FormAssembly & GitLab CEOs Talk Benefits of Remote Culture, How to Thrive in a Remote Environment


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We’re not the only company that sees the benefits of a remote work environment. GitLab Inc., creators of an open source software development platform, also has a remote policy in place. FormAssembly CEO Cedric Savarese and GitLab CEO Sytse (Sid) Sijbrandij got together recently for a “Pick Your Brain” interview to talk about remote culture, resulting in many useful insights into the benefits of remote work.
Read on for highlights from the conversation, and read more of the Q&A on GitLab’s blog.

Cedric: The larger the organization gets, the more they have to spread out, even if you’re not truly remote, you’re going to be in bigger buildings, you’re going to be in different buildings and then you’re going to be in satellite offices and so on, so in the end, you’re doing the same as a remote team.
Take Away: Growth is very possible for remote teams and even their sales departments, which are typically thought of as needing and benefitting from more in-person interaction. In fact, enterprise sales teams, whether in a remote company or a traditional office, may grow in a similar way because of their need to be geographically diverse.


Sid: We went from nine people to 150 people in two years, that is normally [when] your culture dilutes a lot because everyone kind of verbally – you get the telephone game where it gets worse over time. The message gets more garbled every time it’s transferred. Guess what, we don’t use telephone, we use a handbook, and the message doesn’t get more garbled, the message just gets better because continually we’re updating that so we don’t end up with a diluted culture, we end up with an enhanced culture and customs and practices.
Take Away: The trick to keeping culture steady even in the face of gigantic growth is adhering to one set of processes and procedures. Strong, agreed-upon rules provide a guide for work, even as a team grows.


Sid: When people are close to each other, we sometimes recommend, like, hey, this person’s close to you, consider, especially your first month, spending a day together every week or something. But not that often, and it’s not necessary, I think. But, there is value in having a buddy, so we assign a buddy. There is value in meeting people in the company, so we require everyone to have 10 virtual coffee breaks, and try to distill, the trick is distill what was the in-person thing good for? Well to have a very low-friction way of asking people a potentially stupid question. Well, assign them a buddy so they can ask those questions. Unpack what the interaction is and organize it.
Take Away: Interaction is important on a remote team, but it won’t look the same as it will in an in-office group. The key is identifying the reason that an in-office interaction or custom is helpful, and translating the meat of that to a remote environment.

Remote work isn’t just a fringe choice for how to conduct business. It’s the way many companies, FormAssembly included, bring together talented team members to produce amazing results for clients. Learn more about FormAssembly’s remote culture here.

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