Communicating Remotely

(Thanks to Nikki Heald and Dave Murphy for their contributions)

For about 7 years, I worked from home participating in a very large Open Source project  (Ubuntu Linux). Since then, I have continued setting up and advising companies on how to work remotely.

While you might be struggling with setting up on short notice your working environment at home, soon you will find your groove, and then the next big thing will hit you: Your usual ways of accessing information and the tools you use to communicate have suddenly, drastically changed.

When you were working in an office, you used Instant Messaging (IM) to communicate with people in other offices every now and then, but you largely relied on face to face conversations or office meetings. Now EVERYTHING seems to happen in IM.

Instant Messaging (IM) is a great tool for remote working but also has massive pitfalls. This is not just your problem but something remote organisations have been struggling with for years. Here are some key best practices:

Keep communication in the open. Set up team chats and invite people from other teams to ask questions in public channels, avoid as much as possible starting conversations on direct and private messages.

It is extremely easy to misinterpret and get frustrated using instant messaging. Keeping conversations in the open makes people think twice about the language they use. It also increases the possibility of someone from the group chat replying to your urgent message faster.

Be kind and patient.  Written communications are always easier for non-native speakers, but it can also make us overestimate the language skills of our colleagues and read too much into what they write. It might be that something you feel is aggressive or even offensive is just a side effect of this. At this point, take a breath, be polite and ask to have a video call.

Move detailed conversations to private messages and then to video call.  The recommended communication flow is to start in an open forum (group chat) , then if the conversation gets into details and it is clogging the channel, ask for it to be moved to a thread or private direct message, finally if still taking too long, set up a video call to address the issue at hand.

IM is asynchronous, really!. Instant messaging gives us the false sense that we have the full attention of our colleague, and that they are going to reply straight away. This is nothing further from the truth! Work or personal life can be interrupting and stressing out the person you are talking to, leading to long pauses or terse replies. Do not get frustrated, relax, they will get back to you as soon as they can.

IM is disruptive. Constant direct IM interruptions can lead to low productivity, this is another reason to use group chats. One good tip for teams is to designate a person (maybe rotate it daily) responsible for answering questions from other teams in your group chat. This means only one of you is getting distracted, but also gives a better responsiveness to the person asking the question.

Document decision outside IM. Instant messaging is ephemeral, even if it is in written form. If you take a decision in a group or private chat, follow it up with an email, a gdoc or whatever else your team uses to share documentation.

Don’t try to read everything. Very quickly IM proliferates and becomes an avalanche of information. Don’t have fear of missing out, you shouldn’t expect to read everyone’s messages AND don’t expect everyone to read your messages. If there is something that you really need people to read, use an email or arrange a meeting.

IM is not that social. Although it is a great tool for GIFs and Memes, it is not going to replace the social interaction that you are used to in the office. Instead, try leaving a video call, such as hangouts, open with the rest of your team members while you work on your tasks, just for chit-chat.

If you have any other questions or you are struggling with managing your team communications while working remotely, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

 

Developing Yourself at Ebury

One of the key things that motivate me every day to work at Ebury is the company’s passion to invest in its people. This comes directly from Juan and Salva (our founders) and it is lived by all of us in management positions.

But what does it mean for our Tech teams? Originally, when we were 10-20 people in Tech, this happened organically, but over time and with growth, it is important that career development also scales up and it is consistent across teams. 

During the last year and a half, I have been working with the team to define a framework that allows people to plan their development and have meaningful conversations with their leads.

At Ebury Tech, your career can take several paths, but it all starts with mapping what are 6 competencies that we really care about.

chart

6 Competencies and 4 Levels

We have summarised our cultural values into 6 competencies, each of them with 4 levels. Leve 1,2 tent to focus on you, as an individual, while the others focus on your impact in your team(3) and the wider tech organisation(4):

  • Domain Mastery: How good are you in your domain and do others agree? 
  • Team Work: Do you help to achieve others’ objectives? 
  • Continuously Improves: Do you improve and help others improve?
  • Problem Solving: Can you resolve real-life issues with a simple solution?
  • Business Impact: Deliver value, not just code
  • Leadership: Do you set an example to others and take responsibility?

Not everyone  follows the same path

Although it might sound like something that you get from a fortune cookie, it really applies to personal development. At Ebury, we have define 3 loose paths to guide your development in Technology:

People Leadership – This is the path I chose, while still technical, my passion is to help others develop and work with team to achieve high performance

Technical Leadership (Architecture)Another available path is to focus on your ability to design systems that deliver customer value and to work with others across the organisation to hone the best solutions for our clients.

Technical Leadership (Hands on)Finally, there is also a path to lead by example, to bring change and best practices from within a squad. 

Screenshot 2020-01-23 at 14.38.13

Putting it all together

Each step in a development path is defined by a set of behavioral and observable expectations. These are a level within each of the 6 competencies.

Note, that I have said observable. This is important because, in order to move from one step to another, your team lead will put you forward a case with examples to a panel of peers that will support your change based on observable facts.  Not everyone will move to the next step at the first try, but you will receive tangible feedback on how to achieve it next time. 

Screenshot 2020-01-23 at 14.51.35

Digg deep, let me know what you think

There is no secret sauce to what we do to invest in our people, hence I am sharing with you and I look forward to your feedback. Hit me up in Linkedin

Ebury: The Fin and the Tech

We often talk about Ebury being a disruptive Fintech company. Today I wanted to go into more detail about what makes Ebury a Financial and Technology company.

FINtech

Ebury’s core business is foreign currency exchange (Forex), and we focus on the enterprise segment of the market. To better illustrate what we do, let’s take as an example a made-up European toy company, which we will call TOYSA.

TOYSA’s biggest season is the Christmas holiday period between December and January. TOYSA sells toys to many countries in Europe including the UK. Their UK sales channel received large orders for their new drone, the TOYSA D500. Their UK office would like to know what should be the retail price in British Pounds (GBP). The TOYSA D500 is produced in a factory in Shenzen, China and a single unit to make costs 790 Chinese Yuan. Let’s say that “today” that is equivalent to 100 Euros. TOYSA would like a 20% margin on their toys, so they retail at 120 Euros in mainland Europe, that “today” translates to 110 GBP.

In order to have the toys ready for sale in December, they need to be ordered in June so they can be manufactured in August, and TOYSA is going to be running a big marketing TV advertising campaign in October.

But TOYSA’s CFO can’t sleep at night… she is worried. What if the Yuan grows strong against the Euro from June to August? Their 100 Euros cost calculation could be completely wrong!! Conversely, with Brexit looming, the British Pound could devalue against the Euro, a retail price of 110GBP could not even cover the cost of manufacturing…

This is where Ebury can help TOYSA. We offer both Spot (right now) and Forward (any time up to two years) contracts that remove the risk of currency fluctuations by providing a fixed exchange rate for a future date. TOYSA’s CFO can use these rates to calculate her profit and retail prices removing risk from the equation.

But… hold on! She is still worrying. She needs to pay for the shipment of drones with money that will come from future D500 sales, which she doesn’t yet have! Yup… Ebury can also help with that. It is called Trade Finance.

finTECH

Ok, now you understand what we do but how do we do it with over 140 currencies? With quite a bit of Django/Python.

Our back-end services, which all run on Amazon EC2 (some of them as part of ECS clusters), take care of financial tasks such as getting quotes for currency exchanges, instructing payments, receiving funds, Anti-Money Laundry checks, reconciliation of accounts, and so on. All new services developed in the last few years run in AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS) and we are right now, in the process of containerising older services.

Customers contract Ebury’s products in 3 different ways:

  • They contact their Ebury account manager. Our Front-office team is pretty large, and to ensure consistency, we automate our sales and operations processes in Salesforce. Some of our back-end systems also have “admin” level consoles for financial reports and complex operations, these are built as Django applications.
  • They use Ebury Online (EBO). online.ebury.com is a Javascript application served by a Django app, that provides a two-factor authentication login into a front-end for customers to manage their transactions and book new currency trades. It connects to our back-end services internal API.
  • They use their own ERP (such as Netsuite). Netsuite is just one of the ways customers can access our REST API, which is a Flask service that provides a programmatic interface to the same internal back-end API used by EBO.

Join Us!

If all of this sounds interesting and you are looking for a new opportunity, we are hiring!! Whether it’s a remote position you are after or you would like to join us in our Central Malaga office, get in touch! We could have the role for you.