Getting familiar with a remote company

Kruno Golubić from OnTheGoSystems details his journey of when he transitioned into a remote position, sharing his lessons learned and advice for all.

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Remoter
6 minute read

Introduction

I've been working in different IT-related positions for more than 20 years. Apart from the last 18 months, I’ve been working in office buildings. When I decided it was time for me to gain experience at an international company, I didn't want to move to another country. That meant I had two choices: I could either look for a job at a multinational corporation in Croatia or find a remote position at an international company. 

Going remote

Remote work isn't widespread in Croatia. The latest Eurostat report form February 2020  shows that only 1.4% of employed persons in Croatia work from home. As a comparison, the EU average is 5.2%. In neighboring Slovenia, this percentage is 6.9. The Netherlands is top-of-the-list with 14%. The data in this report is from 2018, the year that I started to work for OnTheGoSystems.

While attending meetups and conferences, I got the impression remote work was reserved for freelancers. Most people talking about remote work were designers and developers. Only occasionally there would be some system or database administrator. 

The decision to go remote wasn't easy for me. It meant I had to change my lifestyle and daily routine. But this was something I was looking for. I wanted a more flexible work schedule that would bring me better work/life balance.

The goal was set. Nevertheless, I had so many questions! How would I work from home? What would my workday entail? Would I feel isolated from other people in the company? What sort of teammates would I have? 

Perpetual questions aside, the feeling of being isolated was my biggest fear. Working as I had been, I’d always been in a bricks-and-mortar office. I’d been in big companies as well as small ones. I’d been the only person in charge of IT and I’d been a team leader of a dozen IT specialists. There were always people around me, and I liked being surrounded by people. 

I had no friends working remotely either. I had no one to ask about their experience. I had no one to learn from. If I wanted to do this, I would have to find my own way.

Conquering my fears

The year before I started working for the OnTheGoSystems, I attended the WordCamp Zagreb conference. The last speaker at that conference was a guy named Dario Hrvatin. Little did I know that a year later, Dario would be my team lead. Dario was, and still is, a Documentation Manager. Some nine months after his talk, I came across the job ad he had posted. 

I remember saying to myself: "This is it. Apply for this job. Do it now. This is what you’ve been waiting for.”  

Getting to know the company and people

When you go for a regular, non-remote job interview, you go to some building. You walk down corridors, glancing at the faces of potential future coworkers. You get to see and feel the office atmosphere. Then you sit down in an office, talk to someone from the HR department, and meet your potential future team lead or coworker. This has always helped me form a picture of the company. 

I knew the drill when it came to office-based jobs, but I was in the dark when it came to remote work. Naturally, I was intrigued what the equivalent of visiting the company offices would be. For me, it was visiting the company website.

While preparing for the online section of my job interview, I checked OnTheGoSystems’ website thoroughly. Two pages were of particular interest to me, Team and News. By going through the Team page, I could see who my future colleagues would be. I searched online for more information about each of them. This helped me get to know the people better and draw a mental picture of my coworkers. I gained insight by reading blog posts about them. Via the blog posts, I was able to piece together what the daily work routine would be like. Most importantly, by reading about their interests and their hobbies, I was able to determine whether I’d be a good fit. What I discovered was that I’d be a perfect fit for the company.

Intermission - Short Interview with Helena Petridou 

Remoter talked to Helena Petridou, the team member who’s in charge of the “Team” pages on their website. She’s specifically in charge of the awesome meet our team interviews. She’s been running it since 2015. Clearly it’s been very useful if Kruno used these resources to make his decision about the company, so we wanted to chat a bit with her about those efforts.

"This very pleasant task was assigned to me shortly after I joined OTGS. In a rotation every 4 months, team members are invited to select from among their peers someone who has performed exceptionally well, and I am asked to interview that person. We want to continue running these stories because we all love getting to know our colleagues to feel closer to them, becoming friends with one another. It’s not easy or practical to travel regularly to meet one another. So, by combining something from their personal background & family stories with the more technical side of their skills in their stories, those names and faces on our computer screen come to life. 

Back in 2015, these interviews were more of a general nature – where do you live? What are your hobbies? What are your likes/ dislikes? What are your favorite colors? 

Now, apart from learning about their personal life, we encourage our colleagues to express their feelings about working remotely, the company itself, their team and especially about their technical skills.

I believe everyone in the company enjoys reading about their peers. We really become friends with one another. When a new baby is born, it’s another addition to our company family!, We even get invitations to their weddings as close friends, and we join in sympathy with them when a loved one passes on.

When we hear on the TV news of disasters in their countries, natural or man-made, we are quick to contact our friends to find out how they are managing. We feel these monthly interviews have contributed a little to the camaraderie company." 

Back to Kruno - Hey, I'm a member of the team now!

A few months after I started working, a former classmate from my university contacted me. We’d lost contact, and I hadn’t heard from him in more than 15 years. While browsing our website, he’d seen my name and photo among the team members. He told me he had applied for an open position at our company, and he wanted to find out more about it. I was happy I could give him my perspective and all the needed information. A few weeks later, he was hired, and just a few months after that, he was chosen as employee of the month. Who would have thought, had it not been for my photograph on the website? 

I’ve now been with OnTheGoSystems for more than a year and a half. During this time I've met only three of my colleagues in person. Even though I’ve never met most of my coworkers in real life, I can genuinely say that I've got to know them well. I feel like I have friends all over the world.

We do have internal communication systems, but I still read all the content we publish on our public website. Each month I learn new things about my colleagues and teammates. This really helps me feel part of the company. The people I'm working with are not just usernames in the ticketing system, they are not just email addresses or avatars in a chat client. They are my teammates, colleagues, and friends. 

Looking back, I can honestly say that going remote has turned out to be the best thing I could have done!


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Kruno Golubić created his first website back in 1995, and that's how his journey into the world of IT began. During his career, he's worked as a systems administrator, webmaster, IT trainer, courseware author, and social media manager. Currently, he work as a technical documentation assistant at OnTheGoSystems.


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