Career Growth in Distributed Teams
Last year Marcus Wermuth of Buffer spoke at Nomad City about career growth in relation to distributed teams, and now he shares his story, along with some practical tips, on our blog.
As some of you might know Buffer is a fully distributed company, we don‘t have an office and everyone is allowed to work where they are the happiest. I started at Buffer in 2015 as an iOS Developer, ending my freelance journey. I had a ton of fun, working in a team and all was new to me. After a couple of months I switched to the Android team and started to really lean in. I started to notice that the Mobile Team had quite a different standing than the other engineering teams in Buffer. We were not as connected to the Product Managers and at that time we also didn‘t have an Engineering Manager for the Mobile Team. The more I worked in the Mobile team the more I wanted it to be different, but as an engineer I didn‘t have a lot of opportunities. The only connection we had was our last CTO, to whom we chatted here and there.
Then in January 2017 he left, and I started to become very anxious. „Who will chat with us now?“ – „Who will help us?“ – „Do we have a reason to exist?“ I heard that a couple of Engineering Leads were meeting to talk about the transition and what needed to be done. I immediately raised my „virtual hand“ and told them that we need to know what will happen to us now.
The response I got was quite funny – „Well, Marcus could you take over 1:1s and start becoming the manager for the Mobile team?“. You can probably expect my reaction. At first I didn‘t know what to do. I mean until the day before I was fixing bugs in the Android app, and know I had to take care of people?
Now over 2 years later I can tell you that it was the best step in my career. I enjoy working with people so much and it has been filling me with a lot of energy and wouldn‘t change it at all!
Before I share 3 points you can use to lean more into career growth in your team, I wanted to share something about our comfort zones. We tend to love our comfort zone, we are happy in there we do what we know and what we can. That is fine if you what to stay where you are. But if you want to grow, you have to step out of it.
You have to lean into topics and things which are outside of your comfort zone and allow you to learn something new.
What can you do now in your team to lean into growth?
Remote Work is prone to missing things. You are not online all the day, and people like your manager or peers won‘t see what you achieve all the time. It is important that you share those things with them. Let them know about your achievements.
Raise your hand, like I did. Bring things up and mention them again and again. There is no such thing as over-communication in remote teams.
Don‘t be shy! Bring your thoughts/achievements/worries to your manager into your 1:1s. In distributed teams we are spread across the world, and as I already mentioned we miss things. I use something called an „Achievements Doc“ with my direct reports to help us keep track.
Build your Network
You can‘t do it all alone! You need to have a support network. And I don‘t mean only your team or peers. Even people outside your company. Friends or Family. It is really helpful to have people in your network, who will push you out of your comfort zone.
Find a Coach or Mentor who can guide you along your way and help you understand more about your career.
Own your Education
Learning has to become part of the journey. As Albert Einstein said „Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance you must keep moving“. That is exactly how it is with growth and learning.
Learn about the next step. Do you want to become a Manager? Chat to Managers, read what they read, understand what is needed to get there.
Learn about your team and processes in your company. Understanding how things work is crucial for you to follow those steps and always be prepared.
I hope I‘ll be able to see some of you at this year’s NomadCity Conference in November 2019 in Gran Canaria. I had such a good time last year, and it helped me a ton with my own Career Growth. Whether it was building out my network with friends I still chat weekly now, or learning from others about their journeys. Can‘t wait 😉 See you there!