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Preparing Your Team for the Remote Workplace

Alignment
Remote
Internal Communication
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Data Team
Cross-Functional Collaboration

29 November, 2021

Vadim Antonov
Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Meta (Facebook, Oculus, & Family of Apps)

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, dictates how he brought a brand new team into the remote learning process by ramping up onboarding and creating a mentor system.

Problem

I began my current role at the beginning of the pandemic last year. I worked in the office only for a few months before the remote transition. My team consisted of a brand new group of cross-functional members of different departments, such as product, data science and user research, and it was important that we develop a close cross-functional relationship. My product manager and analyst had joined the company more recently than I did, which created a unique challenge as we worked to ramp up in our new roles, navigate cross-functional work, and adjust to our new remote working environment. Within the first quarter, we realized there was some misalignment across the team that we needed to address in order to work more effectively.

Actions taken

My first step began by trying to create alignment between the needs of individuals. We conducted meetings where we discussed the team's most significant pain points and created a document that outlined them. The idea was to frame our problems then discuss solutions and urgency. Once we had drafted a list of each problem and solution, we assigned ownership to each solution so our team understood who was responsible for it. The solutions were spread between the product manager, data analyst, and myself so we could work collectively to make things better.

Once we began tracking our problems and solutions, we realized that many troubles surrounded the structure of onboarding for the remote environment. Since the entire team was relatively new, we did not have adequate time to ramp up into remote working, which hindered our communication and workflow. I decided that we needed to rethink the onboarding process for the team. We started by outlining the expectations of what we think each role should be doing. From there, we figured out what action items employees should complete to work at this standard.

At the same time, we created a mentor program where more experienced team members were responsible for mentees' success. By doing this, it provided our team with multiple layers of the ramp-up process. We created documents and tasks that detailed the duties of mentors and what they should be teaching mentees within the first week and first month. We taught new mentors how to bring recent hires up to standard using specific tasks and activities. Our mentor program helped raise the bar for the onboarding process and pushed mentors to become experts in their craft.

We drafted our team's tasks for the next three months and completely changed expectations, and re-architected the onboarding process. Our team improved the meeting structure and created additional documentation that detailed processes that should be understood. We measured our improvement by the number of successful projects our team completed every quarter. During the first quarter, our team finished half a project, which raised to 90% after all process improvements have been implemented.

Lessons learned

  • When transitioning into the remote environment, you will need to rethink your processes. Communication, collaboration, and alignment are differently structured while working from home. No coffee or lunch break could be used to get to know your fellow team members. Therefore, take time to understand these challenges.
  • Success criteria of projects are not determined by completed work but by checking in with all functions of each department. An engineer may have completed all their work, but there are many moving parts for a single project on a cross-functional team.
  • When working in a data-driven team, tracking a good team-health metric will benefit your capabilities. Our metric calculated the number of successful projects tracked quarterly. Keeping a metric will dampen any escalation before it has time to worsen a team's abilities.

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