High Performance Nearshore Team
Working on a new idea is always motivating and challenging. You want to execute your idea fast so that you can measure impact on the user. At the moment, you might have a small team working along with you and you might be working in the same room or office almost every day. However, once your product goes out in the market and starts gaining positive traction with the user, the next challenge is about scaling up the product, team and processes. The product, team and processes each pose their own challenges. In my view, scaling up the team is the most difficult. You need a team with the right mind-set, who can help you to bring the product to next level.
As an engineering manager, this is one of the most difficult challenges you have to deal with. You have to strategically thinking about scaling up your engineering team so you can deliver the best product in the efficient way. I strongly believe that we can only deliver innovative products and services to the users by creating smart cross functional teams working closely together, which can build, deploy and test the product hypothesis quickly. To scale up your team in the correct way, the very first thing to focus is on your recruitments process. It’s easy and fast to ask a nearshore company to provide you the resources but this is the wrong approach! This approach to recruitment can damage collaboration and the morale of a team.
In my view, you should adopt bottom up approach to recruitment. Your cross function team should engage in the recruitment process of every individual in the team, including the nearshore team. Yes, this interviewing approach takes time, but it will pay off in the long run. You will have your team’s buy to in the newly-hired team members and there are higher changes that you have recruited the than just right talent in the team. If you have been recruiting in London, you’ll probably sure agree that it’s incredibly difficult to compete for the best talent. This is made much harder when you want to scale up your team in a short span of time. So your options are to either delay the product or explore a nearshore/offshore team model. Delaying the product is rarely viable, so your only option is to recruit a nearshore or offshore. There are different nearshore/offshore models that you can look into depending on your team strategies, product requirements and budgets. However, if you are looking for strong collaboration between remote teams and you want to run the team as one unit then my experiences shared in this article might help you.
As a leader in the company, you should be thinking strategically about an offshore/nearshore model to scale up your team in the long-term. Many successful companies exploit this model to their advantage. Offshore/nearshore models often misunderstood. Some people often relate offshore/nearshore model as a way to minimise the cost. In my view, this is not always true. Companies have to leverage international talent to maintain competitive advantage, scale-up the team and operate efficiently.
An effective nearshore team offers competitive advantage and can help you scale-up the team to deliver the product efficiently.
You should never compromise your engineering quality. The engineers in your nearshore team should be approximately the same quality/skill level as their local counterparts. Having inferior nearshore engineering team often creates frustration in your local team and this impacts product quality. The following items, which I have applied while setting up very high-performing nearshore team, can be used as guidelines:
1. Creative and smart engineers
2. Good English communication
4. Believe in pull and push culture
5. Positive mindset
6. One team vision
7. Believe in the product vision
Setting up a nearshore team
You should start by thinking about your interviewing process. I would suggest you follow the same interview process for local and nearshore teams. I have applied the following process to set up high-performing nearshore teams:
1. Brief job descriptions, culture and values with the nearshore recruitment team
2. Share the team’s journey so far with the nearshore recruitment team
3. Nearshore recruitment team screens the CVs and sends the CV to you for review
4. London engineering team reviews the CV and provides the initial feedback
5. If London engineering team likes the CV, the team invites first round of technical interviews over Skype, including coding for an hour
6. If candidate passes both rounds, I interview the candidate for an hour
7. If the candidate passes all rounds, then we proceed to an offer
As you can see, there are many steps involved in the recruitment process. Our initial rejection rate was very high and we struggled to find candidates good enough to meet our requirements. In the initial four months, we found one very good candidate. In that time, we shipped another product, which customers loved and was featured in Apple Store and Google Play. This was a great success story for the team. After having various discussions with nearshore recruitment team, it was clear that the recruitment team was not doing a great job of telling our team’s success stories. To help the recruitment team, we developed a presentation that outlined our achievements and asked them to share the presentation with candidates or as part of job advert in the local market. After that, we quickly started receiving good CVs and hired the team there over the next couple of months.
Once you start making offers to the nearshore candidates, your next challenge will be to ensure that remote teams are well connected and have strong collaboration with your local team. This is where nearshore team onboarding plays a critical part. We have onboarded every engineer face-to-face including the following topics:
1. Why the team exists
2. The team’s journey so far
3. Team charter
4. Team culture and values
5. Engineering security guidelines
6. PCI-DSS training
7. Engineering practices, including branching, code review and merging, CI/CD, coding guidelines and tools
8. One team vision
9. Product roadmaps
10. Learning about from the engineer, their background, interests and skills
11. Codebase walkthrough
12. Onboarding feedback
I have strong belief that onboarding is the key for integration of new engineers in the team. It’s also important to understand them individually, understand cultural differences and what really motivates them. I have been flying nearshore along with one/two of my London engineers to help onboard every engineer there. In addition, it’s important to connect the team face to face, make them feel welcome in the team and set the team up for success.
In addition, I will also share my one-team vision idea and how have we achieved this. It can be difficult to achieve agile ways of working with the remote teams and ensure flow of information, ideas, brainstorming and engaging the team in the decisions that impact them. Here are the some strategies, which enable us to achieve the one-team vision:
1. Listen and value remote team ideas
2. Engage them in the decisions that impact them
3. Empower the teams
4. Regular team visits
5. Celebrate success together
6. Have team building exercise regularly
These strategies have worked for us. Our remote team is as effective as our local team. They are high-performing and engage in the decision making. Collaboration between local and nearshore team is strong and the team always discuss, debate, challenge and move as one team.