Specific challenges to hiring remote employees in India

A few interesting points that have come up in recent conversations:

  • Remote work has significant cultural stigma. It isn't yet a mainstream activity in India, so it's looked upon with negativity. For instance, the maid will come over and ask "why aren't you at the office? are you sick?"
  • Infrastructure isn't yet eventually distributed. Moderately reliable internet at the office costs 100x what most pay for internet at home. Even the most expensive home internet (5x baseline) can still be inconsistent.
  • Working from home has a space constraint. An entire family of five to six people could be living in 400 square feet.
  • Labor laws favor full-time employment over contracting. For instance, Indian law requires six months paid leave for mothers. Contractors aren't afforded similar benefits.

Remote work in India works best among the "intellectual elite", but this is still a small percentage of the total engineering talent.

Automattic’s hidden tricks

Automattic has been particularly good at building an effective distributed company. Some pieces (e.g. P2) are obvious. Others are hard won and don’t get the limelight they deserve.

Matt’s Global Search (MGS). Now that I’m on the outside, MGS is the piece I miss most. MGS searches all Automattic P2s of all time.  Ever wonder why something was done a certain way? Just search. You’ll likely find a thread from three years ago discussing the pros and cons of a half dozen approaches, and an explanation of why the fourth approach was picked. For the unacquainted, it takes some retraining to avoid asking a colleague every time you have a question. When you learn to search first, you become infinitely more capable (and ultimately end up in Barry’s good graces).

IRC for everything. IRC — you know, that really old technology like bulletin boards no one uses anymore? Yeah, it’s still really cool. It’s lightweight, you can use it on your desktop or phone, and it’s super hackable. You can pipe all sorts of things to IRC rooms. Like such as fatal errors… server load alerts… down notifications… When you couple your monitoring with IRC, it becomes a realtime health indicator of your platform, and an immediate point of collaboration for your team.

As I transition to my new role with Human Made’s increasingly distributed team, these tricks are at the forefront of my mind.