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Challenges faced while creating a remote team | Reflection Series: Part 2

Dear reader! Current blog post is a part of my Reflection Series and continues the topic of creating a fully remote team of Junior Developers during a pandemic. To visit the post preceding the current one, click here.

Continues from: ‘I created us a Discord channel, picked us an official name and created us a GitHub account – as an open-source organization…

I named our new team, Junior Developer Group and it was official. We started working together as a team by building our very first project – our team’s website. At that point, we had about 3-5 members and everyone was super excited to start working, but we had some decisions to make beforehand!

Deciding on tools & technologies we’d be using

As some of you might know from your experiences building projects from scratch, we needed to decide which languages and technologies are we going to be using. We also needed to find a way of organizing all of this and documenting future tickets.

We already had a discord channel, which meant we needed to create a Trello board to document work and manage tickets.. Everyone had been allowed to create (or delete) everything across the board. We wanted full transparency and no limitations.

As time went by, we quickly grew to 20 members – all ready to learn, ready to practice together and work as a team but we came upon some challenges.

Our first big challenge:
Timezones & Communication

Being an international team means having to think about timezones. To help us stay aligned, we decided we’d meet once a week on our Discord channel (voice chat) to start with, always on a Friday at 7 PM UK time.

At these meetings we’d discuss how the week has been, we’d look at the tickets we’ve been working on, talk about our progress, blockers and general team atmosphere, as well as personal challenges we all faced at the time. We’ve tried introducing small scrum ceremonies and tailored them to our needs.

During all of this, we realized we’re all from very different cultures and communication wasn’t always the best. We struggled to communicate, not because any one of us was finding English language difficult, but because we struggled to understand humor and each other’s sayings, what was appropriate to laugh at and what wasn’t.

Sometimes it was difficult to figure out ‘what the poet wanted to say‘ when a message looked rude or offensive or in any other way – not as you would expect it to look.

Identifying our challenges

Timezones were the first troublemaker and as we grew we realized that our meeting time won’t work for everyone. Some of our members required different approaches and voice chats weren’t helping. We were presented with a choice and what I chose was to get the team together and ask them to find solutions together.

We asked ourselves, should we record our meetings? The idea was to watch them later on and be caught up on everything. Through discussion we found that it would actually damage psychological safety in our team and our members would feel reluctant to share their thoughts if they were recorded. This option wasn’t fit for us.

If that wasn’t an option what else could we do?

We proposed an idea, weekly team agenda updates, which would contain everything we talked about – but in text form. These would be posted to our ‘announcements’ channel in discord and everyone would be on the same page. Great!

That didn’t fix the problem of -voice chats- we had to solve though.

We needed to allow people to join in, but without using their microphones to do so. Easy, right? We created a text channel and named it ‘Friday Focus Sessions’ the same as we called our weekly meetings. That then allowed people to ask questions in the text form and we all had the channel open to make sure we’re including all of our members into our discussions and giving them time to ask questions too.

The next issue we had faced was – conflicts between team members.

I wanted to build a blameless culture, a team where you’re allowed to fail, allowed to ask a million questions no matter how stupid you thought they were. Some of our members didn’t quite get the message and we had a new problem to solve.

The issue was, a particular member was messaging others in rude ways. Searching for our social media and personal information and connecting with our previous colleagues and in general not behaving like a nice team member to have around.

Resolving team member conflicts

Once again, instead of making decisions on my own, I invited most of our members together and we had a chat.

After a very long discussion, in which we exhausted all options which could help us deal with the situation, we decided we couldn’t allow this behavior to continue no matter our differences and language difficulties.

For the first time since the group was created, we had to remove a member and I didn’t know how to feel about that.

You’ve got to remember, our group members are junior developers with impressionable minds. At this point, our communication and the way we give feedback (if done wrong) can have a long-lasting, negative, impact.

We can’t go in unprepared and immature.
We need to show compassion and care, no matter the situation.

Reporting back after making a tough decision

After having a tough conversation it was time to make a team announcement once again and inform everyone of our decision to remove a member from our group.

As I didn’t make this decision on my own, I promoted two of my members to admins, which meant they had more responsibilities but also quite a lot more trust between us as we just made a difficult decision together.

Being able to talk about ‘big things’ is a must for me, so for my members to step up and take action in order to protect team culture was a sign of a very safe and a healthy team.

Everyone who had questions also got the answers.

We discussed the situation once more on our Friday Focus Session meeting and have moved on since then. Our team page was coming on nicely and it was time to create a new project for us.

This time we wanted to follow a design and it was another decision we had to make. What should we use?

…….

To read more about our journey come back for a Part 3 of the Reflection Series which will focus on further growth of our Junior Developer Group for the next couple of months.. Alternatively, you can follow Likii on socials to get updated when a new post goes live 🤗

Until next time,
Likii

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