Last week I celebrated six months at 1xINTERNET. This time has been full of new experiences in many ways, so I thought I should do my own retrospective of this ‘first long sprint’ and share what I experience every day by working in and for such a special work environment.
Here is the the secret sauce of awesomeness at 1xINTERNET, my new family.
The secret sauce
Okay, I didn’t want to spoil it in the beginning, but the key is openness.
We like to use the term ‘diversity’ nowadays. It became a trend in the past few years, but there is a huge difference between talking about it and actually doing it, and also if you do not open your mind to the world, you cannot really do diversity right, so I believe that being open comes first.
And when you do it right, you can learn a lot both personally and professionally.
So how does it work ‘in action’?
Diversity comes with many faces - it can be about gender, it can be about religion, it can be about family and geographical origins, it can be about professional experiences, and many many other things. At 1x we are as diverse as a(n ‘almost randomly formed) group of people can be, in one word, we are humans.
The first time I talked to Baddy, our CEO, in person was at DrupalCon Vienna, in 2017. We were sitting in a bar in the Museumsquartier, and she (with joy and honest pride on her face) was talking about how the 1x team has a Hungarian girl working with them, who actually was an accountant before and then she realized frontend development is her true path. Melinda practically knocked on the office door, got hired and she has been doing an awesome job ever since. Back then I didn’t know much about the company, but this definitely made my eyes and ears open to hear more about how the team works together. For me this story was about openness to people, no matter what background they have, and for me this is true diversity and inclusion.
The language(s) we speak
Working in an environment, where only a few speak English on native level, is a challenge. We speak broken English, and yes, sometimes in a professional situation we need to reformulate our words and sentences, furthermore, we misunderstand each other in some cases, but when you get the feel of it, that is definitely something easy to get over with. Overcoming these small challenges makes us and our language (and communication) skills grow. When I work from the Frankfurt office, I love sitting in different rooms, where I hear my colleagues speaking in German, Icelandic, Ukrainian or Spanish (and English of course), and sometimes Hungarian. Our (smaller) tower of Babel is actually pretty cool. Even Benni, the dog is speaking 3 languages!
The highlight of my first half a year was definitely the company ‘End of the year’ dinner, where we sang Happy birthday to Pablo in more than a dozen languages. How can you feel more included than that?
it’s not chaos, it’s 1xINTERNET
Then comes multiculturalism. Being open doesn’t only mean that you understand diversity, but it also means that you are able to open your mind to experiences which are new to you. Working at a multicultural company requires this openness.
When I joined the Drupal community back in 2013, the first thing I learned was that diversity can either be a blessing or curse (when someone doesn’t understand how to adapt to it). In our team I find it a blessing, because it shows that we are only human after all, and it gives us a lot of opportunities to grow and learn a lot from each other and to really accept that people are different in many ways.
For example in what you like to talk about (and what you don’t like to talk about), what jokes ‘sit’ and what is maybe too much. How you should give feedback, and how to help each other understand your ways. This is something you need to learn, when you work at an international company, where the team members come from different places from all over the world (we have over 15 nationalities in our team!). Also this is a sort of key to openness - to understand that people are different, and accept why and how they are different.
Before I joined 1xINTERNET, for me the default was to wake up in the morning, get my things together, go to an office to spend 8-9-10+ hours and work there, then go home. Working remotely completely changed my life, and I have to be honest, I am still adapting to it.
Despite the popular concept, learning how to work from home is not about ‘sitting in front of your computer on your couch in a jumper’, it is mainly about understanding how the work itself becomes different and sometimes challenging.
Despite being a small company, we have four offices in Europe, and in addition to that 10 team members, who work remotely completely (all together at least from 14 locations!). This creates an interesting situation - it needs work and adaptation from both sides. Of course we use Slack and Google Meet a lot, but that is far from enough.
When you don’t have your colleagues in the next room, you simply learn doing your job differently. Being patient and well organized is a must, because you might not get immediate answer to your questions, and you also need to get into flow to do your job. I personally have learned a lot and I can use my time much better now, then I did six months ago, and I can feel the effectiveness in the everyday work I do.
Communication is key
Also, working remotely means feedback is given differently. At 1x, instead of observing others’ work with magnifying glass, we focus on progress and success.
It is about acknowledging the fact that even if we are all different, we are working for the same purpose, we need to encourage our team members to do things and help them when they struggle with something. And even though we are different, we know that honesty and being straightforward always moves things forward, and communication is an important part of tackling issues. I am really happy to have colleagues who I can trust with my questions and who will say what they want to say to help me, and not what I want to hear. This approach helps people grow professionally in the best way.
This is an important factor in working with remote team members, and because of the chemistry we all have this is working out well. Overcoming cultural differences can be really easy, but you need to start doing it.
I would love to hear about your work environment, and especially if you have good tricks for remote teams - what works the best for you? What is your secret sauce to being awesome?