Remote - or not?
Am I a remote Amazee or not? Sort of both, actually.
My situation is the following; I live in Zurich, and mostly work at the Amazee Labs Hub in Zurich, my team, however, works from the Cape Town Hub and is partly remote.
So yes, I am a remote when it comes to the team but not remote when it comes to working in one room with other Amazees.
This situation raises some fundamental questions, such as where do I belong? Who am I? And how did I get here? Kidding. On a less melodramatic note, there are a few things to think about. One of these things concerns which meetings I should attend. If I were to join them all, my day would be solely designed for me to sit in meetings.
I only started working at Amazee Labs two months ago. And due to having spent the first two and a half weeks in the Cape Town Hub and then switching to working in the Zurich Office (with most people on holiday), I only had about four weeks of actually working in a “normal” environment. Thus, speaking of what my average day at work looks like, might be a little premature.
And yet, I suppose it is intriguing to understand how it feels like and is, when you are a new team member at Amazee Labs. So, let's begin.
What does a typical day look like to me?
To start the day off, I have a catch up with my supervisor and discuss projects, open questions, plan and simply chit-chat about the weather or whatever the hot topic is at the moment.
After that, the whole team gets together on Zoom, for our daily standup. Here everyone shares what they’ve been working on and their plans for the current day. At first glance, this might seem very controlling, but being a distributed team, you can’t update your colleague over a cup of coffee as you might do in a team where everybody’s in the same office. Thus, the daily standup allows us to stay connected.
Once the company stand-up ends, my team and I discuss priorities of tasks, issues that came up over the past day and look at what is ready to showcase to our clients. When we’re done with that, everybody goes their separate way and tackles their working day. For me as a PM this means to mostly be in touch with clients, preparing upcoming tasks for developers, meetings and being prepared for the unpreparable.
The meeting room situation
Being away from your team means talking a lot over video chat and needing a room so that colleagues aren't disturbed at the open-plan office. It is a daily challenge, to run around the office and find a quiet and free space to have a chat - this can get stressful!
Which means that there are days where it makes sense for me to not go into the office and block meeting rooms. At home, I don’t need to wear headphones, and I can stay at my desk and just start chatting away.
Adjusting to homework
Since I’ve never worked remotely before, I didn’t trust myself from the start to just stay home and work from there. I had a feeling I’d get distracted too much. But after trying it, it actually works better than I thought! I just had to set up some rules for myself; preparing my “desk” before starting to work, keeping the same structure for breaks as if I was at the office and most importantly my sofa and bedroom are taboo.
Even though home-office works just fine and is truly comfortable, I do enjoy going into the office. Going to the office means getting out of the house, some offline human interaction and just to feel the “Amazee Spirit”.
Working at the office versus working from home.
The personal relationship in a distributed team
By working in small companies prior to Amazee Labs, I was used to knowing my team members not only in a working environment but also on a personal level. We had rituals such as having an after-work beer, eating lunch together or join team events now and then.
Now, the team building is different. Our daily stand-ups in the morning help, as you get to see the whole team once a day, but it’s 97% work-talk. This means that we schedule other events, where everyone across the hubs and remote people, get together and do something fun like “Powerpoint Karaoke” (yeah, that’s actually a thing, google it!).
We also squeeze in personal chats when we get together for other meetings before we start discussing an actual topic. These few minutes now and then are essential for building a relationship and also understanding my teammates better in the working environment.
I was really lucky that in my second week at Amazee Labs, we had everybody come to Cape Town and spend a workshop week together. Actually seeing everyone in person, interacting, experiencing things and shaping memories together was fantastic - the event really brought everyone on the team closer together.
These first two months were filled with a lot of learning, getting adjusted to the way of working within a distributed team, working remotely, starting to build relationships and just getting into the flow.
Now I’m just excited about working with the team and finding out what my normal working day will develop into.