How to scale a tech team, the Everli way

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Everli was founded in 2014 in Verona, a lovely city in Northern Italy. Tech was the first team at Everli to go fully remote (back in 2017) and this wasn’t an employer branding gimmick, it was out of simple necessity. To find the team of our dreams, we had to look beyond Verona where there is a much smaller startup scene than other European cities. 

As CTO, I faced the huge challenge of scaling an engineering team in a city where there were not many engineers, and where it was tough to convince engineers to relocate to. In 2017, we were a team of eight people based in Verona. Today, in 2021, we are an awesome global team of 62 engineers with 12 nationalities and people based all over Europe. Here’s what I learnt about how to scale a remote tech team.

Have an exciting challenge backed by clear purpose

Our engineers are very talented, and because we value outcome rather than output, giving them the option to work anywhere they want makes sense. But it also means that it has been really important to have an exciting technical challenge backed by a clear purpose to engage them. 

As a company, we provide flexible employment to over 3,000 shoppers who make an impact on our customers’ lives; saving them the time, energy and stress that can go into weekly grocery shopping. We are the partner of choice for some of Europe’s largest grocery retailers – such as Lidl, Kaufland and Carrefour – and our tech teams are providing access to over 300,000 products across 70 cities throughout Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and France. This compelling story has helped attract a truly great team who are united behind their purpose.

Hire techies with the right ‘soft skills’

Aside from top-notch tech skills, as we were building our team at Everli we were looking for tech team members with the ability to manage their own time, working remotely without anyone hovering over their shoulder. The top three things we have learnt to look for in the hiring process are:

  • Communication: Remote teams don’t work when communication is lacking, so every individual contributor must be committed to good communication with each other and stakeholders. 
  • Ownership: When you’re at home, you’re pretty much alone, so we as a company and as managers must be able to transmit and share our visions clearly. In return, we expect the passion that nurtures your ability to perform your job autonomously. Being the owner means that you act not because your boss told you to do something, but because you know that something is important: for the customer, for a colleague, for the company.
  • A Team Player: Again, it may seem like you will be alone remotely, but you won’t be. We still work as a team; together. Ok, through Slack, email and video calls, but together. It’s important to ask for help (which is not a sign of weakness, but rather maturity), and to share your learnings and collaborate. What we build, we build together.

Asynchronous communication is key

Okay, it may be a really annoying buzzword, but with employees residing in six different time zones, I am 100% sure ‘asynchronous communication’ has helped us scale so quickly. So, what is it? Asynchronous communication means to communicate ‘out of sync – i.e. not at the same time. 

Email is an example; I send someone an email and they reply when they can, not immediately. We use Google docs and other online tools such as Jira, Confluence, Github, and Miro so we can work on projects at different times without slowing each other down. We also make use of team meetings, Slack and phone calls, but believe asynchronous working is where most of the magic happens. We try to keep meetings short (why book 60 minutes when you can have the same meeting in 15 minutes?) and we even block out Friday afternoons as ‘company protected time’ to make it completely free of meetings.

Hiring remote talent is in our DNA

As one of the early adopters of remote working, we learned the hard way how difficult it can be. But it’s for precisely this reason that we’ve had the time to turn remote working into a successful working model.

Because we have been working remotely for years, we are more efficient than companies who were forced into it in a rush due to the pandemic. We have a much smoother onboarding experience and streamlined coordination. Remote working isn’t something we have to figure out, at Everli it’s established. It’s in our DNA, and we would not turn back because we believe in it so strongly.

We know from experience that, although remote working is more challenging in terms of coordination and management, this is far outweighed by the benefits of accessing a much larger talent pool, this leads to more diversity which means a richer experience and an overall higher quality of work.

I must add, that although remote working has proven to be the best working model for us, we also love to have fun and, let’s be honest, there is only so much fun you can have in a work’s video call. That’s why we organize incredible offsite events where we meet up in person for fun team-building activities. These are a huge highlight for everyone at Everli and definitely not to be missed!

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