Keeping Remote Teams Connected - How I Dev Series

April 17, 2019

At Section, we strive to keep our global team connected, and one of the ways in which we do this is through a weekly How I Dev series, our version of a brown bag.

First, a little history on our remote culture. Section was founded back in 2012 in Sydney, Australia. In 2016, we moved our HQ to Boulder, Colorado, but half of our team is still based in Australia. As the company has grown and life has happened, the spread of physical locations among us has expanded yet further.

Section How I Dev series

How It Works

Every Monday/Tuesday (i.e. the end of the US’ Monday/beginning of Australia’s Tuesday), one of our team members (or a group of collaborators) does an informal presentation on something that benefits the entire group.

Despite being called How I Dev, it doesn’t have to be 100% developer-focused but often is because most of us are engineers. We actually spent one of the sessions doing a show and tell of our personal workspaces, with the notion of sharing why we like certain setups - everything from standing desks and monitor size to guitars and zen gardens.

The subject matter is entirely up to whoever is presenting that week. This means we cover a wide range of topics, including general knowledge sharing, development best practices, deep technical dives, and specific challenges faced and overcome (or soon-to-be overcome through inputs from the larger team).

Examples of past session topics include:

  • Approach and process around client performance reviews
  • Elm overview
  • Examining local bastion SSH scripts
  • Workspace show and tell (mentioned above)
  • Deep dive into cgroups
  • Breaking down PromQL

At the end of each session, the presenter nominates a new presenter for the next week, and that person decides on the topic they want to cover. Often, this is a groupthink decision based on the challenges faced among teams in any given week.

Why It Works

How I Dev is a popular weekly event among our team and allows us to both share knowledge and to build strong relationships of trust and transparency locally and from afar.

There are a few key factors that keep this series running:

Participation/attendance is optional
You might think that optional attendance would translate to zero attendance. In this instance, it has the opposite effect. Aside from having a genuine interest in the subject matter, the support for fellow presenters builds investment and camaraderie among the team. Furthermore, when there’s no pressure to show up every week, it conveys a completely different feeling than a typical meeting might.

No strict guidelines
We don’t place strict guidelines around content, format or style and therefore there is little stress around the series. We all know it is intended to be a casual knowledge share, thus it is treated as such.

Knowledge archives
Each session is recorded, archived and added to Section’s wiki for easy access at any time, serving as a great resource for onboarding new staff as well as providing an ongoing refresher for the rest of us.

Different perspectives
Every challenge, system or language can, of course, be approached from various angles. How I Dev offers the opportunity for valuable input exchange among our team that is specific to a particular topic. Rather than learning only the presenter’s way of approaching something, the discussion often produces many takeaways as a result of, ‘Did you think of trying this?’… or ‘Why did you choose to do this?’ type questions in the Q&A throughout each session.

We hope in sharing this practice that other teams might benefit from our learnings. We can surely attest to its value in developing and furthering best practices while creating a strong connection among our remote team.