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Interview with CTO and Co-founder of Zapier on Working with Remote Engineers (youteam.io)
248 points by Riphyak 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments



Disclaimer: said CTO.

Happy to answer any questions — though we definitely don’t presume we have all the answers, we’re constantly learning!

We are also hiring remote engineers — https://zapier.com/jobs/. Would lov to talk to anyone in the JS, k8s, and Python community!


I recently heard from friends of friends that Zapier conducts reference checks on its candidates without the candidates' permission. By that I mean: finding previous coworkers on LinkedIn, contacting them out-of-the-blue and asking for an appraisal of the person they may-or-may-not have once worked with.

Is there any truth to this rumor?


We use a service called SkillSurvey for reference checks. It asks the candidate for references in an automated fashion and then the feedback is collected fairly anonymously.

We try to be respectful of people’s situations — EG: it’s never appropriate to contact a current employer without permission. We don’t do that.


So to be clear, you only contact references that the candidate provided to you and not others such as connections on LinkedIn? Your answer doesn't seem to specifically deny that you contact people not specifically provided, other than employers.

By the way I read a little on your job site and Zapier sounds like a great place to work :-)


That is correct. It is our policy to use the tool I mentioned elsewhere in the thread which only contacts the references provided by the candidate -- I'll check internally to make sure no one is deviating from that process.


I really appreciate this kind of direct transparency


It would be weird if they randomly found and messaged people from LinkedIn etc. I have, however, seen interviewers and recruiters at a lot of companies reach out to mutual contacts if they find any, and because the SV network is so tight this happens a lot.


> randomly found and messaged people from LinkedIn

We definitely do not do that. As mentioned elsewhere in the thread, I'll double check internally and make it super clear that isn't acceptable.


In situations like this, lack of explicit denial is generally confirmation.


“Indirect” references are common in SV.


Cool, makes sense to me.


I interviewed there in August 2017 and they used a service for reference checks that I provided several contacts to.


Is there something wrong with doing this?


Yes. They may not want people to know they are considering leaving their current job. And they may not keep their job if people find out they aren't fully committed.


It’s immoral behavior on the employers part to not ask for permission. IMHO it shows how they will be to work for if you take a job.


I don't get why people downvoted you. It is definitely expected that potential employers ask permission. People may apply while having a current job, and not wanting their boss to find out.


Wow, I didn't realize my expectation was so different. I've always assumed people wouldn't contact my current employer, but why not my previous employers? You're right that it's better to ask permission, then you gain more information about the relationship too. Hm.. good food for thought.


Not everything on linkedin is up-to-date or correct. Then there's the issue of some people personally knowing others but the information not being on linkedin. It's pretty easy to accidentally cold call someone for references who will talk to the candidates current employer, and this may even be the reason the candidate left them off of the reference list in the first place.


This is something I've never really thought about, the ethics of reference checks. Is anyone aware of a good guide or thoughtful article on the subject?


Experienced remote engineer here with a good deal of experience in k8s, Python, Linux, application architecture and design, the works. Applied to Zapier Infrastructure Engineer position a little over a year ago, if memory serves. Twice, actually; one time my application was closed out almost immediately. Waited several months and the same gig had been reposted and/or reactivated, so I applied again. This time I got a message once a week for about six weeks that said they were reviewing my application, and then I got a message that said they weren't interested. My only contact was an internal recruiter, and I never spoke to or received any information from anyone technical.

It was a disappointment because I expected better from a YC company's process. Of course, I can't really blame Zapier for passing, as I'm sure there are a great deal of applicants and, since I never talked to anyone, I can't know whether we'd be a good match, technically or culturally. For example, many remote companies, especially those that are primarily staffed with offshore employees, are just trying to pinch pennies and paper over it by talking about the hipness and uniqueness of their remote workforce.

Zapier is a custom Q&A intake application [or, at least the applications I filled out were], so it's irksome to write real answers to those Qs and get nothing back. I'd much rather write an HN post where I can wear my rightly-deserved downvotes and critiques with pride -- then I at least get something for the effort! ;)

So, note well, potential applicants: "would love to talk" seems to mean "would love to have you languish in our HR system after you've taken the time to fill out our bespoke long-form questionnaire". Like I said above, usually it's hard to fault companies too heavily for this, but when the CTO is making a personal appeal on HN, I feel like a counterpoint is warranted.

Hiring in general seems to go very slowly these days. I don't know if everyone is flooded with fake resumes from "bootcamp grads" or what now, but 5 years ago or so, you could normally expect to hear back within a few days if someone was interested. It's a different ball game now. In the last couple weeks I've gotten two replies to applications I sent in around Christmas time -- one "an invitation to interview" from a well-known company (which I ignored), and one a message from another company that they'd closed out my application in their HR platform.

Disclaimer: my experience from memory. Intervals and dates may be fuzzy. Not going to dig up the correspondence.


Applied ~2 years ago for a frontend job there, spend half a day answering the initial questions, never got ANY response from them. I mean - a short "Thank you, but no thank you" note would have been just fine. Landed the perfect remote job shortly after.


Yeah, that was unacceptable of us. No excuses. We've gotten better with our https://zapier.com/jobs/our-commitment-to-applicants/.


The same for me. I even rewrote the questions as answers and didn't even get an acknowledgement.


> ... spend half a day answering the initial questions

Half a day??? Talk about dedication :)!

Anyway, Zapier's process appears to have improved from 2 years ago -- they commit to and usually succeed in responding to your application within a week now.


>"Hiring in general seems to go very slowly these days. I don't know if everyone is flooded with fake resumes from "bootcamp grads" or what now, but 5 years ago or so, you could normally expect to hear back within a few days if someone was interested."

This has been my experience and observation as well. I have regularly gotten responses from recruiters months after I applied for roles and have already taken something something elsewhere.

And curiously the recruiters don't ever bother to even acknowledge that months have passed since I applied. Or bother to ask if I am even still looking.

I am curious if anyone knows what the cause of this is. Is this simply the proliferation of incompetent recruiters? Is it just companies advertisings roles that aren't "actually" hiring for at the moment in order source CVs? Something else?

But as you mentioned this was not always the case. This seems to be recent-ish phenomenon in my observation(last ~3 years.) Not even large fortune 500s move as this glacial pace. What's more baffling is that this phenomenon exists at all in a tight labor market.


I appreciate you sharing your experience -- our commitment to candidates includes regular correspondence so candidates don't go into a black hole of no response -- we know that is extremely frustrating.

We definitely do get a lot of candidates, but that doesn't excuse poor experiences and we truly try to do our best. Hiring truly is an flawed and messy process on both sides.


Cookiecaper, I understand where you are coming from but complaining only makes you look like a sore loser. You are not helping your position by this post. Consider taking constructive action.


He’s telling people about his experience of applying to Zapier in the comments to a post about Zapier. It’s relevant and no more gives the impression of being sour grapes than the people who don’t interview at Google after two rounds of apply again next year when Google recruiters email them.


I'm glad he shared, it helps provide lots of context around candidates' viewpoints and experiences.

Generally, we've found it best not to look away from the mistakes we make, and we make our fair share of them! By doing that we hope to not repeat them, or at least repeat them less often.


I appreciate your POV. I tried to communicate that this wasn't a case of sour grapes. I don't have any ill will toward Zapier. I will try to be more explicit about that next time I leave a similar comment.

There are many valid and plausible reasons that they could've chosen not to move forward in the interview process: maybe they got to another hireable candidate before they even seriously considered my application, maybe there is some specific technical need that I clearly don't meet and which I'm not picking up on from the job description, maybe something else.

And I can't see anyone else in the candidate pool either; while I'm good at things, undoubtedly there is a non-trivial quantity of people who are better. Candidates are compared and contrasted against the pool of other applicants; if there is someone else whose qualifications blow mine out of the water, or who is technically comparable but much cheaper, then who can blame Zapier for taking the obviously-superior option? I can't see the other applicants, so I can't know whether or not there was a slam-dunk applicant who made the merely "great" applicants pale in comparison.

Even if I'm highly qualified and there isn't anyone clearly superior in a comparable price range, people often can't quantify a firm rational basis for their specific preferences between candidates (and this becomes even more apparent once you're on the other side of the table).

This is when the infamous "culture fit" is broken out. I was once told that I had been passed over because I "wasn't assertive enough" after I spent most of an interview blasting the use of MySQL in a specific industrial application. There's no way that note wasn't intended as passive-aggressive retaliation. :P

Recently I was dismissed from a candidate pool because my answer to "Tell me about a time you resolved a problem with a colleague" hadn't been rehearsed to the satisfaction of the interviewer, who was one of those "I'm technical because I read WIRED and like being nerdy" types. That is just a different preference in technical depth as far as I'm concerned. Technically strong people are going to worry about technical interview content and focus on that rather than their answers to tired cliches.

Sometimes even things that seem trivial or silly can be a bigger impediment in context. For example, my first name is Jeff. I know of at least a couple of gigs that I've lost solely because there were already 3 or more Jeffs involved in the work on a daily basis and they didn't want to make the situation worse! "Jeff" is a somewhat common name but it's not super common -- sometimes I wonder how frequently this happens to Johns or Steves.

tl;dr it's just impossible to know whether a hiring decision is justified or not without having the insider dialogue and insight, and even then, don't expect stellar rationale. As bryanh said elsewhere upthread, hiring is a messy process.


I've worked as a remote tech lead for a couple of years and I often find myself at 6pm New York time asking an important question to someone in London, 11pm their time. Slack is bad for this, I wonder what people make of me DMing them that late, also I rarely get a response the next day. How does the "Async" blog you mentioned solve these sort of issues? Is it just a regular blog or does it have special features?


Async is for the area between "Slack" and "Documentation" -- it covers things like project statuses, requests for comment, new feature discussions, company announcements, Friday updates and lots more. You can think of it like a cross between a blog and Twitter feed. We're starting to add more Reddit-like features for customizing the experience and sub-groups but that is pretty early still.

I don't think Async solves the problem you mention -- that is more of a cultural thing. We expect folks to message each-other frequently (preferably in a public room with an @ mention) but set the expectation that you don't need to respond immediately. The public aspect is important as you will often get "drive-by help" from someone else on the team!


Have experience working in teams up to 9 time zones apart, but not working at Zapier.

I have phone set up to not disturb me with notifications between 10pm and 7am so I wouldn't mind as long as nobody expects a response before next working day morning. Before I could do that I simply did not have company's chat/email on my phone.

My day starts with reviewing any received messages (no matter what channel -- email, chat...) and responding to them. I would find it unprofessional if someone did not. If this wasn't just an occasional oversight, then I would take it up with them.


Not from zapier. I think it's up to them to disconnect from work chat on their private phones, or silence it out of hours. I worked in TZ 11h away from the rest of the team and unless I was on call, I wouldn't see any messages until morning/Monday. If you don't want it to look like you expect an immediate response, you can always add something like "..., when you start your day."


Slack has a scheduled do not disturb feature, you can set a period every day when you don't want to be disturbed by notifications. If someone DMs you, Slackbot tells them that you're in do not disturb (and gives them the option to "poke through" and notify you anyway). I work for a company with offices in both Europe and US (and people travelling frequently between them, so you don't always know where they are), and this feature is broadly used.


"and gives them the option to "poke through" and notify you anyway"

Yeah...this is why I close down slack when I don't want disruptions. There's no point in a DND if others can do it anyway. It shouldn't be an option. If someone at work has an emergency and needs to get hold of me, they can give me a phone call. Non-verbal communications have a tendency to be abused, but the reality of actually having to have a conversation with the person you're disturbing means only serious calls seem to get made.


Sounds like more of a culture problem, and no software can help with that.


Speaking solely from personal experience, I find that Async helps keep everyone on the same page. Rather than needing to scroll back through Slack or keep tabs on multiple channels, all I need to do is log in to Async and read the various posts folks have put up that mention me (if you're mentioned, it's important and you should probably read it) as well as other posts that might cover areas outside of my team that interest me.

It's a much more scalable approach than trying to read the backscroll in Slack, IMO.

It has a few special features, but on the whole it's basically like a company-wide journal.


I am a full-time remote employee, and I also work with folks in South America over to Belarus. I am curious, what is Async? Searching for it on Google is not fruitful.


Sorry for not clarifying in my earlier comment: Async is an internal Zapier tool (custom built) used to communicate across the company. Think of it like an internal blog system.


Ah-ha! That's awesome, thanks for the clarification. That does sound very useful, in fact.


We happened to have built an OSS / SaaS version of Asynch if you're interested: https://github.com/open-company / https://carrot.io


I am! I'll check this out, thanks!


Given that you're not handicapped by having your talent pool reduced to those physically close to you by happenstance or willing to uproot their life to get physically near an office, does each opening result in a flood of applicants? Do you find this to be a boon, or a hindrance? You might not be able to compare, but do you think that it makes hiring easier or harder?


We definitely get a lot of applicants and of course that makes it very difficult to manage at times, but we're also very lucky that so many people want to work for Zapier. We try to be good stewards of that privilege -- which means being prompt and clear in our communication and giving everyone a fair shot.

It does make it harder to hire, but it would be even harder at the other extreme -- if no one applied!


Hello Bryan,

you started the company having already a pool of people you knew and trusted.

What if you don't have that? I'm worried about security aspects, hacking, etc...

How is it possible to start a company with remote hires and still have trust that they won't run away with your code, etc... Especially if the remote hires are in another jurisdiction where legal recourse might be hard or impossible?

Thanks


I don't know what you're so worried about. What's to stop anyone in the office from running away with your code? I mean you could have some problems if you're hiring in China or Russia - but even then most of the time people just want an honest, steady job. Your source code is not usually something that anybody else wants, it would be almost impossible to find a buyer.

If you're really worried, just stick to people in developed countries with a sane legal system. But honestly finding people with great communication and technical skills should be a much more important criteria to the success of your company. You're company is much more likely to die from self inflicted wounds than because someone sold your source code to a competitor.


That is a hard question -- unfortunately it is something you can never be 100% safe on. In the end, you have to trust people to do anything interesting. Generally, we're very careful in hiring, we have basic internal controls, and luckily -- people are generally good. :-)


What is HyperNews mentioned in your interview?


That should be "Hacker News", perhaps a typo or garbled phrasing on my part!


Thank you very much for your openness! I am curious if you are you still using Slack or you rely entirely on Async at this point?

Thanks!


We still use Slack for internal every-day communications. Personally, I treat Async as a summary of things that have gone on around the company this week so I can keep up to date with different departments (Slack is not ideal for doing this.)


It could be a full-time job just keeping track of everything. Do you have a dedicated person for this?

Are most of your people in the Western hemisphere? I find that with Slack I need to pay close attention to the stream which can be a major distraction. Also it can be kind of a pain going through scrollback if I was asleep for a few hours while others are working.


1. Not really? (In regards to having a dedicated person handling this.) We have a weekly hangout where our CEO raises important issues in the week, and most folks are pretty communicative of major issues (e.g. product will tell support what's changed this week so we can be aware when supporting customers, etc.)

I never feel like I'm overwhelmed keeping track of things, since everything is so accessible thanks to Async. It frees me up to let Slack kind of drift past when I'm not working.

2. We're globally distributed. I'm in the UK, for instance, but we have folks in the Eastern Hemisphere too. I will admit that most folks are in the US so right now, we do skew towards the Western Hemisphere, but that might not always be the case.

Also, in support, we have a summary channel in Slack where we post the most important things that someone coming online would need to know about. For example, outages, recent issues, policy changes, important messages, etc. all get posted to a specific channel in Slack so you can read them _without_ the noise of chat involved.


This is how I view it as well!


What is your opinion on hiring Juniors for remote work?


We haven’t done it that much before — but might try to do that more now! You really need a strong foundation of senior engineers to help mentor and support junior engineers so most smaller organizations will generally tend to not hire junior engineers until later.


Anecdotally I'm finding this shift to remote work in some area's fascinating and powerful.

My career started only about 5 years ago but over that time each position I've had has either been fully remote or had a remote aspect to it.

The company I now work for had a similar start to zapier but with one key difference: the co-founders were opposed to remote work. However the market forces of hiring the right people pushed this venture to become remote and our team is now scattered across North America and Asia.

I think we're going to continue to see companies moving in this direction and more "remote native" workers like myself come to expect it. Especially after visiting Canggu I don't think the trend is going to reverse itself.


We definitely believe the future of work is remote in nature. Physical locality is a vestige from days where manual work dominated -- knowledge work has no such constraint. People want autonomy, and not just in work -- but life too!


Remote is a management skill and an effective hiring advantage. 43% of American employees reported in 2017 working remote at least part of the time, and 31% of those are 80-100% remote, up from 24% in 2012.

The world has changed and I don't think we're going back.


I have been waiting for a quite significant change in management culture for a few years now. It seems to me that a watershed moment is coming. So much thinking on the management level is drawn directly from the old manufacturing world and is such a tremendously poor fit for any form of mental work that something is going to have to give. In manufacturing, pushing for worker disposability makes sense. In mental work, it's suicide. In manufacturing, open floor plans and interruptions are fine. In mental work, it's death. In mental work, the best idea needs to win. And that's the case especially when the situation is nuanced. In-person communication generally hands every discussion to the person who is most outgoing, confident, or tallest. That generally results in the wrong idea winning and large amounts of time and resources being wasted.

One of the big challenges I see is for management to avoid over-reliance on metrics. There's a famous quote whose attribution I don't recall that says "what you measure, you optimize" which is a warning. It is exceedingly easy to create perverse incentives and direct efforts toward optimizing a metric that actually hurts your progress toward the actual goal you want to accomplish. These are the places where a real leader can be instrumental.

There are also many organizations that seek to reduce almost every task an employee does to a checklist or standard procedure. That made sense in the manufacturing world. But in mental work of any kind, most problems are going to be novel and, by necessity, so will be the solutions, which requires greater flexibility (and more trust extended to the worker). None of this even touches on the fact that human beings have very different fundamental capacities for mental work than they do for repetitive physical labor. If you attempt to do remote work and start by planning a system to monitor every keystroke and mouse movement to ensure that every action is productive, you'll burn out the most valuable people and those that remain will be working with a severe handicap. So many aspects of work seem ripe for change... maybe those thousands of studies done and ignored for the past few decades will come in handy.


Exactly - its nothing to fear if you are good manager. If the person is screwing around you will find out quickly when projects slip over and over.


It's not just ensuring they are productive, it's also ensuring that they feel included and their voice isn't drowned out by the proximity and presence of the local team. So yes, nothing to fear, but it takes a little more tending to if you have a blended local/remote team.


Resistance to remote work is very entrenched in my country (Australia). I suspect it's because competent management is very scarce here.


Yep. Years ago when I was pushing us remote one of the owners asked “how will we know when people are working?”, to which I responded, “how do we know now?”


During the last 5 years I've been managing two fully remote small teams, across different time zones (one team CET+Philippines, the other one CET+India+Philippines).

Some of my takeaways:

* Doing a 15 minutes "daily standup" (we use hangouts, audio-only) is really, really useful. Of course, for some people the meeting won't be at the beginning of their day, but it can work all the same. It's the one thing that I would recommend the most: creating cohesion in a remote team is much more challenging than in person, and this helps a lot. Insist on everybody being on time: my teams are very, very flexible, except for this one rule. When somebody has a bad connection, they still participate in a group chat.

* For task management we use Trello (with a kanban-like approach). It's great for asynchronous communication - in one of the two teams, we even use it to communicate with the customer; this only worked after we were able to "educate" the customer about a scrum-like approach. Only try it if you have a very collaborative relationship with the customer.

* When there is the need to share longer specs than those that can fit on trello, we use google docs - the ability to collaborate both with real-time shared editing and with comments and suggestions is very valuable.

* For brainstorming, drawing architectural diagrams, discussing design etc. I find murally a godsent: https://mural.co/

* For quick real-time communication we use chat (again, hangouts). But whenever I see that it takes more than just a few lines to finish talking, I suggest increasing the bandwidth and upgrading to an audio call with screen-sharing. Some people don't like that very much, but we saved hundreds of hours - and a lot of frustration - by doing this.

* If the person you need isn't online right when you need them, we resort to comments on trello or just plain old email.

* Not everybody can work well remotely - it requires A LOT of self-discipline and self-motivation. At the beginning, I hired some people even if I had some doubts about those traits, or I started having those doubts in the first weeks, and tried many different ways to motivate them and get better results. I never succeeded - this could have been my limitation, but grooming devs remotely is objectively much more difficult than doing that in person. So, my suggestion is: when in doubt, don't hire. If you have doubts early on, fire (I don't like doing that, but paid a very heavy toll in terms of stress when I didn't do it).

Shameless plug: I'm currently looking for a career change. If interested, take a look at my profile :)


I know this can be a polarizing opinion, but I have found when fully remote to force video whenever possible. Seeing everyone, their location, facial expressions, etc... really helps build a team and empathy when stressful moments arise.


People tend to have very opposite opinions on that. Local culture affects it but even people with the same background are often at odds on this topic. While that's the very first thing one has to consider when setting communication guidelines in a remote team.

Feeling teammates as living beings and not just nicks with avatars is critical for an efficient and mentally safe team. Meeting each other in real life is most helpful. Video helps there too. If none is an option, the team lead has a harder challenge.

But one way or another it should became a part of the team communication habit. And newcomers should be asked if they're comfortable with that.


To complete the polarity, I would hate this.

Being able to dress down comfortably is one of the benefits of remote work. I work 90% on slack and not knowing what facial expression someone is making has never hindered dealing with a crunch - my teammates are on point and engaged as it is.

For me the dead air in a crunch time call, the need to split my attention, etc. would just increase the stress.

I think communicating effectively via text as well as comprehending meta cues in received messages may be a learned skill.


> Being able to dress down comfortably is one of the benefits of remote work.

How comfortable are we talking? Like shirtless? I don't know of anyone expecting people to be office dressed when working at home. If that's the case, then yeah I fully agree with your point.

> For me the dead air in a crunch time call, the need to split my attention, etc. would just increase the stress.

I think there was some confusion about my original statement. I was not talking about being on a video call during crunch time, but that seeing your co-workers on a regular basis helps you know them better and thus have more empathy and understanding when a problem time arises. The point is to build a bond with co-workers similar to when working in a office so that the same work product can be created.

> I think communicating effectively via text as well as comprehending meta cues in received messages may be a learned skill.

I agree, which is why most of my teams communication is over chat and email. My original point was if a meeting is required then it should be video whenever possible. This includes daily stand ups. I have found anecdotally that having regular video chats improves chat and email communication.


Agreed. I manage a small remote team. When i'm in the office i do video calls but have been stuck at home for the last four months on audio only. It makes a substantial difference.


I'd like to try that... but everybody would need to have a very good connection. Not always an option.


Maybe another unpopular opinion ;) , but I think if someone is going to be 100% remote they need to have a good connection.


Did you manage devs / backend / FE ?

In which country in did you find good technical people ?

My own experience:

Ukrainian(Kiev) : very technical, high quality, not so cheap

India(Puna, Delhi) : need lots of hands-on encouragement, difficult to find and retain the good people


I managed (and currently manage) BE, FE and full-stack devs from the Philippines, Poland and India (and I sometimes work with a guy from Ukraine, but he's not part of one of my teams - more a collaborator and friend).

I found good and not-so-good technical people in all places; my main not-so-surprising observation is that mostly you get what you pay for, especially nowadays: in five years, the cost of good developers in the Philippines and Poland has gone up a lot. For India I have less experience, but from what I know the costs had gone up even earlier. I suppose that the talent from Ukraine will be almost all well employed very soon :)


I can understand the "daily standup" being very useful to you as the manager. I'm interested if the engineers find it useful though. Personally, in both remote and local contexts I haven't found much value in them.


Anyone considered remote working as a part time job in addition to a traditional full time role?


Moonlighting? I did that for awhile to build up my client base until I transitioned to full time consulting. Hard to do long term.


When I was onboarding with a remote company, we had an open hangouts video call and I was able ask the other guy questions whenever I needed. It was like being the same room together and it was pretty amazing.

It's not something I see done that often, but if your 'remote in similar timezones' it does remove a friction point. We only did it for a day or two as part of getting set up with the new codebase, but I found it fairly effective.


I work fully remote now too. Thoughts:

- It helps that everyone is a senior dev on my current project. There's nobody on the team who needs to be handheld through anything. I've pretty much said "Welcome, I see you were able to build the project. Let's automate a Valgrind step in the CI pipeline". And like magic the new guy does a merge request with a Valgrind step soon after.

- Being remote also means you are effectively only looking for senior staff, because you get so many CVs, why would you go for an unproven junior guy? You also tend to think young people are slackers, or someone on your team will. The only time I worked with someone fresh from a bootcamp was because she was inexpensive. Good worker though.

- Tools: Slack, GitLab. They seem so intuitive, never met a dev who needed to be shown how they work. Slack for discussions. GitLab issues for specific issues.

- Culture: wrong personalities are magnified. When you aren't talking to someone in person there's no facial feedback. If someone says something people don't like in person, they often get the feedback from the listeners quickly and are able to change tone. Online, this is not so easy. We had one guy who was being very aggressive in technical discussions, and it annoyed people.

- Tools/Culture: some people are resistant to organising their work through issue tracking and version control. This was a huge problem at an onsite job I had years ago. If it had been remote, it would have been even more of a disaster. Part of the issue is when you write a bug report, you are implying someone has done something wrong. This is a terrible attitude. Along similar lines, if you create a goal like a milestone, you are again setting yourself up for failure if you don't reach it. What kind of people are prone think this way? Strategy quants whose job it is to deliver the magic that can't be found in any published work, and whose work is greatly affected by randomness. Now I'm sure they're not all like that, but the ones I worked with did seem to have rather fragile egos.

- Culture: Not everyone wants to work remote. One guy left because he missed the camaraderie of the office, the on/off of being in or not. Of the people who love remote, a lot have families. Then there's the ones who use it to globetrot. Those two tend to not have an on/off. They're always kinda there, kinda not.

- Culture: Meetings are drop-in, drop-out. In real life some people like being able to call a bunch of people into a room and have them stay there for questioning. I don't think I've ever met anyone who liked that. Online meetings are asynchronous. I might say something, then go to the bathroom without telling anyone, then come right back and catch up. People leave to get their kids, and you don't expect them to be right there. But coding work tends to accommodate that.


To your last point: are the meetings solely text chat based?


Occasionally people will do a video meeting, but it's rare. Of course there's also the socials for those who happen to live near London.


Hope you weren’t working with any Russian teams this last two weeks... internet shutdown has ruined protectivity


Anyone who works in IT knows how to setup and use VPN. Which I'm currently had to do as well (Russia).


Can you expand on this? I work with some Russian open source developers. I heard the news about Russia blocking Telegram (we use IRC). Has it affected git hosting services and the like?


Telegram moved to the public cloud providers Google Cloud Platform and Amazon, meaning Russia was blocking a significant proportion of those providers IP Address space as Telegram moved servers around.


What AV equipment do you use that you find indespensible?


From experience doing a bit of podcasting.

1 A proper professional external sound card

2 Pro / Semi Pro microphones no need for condensers etc a Sure SM58 is good enough.

3 for skype its often better to have dedicated skype drone machine and feed your audio into that.

4 a good video camera.


Solid marketing content.


Yeah, from the outside, it seems like they take remote seriously and do it very effectively: https://zapier.com/jobs/

Glassdoor seems to agree: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Zapier-Reviews-E1196705.ht...

Note: I have zero affiliation with Zapier, other than being a satisfied customer. Just happened to run across their hiring page today and was impressed.


I first heard about Zapier when I started my side project, https://parserr.com. We have now actually been listed as an integration with them and Id still do anything to work there. Currently working as an engineering manager, id kill for an opening there as I so believe in their product and their remote first culture.




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