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DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean Virtual Tech Talk & QA Follow-Up Questions

On May 7th, PowerToFly hosted a live webinar with the women tech leaders at DigitalOcean.

We're sorry that we weren't able to address all of your questions during the event (with over 180 attendees asking great questions, it gets tough!), but the DigitalOcean panelists graciously took the time to write responses to all of the questions we couldn't get to.

So if you attended the event and your question wasn't answered, take a look at the Q&A below to find your question and read the panelists' response! Still not seeing the information you're looking for? You can reach out to Limor directly with your question.

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DigitalOcean

Virtual Tech Talk with Women Engineering Leaders at DigitalOcean

Want to join this webinar and learn more? Email us at hi@powertofly.com to be considered for an invite.

PowerToFly is thrilled to partner with DigitalOcean (a dynamic, fast-growing startup that serves a robust and passionate community of developers, teams, and businesses around the world) to present a virtual tech talk and audience Q&A with several of their women tech leaders.

The webinar will take place on Tuesday, May 7th at 1:00pm EST / 10:00am PST.

After the tech talk, PowerToFly Cofounder and President Katharine Zaleski will lead a brief panel discussion with several of DigitalOcean's women engineering leaders, discussing their career journeys, current projects, and what it's like working for a mostly remote company.

Panelists

Tech Talk Speaker:

Although you don't need to be looking for new job opportunities to attend the webinar, DigitalOcean does have a number of open remote roles. In fact, about 70% of DigitalOcean's engineering team works remotely! Their competitive benefits include monthly gym reimbursements, monthly commute allowances, and a 401k with up to a 4% employer match. To learn more about DigitalOcean's open roles, visit their page on PowerToFly.

About our webinars: All RSVP'd attendees are welcome, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, or age.

Zapier Inc

The Privilege Of Keeping Support Weird At Zapier

Below is an article originally written by Pam Dodrill, the VP of Customer Support at PowerToFly Partner Zapier, and published on October 1, 2018. Go to Zapier's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

I'm excited to announce that I'm joining Zapier as VP of Customer Support. Ever since I saw my first Zapier alert in a former role, I've been curious about what the company is building. And as soon as I mentioned to friends and colleagues that I was in discussions for this role, they all had big reactions and told me how much they love what Zapier is doing with integrations and automation. I'm a huge fan and I'm eager to join this fast-growing company and 100% remote team.

The approach this company takes to its customers, employees and overall business impresses me beyond measure. The company culture and values were the first thing I looked at and "Empathy, no Ego" along with "Default to Action" and "Default to Transparency" jumped out at me. This is how I work. During my interview process, I found real-life examples of these values at work, stories that validated what the company was advertising.

The other thing that struck me is how Zapier pushes normal limits. I mean - 100% remote team, not just support team, but the whole team? Anyone that knows me, knows I've been advocating for remote teams for well over a decade - probably more like 2 if I'm honest. This company knows how to do it right - AND they share their lessons learned.

In general, Zapier is a company that wants to learn best practices and then gets focused on how to improve those practices and makes them work for their individual company needs. This is so much better than just running through a prescribed playbook. I'm elated to apply this approach while leading Zapier's Support team.

During my research, I also ran across this post about why everyone at Zapier participates in All Hands Support - written by Wade Foster (one of Zapier's co-founders) that lists 6 really good reasons why this is important. For me, it puts empathy for the customer at the center of how we do business and it guarantees the Support team gets the respect they deserve.

As I met with different members of the Support team I realized there is an inherent passion for Customer Support and an esprit d'coeur that only exists in organizations that are genuinely excited about what they are doing. But what struck me most is they get it. They know what they want to do. They don't need me to come in and tell them what to do or do it for them. They just need help harvesting and implementing their ideas through hyper-growth while maintaining a fabulous customer experience.

It's really hard to pick a favorite thing I learned while interviewing, but I think I'd pick this: Keep Support Weird. I was told on numerous occasions that it is very important to the team, as they choose a new leader, to find someone who will help Keep Support Weird. After stumbling into a Support role at the age of 16 and turning it into a career, I understand this completely. It's one of those things that if I have to explain it, you won't understand.

I feel so privileged to join this team. If you know what it means to Keep Support Weird, check out these jobs and join us.

Help Scout

What Remote Companies Can Teach Co-Located Teams

Below is an article originally written by Emily Triplett Lentz, the Blog Editor and Content Strategy Lead at PowerToFly Partner Help Scout, and published on November 28, 2018. Go to Help Scout's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.

Remote work certainly has its advantages: broader talent pools, uninterrupted blocks of time for deep-focus work, and the quality of life that can come with the freedom to work wherever you choose.

But like every setup, there are pros and cons — and the downsides aren't what companies who are afraid of remote work or flexible schedules think they are. Employers who don't want to let people work from home often think, How can I be sure they're working if I can't see them? What if they spend their whole day on social media? and so on. But in reality, studies show productivity stays the same or increases when people work outside traditional office settings.

The real downsides to remote work are just amplified versions of problems that exist in co-located environments.

Remote teams excel at solving certain collaboration-related problems that co-located companies aren't confronted with as keenly — but that doesn't mean they're not there. The difference is that co-located companies don't have to solve for them because it's easier not to. (You can wing a lot of decision-making in an office environment, for example — just hop into a conference room and figure it out.) Since remote companies don't have that luxury, they've been forced to solve for the problems that accompany asynchronous communication.

Traditional companies can learn from some of these tools and processes that remote companies already have down and make their workplaces more collaborative and inclusive for everyone.

3 downsides of remote teams and what they can teach us

These issues affect every team who has to communicate asynchronously, or in ways other than sitting across from one another at the conference table. Here's how we address them at Help Scout.

1. Text-first communication can lead to breakdowns in understanding and productivity

Think of the last email chain or Slack conversation that spun out of control because the people involved were talking about different things, coming from different places, adding their own contexts, and so on.

Misunderstandings can happen with more frequency in workplace setups where face-to-face communication isn't the norm. And at least at first, it's tricky to identify the moment where it'd really be best to call time out; the instinct is to react and reply, only that makes the problem worse. Problems get blown out of proportion because we think so much faster than we type.

The way around it is to learn to pinpoint this situation the moment it starts, and either a) hop on a video chat, where you have the benefits of tone of voice and a little bit of body language to help you convey meaning, or b) walk away and pick it up later after your emotions aren't getting in the way of clear communication.

When your default communication is email or messaging, you are prone to missing out on additional context.

At Help Scout, we acknowledge this by encouraging people to "assume miscommunication over malice." We include that phrase in our employee onboarding — we tell new team members that if they ever feel like their integrity is being questioned, to assume it's a communication misfire, and not because their team member actually thinks they're bad at their job.

Assuming miscommunication over malice is especially helpful on a culturally diverse team. It helps to remember that the way people share concerns or feedback is often informed culturally, and critical feedback is rarely personal. (This is probably a huge part of why diverse teams have been proven to work better, because it's not just a homogenous group of folks patting each other on the back telling each other everything is "awesome.")

2. Remote, asynchronous teams require more proactive communication, structure and transparency

When you're collaborating asynchronously, it can create a situation where one stakeholder is constantly waiting for the other, with longer periods in between where work is just sitting there — and that can exacerbate any "us-versus-them" dynamics that might already exist between teams.

The antidote is to have rock-solid processes in place. On my team, for instance, we have a robust editorial process we manage via Trello: Once I'm good with a draft, it goes to a copyeditor, then it comes back to me, then I send it over to the design team, who codes it up in Github and puts it up on staging, then the author and I review it there, then there's usually some more back-and-forth … and then it can go live. It takes dependable tools and a tremendous amount of proactive communication to ship things on time.

Alternative workplace arrangements are not less work. Nothing is "set it and forget it." Help Scout's stack includes Confluence, Slack, Trello, Dropbox Paper, Google Docs, Zoom, Wistia, and a number of other tools we use to keep our team aligned.

We do our best to be relentlessly communicative and put everything in writing. It's not a bad habit for any kind of company, though, remote or not. No one ever complained because it was too easy to find the information they were looking for.

3. Remote work can be isolating

Remote work doesn't work for everyone — and that goes for people and companies. It's not an option for many kinds of businesses, and it doesn't work for every person, either. Occasionally, people new to remote working find out that it doesn't suit them. They feel alone; they get cabin fever (especially when they're in a different time zone than their team), and they realize it's just not for them and that they prefer going into a traditional office. And that's fine.

We try to hire people who thrive in remote settings, but we acknowledge that everyone is subject to those feelings of isolation, and we try to mitigate that in a number of ways:

  • Semiannual company retreats, when the whole team meets up in person for a week.
  • Video meetings (instead of phone calls) — we use Zoom for all our one-on-ones, team meetings, and company-wide town halls. For those who can't attend, we record them so they can watch at their convenience. (This is a good way to keep co-located companies aligned, too — record your meetings so whoever can't be there in person, for whatever reason, doesn't get left out of the loop.)
  • Weekly video updates that keep the team informed about new feature releases, birthdays, and other company-wide news.
  • "Troop Talks"— casual, monthly video chats the whole team is invited to. We've talked about how we practice self-care, songs we associate with a poignant memory, and all manner of topics that elicit these lovely stories that may never otherwise come up at work.
  • Fika, inspired by the Swedish tradition of taking a little break to have coffee and pastries and visit with a friend. We use a Slack integration called Donut to help us randomly pair people from different teams, and then we come together face-to-face to talk about life, kids, pets, languages, where they're from, everything. (Fika is great. I think every company should fika, remote or not!)

Related: How We Use Video to Build Remote Culture

Obviously, co-located teams don't struggle with these things as much — there are plenty of organic moments for team-building built in when you're all together. But what good remote companies do really well is offer a lot of different ways for team members to build relationships, and that's where co-located companies can sometimes fall short.

Team happy hours can be fun, for example, but they're not always everyone's jam — they can feel exclusionary to non-drinkers, people with families, and others. So if you host happy hours, consider also hosting team breakfasts, or planning short midday offsites, lunch-and-learns, and other team-building activities so that inclusive company culture becomes the default.

The future of work

The need for better asynchronous communication is increasingly relevant to all kinds of teams. The way things are heading, we're seeing more and more nontraditional work arrangements — not just remote work, but flexible schedules, the need for communicating across cultures and time zones, and so on.

Even if you work in an office, chances are you work with contractors, offshore teams, freelancers, and other collaborators who aren't onsite. And at some point, we're all remote: We've all missed the proverbial memo when we were out of the office for one reason or another.

The problems remote workers have — feeling out of the loop, unclear documentation and so on — those happen in every office.

Thinking about how remote and asynchronous teams collaborate successfully, despite not always being face to face, and applying those solutions to all kinds of workplaces, can help foster better communication and belonging everywhere.

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