We are a small startup team of engineers and software developers that rely heavily on daily collaboration. A crucial goal for us during lockdown was to protect our ability to innovate together. Moving from a close-knit shared workspace to siloed environments in our homes challenged us to develop ways to cultivate the comradery, inspiration, and high drive we all share.
We've developed into a close group over the past two years. We all share a passion for moving Gocious from a startup to a scalable enterprise. We are passionate about solving the complex challenges our customers have. Our strength lies in our collaborative teamwork, not unlike most engineering teams.
We had a smooth experience overall in transitioning to remote work early March due to several key factors. First, we had a policy before COVID, where all team members could work from home one day a week. Second, given the nature of our businesses, we had the right tools to work from home securely. Gocious provides powerful encrypted equipment, works entirely within the cloud, and only works with vetted, established vendors to ensure the safe handling of our customers' data. COVID thankfully did not slow us down.
But we did learn some things.
We have a nice second-floor office with a beautiful view in Orange County, where you can see the mountains on a clear day. We usually work in a shared space on a conference table where we can quickly consult each other on the fly. We find whiteboard sessions invaluable in mapping out complex problems. When we transferred to remote working, we lost some of these collaboration pieces that make our team tick.
To help simulate that instant back and forth dialogue we had in the office, we tried a communication app called Discord. Discord lets users stay logged into voice channels that they can switch on at will throughout the day and communicate with others logged into that same channel. We thought the app would best simulate us all sitting around the same table in the office.
Unfortunately, Discord ended up being more of a distraction due to the way our team works. There are times when we are very focused on writing out complicated code. This app cannot give the visual clues coworkers would see in the office. So we ended up relying on instant messaging through Slack and Zoom to stay connected to each other.
We have had success with a web app called Mural. Mural lets users create real-time virtual whiteboards. The app allows for large virtual spaces and is easy to manipulate. It keeps a record of version updates in the cloud, and you can control the access different team members have. The app is not marketed to engineers specifically, but we have found it very useful to brainstorm and map out a complicated problem or flow.
Cultivating our team
Being a part of a startup means everyone is privileged to hearing and seeing nearly all aspects of the business. It can be a stimulating "all hands on deck" experience. Social distancing has removed that experience, and managers are addressing this by discussing more aspects of the business with everyone in our virtual meetings. Managers ask for advice, let heated discussions happen within certain boundaries, and generally try to be transparent. Before, everyone felt actively included due to the small environment. Now, management makes extra effort to make sure everyone feels included.
There are certain expectations in regular business settings, such as being on time for meetings and completing projects by specified times. Remote working in today's climate includes so much more than just our employees. There are kids, wives, husbands, and general home distractions that affect everyone now. We have found that embracing flexibility during this time is required and greatly appreciated by our team.
Happy hour Fridays
Every Friday afternoon, everyone gets on a Zoom call to socialize. These little get-togethers are very unpredictable from one happy hour to the next. We never know what someone will share. But we keep the call light and about our interests outside of work. There are several of us that like to play Minecraft, for example. We even have a Minecraft share town we affectionately call "Gord Town". GORD is a term we use at Gocious to mean "GOcious Research and Development".
More than anything, we like to make our jobs fun. We have challenging work to do and need each other's talents, inspiration, and insights. We protect our team by not taking each other too seriously—case in point below where our Sr. UX Designer Mike turned one of our engineers, Steven, into Aquaman.
When social distancing restrictions cease, we may allow more remote working days per week to capitalize on the aspect of people being able to focus on specific tasks. There were learning curves finding that balance between cooperation and disruption. It appears a healthy mix of both scenarios, office and remote, works best for our team.
To learn more about Gocious and our team, please visit us at Gocious.com.