Remote and Dispersed Work Tips and Challenges:
Q&A with Ivan Zlotsin

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Read more Remote and Dispersed Work Tips and Challenges from Exadel employees

Exadel developers bring with them many years of experience working remotely with dispersed teams located all around the world. We decided to ask them for some helpful tips on what it’s like to work remotely to help those who are new to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first article in the series, we sat down with Full Stack Engineer Ivan Zlotsin to talk about remote and dispersed work tips and challenges.

1.Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your role at Exadel? What does a typical day of work look like for you?

I am a middle software engineer but started my career in software development as a front-end engineer, and am now working as a full-stack developer here at Exadel. Typically, my workday starts with catching up on emails I’ve received overnight, as usually there are many notifications from different time zones that need to be addressed. Then I do a code review from all pull requests we have on the project. This is an important step, which is performed daily, as it allows us to check the quality of the written code and start working on new tasks. Then if I have urgent tasks, I plunge into coding. If I have some free time, I devote that time to useful self-education. In addition to routine coding, I am also participating in daily 30-minute Scrum meetings, which help the team to share their activities and bring about issues and challenges in a project. Of course, during the day I am also talking a lot with team members one to one, discussing any technical issues we have.

2.Exadel has had dispersed development teams for many years. What has it been like to collaborate with team members who may not be in the same office as you or not even in the same time zone?

Currently, I am working on a project for a large global enterprise that has offices on every continent, which means our team is very much dispersed. Working on the project, we have team members from seven regions of the world: Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and India. As the company is global, I wouldn’t be surprised if new colleagues from additional countries join the team as well, which would be really amazing. So overall, I’ve learned well how to collaborate efficiently with people who are not in the office with me. As I am personally working from the Belarus development office, I really admire colleagues from the United States, who have to wake up earlier than our other team members. When we have a meeting at 3 pm, our colleagues from the United States have it at 8 AM ET and 5 AM PDT, so they adjust their working day to wake up quite early so that it can be more convenient for other team members from European offices. For other colleagues from Europe with not such a big time difference, we try to work together sometime in the middle of the day. But for sure daily Scrum meetings with all team members from different parts of the world are held and scheduled beforehand so that we can collaborate efficiently and discuss issues without delay.

3. COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have presented the additional challenge of working from home. How has this work experience been different from before stay-at-home measures were put in place? What new challenges and benefits have you seen?

The actual work hasn’t changed much, as I’m already used to working with remote teams, but I did notice one challenge for me at first. As I am a very sociable and open person, I started to miss a lot of real face-to-face informal interactions with people who are working in the same office as me. During lunch breaks, we often discussed some new technologies, sources for self-education, and shared our plans for days off. COVID-19 has taken away these pleasant relaxing moments from my daily routine. Also, it was hard at the beginning to feel the difference when you are at work and when you are at home, as the location is always the same. It is like that movie Groundhog Day where you don’t understand whether it is Monday or Tuesday. There are some benefits to working from home. I have more flexible hours and can organize the day myself, prioritizing the tasks and problems that need to be solved. In such a way I’ve learned how to be an efficient manager of my personal life. Of course, it may not be as easy, as now I’ve noticed that I’ve started to work even more hours than I worked in the office, but it may really teach you how to organize your day and distribute your tasks and duties skillfully. There is one more benefit that is worth mentioning. Now I work on the same task along with developers from the United States and work not only in different offices but also in different time zones, which carries significant value. I can efficiently plunge into coding, and I have time during the day to finish my tasks without distracting myself with communication. Then in the evening, I share what I’ve done during the day with my colleagues so we have time to see and discuss if there are any issues. And the colleagues from the United States as well, after talking with me in their morning, have a whole day ahead knowing what to focus on and what tasks they need to be involved in without any distractions.

4. Any tips or best practices you want to share about working from home or working with dispersed development teams?

Structure and plan your day: Have a well-organized schedule with meetings you have during your day so that you can see the calendar and know when you are expected to coordinate with team members from different regions. It is important to respect people’s time and not to be too pushy when someone from another part of the world is already going to bed.

Find an activity to relax and draw yourself away from work:

As for me, I usually play the guitar during short breaks during the day and take care of my plants. It is important here not to sit in front of the computer, for example, playing games, but doing things that are not associated with your work at all.

Separate the wheat from the chaff:

I recommend not discussing delicate topics, such as politics, religion, etc. with the team members from different countries and regions. People around the world may for sure have different views on these topics, but while working we always want to share the same vision, while moving toward the same goal and not disputing something unrelated to the project.

Stay tuned for more personal insights and tips from the Exadel development team!