5 Tips On Remote Management From Time Inc. VP Of Mobile Apps And API Engineering
Robert Duffy is the VP of mobile application and API engineering at Time Inc. and formerly the manager of strategic initiatives at Amazon. He currently leads a distributed team of product engineers spread across the globe with hubs in New York, Seattle, and Bangalore. Duffy shared with PowerToFly how he bridges the time zone gap, what apps he can’t live without, and why he believes a clear phone call is “the salt of any distributed team.”
In your opinion, what are the biggest benefits of a distributed team?
The access that you have to talent. Creating a distributed team, a distributed workflow, a team that works well in a distributed fashion, means you can do more things in a distributed way. You can very quickly onboard people from different locations. Also things like traveling to conferences, or working from home, or taking two days at the end of vacation to work remotely becomes easier. People traveling around isn’t as disruptive. They will work from a plane, hotel, wherever, because the system is already set up.
What are some of the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The hardest thing is finding meeting times that work for everyone. A meeting could take 48 hours to get scheduled because of timezone differences. Now we have standing time slots where there is meeting time blocked off. So if something comes up and you need to schedule a meeting about it, you reserve a time available in that slot. The meeting time is essentially set before the meeting agenda. People can plan around it, especially whoever is staying up late or getting up early. It makes life much easier.
Tell us about how you build your team. What do you look for when hiring developers, especially ones that work remotely?
One of the biggest challenges of working with a remote team is communication. Fundamental things like poor phone communication can be such a massive blocker to people’s productivity in a distributed team. We look for great communication skills, especially when we’re hiring remote. We look for the ability to listen to and take feedback. Obviously we look for technical skills. You have to have the core level of technical skills, and then we look for good use of tools and good understanding of how to work in a distributed way.
How has working with PowerToFly impacted your hiring?
With PowerToFly, we’ve had access to an exceptional talent pool. The caliber of talent that PowerToFly has presented to us is just outstanding. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with a company that was so quick to ramp up on our requirements, and then start sending over candidates that were exceptionally well qualified and exceptionally talented for those positions.
What are your strategies for keeping everyone in sync? What tools do you use?
One of the things the teams benefit from is a daily video standup (scrum), so I invest a lot in making sure that happens. We make a lot of use of online video conference. We’re looking at getting fixed TV stations with cameras on top of them that people can gather around at our different locations. We are heavily invested in Slack — it’s a great communication channel for us. It helps us keep the chatter going. We also invest in teleconferencing equipment, making sure that people can hear each other. From a product perspective, JIRA works really well because you can see tickets changing. Github is super useful. The pull requests and code reviews we do through there are an indispensable tool in working with distributed engineers.
You think about mobile all day, what are your favorite mobile apps for work?
From an operations perspective, email, Slack and PagerDuty are my primary tools. And then from a distributed team perspective, using Microsoft Lynk on my phone is good for teleconferencing, and then obviously the phone itself is huge. A good clear phone call is the salt of any distributed team. It’s surprising how much time I have invested in making sure that phone calls are clear and that people’s voices can be heard. At some point when I was first setting up the Seattle office and people in New York were having trouble hearing me, I went out and invested in five different bluetooth headsets. The regular Apple headset — the one with the earbuds and microphone — is surprisingly good at call quality. FaceTime is also a good video conference tool for those one-on-ones.
Do you have any tips for maximizing productivity?
When your day starts early talking to India, your day can get blocked off pretty quickly. Figuring out the rhythm of the day and planning those activities that require quiet time to yourself [email, brainstorming, writing] is really important. It’s interesting though, Monday and Friday are two very different beasts. Friday everyone just disappears. Friday afternoon I focus on local team activities and making sure the local team culture is good. We have an end of the week “wrappy hour.” We have a group demo on Friday mornings where everyone dials in and shows off what they’ve done for the previous week. That’s a really good bonding activity for people. It’s the beginning of the day for some and the end of the day for others, but it helps with the feeling of being part of the team and knowing what other people are doing.
What management advice has been the most helpful to you in your career so far?
The best advice I was given was make sure one-on-ones happen. Everyone has a crazy schedule and everyone has a lot going on. Especially in a team that’s distributed, calendaring becomes somewhat chaotic. It’s an easy temptation to feel like you’ve already caught up with someone and lose or cancel the one-on-one. Protect your one-on-ones with people and make sure they always happen. Those are times where you learn about your staff, you learn about morale, you inspire them, you help them with their goals, you help unblock them, you get to know what’s working and what’s not working on an individual basis. Also those are your key touch points for coaching your employees and helping them develop themselves.
Growing Your Career in Technical Support: 4 Tips for Getting Hired at Elastic from Support Director Heidi Sager
Heidi Sager loves math, but she also loves working with people.
She always has, which is why she enjoyed her part-time job working at the IT department of the University of Colorado while she was studying electrical engineering. (She'd started in computer science, but explains that it "wasn't for her" and switched her major.) She helped students and professors with word processors, basic programming, and software checkout, and took a full-time job after graduation as a UNIX system administrator.
Working at Relativity—the global tech company that equips legal and compliance professionals with a powerful data-organizing and discovery platform—looked different in 2020. The highly collaborative environment of their Chicago headquarters transitioned to a virtual setting, and just like companies around the country, Relativity adapted their goals and major projects to a completely remote environment.
Diversity Reboot 2021: The One Hundred Day Kickoff<p><strong>When</strong>: February 1-5, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Free!</p><p><strong>Where to register: </strong><a href="https://summit.powertofly.com/" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>We had to include our own Diversity Reboot on our list of the best diversity and inclusion events to attend in 2021 because we know firsthand how the quality of 100+ expert speakers, the enthusiasm of 10,000 participants, and the cutting-edge tech that enables meaningful virtual networking and job fairs combine to create a truly epic five-day experience. This year, the theme 100 Day Kickoff harnesses the energy of the new government's first 100 days in office to help jump-start personal and professional plans to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. </p><p>Following the February summit, we'll have a monthly series of smaller virtual summits on topics spanning everything from returnships to LGBTQ+ advocacy, so be sure to stay tuned for updates!<br></p>
The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021<p><strong>When</strong>: February 3-4, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Free</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://www.hr.com/en/webcasts_events/virtual_events/upcoming_virtual_events/the-future-of-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-2021_kcxf8glq.html#detail" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>This virtual conference put on by HR.com focuses on how social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have pushed DEI at work beyond legal compliance and into a major factor of any company or brand's culture, employee engagement, and performance. Topics include how to uncover and resolve pay gaps across your team and hire top-level diverse talent.</p>
Workplace Revolution: From Talk to Collective Action<p><strong>When</strong>: March 8-12, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register: </strong>$820</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://cvent.me/ZQ4BbE" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>The Forum on Workplace Inclusion's 33rd annual conference includes 12 session tracks, from DEI Strategy to Social Responsibility, along with 59 workshops and daily networking sessions. This year's theme focuses on one question: "What will it take to start a workplace revolution that moves us from talk to action?"</p>
Diversity: How Employers Can Match Words With Deeds<p><strong>When</strong><strong>: </strong>May 19, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register</strong><strong>: </strong>Early bird registration is $49 and general admission is $149</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://hopin.com/events/may-virtual-conference-diversity-how-employers-can-match-words-with-deeds" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Here</a></p><p>From Day One is hosting monthly conferences in 2021 focused on different ways for companies to foster strong relationships with their customers, communities, and employees. May's half-day virtual event is focused specifically on how companies can make diversity promises that don't fall flat and features workshops, panels, and a fireside chat.</p>
Hire with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion<p><strong>When:</strong> August 18, 2021</p><p><strong>Where: </strong>Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register: </strong>$195</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://www.hci.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference-hire-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-august-18-2021" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>This conference put on by the Human Capital Institute is one of 12 virtual conferences that HCI has planned for 2021. This one focuses on fair and inclusive talent acquisition, including how to attract diverse talent, implement inclusive hiring practices, and addressing bias in employee selection. Other conferences will focus on optimizing talent strategy, engaging employees, and developing your workforce.</p>
Virtual Grace Hopper Celebration 2021<p><strong>When:</strong> September 26-29, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual, broadcast from Chicago, Illinois</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Was $799 for regular access to the virtual conference in 2020; 2021 pricing hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://ghc.anitab.org/attend/registration/" target="_blank">Here</a>, though 2021 registration wasn't live at the time of writing</p><p>Grace Hopper might be the best-known conference for women in tech. Through keynote presentations, networking sessions, job fairs, and community-building activities, vGHC reached over 30,000 women for their 2020 conference and are expecting even more in 2021! While not a conference focused exclusively on diversity and inclusion, many speakers plan to focus their talks on creating environments for women to thrive in the male-dominated tech field.</p>
Inclusion 2021<p><strong>When:</strong> October 25-27, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual and in person in Austin, Texas as of now</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register: </strong><a href="https://conferences.shrm.org/inclusion" target="_blank">Here</a>, though 2021 registration wasn't live at the time of writing</p><p>The Society for Human Resource Management's biggest conference of the year saw 1,200 DEI leaders participate last year; SHRM hopes to see even more come to learn, be inspired, and to walk away with a playbook of implementable strategies to create truly inclusive workplace cultures.</p>
AfroTech 2021<p><strong></strong><strong>When:</strong> November 8-13, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Early bird pricing is $149 for individuals and $249 for corporate attendees; regular pricing hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://experience.afrotech.com/" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>AfroTech is a conference hosted by Blavity, a tech media platform for Black millennials. It focuses on emerging tech trends, connecting Black talent with top tech recruiters, and providing networking and educational opportunities, with an overall goal of building a strong Black tech community. Over 10,000 people participated in 2020. While the conference isn't focused specifically on DEI, its main audience of Black tech talent is an important one to understand and to engage at work and beyond, and several speakers plan to focus on issues of race and inclusion at work. </p>
A Conversation with Vouch's Lead Designer Carrie Phillips