— How did you manage to gather these specialists?
— In the beginning, we used recruitment agencies, then we switched to specialized remote searching platforms. Those pose a problem: agencies gather candidates from a particular location, but don't know how to search for candidates outside of it. In addition, these candidates aren't filtered properly.
The situation is changing right now; recruiters didn't understand what a remote priority focused company or remote only company was two years ago. But, there are more and more companies that have been moving in this direction over the last few years.
— It seems to us that remote work is still a new format in Russia, but what about awareness and attitude toward this format in other countries? What can you tell us about it from your experience?
— I lived in Israel most of the time. When I tell my colleagues about having a distributed team, they don't understand how I can work this way.
They often say, "I have to come in the morning and see my employees, see what they do". And my favorite: "What would I do if an employee doesn't get in touch?". I usually reply, "What would you do if an employee doesn't come to the office? What's the difference?". After all, employee behavior is the same, and the methods of punishment are the same. If employees don't go to work online or in the office, then you report or fire them.
Also, they often say, "I want to see my employees work eight hours." Well, they just go into the office and spend eight hours on Facebook.
Remote work is results oriented and that's the main advantage of it. You can easily find out whether remote employees complete their tasks or not, but, in the office, everyone just sits all day long and pretends to work. However, many managers can't accept that employees won't be in their sights.
There has always been a closed IT ecosystem in Russia, so the situation is quite interesting. Local companies in Ukraine, Serbia, and Bulgaria don't work, because developers and designers adapt quickly to working in companies in the United States, London, and Israel.
The sign of the industry's development for me is GitLab with 400 remote employees and with $100 million of investments brought in.
— Have you identified any features of successful remote employees from your time managing a remote team and through multiple interviews? Criteria that help you make the right hiring decisions. Maybe age ("not younger than…"), place of residence (not megalopolises) or other aspects.
— Age and place of residence are definitely not a criterion. One of our team leads is from Moscow, marketers are from Las Vegas, and one mobile team lead lives in the suburbs of Riga. I can't say there's a difference in their work.
But there is a difference in hiring. It's very difficult hiring specialists in Moscow, but at first, I was looking for employees right there. In 2016, I often went to, and even lived in, Moscow for six months.
— Maybe it was too early. What do you think?
— It seems to me that the culture hasn't shaped yet. People who are used to working for a company all their lives are lost as soon as they no longer feel the constant pressure around them.
I was working in offices before ScholarshipOwl. Sometimes I even miss it: you come to the office, pour a cup of coffee, chat with your colleagues and, if it's necessary, you gather everyone in the conference room.
In terms of remote work, everything works the same way except for the social element. But this problem can be solved easily. I work in a coworking space almost all the time. At least once a year, usually more often, the whole company gathers in one place: last year in Latvia, before that in Georgia.
Employees usually interact with each other from different countries and cities or the team discusses which place to travel to and work.