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Improving Collaboration Within Remote Teams

Christian Jennewein

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Problem

With a quickly growing engineering team in Paris, we decided it would be best to open a second engineering hub in Warsaw. Having teams in two different locations is not as easy as having everyone all together in one place. Meetings, team organization and cultural differences were a couple of the challenges that we faced, especially when not everyone is completely independent yet and sometimes they all need to collaborate for certain projects.

Actions taken

Our engineering hub in Paris was growing exponentially which opened up a need for a new hub which we decided to place in Warsaw. Our first engineer joined the Warsaw team in May of 2015 and from there we kept adding top talents which reached a total of 9 engineers by the end of 2015 which continued to grow to 20 engineers throughout 2016. We grew the teams, both in Paris and Warsaw, with the goal to always have squads or teams in one single location. A couple of challenges that we faced were how to have meetings with both locations as well as team organization. Thanks to modern technology, we were able to handle these by doing virtual video-conference meetings via Lifesize and following Spotify's model of Tribes and Squads to better our team organization. Not all of the squads have been fully independent all the time, but this was the goal we were working towards. Having many people from different countries and backgrounds with cultural differences is another obstacle faced. Difference in languages was the very first obstacle, but luckily something we were able to handle quickly. Office hours is another issue as the French prefer a longer lunch break that can last up to 1.5 hours and the Polish prefer lunch in under 20 minutes. Fortunately, both cultures are fairly close and they have a mutual respect for each other's preferences and most of their overall attitudes and habits are shared. Recruit engineers in Warsaw is not really different from hiring in Paris. Both groups go through an identical process, the standards are equally high. To help with collaboration, they will spend their first weeks at the Paris hub to help with a smooth onboarding process. We also sent regularly people from Paris to Warsaw to help with synchronization and bonding. Our company language is English, although in outside meetings mostly French is spoken in the Paris offices and Polish in Warsaw. We send Warsaw based engineers to the Paris office several times per year and have them stay in a company-rented flat. We highly value sharing and learning amongst teams and have countless conferences in Europe and the US.

Lessons learned

We find it very important that strong bonds exist between Paris and Warsaw employees. We happily invest whatever is necessary to make this happen. Having a remote hub is actually more expensive, but in return we get to work with so many talented people. We have learned that as long as there is effective communication in place that it makes no difference whether a new engineering position is based in Paris or Warsaw because it both helps to further growth within the team as a whole. Source: http://previous.blablatech.com/blog/growing-a-second-engineering-hub-in-warsaw


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