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IT Crafts HR – Julia Melymbrose from Animalz

IT Crafts HR – Julia Melymbrose from Animalz

In this podcast episode, Maks talks with Julia Melymbrose, Head of People Operations at Animalz. Julia shares how they deal with communication and processes at a fully remote content marketing agency. She describes how they track the deliverables of the content team, what are the skills that the company looks for in a remote hire, and how to assess if a person will be right at a content-related position. Besides that, Julia touches upon a topic like setting up operations that help everyone stay in sync and maintaining a company’s culture when growing rapidly and in a remote setup.


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A photo of Maks Majer, the host of IT Crafts HR podcast

Maks Majer

Podcast Host

Maks Majer is a software engineer, co-founder, and CEO of ITCraftship, a company that helps both talented developers get a dream job at tech companies all over the world, and companies hire remote software developer superstars. He’s also a remote work advocate and helps startup businesses embrace the remote work culture. Maks is passionate about solving pains and removing obstacles by focusing on good software design and user experience practices. In his free time, he broadens his knowledge of business development as well as focuses on a healthy lifestyle that gives him the energy to get the most of a 24 hour day. You can catch him on LinkedIn.

A photo of Julia Melymbrose

Julia Melymbrose

Head of People Operations at Animalz

Julia is the Director of People & Operations at Animalz, a fully remote agency focused on creating the best content on the web. Julia’s fascinated by the development of work culture and the way remote teams are revolutionizing how we connect and collaborate. She loves digging into all things people and understanding what drives fulfillment and happiness at work and beyond. Outside of work, Julia enjoys creating bead art – bringing thousands of little glass beads together into a unique and colorful whole. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Something that you wish you have known earlier

Julia: I think one of the biggest things I have learned as the company grew is that the role of People Ops can be very distinct from any other role and can sometimes feel strained. Especially, during the growth phases because you don't really own a department. Often, you don't have a team, especially in a smaller company. Instead, what you do is that you have to elevate yourself to a position where you act like an adviser to other departments and a collaborator, and you're kind of like the glue that brings everything together and that is a very important role. I think you also have to understand that you will never be able to say: this is my department and we are going to launch this project.

Transcript

Maks

Hello, today, my special guest is Julia Melymbrose who is the Head of People Ops at Animalz, a high-end content marketing agency providing solutions to SaaS, tech and crypto companies. It’s great to have you here, Julia.

Julia

It’s great to be here, thanks for having me, Maks.

Maks

Please tell me a little bit about yourself and describe your position and current responsibilities to our listeners.

Julia

Yeah, so my position at Animalz, as you said, is Head of People Operations. The way we look at it, I am part of the team that handles the talent part of the agency, so that means anything from recruiting and hiring people to set up teams internally, onboarding new people into them, and then setting the processes to help them grow and help them get promoted within the company and get better at what they do. Kind of like covering the talent path at Animalz.

Maks

Yeah, and Animalz is a company that actively promotes remote work, right? So, please tell me, where do your employees work from, what countries are they from and is it common for your company to work in different time zones because of so many employee locations?

Julia

Yeah, we have a lot of different time zones, so I’m actually located in Barcelona. We’ve got a couple of people in the UK, Ireland, we’ve got people in Italy, and then in the US, starting from the East Coast, New York, Philadelphia, Georgia, and then going further in. I mean, we’ve got Colorado, California, and all the way out to Hawaii, actually, which is always fun because right now, at least, we’re exactly 12 hours time difference, so it’s always like, the switch of the time zones. So, yeah, we collaborate across a lot of different time zones.

Maks

As an HR professional, do you see any challenges that are typical for managing people in a remote company, especially when it’s distributed that much and what is the biggest problem that you’re dealing with?

Julia

Yeah, there are definitely challenges. I mean, the biggest one, and I think the one that maybe a lot of companies fear or kind of like concerns them the most when they’re considering remote, is how you get everyone to do work when not everyone is in the same office in the same 9 to 5 time period. I think setting processes where you can work asynchronously is very important and it’s a big challenge when you start out.

I wouldn’t say it’s a problem but I would say that it’s definitely something to consider. It’s something to actively build and not just wait to kind of like see how things happen, and then beyond that, beyond just kind of like the time synchronicity, I would say communication because you do depend primarily on written communication and communication through tools.

It’s not the same as I need to ask somebody a question and I’m going to walk to their office and ask it, or maybe sometimes, spontaneous conversations, whether around work or outside of work, don’t happen as naturally, and so how do you organize that? How do you organize communication so everyone knows what’s happening and things aren’t just like scattered somewhere on the web? I think that’s the other challenge that is interesting to solve when you go remote.

Maks

Yeah. You mentioned processes and communication, and with processes and remote. Do you see any specific differences from the processes as you would run them if the company was on-site and only head employees working in a single office?

Julia

That’s an interesting question. I think for some processes, some processes would definitely look different, other processes, I think, you still want to — the way we think about setting processes for asynchronous work is that there should be a good process so that people can then work independently. It’s almost like setting a really good framework so that people can work within them, not necessarily micromanaging everyone. I think going remote gives you challenges.

You cannot micromanage people even if you want to, so you have to get really diligent about that which can be an advantage because micromanaging isn’t to the advantage of anyone; you just end up wasting a lot of time. Managers waste a lot of time, but then the other things are, certain processes might look a little bit different if we could get in a room and do things differently, but I think you just set them up for a different environment. It’s kind of like saying we don’t have this kind of table. We have this kind of table, so we’re going to adjust to it.

Maks

Yeah, absolutely, but it’s a very good point that you mentioned, that you can’t micromanage. Especially for younger organizations that I have seen in the past who aren’t remote, they often micromanage and that’s not a good environment to go remote. Setting up the right processes helps the transition to that place where it’s enabling productivity while working remotely, and setting expectations for the employees and having them track their deliverables instead of the time and when they’re working, how they can solve problems just by tapping someone else on the shoulder. 

These are great issues that you’re mentioning. Can you share a little bit more about how you deal with communication and processes at Animalz?

Julia

Yeah, so one thing to start from where you were referring to – we record everything, so we have a very good written record. We’ve always had this since the beginning of the company, so somebody might ask, “Oh, how do we do this thing in this tool we have?” and maybe it’s something that we don’t have written down, so maybe I’ll explain to them. Then what I’ll do is I’ll either create a resource and share it written with them, and have them use it and see if they can use it, or sometimes, we’ll do the reverse where I might show them, and then ask them, “Can you write this up?” and I’ll check to see.

Helping them understand it and then check to see that we haven’t missed anything, and publish it. Keep publishing things in our common company Wiki so people can find them, and it’s never perfect, it’s always a process. People still have questions, but I think making it available, so even like the simple stuff, how do I change a record in our content management system? What do I do if something has gotten canceled? Little questions that you want to ask somebody but you don’t necessarily have to go find a person, interrupt them from the work and ask that question where other people have dealt with it many times before.

You can just read something, watch a video, and it’s much better for you as well because maybe at your manager is like, 5:00 AM their time. You don’t need to wait for them to come online and say, “Oh, hey, my work is going to get stalled now and I don’t know what to do.” I would say the first key to both communication and processes is to have really good records – record everything, make it available.

Maks

I really love how you’re mentioning about showing people some specific action items that they need to do or if there’s anything unclear about the process or workflow that you have in your company. Showing them off and either preparing a resource in the future, so that you can basically send an instruction to someone or have them actually write instructions, so you can, later on, see if they understood everything perfectly. This is great and this is something that we practice quite a lot, so I really love it and I really love that you brought it up.

People who have doubts about the remote work style claim, that it’s hard to retain productivity once you’re distributed. How would you convince them that it’s not true?

Julia

You know, it’s funny. I want to say we haven’t had that issue. I mean, obviously, all companies’ productivity and keeping a good workflow for everyone and all of that will present some challenges for every company. Nothing is rosy but I don’t think we’ve seen any particular challenges because we are remote in the sense that we do what you mentioned before. When people come in, there’s an onboarding period which is quite extensive.

The first month, it’s very focused on learning the processes and learning how to function within the team more, than they do about a third of the work they’re expected to eventually do at the company and we make that clear to them from the beginning. We tell them we have onboarding meetings. We go through processes. We discuss a lot how you do things, and then after the first month, they start ramping up slowly until they get to their full workload which may take up to 3 months to get there. What I’m trying to say with that is through that process, we make the expectations very clear like “this is what you’re delivering now, we’re going to start delivering one more this week, we’re going to start doing…”.

We ramp them up slowly and after that, also, the values and the understanding within the company that you are an owner of your own work. You are responsible for it. If you have issues and you can’t deliver, you communicate proactively, so I think it’s also finding the right people that want to work in that kind of environment and that are happy to take they’re kind of like more self-starters. They want to take ownership of the work, they’re communicating in the right ways, and then we teach them also: these are the ways we communicate and we expect you to communicate.

I think, I mean, if anything, I don’t know, when people like the work, they really dedicate the time and effort. I mean, there are studies out there that show that remote workers actually work more, better than office workers, and I believe it because especially with our work which requires a lot of creativity writing, content, and thinking maybe 9:00 AM this morning wasn’t the best time for you to think and maybe you want to take a walk and you want to come back at 11:00 AM and you’re more creative and productive, and you stay a little bit longer to finish what you were doing, and so I think the flexibility really helps productivity.

Maks

Yeah, that’s completely true and I agree with you, and on that note and productivity, you touched upon some aspects that got me thinking that software development and content writing have a lot in common. It’s quite creative, you can’t measure a software developer’s productivity just by counting the lines of code that he’s written, and I expect that you can’t do the same with people writing content as it’s creative. Sometimes, writing a sentence can be really fast and on other occasions, it can take much more time, but is there any way that you actually track the deliverables of your content team?

Julia

Yeah, we definitely track deliverables, so what we do, we use words and length as an average, as a yardstick, kind of like, it’s a very crude yardstick. We are in long-form content marketing and it’s B2B, so our articles tend to be between 1500 to 2000 words, and the expectation is that people will do 10 of these per month. At the same time, we have certain customers where we know, because of the industry and because of the customer’s requirements, those 2000 words can actually take you a week instead of 2 days to write. In those cases, we will set different expectations for those people or depending on how we communicate with the customer to how we set their plan, maybe each of the articles we produce, and sometimes, they’re just long.

Sometimes, they may ask us for 5000 words, so we will count them in our own system as 3 articles even though it’s just one title, or we do the opposite where we know that this customer is particularly challenging or wants very in-depth research, so we tell that person, “Because you’re working on this customer, instead of 10 per month, you are responsible for delivering 7 per month.”

So, everyone has their expectations clear on what things mean, but yeah, we have a system and we do, we check productivity which I assume all companies do. You need to measure what you’re doing, so we have a system where we set up our weekly planning, so planning the week ahead to make sure that we are covering all of the customers, but also looking at the productivity of the week before and just saying, what did we deliver? What didn’t we deliver? Why? And trying to go from there, finding solutions.

Maks

On the video interview that you had about strategic alignment with a remote company, I learned that you tripled your team at Animalz from 10 to over 30 people right now. Can you tell me, how do you maintain a company’s culture when growing that rapidly and in a remote setup?

Julia

Yeah, that’s interesting. Culture changes when the team grows, whether you are co-located or remote, I think that’s a given. What do you want to maintain –sometimes, I think when we think about maintaining a culture, we think about maintaining certain practices because it’s natural, because as humans, we like a ritual, we like practices. Oh, when we were 10 people, we could do this and I’ll get on a call and do this, and that’s nice and it’s nice that people can act that way, but I think what you really want to get to is, as the person or the team that organizes all of that, what is the drive behind that?

It’s that people want to connect. People want to meet one another. People want to do projects together, so I think it’s kind of like maintaining the values of the company. Working as a team is one of our biggest values but then finding new ways to kind of express that in our culture. It has changed, but I think it has changed positively. As you grow, you get more voices, more diverse voices, more interest, and I mean, I learn new things every day.

Even in a random channel, we have a random channel where people put – and we have other various interest-specific channels outside of work, but anything that you’re not sure where to put, goes into random and every time I scroll through that, I feel like I’ve learned so much. I mean, people have so many passions outside of work and things they do. Yeah, I think that’s it. I think it’s not about clinging onto a certain way of running culture. I think it’s more about making sure that your values are expressed and there is a way to communicate them as the team grows.

Maks

Yeah, and I wanted to also ask you with a team of that size, how to set up operations so that everyone stays in sync when working remotely and asynchronously?

Julia

Yeah, what we do, we have – I mean, I can talk about a specific one but I’m trying to maybe go a level above to make this interesting to people who don’t need those operations, but the way we work – we have various tools. One of our main tools is a database software called Air Table, and so what we’ve done in there is that we’ve set up a process. It’s how we manage, how we create content from the start, from an idea to delivering it to the customer – first, doing internal edits and copy edits, delivering it to a customer, doing revisions with them and publishing it and finally moving it into “done”.

It’s a very specific system and we have also connected certain integrations with it to make life easier. So, if you move something into “delivery” the system will automatically grab all the necessary information from the card and email the customer and tell them, “Hey, your piece is ready to look at. Please give us some feedback.” Creating these kinds of processes where everything is very clear and there is a step for everything, and then that step also helps you do your work, so you don’t have to do a lot of the admin stuff and the little stuff that you might miss or you might forget because you actually want to do your research or you want to get to your actual work.

So, that system, I think it’s probably the biggest help in being able to work asynchronously and remotely because your piece is ready for edits. You move it into “edits” and you know that the message has gone to your editor. When they come online, they will look at it, they will message you back when it’s ready to look at. You can go on and do something else, so those kinds of things, and this is what I said at the beginning. We spend a lot of time, especially the first months, going over these processes and teaching people how to use these correctly and what to do when something fails so that they can then work independently and at their own time zone. How do you set up those systems? I mean…

Maks

That is what I wanted to ask you next actually because you mentioned the onboarding program and other programs that you also have at Animalz, so I want to know, how do you set them up?

Julia

I think – I mean, to talk about the process of actually thinking through it, I think what you want to do — you kind of work backward. You want to say, what is it that I want people to do and how to get there? So, for onboarding, I want people to be able to set up all of their accounts, go through certain policies and processes and read certain documents, and I want them to attend certain meetings and all of that stuff. But I also don’t want to have to email them or Slack with them every single day about this, so one way that we have solved that issue, for example, is creating an onboarding list.

We give them the list and we tell them – it is very detailed, it has instructions about everything, how to set up each and every single account step-by-step, what researches you should be reading, what meetings we are going to have. There’s flexibility within that because not everything has to be done on the same day. Usually, I’ll tell them, get through this the first week however you want to. So, I think it’s kind of like it’s giving them clear guidance but then also giving them some time, letting them figure out the how, letting them do it however it works for them, and yeah, I think it’s the same, it’s kind of the same for our writing process.

There’s a very specific process that every piece goes to guarantee the quality, but you need to do ideation and you need to deliver this, but how you do it is up to you or you need to do your research and you need to produce an outline. So, we set up – again, we refer to this a little bit earlier, the framework. You set up the framework and the steps, but then you let people work within that how they like to do.

Maks

You mentioned checklists for onboarding and you also previously talked a lot about putting things down and documenting them. I wanted to ask, what tools do you use for this? What tools do you use to set up those checklists, document them? Also, what do you use for knowledge management documenting, everything, and then sharing that with the rest of the team and all your employees?

Julia

For the onboarding checklist, we use Asana which we found very useful for that. One of the main software at the company is Quip which is – it’s like word doc, it is a word processor but it’s very collaborative. It is, I think, the most collaborative that I have seen, so that’s what we use to actually write our content and share it with customers. Also, we used to do the onboarding checklist in there in the sense that we had a templated doc. It was a checklist and people did that. But actually, Asana has more features when you really want to go heavy on the checklist.

Now, a lot of our documents, our resources will start in Quip because when we first write something down, you want to get feedback. You want to make sure everyone had input. It’s kind of like you have the basics down and it is very easy and it is very – you need to collaborate in Quip doing that, but once something is said and final, once we agree or at least for now because documents always evolve but once we have a good version, we actually use Tetra which is another software.

It integrates with Slack very well, and that is the main company wiki, so if you want to check out policy or what is the actual process for this right now, that is where people check, and if they find something that needs updating in there, people that will let us know, this needs updating. If they know, they will update it. If they don’t, they will ask us, but yeah, so those are kind of like, it’s Asana, Quip for collaborating and getting the documents where they should be, and then Tetra, it’s where they leave once things are set.

Maks

I like that you’re having the same ways, like the same types of tools that you use and organizing yourself there. Since you mentioned that you are also responsible for recruiting, can you tell me how you encourage people to join your company? What is it you talk about when trying to get them engaged and motivated to join?

Julia

Yeah, so when we put out job ads, obviously, I mean, the typical things: you want to show what the requirements of the job are. What the day-to-day is, kind of like the skills necessary, or we mention that we are a remote company. We make that very clear. Also, that this isn’t a freelance role because I think sometimes, there can be a little bit of a gray area there where people can consider remote work more of a freelance style, and then the other thing is trying to post. Posting as much as possible on remote-specific job boards.

We are very active in trying to find and recruit diverse talent as well and trying to kind of like go broader and find candidates from different sources, but the truth is that when you post to remote job boards, you know that people who are looking at it are at least interested in remote work and it is what they have identified as the best mode of working for them.

Remote work, it’s great. I personally think it’s great. I don’t think it’s for everyone. I don’t think everyone likes it, and so that can be a little bit of a challenge when you go to other job boards. Are you targeting the right audience? Is everyone there interested in remote and when people apply? Do they fully understand what remote is? Do they know? I think we’ve seen based on our data that most of our candidates come from remote-specific job boards, so that is one way of trying to target the right people, and that in terms of how do you attract them. I think that’s the challenge with companies. We mention the benefits we offer, we try to mention how the team works, what we do, we talk more about those things on interviews.

Maks

Awesome, and you mentioned that remote work isn’t for everyone, so you try to advertise as much as possible on remote job boards and remote-specific job boards. Can you share a little bit more like what are the kinds of people that you are looking for? What are the skills that you look for in a remote hire?

Julia

Beyond the work skills, what we consider to be able to do remote work, I think one is people who are self-starters. I think that’s become kind of a catchword. You see it a lot, but it’s people who want to do the work and they will take initiative and they want to find things to do, they don’t wait to be told what to do but they want to find where to help and where to contribute to the company. So, we go through this, we ask a few different kinds of questions to assess that during interviews. One is talking directly about what is your remote work philosophy and we will hear what people say.

People who have a very idealistic view and will say only good things: “Oh, I love remote work! It’s so flexible and it’s this and it’s great and it’s fantastic!” That will tend to make me more skeptical, and so we will ask them, and what about challenges, have you faced them? Because there are challenges and we talked about them, communication, connecting with colleagues, not having people around every day. It’s good because you can get distracted but it’s also like there are times where you go, okay, can I talk to a real human being now?

So, I think people who have a balance, who show that they understand the challenges either through previous experience or because they are aware through their job. They know themselves and they know that “Okay, I have these pros at my current office. I think remote work can offer me these things, but it will be challenging.” So, I think that we are looking for that and understanding of what remote work really is, and what the challenges are and being able to talk through them and solve them.

Then for the other things, we will ask them: tell us something you’ve struggled with and how you handled it, tell us of a disagreement you had. We want to see through these questions. We want to see that these are people who are proactive communicators that when they’ve had a disciplinary challenge before, they thought about not just what they want to get out of this but how can they solve it? How can they make this better for everyone? People who bring things, we look for those kinds of people, good communicators, proactive people and people who understand the challenges of remote work.

Maks

Great, so you brought up already a few questions that you asked that are geared more towards checking if a person is going to thrive in the remote workplace. How do you screen the technical part, like how do you assess if a person will be good at a content-related position and is it possible to actually make sure to try to minimize the error there in the hiring before they actually start working with you?

Julia

For our company, for content marketing management, samples are very important. Writing samples is one of the first things we look at and we also have some screening questions that come into the application. We want to see, can they answer the question in a way that shows a good understanding of that area of the basics. It’s interesting though because even with writing samples, you look for good analytical thinking, good structuring, good writing skills, but it is very hard to know what the prompt was that created that article and how much editing they did.

Sometimes, we see writing that is good, for example, but the structure may not be very good, so we go, “Well, with a good editor, this person could really grow and become really good.” So, we look for potential, we look for clues to people who could really thrive under the right guidance, and then from them, we will do the first interview. Then probably the most important part is we do a sample project together. We will give them the prompt, we will give them the guidance and we will ask people to create an outline or write something, a few paragraphs on that topic, show the reasoning, and will do edits with them and that really shows us. It’s a really good thing for them because we try to mimic our actual process.

This is what you give to an editor, they get real feedback from real editors, they have to do a revision. So, it shows them, gives them a chance to understand, is this something you want to do? Is this where you want to work? And it gives us a way to see, can we collaborate well? And we create something better together.

Yeah, I think for skills, that part, the project part, it is very important. It’s one of the crucial parts. Can you ever be right at 100%? I think no. We try to learn, we go back and we review processes and applicants. Especially, in fact, when things don’t work, so when somebody came in and in the end – and we’ve had that happen, like they come in, maybe they stay a few months, maybe they stay even like up to a year but in the end, they say, “I don’t think this is the right role for me. It’s not a fit. I want something different.”

So we go back and we look at it and we discuss it. We discuss with them, what didn’t we talked about? And we do exit interviews with people as well, so we try to get their reviews. Was the job properly advertised? What would you have liked to see and that kind of thing. We try to understand how to improve that and we are always trying to fine-tune it and look for the markers that people that are good at what they do but also who will be happy on our team because you want both things.

Yeah, I don’t think – humans are complicated. I don’t think you can ever have like, yeah, this is the checklist, this is the strategy for finding the people that are 100% fit but definitely trying to always review our process and improve where we can.

Maks

I love what you said about it – I think kind of stimulating the work environment that you’re going to have at your workplace in the screening process. I just wanted to ask, how long does it usually take you to take a candidate from an application to making a decision?

Julia

So, it takes about a month from the time that we review their application or respond to them to come for the first interview. I say that just because we do receive a high volume of applications, so sometimes, there can be a two to three-week wait before we get to an application, but once we start the process, we try to finish it. I mean, we say within three weeks, we try to stay there, but by the time they – if we do make an offer and they consider it, so usually, it takes about a month to fill the position.

Maks

Okay. I also saw that at Animalz, you run your own podcast. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Julia

Yeah, so as a content agency, content marketing agency, even though most of the work we produce for customers is in the written field at least for now. We also like podcasts and we couldn’t really find one that was specifically on the type of content marketing that we do in the approach that we have, so we thought what would be a better way – we will create one and we will learn as we share what we have learned so far with our audience. I’m not directly involved with it, but we see it in the company and it’s a great project because it really shows our customers and prospective customers how it works, so it becomes easier to connect with them, if they have listened to some episodes, if they enjoyed it.

It has also become something that we weren’t planning but it has become a very good – maybe not necessarily – it has become a very good resource for people who are interested in the company, for applicants who want to apply because we talk about not just how we deal with content which is the work that they will be doing, so it could be of interest, but also how do you give creative feedback? How do you progress in your career as a marketer? We talk about things like that.

A lot of our applicants find interesting and it’s also a way for us to let our people internally within the agency get their voices out and their knowledge out. Just because when you work at an agency a lot of the work that you do goes written, you do it for companies, and so there is not necessarily an outlet, so we wanted both our blog and our podcast to be a way for them to share the skills they have and the expertise they are building as they are doing these accounts, and yeah, and it’s a lot of fun. I think people really like to create it and I think it’s fun to listen to.

Maks

Great, I recommend people to listen to it too and I think it’s also a great way for a company to basically show your expertise and what you are good at and for people to learn how you do stuff and see how can they could benefit from that. Just really amazing.

Talking about podcasts, what resources do you recommend for HR professionals and do you know any good materials related to remote work that will be useful for them?

Julia

Yeah, that’s interesting. Remote work isn’t entirely new, but at the same time, it’s not really widespread. I think one thing that certainly comes to mind, and probably for a lot of the listeners, is Buffer. It is one of the companies that started early and were very transparent, so they have a lot of good resources about how to work and about doing remote work. Automattic is another company and particularly, or I would say if you go on their Work With Us – they have a lot of – within that, they link to resources: how they do things but also blogs that their own people have written about work. I find that interesting.

A lot of the times, I’ll find it helpful reading the perspectives of people who are working remotely and what the challenges are and how to solve them and why they like or don’t like the remote work. I think you can kind of can give you ideas on how you would approach those issues. In terms of books, I mean, Basecamp, right, wrote the first, like the remote workbook, and then more recently, Rework.

I think those are good resources and good ways of thinking, and then other than that, I google a lot. There is good kind of like resources you could find here in there on specific topics, and I think it takes a lot of searching and finding topics, and internally, like we do surveys, we ask people, what’s working? What is not working? What is one thing we should change? What is one thing we shouldn’t change? And sometimes, we don’t think of it, but within our team, we have a lot of resources. People have good ideas about solving some of these issues, so we always try to keep that in mind as well, let people bring the solutions to us.

Maks

Yeah. I love what you said about looking at some companies that are really successful and are very mature remote organizations and look there for inspiration because they publish a lot of content. They publish a lot of interesting articles, even books sometimes, so Buffer, Automattic, Basecamp, these are great places to look for materials related to remote work.

I have the last question for you: what do you wish to have known earlier, and if you can share any tips for HR people from different companies that could improve their work?

Julia

I think one of the biggest things I have learned as the company grew is that the role of People Ops can be very distinct from any other role and can sometimes feel strained. Especially, during the growth phases because you don’t really own a department. Often, you don’t have a team, especially in a smaller company. Instead, what you do is that you have to elevate yourself to a position where you act like an adviser to other departments and a collaborator, and you’re kind of like the glue that brings everything together and that is a very important role. I think you also have to understand that you will never be able to say: this is my department and we are going to launch this project.

Hiring – are we going to bring a salesperson? Are we going to bring in a content manager? Are we going to bring in an editor? There are different people, different hiring managers I need to collaborate with and help through the process, and we need to set up a new policy, okay? So, talking with the CEO, what kind of budget? What kind of this? Talking with the directors: what do we need? You have a lot of touchpoints.

The proof that is that you are that piece in the puzzle that really brings everything together. Understanding that earlier on might have saved me a little bit of frustration when things start to expand and you feel like everything is just about to break down. I think you just have to find the key points where you need to set up those processes and resources for the people in other departments that we were talking about, and then act in that role.

Maks

Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, Julia, we have come to an end and it was really great to talk to you. I think you shared some amazing insights into remote work culture, but also into your organization, how you do stuff. I believe that it’s going to be a tremendous value to everyone. I want to thank you a lot for joining me on this call.

Julia

Yes, thank you. It’s been great fun. I love talking about this thing, so this was like the best hour of my day and it’s a Friday, so a whole week made.

Maks

Yeah, for me too. Awesome, thanks again. I hope to connect again real soon.

Want to listen more? Check out the IT Crafts HR podcast episode with Matus Horvath, Head of People Operations at Slido.