The fact is, it’s just easier to work remotely with people you’ve met in so-called “real-life” - folks you’ve shared laughs and meals with.1
One of the best things about working on a remote team is getting together in real life. Tes Engineering Week happens once a year in October. This year was the second edition after a successful trial in 2017.
Individual teams get together fairly frequently; however Engineering Week is one week in the year when all the engineers come together to bond. This is a significant investment of time and money for Tes but is worth it for both the shared experiences and trust that is established during the week.
It’s also a great chance for us to bond socially. The week is specially designed for work and fun. We’ve hired lots of new engineers in the last year so it is a great chance to meet these people for the first time, and for them to meet everyone else!
We all met up in London and worked from the Tes London HQ for the week. We drank a lot of coffee. We ate a lot of pizza and had heated debates about whether or not pineapple belongs on a pizza (our Italian contingent are vehemently opposed).
Some of us went for an early morning run to check out the London sights.
We celebrated this chance to get to know each other in person.
We all met to discuss what makes up the culture of our engineering team. The aim was to discuss what makes it great, and explore directions where we can grow.
We started by seeing how much time we all spend working from the London office.
Turns out we have a predominantly remote team! This spread has changed a lot over the last few years and is an important reminder that we need to keep investing in making it easy to work remotely.
We identified some of the key themes in our engineering team that we value and desire to keep. This resulted in an overwhelming number of stickies on the board, and lots of warm and fuzzy feelings! The themes that came up most often were:
- Work / life flexibility
- Growth / learning (helping people grow)
- Assistance / helpfulness (helping things work and grow)
Then we discussed things that we value but don’t currently have. We came up with a list of things we want to do more of in the future:
- Simplifying the tech stack
- Increased openness and communication
- Diversity in leadership
- More collaboration with users / business
This was a useful exercise to establish a shared culture and identify what we see as important. Since this workshop we have set up a working group to discuss issues around diversity and inclusiveness.
We all attended a company-wide meeting hosted by Rob (our CEO) and other execs. It was held in a school and we attended “lesson” style workshops in different classrooms throughout the day. This was a great opportunity to learn more about non-engineering areas of Tes and to discuss the future direction of the company.
We went bowling, ate more pizza and enjoyed the Engineering awards. We finished with more karaoke, where Alex impressed everyone with an amazing rendition of Eminem’s ‘Stan’.
The Engineering awards are our way of recognising individuals on the team for the great things they do. These are voted for beforehand by all the engineers and presented on the night by Marco (VP of engineering).
King / Queen For A DayThe champion (or deputy) that has had the biggest impact on Engineering or the company
Looks Dangerous, You FirstThe engineer most willing to tackle the most challenging issues
Arms Wide OpenThe most welcoming engineer to newcomers and people from outside engineering
Open DoorThe person who is consistently willing to help their colleagues
The Nutty ProfessorThe person with the most hack day wins, or the most useful project
Turn That Ship Around!The person who had acted above their position consistently and helped their team
Green ThumbThe engineer who has grown the most over the past year
Clifton "Ship It" AwardThe engineer who has delivered the most valuable features
Lighthouse AwardThe engineer who best guides others through challenges
Sharing Is CaringThe person who has delivered the most comprehensive knowledge sharing session
Always SmilingThe person who is happiest
Funniest TrollThe engineer with the best sense of humour on hipchat
Most ReveredThe person I haven't worked with that I would most like to work with
Pulled us outta the fire most frequentlyThe platform engineers who have literally and figuratively saved our bacon
Just because you work remotely most of the time doesn’t mean you have to , or should, work remotely all of the time. Fill up the camel’s back every now and then with some in-person fun.2