maciej łebkowski
Maciej Łebkowski

Building a remote-only team

in Professional

I was starting to get a little worried for a while. The Docplanner Phone team is a young one, we just got together. And one of the main forces shaping us is… The pandemic. For example, Ania, our onboarding & training specialist, joined the day the lockdown began. She was able to grab a laptop and go home. We didn’t have an opportunity to see her in person for another few months.

This is why I’m worried. It’s hard to build a great relationship without face to face contact. Especially for people that weren’t used to remote work, and were expecting to share an office 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. No coffee and small talk during the day. No integration parties. No common hobbies like board games, bowling, or PlayStation. No casual discussions about the code or the product. Or at least very limited in comparison to what could have been.

We try to mitigate and make the best of the situation we’re in. We once held an integration meeting via Zoom. But this doesn’t mean I didn’t envy other Docplanner Tech teams. They knew each other for months or years. They had a relationship build already and it could easily withstand this period of remote work, even if people were longing for office and face to face contact. They were hanging in discord voice channels, or a background Google Meet room. This didn’t feel natural to us, probably because we didn’t have this previous relation, and it’s easier to maintain a team than to build one from scratch using these methods.

Recently something eased my mind a little. I and Patryk reviewed some code from a candidate’s assignment. After leaving several dozen of comments (the PR had around 2.5KLoC), Patryk mentioned to me:

– It’s been long since I’ve seen such a thorough review!
– What are you talking about? Have you seen our Docplanner Phone reviews?

I sent him an example of our review with nearly 100 comments for a 2 KLoC pull request. Then another for with 60 comments / 0.8 KLoC. And another with 55 comments over 500 LoC (hey, don’t ask me how I remember those pull requests, it’s just something I know).

He was amazed that we did so in-depth reviews, totally disproving the rule, that you can only get 50 comments if your PR doesn‘t exceed 5 LoC. I asked him to share his thoughts with my team on our public slack channel, so they know first-hand that we had something that can be admired. 😄 To put it in his own words:

Folks, I saw your pull requests and I have great respect for you guys. Too many times have I seen a code review only mentioning style errors or missing type hints. You, on the other hand, seem to always talk about the solution architecture, discuss different approaches, have a civil conversation about it and it looks like you use a lot of brains to do it. That’s great of you, #kudos. 💪 And on top of that, you have a totally active, public slack channel. Love the transparency and openness. Nice!

It seems that what we lack in terms of team building, we make up in work culture and principles. I would like to believe that this can create an even stronger bond between us: feedback, trust, transparency, and honesty. Maybe we can make do without those beer fridays after all?

Patryk is a member of our Development Quality team. It’s nice to hear that what we’ve built can be envied by one of the most developer-focused teams of the company. And we haven’t even picked up the pace yet! There are great things that await us. ❤

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About the author

My name is Maciej Łebkowski. I’m a full stack software engineer, a writer, a leader, and I play board games in my spare time. I’m currently in charge of the technical side of a new project called Docplanner Phone.

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