My first week at a remote-first company

heetch logo high quality pink background

I’ve wanted to work remote for years. Having the ability to control my time, productivity and work habits seemed like a dream. Not to mention the lack of distractions, commuting or spending more time with my family!

So when looking for new jobs, I decided to apply to remote positions only. Long story short: a really cool remote-first company that is challenging Uber in France (and elsewhere!) called Heetch hired me, flew me to Paris for an amazing onboarding experience and sent me back to work.

One week later, I’m starting to notice how different it is to work remotely. The experience was interesting enough to write about.

Challenges

All the engineers at Heetch work remotely, and although we all use Slack for communication, everyone is busy with their own tasks. Working remotely is all about being more productive. Being able to bother someone and demand their time and attention by tapping on their shoulder is no longer possible (hallelujah!), so how do you solve problems?

A company with 70+ engineers creates a lot of code that needs to be maintained and code that newbies need to setup. Half of my first week was spent setting up a huge system pretty much on my own. Heetch’s documentation is great and without it, it would’ve been impossible to get started.

There still were a lot of issues that I and my other new team members encountered, but being remote doesn’t mean there’s no help, slowly but surely we managed to get up to speed.

In a normal office-first company the process would’ve been hugely different. The documentation would have been 10 times worse and instead of doing everything ourselves, we would’ve bothered someone to help us get everything running. There was no hand-holding whatsoever, and I loved it.

Humans are lazy by nature, we try to find the path of least resistance when facing challenges. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I managed to set up a system with hundreds of moving parts, using technologies I’ve never used before, fixing errors I had never seen. I learn a lot and hopefully made it easier for the future newbies by improving the documentation.

People fulfill expectations

I strongly believe in people. People tend to be as good as you let them be. Everyone will try to fit in the shoes you give them, filling all the space available. Give them too much space and they’ll spread too thin to do anything meaningful, too little and they can’t be free to explore and improve.

I used to be an applied physics mentor back in university, and the students going to my classes kept asking me questions I had no answer for! To my surprise, I was always able to give them an answer to their questions.

One semester before, I had been in the same class, with the same professor, learning the exact same things and now I was teaching these people as if I had any higher knowledge or had learned anything differently. How come?

Being able to answer their questions was a huge revelation for me! I could do it because they were dependant on me, I felt the pressure of having to understand the subject and to give them answers. I was expected to know, and that expectation translated into more effort from my part.

A student is not expected to have the answers, she’s expected to ask questions and to learn. A mentor, on the other hand, is expected to teach, understand and answer such questions.

Becoming a mentor changed what was expected of me. I was the same person but I performed differently and most surprisingly, better. All that changed was my position. I had to fit the shoes given to me and to fulfill expectations.

“We trust you”

Trust was mentioned multiple times in the onboarding when the subject of “working remotely” was brought up. If no one is checking whether you work or not, do you actually work?

I’ve been working at Heetch for one week but that’s enough to know that I’ll be enjoying my time here. We all enjoy removing our casual shoes and putting on our higher-performant, more comfy trainers. When you race, would you choose the mochaccinos or the Nike?

People fulfill expectations. “We trust you” is the biggest expectation setter. Goodbye casual shoes, hello efficient trainers.

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