Helping Remote Teams Work - The Manager

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Part 2 of 2 – I ran into Elia Albarran, Four Kitchens' Operations Manager at BADCamp 2014. She mentioned she'd read my blog post 10 Tips for Success as a Remote Employee; we started exchanging tips and ideas until I basically yelled, "Stop! I need to get this on camera for the podcast!" She graciously agreed and brought along two Four Kitchens developers for the session, too: Taylor Smith and Matt Grill, whom I spoke with in part 1.

In this episode, I speak with Elia Albarran about the manager's perspective on running great teams, whether mixed in-house/remote or all remote.

In addition to the great remote-team tips – on personal productivity, survival, and sanity tips for remotes and team tips, tricks, and technologies for teams with remote members – Matt and Taylor talked about in part 1 (be sure to check those out here!), Elia added a few more and generously agreed to share with us the Four Kitchens "Hello Web Chef!" guide for new employees. It is a compact guide to 4K's mission, working philosophy, and their curated technologies list.

Related posts on Acquia.com

  1. 10 Tips for Success as a Remote Employee – blog post by Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire
  2. Working on Remote Teams – the Developers – Acquia Podcast 182 with Four Kitchens developers Taylor Smith and Matt Grill
  3. Helping Remote Teams Work - The Manager – Acquia Podcast 180 with Elia Albarran, Four Kitchens Operations Manager
  4. Building a great remote team, helping clients & giving back - Acquia Podcast 193 with Acquia Global Support team members Daniel Blomqvist and Henk Beld

Living open source

"It really excited me," explains Elia about moving to an open source company, "because that's sort of what I have been living my whole life: this open source idea of 'Share.' Share, share, share, learn from other people. The advantage is that we know that there are things we're not doing perfectly and there are some things that we're doing really great ... And we're okay with that. We are constantly finding out more from other teams who have distribution ... 'Hey! Let's compare notes!' Every conversation, you learn something new that you can bring back." We're all in this together. We might as well compete better.

Elia's top tips for remote teamwork technologies

With six of 23 Four Kitchens employees remote, Elia stresses that an important part of her job, "Is to evaluate tools and make sure that we're using the best tools available for our remote communication; to make sure that communication is easy, accessible, and good quality." For example, video conferencing tools, "Which one allows all of us to have our own line? Which one has the best video quality so that we can actually see the expressions that we're making on the other end? Because when you lose those things, you lose so much in communication."

Hello Web Chef PDF! - download a copy for yourself and your organization. Thank you Four Kitchens for your generosity and putting open source ideals of sharing, transparency, and contribution into practice!

Here are some highlights from the guide and my conversation with Elia:

  • It's about empowering people – "Hiring a remote teammate is not just about 'getting the best people.' It's also about empowering that person to work their day the way that they want to and work from where they want to live."
  • "We're all remote," equal rights and technologies – "We have this idea that when one person is remote, we're all remote. When we have a video conference, we all take it from our own laptop so we can each see each others' faces. There's not a conference room where we're all looking at the one person ..." and microphone problems, and a whiteboard the remotes can't see ... "We did that for a while, but we learned. We try to do things differently."
  • Headsets with mics! Everyone at Four Kitchens has to own and use a headset with a microphone for meetings. "It has changed the ease of communication. It's so clear ... You have to use good gear!"
  • What are you up to? HipChat status indicators help make up for now seeing whether someone is heads-down in a project or out for lunch.
  • Team Hugs - Look forward to joining #TeamHugs twice a week! Every Tuesday and Thursday morning we all get together for 30 minutes on a Zoom conference line and round-robin our answers to a silly question like, “what the worst haircut you’ve ever had?” We find it’s important as a distributed team to have dedicated time to just have fun. Elia adds, "Make sure that you connect with people on a human level, not just about work."
  • Checker Plus for GMail – I didn't know about this browser extension until I read this guide. Looks helpful!
  • HipChat – instant messaging. Matt and Taylor weigh in on this in part 1.
  • Zoom – video conferencing and screen sharing. Elia really seems to love using this service.

Also check out my original post and the comments there for a lot more great, practical information on this topic that concerns so many of us in the tech industry today.

Guest dossier

Elia Albarran on the web:

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