Building a Remote-Friendly Engineering Culture at Enigma

Building a Remote-Friendly Engineering Culture at Enigma
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I'm a huge booster for remote work. I've done it for seven years. I love it. I think it can have a transformative impact on individuals and organizations. When one of my coworkers talks about hiring for a new role, I'm the person who asks, "Does this person have to live in New York?"

All those questions, it seems, have had an effect. Over the last few months I've had the opportunity to be involved in a series of conversations about how we make remote a key part of our growth strategy for Enigma. Enigma will always be a New York startup at heart, but there are limits to what can be achieved within the five boroughs. Hiring remote team members offers an opportunity to tap into a much larger pool of job-hunting engineers — particularly more senior engineers who prize flexibility in where they live.

Integrating remote engineers into an existing organization can be a tricky process. Fortunately, when I joined Enigma a year ago, the company was already doing a lot right. In order to support on-site client work and a robust work-from-home policy, day-to-day communication was mostly on Slack. The engineering process — prioritization, code review, etc. — was almost entirely asynchronous. Key meeting rooms had dedicated video hardware.

However, we’ve evolved from just having a few remote employees to now supporting remote employment as a critical part of our pitch to senior hires. That brings with it a new slate of challenges. Here's a few of the things we're doing to ensure future hires are set up for success:

  • Getting buy-in at all levels. Developing our new remote hiring strategy has involved all levels of leadership — from the CEO down to individual team leaders. Over the last few months we've gotten everyone on the same page to ensure there's absolutely no mixed messages about the importance of remote employees at Enigma.
  • Building clear channels to raise remote-specific issues. We now have a #remote channel in Slack, which is occupied not just by the current remote staff, but also by leadership who have endorsed our remote-friendly strategy — including our Vice President of People. Here remote workers can swap tips and develop best practices; and issues that arise go directly to those with the power to address them.
  • Developing career paths with remote hires in mind. The last thing anybody wants is for remote hires to feel like they will be stuck in one job forever, with no possibility of growth. Though we're not opening every job to remote applicants, we will be hiring for remote senior engineers and data scientists for multiple positions. That should provide opportunities to explore different roles as individuals grow. Since I was hired I've also become Enigma's first remote technical lead — I manage a team of five data engineers working on one of our core products — so growth opportunities are not limited to individual contributor roles.
  • Documenting best practices: Months ago we drafted a document for our Company handbook that describes best practices for successful remote work. That document has since been adopted by our People team and is used during the onboarding with all new remote hires. A few examples of what is included are: guidelines for hosting a call or meeting, expectations for company wide all hands, and how to pair program remotely. Our People team checks in regularly with all remote staff to ensure they are engaged and to gather any feedback for improvements.
  • Installing the same video hardware in every single conference room. Until now we've used a mixture of High Five and Google Meet in conference rooms — and some rooms had neither. In the coming months we'll be standardizing on a single solution and using it everywhere. With consistent video options, our remote employees are able to present at #shipped or in All Hands meetings, which is vital for their role in shaping company culture and establishing a regular presence at HQ, even when they’re several states away.

In my mind all of these changes boil down to one broader theme: embracing the role of remote employees at Enigma. We’ve got some amazing projects in front of us and we want to build them with the absolute best people we can find—wherever they may live.

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Interested in joining the Enigma team? We're hiring.