The Balkan Tech: Keitaro on remote teams

‘As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can. Remote shows both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any place, anytime, anywhere.’

Тhis is an excerpt from the book Remote from Jason Fried and DHH.

We sat down to talk to people from Keitaro, a Macedonian company that employs remote teams. We need a fresher perspective knowing that Balkan companies are not adopting remote work like the rest of the world.

Keitaro is an Open-Source software company. They became a trusted advisor in the Open Source community, developing ground-breaking solutions, empowering governments, nonprofit organizations and Fortune 500 companies across the globe.

They started out in 2012 with 5 people, and today they’re a company of around 40 people with a killer work ethic and drive. Their offices are in Macedonia, Germany, UK, USA, and Sweden, but everyone at Keitaro is free to live and work wherever they want.

Q1: Remote teams are easier to deteriorate since you can’t have after work beer and walk in the park to lose the pressure. What Team rituals do you practice to keep your Team tight?

We have 2 types of rituals — Kspresso and internal hackathons. The Kspresso sessions are organized and initiated by any of the team members on a certain topic. Whether our colleagues visited a conference, worked with a new framework or conducted research on a topic of their interest, they share their knowledge and experience with the whole team. The hackathons are organized out of the city, where we work on projects previously proposed by our team members. We must point out that at the hackathons, we pay special attention to team games. Additionally, every team member could join any of the locations at any time.

Q2: What are the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely?

We are all well introduced with the benefits for the employees from working remotely, like flexibility, avoiding the traffic jam, self-organization and cost savings. Also, working remotely improves work-life balance, because it provides an opportunity to balance the demands of both work and life. It promotes an overall healthier lifestyle by minimizing stress, having enough time for a break and exercise, and have fewer distractions. Working remotely allows our team members to structure their own workday without having someone look over their shoulder, worry about what to wear, or similar.
Overall, it increases the level of productivity. Our employees can take fewer breaks, limit the distractions and have enough time to focus on the projects.

Q3: How does a Keitaro job interview look like?

Our work interview takes approximately 30 minutes. It is informal and we try to make it as comfortable as possible to both our candidates and ourselves. We talk freely and openly about Keitaro, candidate’s personal and professional experiences and interests, side-projects, ambitions, etc. The interview is not necessarily technical.
We absolutely value soft skills, personal integrity, and personal responsibility. We nurture our company culture — making it a crucial factor when deciding who joins our team. The aspects that we consider are the candidate’s personality, relevant technical skills, self-motivation, self-organization and will for continuous self-development.

Q4: Diversity in Tech teams is something that creates an environment for a fresh perspective, constructive feedback, positive unpredictability, and growth. International teams are one way to diversify the company and refresh perspective. What is your outlook on Team Diversity?

Having team members of different backgrounds can significantly broaden a team’s ability to tackle obstacles. Our diverse team has the opportunity to offer more solutions while challenging each others’ viewpoints as a means of identifying the best possible solution.
Regarding their different backgrounds and experiences, at Keitaro there is always a productive conversation on new tools or technical problem-solving.

Q5: Why are you focused on Open-Source?

Our passion for Linux and open-source defines and motivates us to give back to the community and support its development.
As an open source company, there are many reasons why we are focused on open-source, but let’s talk about the most important ones. First of all, it is the future of the IT industry, as it improves security, it is easy to use and learn, and most importantly there is always space for innovation and further development.
Open source improves quality. For example, if the code is flawed, the developer community could easily identify it and address the problem quickly.
Another reason is that it provides agility. Even though we use agile development, the point is that there is business agility, the ability to react quickly on the marketplace demands. It provides us the opportunity to develop outstanding solutions while evolving and improving as a team.

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