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How to Successfully Set Up Offshore Teams

John Haniotis

VP of Product Management at MarqetU

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Problem

Small to medium sized startups often need additional development resources. In the states, it's often a problem; either the right resources aren't available, or the cost is too high, or you just don't have enough time to wait for these people to be found, hired, and trained.

Actions Taken

In my previous company, we decided we need additional engineering resources. We had a manager from India who was interested in moving back to India. Because he had the knowledge of operating in that country, we decided to build our offshore team there. We found a local company that handled the hiring and payroll for developers. They set aside full time developers for a long term project with us. Even though we hired them through this process, we ensured that we did not treat them like a third party and instead treated them like every other employee. We did this in a couple of ways: we sent our engineering managers there to spend time with them for almost 6 weeks when new employees were getting started, we set up an exchange program where major contributors from India could come to the states for 6 months at a time to work alongside our developers here, we also provided them the same incentives for and rewards based on performance.

We eventually built out a team of 45 full time employees and continued to manage them remotely. In doing this we did need to make some time and financial investments. For example, when there was major planning (typically on an annual basis) we sent managers over to India to spend time with the teams for face to face questions and input. Additionally, we had to invest in infrastructure for video conferencing in the states and in India.

Lessons Learned

We were overall very happy with our decision to hire offshore employees. There are a couple reasons that I believe it went well for us:

  • We had someone that we knew and trusted (for us, it was a current manager) that knew how to operate business in the offshore country. This was important because it made for a much faster, seamless process.
  • You have to have an organization structure that allows flexibility. It can be tough with the time difference and employees on both sides need to recognize and allow for this.

"You can't underestimate the importance of cultural empathy."

  • You can't underestimate the importance of cultural empathy. Not only are there different holidays and time off that you must account for, but there are different working styles in other countries. This is part of the reason we sent managers there for the 6 week period- to understand the organization and work style of those teams.
  • You can scale a team much faster using offshore resources. Hiring in the states is a long process and when you are a start up, you are sometimes growing to fast to wait.
  • Offshore teams are about 70% the cost of the same team in the states. However, this setup requires more management so you must account for and be able to give this management time.

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John Haniotis

VP of Product Management at MarqetU


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