The Perks of Going Distributed

Since our early days, CircleCI has purposely embraced building a global workforce. This simple choice has given us many advantages. First, we have access to the best talent on Planet Earth. The great variety of viewpoints we have access to helps us make better decisions. Equally important: it allows us to continuously deliver value to our customers 24 hours a day. Having team members all over the world brings many advantages for us as a company.

What’s even more valuable, though, is knowing that the flexibility to work remotely confers some pretty great benefits on our global employees as well. We asked them what they liked about working remotely, and here are some of their favorite perks:

  • The perfect office. You get to choose (or construct) your ideal work environment: whether that means more quiet and fewer social distractions, or the sound of songbirds outside your open window and the gentle rumble of your dog snoring peacefully at your feet.
  • No time wasted. You can trade long commutes on crowded trains for more free time spent with friends, family, or favorite hobbies.
  • Unlimited flexibility. Reduce the stress of balancing family and work obligations by time-shifting your schedule as needed.

How We Do It

CircleCI the company is comprised of 111 people (and growing!), and of those 36 are remote– a third of the company! Some of our teams have a larger remote component than others, based on the kind of work they’re doing, and what type of setup allows us to best serve our customer needs. Some teams, such as engineering, are a natural fit for asynchronous work, as they can grab the context they need from shared resources like Slack and Github, and then go heads down and work solo. Other teams, such as Marketing and Sales, benefit from being primarily in the same location at the same time; for example, being able to share real-time feedback with a teammate after a sales call can help team members iterate and improve their process more quickly.

We’ve been a distributed team from the start; operating asynchronously is built into our DNA. Because of this history, so many of the practices that we have around location-agnostic collaboration have been with us as long as we’ve been a company. And we’ve worked hard to ensure that as we’ve grown we’ve scaled our ability to be an inclusive workplace for all, regardless of work location.

“This is my 2nd remote job and the two biggest differences CircleCI makes to me is the trust we’re given and how much everyone legitimately cares. The ability to work remotely is one thing, but CircleCI gives me the chance to thrive remotely. Truly kickass.” -Ryan O’Hara, Senior Customer Success Engineer, Colorado

How have we done this? From the start we’ve embraced practices of communication that ensure that one doesn’t have to be on-site to be in the loop. This filters down into everything from investing in solid A/V to the way we plan out and execute our tasks as a team.

Invest in Systems that Support

Here are some of the things that have worked for us in supporting a distributed workforce:

  • Create a culture of trust. “It’s not specific to remote work, but healthy remote work is impossible if there isn’t a broad understanding that everyone is trusted to do their job. If there’s even the slightest belief that remote workers are not working as hard as the folks in the offices then effective remote work becomes extremely difficult.” -Conor McDermottroe, Developer, Dublin
  • Encourage equal opportunity. “I never heard reasoning in decision makings such as ‘[this person] cannot work on this because they are remote’ from anyone in CircleCI. Also, I think we make efforts to share information and decisions in the Internet (e.g. Slack or Google Docs) so that everybody can see it whether you are local or remote.” -Hirokuni Kim, Developer, Tokyo
  • Embrace multi-media. “It is much easier to be engaged in video conference than when it is just voice calls. I couldn’t do this job remotely without video conferencing.” -Jonathan Morris, Director of Sales, Los Angeles
  • Get together. Hold regular in-person all-hands meetings, as we’ve been doing since the days when we could all fit around one restaurant table. “All-hands have been great opportunities to meet other coworkers and to feel as though we share a purpose.” -Nate Smith, Developer, Toronto

BerlinTeam.png The mobile team at small all-hands (aka “small hands” in Berlin)

You Can Do It, Too

Those are some of the things we do as a company to keep our distributed organization running more or less smoothly. But being a remote worker is not without its challenges on an individual level. And our team has learned a few things after many mornings of opening Slack and dialing in to Zoom. Here are some of their tips that have made working-from-elsewhere work for them:

“If it’s your first remote gig, expect to feel ‘off balance’ and unproductive for a couple months. It’s very easy to let your work/life balance skew in either direction: not enough work or too much work. My personal lifehack to avoid working too late is to have a wife who gets home at 6:30 and is annoyed if I make her wait too long for dinner. This may not work for everyone but it’s effective when possible.” -David Goeke, Developer, Sonoma County, CA

“Develop a strong daily routine.” -Rose Kaplan-Bomberg, Success Engineer, NYC

“I highly recommend coming in to the office from time to time, to interact with so many of the other employees, and support those relationships.” -Jonathan Morris, Director of Sales, Los Angeles

CircleCI supports diversity of all kinds. Read David Lopez’s letter to queer youth to learn what was helpful while marketing and interviewing as a queer person.

I want to share what I’ve learned to help queer youth by make it through the doors of whatever tech company, and onto a team that will embrace their skills, support their ambitions, and accept their identity. Here’s what has helped me:

Want to work for a company that values contribution over location? Check out our open roles.