OnTheGo Systems Remote Company Q&A
Laura de Figueiredo, General Manager - Interview with Remote.co
We develop WordPress plugins, WPML, and Toolset. Toolset makes it easier and quicker for users to build a professional website without complex coding. WPML is the world’s most popular multilingual plugin, helping more than 700K websites translate their content. It is integrated with the most popular translation services, themes, and plugins, including WooCommerce. We also also offer professional translation services.
Our team started as a remote company from day one.
All of our company members work remotely; headquarters are our own home offices or whatever place people choose to work from. So remote work is crucial to keeping our business running.
The benefits are many: you work with great people from all over the world, you learn from different cultures, you can choose where to work from, and you save money and precious time on commuting (time that you can use to do things you love, or simply spend more time at home with your family).
Actually, we didn’t integrate remote work. OnTheGoSystems was born as a remote company. Our first members were from Israel (our founder Amir Helzer), Australia, Romania, Serbia, Argentina, and India.
We want candidates who are positive, really motivated, self-managed, able to work with minimal supervision, and show passion about WordPress and what they do. We look for creative team players who are willing to bring new ideas to our company. To find a great cultural fit we expect to onboard people who are aligned with our core values, which are quality, excellent support, open-mindedness and creativity, a positive attitude, and honesty.
After reviewing applications and starting some interactions with candidates that stand out, we set the first interview with me, which is intended to get to know the candidate better and see if he or she could be a nice fit for the company culture. Then we also proceed with some personality and aptitude tests. All info is shared with the team leader of the team we’re hiring for. We decide together if the candidate passes to a second technical interview. For some roles, like support, the second interview is the last. For developer roles, the technical part involves two different interviews and a task to be delivered.
We try to share as much information as possible—we mention our core values and explain how people work in teams.
We only use a service for personality and aptitude tests, which allows us to have one more indicator before we make a decision. We’re continually looking for ways to improve our hiring process
After an offer is accepted and contract signed, onboarding starts. We provide the candidate with a company email and all needed accounts, we share a welcome kit with the routine of work habits, and we put the candidate in touch with the training leader to coordinate their training. We also introduce the candidate to the whole company.
Everyone needs to attend the daily and weekly meetings related to their work. They should be reachable on Mattermost during working hours—these are set on a calendar and everyone in the team knows their colleagues’ working times. Of course, you take breaks like on any other job. You simply update a dedicated chat channel to tell your team that you are taking a lunch break now, going to the dentist, etc. Mattermost and the calendar exist not so the company can monitor everyone’s whereabouts, but so others know when someone is available if that person needs to be reached.
I’d say that it’s important to organize the retreats with time in advance to make sure the team works smartly together (discuss ideas and works on goals), but also has fun. There can always be activities that allow getting to know each other better, just pick them carefully if you have a multicultural team—cultures are so different that not all games are fun for all. Some may even become uncomfortable if the games involve some physical contact. Another tip, make the most of your time and spend as much time as possible talking to people. You don’t see them every day, and it’s a good opportunity to know more about the person behind the role.
Yes, we meet in person to work together once a year, or whenever we can. Our first event was in Malaga in 2013, and then we met in Tenerife, Porto, Cyprus, and Split. We don’t know yet when or where our next event will take place. You can check out this blog post about our most recent event in 2017 in Split, Croatia. Also, smaller groups meet in WordCamps, especially WordCamp Europe.
Productivity is measured by team leaders on each team, and it depends on the nature of the team. For example, support teams are measured by the number of tickets answered, customer’s rating, pace, etc. Our ultimate goal is to make our clients happy with fast and efficient support. On the other hand, the efforts of the marketing team directly affect our sales, so it can also be relatively easy to track the progress by what is working and what is not. So, basically, we use different ways to measure productivity across different teams.
On a company level, honesty and transparency. When you work remotely, mutual trust is crucial. This means that the people working know what is going on with the company, what the plans and current projects are, and what challenges and roadmaps are ahead.
The company relies on people doing their best, without needing to micromanage their every move. In the end, the results will show the work every company member has or has not done.
Also, it is very important for people to feel they can always be honest about their work and their feelings, and that they are listened to and their input is appreciated.
On a team level, because we have multiple teams, those little human interactions between team members are also very important. The shared jokes and memes, friendly greetings, and opportunities to meet each other at conferences, meetups, and other events…these personal interactions are important to really gain team spirit because we all need a little fun and friendship.
We have different means to make sure our company members feel part of the bigger picture. Everyone is involved in quarterly meetings where we update about bigger plans and financial status. This transparency allows everyone to know what’s going on in the company.
We also have one-on-one feedback calls with team members where we can give feedback about performance, talk about goals, and listen to suggestions. On a more informal level, we are all part of a Google+ group, open to post any info or photos members would like to share, from WordCamps attended to a babies being born. And, yes, we even celebrate birthdays online.
In all, we are a big team that cares about one another and works efficiently together to achieve the goals of our support/development/marketing teams, as well as those of the company.
Members have paid vacations plus public holidays off in the country where they live. The key is communication and making sure the time off is reported well in advance so that the team can be organized.
Our company started as a remote working organisation from day 1, so we didn’t need to implement a remote work policy.
Yes, definitely it can. A healthy company culture involves good communication and mutual respect among members. It also needs people who are happy and healthy in their life. We encourage people to do things they enjoy. We have a scholarship program intended to get team members away from the computer and to do things they like while becoming active. Some members use the program to learn something new, such as playing an instrument or doing photography courses. Others use this as an opportunity to take up a new activity that involves being more physically active, such as rock climbing, hiking, yoga, dancing, tennis, etc. You can read here some stories about happy and healthy people in our company.
I’d say it’s the best opportunity a company can have to work with talented people from all over the world—you’re not limited to post and hire people locally. If your positions are open to the world, then the sky’s the limit.
The main challenges are time zones and cultures. You need to make sure projects run smoothly and that nobody is stuck waiting for someone’s reply in order to do their part. Different cultures can interpret a comment, a tone of voice, or even a joke in a different way than the intended one. Luckily in our organisation we all have a good relationship with one another, so things are not misinterpreted.
The most efficient ways are Mattermost channels for things that may need immediate attention, and daily and weekly meetings with the whole team; sometimes meetings may need to involve people from other teams.
Everyone adds their working hours to company calendar, then each team leader knows very well when everyone is on working time. This allows us to coordinate work in a smooth way. In the case of support, we have the supporter team leader hold two meetings, one for European and Asian time zones, and another for American time zones. Most developer teams are in Europe and developers that are in another continent try to make sure to join the daily call (the team leader does his best to set a time that is convenient for all—European afternoon, American morning, etc., for example).
I love working from the coziness of home—that’s one of the biggest advantages for me. I don’t care if it rains, if it’s freezing cold, or if it’s super hot—no need to think what to wear and how bad the traffic will be. Also, another great benefit is being able to meet and interact with people from all over the world and learn different cultures.
“If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
After a big storm we had no power or Internet at home for a couple of days, so I had to find a place where I could work from. I never forget how bad it was to work from noisy restaurants or coffee shops. The best place I worked from? The cabin I shared with some of my colleagues in Split, Croatia, where we held one of our company events. We were sharing some chocolate and discussing ideas with the nice sound of the sea waves as background.