distributed teams are the future

The cutthroat nature of competition for talent in the tech industry is legendary. Our CEO and founder, Chok Leang Ooi, describes the battle in Silicon Valley – the heart of the tech world – as “crazy and expensive.”

He’s absolutely spot-on. With the big boys like Apple, Facebook, and Google and their enormous war chests ensuring the crème de la crème join their ranks, AgilityIO was founded to be the help that smaller startups – who had little to no chance of securing talented individuals – needed.

To ensure that our clients get the best for their buck, what we’ve done is to create a development hub in Vietnam. Over there, we have a huge office housing some 150 or so developers who work with companies back in the Valley, and are just as effective as co-located teams.

agilityio vietnam team agile distributed

Our talented and hungry development team.

Sure, many of our initial clients were skeptical when starting out. For a company that claimed to be using “agile methodology”, we had already broken one of the cardinal rules, which was to have a co-located team.

Still, the fierce battle for talent drove many startups to be creative when it came to recruiting talent. Some decided to give us a shot, and we didn’t disappoint – AgilityIO consistently delivered the most bang for their buck.

To date, we’ve worked with over 80 clients, many of which have gone on to raise substantial rounds of funding:

– Nerdwallet snagged US$163 million in three consecutive funding rounds earlier this year

– ShiftCars landed US$24 million late last year

– Accompani got US$21 million over two rounds last year

And so on. Here’s how we made our distributed team work.

Picking the right people, getting them on the same page

When we pick our developers, we make sure first and foremost that they have the raw talent necessary to be great. But more than that, we look for people who are smart, hungry, and willing to learn.

distributed teams are the future

All our new recruits are put through an eight month long coding bootcamp, where we bring them up to speed and polish their technical skills. Those that survive the bootcamp then get hired into our company, and are immediately put on client projects.

This has been our secret sauce in creating a good, reliable, and consistent source of talent.

Helping remote workers adapt to US culture

Right from the start, our biggest market was and continues to be the US. Therefore, it was critical for us help our remote team of developers adapt to US culture and overcome language barriers.

agilityio agile distributed team

We do this by having our New York-based team become the middleman. On one hand, keeping in close contact with the clients in question; on the other, constantly providing the Vietnam team the support that they need. In this way, our New Yorkers become the gel holding the team together, putting in place processes and tools that would work most effectively for both parties.

The reverse also applies. Recently, we’ve started sending our US interns down to Vietnam to join the newly minted recruits in their coding bootcamps. By doing this, our developers become more acquainted with American culture – and vice versa – which helps to build a better working relationship. It also gives our Vietnamese counterparts the opportunity to practice their English!

Strong bias towards over-preparation and over-communication

Working across time zones naturally means that not everyone will be online all the time. As our offices are situated in two opposite parts of the world, this fact is all the more apparent.

To prevent confusion and delays, our team operates with a strong bias towards over-preparation and over-communication. Our scrum master goes out one or two weeks ahead of the rest of the team in order to do detailed wireframes that prevent ambiguities. Once development begins, the team does short sprints to ensure a shorter feedback loop.

To make things even more efficient, our New Yorkers will take a step back once the client is familiar and comfortable working directly with the Vietnam team.

We’re still learning

Of course, not everything is picture-perfect. There are many challenges of being a distributed team, and we don’t presume to have solved them all (not yet, anyway).

For example, we’re finding that it is exponentially more difficult to build and maintain a company culture with remote workers as opposed to having everyone situated in one office. It is something that we’re still working on, and we will definitely keep you updated on our progress.

Still, we’re not daunted – every workplace has its own set of problems. By sharing our experiences, we hope that it will help you decide whether to go distributed or not. We highly recommend it, of course!

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