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How to Manage Distributed Engineering Teams

How to Manage Distributed Engineering Teams

Engineering leaders from Avature, Fivetran, and Salesforce shared their take on how to manage distributed teams.

Engineering Teams

Research suggests engineering teams can be successful regardless of being remote or not. As distributed teams and the agile approach become more widely used, more companies are reassessing their technical team structures and hiring tactics. Engineering leaders from Avature, Fivetran, and Salesforce shared their take on how to manage distributed teams. 

A glimpse of engineering teams at Avature, according to Matias di Tada, Vice President of Product Engineering:

  • 150 engineers across Spain and Argentina
  • 23 smaller, more functional teams — about 15 of the teams are collocated and the rest are distributed
  • Teams interact regularly since they share the same product-related goal

A glimpse of engineering teams at Fivetran, according to Meel Velliste, Vice President of Engineering:

  • 55 engineers across California, India, and Russia
  • All teams are collocated 
  • One remote engineer

A look at one of the engineering teams at Salesforce, according to Matt Van Winkle, Senior Manager of Software Engineering:

  • 13 engineers across California, Ireland, Canada, and all over the world
  • Teams are very distributed
  • Teams live in “Slacks and video chats all day long”

Challenges of managing distributed teams

A distributed team will have developers in different locations and so will rely on communicating through technology. Finding a good time for a recurring team meeting can be difficult when there’s several time zones. A quick recap of other points discussed:

  • Some engineering leaders think that if one person works remote, then everyone should
  • Scheduling meetings across multiple time zones can be tedious
  • Risk in having some engineers feel lonely or distant from the team

Benefits of managing distributed teams

More people are getting experience working remote or as freelancers. In fact, some characterize distributed teams as "futuristic." A quick recap of other points discussed:

  • Doesn't require travel which mitigates any issues around visas that might be difficult to get
  • You aren't limited and can find people from all over the world who are the best
  • Unstructured time can help make people feel part of a team — the flexibility can actually encourage connectedness

Tips and tricks from our panelists

Here's a quick overview of the advice that was shared on how to manage distributed teams:

  • Look for engineers who are self-directed and empowered to make their own decisions
  • Look for someone who has experience using the tools needed for remote work
  • Give teams the right tools to learn from one another 
  • Consider holding in-person onboarding meetings — this makes starting the relationship more natural
  • Hold daily stand-ups to help keep track of progress
  • Use video, centralized chat, and shared documents to more effectively collaborate and communicate

Download here to watch the full webinar.

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