7 things I wish I knew transitioning from a local Latin company to a US-based remote project

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Let’s be honest: remote work can be quite easy for a software developer. What’s not easy is the cultural shift from a home country company to a US based one. But don’t worry! I will share with you 7 insights I wish I had known back then, so you don’t stumble over the same stone as I did.

Note: Since I’m using Slack/Google for my daily work I will focus on that combo. But every tip/action can be easily replicated on other platforms, like MS Teams.

  • Say “Good morning!” to your small team. (Greeting this to the whole organization could be too much) Let people know that you are ready for work! This is a new addition to my “bag of tricks”, such a simple yet powerful habit.
  • Let your teammates know your working hours. Pretty straightforward, right? But for some reason we tend to keep this information to ourselves instead of showing it to the world. Use your company’s calendar app (Google, MS Teams, whatever) to schedule time for lunch and other stuff you need to do (e.g. pick up kids from school, going to the bank, etc.). Do you need time to focus and deliver work? Schedule 2 hours of focus time on the calendar app to prevent interruptions. Everybody will be informed, so you will avoid awkward questions like “Hey, Where’s Mario? Is he online? Can he jump on a call now? Hello?”
  • Update your Slack/Messenger status reflecting if you’re available or not. Related to the first one, this can be easily automated using the Google Calendar plugin for Slack. Two tips for the price of one! As a general rule, if I need more than 20 min to do some housework I update my status to AFK (Away From Keyboard)
  • In meetings, try to BE in the meeting. Turn your camera on and minimize distractions. Listen and contribute with your ideas and thoughts. If you feel like running from it, chances are that this meeting is not for you. You may just need to enquire about the results of it. Don’t be afraid to ask for meeting notes instead of unnecessarily showing up.
  • The issue/task management tool needs to reflect what you are doing at this moment. Moving cards from “To-Do” to “Done” the last day of the sprint is a tell-tale sign that something is not working well. Unless you like being asked three times in a day “How are you doing?” Update your tickets status periodically.
    Bonus: Add in comments a link to the related PR, so it will be easier to track deployed features later if needed.
  • Have fun! But using the proper Slack channel. We all laugh at a good joke or meme! If your project does not have a #meme channel, you need to start one right away.
    In addition, from time to time you can schedule a meeting just for fun, using Jackbox as an icebreaker or inspiration. The more you know your teammates, the more joyful (as well as productive) your work will be.
  • Use Meet Transcript plugin. I’m trying to be platform-agnostic but this plugin is just amazing. It lets you save meet’s transcription on Google Drive, so you can review notes later. I consider myself to have a good English level, but sometimes people just talk too fast or have a difficult accent or both! This tool is a life saver! It requires granting Google Drive permissions, but it’s worth it. MS Teams Meeting/Zoom/Slack have this feature built-in or have a similar plugin.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! Before you leave, a final note… you will find different project scenarios. Some managers would be comfortable knowing where you are at all times or may want to see Slack’s green dot shining in working hours while others will not care at all. If you want to try any of these practices, do it for yourself. Just to be a better professional, which in the end is the only thing that pays off.

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