I work at Unibuddy as an Engineering Manager. Unibuddy is an integrated peer-to-peer marketing and recruitment platform that enables authentic student experiences and provides actionable insights along the entire student journey.
We help students make better higher ed decisions and help institutions find their best-fit students, through shared human experiences.
Tell us about your team!
How big is it? The squad I manage is made up of 6 people - three engineers, one Product Owner, one Product Designer, and myself.
Where are your teammates located? We are located all over the world! The US, UK, India, and Cyprus.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for? Our squad has been responsible for developing and launching Unibuddy’s newest product to market:
Unibuddy Community. Community is a product which allows students to connect with institutions, their ambassadors and each other in a group messaging environment.
For institutions, it’s the official and safe space to support and enable student-to-student connection and belonging. For students, it’s the place they get answers to their questions, meet their peers, get to know people like them, and make lifelong friends.
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
The number one thing that you need to get right to have a strong remote culture is communication - whatever that means for your team. For our squad communication is both synchronous and asynchronous and we tend to over-communicate things. We found it’s better to share too much than risk something falling through the cracks.
We have two daily standups so that we get to touch base with each other at least once every day and all our sprint ceremonies take place synchronously over a small overlap in our time zones.
With good communication comes understanding that each and everyone of us have different goals and aspirations as well as a life outside of work. Taking all that into consideration and steering the team towards our common goal while being flexible helps build a strong remote culture.
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?
Firstly, we try to find exciting work for everyone. We tend to work with cutting edge technology so this is not too hard, however the most exciting part is that the whole squad is involved in making decisions about the solution we are building from the beginning. This helps a lot with engagement since we have a sense of ownership of the product. Also, getting feedback from our users and celebrating all wins however big or small is super important.
For our squad communication is both synchronous and asynchronous and we tend to over-communicate things. We found it’s better to share too much than risk something falling through the cracks.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
My biggest challenge is keeping the communication channels active within the organization. Making sure everyone is up to date with what is happening within the team but also across teams is challenging. Not being co-located in the same office as other teams means we can’t just walk by their desks to check what they are working on. We need to work extra hard to stay aligned with them and also make sure we are not duplicating effort. This gets increasingly hard as the number of people and teams grows!
My Remote Manager Toolbox
We take some time during our standups to share any outside-of-work news with our teammates like share pictures from our latest holiday, or the latest crazy thing our pets have done like you would if you were in the office.
The most exciting thing coming up is an in-person meetup! Some of us will be meeting in real life for the first time after 18 months of working together.
We sometimes play skribbl.io and Gartic Phone with other teams. Gartic Phone is so much fun and shows how important clear communication is, and how easy it is to lose the initial message as information flows from one person to the next.
We don’t have any standard icebreakers but one of our teammates is working while travelling in their van so we try to guess where they are joining the meeting from.
Products & Tools
We use Slack a lot, not just for work communications. We have several Slack channels for banter, a company-wide slack channel for sharing kudos and channels for different hobbies. Some interesting ones are the music channel where we share music with each other as well as our planty-plants, diggy-dogs and photography channels, to share pictures and tips about plants, pets, and photography respectively.
Resources for remote leaders
I’ve recently discovered and been going through Isabel Nyo’s books and web content (https://eisabainyo.net/weblog/) for Engineering Manager career advice.
Make your company a great place to work
"Adding Hailey has been by far the lowest effort, highest impact thing we’ve done to bring our globally scattered team together!" - Mary Grace Reich