Control-freak managers are getting in the way of evolution
At 6nomads, we have developed a tool that helps hire remote workers, because we firmly believe the future lies with distributed teams. We were very passionate about promoting this idea, but were met with undefeatable resistance in the face of seemingly progressive managers. You might relate to them more than you expect.
We wanted to write an article to ridicule recruiters, the stiffness of the top IT-companies, and the old ways in which entrepreneurship looks to be stuck. But along the way, we realized that managers, who can’t let go of their primitive need for control, who are ultimately setting development back, are the ones we’re actually mad at. See, HR inevitably ends up mimicking the situation in the market, enterprise is generally unchangeable (at least in the near future). However, leaders can “see the light” and make the future appear just a bit closer.
We do not want to restate the obvious: how easy it has become to connect with someone on the other side of the globe or that companies like InVision, GitLab, Basecamp, Evernote, Ghost, 1password, Wordpress, and many more, have been employing the use of distributed teams for a while now. We want to talk about personal experiences, in the words of those whom you might be more eager to trust.
Our main thesis: talent is distributed equally around the world, opportunities are not.
We got a big kick out of this one when we first launched 6nomads and for a couple of months after that. Originally, this project was meant to help companies hire good designers fast. We wanted to change the market itself, create competition for specialists, all because we could very clearly see that there was a problem.
Fact: sometimes, companies can’t fill designer (as well as many other) vacancies for months on end. The ones they have get stuck with boring projects or become freelancers just so they don’t have to deal with long trial periods and practice tasks that a high-demand expert simply doesn’t have time for. As a result, there’s a huge gap between the employer and the employee, which is full of obstacles, misunderstandings, and distrust. We aim to close that gap with the help of professional expertise.
Nonetheless, we quickly understood that we don’t want to work with IT-corporations. In spite of our meticulous screening process, these companies would sometimes take upwards of 3 months to hire a specialist, bombarding them with pointless formalities to the point where their motivation became almost non-existent. Aside from that, we noticed that, except for a few good words to add to their portfolio, top IT-companies don’t make an effort to be attractive to bright, young talent anymore.
I could have worked for Google, Facebook, Netflix, wherever’s considered cool, nowadays. But why would I? The only argument is: less work, more money. I think that kind of work can suck out one’s soul. I need a creative component, like the one present in game development. Optimizing something for Google so that no user ever notices it, but the company saves millions is great. It’s just that it’s not what I want to do with my life.
— programmer Mark Maratea, DTF
That’s when we decided that our target audience is young, front-line startups, who have smaller teams, but a bigger flame and faith in their product. Companies like these readily hire quality experts, in order to grow more promptly. And (oh, wow!) we discovered, that many managers are all for remote workers.
Only a week later did we realize: young, front-line startups with pleasant founders, realistic ideas, who are growing promptly, are like sunny days in London — much fewer in numbers than we would like. Whereas there are loads of specialists in search of remote work. This became obvious through the applications that we just couldn’t get to.
The more designers’ profiles we looked through, the clearer we could see our initial idea: talent is everywhere, opportunities are not. That’s when we launched our frontend department, then backend. Of course, helping a developer in Siberia find a startup in New York was the obvious way to go.
It was crucial to keep our distance from the resources that were already established (Toptal, Upwork, etc.) and portray strong specialists as remote workers, as opposed to temporary solutions — freelancers and outsourcers.
Why is it that there are so many startups, so many important technical products in San-Francisco, in Silicon Valley, when compared to other places? It can’t be that people are simply smarter or more talented here — there are just as many engineers, designers, and product-people in Mexico, even more in Moscow.
— CEO Evernote Phil Libin
We started researching the culture that surrounds remote work, taking interviews from CTOs of successful projects, who organize and lead teams of remote workers. We found out the demands for remote workers, hiring criteria, the technical factor in the processes of these teams. Also, we looked at it from the worker’s perspective: collected surveys, figured out what they like most about the whole format and what difficulties they stumbled upon, tried to understand what the ideal remote worker is.
Technology is developing so fast, that in some 30 years people will look back and be fascinated at how offices even existed.
— Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
After fully submerging ourselves in the topic, one thing was for sure: remote work is not just a trend, not just the smart choice, but the future of IT-companies. Offices will eventually die out, just like the pager, quickly and irreversibly. The best specialists will take it upon themselves to decide where and when they want to work (most of them already do, by working for remote-friendly companies instead of corporations). The only question is, do we want to be on the frontline, or do we want to be left running after the ship that will already have sailed.
I’ve always thought that a lot of Russia’s potential is lost on itself. There are a lot of extremely smart people, who are doing less than they could be, less opportunities for talent, in comparison to the Western world.
— CEO Evernote Phil Libin
Distributed teams are still in the minority in the world — that much is obvious. What disappoints us is how it’s a topic that isn’t discussed at all: managers don’t even see the difference between an irresponsible freelancer and a full-fledged remote worker. They are convinced that remote workers deserve less pay, that the success of the team depends on all the members sitting together in the same place, and, most importantly, they could not control people, who work remotely.
All of this contradicts basic human logic and the overwhelming advantages of choosing a distributed team, the most important of which is the general access to every specialist. Not only those that live nearby, but the best.
From the very beginning, I tried really hard not to make Evernote a Californian or Russian company. I just said: “Let’s find the best people from the whole world.”
— CEO Evernote, Phil Libin
When searching for workers, limiting yourself by territory seems a little dumb. Yes, you need to adopt new rules of communication, company building, but it’s worth it.
— CTO of Scentbird Andrey Rebrov
Consciously rejecting the best specialists, endlessly paying recruiters, who just juggle the same resume, infinitely refining the same job description, all of that, just for an office. Which, in spite of everything ends up wasting piles of cash and never excites anyone, even if it has a PlayStation, ping-pong table, hacky sack, bearded barista or cats. Freedom, independence, and self-organization replaced all of these a long time ago.
Hardly anybody would say they actually prefer working in an office, and even if they did, they would immediately follow up with “very early in the mornings, when there isn’t anybody there” or “only on the weekends.