Being part of an internationally-distributed team always comes with unique challenges—things like coordinating across time zones, staying connected, and navigating cross-cultural differences.
It takes intentional effort to stay connected and collaborate as one team. That’s what we heard from Karol, who’s based in Barcelona, Spain, and Marek, who’s in Waterloo, Canada. They shared their experiences about what you can expect when you join an engineering team (like ours!) with team members across Spain, Canada, and the US.
Meet Karol Jastrzębowski
- Full Stack Developer
- Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of the most technologically interesting places in Europe. It’s a big tech hub, that’s why I moved here from Poland— better career opportunities in engineering. I was working for a Spanish startup called Talaia that was acquired by Auvik in 2018 and since then, I’ve been really happy to be on board.
Re-structuring the team to connect internationally
When I started at Auvik, we kept our teams quite separate — one engineering team in Barcelona, and one in Waterloo. We exchanged ideas but functioned as separate groups.
The pandemic changed everything.
In Barcelona, it was very hard for us to transition to remote work, because a lot of us have smaller flats without separate rooms to work in. It was hard to adapt, but a change in how our team was structured helped. We combined the Spanish and Canadian engineering teams. We made sure there were at least two team members in the same time zone on each team so you’d always have someone working the same hours as you.
There can be feelings of loneliness when all your colleagues are on the other side of the world. This reorganization helped us connect with our Canadian colleagues and be able to better learn from each other.
There’s also flexibility around working hours. While we have an office in Barcelona, most people here choose to work a hybrid style—coming into the office a couple days a week and working a few days from home. We also use the office space for team social events.
Why work for a Canadian-based company when I’m in Spain?
It’s the culture and the Auvik Way values that are dear to my heart. I see a lot of application of those in our daily behavior. People are kind and make the effort to ask questions and be curious about who you are. That’s what makes me stick with the company.
Acts of kindness that may seem simple go a long way. We got Christmas gifts in the mail from Auvik. Receiving this from Canada felt like a present from a family member across the world!
We have a recognition channel on Slack to celebrate wins and say thank you to coworkers. This has helped us feel more connected to each other, and given us opportunities to cheer everyone on. We have a “kudos culture”, where we dedicate time in team meetings to speak up and recognize each other for great work.
I’m part of the platform team, and my role is to help other Auvik engineering teams build. I’m also our scrum master, and in our retro meetings, we always take time to reflect on what we learned and give kudos.
Auvik is in a very interesting period right now trying to master a lot of new tech in the networking monitoring space. On our engineering team, you get to experiment with a very cool, modern tech stack and learn from talented leaders who are kind, curious and based around the world.
Meet Marek Komor
- Software Engineering Manager
- Waterloo, Ontario
I lead an engineering team with members in Spain, the US, and Canada. We think of ourselves as one team—not separated by location—because we’re all working together towards a common goal. That said, we also want to avoid redundancy between locations and still be able to learn from each other.
How we work: Asynchronous and maximize meetings
We rely on asynchronous communication since we’re all in different time zones, mainly through Slack. It actually has worked out really well. If something urgent comes up for a team member in Canada, they can ping a coworker in Barcelona to ask for help with it when they start their day. It avoids having one person working super late hours and makes us more collaborative and efficient.
First thing in the morning Eastern Time is prime time for meetings, as we’re all working at overlapping hours. Our face to face time is really precious, and we make sure they’re purposeful. Sometimes, what’s most meaningful for the team is a social chat and check in on how everyone is doing and feeling with the workload. Collaboration for us also means taking the time to get to know people and what’s important to them.
Making sure people are valued and recognized no matter where they are is important to prioritize with how we work. Team members who aren’t in Canada are not viewed or treated as an afterthought. It can be easy to say things aren’t your problem, but it is your responsibility if it affects someone on your team.
For example, I’m not an expert in Spanish law. But when one of my team members came to me with a question about their employment agreement, I see it as my responsibility as a leader to help them. I’ve had to adapt and figure things out that aren’t my core competency.
Learning cultural communication differences
The way people communicate is very different throughout the world. When you have an internationally-distributed team, it’s important to understand cultural differences and communication styles.
I am very comfortable giving direct feedback. I interpret that as being helpful and constructive, but it could come across very differently for someone else. With a more indirect communication style, you may take that as personal criticism. How you deliver feedback needs to be respectful and understanding of who you’re talking to, their background, and their culture. You need to be aware of the right ways to interact and be accomodating with different people.
Cultural differences are an important consideration when hiring as well. For example, we were looking into adding a DevOps person on the team, which can mean a lot of different things to different people. We asked team members in Spain questions like:
- What do you see as the DevOps role?
- Is that job title used in the dev community in Spain?
- Does it make sense culturally?
We always ask lots of questions and are continuously learning from each other about language and cultural differences through our work!
Growing our team internationally
Collaboration is key to being part of an internationally-distributed team and that takes effort. That said, we have no plans to slow down, and are continuing to hire talented engineers on our team from across the world!
We have drop-in centers in Waterloo and Barcelona, but no one is required to work from an Auvik location.
Interested in joining our team? Check out our current job openings.