YEGOR BUGAYENKO is the CEO of Zerocracy.com and the founder and former CTO of Teamed.io, which develops software in an “extremely” distributed mode. They have no central office, no meetings, no conference, calls, and no Skype chats; instead, they work through task management systems. The more than one hundred Teamed.io freelancers can take on as much or as little work as they want, and are paid as tasks are completed.



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His tips for working remotely:

  • Create redundancy so if one programmer fails, someone else can pick up the task.
  • Give people technically challenging tasks and pay them well.
  • Focus on results.

Podcast production by Podcast Monster

Graphic design by Alfred Boland


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Original transcript

Lisette: Okay, great!  And we’re live so welcome, everybody, to this Hangout On Air.  My name is Lisette Sutherland and I’m interviewing people and companies who are doing great things remotely.  And today, I am joined by Yegor, and you are the founder and CTO of Teamed.io and welcome.  So I’m excited because I looked at your website and we say here that you are developing software in extremely distributed mode where you have no meetings, no central office, no conference calls, not even Skype chats so I’m super curious about this.  So you have a task management system and the one thing that I really love that was written was you call it Team as a Service.

Yegor: That’s right.

Lisette: So tell us about Teamed.io and what you do and we’ll go from there.  Oh and really quickly before we start, if people have questions, please tweet it to #remoteinterview and we’ll get questions answered now or in the future.  So Yegor, please tell me all about it.

Yegor: Yeah.  So as you said, we develop software so we as many other companies in the world, we write software, we write custom software for our customers and it’s mostly web applications, a little bit of mobile applications, and sometimes client applications like Standalone apps.  So we use all the different technologies like mainstream technologies, Java, Ruby, you name it.  But the difference between us and other companies is that we don’t have a central office, we don’t have programmers in-house, we don’t have people in the payroll.  We build distributed teams for every project.  So every time we want to develop software, we create a team, we gather people from different parts of the world, from different countries who actually know different technologies, and we put them together into a virtual team and this team creates a piece of software, delivers it to the customer, and then we let these people go.  And then we start another project.  So all of our people, they work remotely and that’s the gist of it.  That’s how it works.  So we work in remote teams, we build these teams, and we know how to manage them.  So we, as a company, it’s a really small group of people.  It’s me and 4 project managers so we know how to manage these people.  For example, right now, we are working with over 50 programmers, 50 developers, and we are managing them in approximately 10 different projects.  So we are not a huge company but this is how we look now.  And we as the managers, we provide the management for these people that we provide the technical supervise of these people.  And we know how to control this work in so extremely distributed way because why we call it extremely distributed because these people, we never have any informal communications so there’s no Skype talks like you said, no Skype conversations, no web conferences, not even emails, nothing informal except ticket systems.  So we use Github.  In most cases, we use Github and we use tracking system there.  So we communicate with these programmers through tickets.  We have a lot of discussions, all the technical discussions.  They all happen in a ticketing system which actually looks similar to open source developers.  When people develop open source, when people develop products which are free and open source, they do it in similar way. They also have programmers from everywhere.  They also have people working from different places.  They also don’t have the center office, they don’t have salaries, they don’t have anyone on a payroll, so this is just virtual groups of people who can contribute with their code for the main code base, and they do it through ticket system.

Lisette: So it’s like the Open Source programming movement except for now, you’ve monetized it into a company form for specific projects it sounds like.  Is that a fair way to describe it?

Yegor: Yes.  We’re actively contributing to open source and the open source influence us so we learn a lot from open source communities.  So we share our open source products we develop, we see that there’s a lot of success in open source world so we see that a lot of open source software is actually more successful than commercial software and we learn from there.  So we learn from this more chaotic and more unorganized environment compared to traditional commercial development, and we see that this is more effective.  So we actually decided like a few years ago, we decided to bring this philosophy from open source to commercial area.  And now we are much more successful than any other companies because, well I wrote a lot of articles about it, a lot of comparisons, so we are financially more successful, the projects are less expensive and more financially effective.  The projects we produce have much higher quality of code and the programmers are much more satisfied.  The motivation is much higher.

Lisette: So how do you know everybody?  How did you build this network of programmers?

Yegor: That’s a good question.  We started like 5 years ago and that time it was me mostly posting ads on like websites like Elance, like ODesk, just asking people to join our projects but now I don’t need to do this.  I’m getting like from 5 to 10 emails everyday from different programmers.  They just find our websites and they just email me asking, “Can I join?  Like this is my hourly rate.  This is how much I want to be paid for an hour.  This is the list of the technologies I know.  This is my technical stack.  Just let me join you guys.”  And if I understand that the developer, the programmer is good enough, then I just bring him in.  So I don’t need to advertise anymore.  People just find my website, just ask me to join our team.

Lisette: So what is it do you think why are people so excited to work in this way in this business model?  I mean that’s pretty unique.  Tons of companies hire headhunters to go out and find people for them and you have people emailing you regularly so something’s different here.  What’s in it for the people?

Yegor: Well first of all, I think it’s freedom.  I think it’s freedom.  They are free to work.  They have a lot of freedom when they work with us.  This is also our unique advantage.  It’s that we don’t set deadlines.  We don’t set milestones for people.  We don’t push people anywhere.  We don’t put any pressure on developers.  We have some kind of a model which assumes that developers can fail any task.  So when we have more developers than we need, usually, so when traditionally, the traditional project may need for example like three developers or let’s say 5 programmers, we have 25.  So we put much more people on one project than any other company tend to.  And we distribute our task among all these 25 programmers.  And we have a lot of redundancy so if one programmer fails, then we have another guy, another person who can help who can actually pick up this task and finish it in time.  So we are as good as management that we don’t need programmers to be good in time management.  So we assume that programmers may fail.  We assume that they cannot properly control and manage their time.  We just give them tasks and if they fail, give this task to somebody else.  So we control it and because of that, the programmers feel completely free of what they are doing.  So they don’t need to deliver something by tomorrow otherwise they will get some punishment or they will get a call from the manager and they will get some pressure from us.  That’s not the case, which is giving them task and telling them, “Do them when you can.  Do them when you have time.”

Lisette: And if you notice they’re not getting done, you put somebody else on it.

Yegor: If it’s not getting done, we put somebody else up on the same task so we have more tasks than people.  We have a lot of tasks, we bring down the—this is also our unique feature—is that when we develop a project, we break the project down into really huge amount of small tasks.  So normally, our task which we give to the programmer is half an hour of work.  So it’s 30 minutes of work.  We don’t give tasks like “This is for you for a week of work or for months of work.”  We just give you a half an hour task and we give you 50 of these tasks.  So we give you a bigger amount of small micro-tasks and you get in and you implement them, and then you do them when you have time.  So if you don’t have time today, no problem.  We can give this task to somebody else.  So on our side, we are able to manage this huge amount of task among these many developers.  It’s really like complex management, idea complex management mission but we can do it.  We have instruments, we have tools for that, we have a lot of knowledge for that.  I’m talking about managers.  So we can actually manage a huge amount of people and a huge amount of task at the same time.

Lisette: And who breaks down the task?  Sorry to interrupt.

Yegor: That’s us, our management know-how, yes.  We have a few patterns of technologies, we have a few patterns about that, we have a few like really unique and secret ideas about how we do that and we’re experimenting with them for the last 4 years.  And now they work quite perfectly so we complete like projects successfully and we can do this.  So we can break down and we can do this management.  This is our unique feature.

Lisette: And then the question that came to mind is if you have all this redundancy, how is it financially viable?  I mean if you have one person working on a task and say he fails which is fair because we fail in these things when we’re working out things.  And we should fail.  That’s a good thing.  So do you pay them for their time even though that they failed or how does that work?

Yegor: That’s a good question.  We don’t pay for failers so if I give you the task, you tried to do it, you failed, you never get paid.  I give it to another programmer then another programmer tries.  If he fails again, I don’t spend the money of my client.  Then I give this task to the next programmer and this programmer succeeds and in this case, I pay for the programmer and I get this money from the client.  So it’s a model of we don’t put pressure on programmers, we don’t punish them, we don’t tell them what to do but if they fail, they don’t get the money.  That’s the idea.  But the tasks are so small and so micro so this is half an hour that the risk is not that huge so you don’t risk a lot as being a programmer.

Lisette: Right.

Yegor: You need to understand that like this task I cannot complete, you can just say it upfront.  “I don’t like this task.  Give me something else.”  And in this case, no problem, don’t waste your time, I’ll give it to somebody else.  So you’ll only start the task which you know you will complete.  If you don’t like the task, if you understand that you will not be able to finish it, don’t start it.  Tell me, “Give me something else,” and I will give you something else.

Lisette: Okay.  So they haven’t spent the whole day.

Yegor: Yeah.

Lisette: It’s just half an hour at the very most if they haven’t gotten it.

Yegor: Yeah.  Usually, programmers spend like the average programmer works for approximately 5 hours a week.  So it’s not that full time at all so they don’t work full time.  They work like 5 hours, sometimes 10 hours, sometimes they spend nothing.  Sometimes, they just on vacation, sometimes they don’t work.  So it’s really a flexible model and a lot of freedom.  So all of the people who work for us, they work somewhere on a fulltime.  They work for us as a part time, as a freelance so when they have time, when they are on a good mood, they work for us.

Lisette: Okay.  And so you say you don’t have meetings, you don’t have Skype conversations going back and forth but what about team building?  What about the team building aspect of this?  Is it necessary I mean maybe if everybody has half hour tasks, it’s not really necessary to build the team but what about that component?

Yegor: Well in our case, we don’t have that.  We don’t have it all and we also don’t really believe in that.  So we believe that the true team building is you all need to do it if your tasks are interesting for programmers.  If you give the technically challenging tasks, if the problems you solve are interesting, if you pay well enough, you don’t need a team building.  You don’t need to tell people how good we are, how good is our team, how it’s nice to work here.  They will just get it from the task you give them and the money you pay them.  If you pay them well enough and the task you give them are challenging, interesting, and complex, and they can solve them, they can see how they can grow with your task, that’s enough for them.  We have people who stay with us for 4 years already, programmers, and I never talk to them.  I don’t ever saw them, I don’t know their names, I just know their email addresses.  And they work with me for 4 years.  This is the true team building.  They don’t leave the team, they don’t go anywhere else, they just stay with us, they enjoy working here, they enjoy growing with us, and there is nothing like this team building at all.

Lisette: Interesting.  So are there any friendships that form naturally through them?  I mean people contact each other outside of the working or you don’t know?

Yegor: I don’t know.  I don’t know about that.  So maybe, but I don’t know.  Actually, yes, we have a lot of conversations about technical stuff.  We talk a lot in this ticketing system.  We talk a lot when we discuss technical problems but all these discussions are formal like an open source, for example you talk in the ticket, you ask the question, you get the answer, talk with your colleague, not friends but people who work with you, but at the same time, in the end, it’s all about the deliverables.  It’s all about the code you write.  If you write the code, if you like the code you write, if the people who work with you also like your code, and if you get paid well for this work, that’s all you need, I think.  That’s just my opinion.  That’s what people tell me who work with me.

Lisette: Well you know I have to say that the results oriented environment is a crucial component for any remote working so it sounds like you just gone extreme with the results only work environment.  You are really, you are truly a 100% results oriented.

Yegor: Yeah, exactly, exactly.  It’s all about the result.  It’s all about the result.  If you deliver results, we pay you for this results, and we pay well so our rates are higher than anywhere else so we pay well, the results are appreciated, and you will be fine, and you don’t need this team building waste of money and time I think.

Lisette: Yeah, it would.  It’s definitely a perspective I mean but you know in every single interview I do, the challenge is which is what I want to talk about next is that what is challenging for you in this work model on this team but everybody always says communication and trust, how do you build trust on a team, how to communicate better but it sounds like your challenge is I’m going to guess that maybe they’re different.

Yegor: Well yeah.  In our case, the challenges are a bit different.  So our biggest challenge is to find the right people to work with us.  So mentality, the mindset of people often..

Lisette: You mean clients, right?

Yegor: Yeah.  The mindset of people who come to us and say, “I would like to work with you,” not all of them can actually work at this moment.  In our statistics, 50% of programmers can actually stay with us and 50% we’ll just lose them so they cannot keep up with this work.  They are not result-oriented so they don’t like to be actually focused on results every day.  They’re more like used to the model of work when they go to the office, they sit there for 8 hours, and they get paid.  So all they have to do is go to the office, do what the boss says, and get paid.  When they come to us, it’s completely different.  There is no boss in here.  I give you 5 tasks.  When you finish them, you get the money.  I’m not going to ask when you’re going to finish them.  I’m not going to have these cram meetings for example in the morning.  I’m not going to ask you every day what’s the status of this 5 tasks.  But when the time is over, I’m going to just say, “Okay, you don’t have these tasks anymore.  Goodbye.”   Some people get the frustration like “Why didn’t you remind me about the task?  Why didn’t you tell me like I have to do them?  I forgot that” like the people are used be micromanaged every day.  This is what the situation of the industry is.  So programmers are used to micromanagement especially with this morning stand-ups and regular meetings and all these stuff which we have with traditional programming.  And when they come to us, they have the same mindset and it’s difficult for us to change the mindset.  And only 50% of people stay.  So this is our biggest challenge, it’s actually how to get more people into our team, how to train them or to educate them, or to change their mindset.  This is difficult for us.

Lisette: It’s interesting in one of the interviews that I did, Phil Montero was his name, he said in college, we are not micromanaged like we are in the job world like in a university, you are said “This is what it takes to get an A.  Your research paper is due at the end of the semester.  How you get it done, however, if you do it the night before, if you spend all of the semester doing it is the way you do it.”  And then as soon as we hit the workforce, it’s totally changed.  All of a sudden, we get micromanaged with the boss saying, “You can’t possibly get this work done without me watching you in the office.”  And so what I’m hearing is there are people that go out of the university mode, into the job mode, where they’re getting micromanaged and they can’t ever switch back into the mode or lots of people don’t go to the university more especially programmers.  I mean you can do programming on your own of course, but lots of people don’t switch back into that mode so it’s interesting that that’s the biggest challenge that people are used to being micromanaged.

Yegor: This is our problem.  They’re used to be micromanaged, yeah.  And the older they are, the bigger the problem.  This is usually the situation.  So they spend a lot of time in the office, they’ve spent a lot of time in this payroll mode when it doesn’t matter whether you deliver something or not.  You still get paid by the end of the month.  So this is the traditional model of work.  This is how programmers work now, majority of that.  So they don’t really care about the result.  They care about “Does my boss like me?” or “Do I go to the office on time?” or “Do I have a lot of conflicts with me colleagues?” and all these questions which have nothing to do with the result.  So people don’t really care whether the code is high enough.  This question is rarely asked.  More traditional questions are like, “Do I fit into the society?  Do I fit in this environment?  Do other programmers like me?” and this is what people work for in traditional.  In our case, we don’t care about all of this.  We don’t care whether anybody likes you or not.  We don’t care about what time you work on.  You can work at night, you can work like you said, you can do everything in the last minute, or you can spend the whole week doing this task.  We don’t care about it.  We just care about the result and the result has to be high code.  If the quality of the result is not high enough, we just don’t pay you.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good person, whether anybody likes you, or you have a lot of conflicts.  It doesn’t matter at all.  We are completely objective in our evaluation of your result.

Lisette: So do you think that this kind of results-oriented environment could work in a non-IT setting?  I mean because it sounds like these tasks are very specific.  It’s kind of key how you’ve done this micro task aspect of it is key and crucial to your business model because you really got straightforward objectives, straightforward goals, you know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish but in other places where maybe it’s a little bit more wishy-washy, is that possible?

Yegor: Well, we’ve never tried it before so we’re only working with software development so we don’t know but this is our strategy to get on different markets as well maybe in the future.  But for now, we’re really focused on programming and software development.  But [inaudible 20:21], definitely, this approach can work on different markets as well.

Lisette: It seems to me absolutely.  I mean what it makes me think of is that’s like a truly agile way of working when you’ve taken things down to this small level.  And agile actually has something to teach the remote working world about how to work which is the truly results oriented so it’s really exciting to hear about this.

Yegor: Yeah.

Lisette: So in terms of managing this then, there’s a whole different way of managing remote teams.  And what do you do to manage your team?  I mean you’ve got this task system.  It’s just hard for me to envision.  There are no meetings; there is no talking to each other.  What does the management look like?

Yegor: Well, imagine you’re the programmer and I hire you and we have a project.  And for example, you are a programmer, you can write some code so now I have to manage you.

Lisette: Sorry, we have some sound issues for a second so if you could start that sentence again.  I cut out for some reason.

Yegor: Okay.  Okay, can you hear now?

Lisette: Yeah.

Yegor: Okay so imagine you are the programmer and I have to manage you so I have to give you the tasks and then you have to deliver the results.  That’s how it looks for you.  You get a ticket in, for example, Github so you have a ticket assigned to your name and the ticket explains what you have to do.  So in the ticket it says, “You have to write this module which has to do these things and the module should look like this and this.” so it’s more or less high level definition of your task.  And there is a budget for this task so you have 30 minutes.  You have 30 minutes.  It means that when you complete the task and one of other programmers will do the codes review of your task, the code, will review the results, and then we’ll get your results and put into mainstream of development and into master branch so called, then your task is done and you get paid for half an hour.  You start to do it.  You start to work with this task.  If you have questions, if you have problems, if something is not clear, then you submit a problem to us so you create another ticket and say like, “Look.  I was working on the task A but I have a problem.  I don’t understand how this, this, and that should be done so I don’t have enough documentation for that.”  And every time you submit a problem like this, we pay you for that as well.  This is also quite unique stuff.  This is also a really unique feature for us.  So the more bugs, the more problems you submit, the more problems you report, we pay for each of that so we give you a thank you, we appreciate your effort to make our software better.  Every time you report a problem, you get paid.  So while you’re working on task A, you can submit like 5 other problems saying, “Documentation is not clear.  This one is not clear.  This one doesn’t work.  I need help here.”  And then for 5 of them, you get money as well.  And then when all problems are solved and you have enough information to solve the main task, then you complete the main task, you deliver your result, all in line.  You don’t need to talk to anybody.  So you don’t need the Skype meeting because in a Skype meeting, nobody’s going to pay you.  But if you have questions, submit a question, you get money for that, and then get an answer.  So you don’t need to communicate with anybody informal.  You do everything formal.  And then when your result is done when the problem of the software is [inaudible 23:37], the piece of code is ready, then you submit it, you create a pull request, this is Github feature, you create a pull request, you get a code review, we review everything, we merge your stuff, the task is done, and you get paid immediately.

Lisette: Pay immediately.

Yegor: Immediately, yes.  You get money immediately, the same minute.  We pay through Paypal.

Lisette: Okay.

Yegor: You don’t wait ‘til the end of the month.  You get money immediately so if you complete a task, you get the money, you can walk away immediately.  You can say, “Okay, I’m done with this project.  This is the one task.  I completed it, I don’t like it anymore,” and then go, no problem.  If you want to stay, you stay more, you get more tasks, you complete more tasks, you continue, and you get paid by the end of the task almost immediately as soon as the task is done.”

Lisette: It sounds like it could be a lot of overhead potentially.  I mean you’re paying people potentially every 30 minutes.  You’re paying a few programmers so is that difficult?

Yegor: Well, this is our job so we know how to do it.  We have tools for that.  We have instruments for that.  We know how to do this management.  But you are right, absolutely.  This is quite an overhead.  This would be an overhead for traditional project management because the traditional project manager is busy with the Skype meetings, and team buildings, and all these stuff.  We are busy with something else.  We’re busy with getting the results from people and paying them, getting results and making sure they get the money from us.  And also, basically, the main task for us is actually to control and to merge all these results into one big product so we get multiple micro results from tens of people, from hundreds of people sometimes, and we need to be sure that all of these micro changes, all these small, small modules, they actually stick together and they actually combine, they can be combined into a solid product.  So this is our job.  This is what we have to do and we know how to do it.

Lisette: So are there any issues that you have because you must have programmers from all over the world, it sounds like?

Yegor: Yes.

Lisette: Do you have issues then with any sort of cultural or does Paypal work all over?  Are there issues that you run into with the global aspect of it?

Yegor: Well that’s a good question.  We had some problems before like again, our main problem is the mindset of people.  And sometimes, in some countries, the problem is worse and in some countries, it’s less critical.  In well developed countries like America, Western Europe, Canada, Russia for example as well, the programmers are more used to this like I already explained, programmers are more used to the 9 to 5 office mode so they don’t really want to work for the result.  They want to work for the time.  So they want to be paid for the time spent, not for the results generated.  That was our original problem and still the problem exists so every time the programmer comes from America, from the United States, we are trying to explain to him upfront what issues he or she may have like expect the problem, expect that we are different, we are working in a different mode so you won’t be paid if you don’t deliver.  If you do not produce the result, don’t expect us to appreciate that.  We will just say no and people from America and from Western Europe, quite often, they get sometimes really frustrated about that.  This is the cultural problem.  Another cultural like you just mentioned, the Paypal doesn’t work for example in India that’s a problem or in Philippines, it’s a problem.  So in this case, we’re using ODesk.  ODesk works everywhere so we pay through Paypal and sometimes, we pay through ODesk.

Lisette: Okay.

Yegor: We solved that problem.  ODesk is more expensive than Paypal for us but we cover all the expenses because we’re still quite affected.

Lisette: You know I’m surprised that there are so much issues with people in the Western Cultures wanting to be more paid for time than results.  Somehow I just thought when you think of the US, you kind of think of freedom but it’s one of the core values supposedly but it doesn’t seem to be the case.  People don’t want to be tuned in and engaged with their work.  They want to be paid and then they want to go home and do something else.

Yegor: Exactly, yeah.  People are used to this mode so they want to be paid for just sitting in the office and spending time in the office.  No matter what they do, no matter how good is my code, no matter how much I code today, it doesn’t matter.  Just give me the money.  And the fact is the amount of results they produce is extremely lower than the results our programmers produce.  We did some analysis about that.  We did some comparisons like we were trying to analyze how much of this features or lines of code or files or whatever, just some measureable like we tried to measure how much people in the office produce comparing to people who work with us.  And the numbers are so different.  It’s like sometimes 20 times, sometimes the difference is like 20 times.  So for example, the programmer sitting in the office somewhere in Paris for example, he’s writing say 100 lines of code a week.  Our programmers, they write 100 lines of code an hour.  So this is the difference.  This is how much the difference is.

Lisette: Are there any other things that your team struggles with that you know of I mean besides the results oriented?

Yegor: Well we still have some problems.  I don’t want to talk about them that much so I don’t want to tell a lie about them.  We still have some difficulties, we are growing, we’re investigating, we are doing a lot of research, and we are always improving.  Of course, we have some problems here and there sometimes.  But in the overall result, my background, I started 10 years ago to do outsourcing of software development and I had about 100 people in the office.  So I employed them so I was managing 100 programmers sitting in the same office and doing software development for customers from America, Europe, everywhere.  So this is what I had 10 years ago.  So I know all the problems which I had before and now I know the problems or results which I have now.  This is two completely different worlds.

Lisette: Yeah.

Yegor: So the colocated development, in-house development, sitting in the same office is a completely different story.  The problems which you had there, they are not comparable to the problems or difficulties that we have now.  So now we are much more effective, we have much more freedom, we give much better products to our customers, so we are doing much better now comparing to ourselves 10 years ago and to other companies now.

Lisette: So what do you like personally most about it?  It sounds like you like the freedom about this most of all.

Yegor: Well freedom, yes, I like the freedom and I like the quality so I’m a programmer myself, I write a lot of code myself, Java, Ruby, I write a lot of code, and I like to see the code which are of high quality.

Lisette: It’s an art.

Yegor: Yeah.  I enjoy programming.  I enjoy this industry.  I enjoy this profession.  And I like to work with people who actually share the same passion as me.  So now, I really work with these people.  I really work with people who share the same passion.  They also enjoy writing high quality code and I enjoy being in this environment.  So this is like a pleasure for me.  It’s not just business.  I’m not just making money.  I’m also getting a lot of pleasure, a lot of enjoyment every day by working with people who care about software quality and who care about object oriented programming, high quality design, and everything like this.

Lisette: It sounds like it’s inspiring to work with people like that.

Yegor: Yes.

Lisette: Yeah, because when you see a really good piece of code, I can imagine, it’s like looking at a piece of art.  I mean you think it’s not just about the task.  It’s also about how you got it done and how beautiful is it.

Yegor: Exactly, exactly, yes.

Lisette: And the other benefits that I have, I look at your website, you said, there’s no waste of money because you don’t pay salaries.  You can expand and contract it sounds like based on what work is coming in and out so there’s no huge risk for the company if you don’t have a lot of projects.

Yegor: Exactly.  And not just that but for example on one project, we need a good engineer or a number of developers, number of architects or designers who are familiar with some technology which is quite rare in the market.  So we need to get them somewhere.  So we find them, we contract them, we work with them in one project, but we don’t need them on the second project.  So if these people will be in a payroll, then it’s a huge risk for us.  We still need to pay them for the whole year or for as long as the contract states.  If these people are contractors and we just found them, paid them like $200 an hour, sometimes we pay that much, so we pay them $200 an hour, they work for us for like 20 hours, 40 hours, and then they just go.  We just say thank you and they go back to their fulltime work and we continue with other projects.  So we are flexible enough to find whatever we need on the market, to bring them into our project, work with them, pay them well, and then release the team, and go to another project where you have completely different people, completely different skill set.

Lisette: So it sounds like it’s up to the people that you hire too.  I mean everybody’s becoming more entrepreneurial so each person is responsible for their own work, their own whatever, taxes they need to pay.  Each person is responsible and you guys are sort of the hub of operations doling out the work.

Yegor: Exactly.

Lisette: So you’re doing all the marketing and all the business relationships, the client development.

Yegor: Yes.

Lisette: Yeah.  It sounds brilliant to me.  It just sounds like that’s the way work should be done.

Yegor: Thanks.  Yeah, for me too.

Lisette: So let’s see.  So we’ve got no waste of money because you don’t pay salaries, there’s less bugs because you pay people to fix them.  I really like that you’ve incentivized people to respond on how to improve your own software.  That seems crucial.  That seems motivating to people like they’re appreciated for it.

Yegor: Yes.

Lisette: Right.  And it’s more than just a thank you.  It’s actually money which is also motivating for people.

Yegor: Yes.

Lisette: So then you got the targeted skills because you don’t have programmers in-house so you go out and find the people that you need, the higher quality of code.  I love that it really matters.  I love that it’s inspirational.  I think that’s a key differentiator in business today:  people who love what they do versus people who are just doing their job.  And then unlimited talent pool, paying the best rates for engineers.

Yegor: Yes, which means when the customer comes to me and says, for example, two days ago, I had a conversation with a customer who is developing a platform which is based on Hadoop which is a big data technology.  We don’t have right now Hadoop engineers in-house.  We didn’t work with them before.  But the customer needs a few good people with this technology so what do we do?  We go to the market.  We put in the market that we would find these people on the market.  We can find them on Elance, we can find them on ODesk, or Stack Overflow.  We can find them.  We can bring these people in so we have access to this unlimited pool of talents because we don’t need to hire them.  We don’t need to contract them for a fulltime.  We just approach them and say, “Look guys, we have a nice gig for you, a nice job for like a few weeks of work and we’re going to pay you really high rates which you cannot get anywhere else. And our work is really motivating, the technology is really interesting so please join us.”  And they will join us for a few weeks.  And the customer will get what he cannot get anywhere else because for him to find a company or a group of engineers who are really professional in this Hadoop technology, he will spend like thousands and thousands of dollars, maybe hundreds of thousands to build a team which will be able to manage this to work with this technology.  With us, he will just pay for the specific amount of time which he specifically needs for his specific project.

Lisette: Right, because you know how to go out and find people, that’s sort of a specialty, that’s the service that you offer, your team as a service.

Yegor: It’s a service, exactly, yes.

Lisette: Right, because you guys are out all the time looking for new people and people are contacting you.

Yegor: That’s what we do every day, yes.

Lisette: Right.  So that’s your sort of distinctive edge in that.  So I’m looking through all the different aspects of remote working so the tools we’ve talked about the tools that you’ve used.  They’re very specific to programmers but when you think about people in the real world who don’t do development and programming, maybe the marketing people, the HR people, are there any tools that are maybe more generic that you also use that other people would know?

Yegor: That’s for the future.  Right now, we are really focused on programming but this is possible.  As I said, this is the future maybe in the next like 5 years, we’ll get there, we’ll try there but for the next 5 years, we’ll definitely be focused on programming so we have all the instruments and tools and management techniques which really work in software development world.  We don’t know how they will work in marketing or whatever.

Lisette: Right.

Yegor: So I don’t know.  Maybe they will work but for now, we don’t have that experience.  So we are now really focused on software development.  And we don’t have people like that.  We have only programmers, we only have this pool of talents which are only programmers.  We have like the history of working with programmers.   We know how to find them, we know how to control them, so we are really like software development about.  We’re about software development.

Lisette: Right.  And it’s not, yeah, and I don’t necessarily expect that you would know this.  I’m just trying to dig in to just try to see what are the other gems that you can offer people who are trying to maybe that’s the next question, actually, is what advice do you have for people who would like to know more towards the results oriented model.  I bet most companies, they’re just not going to be able to do this for all kinds of reasons but say somebody wants to move in this direction.  What advice would you offer?

Yegor: Only one:  Hire us.

Lisette: I was going for the same advice.  Call you.

Yegor: Seriously.  We’ve spent years of research, years of investigation, years of errors and mistakes and money wasted.  So it’s a lot of experience and the long journey which a lot of time, we spent and we learned a lot of lessons.  It’s not that easy.  You can’t just go to one company and say, “Look, tomorrow, you’re going to start working remote.”  It’s not going to work.  We tried that before.  We tried to help bigger companies to work remotely.  It just doesn’t work because of the mindset problem, because of the financial situation they have, because of traditions they have, because of the people who are actually against this remote mode of work so it’s not that easy.  And I can’t say it’s impossible but it’s difficult.

Lisette: Yeah.

Yegor: We are kind of ahead of everybody else in this journey.

Lisette: Oh by a long shot.

Yegor: Yeah.

Lisette: By a long shot.  It sounds awesome.  So where do you work from personally?  Do you work from home or a coworking space?  What’s your mode space like?

Yegor: Oh sometimes I work from Starbucks, sometimes I work from home, sometimes I have this co-working space, sometimes I have clients who need me personally be colocated with them in order to understand their architect.  So when the client is big enough, interesting enough for us, then I personally can spend a few weeks, a few months in their office sitting next to their programmers to understand what they need and help them to manage us, at least our distributed team.  So sometimes, I’m working inside the office called onsite, colocated with the customer.  Sometimes, if I don’t need that, I can work anywhere.  So I’m as well one of our team members in our team so when we build the project, when we start a project, we invite like 25 programmers from everywhere and me myself is also one of them.  I write code as well.  I write their architect, I architect code, I write code sometimes.  I do the code to use so I’m the member of the team so I can also work from anywhere, from home for example.

Lisette: Do you have a favorite place?

Yegor: Well, it depends on what I’m doing, depends on the job I’m doing.  If the job requires thinking and designing something, something difficult which needs concentration, I like the coffee shops, Starbucks, something like this.  So I get really concentrated when there are a lot of people around me.  And when the job is routine and I just need to control something, to check something, I can stay home.

Lisette: Okay.

Yegor: So that’s my personal.

Lisette: Curious.  Yeah, I just like to see how people work like for instance, I prefer my apartment because it’s super quiet, the internet’s reliable, I know where everything is you know.

Yegor: Yeah.

Lisette: So I never go to coffee shops unless I’m traveling for instance.  I’m just curious about other people’s remote working situations.  So now, are there any questions that I haven’t asked that you wish I’d asked?  Is there anything else that you want to talk about how you guys work, the benefits, or the challenges, or the tools, or advice, tips, “Don’t do this.”?

Yegor; Well I think you’ve asked a lot of questions and I was really pleased and a little bit surprised and pleased that you actually understood our model just from reading our website.  So you asked the right questions from the start which means either you’re too smart or our website is too good.

Lisette: I’d like to say it could be both.

Yegor: Both.

Lisette: No, but this way of working is my world.  I’m exploring and talking to people who are moving in this direction and I haven’t found many companies.  I mean maybe the one company, StarterSquad who works similar but even they are very focused on team building.  They really have the communication, they’ve got Hipchat where they’re talking to each other all day long and they’ve got informal communication going on, and this sounds much more extreme in terms of the results oriented so I love it.  I love the concept.  And your website seems to be very clear.  I would think that as a developer, people who are wanting to work this way, that people would contact you right away. It’s sounds like it’s a matter more of a clients.  How do you find clients who want to work in this way?

Yegor: That’s a good question, yeah.  That’s a good question.  Actually, this is also a problem for us as well as the mindset of developers needs to be changed and not all of the developers can work with us, the same for customers.  Not all customers can work with us.  Not all customers can understand and appreciate this model because as well as developers are used to micromanagement, as well as customers are used to micromanaging their developers.

Lisette: Right.

Yegor: And also customers are asking sometimes this question, “What about the team building?  What about getting all these people together for a barbeque?  What about getting to know each other and talk to each other and how can they develop the software if they don’t know my wife?” some kind of these questions.

Lisette: It sounds ridiculous when you say it like that.

Yegor: Yeah, but of course, I’m a little bit making fun of it but in reality, that sounds like it.  So the customers, instead of starting from defining the deliverables and results and how much they’re going to pay for the results, they start from inviting programmers to their house and telling them how interesting it could be and all these team building noise which we call it.  But this is actually noise for us as well as we understand but some customers say, “No.  We need that.  We think that this is how we can develop something good.  This is the only way you can actually guarantee the results.  It’s only when developers will personally care about me, personally care about this,” and all that stuff.  And in this case, we cannot help so it’s difficult for us.  Sometimes we just say no to the customer like, “We can’t help you because this is not the way we work.”  So we just say sorry like we say sorry to programmers.  We quite often say sorry to both sides.  So we say, “We cannot work with you because your mindset is not okay and we cannot do a project for you because you are not ready to have an extremely distributed team and a team which is results oriented.  We cannot provide you the team which will talk all day long on Skype.  This is not the team we can manage.  We can manage this type of team.  We can manage the team which is complete results oriented and the team who gets money for every piece of result that the team delivers.  If you are not okay with this, then sorry.”

Lisette: You have to filter the clients as well as the programmers that you work with for the people who are able to do this kind of work.

Yegor: Yes.

Lisette: Interesting.  I’m writing a white paper right now with somebody on virtual friendships, let’s say, or virtual team building and the importance of it so I love this concept of just take the whole thing out.  Let’s just go to results oriented and deliver.  I love it.  I love it.  Great.  So if people want to learn more about you?  What’s the best place to go?  We’ve got the website so Teamed.io.

Yegor: That’s the place you start.  That’s the place you start.  And I have my own personal blog which you can also find a link to it from the website.  And I’m open to communication always so you can find my contacts, you can email me, I always respond to emails, you can find me on Twitter.  So I’m really interested, as I told you this is my life, it’s not just my business so I’m always interested to talk about it, talk about software development, talk about management, about project management, how we can do it better so anybody who can talk to me can reach me and find me, you can do it personally.  Just find me personally and we can talk.

Lisette: How do you find the time for all of this?

Yegor: Yeah, I work a lot and I’m spending a lot of time in front of the computer.  I love to do this so it’s my life.

Lisette: Yeah.  I’m the same.  People always say, “Oh, you work so much.”  And I think, well when you like it, is it work?

Yegor: I don’t call it work.  I don’t call it work.  It’s like a hobby.  It’s not like my business which I do in order to make money.  It’s like a hobby like joy.  It’s fun.

Lisette: It sounds like the ideal in work-life integration.  It’s like it’s work-life fusion.  It’s everything.

Yegor: Absolutely.

Lisette: Love it.  Alright.  Well, I think that’s all the questions that I have for right now.  Though I know that with every interview, once I start writing them up, I usually go back to people and ask them follow-up questions but really enjoyed hearing about this today.

Yegor: Yeah, me too.

Lisette: Alright.  Well that’s it then for today’s interview, everybody.  Thanks so much for joining.  And until the next time, be powerful.


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