Remote work. also known as telecommuting has spiked a lot of interest this year as a result of the present covid19 pandemic. Never has the world at large sought for an avenue to collaborate and remain productive as well. Remote work has been in existence but there is a need for more organisations to be aware and leverage on it.

As a Frontend developer and Community Manager whose been working remotely for over a year now, I have experienced some benefits and frustrations about working remotely. However, I wanted to find out about how other people deal with this new change so I organized an online chat with Natu Lauchande from Cape Town South Africa, who was very keen to share his experiences and lessons learned.

Natu Lauchande has been working in Software Engineering/Development teams with different grades of remote/distributed collaboration in the last 7 years. His contributions have been invaluable and I hope you will learn a thing or two from this QnA.

Chioma: Can we e-meet you?

Natu: Hello everyone. Am very excited. My name is Natu Lauchande and I have been working in Software Engineering/Development teams with different grades of remote/distributed collaboration in the last 7 years. Am very keen to share my experiences and lessons learning.

Chioma: What is Remote collaboration and what does it entail?

Natu: I think remote collaboration is being able to work with others productively and sustainably independent of the physical distance.

Chioma: Why is it important among developers and techies?

Natu: It’s important in many ways. The most important in my opinion is the following :

  1. Allow access to a much larger talent pool/workforce than the geographical context of the business.
  2. Business resilience in adverse scenarios like the current pandemic.
  3. As a productivity boost.
  4. Can work as perk/benefit of a company.
  5. Enables work-life balance.

Chioma: This is very insightful. Yes, I agree. Especially in scenarios like the current pandemic #COVID19. Remote work has saved the day.
But how do developers collaborate effectively in teams?

Natu: They do this by making use of the right tools. Using the right tooling is critical: here are some tools for effective collaboration.

  1. Git / Version control
  2. Issue Tracker
  3. Message/ Collaboration (Slack, zoom, etc.)
  4. Automation everywhere and documentation excellence.

Chioma: How can developers be productive while collaborating remotely?

Natu: My approach involves actively eliminating distractions in my workspace ( noise, tv, sound, etc), dressing as if I was going to the office and clear goals for the day. Daily standup coupled with a weekly journal helps improve the process.

Chioma: In the next few years, what changes do we expect to see in remote collaboration?

Natu: I am seeing much more businesses embracing a remote-first approach. The option will be available at least to everyone that can and will be leveraged as a way to reduce costs of operations.

Most likely, the next trillion-dollar tech company will be a remote-first company with a diverse workforce working from every corner of the world.

Chioma: Can you share some limitations in your experience concerning remote collaboration?

Natu: Some limitations worthy of note from my experience are;

  1. Cabin fever(distress, irritability caused by the monotony of working isolated)
  2. Loss of non-verbal communication hints( physical interaction and body language)
  3. No prior art on creating Zoom/Slack based deeper social relationships

Chioma: How can we reduce or eliminate such limitations?

Natu: By doing the following;

  1. Alternating between remote or onsite as per employee preference.
  2. Organize virtual socialization events and training for teams new to remote work.

Chioma: These are great tips. My next question is: What advice would you give to organisations that want to embrace a remote culture?

Natu: To get started I would suggest the following

  • Start small with a few days remote.
  • Over Communicate
  • Use collaborative enable and sharing tools
  • Company support for adequate work from home setup

Chioma: What are the security gaps in remote collaboration?

Natu: Not a lot of context on security. But I would suspect that there are risks from the fact that you are not in an isolated corporate computer network and physical space. So I see risk on intellectual property and general cybersecurity concerns.

Chioma: Hmm, that’s very interesting and I think it’s a strong point for many developers to look out for. This has been an interesting session Natu Lauchande. Thank you so much for these insights.

However, what did you expect us to ask about remote collaboration for developers we did not?

Natu: Hard question. Perhaps :
“What are the opportunities for the incipient and vibrant Africa Tech community of the move to more remote work?”

Chioma: And what is your opinion about this question?

Natu: I think we will see more cross country collaboration as it will be seamless to hire engineers in many countries and continents according to demand, cost and expertise.

An opportunity for the continent to step up and use technology as an empowering tool from an economic inclusion perspective. Latitude and longitude will start to matter less and less when deciding who/what/how problems can be solved in technology.

Me: Thank you so much for your time

Natu Lauchande

Natu Lauchande is a Principal Engineer working in AI/Machine Learning Engineering in the Fintech Space from Cape Town South Africa.

Follow Natu Lauchande on Twitter and Linkedin.

Have any comments or questions on remote collaboration, please drop them in the comment section below.

PS: Originally published on Medium.