Building Remotely: Overcoming the Challenges of a Global Product Team

August 10, 2017 | Accelerator, Blog

Building Remotely: Overcoming The Challenges of a Global Product Team

On BlackRock accelerator day 2, we had the fortune of having Singapore-based Su Yuen Chin, Co-Founder and CEO of MomoCentral, come speak to our cohort. Su Yuen is an expert in product development and managing a remote, global product team, as her company employs 40 designers and developers from all around the world. Through this work, Su Yuen has become adept at handling the challenges that come with working with team members across time zones and cultures. On Thursday, she shared some tips on how to get the most out of your team, regardless of where in the world they are working.

Know What Your Hiring Goals Are

It’s critical to define goals before beginning the interviewing and hiring process. Su Yuen warns not to treat every hiring decision like you’re looking for a co-founder, when you really just need a junior engineer who may not be around long-term. A rigorous interview process is required for a full-time c-level hire, but shouldn’t be so for a remote designer or engineer. 

This is not to say you should hire indiscriminately. While it’s tempting to rely on recommendations from friends, it’s best to establish your own system for reviewing candidates. Make the roles in your company clear and well-defined, and don’t spend too much time vetting someone who doesn’t require it. As you’re evaluating candidates, be wary of fake resumes and copied portfolios. Unfortunately these pop up more often than you imagine. 

When it comes to strong candidates, the best hires are algorithmic thinkers who can pick up new languages and documentation quickly. An excellent way to test this is to assign tests and projects to reveal a candidate’s design and programming aptitude. Understanding an applicant’s thought process is just as important as evaluating the finished project.

Build Strong Company Culture

How do you build a strong company culture when many of your employees rarely (if ever) interact face to face? Su Yuen says it starts by investing in your team. Sponsor GRE exams, textbooks, online courses for employees looking to hone new skills, or even extended monitors which increase productivity. If you demonstrate that you care about your employees’ personal growth, they will care about the growth of the company.

Even if you’re working with remote teams, it’s still important employees get to know each other. Facilitate this by having teams virtually connect and discuss prior experiences and future goals. In addition to building better relationships, this makes it easier for teams to recognize teammates’ strengths and rely on each other for support.

Su Yuen Chin

Create Efficient Lines of Communication

Developing a clear communication structure is key for any young company. Communication is difficult across time zones, so rather than micro-managing (which nobody likes), build trust by setting expectations and holding regularly scheduled check-ins. Su Yuen likes having her remote employees send her two emails a day: one outlining the day’s goals in the morning and an end of day email listing accomplishments.

Su Yuen encourages teams to reduce reliance on real-time communication tools, and build trust instead. Always have one key point of contact for each team. This way, you don’t have to get whole group together every time someone has a question or wants to check progress on a task.

Working Better, Faster.

Su Yuen recommended the follow tools for for efficient product development and management:

  • InVision App – a powerful prototyping and collaboration platform
  • Kanboard – an excellent project management tool
  • GitPrime – data aggregator that makes engineering teams more efficient
  • Bitbucket or GitHub – for hosting and reviewing code

She also reinforced the importance of wireframes, which are critical for even the smallest features. Wireframes giving every developer a common point of reference for the project. They can be simple and unpolished, but they must convey the general design and flow of a product or feature.

Following these tips can help your organization hire smart and build a team that runs like a well-oiled machine regardless of any geographical and infrastructural divides. Thank you so much to Su Yuen Chin for sharing these lesson with us, and to BlackRock for making our third accelerator session possible!