Remote Work At GitLab
San Francisco, CA
* As of February 2020
GitLab Remote Company Q&A
Sytse 'Sid' Sijbrandij, CEO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
GitLab is a code collaboration open-source platform that allows a full workflow to create, review and deploy code. We also have GitLab CI, a continuous integration and deployment tool.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
We started remote, since Dmitriy was in Ukraine and I was in The Netherlands. We hired people in different locations and it just started to work out that way. It became part of our culture and a benefit of working in our company.
How important is remote work to your business model?
We can hire better people. We believe in having happier team members by improving their lives. They can work from anywhere and spend more time with their loved ones. They are more productive and efficient that way.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
We can find talent anywhere and invite them to join our team. They can do the things that they love the most, arranging their schedules to fit their needs. People are happier because they get to spend more time with their families and don’t have to spend time commuting to work.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We started as a remote company when Dmitriy was in Ukraine and I was in The Netherlands. When we decided to hire people, they were all in different locations. It was working out and everybody was being productive and happy with their remote jobs; so we decided to keep it that way.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
They have to be able to work independently. They have to be disciplined enough to be effective and to work without having a manager watching them all the time. They also need to be self-conscious about how to manage time.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We allow candidates to apply no matter where they are located. For some functions there is a time zone restriction. Our handbooks are online so applicants can study them. Our interviews are through Hangouts. We’ve not met most of our new employees in person before they joined.
Do you use third party testing or evaluation services when hiring remote workers?
No, except for calling the references in their Resume.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
We only have our daily team call. We have no policies about communication. We do have an emergency channel for customers, but it’s only needed about once a week.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
Work is seen by the team. We notice output and their work speaks for itself. We all contribute in everything we can besides our regular job tasks. Everybody shares and we can all see everybody’s contributions.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
We make our communication better by having daily calls and hangouts between team members. We get the entire team together at the GitLab summit once a year. This year we are going to The Netherlands, so we’ll also attend Oscon. We recently made birthday hats to sing happy birthday to a member of our team. We meet for drinks when we have co-workers in the same city where we are at.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
We don’t frown on people taking time off, we encourage them to take care of themselves and others. Working hours are flexible and it’s all about communicating your needs. We suggest to take the official days off in the country the person lives in.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
It started organically. We didn’t know how it was going to be, but every week we add important information to our GitLab Handbook. We like to have everything there and to keep it clear for everybody. We want it to be great, so we fix and improve it all the time.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
It’s a lot easier if at least ⅔ of the team is remote. When only a few people are remote, it is easy to make them feel left out. Keep good communication with your team. Encourage them to have face-to-face video calls. Have frequent team calls, where you can share important information and everybody can talk about their day and the projects they are working on.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
It’s hard to have visitors. People feel weird about coming to your home. Now that we have an office, it feels like a good place to meet them.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We add issues in GitLab for everything. Everybody comments, we work on the issues and then we link to the Merge Request where the issue is solved. All improvements are added through Merge Requests. We also communicate through Slack / Mattermost.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
I take some time every morning to go running with my girlfriend. I organize different fun activities during the weekends.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
Where is the best or worst place you’ve worked remotely?
Any place with slow wifi feels like hell. Being on a beach in Thailand was great, except for the lifetime of my laptop 🙂