Is it awkward to always work remotely? At what time do you wake up? How do you get along with your peers? These are some of the questions I receive from friends when I tell them I work remotely from a different country, in a different timezone, and with many people that I haven’t seen in person (yet).
Last May I decided to join Belvo as a backend engineer. The company is a hybrid organization combining distributed teams and people working remotely and, because we are living in strange times, I knew it was going to be a different onboarding experience. But little did I know I had just signed up for the unexpected.
Working remotely: my onboarding
When I joined the one-year-old company, I discovered that it was a world of its own. Even before the first day, my onboarding had already started: I received an email from the company with access to Slack and a link to our internal documentation. I couldn’t resist so I had a first sneak peek into Belvo‘s culture. I went through the archive of weekly presentations and old chat messages. It felt like going through old yearbooks. I saw when we signed up our first client and when we went live for the first time.
During my first week, I learned more about Belvo’s structure and how the product worked from the inside. I chatted with people from different teams and I got a good overview of how the company works. One thing that I liked is that everyone becomes a Belvo user. It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer or not: we all go through our product onboarding and make API calls.
Another thing that helped me learn more about the company was having access to well-structured documentation. It didn’t take long to notice that the team had made an effort to document all their processes. I was able to learn specific things about our infrastructure and to find internal policies and workflows. Then, I found another archive with pictures with the old logos and the founding team. It was nice to see the company’s evolution and even to discover some memes about the people I had just met.
Of course, documentation was not the only source of information. Here at Belvo, my peers have offered me their help without me even asking since day one. If you need a hand, people are always one message away.
By the way, the company sent a surprise package that was shipped all the way to Mexico:
Mornings with the team and focused afternoons
At Belvo we have people working from offices in Brazil, Mexico, and Spain, as well as many employees who are, like me, working 100% remotely from different places.
And as I am based in northern Mexico, the first part of my day is when the overlap happens. As a squad, we have a daily standup. We use this time to sync as a team and ask for help if we need it. Then, I have around 3-4 hours before the European team calls it a day. This is the perfect window to have 1on1’s with my manager, do the retrospective of the last sprint, and to play some planning poker to prepare the tickets for the next sprint.
After the overlap window closes my afternoon feels calmer. This is the perfect time to focus and to do uninterrupted work. Also, since I’m in the same timezone as the majority of our clients, I keep an eye just in case something unexpected happens.
If for some reason I need to update my team and their working window has closed, I don’t message them. What I do instead is to schedule an email that lands into their inboxes while I’m sleeping, and my teammates are ready to start their new day. This way I keep my team up-to-date without bothering anyone after their working hours. Similarly, If I really find myself blocked with a task I just go to the sprint’s backlog and I start working on something else. After all, work is pre-planned and prioritized accordingly by our product team.
Every week, we schedule a coffee break with a peer. It can be with someone from your squad or with some folk that works in a completely different department. This is what makes it fun because you never know who you are going to meet. Also, it’s nice to get to know the people that you work with outside of the work context. For instance, I learned that picking mushrooms is a thing in Spain and that one of my colleagues builds skateboard ramps during the weekends!
Connecting at a distance
What about the magic of working side to side? What about that in-person collaboration feeling to create new ideas together? After six months at Belvo, I’ve learned that we can still create something great without being in the same room. From Mexico 🇲🇽 to Brazil 🇧🇷. From Spain 🇪🇸 to Greece 🇬🇷.
This is becoming the new norm. Working remotely has given me the chance to work with people from all over the world. In fact, there are now people from around 12 different nationalities in the company (and growing). Thanks to this, every day you get to hear different stories, accents, and even meeting their pets! You learn to cherish it and realize that it is more than possible to build amazing connections without sharing the same physical space.
It finally happened
After half a year of asynchronous work, it finally happened. I had the chance to meet with some of my peers for the very first time. I’m not going to lie: some people were not as tall as I expected, but other than that I didn’t feel like a stranger at all. It was fun to learn what people in Mexico City do and to get to know them better. Now I’m looking forward to meeting more of my peers, but in the meantime, we are going to keep up what we have been doing so far: building the leading financial API for Latin America in a distributed fashion.
If you’d like to be part of a hybrid, distributed and remote team like ours, take a look at some of the roles we are looking for.