"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford
So after a week long team camp at Johor Bahru, Malaysia, I finally had a chance to pen down my thoughts about what it feels like to meet your remote team in person for the first time. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I was taken in as an intern at Xoxzo and I completed 3 months with them. However, being an intern you only have limited amount of communication with the team and after I was taken in as a full time member of the team, I was told that there would be a team camp held at JB where we would discuss strategy and work together for a week. It was an exciting proposition to be a part of the team camp where I could meet finally everyone in person who were just profile pictures on Slack for 3 months.
I would share an outsider's view on working remotely with a multicultural, multinational team where you have colleagues who come from completely different places and backgrounds. You might be sceptical about fitting in a team which has such diversity. The reality was much different than I expected. The team had already been working together for quite a number of years and I was surprised by the warmth with which I was embraced in the envelope despite being a new hire. Here are couple of things I think you should expect when meeting your remote team for the first time in person.
Be ready for a new experience
If your team camp is somewhere away from home, maybe even a different province if not country, be ready to be surprised by the new culture. Probably it is home or near the home of any of your team member and you would be getting a glimpse of what their daily life might look like. For our case, Johor Bahru is home to our CTO Kamal and exploring the city and nearabouts you get a nice insight into what it might be like for him around the city, the food that he might like, the places he might be around when he is not busy staring at the screen of his laptop.
Form a bond on a personal level
When you stay together with your team you create a special level of bonding with them. Extending my earlier point, you get to understand their habits, likes and dislikes. When working in a remote team, often you forget that you are actually working with a team that has all the human intricacies which are generally associated with working with a onsite/local team. I learnt why I should not ever teach Zaki a game. He beated me straight two times while I was explaining him the rules of the game!
Stumble upon a challenge when starting off
This might be more relevant for myself than others, but if you are meeting your team for the first time you might share this opinion too. This was my first meet with the team after being inducted and I found my first assignment to be a bit challenging probably because I was taking the leap from being an intern to a full time member. I was assigned a task to use django-q for asynchronous task processing, which was a new thing for me. It took a while to understand how things worked and the whole process amounted to great learning. I realized that such challenges are just a underwriting of the job role, and that's exactly what had I signed up for. However, having your team right there to help you during those initial phases can be tremendous boon and make sure you make the most of it.
Be ready to eat a lot if you are in a team of foodies like Xoxzo
This maybe a bit exclusive to us at Xoxzo, but who knows it might even stand true for a lot of teams. As our CEO, Iqbal mentioned about always ending up eating a lot when having a team camp in Malaysia, I assume it is a tradition that didn’t have much of an exception at our team camp at Johor Bahru aswell. With Kamal getting local delicacies and finger food everyday while coming to our apartment to grabbing meals with the team accommodating Josef’s obsession over Nasi Goreng, it was food that made us bond together.
Learn a lot of things outside work￼
‘We’ at Xoxzo comprise of individuals coming from distant cultures. That makes any team camp a melting pot of cultures and we get to learn so much about about each other’s cultures and share about our own while staying and working together. This was a great feeling understanding that though we come from such diverse backgrounds, there are so many things that we have in common. I feel this personally made me a better human and I think it will be a great experience for anyone who embraces diversity with an open mind and arms.
Prepare to have a lot of fun
Meeting your team will always be fun. This is more of a vacation with a purpose. There will be some great moments you will have with your team. From Kamal’s favourite cendol vendor, to the driving almost to Singapore without a passport, we had a lot of fun moments I will cherish forever about my first meet with the team. Prepare to create yours!
Understand and absorb the culture of the team
Every team has a underlying DNA which defines what they stand for. This DNA or the culture of the team is ever changing, just like team itself. Some of it comes from the founders, but mostly it’s a mindset which is shared by the majority of the team. Our team at Xoxzo is a tight group of individuals, highly passionate about technology and innovation. Our engineering team comprises of Josef, a keen Raspberry Pi tinkerer, and Zaki, is a information security geek while Geraldo, our marketing guru is the former founder of a novel packaged cocktail company in Brazil. Certainly that reflects a lot about the team!