Soon the convenience of remote work will fall into the list of topics that it is better not to discuss with strangers - along with politics and religion. About her does not converge. Some managers say it’s time to cancel offices, and soon the industry will do it. Others on the contrary - the industry was disappointed and convenes everyone back under the same roof.
There is a moment of unity in the dispute: a remote approach needs a special approach, certain qualities, and not everyone will cope with it.
This and not only we talked with the company Devhab, which solves the problems remotely by finding a balance between strict rules and an informal atmosphere.
How did Devhab begin?
In the middle of the 2000s, when online trading was still something exotic, Alexander Samsonov opened a pet shop website. Together with a friend, he worked on it for three years and then sold it to finish university. After working as an online hiring sales manager, he decided to open his consulting firm.
“At zero, e-commerce was actively developing, and I understood that there were not enough managers of online stores in the country, and companies wanted to enter the market. Therefore, I started consulting and started several projects, ”says Alexander.
For a new business, he was looking for a modern-minded accountant who would understand in distance trading. The man whom Alexander found was thinking even broader - he himself was looking for developers for one complex project. So the company, which was later called Devhab, had the first order.
“The project was called“ Flow FM ”. At the customer in 30 cities of Russia were placed servers with multi-channel FM tuners that collected data around 27 radio stations around the clock. With their help, we had to create a radio monitoring system so that advertisers, by launching advertising in several regions, could follow where and when it sounded. ”
The system had to analyze the data, compare them with the standard, look for discrepancies in the air and determine their character. The team wrote and designed the interface for the client, the entire server part that worked with raw data - but the team consisted of only four people.
“It was a difficult project. He came first, quite by accident, and we, of course, underestimated him. It took a lot of time, and we earned less than we wanted, but we learned a lot. On this project, we have conceived and formed an approach to technology and architecture, which we have been following all these years. It was then that I realized that development was more interesting to me than online commerce. ”
But it was only the first complex and not meeting all expectations of the project. For several years, the company struggled to survive in the market and was looking for its place.
“It was difficult to survive, so we took on everything. They did corporate websites, worked as subcontracts for advertising agencies. Until 2013, they took both major projects and every little thing. Only in the fourteenth year I felt a certain turning point. Perhaps by that time we finally understood how to work in this market. Then we learned to sell ourselves at Time & amp; Materials »
How the team works now
Now in Devhab there are about forty people who lead more than ten projects. The company is now engaged in both development and consulting - but not the way Alexander wanted at the very beginning. They advise how to develop an IT product.
“We often act as a technology partner for entrepreneurs. Their head hurts about business and sales, and they delegate technical and product issues to us.We can say we specialize in developing new startups. If everything goes well and takes off, then after a year or two we help the customer to support the product and assemble its own team. ”
Alexander describes the work as follows: his team forms a development strategy - starting with MVP, ending with how to launch a product, properly spend money, collect feedback and go further. “After we have formed a business part, we write specifications, technical specifications, we begin to design the interface, then design. In parallel, we can begin development. ”
Inside the approach to projects, the atmosphere of hakatons reigns - this is how the frontend developer Igor Deryabin describes it. “Our teams are going to be like small parties between friends. The atmosphere is informal and friendly, despite the fact that there is a requirement to do the work well. "
The team includes an account that communicates with the client, collects requirements and discusses working conditions. He is followed by a project manager who distributes these requirements among developers, manages release plans and rolling out projects. He is actually the technical director who is responsible for the architecture, integration, quality, documentation and at the same time manages the team.
Two leading developers are assigned to each project - technical support. One on the backend, the other to the front. The techlids take two or three developers each. “People can change in the process. When the process is stabilized, and the framework of the main features is ready - the lead developer can proceed to the next project and leave his legacy to another. ”
This system has very strict code requirements.
“When a new developer comes to the project, the first few weeks he is constantly being reviewed. When he masters, do it less and less. With this approach, it still turns out to keep the code base in integrity.
Everything that can be done without hands, we try to automate. We have templates for quick project deployment, there are templates with ready-made structures, so that all projects are on the same platform. We try to unify projects as much as possible - everything that is possible is brought to a common standard. ”
What technologies are used in Devhab
During the nine years of the company's existence, some technologies have stably developed, others have come and gone. The frontend became more difficult at times, sometimes it led to trouble.
Frontend - React and TypeScript
One of the projects Devhab started on the first Angular, when React was only in designs. The customer of the product looked at the progress, showed potential customers, asked to change something, showed again - and so for several years. During this time, the first Angular managed to become a thing of the past. “It was very difficult for us to find a developer to support and develop this solution. On the other hand, rewriting it turned out even more expensive. But I will not say that it was a failure or a miscalculation - we became hostages of the technological revolution. "
Now the frontend team is the largest in Devhab. They try not to lose trends, track prospects, listen to the industry and constantly experiment. In recent months, for example, developers are eyeing Flutter, a framework for developing hybrid mobile applications. "Now he can become a serious competitor to React Native, so we are looking for a project on which we could experiment." Similarly, Devhab made React its main tool in 2016 - introduced for the sake of experiment on one of the projects, because the framework seemed promising.
Backend - Django + Asyncio
Backend from the first project to the present, Devhab writes in Python with Django. The last three years, the team uses Django only as ORM and administration system. Using Asyncio, the command makes all backends asynchronous.
They see no prerequisites for leaving Python, and even wrote the DVHB Hybrid tool
to make friends with Django and Asyncio.
Devhab never looked away from Java, Go, or .NET. Alexander expressed interest in Rust, although he has not yet been tried in his work. “You can write on anything, even in Pascal. You need to use a stack that you own better, and that is popular with the community. It is important that the technology be relevant over the next three to four years, that libraries be released under it and that there is a community that can help, and that there is someone to hire. ”
Mobile applications Devhab does on the web stack and believes that in their area you can do without native development. “With a non-professional eye, the difference in the final product cannot be seen. But at the same time, the cost and development time are significantly reduced. When a bank comes in that needs a very cool mobile app, they certainly need a company that does native mobile development well. On the other hand, we know how to make a good interface and give it to someone for native development. ”
How to control remote work
In 2012, the Devhab team abandoned offices and has since been distributed throughout Russia and several foreign countries. When asked whether it is more difficult to control such a team, Alexander says that it is on the contrary easier than a single office.
“We believe the remote control system is much more efficient. You come to the office, you see that people are there, and you think that everything is fine. It creates the illusion that everything is under control. And when everything is remote, there are no illusions. There are problems that can be solved in certain ways. ”
And the main problems in the remote are known - control over working time and interaction of employees. There are two main solutions in Devhab.
Working time and availability time are two different things
People discuss in advance how many hours they will work next week, but when they work out - they decide only on their own. So that no one depended on another's schedule, they introduced a separate availability from working hours. For example, from ten to six in Moscow every day, an employee simply keeps the phone nearby, and can, if necessary, respond to a message in Slack. It works the same - when it is convenient.
Hourly rate and time logging
In Djir Devhab has everything for tasks, in which the timer is started, and the time is recorded to the nearest minute. The estimated time for each task is determined in advance by the leads and managers. They adjust the score in the process if circumstances change. Then once a week and once a month, the guys look at how many people have worked, and calculate the payment by the hourly rate. Managers guarantee that there will be enough tasks for a full load, but employees decide in advance themselves how much to work.
For managers, there are special tasks that open for the whole week - like “general management on a project”. As Alexander says, first of all time logging was introduced due to the format of work with the customer. “They pay for time, they have transparent reports, access is everywhere - in Djiru, in Git. All that a member of the team has pledged is also seen by the customer. ”
“Of course, working with the timer is a bit specific,” says Igor, “It requires more discipline. It is necessary to control how much time has already spent, how much is left. But it seems to me that this is more beneficial than harmful. You yourself have an adequate assessment of your performance, plus everything is transparent for managers and the customer. "
How to build a team and struggle with burnout
But not all problems are solved by formal rules.Sometimes they turn out to be deeper.
“Some people face remote work for the first time and suddenly realize that they don’t know how to cope with it,” says Anna Degtyareva, Eychar manager Devhab. She is among such people, because a year and a half ago she came from a regular office, not believing that Eychar could be remote. “When you're an Eichar in the office, it's easier for you to make contact with the team. You see everyone every day. When you communicate personally, you quickly recognize a person. Here, at first, I had to force myself not to worry about this. ”
For Alexander, Anna’s psychological education was a plus, although, as she says, business sometimes treats this with prejudice. “There is an opinion on the market that we love to say more than do.”
However, the lack of communication between employees - even ordinary conversations - leads to big problems, especially on the remote. People close, do not receive feedback, cannot assess their contribution, do not know what to do with problems, start to inflate these problems in their heads, fade and finally drop out of work.
“The remote team is harder to feel like a team. We are constantly trying to work on this constantly, ”says Anna.
For example, now Anna is introducing a mentoring system so that a mentor is attached to each employee. “It will be like a confidant within the company. A person who sees exactly the changes in mood will always be aware of your business. And if he finds a problem, he can tell me or lead, and we will try to help the person. "
“Every week, no matter what happens, at four in the morning Moscow time, all employees receive a letter containing Devkhab's news, stories and stories of colleagues, summaries, statistics, photos with cats and collections of fresh memes. Many resources go there, but everyone loves this newsletter. A lot of people participate in it — our editor and all the staff who want to write something. ”
Another project started on the initiative of employees who lacked feedback from colleagues and managers. “Now we are trying to implement a rating system for each employee - we made a questionnaire and sent it to the guys who worked with him. Those give marks, some questions are answered in full. When the data is collected, we assign an employee to phoned, where we analyze the answers and form recommendations. In six months, we will conduct another iteration of the survey and look at which recommendations worked, which has improved. And if not - understand why. "
But talk and truth alone do not always help - sometimes action is needed. “You can't do anything on one conversation. If a person cannot work anymore, then no matter how much you communicate with him or motivate him, the effect will be short-term. Tomorrow he will wake up, and the pain will be the same. ”
Permanent change of projects and roles
“We love employees, and we rarely have cases when we decide to disperse. We prefer to guide the guys. Therefore, we move employees from project to project. It works better. ”
“With burnout, I have my own story. Last summer, we had a tense situation in terms of development, ”says Igor,“ I was then responsible for almost the entire frontend on the project. It was hard to be on your toes all day for several weeks.
After that, I switched to another project, and yes, it helped. Change of activity is the best rest. Changing the subject area, changing tempo, changing environment - all this helps to relieve your head.
But elementary communication with colleagues helps. I concluded for myself that it is easier for me to work when I have friendly relations with my colleagues.When I can informally chat with the manager and I know that he is not taller than me in the hierarchy, but the same team member as everyone. In this regard, I like how everything is arranged here, that no one is above anyone.
We are sort of broken up by teams, but Slak is still all together. "
How employees keep together
Devhab has a tradition of visiting cities where at least one employee lives. Since the team is highly distributed, meetings are held according to the following principle - they choose a city where an employee of the company lives, gather there and spend several weekdays and days off in order to work together and see the city.
“During the year we have already visited five cities - Kazan, Kaliningrad, Lisbon, Krasnoyarsk and Rostov-on-Don. Periodically, the guys come to Moscow. There were also small working congresses in Paris and Barcelona.
Of course, not all forty people drive. On average, going to ten or fifteen, but always different. Because more and more people take the initiative and connect to us. "
“The last mitap was not only ours. In Rostov coworking, we conducted a distant work mitap together with another company, ”says Elina, Devkhab’s marketing manager,“ I think we will continue to do the same — combine team meetings and meetings with the local community to communicate more and develop a culture of remote work.
It rarely happens that unfamiliar teams come together and share experiences and simply invite those who work around. I know that Skyeng has such an initiative in Moscow. But in the regions of this, we have not met. And the peculiarity of distant work is precisely in this - you are not limited to the market of one city. We are very interested in communicating with the community in the regions and say to everyone: “look, you can live in your city, and not only be limited to local companies”.