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Setting Up A Remote-First Company

David Tabachnikov

Remote CTO at ScholarshipOwl

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Problem

"When I started at the start-up where I am now Lead Developer, we had a small team working in Serbia and most of our management working in Israel. In addition, most of our clients were based in America. We originally planned to launch a branch in Kiev. However, I realized that there was no point in moving everyone to one place."

Actions taken

"Instead, we decided to optimize our internal communication channels, to make location irrelevant. We built our company in a remote-first manner, where everyone worked remotely but they were still working in a team. Having daily video calls and meeting twice a year for a company-wide offsite meeting have been very useful mechanisms for ensuring quality communication. We worked very hard on ensuring that updates to every tool were updated to one place so everyone would be on the same page. In one case, two of our employees were working together, and one sent the other a message that the other person took offense to. This resulted in fighting back and forth for two days. I told them to call one another because the moment you hear someone's intonation is the moment when you really understand what someone is saying and what the intent behind it is. When they called one another, they started smiling, and their communication opened back up again. Within five minutes they had solved a 2-day conflict."

Lessons learned

"While we have faced some communication challenges, this ended up working out better than if we had had all our teams in one place. If you learn to work remotely, it's also easier to work in a shared physical office, because the same processes that work well remotely work even better in a physical office. When working remotely, it's important to be aware of what can be lost in communication. If someone doesn't understand what another person is saying, it's important to find a way to communicate via the phone or a video call. This allows people to communicate more naturally and hear one another's intonations."


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David Tabachnikov

Remote CTO at ScholarshipOwl


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