I work at Apartment List as an Engineering Manager. I’ve been here almost four years!
Tell us about your team!
I’m currently running two teams: renter acquisition (demand) and ReRe (reactivation and reengagement). Demand is a seven person team and ReRe is currently two engineers.
My teammates are located in a bunch of different cities. We have one in Florida, Boston, Portland, Colombia, and a few in the bay area.
Demand is responsible for SEO and conversion (registration). ReRe is currently revamping our email system to be more flexible.
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
I think one of the most important things for a strong remote culture is “forced fun”. I know it sounds weird but opting into fun activities while remote is difficult. Most of my team likes what we’re working on and would rather continue to be heads down, grinding out the next feature. I think adding some process to have weekly fun and see coworkers outside of tickets and workflows builds empathy and comradery.
We currently play games each week as a team (either skribbl.io or jackbox games like murder trivia party). We have daily icebreakers to get to know everyone better.
And we’ve started experimenting with gather.town as a 2d office clone where we can bump into random coworkers and bring back that watercooler talk that disappeared with the office.
How do you make sure your team is happy and engaged in their work?
I think the key here is communication. It’s difficult to ask for status updates when you can’t bump into your teammates in the office. I try to keep an open conversation going with all of my teammates by reaching out to them frequently on slack. I try to get a conversation going with everyone once a day. This can be about anything. I’ve found that just by asking someone about their weekend, they’ll end up telling you all about blockers and problems they’re having.
I try to get a conversation going with everyone once a day. This can be about anything.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
My biggest challenge is keeping everyone in the loop. With remote teams, there is no watercooler talk. You can’t just look over someone’s shoulder and see what the other teams are working on. This can lead to multiple teams building the same things and tackling the same problems.
It’s important to get teams to show off what they are building and demo it early and often. This keeps everyone in the loop and also informs folks who are experts in a given domain. Next time they have questions, they’ll remember who knows what and where to go.
My Remote Manager Toolbox
We have weekly wrap ups which include demos, some Jackbox games, and optional cocktails. It’s been a great way to show off what we built during the week and hang out with our coworkers.
We’ve been big fans of skribbl.io and Jackbox games. They have a low learning curve and can play with anyone.
We have icebreakers every morning after scrum. We’ll talk about our weekend plans, our favorite foods, etc. We use icebreakers.io to randomly generate ideas if we’ve run out.
Products & Tools
We use Culture Amp surveys to measure our progress on how we are doing as a company internally. It’s been great to point out what isn’t working and what we can improve on.
Resources for remote leaders
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