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Listening out loud: how Pargab Sala adjusted to working on a distributed team

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a forcing function to re-evaluate the way teams worked together. In fact, many companies are re-learning how to collaborate with their teams. As some move towards being a fully distributed workforce, Atlassian included, we are interviewing those who have worked on distributed teams before so that we may learn insights and share them with customers along the way.

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In the fifth interview in the 2020 "Listening Out Loud" series, Pargab Sala, Atlassian Community member and Project Manager Delivery, discusses her practices while working on distributed teams.

Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to share a recording of our interview. It's a testament to the state of remote connections today, hah. But, we do have highlights on Pargab's insights below.

  1. Initial transition period
    • Christine: What was it like for you when you started working from home? 
    • Pargab: It was a completely new experience for me. I was excited to start the work with a new process but parallely. I also have a fear, [wondering] 'how will I connect with 50 people at a time?' Through parallely [for example], 12 projects are running, few of them are at their final stage and few of them are newly started, and one is at escalation stage. So it was a completely mixed feeling for me.
    • Takeaway: keeping a pulse on multiple workstreams is easier when you're able to tap coworkers on the shoulder. So when working from different locations, you can no longer use physical people as markers. This is where tools come into play, where managing workstreams can become more structured and manageable with automated systems. And even then, it takes some getting used to.

  2. Resources needed to run a home office
    • Christine: what's one difference about having your office be at a company building versus having to set up your own home office?
    • Pargab: (highlight mentions below)
      • Establishment cost of high-speed Wi-Fi
      • Network Connectivity Issue
      • Office setup accessories (e.g. headphones, webcam, printer)

        As we all know, it was a completely new set up for all of us, many of us are working in the rural part of the country, many are from the urban part of the company. High-speed network connection is the most important thing everyone should have, but unfortunately in rural areas or in small towns, people faced some network issues [due to large volumes of people connecting at the same time]. As a result, we face delays in conclusions and results.

        As we all know, we live with our family, and in our family, many of us have children, many of us have Grandma, Grandpa as well, many live with a joint family, so it's a complete hassle. We need to segregate that, so it takes a printer, router, electricity backup system, computer table, and chair all.
    • Takeaway: many companies may think that a desk and chair are the things workers will need when setting up a home office, tangible needs. However, accessibility, especially for Pargab's teammates, requires intangible resources as well. Beyond typing onto a computer, we communicate through auditory and visual channels as well. This means things from lighting to webcams to internet stability are crucial, things we may have taken from granted while working from the office. 

      And any part of a team not able to access these basic setup needs affects the whole team. In other words, just because you have a good setup does not mean you will not be affected by someone else without as good a setup. For everyone to be able to receive information from all team members and keep the engine running, everyone must have minimum access to connectivity.

  3. Meeting stamina
    • Christine: What's another difference you and/or your team needed while adjusting to this new normal?
    • Pargab: Long sessions of meetings consume lots of time. Initially, these meetings were time killers, but later on we priorities these meetings and stuck only to the agenda.
    • Takeaway: Colocated or distributed, meetings will drag without focus. But this has become exacerbated because of meeting fatigue in having to do more to engage in meeting than when in-person.

      Consider finding ways to break up meetings, institute limitations to the amount of time on video or audio meetings, and especially, the length of time in a meeting.

  4. More context on teammates
    • Christine: What is better about working on a distributed team as a result of the new setup?
    • Pargab: The best part is getting to know each other more. 
    • Takeaway: There are multiple stories Pargab can tell, but merging personal and professional personas expose teammates to more of our lives. And while that may have caused concerns, it's actually more helpful.

      The extra context not only helps us understand what teammates need to do to get their work done--their environment and impact on work schedule, the perspective teammates bring to the table, etc, but also help us see our teammates as whole humans. It brings more empathy to our relationships.

  5. Collaboration changes also mean product usage changes
    • Christine: What would you advise other teams to do if they are just starting to work as a distributed team? Other than what's been discussed already?
    • Pargab: Strong and simple tracking tools. Dependent teams and team leads will be updated [and then don't] need to follow up for small tasks. This might also reduce multi-level reporting [from individual contributors]. 
    • Takeaway: As evidenced by Pargab's experience, reporting to multiple people live does not translate well to the same activity remotely. If we look at this issue more broadly, we can use our tools to automate project updates, status on tasks, and raise questions with more visibility to more people. It reduces the need for meetings solely to track progress and reduces redundant work for team members. Overall, it should also increase morale.

 

2 comments

This questionnaire and interviews will surely help people to implement new process. As this year is famous to start a work on the new normal.

Never hesitate to work on the new normal and input your thought for the new procedure. This is the Mantra for a perfect process.

Like # people like this

Good conversation @Christine P_ Dela Rosa and @pargab sala 

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Listening out loud: how Pargab Sala adjusted to working on a distributed team

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a forcing function to re-evaluate the way teams worked together. In fact, many companies are re-learning how to collaborate with their teams. As some move...

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