Ellen Wong, Director of Engineering at Calm

How to lead and work on hybrid teams

Closing out Season 2 of Lead Time Chats, in Episode 12, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, chats with Ellen Wong, Director of Engineering at Calm, about practical advice for working on a hybrid team.

Ellen and Jean discuss:

  • The questions you should be asking when interviewing for a remote or hybrid team.
  • Having the team (and not just the manager) feel ownership of having healthy hybrid and remote processes that are inclusive and effective.
  • How to set up working across timezones so that it can bring regular moments of delight and momentum, not just create friction.
  • Times when they both failed to create inclusive hybrid environments
  • Techniques to create visibility (and celebrate!) of the impact of your work and your team's work

Takeaways from Ellen

Three key things companies need to get hybrid right

“There are three key things that a company needs to get right for remote employees and for those who are in office. One is you need a space to build trust, rapport, and to have fun. The in-office is more obvious where you're in the kitchen together, maybe in a hallway, you can have those chats, but you need to create that space for remote employees too.

And two, especially for technical roles like engineering, there needs to be clear process on technical and even non technical decision-making. Do you have an inclusive process where regardless of if something is remote or in-person, they have equal opportunity and say in a process of decision-making.

And the third piece is to actually have a process that can surface problems frequently and early.”

Remote employees want to know that they won't be excluded from decision-making

“There was a candidate that I talked to where, during some of the closing calls, the candidate was like, how do you all deal with the fact that some of us are going to be remote and some people are going to be in the office? How do you do the meetings? How do you do the technical decision making? So then one layer deeper, because this person is likely going to be remote, was like, oh, am I going to be cut out of like, you know, crucial discussions and learning and perhaps cut out of decision-making?”

Ask the important questions to make sure remote isn't going to be a constant uphill battle

“If I were a remote candidate, I would ask, what is the percentage of your leaders or employees that are remote? Because if you're the only one, chances are, it's going to be tough, because a lot of what changes processes or get people's behavior to change is empathy. If you're disproportionally unique and disadvantaged, it's going to be an uphill battle regardless.”

A healthy hybrid team can create moments of delight and momentum

“Every day we used to call it like Christmas morning, because every morning we would wake up. This person who was in a different time zone has already done like a write-up and analysis, prototype, you know, as he was working in this slightly different time zone, we would wake up and like, oh my God, he just took all of our notes and took it to the next level. And so that ended up working out really well. Definitely much credit to this particular remote engineer. He was just amazing at like being able to work with whatever circumstance. You do want a team culture where everyone wants to make everyone else successful. So I think that's really key.”

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About Lead Time Chats

Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

Lead Time Chats is brought to you by Range. Range helps hybrid teams check-in asynchronously about what matters most. Know what's happening through status updates that pull from tools like Github and JIRA without scheduling yet another meeting.

Checking-in with Range creates more focus time for heads-down work, all while feeling a deeper sense of connection and belonging with your team. To learn more about Range, you can check it out here.

Season 2 Episodes

» Episode 1: Camille Fournier on making boring plans

» Episode 2: Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers

» Episode 3: Kim Scott on building for systemic justice

» Episode 4: Sumeet Arora on moving on from a big company

» Episode 5: Rachael Stedman on IC manager work

» Episode 6: Chris Bee on Behaviors of Effective Eng Leaders

» Episode 7: Lynne Tye on the Engineering Hiring Landscape

» Episode 8: Beau Lebens on Distributed Team Meetups

» Episode 9: Indrajit Khare on Getting Acquired by Google

» Episode 10: Jack Danger on Technical Debt

» Episode 11: Sarah Milstein on Successful Remote and Hybrid Teams

Season 1 Episodes

» Episode 1: Will Larson on the path of the senior engineer

» Episode 2: Duretti Hirpa on mentoring junior and mid-level engineers

» Episode 3: Cate Huston on working with an external coach

» Episode 4: Juan Pablo Buriticá on common eng manager mistakes

» Episode 5: Gergely Orosz on the decision to go into management

» Episode 6: Lara Hogan on leading effectively in a pandemic

» Episode 7: Kaya Thomas on common early career engineer challenges

» Episode 8: Uma Chingunde on starting a VPE role in a pandemic

» Episode 9: Katie Wilde on supporting your team's mental health

» Episode 10: Akhil Gupta on navigating uncertainty in new roles

» Episode 11: Harper Reed on giving everyone a voice in team meetings

» Episode 12: Marc Hedlund on sponsorship

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Ellen Wong on working on a hybrid team
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