Exadel developers have many years of experience working remotely with dispersed teams located all around the world. In this interview in our Developer Q&A series, we talked about remote and dispersed work tips and challenges with Exadel front-end developer Lada Zhdanova. She shared with us her insights on what it is like to work remotely to help those who are new to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 have been a front end developer at Exadel for more than 3 years. Exadel is where I started my career and am happy to continue to work here. A typical day looks different depending on the project I am involved in.
On my current project, my typical working day starts at 9 am with checking emails and any updates from the team so that I can prioritize the tasks for the whole day. The evening is always full of meetings with colleagues from other offices, so communication may take a significant amount of time at the end of the day. Before the COVID-19 pandemic I also spent some time in the gym, which helped me to relax a bit and get my thoughts together, and I also tend to spend lunch time talking with colleagues in the office kitchen to catch up on world news, any educational opportunities or discussing some technological issues and challenges. Such flexibility and changing of activity was a good way for me to keep my stamina through the workday.
On one of the projects I worked on before, my day looked a bit different. It always started with meetings in the morning discussing the status: what we did yesterday and what our plans are for the day. We solved any issues that occurred and decided if it was worth setting up one more meeting during a day to discuss. On another project at Exadel, we did not have meetings in the morning, but we had to send daily reporting in the evening, specifying what tasks had been covered already and what still needed to be solved.
Whatever project I am involved in, to complete any task may take an hour, a day, several days or a week, that is why it may not always be clear how your next day will look, which makes every day unique.
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?
Thanks to modern technological advancements, it is not complicated to work with colleagues who are not in the office with me or not in the same time zone. We can always connect through Skype, Zoom, Bluejeans, etc., so there is no need to meet teammates personally to solve the issue or discuss the project. When working remotely it is often more inspiring to meet with colleagues in real life during one of the team events which are held twice a year at Exadel. At these events I meet my teammates from different countries and timezones (Ukraine, United States, Poland, Belarus, etc.). Working with dispersed teams has given me the great opportunity of working abroad. I spent several months in Poland, working at the Exadel Warsaw office, so it is really nice that you can stay mobile and flexible working in different offices and locations, being able to collaborate with people around the world.
Working with dispersed teams taught me to notice little things and solve them as early as possible. So now I know that attention to detail is important, as time differences require prompt reaction. I always understand, if I don’t solve the issue today and have some questions left till the morning, I waste time waiting until the evening to solve the problem with the team members from another timezone. This may result in an inefficient working day and dissatisfied team and client. So, during the day I try to clear up all the issues I have instead of procrastinating.
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?
COVID-19 stay-at-home orders presented more challenges for me than benefits at first. When working from the office, it was much easier for me to wake up in the morning, as I was used to the daily routine — waking up with the alarm clock, commuting to work, etc. When working from home I started to feel less focused on work and my schedule. I was more relaxed in the morning hours and started to wake up later and work more in the evenings. Also, at first, I didn’t have a well-developed working space, so I felt uncomfortable spending working hours on the sofa or in the kitchen. I even started to feel back pain. And of course, it was hard to draw the line between work and home, which distracted me a lot. The other challenge I noticed, if you have any technical issues with your laptop, infrastructure, internet connection, etc., it can’t be resolved as fast as in the office. So, you always need to be ready to deal with technical difficulties with your work equipment.
The benefit I found is that I stopped always being in a hurry. I started to enjoy the morning hours and started to read more world news, including IT related topics. So, working from home saved my time significantly. It is fantastic, but COVID-19 made me realize that I am a very social person and miss real communication a lot. Before, when studying at University, I didn’t feel lonely when I stayed home alone. I even relaxed in such a way, reading books or watching a series, but now I see that communication and socialization is essential for me and my emotional state. So, I made the decision during social distancing orders to communicate with friends via Skype or Zoom, and attend Exadel remote fun activities. They are interesting, insightful and do not take too much time, letting me relax and think about other things for a moment.
4. Any tips or best practices you want to share about working from home or working with dispersed development teams?
- Make sure that the laptop you are working with at home meets all safety standards
In the office our PCs are always secured with antivirus software and other security tools. It’s really important to make sure that your laptop at home also has this so as to not violate your company security rules.
- Use tools and technologies that will help you virtually collaborate better
The tools that make it possible for you and your team to collaborate virtually are an inalienable part of your working from home life, as they may significantly improve you and your team’s efficiency. You may communicate through Microsoft Teams, Slack, Yammer, Zoom, Jira, WebEx, Trello and many others. Many of these and other communication tools have additional functionality that you didn’t know or didn’t think about. These tools are used primarily for business needs, so you will not be distracted by any funny images or unrelated messages from social networks.
- Prepare a fixed schedule and plan for yourself
This will help to draw a line between home and work and will help better focus on the tasks that need to be efficiently covered. A schedule will help you to not be distracted by unnecessary things. When working at home you may have a hard time distinguishing between when work is done and when relaxation time begins. In my case, sometimes even when the work day is over, I continue to work, which makes me more tired and dissatisfied. Know that you need to have rest — this will help you to feel more relaxed and happy. To plan the day, I also write down the tasks I need to get done. I make notes continuously during the day, writing down the items that need to be discussed or solved. This later helps to discuss all the issues during meetings with a client so I can better understand what I still need to accomplish. Sometimes the questions can be discussed via email, sometimes via phone. But if I mention all the problems before the end of the day at the meeting, the next day I know what tasks I need to do. So, I would say that working from home has been a good experience for me to learn how better to organize myself.
Stay tuned for more personal insights and tips from the Exadel development team!