Building extended software development teams in Europe means access to a fantastic talent pool and costs savings, but can present challenges such as time zone difference and cultural misunderstandings. To understand more about this, Zartis hosted Peter Kelly, Engineering Lead for Europe at NGINX and Sean O’Sullivan, CTO at Effective Software, who shared their experiences of building extended software development teams in Cork, Ireland and Madrid, Spain. The event was held at the Irish Consulate in New York.
Here are some of the key insights shared by the speakers.
Your first hire is crucial
Finding an awesome team leader or lynchpin to build the team around is an important first step. In some cases, this can be someone already working in your team who is interested moving home, a new challenge or simply just a change of scene. In other instances it can mean sourcing a strong team leader locally. For more on this, read “how to keep your homesick Spanish software engineers“.
Secure buy-in from the company as a whole
Being open and transparent from day one about the motivations behind the decision to use an extended development team will help to secure buy-in from the company as a whole. This ultimately avoids any fear among existing teams that they are being replaced, or undervalued. Check out Sean O’ Sullivan, CTO of Effective Software’s blog post for further insight.
Work on core product
Having your extended development team work on core product will pay off in a number areas. Firstly, employee engagement and retention in the team will be far higher if the team works on core product. Employee engagement means higher productivity, and higher productivity means better ability to scale the business sustainably.
Cultural differences can be a challenge, if not recognised and embraced
The ideal is for the extended development team to capture the best elements of the company culture, augment and adopt the best elements of local culture and embrace difference rather than resist it. Peter Kelly, Engineering Lead in Europe for NGINX shared a great example of cultural differences between the West Coast in the US and Ireland. In San Francisco, having beers in the office is common occurrence and is a great way to build rapport during working hours. In Ireland, believe it or not, beers in the office are frowned upon. Forcing this element of culture could make folks in Ireland uncomfortable, even if it’s well meaning. Allowing the extended team the freedom to express themselves and implement the best elements of both company and local culture goes a long way.
The time difference
If you’re in the US, an extended software development team in Europe means that while you’re asleep, more hours are spent writing code, and your product is being built. Of course the time difference also has drawbacks. There is a smaller window of time where both the team in Europe and the US are working so you need to make the most of that time. It requires significant attention and investment to ensure it doesn’t become a real issue. Communication is key here, and being aware of the problems and pressure that time differences can cause is important. Spending time working face to face, particularly early on, is extremely important. It’s important for the leadership team to spend time with the extended team on location, and it’s also important for the extended development team members to spend time back at HQ, and to continue this practice beyond the honeymoon period. Face to face time, both professionally and socially builds trust, and trust builds better products.
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