I work at Twilio-Segment as a Senior Product Manager and have been here for a little over 4 years.
I’m focused on building Segment’s platform by extending our capabilities so that other internal teams, our customers, and partners can be empowered to build their own integrations in our ecosystem.
Tell us about your team!
Within this area I’m responsible for two specific teams - one works on our Functions product (based out of India) and the second is our Developer Center product (distributed across North America in cities such as San Francisco, Lafayette, New York and Austin).
Both teams have 5 engineers, 1 engineering manager and 1 designer. We of course then interface with other cross-functional teams who are also fairly distributed right now, depending on the immediate project.
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
Written communication and trust. Both are critical elements in normal company culture but especially so when your teams are distributed.
I’ve specifically highlighted written communication here because teams spread across time zones and locations often lead to unintended water cooler conversations where some team members can be left out.
Our teams at Twilio follow a ‘write it down’ culture to ensure that no matter who you are and where you’re based, you can always know what’s been discussed or decided. This in turn, helps foster the trust needed to keep the team working together in a happy and productive manner.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections. Strong connections are built with Hailey.
How do you make sure your team is happy and engaged in their work?
There are so many but I find that ensuring there’s variety every week, month or quarter depending on the team, is really effective. Even pre-pandemic, making sure that things didn’t stagnate has been critically important.
This could be as simple as mixing up the type of work the team is focused on or which team members are pairing together on a project. It could mean coordinating a hack week so the team can take some time to get their creative juices flowing. Or it could be sending a surprise gift box to folks to brighten up their week.
I’d add that these ideas for variety can be generated through regular team retros to check-in on the team and get them sharing what’s going well and what can be improved.
Our teams at Twilio follow a ‘write it down’ culture to ensure that no matter who you are and where you’re based, you can always know what’s been discussed or decided.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
Ensuring that you’re being inclusive with anything that you do; whether that’s in a meeting where some team members happen to be physically co-located but several are remote or it’s when you’re coordinating some virtual event or gifting some cool gift boxes.
Managing a remote team generally means that the folks on your team, more so than traditional co-located teams, come from vastly different time zones, cultural backgrounds and working styles. These additional variables make it much more challenging to be inclusive in all situations.
My Remote Manager Toolbox
We’ve tried so many! Everything from cooking together or wine/cocktail tasting to cool Airbnb Experiences like learning how to draw an alpaca or scavenger hunts and escape rooms.
All the time! The two fan favorites seem to be Drawsaurus and Among Us. More recently we discovered this cool virtual world called Gather which allows you to interact and play games with each other as avatars.
We’ve also tried more complex games like Settlers of Catan but realized the setup time was a bit of a barrier to entry.
Nothing formal but there’s usually one question about a team member’s weekend, virtual background or latest time off that sparks some good conversation before a meeting starts.
Products & Tools
One favorite is the concept of user guides or manuals which really help the team establish a baseline for understanding each other’s working style or background - it’s a great way to onboard new team members in the remote world as well.