As mentioned last week, the Campaign Monitor team got together recently for our annual meet up. As the team grows, having a meet up like this becomes increasingly expensive, both financially and administratively. It's also absolutely vital.

Although we live in an incredible time from a technological perspective, there is still no replacement for face to face discussion. Full on interaction between two (or more) human beings requires being present in the same physical space. So while having remote positions allows you to hire the best people regardless of location, being able to get the best work from those people is only possible though the best interaction possible.

I'm so very blessed to work for a team that understands this.

Converting the chat voice

In the past year, our team has grown a good bit. And even though I've worked along side many of these people for chunks of each day for months, there is no price you can put on having a real voice to go with someone's "chat voice".

That moment when you meet in person and then spend an hour in conversation is essential. Suddenly, you realize that the person who seems so lively and animated in the chat room is actually pretty mellow. And maybe a little shy. It changes your perception. It's not good or bad, just … different.

You are able to understand that person more fully. To know them. IRL.

Best of both?

Mandy Brown recently talked about this subject in Making Remote Teams Work. Having contributed my thoughts to her research, I was glad to see that, as a whole, people are mostly in agreement on the strengths and weaknesses of remote working.

One item that most interested me was her point that in a hybrid team, it's best if everyone spends at least some time in the remote role. She states:

It’s necessary for everyone on a team to adapt to remote work, even those who continue to commute to a traditional office each day.

So, so true. At Campaign Monitor, we are a mixed team, with the majority of our designers, developers, and sys admins in the Sydney head office. Basically, those who contribute most to the application are in the same place. This has been an area where we've needed to improve. And I'm glad to see that during the 18 months I've been there, the team (our leadership specifically) has strived to improve. And improve we have.

As Mandy states, overcommunicating is essential. Or, said more simply, communicate as if you were remote, even if you're not. The entire team will benefit from it.

Behind the avatar

Since joining Twitter in 2007, nothing has become more clear than the fact that we only see a part of the person online. When I meet coworkers or Twitter friends in person, I'm always struck by the fact that the avatar I look at every day is a two dimensional view. Their real face, in its three dimensional beauty, is the same, yet so very different at the same time.

This reality goes beyond the physical, obviously. As mentioned above, the way a person carries themselves in the chat room can be vastly different from how they speak in a crowded room or on a quiet bus ride. The non-verbal bits of communication, the idiosyncrasies of each of us, add to the overall picture. Suddenly, the avatar becomes a much more clear version of this person in your life.

It's so true for those you look up to as well. I love coming up to those who've admired from afar, saying hello, and then being hit with the realization that they're so very real and less intimidating than expected. Being very good at what you do does not equate to looking down on others, on me specifically. It took some face to face meetings for me to realize that.

I'm so glad I did!

I can say that the Internet and Twitter relationships altered the path of my career. For that I am thankful. And now that I can work from anywhere, I'll be doing my best to make sure those people become more real to me through meeting in person.

I want the whole picture.