Exadel developers have many years of experience working remotely with dispersed teams located all around the world. In this interview in our Developer Q&A series, we talked about remote and dispersed work tips and challenges with Exadel front-end developer Ivan Tserashkou who works at Exadel, Vitebsk. He shared with us his insights on what it is like to work remotely to help those who are new to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your role at Exadel? What does a typical day of work look like for you?
A typical working day starts with 1-2 hours of coding to catch up on tasks from the previous day. Mid-morning, I participate in daily Scrum meetings with my team members discussing current project assignments and challenges and then work on the project tasks during the rest of the day, connecting with the team members to address any urgent issues. There are also weekly meetings with the customer where we communicate and discuss project details via video conferencing. Communicating over video helps with familiarity and teambuilding.
2. Exadel has had dispersed development teams for many years. What has it been like to collaborate with team members who may not be in the same office as you or not even in the same time zone?
When I started to work with the team members who are in different offices and time zones, I realized that the physical location is not as important as the set of skills you possess. When you are not tied to an office location you are thought of more for the talent, diligence, and competencies you offer to the company and the project, not about where you are located.
At Exadel, we have always worked as remote, dispersed teams with members accumulated from different countries and cities around the world that support the most innovative IT projects. So, I think, getting the right highly qualified IT engineers is a critical success factor for any company or new IT project. And, when engineers are located around the world, it helps to reach project goals much faster.
The other interesting thing I noticed while working with remote and dispersed teams is you don’t need to run around the office to search for someone to help you, you can quickly connect with any team member through any communication channel and ask for assistance. This takes several seconds, and we’ve really gotten used to it.
As we have a team in the United States, Great Britain, and Belarus, different time zones have taught me to be more self-disciplined, more organized, and polite. Respecting the team’s time and effort is essential, especially when working in different locations. I know that I have certain time slots when I may ask questions of team members from different time zones. I write down the questions during the day and ask them at the appropriate time so that any arising issues can be resolved quickly, briefly, and more efficiently without disturbing anyone from their major tasks.
3. COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have presented the additional challenge of working from home. How has this work experience been different from before stay-at-home measures were put in place? What new challenges and benefits have you seen?
With COVID-19 the working processes have not changed at all, as we have always been working with remote and dispersed teams. But yes, all the other team members and I simply stopped going to the physical offices. The emotional feeling that you get coming to work has disappeared, which was a challenge for me at the beginning. Staying at home made me feel like I lost the boundary between work and home. The work evolves into home, and home changes into work, which could be rather harmful, as you may start working too much or feeling unfulfilled.
This challenge has taught me to master my self-management skills. I’ve improved my self-discipline, outlining the exact time when the working day starts and ends. I now include short breaks to do some physical exercises or walk outside to breathe the fresh air.
The main benefit I noticed is that I started to spend more time with my family, which is a significant benefit for me. I am not having to commute to work, which to some extent contributes to saving the ecology of the city I live in. We started to ride bicycles more and bought some training equipment, which is also improving our physical condition.
4. Any tips or best practices you want to share about working from home or working with dispersed development teams?
For those who have just started to work from home, I would suggest creating a specified schedule for short breaks to do some physical activity. Always set an alarm that will notify you in the morning and will remind you that it’s time to start to work, as there is the temptation to sleep longer when you are always at home.
Create a comfortable working space that will not allow you to be distracted by some other things at home. To work at any random place at home is not a good idea, as your unconscious reactions will prevent you from working. You may start to be distracted by an uncomfortable chair, poor lighting, etc.
Always spend some time to get outside and get some fresh air – of course, following all the protection rules by wearing masks and social distancing. To stay socially active, I would suggest talking with friends and colleagues using video conferencing, as eye contact will help you to understand that you are dealing the whole day not only with your PC, but with people as well. And to work efficiently with dispersed teams, just stay online!
For me to work in such a way with teams from around the world is normal, so this working process is sometimes taken for granted. I would suggest to always stay polite and understanding. Different cultures have different mentality and habits. It may sound funny, but don’t forget to say “Hello“, as by virtually communicating you may forget about such simple things. Keep to your working time and do not drag away people who may be going to bed already.
Through working from home, I‘ve really come to understand that almost all questions can be resolved remotely, you can even hand over documents with personal signatures.
Stay tuned for more personal insights and tips from the Exadel development team!