they do best without spending all of their time on sales, negotiations, lead generation or legal/financial challenges.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We do text interviews via IM almost exclusively since 99% of our work does not involve calls or meetings. Occasionally we do Skype calls or Hangout videos, but since our distributed policy allows people to work from coffee shops or the beach, we don’t want to force hard requirements for rock solid Internet connectivity or add extra charges for international calls in various countries.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We have three introductory documents for new hires that we share with them prior to starting together, explaining our goals, mission and vision, our working process, guidelines and regulations, as well as the technical requirements (tools we use and how we use them in particular). Additionally, during the interview we explain what kind of projects we work on, how does our team work remotely, what soft skills we require from them.
We test motivation and eagerness to learn and grow in a distributed environment and see if a recruit is willing to be a long-term member of our team.
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
We hire remote workers from different channels – through our Jobs form on our site, conferences around the world, recommendations from other team members, using different freelance sites or job boards, as well as posting jobs in different countries preselected based on timezone, English comprehension, cost of living, reputability in a certain field like development (as well as the reputation of local universities) and the like.
Our process for hiring remote employees is almost identical to on-site ones, although we take into account certain factors such as attending events or client meetings with us where we may add another requirement or two to the equation.
Do you use third party testing or evaluation services when hiring remote workers?
We use social media accounts, browse their websites and sometimes ask previous employers for feedback. Although we don’t always take those factors into account, we’ve faced a couple of issues that were clearly indicated during our background research.
How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
We hire people full-time, but they start with three trial phases – 2 weeks, another couple weeks and one month, where we assess and communicate their progress and our feedback after each phase. This is not an internship or so, just a part of the onboarding process where we don’t assign anything crucial and let them spend more time learning our products or code base, interact with team members, learn how to communicate properly and adjust to our working process, as well as take on training courses or coaching sessions with our team members in order to be fully productive and able to participate as much as the other folks on our team.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
We have a Monday weekly meeting for about 45min where everyone should show up. Other than that team members are free to take time off or work flexible hours as long as there are no blockers for other team members working on a project.
Our policy for sharing all decisions and statuses on Asana allows us to conduct client calls or send report emails at any time, since all work and future plans are available to all team members and we can react even if they’re off for a few days.
We ask people to install HipChat on their mobile phones so that we can mention them for a quick question if needed, but this is not a hard requirement, nor is related to a specific availability time frame.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
We meet some of our team members at events, but we don’t have annual meetups yet.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
Depending on the type of work, we have different KPIs and have developed a business process that allows measuring most of the day-to-day activities.
Development tasks are usually being estimated by technical leads so that developers can maintain a specific pace. We do weekly reviews of our technical team and their performance, and communicate possible delays or code quality drops when referring to conventions or best practices, as well as code samples from fellow developers in the team.
Design and front-end tasks are also scheduled and measured based on a large number of successful projects and the time we spent on building different components.
Marketing members follow the company strategy that includes different aspects, which are also broken into time blocks – from a ballpark for researching and writing an article with a given length, through building a social media plan for the next couple of weeks, to building an automated email course.
The sales team has a quota based on different criteria and industry standards.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Clear requirements and expectations starting from the job description, the interview and the trial terms. A measurable process monitoring KPIs both on a technical level, attitude, and soft skills. And a great working environment that allows people to share fun stories online, connect and interact with the rest of the staff and, whenever possible, meet once or twice a year.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Working with less experienced people, communicating properly online with other team members, following company policy and standards, understanding goals and vision, nurturing motivation outside of an office.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
In addition to our communication channels, our kick-off meeting goes over all of our retainer clients and the new projects we’re starting, as well as our premium plugins. Our team is always up to speed with everything happening internally, what’s the progress on all projects and side activities that they can participate in – coding or marketing a premium plugin of ours, being able to transfer to a more interesting project when possible, and suggesting improvements to our process or suggestions for some of our long-term projects.
What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?
We don’t restrict people from using their devices or work with their applications whenever it’s easier for them to work more efficiently and faster, as long as they comply with our Security and Privacy policies and produce the output that is compatible with our tools or coding standards.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
DevriX has an open time-off policy that allows people to take time off whenever they choose. This, however, should be coordinated upfront and be in compliance with the status of the projects a team member works on in order to ensure 1st class customer service in any way possible.
Occasionally we force people to take time off if they seem to be burning out, as we don’t want to cross the line when they burn out completely and need a few months off to recover.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
Sure, by following a similar transparent process and a welcoming environment nurturing remote teams and rewarding proactiveness, feedback, and criticism. Our CEO and our top level managers pay specific attention to each and every request or question from a team member, and make sure that “there are no stupid questions or suggestions” – we welcome and are thankful for all of the feedback we can get, and whenever something is not applicable, we address it in details, explaining the consequences that a suggestion may have on the business growth, website speed, marketing or branding corporate identity, or other connected factors that a team member may not be aware of yet.
Our business operations assistant conducts monthly or bi-weekly calls with the team in order to ensure that they are happy and feel excited about their work, and reports otherwise so that we could adjust the process and bring more creativeness or introduce new challenges for people to tackle in order to maintain a healthy company culture.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
For emerging companies, adopt remote from day 1. It’s far easier if everyone is on the same page and have the same freedoms – hiring is the main challenge you’ll have finding self-driven people who don’t need micromanagement and are truly excited to support your business one way or the other.
Existing businesses may find the remote transition a bit challenging – hiring just a few remote members could cause certain conflicts – lack of equal communication distribution due to a lot of office chat near the water cooler, or an “elitist” perception by the local team towards the additional perks for the new remote hires.
Additionally, personality-wise the majority of the people don’t possess entrepreneurial or managerial skills and have a hard time working at home or without other team members around them, being constantly distracted by the TV, or a friend nearby, or family members and such.
We do occasionally consult small businesses or local organizations on adopting remote work and one of the successful ways is introducing a gradual (lean) remote transition for existing employees – such as a day or two a week for starters, requesting the same amount of performance when they work from home. Additionally, new separate teams or branches could start fully remotely. Either way, transition should be gradual and applied carefully for existing teams.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Interviewing and hiring new team members is one of the main challenges. Occasionally people are determined and send a solid portfolio during the hiring process, but fail to prove these during the trial. We’ve had numerous cases where we set expectations for the trial period and get a green light on these, and people quit a few days or a couple weeks later since they no longer agree with certain things that were made clear during the hiring process.
Another challenge is hiring less senior staff remotely. When people are expected to learn a new technical stack, a technology, a programming language or just jump to the next level, it may be fairly challenging for some of them to do that themselves without someone coaching them during every step of the process. Identifying delays and troubles grasping a new tool may take a while and send the wrong signals to our team such as slacking, or not communicating properly, delivering poor quality and others, instead of signalizing and working together with senior folks on said challenges.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We use HipChat for our day-to-day communication in addition to Asana for project management. HipChat has several designated channels where the whole team is involved:
- DevriX – we conduct our weekly kick-off Monday meetings here, share our social media statuses and new post through automated Zapier triggers, announce new hires and share standup messages.
- Chill & Greetings – that’s the place where people check in and check out or have casual chats about their day-to-day. It’s pretty relaxing and allows for team bonding.
- Offtopic Fun Chat – an exclusive chat for sharing memes, fun videos, pictures, online games and other external resources that folks enjoy talking about
- Success Stories – we’re sharing team wins here a few times a week – landing new clients, patches accepted by our core contributors, testimonials by clients, employees who took a certification successfully and the like. This is an inspirational way that boosts performance and builds a healthy environment on top of the other three channels.
What are the biggest benefits of being a remote worker?
If I have to imagine a 9-to-6 life at the office for the next 5 years, I’m confident that this will drastically affect my productivity, motivation, creativity and overall personal and professional development. Changing working environments is healthy and boosts the creative juices, and I don’t want to force people to quit just because they’re bored at the office and want to switch their desk or room.
Additionally, seasonality in Europe means that winter may be cold and harsh, which doesn’t really get me thrilled to leave home freezing at 7am and be stuck at traffic for at least an hour and a half, instead of leaving later, or sitting at the coffee shop downstairs.
Attending conferences is also something that we have to do regularly, which is completely compliant with our work and allows us to stay abroad for another two or three days catching up with work, as well as sending emails or reviewing progress for a few hours a day when traveling around.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
Personally, I don’t take too much time off as I’m following our communication channels and emails at all times. However, since we’re a distributed company, I often work from a coffee shop or a hookah bar in order to allocate some time for myself, review RFPs, draft specifications, plan content production, perform code reviews or other activities that require less distractions.
What tips do you have to disconnect when working remotely?
Personally I’m a great fan of push notifications. They allow me to take more time “off” while being available for the team at all times. Often I need to respond to 4-5 yes/no questions in the evening without having to stay at the office. Having my messengers online on my phone and notifications sent to my smart watch, I can sit down and watch some series or even grab a drink with friends, and simply reply for a moment to a team member who can continue working afterwards.
Breaking down the day into a “productive and focused working time” and “simply being available” is a great combination that works for me and achieves more, as long as people are aware that they shouldn’t nag me all the time and only reach out in case of a problem or a blocker.
What is your favorite business book?
I love a bunch of these, but still:
- Manager 3.0: A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management by Brad Karsh
- Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson
- ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
“We focus on two things when hiring. First, we find the best people you can in the world. And second, let them do their work. Just get out of their way.”
Where is the best or worst place you’ve worked remotely?
Worst ones are the ones without a stable Internet connectivity and/or a way to purchase a sim card with a reliable connection.