83. Remote Only

This episode of The Rabbit Hole is wholly concerned with remote work and to help us unpack this issue we welcome back our friend Jonathan Belcher from Automaticc. Automaticc is a remote only company that has its employees spread all over the world and has used this model to achieve great success. We chat a bit about Jonathan’s experience of this and how he manages working from home. Our guest tells us some of his tips and tricks for best results before we get into the nitty gritty of how Automaticc functions. We talk Github, meetups, hackathons, and conferences as well as discuss the way communication works across completely virtual platforms. We end off looking at some of the great benefits that remote only companies can garner in the current economic climate, both in terms of rent and expertise. For all this and more come with us down the rabbit hole!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Jonathan’s experiences working at remote only company Automaticc.
  • What Jonathan’s work space looks like in his home.
  • Segmenting your time and space for best results.
  • Meeting across timezones and countries.
  • Using GitHub notifications to stay on top of work across remote networks.
  • Relationships with colleagues in remote companies.
  • Hackathons, conferences and company events.
  • Jonathan compares remote only work to his experiences in physical offices.
  • The communication dynamic in a company when everyone is remote.
  • Building an international team of talent through remote work.
  • Saving on office space and complete coverage.
  • Requirements for working remote through Automaticc.
  • And much more!

Transcript for Episode 83. Remote Only

[0:00:01.9] MN: Hello and welcome to The Rabbit Hole, the definitive developer’s podcast in fantabulous Chelsey Manhattan. I’m your host, Michael Nunez. Our producer today -

[0:00:09.4] WJ: William Jeffries.

[0:00:10.5] MN: Today, we’ll be talking about working remote only. Only remotes allowed. How do you do that? That sounds pretty nuts, I find myself can’t do it, I don’t think I can.

[0:00:23.1] WJ: I think remote only companies are the new remote first companies, that’s a new thing, the new hotness.

[0:00:28.6] MN: Before we begin, we have a guest, we have Jonathan Belcher. How’s it going JB?

[0:00:33.0] JB: Going great.

[0:00:34.0] MN: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in the remote only world we currently live in right now.

[0:00:40.8] JB: Yeah, I’m JB and I work at a remote only company, Automaticc and we do WordPress.com and Jetpack and Woocommerce and a bunch of other things. We live all over the world.

[0:00:54.7] MN: All over the world, do you elaborate on that?

[0:00:57.0] JB: I haven’t checked in a while but I think we’re in like 55 some countries, 700 and some people, I don’t know the exact numbers but yeah.

[0:01:05.5] WJ: How did you get to 55 companies so quickly? Given that this is the new hotness?

[0:01:11.3] JB: Well yeah, Automaticc, is started as really doing a lot of open source work and so from that respect, remote only made sense when they decided to create a company and Automaticc’s been around for 11 or 12 years at this point so they’ve been remote only since the beginning.

[0:01:32.4] WJ: So this is not really all that new, this whole remote only thing?

[0:01:36.0] JB: No.

[0:01:37.6] MN: I think they were one of the first.

[0:01:40.4] JB: Or we are one of the first.

[0:01:43.0] WJ: Are there any other big names in the remote only space?

[0:01:46.2] JB: I think Gitlab is remote only and Buffer and I know there is at least a couple, there’s a new GitHub repository that has – it’s a new website that has a bunch of companies that are remote only. Yeah, I mean, Gitlab and Buffer, some of the more vocal remote only companies.

[0:02:07.4] WJ: Interesting. There aren’t like any – I guess Automaticc would probably be the biggest thing as well, right?

[0:02:15.2] JB: I would say we’re probably one of the largest, yeah.

[0:02:18.0] MN: What is your office look like?

[0:02:19.6] JB: I just moved into a new house and I have my own little space that I can close the door on. When you join Automaticc, you get a stipend to setup your office. You get a desk and a chair. I have an electric stand sit desk and a fancy ergonomic chair.

[0:02:37.9] MN: Okay.

[0:02:39.2] JB: I have a little boom with my mic on there and an Apple Cinema Display. I have a little ducky that one of my coworkers gave me and when I left my previous job and he said, “You’re not going to have anybody to talk to so talk to this duck.”

[0:02:52.5] MN: Yeah, there you go.

[0:02:53.9] JB: Yeah. Before we moved, I had a – I rented an office, it was an artist loft space and I had a desk and it was in a room with a bunch of shelving units and in an old school, it was pretty fantastic space, everybody was way cooler than me.

[0:03:12.4] MN: For sure. I find that like that is the number one rule to working remotely is to have that space as an office and nothing else.

[0:03:21.6] WJ: Yeah, you got to segment out the areas of your life so that they don’t start to bleed into one another.

[0:03:28.0] JB: Yeah, you have to remember that like, there are working hours and then there are working hours and then there are non working hours and you – I mean, depending on your personality, you may just be working all the time. I think that happens with remote and when you go into the office. I mean, we all check Slack and we probably shouldn’t be after hours. Yeah, you need to segment, you need to have a space, you need to have a place to work, I try to get out of my pajamas most days.

I mean, it doesn’t always happen, I try to take a shower before I start work, that way I feel nice and clean and I’m ready to go. I definitely like segment my days so that these are the hours that I’m going to be working and then when I’m done with those hours, I close the computer and I’m done for the day. That feels nice.

[0:04:16.5] WJ: If you're keeping these regular hours but you don’t have people in 55 different countries around the world, how do you handle meetings?

[0:04:24.2] JB: Yeah, my team is, we pretty much cover every time zone so we have New Zealand, India, Moscow, two people in South Africa, me on the East Coast in Philly and then one person in Seattle. How do you have a meeting? Somebody has to stay up till three AM to have a team meeting? It doesn’t quite work.

What we do is we alternate weeks. One week it’s at 10 AM eastern standard and then the next week it’s at 4PM eastern standard. Of course I can make that meeting every week but some people can and some people can’t. If you can make it, you make it, if you can’t make it, you can’t.

[0:05:02.4] WJ: You might have two people on the same team who never actually go to meetings together?

[0:05:06.5] JB: Yeah. Well I guess, probably, like Seattle and New Zealand probably wouldn’t overlap a whole lot.

[0:05:15.1] WJ: How do you get decisions made?

[0:05:19.3] JB: At Automaticc, we have, we do WordPress, I mean, we’re WordPress.com. We have an internal WordPress theme called P2 that we use for – I mean, just basically anything. I have one for my team and you know, we post a weekly summary of all the things we’ve done or if you want to make a change, you post to the correct P2.

If it’s for woocommerce.com, you would post on woocommerce.com and say, “I’m making this change to the build system, here’s the PR, give me some feedback, I’m going to merge it on this day and here are the things that you need to do to your dev environment for things to continue working.” Then you can leave comments and it’s all threaded and everything can happen via P2.

We also utilize Slack, you know, pretty much like every other company these days. You know, that’s a fantastic tool but we really need to catch ourselves because the back scroll can be quite long and you’re coming on Eastern Standard Time when there’s the rest of the team has been working all day, you know, in UTC+.

[0:06:31.2] WJ: I’ve had this problem where you sign in in the morning and there’s an insane back scroll. You just shift escape, you know? Mark always read.

[0:06:41.0] JB: Yeah, I read it, sure. We say P2 or it didn’t happen, right? If you don’t P2 it, it didn’t happen or a lot of times you know for issues or things like that, we’ll send people to GitHub.

[0:06:54.8] MN: Right.

[0:06:55.4] JB: Yeah, we use GitHub a lot. Just like every other company these days.

[0:07:01.1] WJ: Right. I can GitHub indispensable tools.

[0:07:03.9] MN: I do think that yeah, you might have to utilize those GitHub notifications when you’re working remote because that will then tell you what new updates happen, I know my GitHub has all sorts of things going on but the small projects that I work on, I’m aware of them and that’s fine and that’s all I need to know but I actually utilized those notifications a lot more when you work remotely and when things are happening, while you’re asleep.

[0:07:27.0] JB: Yeah, I mean, it’s actually quite – I utilize my GitHub notifications a lot and I get to notification zero every single day. Some people don’t and they have different ways of doing it, they use the emails that come in, these are the things we look at.

I like the notifications because it can group together some of those emails so if one PR has like a bunch of chatter, I’m not going through multiple emails plus my email inbox was just getting massive from all those notifications. So I turned them off. I do use GitHub notifications, it’s pretty fantastic. I just wish I could get them on my mobile phone. I’m not sure that would be a plus to my life or a negative to my life because I probably get them and then immediately like want to go write some code to get that thing merged.

I find myself checking the GitHub notifications like you know, every hour, you know, to see if something has changed. But what is fantastic about having people in all these different time zones is that I can put in like five or six PRs and then wake up the next day and they’ve all been code reviewed.

[0:08:35.6] MN: Nice.

[0:08:36.3] JB: I don’t have to ping someone to give me a code review, the entire team has had a chance to look at all of my code overnight and I wake up and I just merge. It’s –

[0:08:50.5] WJ: Unless there are comments and then you have to wait a full day to get a follow up.

[0:08:54.9] JB: That is true, I do have - on my team, there’s one other front end developer and we have one hour overlap so I can get things –

[0:09:05.1] WJ: That is the time for merging. It’s merging time.

[0:09:09.7] MN: Yeah.

[0:09:10.8] JB: Well, 4PM is definitely not a good time to merge but it’s definitely a good time to get a code review like approved. I mean, it has its pluses and it has its negatives, a lot of our teams, we have tried to not get that time zone disparity. We try to keep teams you know, in a similar time zone so that it makes a little bit easier but it doesn’t always work out.

[0:09:40.2] WJ: How do you have a working relationship with these people? Without that cooler talk, whether it’s a time to sort of hang out?

[0:09:47.0] JB: Yeah, I mean, it is one of those difficult things, when you’ve worked with someone for a while, you definitely – you definitely get to know them via Slack and via P2s and you understand their voice and you understand where they’re coming from. We do have that those weekly team meetings and so that creates a little bit of on but it is true, It’s really difficult to get to know someone when you only see them through you know, a lot of text and then one a hour week.

[0:10:15.5] WJ: I’ve had these, you know, it’s like an out of body experience when you meet somebody that you’ve been working remotely with for like six months. You see them in person, “My god, you’re real.”

[0:10:23.7] MN: You’re not in a square that’s like a Google Hangout. You're right here. You are a real person, you’re not some automaton.

[0:10:31.0] JB: What we do is we have team meetups and it’s roughly about two times a year and we find a central location and we get an Airbnb or a group of hotel rooms, we all go flying, we meet there and you know, it’s anywhere from right around five, six days, you try to tackle something, you know?

It’s not always sometimes it’s a hackathon style where you have an idea and you take it as far as you can, the idea is, if you do, do that to have something to show for that week and you know, P2 it. “Here’s what we did.” You got to have something to show though.

That’s the fun part, you always want to have like a finished product. Don’t pick something to hard. Then there’s like other meetups where my team is relatively new, a lot of people don’t know each other, we have two people who just joined the team.

Next week, we’re going to be in Lisbon and we need to get to know each other. We need to have a lot of discussions about architecture and design patterns and documentation and a lot of those sorts of things and what direction we’re heading in and how this works and you know, what can we do to make these things better and a lot of just team building.

We’ll have lunches together, we’ll have dinners together and just we’re all in an Airbnb with three bathrooms in Lisboa when it’s going to be like 80 degrees with no air conditioning. We’re really going to get to know each other, it’s like a –

[0:12:01.2] WJ: Yeah, serious bonding.

[0:12:02.3] JB: Serious bonding.

[0:12:02.4] MN: Team bonding right there.

[0:12:05.6] JB: Yeah, that’s how you get to know your team but on a grander scale, you don’t get to meet a lot of people that are outside of your team unless you’re going to – we go to a lot of WordCamps so there’s WordCamp US and WordCamp EU so you get to meet a lot of your coworkers then at a conferences and things like that but we have –

[0:12:24.6] WJ: WordCamp would be the WordPress conference.

[0:12:26.5] JB: Yeah, Word camp US is like the big WordPress conference that happens every year and then they also have one in Europe so that people don’t have to fly over to the US. Then, in each city, there is a WordCamp in New York and a word camp Philadelphia and so that happens once a year in individual cities all over the world.

You know, a lot of Automaticcians go and speak at those WordCamps and a lot of times we sponsor and we have booths and people need to go and staff the booths so we get to know each other a little bit then and there.

Besides that, you don’t’ really – I mean, how do you get to know everybody at the company? We have what’s called a grand meetup and it’s quite grand, everybody in the company, almost everybody in the company flies to one place and then we’re there for five or six days and we do a bunch of town halls and some learning opportunities. You know, a lot of fun activities and just getting to know everybody and it’s really a fantastic experience.

[0:13:33.7] MN: It’s like, so you guys rent out a whole country’s worth of Airbnbs.

[0:13:39.7] JB: Yeah.

[0:13:40.6] WJ: What’s the head count at Automaticc?

[0:13:43.9] JB: We are, I think we’re like 700 something but the – it requires a lot of hotel rooms.

[0:13:52.7] MN: Yeah, a lot of planning, I imagine that goes down.

[0:13:56.1] JB: And the people who put all that together are absolutely fantastic.

[0:14:00.8] MN: To organize something 700 people, six days, all sorts of town halls, probably lunch and learns per se and all sorts of different learning experiences that people present. I imagine that must be exhausting. Amazing and exhausting too.

[0:14:17.1] JB: Yeah, I mean, after seven days, it requires, I mean, when you work remotely, you don’t have as much of that social interaction. You're not used to being around people all the time. You’re around your family and your friends but you are like there and you are doing things from 7:00 in the morning ‘till 7PM at night and yeah, you’re pretty tired by the end. I mean, it’s a really fantastic experience and I really enjoyed it.

[0:14:48.1] WJ: Yeah, I think there’s something like – when you only have a small amount of time relatively infrequently to collaborate with your coworkers. It makes that time more cherished, it makes people take a more seriously and make it last longer.

That is a thing that I’ve noticed that other companies where even if it’s not a distributed team, you just have people offsite when you do get everybody together, there’s like a magic that happens.

[0:15:15.3] MN: It’s definitely magical. Like last year, I taught a course, we have an open source project, Calypso, which is the – in a nutshell, admin interface for WordPress.com and a lot of people wanted to learn about it and a lot of people weren’t java script developers so jumping into that with no knowledge was difficult. So we did – I helped TA a beginner’s Calypso course and so there were about 15 people in the room and two teachers and so we had a great week, there are other courses you know, about all the different things about the business.

Some people just do their job and then other people, they do projects. You have to do something by the end of the grand meetup and then you get up on stage in front of the whole company and you share what you worked on.

[0:16:08.2] JB: Man, that must be scary.

[0:16:11.2] JB: Yeah, that’s what I did the first year, I worked on a React native app and it was very difficult, it was very early on React native. The documentation wasn’t there and like we had to get something done. We got something done but yeah, it was great.

[0:16:26.0] WJ: Yeah, physical offices are awesome too though, right? Did you guys ever try that?

[0:16:30.2] JB: We had an office in San Francisco in office in san Francisco and we have a lot of employees in San Francisco and the office just wasn’t being used. Nobody went in.

I mean, I know that there were a couple of people that would go from time to time but I mean, why would you go – why would you spend 15, 20 minutes, 45 minutes traveling to an office when you can just work from your home office?

[0:16:54.6] WJ: Why would you pay the rent on an office space in San Francisco where nobody is going?

[0:16:59.9] MN: So I mean we close the office down because nobody was going.

[0:17:04.1] WJ: What do you think are the differences between remote first and remote only companies? Because I think there are a lot of companies like GitHub wind type route, right? They have their affiliate or their San Francisco office that’s still open.

[0:17:15.0] JB: When you have a team that is divided between remote and in the office, you spoke earlier about water-cooler talk. So there becomes this camaraderie that the people who go into the office, they know each other, they have a camaraderie, they have technical discussions, architectural discussions and so they become almost a different tier of employee and so if you are remote and everybody else is in the office then you become sort of a second tier employee.

Now I mean I’m sure there are a lot of companies that have mixed teams or have solutions to try and make that not happen but I have heard stories from people that are just like, “I was just an implementer and they would just assign things to me and I would do them and then I would go to sleep and then I would wake up and do the same thing the next day.”

[0:18:08.0] MN: Because usually I think of remote work that could be like that and when you have a team that is location heavy then that one remote person is handling the tickets that are being, I guess over the fence, you don’t have the interaction of walking up to say the product manager and asking him a question and all of these other things but when everyone is away remote, everyone is in the same tier, if you will, in your example.

[0:18:34.0] JB: Yeah.

[0:18:34.7] MN: I imagine it changes the balance in the way that people communicate with one another because that is the only way of communication that you have with other people.

[0:18:41.8] JB: And that’s the crux of it. Because you only have those certain forms of communication. You have Slack, GitHub and P2. Everybody has to use those things and all communication flows through those things and so it’s very democratizing because you have access to all the things all the time. We tried not to use a lot of Slack private channels. Everything is in the open so that if somebody needs to jump in, you just ping them and they’re there and then they can read the back scroll.

And they could immediately jump onto the problem or whatever the thing that you are talking about is and the P2s are open like if I make an architectural decision then someone from a completely different team, I can send a message so they could like, “Hey, can you take a look at this thing that I am working on?”

And they can immediately jump in, they can read everything that I wrote. I have to write it down for my team so that means I am writing it down for all the teams so everybody can take a look at it.

[0:19:49.5] MN: Right.

[0:19:50.4] WJ: So if you are going to start a company, would you do remote only company?

[0:19:53.8] JB: That is a tough one. I think I would have to because for me going back to an office - I mean I could probably do it but it would be really difficult. It’s fantastic working remote and I think I would because one of the things by being a remote company and being remote only is that you can attract talent from anywhere in the world.

My newest team member is from New Zealand. There is no way unless you are a remote company, you can’t attract a JavaScript developer from New Zealand.

[0:20:30.3] MN: Right, unless you have an office open over there and that is quite expensive.

[0:20:34.1] JB: Yeah, exactly.

[0:20:35.4] MN: I just flew that one person in New Zealand, we got an office for you that would be almost unrealistic.

[0:20:40.7] WJ: So you have access to a wider talent pool, what are the – why else might we want to start a remote only company as supposed to –

[0:20:48.8] MN: Yeah, I am already thinking about working in pajamas. You sold me on that, let’s do some [inaudible] so often.

[0:20:54.7] WJ: And it feels pretty easy to sell the employees on it. I’m wondering how you sell the employers.

[0:21:00.0] JB: Well, so there is actually a book written about Automaticc. It’s called The Year Without Pants.

[0:21:07.7] MN: Oh that is great.

[0:21:09.9] JB: I mean the title is super catchy, I mean well I think most Automaticcians wear pants, I certainly do.

[0:21:16.5] WJ: I can vouch that you are in fact currently wearing pants.

[0:21:19.6] JB: I am currently wearing pants. So I mean what are the other positives? Well you don’t have to pay for an office. What does an office in New York City or San Francisco cost? A lot of money.

[0:21:31.8] MN: A couple of thousands I would say, about a couple, lots of couple thousands.

[0:21:36.4] JB: Yeah, at least what? A thousand dollars, $2,000?

[0:21:41.5] MN: No. This guy, this guy show him where the office is. I’ll show you a shoebox that’s out there for 1,000 out here.

[0:21:47.7] JB: Yeah with a shared bathroom. Okay, so I mean yeah, you don’t have to pay for an office space, you have a wider talent pool, you have 24/7 coverage.

If you have people in New Zealand and somebody in Europe and somebody in Philadelphia, you have 24/7 coverage. There is always somebody that is there if something breaks. So you don’t have to ask somebody to stay up all night with a pager or something if a server comes down.

[0:22:19.4] MN: Oh yeah, pager duty.

[0:22:21.3] JB: Yeah, no that sound like fun although I am pretty much useless if a server gets down. Pretend you’re asleep or just, “Oh my internet is out.” That’s what you’ve got to do.

[0:22:32.7] WJ: Oh yeah, everybody would have to have rock solid internet connections, right?

[0:22:36.9] JB: Yeah, I have a home office, I’ve got Comcast. I am probably 20 blocks south of the Comcast building so I am good.

Yeah, I mean you need decent internet and you need to be able to do a Google hangout.

[0:22:50.7] WJ: Doesn’t that mess up recruiting in certain areas? A lot of countries have bad internet.

[0:22:57.3] JB: Yeah, I would assume so. Yeah, I mean the minimum requirements are that you have to speak English because everybody has to have that lingua franca and you have to have your access to a good internet connection.

[0:23:12.1] WJ: What qualifies as good? What’s the minimum?

[0:23:15.3] JB: I don’t know.

[0:23:16.1] MN: If you – no, we were talking before. It’s like don’t go to – don’t use the Starbucks WiFi and then try to run NPM install because that will take forever. If you can NPM install a project and it is comfortable I think that is good enough, maybe. I don’t know.

[0:23:32.2] JB: Yeah, I mean if you could do a conference call, you can work in Automaticc. You just need to be able to do video conferencing. A lot of people work out of coffee shops and you know the internet suffices there.

[0:23:44.8] WJ: That’s crazy.

[0:23:46.0] MN: Starbucks, I can’t do that.

[0:23:48.5] JB: I didn’t say Starbucks, I just said coffee shops.

[0:23:50.3] MN: Yeah, coffee shops it is true. I just can’t do Starbucks at all. I mean like –

[0:23:55.4] WJ: I am a spoiled man, I mean if it is less than 30 megabytes per second up and down, I’m real mad.

[0:24:02.3] JB: Yeah, I don’t think it’s the internet that I have a problem with at coffee shops. I mean l don’t necessarily need fast internet other than if I am doing an NPM install for sure but what I can’t do at coffee shops is the hustle and bustle and all of the people around me.

Some people find that relaxing and having people around them sort of helps them focus but it’s just too much noise even with the noise cancelling headphones I just can’t do it.

[0:24:32.4] MN: There is a lot happening around you and I imagine that is distracting in itself.

[0:24:35.9] WJ: I would think also that would make it harder to do conference calls because people would hear the background noise coming through your audio.

[0:24:41.5] JB: Yeah, definitely.

[0:24:43.5] MN: So quiet room, good internet, speak English.

[0:24:46.9] JB: Yeah and again, some people travel a lot. So there’s some people that they digital nomad.

[0:24:55.4] WJ: Have you thought about doing that?

[0:24:57.9] JB: No, I can’t. Well we have a daughter. So with having a toddler and us in a car or an RV or traveling and then trying to work, I think I would be doing my company a dis-justice. I mean I wouldn’t be able to focus.

There are some people that are really successful of being able to travel and work and get their work done and I am just – I am a creature of habit and so having my desk with my things and my headphones next to it and everything in its place really helps me get into an atmosphere of work.

[0:25:43.3] WJ: So how do you recruit and hire for a remote only company like that?

[0:25:47.8] JB: I think it is similar to most recruitment channels. You know recruitment at most companies we can just do it a global scale.

We have a lot of inbound interest in Automaticc and basically you go to our website and you email your resume and short statement of why you want to work Automaticc to I think it’s jobs@automaticc.com.

And from there, we contact you. We do a phone screen to make sure you are who you are what your resume says and I think depending on the role there might be a code test and oh, I’m sorry and by phone screen I mean Slack screen. It happens all via Slack.

[0:26:31.0] WJ: So they invite you to the Slack work, I guess as like a single channel guest?

[0:26:34.5] JB: Yep, as a single channel guest and you don’t speak to anyone. It is all written. So you have an interview all on Slack.

[0:26:43.1] MN: Oh no. Oh my god, so it’s just like, “Yeah Bobby is typing.” And then like, “Yeah, oh God.”

Can you imagine like typing, oh no back space. I need to do this and type over to, oh man, that’s interesting.

[0:26:56.2] JB: There’s definitely some anxiety there and so once you get through the Slack screen, you know a code test and then probably you may answer a couple of questions about how you did this thing. It is a normal Saturday afternoon code test and then we do a trial process and so we pay you an hourly rate to do a trial and I don’t remember what that hourly rate was but we give you a project and then you work on that project as if it was your day job.

And you know we understand that you probably already have a job and you need to do this after hours on weekends and so you know if it takes you a certain amount of time that’s fine. You take your time and really what the trial is to figure out how do you communicate and how do you solve problems and how would you work within a remote atmosphere.

It is pretty effective, we have great retention and people stay at Automaticc, they stay in Automaticc for a long time.

[0:28:00.5] MN: Yeah and I imagine, you mentioned before everyone online at Automaticc, so when you do take the time to hack into this little project there is someone online to answer your questions at all times in night even if you are breaking night at 2AM and you want to hack into this project someone is awake.

[0:28:20.5] JB: There very well maybe, yeah.

[0:28:22.9] WJ: You have HR or recruiting distributed across all time zones as well?

[0:28:26.8] JB: Yeah, I think my HR representative is in the EU. So yeah, I mean everybody at the company is distributed and so the entire project process that’s all done via Slack.

[0:28:44.7] MN: The entire project process is on Slack as well?

[0:28:47.7] JB: Yeah, so you haven’t talked to anybody voice yet, right? And then once you get through the trial process and they say, “Okay this person is great. We like them, we want to hire them.” You have a final chat. It used to be with our CEO, Matt but as the company grows you can’t do – he can’t do every single chat.

So you have a final chat and that’s all via Slack. So you’ve gone through an entire hiring process without actually speaking to someone.

[0:29:18.6] MN: Oh my gosh.

[0:29:19.5] WJ: So did you get your job offer via Slack?

[0:29:21.8] JB: I forgot how that process works.

[0:29:23.5] MN: Or via email I guess.

[0:29:25.6] JB: Yeah, I forgot how that happens.

[0:29:28.2] MN: You join - you get hired potentially or hopefully and then you’re like, “Someone please remote, hangouts, I want to see faces. Who was I talking to?”

[0:29:37.5] JB: Yeah, so then it was I was hired in April and then I think it was May I went on a team meet up where I met a bunch of people and it finally felt real at that point.

But another interesting things we do it Automaticc that has nothing to do with remote is that our first three weeks are we do support and I found that absolutely amazing. I felt empathy for the users that I was then going to develop code for.

[0:30:12.1] MN: Oh yeah, I imagine that.

[0:30:13.3] WJ: Yeah, smart.

[0:30:14.3] JB: Yeah and then we do, every year we do a week of support. So we got that going.

[0:30:19.7] MN: So you always remember like the thing that you are building and the problems that users may have and supporting that and then when you go back to building things you’d know with more passion and more empathy as you are building if you choose.

[0:30:33.2] JB: Yeah, you know where the pain points are.

[0:30:34.7] WJ: How do you do support if you just started though? You probably wouldn’t know the answers, right?

[0:30:39.4] JB: Yeah, I mean you definitely have to do a lot of googling, a lot of documentation searches like you have access to some tooling and there is a structure in place that they teach you how to do a lot of things that you need to do.

I mean being a remote only company, you can’t rely on someone walking over and tapping somebody on the shoulder and saying, “Hey how do I do this?” We have documented everything. So everything is documented. It is just a matter of searching the documentation.

Sometimes you might not know the answer so then you jump into a Slack channel and you say, “Hey I need help. This is really, really difficult.” The toughest part is being in live chat and the trick is you have to look things up faster so that you can respond to the user.

And you can’t necessarily go to Slack and wait for an asynchronous response to a live chat and so you really want to help that user but you need to weigh that.

[0:31:41.0] WJ: Love it. More companies should adopt to that rotation program making people go through support.

[0:31:46.9] JB: Yeah, every company should do it.

[0:31:49.0] MN: One last question, when you work remote only do you ever feel alone?

[0:31:54.1] JB: I mean sometimes. But I think that is because I want to feel alone. Sometimes I’ll put Slack into do not disturb so that I can really focus in on a piece of code that is a little bit more complex but I know that if I ever feel alone, I have some people that I can reach out to or I can send somebody a GIF and like you know, spark a little bit of camaraderie.

[0:32:20.6] MN: Awesome, I mean the remote only movement, I imagine it is only going to grow and I imagine that this are some of the challenges but I mean I think the idea you mentioned before of like being able to get talent anywhere on the planet is like a huge boon for organizations that want or need that talent.

[0:32:39.6] JB: Absolutely. I love it, come work at Automaticc.

[0:32:43.1] MN: JB how can people contact you?

[0:32:46.0] JB: I’m @belcherj on Twitter. I am @belcherj on GitHub.

[0:32:50.4] WJ: Anything you want to plug?

[0:32:51.5] JB: Yeah, Liberty JS is coming up in November. It is a JavaScript conference in Philadelphia and also go to that jobs page at automaticc.com.

[0:33:02.0] MN: Follow us now on Twitter @radiofreerabbit so we can keep the conversation going. Like what you hear? Give us a five star review and help developers like you find their way into The Rabbit Hole and never miss an episode, subscribe now however you listen to your favorite podcast. On behalf of our producer extraordinaire, William Jeffries and my amazing co-host, Dave Anderson and me, your host, Michael Nunez, thanks for listening to The Rabbit Hole.

Links and Resources:

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Jonathan Belcher on Github







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Liberty JS