Building a strong development team for your company is challenging, but building a remote development team is another level of complexity that can often seem overwhelming. Even though this may seem like a tough feat, opening up the talent pool from your city to across the U.S., and beyond, allows the opportunity to find talent that best fits your company.
Upstack has been fortunate to become a resource for engineering managers when they need to start or scale remote engineering teams, and along the way, we’ve learned a ton from these technologist thought leaders about how they review, interview, and hire top talent.
There are some simple practices that can help ease the search for the right people to be a part of your team:
First, you must determine why you need to utilize a remote worker. The need can be anything from saving money and resources to wanting new input and diversity among your team. Figuring out the need for a remote worker helps determine what qualifications you need and how the remote worker will be implemented into the company.
Testing Technical Acumen
The best remote engineers, and engineers in general, relish the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise in meaningful, real-world scenarios. Seeking out the best remote engineers is a careful balance of ensuring acumen with the theoretical side of engineering as well as the confidence and practical knowledge required to actually write said code.
When choosing the right candidate for the job, take into consideration the insight gleaned from how a candidate approaches the interview process. Time management and promptness can show how the candidate will interact with clients and staff. Are they on time for the interview? Can you depend on them to hold up these qualities moving forward? When dealing with remote workers, these qualities are key, since accountability outside of a traditional office has its own nuances and complexities.
Is the candidate proactive, or does it take prodding for them to expand upon their thinking and share information? How responsive are they on chat? Looking into the way a candidate communicates in terms of efficiency and clarity can be early indicators of how they will work on a remote team. The best are amazing at what they do and are delighted at the opportunity and challenge to break down technical concepts for non-technical people. You want people who communicate quickly and effectively and can understand both the industry and the audience.
Most of all, the most efficient remote teams look for talented people who can blend all of these aspects across multiple mediums, and replicate, or even exceed the value of traditional face-to-face interaction. They are true polyglots not in the tech stack, but in communication as well.
Don’t overlook the logistics: prioritizing a certainty that your remote workers are positioned for success at basic technical levels will save massive headaches in the future. Senior developers, as with any humans, despite being extraordinarily talent, are prone to distraction and disruption. The best leaders of remote engineering teams are empathetic and perceptive enough to zero in on how best to accommodate the needs of their talent while balancing the needs of the project, product or business as a whole. What can you do to make sure that these engineers are positioned to do their best work?
Search for Leaders, or Help Develop Them
Plenty of developers can easily code without ever wanting to be responsible for other people, but cultivating a sense of leadership and ownership among your remote teams pays dividends. A leader can become a true asset for your company in terms of their ability to motivate a team and aim for success on deadlines and quality. Can they mentor, delegate, convince and influence the team to take clear directions? Take this a step further with the remote worker. Can they lead a team without needing to be present in a room? Can they mentor, delegate, and influence from a few states or even countries away?
A remote leader can do all of that, and more, by fostering a sense of responsibility, pride, and ownership, emphasizing the big picture without the need for physical visualization. A leader can and will always push for project success. An engaged and inspired developer will often seek out and find opportunities to improve not just working protocols, but the actual product itself.
Take on Explorers
When looking over resumes, despite the tendency to focus exclusively on credentials and raw years of experience, engineering leaders do themselves a disservice by glossing over personal and passion projects, which can serve as a fantastic measure of what motivates and inspires top talents. Do they maintain an interest in the latest trends in software development? When developers pursue personal projects — be it their own applications, contributions to FOSS-y software, or engagement/mentorship within their community, they are demonstrating a forward-thinking mindset and trying to understand the deeper thinking behind the technologies that they work with. The best engineering leaders know that this is a careful balance — experts know not to fear developers who pursue their passions, but also ensure that they have the bandwidth to deliver on the projects they take on, as members of a remote team.
At a fundamental level, programming can be broken down into a series of logical operations.
It is unlikely that you will see two developers come up with the same solution. The best candidates pride themselves on clean documentation that’s quickly “grokked” by other developers who might come after or alongside them. They also have the ability to present their thoughts and take feedback. Remote workers who excel in their trade see this as an opportunity to both highlight their contributions and aid others in their own interrelated tasks. That inconvenience won’t deter the best candidates: to the contrary, they are the unique individuals that can take what they’re given and adapt to the situation, sans-frustrations or complaints.
Avid readers of DevProJournal are uniquely attuned to the reality that remote software development work isn’t for everyone, but for the seasoned engineer, it represents a real opportunity to do their best work. For the engineering leader, it presents a critical competitive advantage: a global office with global-class talent. Don’t hesitate to seek out those in your employ with existing remote experience — they’ll have their own unique tips and tricks, coupled with a keen understanding of the existing company culture… this results in a special sort of alchemy that positions these distributed engineer teams for continued success with each project.