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Engineering leaders from Avature, Fivetran, and Salesforce shared their take on how to manage distributed 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 effective hiring strategies. Engineering leaders from Avature, Fivetran, and Salesforce shared their take on how to manage distributed engineering teams and how to build a strong culture with a remote team.

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 “Slack and video chats all day long”

Challenges of managing distributed engineering teams

A distributed engineering team will have developers in different locations and so will rely on communicating through technology. Learning how to build a strong culture with a remote team is importance since small problems can be big challenges like finding a good time for a recurring team meeting when there’s several time zones. Other challenges include:

  • Some engineering leaders think that if one person works remote, then everyone should as there are benefits of working remotely
  • 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 engineering teams

More people are feeling the benefits of working remotely. In fact, some characterize distributed engineering teams as “futuristic” and see it as an effective hiring strategy.

  • One of the benefits of working remotely is that it doesn’t require travel which mitigates any issues around visas that might be difficult to get
  • Having a remote workforce is an effective hiring strategy because you 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 of managing distributed engineering teams

In addition to the benefits of working remotely and a remote team being part of an effective hiring strategy, here are some more tips and tricks to managing distributed engineering 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

To learn more about how to win at building distributed engineering teams, check out other blogs that we have on the topic.

Content Marketing Specialist at Codility. Shelby devotes most of her time to creating content strategy and executing on it. Currently residing in SF, she was born and raised in Connecticut.

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