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Making Remote Work, Work

Ashley Miller

Director of Engineering at Datadog

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Problem

At Datadog, we have a pretty wide variety of cultures, across a wide variety of time zones. There are people in the US from France, we have a Parisian office, and we have a lot of teams who are widely distributed geographically. So, when you have a distributed team, how do you make it work? Scheduling a meeting becomes difficult due to the many time zones and different holidays, and casual conversations in the office can lead to decisions being made without remote workers being involved, and sometimes without remote workers even knowing.

Actions taken

Datadog approaches this by utilizing Slack. A lot of the discussions we have about architecture, as well as random chatting, happens there. This means there's a place for people to talk and be social. For big architecture discussions and anything that's longer-running, we use Google Docs and Pull Requests. In terms of meetings, all of our meetings are scheduled with a video conference attached to it. We also have phone booths for one-on-one discussions because sometimes things just aren't productive to do via text-based. Being able to have face-to-face conversations is huge.

"It's really easy to forget that while all this digital communication is great, the thing that really makes it work is making sure that people meet each other, hang out, and have face-to-face interactions pretty regularly."

  • Datadog

We do this by having the Parisian team travel to the US, and vice versa, ensuring that everyone sees each other as people, rather than as just another resource for the company.

Lessons learned

I've found that what doesn't work for distributed teams is having everyone in the office, except for one remote workers. You need a certain number of people who aren't in the office, or someone who is really okay with working by themselves. In addition, you can only span so many time zones. If there are too many, you'll end up with very little overlap and time to work together as a team.

"It's important to understand how hard it is to be the only person who is remote, especially at a company where everyone is really HQ centred. The systems aren't set up for people who aren't physically there, so you need to have enough of a culture to allow for remote workers. Even with all that support, having someone working in the same time zone as you is really important."

  • Datadog

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Ashley Miller

Director of Engineering at Datadog


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