Head of People Conversations: Managing Fully Remote Software Engineering Teams
Conversation with Passion.io’s Head of People, Eva Spexard.
Remote work has been gaining popularity for years, but the pandemic has accelerated its adoption to an unprecedented level. As the world slowly adjusts to the new normal, remote work is becoming a permanent fixture for many companies, including startups.
In this context, Dan Clouting had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Spexard, Head of People at Passion.io, a fully remote tech start-up. Eva has a wealth of experience in the People/HR field, with a focus on the tech and engineering industries.
In this interview, she shares her insights on remote work, including the culture shift towards remote work, the benefits of it, the challenges of hiring a remote team, and her main pillars for a successful, fully remote software engineering team.
Eva was destined for her role as a Head of People in a tech startup: “My mum is an HR Manager and my dad is an Electrical Engineer who moved into Software Engineering and Project Management.”
Her academic background in Business Psychology and Labour Law coupled with her practical experience in HR administration led her to find her passion for recruiting in the tech sector. She explains: “That’s when I learned how fulfilling it is to help people find a job they can thrive in and companies to find team members that help them succeed.”
From there, Eva’s career grew until she took on a role as a Global HR Manager of a tech scaleup. Here, she supported the 10x growth of the company, expanding it across four different continents while growing the People function and setting up processes from scratch. Eva’s experience and expertise provide an insightful perspective on what it takes to build and manage a successful fully remote team.
Eva’s thoughts on remote working
The cornerstone of Eva’s stance on remote working is that it is a business model: “I feel like more and more companies understand that and approach remote work very thoughtfully and in an organised fashion – which is key to success like with any other business model.”
One of the benefits of this business model is that it provides greater access to diverse talent pools. However, it also requires addressing specific challenges around culture, connection, and retention.
Eva also notes that remote work has also created a discussion and brought attention to broader issues related to the workplace such as accessibility, flexibility, asynchronous work, autonomy, parental/caregiver leave, and mental health support: “It can open new opportunities for those who aren’t able to afford transportation costs or the cost of living in certain areas. Or for people that are neurodivergent or people with disabilities. So, I think the whole remote work discussion is shedding light on these very important topics as well.”
Challenges of having a fully remote team
Eva cites the ability to build meaningful connections as one of the biggest challenges when working as a fully remote team. Combatting this must start with the hiring process which is also done remotely: “I strongly believe that a remote hiring process is slightly longer than most in-office hiring processes by nature. It needs more touch points to get a feel for someone because you are missing the indicators you would see when in the same room with the person. I would recommend not being afraid of an additional step in the process to get to know the team or just having a coffee with a peer.”
Another challenge is getting people together, even in a fully remote company. Eva explains that it’s essential not to deny the deeper level of connection that is made in person. Passion.io has regular offsites where the team gets together in person. The company also provides a co-working budget that can be used by all team members to rent co-working spaces to “meet other Passioneers somewhere in the world and work together in person.”
How to run a successful fully remote Software Engineering team
According to Eva, good leadership is crucial for a successful, fully remote software engineering team: “Good leadership is front and centre (as for any other team as well). This goes hand in hand with a smart team design and a clear responsibility framework.”
Furthermore, Eva recommends clearly setting requirements before talking to Software Engineers when hiring as well as investing in the team’s development and offering support so that Software Engineers have a healthy remote working environment: “Software Engineers, from my experience, tend to work rather isolated due to the nature of the work. Therefore, a great setup for a fully remote team should allow for discussions and team engagement instead of isolating people.”
With a focus on culture, connection, and leadership, Eva emphasises the importance of thoughtful and organised approaches to remote work that address the specific challenges in order to accelerate the opening up of new opportunities for diverse talent pools and put the spotlight on broader workplace issues.
Dan Clouting is a Senior Consulant and specialises in the Software Engineering team buildout division at Zeren – if you are seeking your next high-impact role or scaling your team, write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
ZEREN is a global executive search and recruitment firm that exists to empower the world’s change-makers.