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What distributed startup Zapier learnt while building a 100% remote team

Growing Zapier as a distributed team has been its founders’ major focus. Today, the team shares with us their experience and what they’ve learned along the way.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you are currently up to?

Hi, Iโ€™m Wade. Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. Zapier helps automate your day by allowing you to hook up a lot of the apps you commonly use at work like Gmail, Slack, MailChimp, Wufoo and more. Zapier also runs a 100% distributed team with people who live, work and sometimes travel all around the world.

What makes traveling personally appealing to you?

I enjoy getting to spend a prolonged period of time in a certain place to get to know it and the culture.

Are all Zapier team members working remotely? What worked well for you to keep the team productive and push the product forward while being on the road?

Yep! To keep everyone on the same pace we use Slack as our virtual office and use an internal blog, which is 100% transparent, called Async to replace internal email. Then we make sure to have a bunch of features speced out and well defined roles so people can work independently on projects.

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What challenges with distributed team do you expect to handle when Zapier grows significantly?

The most interesting challenges as any team grows will be around organizational structure and design, how to keep communication mediums high, and the place of management. Interesting I donโ€™t think these struggles are unique to distributed teams. I think itโ€™s something that all teams face as they grow.

What are the biggest challenges of being a digital nomad and how do you handle them?

Iโ€™ve always found it tough to get into a routine while traveling. Routines and habits help me be productive, but when traveling all my routines and habits go out the window.

What do you think is the weakest aspect of the digital nomad community and what is the potential to improve it?

There is a something special about meeting in person. Itโ€™s not required 100% of the time, but when we do our retreats twice a year where everyone does meet in person thereโ€™s definitely a bonding experience that happens which is harder to get online only.

What advice would you give to someone who is ready to start or transition to being a remote professional or remote team?

Have a local support group. If you rely on your work peers for your social life, then being on a remote team will be lonely. Find a local support group of friends, families or colleagues that you can spend time with.

What skills or mindsets are you looking for when hiring for remote positions?

  • People who write well since most communication is written
  • People who are self motivated since there is no one around to tell them what to do
  • People who are curious because they tend to try things rather than sitting around and waiting for instruction

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What do you think is the future of remote work and digital nomadism and how do you see it manifest in the years to come?

It will be much more common for companies to be fully distributed. And perhaps a local gig might be not the assumed norm.

For companies looking to add remote teams to their existing operations – what steps can they take now to facilitate this process in the future?

If youโ€™re looking to add remote teams to existing operations – make sure to setup remote workers and local workers to be working with the same tool set. If remote workers are treated as second class citizens then itโ€™s doomed to fail from the start. So make sure everyone has the same advantages and disadvantages to give it a fair shake.

What are your next life, work and travel goals?

My 100% focus is on building and growing Zapier as a remote team. So Iโ€™m excited to have new teammates join from all over the world and the opportunity to visit them in their hometowns some day.

Wade and the team cover a lot of remote work topics in Zapier blog – make sure to check it out to learn more and follow Zapier on Twitter.

Liked this? Read more articles on remote startups.

What distributed startup Zapier learnt while building a 100% remote team

Marina Janeiko is a UX designer, long term digital nomad and founder of Whatโ€™s It Like, which tells you the best time to travel where.
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