Remote Work At TOK.tv
San Francisco, CA
* As of August 2017
TOK.tv Remote Company Q&A
Emanuela Zaccone, Marketing & Product Manager - Interview with Remote.co
TOK.tv is the fastest-growing social network in sports, allowing fans to talk to their friends while watching a game on TV. We have 22M users, and power the apps for Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, and many other teams and leagues.
We started off remote and we are going to be remote forever. Our CEO, Fabrizio Capobianco, had already implemented a “dual model” for his previous company, Funambol, with headquarters in Silicon Valley and R&D in Italy. TOK.tv pushes this model further.
TOK.tv is a liquid company: working remotely is in our DNA. When we founded it back in 2012 we wanted to find the best talents on the market, no matter where they lived. Now we are 15 people in three continents with five different time zones.
When people are happy, they feel more motivated—they learn more; they are more productive. This is priceless, especially for a startup where levels of stress are high.
To be competitive you need talented, happy people: you can buy talent, but it’s when people are happy that their talent explodes. Remote working is what makes our employees happy to work for our company.
Having held previous positions with the same approach definitely helps. The biggest struggle when working remotely is learning time management, so being prepared for it is an added value. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to be a remote worker, but it definitely makes onboarding longer and there is no certainty that the new colleague will end up liking it.
Mostly via Skype, but when possible also meeting in person. There is a sort of internal peer review: when hiring a new employee, the head of a unit is in charge of the pre-selection. Once it is done, the ones who make it to the final round talk to the other colleagues, who then give their evaluation, leading to a definitive decision.
It depends on the area they work in, but in general, colleagues working in the same area support the new workers in onboarding, mainly with video calls.
We get together every three months for three to seven days, changing the location almost every time. While there are things that can’t be postponed, we don’t usually perform daily operations during retreats in order to make the most out of that time together. During the retreat, there are no boundaries between groups: we discuss together, brainstorm, and, yes, also have lots of fun.
We measure objectives, not working hours. We do hard work in programming our development iterations and business goals. You need to master the art of programming and timing, and you need to have a great understanding of your team’s pace. Once you do, you can start to break down tasks properly and define goals. When anyone has goals assigned, the process of evaluating productivity, as well as evaluating team members, is way easier.
Transparency rules our remote working policy: we all must be aware of what is going on. Aside from that, we meet quarterly for a retreat to get together, sum up quarter results, and plan the next one.
You try to hire the best people out there but sometimes you simply can’t know if you did the right thing until they start. You can’t observe them while they work, so the process of evaluating their work could be slower. But in the end you always find out how they are.
The remote work policy was implemented when we started the company, on day zero. Almost all the people at TOK.tv have previously worked remotely or as a freelancer. This makes things easier, since the most difficult task to learn is time management, as well as respecting colleagues’ way of working (and times).
First, be sure to hire the right people: working remotely can be challenging. If they never experienced this kind of work, ask them to try it out for a limited period. Second, be clear about your policy and the tools you use.
We are all connected on Slack, using different channels for different company areas. Most of the day-by-day communication is public on these channels. We also have a weekly company call to sum up what happened both on the business and development side during the week, and a weekly IPM (Iteration Planning Meeting), limited to dev team only. Private channels are forbidden by our policy, in order to let anyone know at any time what is happening at TOK.tv.
Slack and JIRA—the platform we use to track development tasks—are asynchronous tools, allowing us to manage communication even with different time zones. Of course, sometimes emergencies come up, but it’s an exception, not the norm.
I can really enjoy my family, and that’s priceless. Also, I have more time to learn new things.
As I always say, we’re a little family coworking, since my husband works from home too and our toddler spends her day with us. I can’t recall lovely pauses like the ones we enjoy together. And when the working day is done, we’re ready to go out and have fun together. When I used to work in an office, I couldn’t even hope to find a supermarket still open when coming home after work.