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How to Assemble a Distributed Team that Does the Job

by Sensix Team

Current state of affairs

Our Sensix team configuration has evolved in an organic way, adding one professional mastering multiple skills at a time. At first, it was just Lucian, a one-man show, building, polishing and managing Sensix full-time. It was just a matter of time until the founding team acknowledged the need to accelerate growth.

As an early stage startup, we had to be agile, resourceful and self-organized---these principles influenced our decision to build a remote team of independent experts that would be open to the challenge. Over the course of 2 years, we’ve formed a team of 10 people covering all the key components of a product-based business. The team behind Sensix is actually a community of small, yet ambitious local businesses, led by Lucian (CEO) and technically inspired by Ionut (CTO). In no particular order of appearance, we’re introducing you to:

In the last years, we have seen different ways of working in startup teams and we have often been asked if this setup really works better than any other. It is a temporary setup, as we’re constantly adapting our working process to the business challenges we’ve encountered.

We have commonly agreed on following the agile development principles that lay at the foundation of Sensidev, Sensix’s bigger brother. The creative team (read Marketing & PR and UI/ UX Design) also follows the Agile methodology, but in a more relaxed way since their work requires a more flexible and inclusive approach.

The pros & cons

Before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to mention that working remotely works if people are fully intentional about it. “Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” allegedly said Vince Lombardi.

For us, saving time otherwise commuting to and from the office is definitely a strong point. Some of our team members do work from their offices, but they don’t have to visit us unless they really want or need to. We save these occasions to share enthusiasm or responsibilities---kickstarting a new project, meeting new teammates, signing contracts, hosting meetup events, and simply spending time together.

Another strong point is still related to time, in a way that we’re working whenever we feel most productive. The only rule we have is to respect deadlines.

There are downsides to working remotely, too. It definitely requires a high degree of self-discipline to find a work-life balance and most often hitting that state of equilibrium asks for re-adjustments once in a while. Deep work is important, but taking breaks is critical. Another point here is the disconnectedness that might surface after spending long periods of time working mostly from home, but there are solutions for that, you just have to mark it in your calendar.

Collaboration is work backed by culture

Our values are not written on walls, but they are commonly shared in our team at a more personal level; in fact, it’s a significant part of how we got working together. We put a strong emphasis on mutual trust and we empower all our colleagues to take accountability on their work. Each team member’s passion, proactivity and dedication are key to push things forward, as we all contribute to the evolution of Sensix.

Here are some of the tactics and actions we take in order to keep everyone on the same page:

  • Use continuous integration techniques, and deploy working software often, this way we have a good sense of progress and fulfillment.
  • Actively use Slack to communicate/ decide/ provide feedback, enable integrations with key tools
  • Attend weekly meetings using video chat platforms.
  • Use a Jira Kanban board to account for the team progress at any given moment.
  • Perform remote pair-programming sessions.
  • Share our skills in knowledge-sharing sessions.
  • Host ad-hoc technical meetings, for almost every user story.
  • Reiterate our vision together with our teammates.
  • Build and nurture friendships (LAN parties are part of this, too!).

Bits of wisdom on ensembling a distributed team

This can be unique to each team, but there are certain aspects that can help you streamline the path to installing a sustainable remote work culture. We asked Lucian to share with us his thoughts on this:

  • Trust your teammates and empower them to take responsibility.
  • Define ways of working that everybody in the team agrees upon.
  • Apply peer-pressure to enforce the team’s working agreements.
  • Set up a working place you like and feel productive
  • Be disciplined and balance work with sports, hobbies and personal life.
  • Find what clears your mind and gives you a fresh boost every day. I usually play a short blitz 5 min chess online to increase my focus and alertness, or I simply savour my breakfast chilling in the sun with my dogs; it helps me relax and get creative.

If you want to read more on this topic, we encourage you to check Twist’s guide to remote work and this article on how to get started.

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