Interview with Matthew Howells-Barby from Hubspot

Matthew Howells-Barby is the Director of Acquisition at HubSpot (as well as co-founder of Traffic Think Tank, you can follow him in Twitter too), who has successfully switched his team to a remote based environment.

In this interview he shares why and how he did it, the challenges they faced, how they overcame them, how he hires, the protocols they follow, the tools they use and more to successfully manage it in a remove based environment within a bigger company that has a mix of in-person and remote organization.

Video Interview Transcription

Aleyda: 00:00
Thank you very much Matthew and welcome to remoters. This is actually the first time that we do an interview to a remote based professional via video and I am quite excited to have you. Thank you for, for accepting to do the interview.

Matthew: 00:17
Well it’s an honor to be the first video.  I’m glad to be the one that is, is at least being the test subject for this.

Aleyda: 00:26
No problem. No problem. It will be nice. It will be nice. I promise. So Matthew, of course I know you very well, I have known Matthew for, I think that the first time that we saw each other was at a conference where we were…

Matthew: 00:45
probably BrightonSEO maybe…

Aleyda: 00:48
… or before that. Well, Matthew is a very well known SEO specialist and since a while now, since a few years ago is the, growth director, isn’t it?

Matthew: 00:59
.. it’s acquisition marketing now. Yeah.

Aleyda: 01:03
…At HubSpot. And then I realized after a while that he has been working remotely and I have to highlight that even if Matthew works at HubSpot he has many other side projects that I can imagine that it also helps, being remote. I’m so bad introducing, so I will leave you to tell a little bit more about everything that you do and how remote work allows you to do all of these different activities that you focus on.

Matthew: 01:45
Yeah, for sure. So, uh, thanks again for having me up and yeah, so my, my role at HubSpot, so I’m the director of the acquisition marketing kind of team and uh, that team is around, I think we’re about 15 people. Um, right now in my team and I’ll kind of talk about that dynamic of, uh, kind of remote leadership probably as we, as we go on and how that team is structured a bit. Um, but alongside HubSpot, I also, um, I’m one of the cofounders of traffic think tank with, uh, Ian house. And Nick Eubanks, which some of you listening and uh, have probably heard of, uh, both really experienced SEOs, um, which I also worked through. And then I have a bunch of other like more side projects. I run like a, uh, a blockchain podcast and a few other things that are just more passion projects than anything.

Matthew: 02:40
So yeah, lots going on. Remote definitely helps with this because I think more than anything it’s a little bit easier, well actually dramatically easier to manage my time across different things. And I think the, or of like a nine to five just kind of gets wiped out when you’re, when you’re remote to a certain extent, um, which, which has definitely been incredibly helpful. Uh, so that’s been one great thing. It’s worth noting as well that I moved to be fully remote. I’m based in the UK right now in London, uh, which for any of you listening can probably tell that I am British from, from my, my voice. Um, I’ve been back now for about three and a half months maybe. Um, and it’s been great. Uh, we’re in the middle of the heat wave right now, which has not been so great. But, uh, the, it’s very true.

Matthew: 03:46
It’s very true. Um, PR prior to, prior to when I, I moved back, I spend just under three years living in the U S in Boston on the East coast. Um, and then prior to that I spent about a year and a half, it felt like much longer, but it was only actually a year and a half in Dublin, Ireland, which was, uh, which was great. And this was PR. And prior to that I was back in England. And a lot of my, my time during those spells, I was, I moved initially to Ireland for HubSpot to be based out of our Dublin office. And at that time I was 100% in office, um, or pretty much a hundred percent in office. And when I moved to Boston, um, I kinda had a bit of a split where because I was managing people across different time zones, I would walk like at least one day a week, a remotely and it would just be a bit easier to manage some of my time.

Matthew: 04:47
And, uh, and in fact, one of the things that triggered my move to Boston was the fact that the time zone challenge was a bit tough. Uh, I was spending too many times in the office eating dinner with, uh, some colleagues and it was like, okay, this is quite late here. Uh, and we’re having like zoom calls with the team over in Boston a lot. And I’d actually rather be probably back at home with my wife right now and friends. So that, that was one thing that inspired that. And then moving back to, to London as kinda like helped, um, help that even more now from a quality of life perspective, general happiness perspective and just organizational point of view. So that’s been, that’s been very useful.

Aleyda: 05:31
So, so you have been officially completely remote since you came back today to the UK three months ago, but you started a little bit before when you were in, in Boston.

Matthew: 05:44
Yeah, so the last year of Boston, um, I knew that I was going to be moving back to the UK and one of the things that, um, to be fair, HubSpot, uh, have been fantastic with this. HubSpot are not a fully remote company. In fact, when I joined HubSpot about four and a half years ago now, the though I don’t know of any one that was remote, maybe one or two people that it was basically we didn’t hire remote people and, um, we were not set up for being remote at all. And it was only in the past kind of two years in particular that really as we started to expand, we needed to open up, bring in new talent and uh, decided to be more open to a bit of remote work. And, uh, I would say probably my team became, uh, one of the test subjects of that, uh, in the earlier times where, uh, I had people on my team that are fully remote.

Matthew: 06:43
Um, so the, when I was in my kind of like final year at HubSpot and I’d kind of set to HubSpot, Hey, look, I’m going to move back to London. Like I want to kind of like actually put some roots in the ground now, settle down and have some stability in like my life now. Um, and I said to the team, look, I’ll only do this if I believe that I can be like an effective remote leader. Um, and if I can’t, like I will like move away, right? Like I don’t want to be a detriment to the team. So I S what I did for that year is basically I did half a week in the office, half a week remote. And um, I also did some initiatives with the team where we, we did like a remote week where everyone was like basically Amish from the office for a week and had to go work in different places. And we would like encourage people to actively like go to other countries or go to other cities and put themselves in different situations. So I spent a lot of time validating that we could actually do it and I felt comfortable that like, yup, no, I, I feel like I’ve got enough experience of doing this now and made the move and yeah, I have no regrets at all.

Aleyda: 07:58
That is great. So this is great to hear. Like when you are working physically in person and then you expect to move a little bit more removed and you start testing a bed little by little, that is something actually doable, visible because realistically most of the challenges that I hear or excuses that I hear by bigger companies, especially bigger companies that are already very well settled in, in office [inaudible] him and he’s like, Oh, this will totally break on the type of communication process that we have going on. And the type of organization in my mind is like, okay, it’s because you are not that organized that that happens right in the first place. So thank you. Please share a little bit of what were those specific challenges that you identify and how you had, you were able to overcome them when you move to a much more distributed and ramen.

Matthew: 08:56
So I think one of the, one of the challenges with, with remote, and, and I hear this a lot, especially within a larger, more established companies that have not been remote previously, and also within more established longstanding industries. I’ll use things like financial services as an example, where there is largely an anti remote sentiment. And I think the biggest problem that this stems from is like companies and even individuals when they’re thinking about working remote, often think about things in like extremes. It’s like, Oh, as a company you think, well everyone needs to be remote or no one can be remote. If you have something in the middle, it’s gonna mess with the dynamic. Nothing will work. And as an individual it’s like, okay, I’m thinking about being a remote worker. I guess I’ll have to work in coffee shops every single day of my life. And it’s like, no, you can go into the office, you can see people, you could work two days remote, one day remote, half a day remote and you could go in and go into the office.

Matthew: 10:01
I, one of the biggest things I really believe though in all of this, that kind of thing helps with some of the most common challenges of remote. Like I hear a lot of people say like arts, I can’t imagine not seeing anyone for a load of the day. I do still believe even though I’m very pro remote work, remote hiring, I do believe there’s no substitute for going to see people face to face still. And I, I personally, um, and th the cadence of that can be whatever you choose, but um, I personally make sure that I help over to the office at least once per quarter. Um, I think in particular for people managers, that’s quite useful. I think as an individual contributor and depending on your own preference, I think sometimes that can, that can vary how much you want to do that. Maybe just once or twice a year.

Matthew: 10:56
But I do think there is a a huge amount of value in just like the bonding aspect, the emotional cues that you can get from people and just understanding people a little bit better. I think that there has to be a mix there. And with my team at HubSpot in particular, it’s, it is somewhat unconventional our set up, right? Because we’ve started to move into the acceptance of remote work and, well no we very much embraced it now, but our business is not really set up perfectly for remote work and I think that scared us for a lot of the time because it’s like, well if we hire people that they’re going to have a very good experience or is this going to be a bad port experience for our staff? I think basically the way we looked to this was, okay, well let’s just do it.

Matthew: 11:45
Acknowledge that maybe we don’t have the best experience right now. Let people know that and that it’s kind of like a test and we will improve on this. And my, my team is spread across. So some of my team are based in our Berlin office and then my team are based in our Dublin office. Some of my team are based in Cambridge office, Singapore office. Uh, I’ve got some people on the West coast, some people in Texas and that, and those, the, the people on the West coast and, and in, uh, Austin, Texas, fully remote. Whereas some of the team I like half and half in Boston, some of the team are fully just a hundred percent office. And, uh, this is primarily their choice, like for a lot of this. But with that, I think it’s an interesting kind of dynamic, uh, that you have to kind of fit, especially as a, I think as a people manager.

Matthew: 12:40
The, the biggest challenge that I would say I faced initially when I first started going into this was assuming that, well, if I, if I feel good and I feel confident in my ability to be a people manager, like surely this will be a smooth transition into being like a remote leader. And I do think that there’s very different skillsets needed for both of those two kind of aspects. And I think that you need to be very aware of like the areas that you need to spend more time. If you’re not very good at communicating, it’s not going to work very well. You need to over communicate to the point where it can be uncomfortable I think. Um, and that’s one big part of, uh, of all of this that I’ve suddenly taken from it.

Aleyda: 13:26
That, that, that’s great to hear. Um, so this is important. I think that a lot of people believe when you say remote that is yeah, 100% like insulated at different places completely at when I hear about remote for me is about, it’s about, uh, location independence, meaning that if you want to go too physically to work a few days per week, you do itself, uh, to go to a coworking space because that works for you and you don’t want to be slated at home. Do it like that if you want to stay at home because you feel that you cannot work with a lot of activities. And noises around you. You do that and you can, you can be flexible enough to do a little bit of what works for you at any time. Right. Um, however, I have to say that also, eh, your, your processes and your communication protocols need to be flexible enough in order for the type of, of, uh, of differences of interactions. Right. Are there any type of and resources, um, activities or, or, or even tools that you started to use to, to, to be able to support your activity in a remote type of setting when you started working like this?

Matthew: 14:48
Yeah, I think that my biggest thing, um, setting expectations is like the first foundational piece of, of all of this and having a mixture of very clear structure to communication and tools to facilitate that, um, expectation on when responses will be made and how they will be made and then flexibility to communicate outside of that. But with guard rails. So I think the first piece, the big part I would kind of say is every single person like in my team operates very differently. Like I have. So Scott on my team, he is uh, he is also a people manager of other people in my team and he is also a hundred percent remote and he’s based over on the West coast of the U S then I have Carolina who is also another people manager and she is based in Dublin and she works 100% out of the office and those two individuals operate very, very differently and require a whole different levels of communication.

Matthew: 15:52
And I think across the team though, there needs to be some very clear set stuff. So simple things like every single team member will have like a shed you’ll time, which is a weekly one-to-one with like myself for example. Um, that will be set every week rolling and we’ll work around the, the times that work for them and time zone means I can also try and cluster a lot of meetings that I have into like a set. I prefer to have them set back to back time-zones versus a distributed across a week. Otherwise it’s really tough to get stuff done when you have like 30 minute meeting. A 30 minute gap, a 30 minute meet. And so I’m a big fan of clustering meetings into blocks. Um, I also then create set time in my calendar, which is almost like office hours where people can freely just book in some time with me.

Matthew: 16:46
Um, and similarly I have like response time, like SLS. So, and this will often be determined by the urgency of the request that someone has to me. So if someone has something that they want, they want to be responded to kind of this week, I just ask, have them send that via email and just let me know like, can you come back to me this week? Right. And like that’s usually like a big thing that I try to always do is instead of doing the uh, the classic, like leave it as unread and I’ll come back to that. Right. Which I would do when I was in the office because I could walk past someone and be like, Hey, I’m going to come back to you like in a, in a couple of days. Don’t worry. I saw on my radar, I’ll just send a quick email and be like, Hey, I’m going to come back to you and like this exact amount of time, um, I’ve seen this, I will respond and then that gets parked and it removes that distance from people and then if something is urgent it’ll be like, okay, then you need to use Slack.

Matthew: 17:45
Slack me immediately you’ll get a response within three hours if it’s within this time block. If you get to, if you speak to me and send me a Slack at like midnight my time, I’m going to come back to you at first thing in the morning and people then know how to get that communication. If something is incredibly urgent, you need like something responded to within the hour or you need to hop on a call, Mark it as urgent in the subject so then everyone kind of knows where they stand. But then similarly I also say to people like any free slot in my calendar, you can book me in except any time past 6:00 PM my time. You have to ask me first because I think one of the biggest things that I did poorly, um, when I first started figuring out, kind of either walking across different time and stuff, was just opening up that calendar.

Matthew: 18:42
And every day I would be in really late, late late meetings and really early meetings. And I don’t mind doing that every now and then. But you need to be able to draw the line and have the ability to at least say, Hey, no, me and my wife had going to dinner at that time. And a, I’m not going to go on a zoom call. Uh, or no, I not gonna take this early meeting because actually I’m gonna go for a run and I’m going to do some later meetings or whatever. Yeah. So I tried to put personal time in my calendar as well. Uh, just because I think it’s important that when, like my team were looking at my calendar, they see like, Oh, Matt’s just booked out some time for lunch. Or Matt is not going to start work till 10:00 AM today because he’s going to go for a run and have just some personal time. And I think that it’s like a, an important thing that is simple, but it, it has a huge psychological impact on the rest of the people that you work with.

Aleyda: 19:38
That is great that you mentioned because one of the first challenges that you also share with us at the beginning of the call is how when you were basing barely, sometimes you ended up, eh, saying a lot, uh, over the time just to be able to communicate with people who asked, uh, in the other side of the world. But it seems that you have a work around that and he identify how to better handle how to, to manage and organize the meetings across different time zones. So it’s a good time for them, is a good time for you and you’re able to overlay those few hours that you have at reasonable working time. So, so you can get things done or whenever you want, you need to communicate, you do it. So during those, those times lots.

Matthew: 20:23
Yeah. And I think that the, the real turning point for me was, um, okay. That was the aspect where nobody likes staying in and doing what late every single night. Like nobody actively seeks that out, right? Like sometimes things come up and they have to be done and it’s like, okay, I’m going to get on with it. But if it’s continuous it, the way I used to view that was, okay, um, that’s fine. I’ll like hustle. I’ll get things done. Like, I can do this, this is fine. I’ll keep doing it. I’ll keep doing it until I burn out. What I fail to recognize is that if I am continuously taking late meetings continuously every night, it’s like I’m going into an office and it’s like dark and some of my team that are in the normal work, so time zones, uh, overseeing in the U S or whatever, a constant coming in, they’re like, wow, Matt is continuously late.

Matthew: 21:19
That really impacts them because that sets the precedent that they should be doing that regardless of whether I’m saying that or not, it puts unnecessary pressure and creates a culture that filters down and across the people that I, that I meet with, it’s very toxic to do that. Um, similarly like emailing people late at night, like I, I’m a big fan of like, I do like to go through a load of emails at night, but what I’ll try and do is save them to draft and then send them in the morning or make sure I’m conscious if this is someone that’s on the time zone that like I communicate with people and like the Japan office or something, I’ll use the schedule to send and try and get at a normal time because it’s stressful for people. And I think especially for more junior team members that are not used to kind of knowing how to navigate a corporation, it can become very unhealthy. And I think understanding that regardless of whether they’re people on edge or an individual contributor, your actions impact more than just you. And, uh, I think that was a big part of, of all of this.

Aleyda: 22:23
I have to say that I am thank you very much for mentioning this at the end of the day and a lot of people with remote, they, I think that they, they focus on on the tools right? Or presets type of rules, uh, that can be found anywhere. But at the end of the day is to be highly emphatic on the way that drone teams work and the dynamics that you want to set and be aware, especially if you are a manager of the PMO, the leader of the team, that is you who set your own specific rules even if you are at part of a bigger organization. Right? Like if it is you who said the dynamics of this type of, of, of, of uh, of expectations regarding what is okay, what is not okay, what are the boundaries, especially when everything is much more not so clear. What, what’s remote isn’t it? I thank you very much for for sharing that because I think that this is, this is there are some T things care that when you are physically in an office just don’t, don’t even think about them and because it’s so obvious because they people see you there but it actually works like this. Right? I am like leaving the office at seven 30 or 8:00 PM yeah. You’ll feel bad to leave early earlier than them, right? Yeah,

Matthew: 23:46
100%. I think that it’s just like I’m probably one of the, the worst traits in, in, in bad people managers is, is probably bad in my opinion. Uh, is not understanding the impact of like your actions across other people. And I think even outside of people management, right? Like if you want, just like an, if you’re an individual contributor, whether you’re a senior level member of a, of a team or whether you’re a junior member level of the team like you is absolutely fine if you want to stay in the office. If you’re doing that every single night, one like that’s not great for your life. And two, it’s not good for the people around you like this. This does set an unhealthy expectation, puts pressure on people, and it all then rolls back to people saying, Hey, Oh, I see this person continuously working every night.

Matthew: 24:40
Is that the thing I have to do to progress in my career? And that’s not, that’s not something I want to operate within. And I think that in particular with HubSpot, like we do a good job of trying to avoid that situation. It comes up in every company, right? But I think that you can only do so much to try and figure that piece out. Um, but yeah, I really nice, uh, a nice spot for me that is ultimately now being fully remote, trying to enjoy as much at like my, my working times, uh, have always been in flux, so that’s less, it’s been less of an adjustment for me because I’ve had people on every different time zone that I’m, that I’m working with. So I’ve always had an element of flexibility. Um, but just like on a personal level, a really nice thing is my wife also has a remote job. So I have an office in the house, Laura has an office in the house on Fridays. We book in every, every Friday we go for lunch together and we can just gotcha. But random times through the day and spend more time together, I have like more time to kind of go for a run or do my own things and feel healthier and that really impacts my ability to be productive, be more active and like improved generally. And yeah, I would say like way, way happier than than when I was, uh, when I was not remote.

Aleyda: 26:09
So it sounds like it’s definitely workout and from my former work life type of balanced perspective for you on the team too. Let’s see, on the other side, right, because one of the biggest concerns that I also hear from bigger companies especially is that they are too afraid that people won’t be as productive as if they were in office. Right. And this is funny because in your case, uh, you are actually able to compare because you were more in office in an office setting before. So how has been the productivity from a productivity perspective, the before and after? Has, has it gotten down or have been good offer? How has been the change or the impact on them?

Matthew: 27:00
Yeah, I would say, uh, my productivity is dramatically risen. And the reason for that is, I mean it’s largely because of the remote piece, but more so, uh, down to the, like a change of mindset. And I think that when I moved to remote I realized I had to be a lot stricter about the way I set up my working time, how I would break out the tasks I’d be doing. Um, like I have a large team, so a lot of my time in the week is in meetings, right. And there’s, there’s not a whole lot of time for heads down work, but moving to a UK time zone, it means that a larger portion of, I mean a large portion of our company are on Eastern time on uh, the, the East coast of the U S so my morning period, uh, I have some time there where I can do one of two things blocking, ah, a lot of meetings with my uh, non U S team and like be relatively uninterrupted with flex and emails, which is very useful for me.

Matthew: 28:12
And I cluster all of that into Thursday morning. Thursday morning is my like non us meetings morning and it’s just not at all for heads down work. My Wednesday morning is blocked out completely for all of like my heads down. I need to focus, get these things done, work and I’m incredibly productive through that because I block it out my calendar. I don’t have as many distractions as when I was over in the U S and it’s a lot easier for me and it means also I start my day differently. Like, if I’m going into a lot of meetings, I know, I’m like, okay, I need to have quite a relaxed morning, uh, prepare for like being like mentally stimulated to have like lots of back to back meetings for my head down walk. It’s like, okay, this morning I’m going to go for a run, I’m going to get like active in, then I can be more focused.

Matthew: 29:03
I can just be a lot more productive and I know it’s going to be, I’m not going to walk past one in the corridor and they be like, Hey Matt, two seconds quickly, can we just chat? And then it’s like, there’s my morning derailed. Uh, so that’s, that’s definitely one good piece. But I think also just the fact that I am much more ruthless now with meetings. So I would have the casual stand at the desk. Uh, and actually I realized when I went remote, a lot of my team gave me feedback that they hate it. The fact that I, I’m the worst for this. I would just walk around the office and I’d just go, Hey, two minutes, or I just walk up to someone’s desk, be like, what do you think about this thing? And they’re just like, Matt, I’m going to answer this.

Matthew: 29:45
But I know in the head they’re like, please go away from me. So it stops me doing that. And also I think that it cuts a lot of the unnecessary meetings at my calendar. A lot of the time with me being on a different time zone, people will think twice, especially when I put it in my calendar, ask me before booking this later time there’ll be like, Hmm, I really need to do this meeting or should I just do this as an email? And that’s like another big piece. Uh, and then the final thing is I kind of switched up a lot of stuff where, uh, I’m a big fan of just recording short videos for my team instead of doing like really lengthy emails that take me like 45 minutes to compile and they’re tough to read and stuff. I’m a big fan of using things like cloud app Allume and I’ll just drop my thoughts in a quick five minute video share with the team or an individual. And then sometimes I’ll get a view, some of my team like doing video responses, I love that as a medium to communicate. Um, and that makes me more and more efficient. So it’s just like lots of small gains really making a lot of this like help on a productivity level

Aleyda: 30:57
that, that is great. I actually, I have to say that I, I love the dimension like stopping, like you don’t realize, but we, when we are in this in office setting, we sometimes wants to pick someone’s rain and, and this fakes the person from their own work and focus right at the time. Right? So, and it makes me remember a love that when I share my ideas with remoters three, four years ago when I was just starting this up, we’d have group of all the, uh, business people, but they were very [inaudible] oriented. And one of them says like, Oh, I like that. But I even have challenges with my developers to to actually coordinate well to launch something and they are in office how, how I am supposed to go this when they are remote. And it’s because it pushes you. I really believe and you are, it’s nice to have like the confirmation like in practice, real, real life information is because it’s really pushes you to actually set real policies, rules, what really works for you that it doesn’t need to be a or B but defy opportunities. So set a well put practices at the end of day that we all should know but we never do because he’s so, it’s so easy to do not do it. So when you are in an office, right.

Matthew: 32:19
Yeah, definitely. I think that’s like a really big piece of this. You realize when you do put in like much more formal like stricter processes around both yourself and around like your ways of working with other people across your organization that like I look back and I think about prior to maybe a few years ago where I really became a lot more like uh, regimented with my processes and I honestly get baffled at how I even operate it. Like the, you can’t rely on going to someone’s desk to solve a problem that is not a efficient way to work. Like that needs to be an and it’s not a healthy way to work. I think it comes back to where I was talking about expectation around communication in the same way that I would say, Hey, I will respond in this period of time through this medium. Like other people will share with me.

Matthew: 33:19
Okay. I would prefer to be communicated like this. I would prefer to be communicated like this. Some people don’t like Slack firing up continuously. Some people prefer instead, maybe a Google doc that sometimes I’ll do with the one pager and I’ll share with someone and say comment on like parts of the space of a week. Some people prefer a longer email threads, like some people find the videos like, and it’s trying to marry up those, those things. And I think that then when there are times where like emergencies happen, you know how to quickly get in touch with people, you know, how to communicate with people and you don’t need to rely on physically walking to someone. Uh, yeah.

Aleyda: 33:59
Yeah. I think that it’s a big win to show how a synchronous communication can go pretty well and also how we can leverage technology in any case. So like with the little videos that you mentioned, I love also to do like sort of screencast showing, uh, people who work with me, like how I do this, how I did this screenshot. They can actually see, uh, can you please share also with us a little bit, like which are the tools, what is the thing that you use to do this?

Matthew: 34:28
Yeah. Um, so I’m, I’m a very big Slack user. I love Slack. Uh, I mean, so for, for those listening that don’t know what traffic think tank is, like basically we have an SEO learning community that’s all powered within Slack. So I, I spend a lot of my time just in that we use like heavily at HubSpot. I’m a big fan of it. Um, for the video stuff where I’ll just record short, short videos. Uh, I actually really like, um, cloud app, uh, or I use loom as well sometimes, but cloud app is really useful because you can do some cool screen shares but you can do like a bunch of other stuff and it integrates with Slack nicely. So it’s like, it’s pretty cool. Um, I’m a heavy Google docs user. Uh, I, I, I get very organized in my, like in Google drive with everything, uh, naming conventions to just stole stuff in and I try to keep like, and zoom is like, without zoom I probably couldn’t operate.

Matthew: 35:30
Zoom has been like a revelation, uh, for, for the past few years in just how efficient and effective it that is. Like my core stack along with like, um, Gmail, right? Uh, those, those are my, my core tools and my big thing has been like reducing down the amount of tools. Uh, what, I mean the other big piece that comes in all of this is having a good internet connection. Um, which is the common thing that’s spoken about in remote work. But for me that was a bit easier because I, I actually don’t like, uh, working out of like coffee shops or hotels are going to propose. I walk out of my home office every day and I don’t even like coworking spaces. So like I like my own space and I have like all of my sets things I’m probably painting a picture of myself right now I’m very much like very regimented routines. River, this is like my day. If I don’t have my coffee by my sat and time, like my whole day is ruined. Like, so I like my routine and I think about that all the way from the tools I use to the processes I’ve put in and just so that I can create as much predictability in, in my day as possible. Basically

Aleyda: 36:49
that, that no, that’s, that’s, that’s well it works at the end of the aisle. We all know to have, uh, our, our organization. Like even if you are a bit on the goal as I am, I, I, I still need to have like my routine and, and, and you know, what definitely needs to be there to, to make things happen for shirts. So I don’t, you know, I could spend my whole day talking to you and picking your brain also. How would it work or not that just to wrap in. I love that the video because yeah, we know that people don’t have so much attention span opportunity. What we’ll do say that if the, maybe a couple of things that you will definitely avoid doing again, uh, when you started, uh, working remotely, what we’ll do say say that these are the things that you think that are mistakes are not necessarily as recommended and what will be those things that you will recommend that any company starting working remotely on the other hand prioritize us? Right?

Matthew: 37:53
Yeah. I think the first, the big one really is when you began going remote and this, this became apparent to me as I mentioned at the start of our, of our chat, we did an experiment where we did a remote week and everyone went remote for the week. Every single member of my team and we, we saw how it all works. Like we all would hop on, zooms together, things like that. My biggest takeaway from that is to never assume what you find works for you will work for other people and more importantly never force your kind of like ways of working on other people. Some of my team, I actually went into that. I thought if it’s only for a week, I think people will just love that. Like anyone that’s in the office, you just have a lot of freedom. A large portion of the team hated it.

Matthew: 38:45
They were just like, I hate not being in the office. I can’t focus, I can’t get stuff done. This is not the way I like to work. It’s so stressful. And I was just like, Oh, okay. Like that’s actually a bit of an eye opener to me. Like even for a few days. It’s just people. It’s not the way people, some people like to work. And I think when you think about, okay, how am I going to set up these processes? How would I like to be communicated to? Like I can’t just be like, Hey, this is now the way we all communicate because I would like to be communicated like this. If anything, you need to compromise way more with the way you’re communicating. So I think, uh, when I first started this, I learned way too much on, okay, let’s shift our processes to basically accommodate for me, which is a very selfish way to think about things and then quickly moved that all the way back, um, to make sure that I could still keep guardrails, but it works and everyone else has a good quality of work and a quality of life.

Matthew: 39:46
Um, and I think that would also be like one of my biggest things that, uh, that I would say for like any new team looking to experiment with this is like, take small steps into remote work. You don’t need to just all of a sudden have all of your team go remote, have a remote day once a month that you can like go spend time with your team. If you want to really commit to this, do a remote week, give people a, a small amount of, uh, allowance where they can use two expense for wifi or maybe travel to a new location or maybe like go, go get an Airbnb for a couple of days in a different place and experiment. Like you’re going to learn a lot from doing that and I guarantee it, we’ll take it will completely help shape your approach and you may from that say, no, this isn’t for us and that’s okay.

Matthew: 40:38
But like just not even trying and not even opening it up. I think we’ll isolate out your ability to hire great talent and keep talent that would like to operate like that. Happy. That’s right. Have you hired people after switching or knowing that you were now able to hire remote? They have you hired people remotely that you wouldn’t have otherwise hired? Yeah, I would say probably almost half of the team now. So like, and actively hiring people now. And I know that there are just some roles where I’d just be like, I, I would really struggle to fill this role if I was, uh, focused on just having to be one location. Um, just because of like, not just because you can’t find the right person, but if you’re forcing someone want to be office space, you, they need to be excited about walking in office too when you’re operating within a certain location.

Matthew: 41:37
Right. Like there was also salary like that you need to take into account. You hire someone in San Francisco versus Dublin, right? That’s San Francisco salary for that same role, it’s probably going to be like at least 60% higher minimum. Really. Right. Otherwise that person, Connie even get like a one bedroom apartment, right? Like so there’s an, and you’re getting the same output, but it’s a different location. Similarly, in one location you’ve got huge amounts of recruiting competition. If you are trying to hire in like a huge tech hub where you’re competing with the likes of Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, et cetera, or Salesforce and co the talent, that means one, you’re going to have to pay more, which might not be an issue too. You’re going to have to offer something much more compelling to them from a Raul and three, you have to be more attractive than some of the largest tech companies in the world. Whereas if you can go hire someone in Denver remote, right? Like it’s a bit easier. So the, these are the kind of like, I think the things at play that really help with fat.

Aleyda: 42:44
That’s great. Yeah, I, I reckon that it was like a few years ago that everybody said like, you need to be in Silicon Valley to make it big, etc. And now people are realizing, no, it’s very expensive. Uh, the, the, the, the pool of talent is great, but it’s limited to a certain physical like geographical location and then you’re competing against all of this big tech attractive companies that offer done support, compensate compensation, uh, to, to hire this, this, this professionals, right? Instead of open it up to anybody in the, in the words it is.

Matthew: 43:17
Yeah. And I think the final thing I would say on that, which I think is incredibly important, it’s something that I would probably put near the top of my list when I think about like growing a team is like diversity, right? Like if you are hiring, uh, all of your team in the same, from the same location, right? It becomes very difficult to build a diverse team, right? Like Boston is a great example. Boston is full of white men, right? Like it’s, it’s uh, on a gender level, like it’s a lot easier, but it’s actually very, it’s a lot more challenging to hire diverse, like ethnically diverse individuals when you’re just hiring one individual place. And like the, this is not just about having like equality from a diversity point of view. Diverse people bring diverse ideas and they bring a new culture to the team and you bring people in from like, uh, Berlin from Madrid, you bring people in from Dublin, from London, from uh, Boston, from San Francisco, from Columbia and Japan. These people come together in this melting pot and create better ideas than people that are all in the ones team mindset. And I think that’s probably the best thing that remote work brings is diverse like interesting teams.

Aleyda: 44:40
Well, I, I love that more, more than just that Versiti because yeah, it, this is, this is healthier and et cetera, but also because it, it benefits for sure from whatevers, all these people are able to see and perceive all over the world and from an international perspective. So for sure. I love that you are able to identify that as a strength, that that can certainly help to, to grow with better ideas or shape or validate, uh, from a technological perspective or cultural perspective when we wouldn’t otherwise be able to clearly see for sure. That’s great. Thank you very much, Matthew. I really, really appreciate this. This officially insights, these are not the typical lean sides that are easy to do. Ask over. Yeah. And [inaudible] and I, I love that the much more, uh, the, the, the actionable type of approach and your openness to share this with us. I’m very, very happy to see that help spread has given you all the flexibility to the business and hopefully, because this is the thing right here, you’re also able to communicate well with your own directors and the bigger the structure and organization. Definitely.

Matthew: 45:55
Definitely. Well, thanks so much later. I love talking about stuff like this. Uh, and it’s been, yeah, it’s been a really enjoyable hour of my time. It’s been great.

Aleyda: 46:03
Thank you very much and hope to see you around.

Matthew: 46:05
See you later. Bye.

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One Comment

  1. Great interview – I was throw into remote working last year when my UK visa ended and I moved back to Australia, but kept reporting into the London team on a new contract. Before I moved, my manager and I put a rough plan together of how I could perform from the Sydney office – but given neither of us had experienced remote work before we couldn’t predict everything. This interview has given me a lot of concrete strategies for next time! Thanks Matt and Aleyda!

    30 January, 2020 Reply

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