Ghost colleagues: Creating a sense of professional connection in the age of remote work.

Ghost colleagues: Creating a sense of professional connection in the age of remote work.

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

There is such a thing as a colleague in the age of remote work? As we begin to get accustomed to working far away from the office, even for a couple of days a week, some of the things we took for granted in the past have begun to be re-examined and appraised after the pandemic started, especially around the social side of things.

Ghost-Colleagues-1

On one hand, remote work started to be normalized, bringing a lot of perks with it: the ability to set your own hours, avoid commute times, and save money on office expenses, as well as a greater sense of control and flexibility over your work life became invaluable for many people, and the ability to design their workspace and create a flexible schedule seemed to outweigh the drawbacks of this model.

But on the other, there’s a challenge in adjusting to working in isolation; in the modern reality of work, more and more people are finding themselves trying to create meaningful professional relationships with colleagues through a screen, and this complete absence of human interaction can have some effects not only on the mental well-being of a person but also how their professional career changes and develops.

But what is a colleague? Just someone you work with? Or does it encompass a lot more? A colleague, to put it simply, is someone you can rely on, whether you need help with a project or just a sounding board for your ideas; it’s someone who will challenge you and push you to be your best, and who will support you, both professionally and personally. Having a strong network of colleagues has been thought essential for any successful career, but now, forming these kinds of bonds seems to be getting more difficult by the day.

A workplace of ghosts

Working in software development can be a great career; you get to use your creativity and technical skills to solve complex puzzles and build products that people use and enjoy. However, it’s also a very collaborative effort that often needs a well-synchronized team looking in the same direction to succeed. So, what has been the effect of remote work when forming bonds with a colleague to create a successful product? 

I think the biggest challenge when working remotely is that you don’t know your coworkers very well, which can make communication difficult”, says Julián Verján, a developer at Scio. “Establishing bonds beyond the job, like friendships, is difficult. I feel like, once we stop being coworkers, that connection can get lost easily, something I feel doesn’t happen as much with more face-to-face interactions.

Beyond productivity, which has increased noticeably during the pandemic, the challenge faced by most modern software development organizations is more cultural in nature; missing out on the daily interactions that help to build relationships, or the opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other can have consequences on the overall cohesion of a team. 

Contact is important. You are more excited about your work and meeting new people. Personally, in the Marketing department of Scio, I feel I have to be updated by my colleagues, and which new projects they are working on, etc.”, comments Ari Hernández, a Digital Media Designer also at our company. “I think immediate communication is the biggest challenge. I’m now used to scheduling video calls to discuss the smallest things when I could just walk up to the person in the office and ask. And there are things that you cannot communicate as easily through chat or video calls.

This has given rise to the term “ghost colleagues”, the people on your team who you never actually meet in person since you’re both working from different locations. Even though you may never meet face-to-face, you still have to collaborate with them on projects and stay in communication via email, platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams, or video chat. And it can be tricky to build a rapport with someone when you’re not actually in the same room, especially without any downtime at all between interactions, which tend to always be work-related. Additionally, if you have questions or need assistance with something, it can be harder to get help from a ghost colleague than it would be from someone right there in the office with you.  

I would define the relationship with my coworkers as purely professional. Everybody is very nice to each other, but I feel it could be different with more face-to-face interactions. The good thing is that many here have the same sense of humor as me”, says Ari again, about her feelings towards remote work.

And this approach to colleagues has noticeable effects on the work itself, and how a worker approaches their job; a study cited by the BBC says that “part of the reason is that these social ties people have in the workplace feed into their sense of attachment and belonging at work. […] 65% of workers who had switched to teleworking all or most of the time felt less connected to their colleagues than they did before. A second study showed almost a quarter of workers felt disconnected from goings on in their company overall.

Bringing the team together (at distance)

Ghost-Colleagues

Of course, a lot of the responsibility of bringing everyone together, even remotely, rests upon the culture built inside an organization; is not enough to just connect developers and tell them what a client needs (the “how” of remote teamwork), but to ensure the collaborators are looking in the same direction, sharing the same values, and moving to the same rhythm (the “why” of remote teamwork”). 

Speaking strictly about the job, I’ve always felt very comfortable thanks to the Scrums we do every day. We all know what everybody else is doing during that day, making it easier to move as a unit”, says Julián again. “I think the biggest challenge is not knowing your coworkers very well, but Scio solves this pretty well. They do like to organize calls and activities to just kick back and relax, get to know each other, and even practice our English. It’s pretty neat.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that a positive relationship with your colleagues is key, which is why Scio likes to promote good chemistry among every collaborator. For one thing, a good working environment is more enjoyable and motivating, and when you get along with the people you work with, you are more likely to feel like part of a team and be invested in your job. Moreover, a good working relationship with your colleagues can lead to better collaboration; if everyone is on the same page, it can make it easier to get work done.

I think a hybrid approach is the best. It lets you build a connection with your partners, and personally, I like to dress up and get out of the house”, says Ari. “I’m glad there’s the option to work from home, even if I found it difficult to adapt at the very beginning. I feel productive now that my routine is pretty well established, but I’d still like to visit the office sometimes.

The workplace can be a lonely place if you’re the only person in your office, after all. You might feel like you’re on your own while keeping up with the workload, and when you take a break, there’s no one to chat with about the latest office gossip. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, especially if your workplace offers ways to connect with your colleagues, so here are a few tips for overcoming this kind of isolation: 

  • Try to socialize. Even if you’re not naturally outgoing, force yourself to chat with your co-workers or strike up a conversation with someone new. You never know when you might make a new friend.
  • Get involved in company activities. If your company offers any type of social event or team-building activities, make an effort to participate. It’s a great way to meet new people and build relationships.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your supervisor or a coworker for guidance. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and you might even strike a deeper connection with someone that way.

Just because they’re not physically present doesn’t mean they’re not interested in getting to know you. By trying to connect with others, you can overcome the challenge of working remotely and avoid feeling isolated, and have a better sense of community to make development as enjoyable as it can be.

The Key Takeaways

  • The term “ghost colleagues” has become famous thanks to the fact that most remote collaborators do not have the opportunity to work face to face with their peers.
  • Although remote work has many perks, this isolation can give some side effects that a company with good culture has to minimize.
  • A hybrid approach seems to be the most popular option; by giving a chance to meet in person, while not taking away the benefits of a remote office, most developers can find their own balance and feel more connected to their colleagues.

Scio is a Nearshore software development company based in Mexico where we believe that everyone deserves everyone should have the opportunity to work in an environment where they feel like a part of something. A place to excel and unlock their full potential which is the best approach to creating a better world. We have been collaborating with US-based clients since 2003, solving challenging programming puzzles, and in the process showcasing the skills of Latin American Engineers. Want to be part of Scio? Get in contact today!

The Rubber Duck Method: What is the explanation behind this debugging approach?

The Rubber Duck Method: What is the explanation behind this debugging approach?

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

Debugging software is an important, if often tedious, the task for any programmer. Finding and removing errors generating crashes, freezes, or incorrect results is critical to ensuring the quality of a piece of software, and while some bugs can be fixed with a few simple tests, more difficult ones require special approaches and techniques. And thankfully, there are many resources available to help programmers debug their software; after all, with patience and perseverance, even the most difficult bugs can be squashed.

The Rubber Duck Method: What is the explanation behind this debugging approach?

One such technique is the popular Rubber Duck method, which may already be familiar to a seasoned developer. In short, the Rubber Duck method is a debugging approach in which developers explain their code line by line to an inanimate object, such as a rubber duck. This may sound silly, but it’s an incredibly effective way to find and fix mistakes. 

Computers process information differently than humans do. Anyone who’s first learning to program understands this well. What’s hard about programming for a beginner isn’t really big hard esoteric concepts, but that you’ve got to be so painfully exacting in how you describe everything to a (dumb) computer. That’s why we do rubber duck debugging.

However, have you ever been curious about why this approach works? What exactly happens in our brains when we verbalize a problem to someone else (even if that someone just happens to be a bath toy), that could lead to a solution that was obvious all along? And what is the best way to implement this method to finally find and solve that bug that has been bothering you all week?

The challenge of language

Computers are dumb. And we don’t mean that in a Luddite, anti-tech sort of way, we mean it in the original definition of “dumb”: incapable of human speech. And speech here is more than just talking; speech includes context, mood, choice of words, familiarity, and an infinity of other variables that a computer can’t understand (yet).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we cannot communicate with computers, it just means that we use specialized languages to do so, and every single one of them works with the principle that computers are dumb: unless you tell a machine exactly what they need it to do, or how to react when something happens, they will not produce a desirable outcome. Thoughtful Code put it best:

‘Is it cold outside?’ is a question that most humans, having some idea of the weather, will answer pretty easily. They’ll say something like, “No, it’s pretty nice.” Asked that question, a computer — or a really finicky and hyper-rational person — will need you to define each of those words.”  

A computer understands the most literal and absolute terms and learning to manipulate those terms is the basic principle of programming. This also means that computers don’t make mistakes, people do. So, if something within the instructions given to the machine doesn’t add up, then the program will not work as intended, and finding the exact place where the communication between a person and a computer got out of alignment can be a challenge. Here’s where the rubber duck comes in handy, thanks to the way we process language.

Here’s a fun fact: did you know that reading, writing, and speaking are located in completely different parts of our brain? Our understanding of the way we use and apply language is always evolving, but it is understood that we use different functions depending on the type of language we employ, which is why it’s so useful to verbalize a problem to find a solution: you involve a completely different part of your mind to help.

Of course, the Rubber Duck method is not useful only in software development, but since computers are very linguistically complex tools (being probably the only ones we need to “speak to” to use), verbalization is useful here, forcing developers to slow down and think about the minute details of their code, which can help to spot mistakes that they would otherwise overlook. As the blog “The Psychology Behind Rubber Duck Debugging” puts it:

A lot of times, I’ve experienced some programmers that will ask my help about a specific bug they are fixing. I will then ask them how their application and their code works. I literally have no idea how to fix a program that is not mine and have no idea about the flow. However, I let them explain the flow of the process and the connection between functions and files. Oftentimes, they think of a solution before I even understand what is happening. Many people have been so thankful for me — for doing literally, nothing.

Programmers understanding themselves

The Rubber Duck Method: What is the explanation behind this debugging approach?

You can see the same principle at work in the classroom. Teachers probing students with questions are intended to make sure a lesson has been learned, forcing the students to consider and explain it by themselves. The only difference is that a programmer using the Rubber Duck method is taking both roles (teacher and student) at once. 

In other words, this method allows developers to share their thoughts with a neutral party, questioning and probing themselves regarding their code, which can help identify areas of confusion or misunderstanding. And most importantly, it encourages developers to develop a clear and concise explanation of their code, which can be useful for future reference. 

The real magic doesn’t happen on the rubber duck itself (sorry, Duck Norris). However, it happens in our minds. It uses the same psychological principle wherein we are encouraged to explain to ourselves why we did such actions and have a self-realization about what we’ve done. It is usually used by most psychologists to fully understand a person and, at the same time, for the person to understand himself/herself fully.

And understanding yourself is fundamental to being a good programmer. Just like writing any other thing (a novel, or a sheet of music), everyone has their own style, approach, and technique when coding an application, which makes the ability to explain what you wrote so important; if you aren’t able to understand your process inside and out, then debugging will always be a challenge, especially when working as part of a team, where the code must always be in sync. In fact, the Rubber Duck method can be used as a form of collaboration, as another programmer can serve as your rubber duck and offer feedback or suggestions while you go through your code trying to find an answer.

When working on a software development project, it’s important to have a good collaboration method in place, and the rubber duck method is one way to ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page”, says Jesús Magaña, Senior Project Manager at Scio. It can help a developer to articulate his or her thought process, and as a result, team members can quickly identify any gaps in understanding and address them before they cause problems. Additionally, the rubber duck method can help to uncover errors in logic or coding syntax, and overall is an effective way to ensure that everyone on the team can contribute.

In a Nearshore development environment, where collaboration has come a long way in recent years, the Rubber Duck method can also be useful to bring keep everyone on the same page by improving communication, helping maintain contributions clear, and easing the challenge of solving a tough bug even in remote settings (where a developer may not have anyone to immediately bounce ideas or solutions during debugging), which can help projects to come together more easily. After all, Nearshore software development has its challenges, but by using the proper approach (or bath toy), teams can overcome obstacles and build better software together.

The Key Takeaways

  • A bug in the code is basically a mistake in communication between a developer and a computer.
  • Following this, it’s no wonder that approaches to problem-solving like the Rubber Duck method can help to find the precise place where a code is not working.
  • Although you only need something to talk to (like a rubber duck), this process can involve many people in a team, offering advice and feedback.
  • However, in remote setups (like with a Nearshore development partner), having a way to find and fix bugs without the insight of anyone else can be a valuable resource.

Scio is a Nearshore software development company based in Mexico where we believe that everyone deserves everyone should have the opportunity to work in an environment where they feel like a part of something. A place to excel and unlock their full potential which is the best approach to create a better world. We have been collaborating with US-based clients since 2003, solving challenging programming puzzles, and in the process showcasing the skills of Latin American Engineers. Want to be part of Scio? Get in contact today!

Maintaining Productivity: Is the Pomodoro Technique for you?

Maintaining Productivity: Is the Pomodoro Technique for you?

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

One of the main challenges for software developers everywhere is maintaining a high level of productivity throughout the day. No matter the size of the project, or how interesting the final result may be, it will involve hours coding away, looking at a screen, trying to stave off distractions, and keeping engaged long enough to accomplish a good outcome at every stage of production. And that can be difficult.

Maintaining Productivity: Is the Pomodoro Technique for you?

We have talked before about ways to make the most out of your workday here at Scio because we understand the importance of this focus and engagement, and today we want to dive into a popular technique that promises to effectively manage your productivity, allowing you to finish all the tasks involved in that sprint currently closing on you: the Pomodoro Technique. Have you heard about it? Has it helped you? What’s your take? Let’s dig into it and find out!

The key to productivity in software development

MAINTAINING PRODUCTIVITY: IS THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE FOR YOU?

There are several ways to increase productivity when working on software development projects. First and foremost, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the project requirements to focus your efforts in the right place and avoid wasting time. Secondly, use tools and processes that are designed to improve efficiency; many software development tools already include features that can help automate repetitive tasks. And finally, take regular breaks to avoid burnout; by giving yourself some time to rest and recharge, you will be able to come back to your work with fresh energy and ideas. This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in.

We know the software development process can be a long and complex one, often involving multiple team members working on different parts of the project at the same time, which makes it difficult to stay focused and ensure that each task is completed efficiently. The Pomodoro Technique, which breaks down work into short intervals followed by breaks, allows developers to take on small tasks and then rest for a bit before starting the next one, preventing them from getting overwhelmed or bogged down in a single task. 

The beauty of the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s easy to get started and there’s no need for expensive tools or software. All you need is a timer and a way to keep track of your progress. The technique is effective in helping people focus and get work done, and it can also help to improve communication among team members, as developers can share their progress and discuss any challenges they are facing more frequently. As a result, this technique has become a popular tool for software development teams looking to improve their productivity.

How does it work?

MAINTAINING PRODUCTIVITY: IS THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE FOR YOU?

The Pomodoro Technique was devised by Francesco Cirillo as a University student in Germany, when he used a tomato-shaped timer to break his work into intervals, allowing him to keep a productive rhythm throughout the day. The basic technique follows these steps:

Before starting

  1. Determine the amount of work that you will need to do.
  2. Deal with any possible interruptions before starting (like emails, phone calls, meetings, or if you are at home, unexpected visits or deliveries).
  3. Make a schedule and set deadlines to finish, to calculate the number of Pomodoros you will need.
  4. Make a list of the tasks you will be tackling in this session.

During the Pomodoro

  1. Choose a task.
  2. Put your timer to 25 minutes and start.
  3. When it is done, take a break of 5 minutes.
  4. Repeat.
  5. After four 25-minute sessions, take a longer break of 20 minutes.

After finishing

    1. Record in a notebook (or something similar) how much you accomplished this session. 
    2. After you compile a good amount of data on your rhythm, start comparing it and note where you are getting stuck.

There isn’t much beyond this, which is the genius of the Pomodoro Technique; it only requires a timer and the willingness to keep records of everything that’s happening, to improve your efficiency constantly, which is why Jesús Magaña, Senior Project Manager at Scio, who advocates for this method in most of the projects he collaborates on: 

It sounds very exaggerated to say you can only focus completely for about 25 minutes at a time, and some developers say that, when they get into the zone for hours, they can absolutely multitask, chat, watch videos, and work at the same time, but that’s just a simulation. You are not doing those things at once, but one thing after another, as interruptions. So, what Pomodoro does is organize your workflow so you can control your productivity better.”  

With such simple effectiveness, then, it’s easy to see why software developers are drawn to this method. Anyone who has ever worked in software knows that it can be a frustratingly difficult process, and part of the problem is that it’s very difficult to predict how long a given project will take. Even with careful planning, unforeseen complications can always arise and cause delays. 

In addition, software development is often an iterative process, with new features being added or existing ones being modified as the project progresses, which adds to the challenge of maintaining a consistent level of productivity. The relatively high cost of making changes to software once it has been completed can also lead to delays as developers are forced to make sure that each change is necessary, so it’s not surprising that the Pomodoro Technique has seen such a rise in popularity; it promises to keep a developer focused on making progress.

However, is the Pomodoro Technique the end-all of day-to-day productivity? Or are there some downsides we should keep in mind to ensure that it is implemented in the most effective way possible?

The challenges of an effective Pomodoro Technique

MAINTAINING PRODUCTIVITY: IS THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE FOR YOU?

While a popular time management strategy, the Pomodoro Technique is not without challenges and downsides that any developer should be aware of to get the most out of it. In theory, it should help to increase focus and productivity, but it can be difficult to stick to the strict 25-minute/5-minute timeline, especially when you’re in the middle of a particularly challenging task, and the frequent breaks can end up disrupting a workflow, making it harder to get back into the zone, which is something that Jesús Magaña likes to address: 

There’s research going into people’s attention span, and 25 minutes is a consistent limit for it. So even if you are completely in “the zone” during the Pomodoro, it wasn’t going to last too long after the 25th-minute mark. The trick is getting yourself used to this length of time to accomplish something.

Of course, nothing stops you from adjusting the length of the Pomodoro according to your personal rhythm; after all, the point is finding a way to keep you engaged in the task without getting burned out in the process. A more personal, customized version of the Pomodoro Technique is the most common at Scio, where the developers implementing it are likely to have better results if they take away some of the rigidity of this system.

Another common criticism of the Pomodoro Technique is that, even if it helps you go through the tasks of the day with no problem, it can be disruptive on a team to have everyone working at different speeds and taking mini breaks at different times. Does the Pomodoro Technique promote or hinder teamwork?

There are some advantages to using the Pomodoro Technique in a team setting; for one, it can help to prevent scope creep by keeping individual tasks focused and manageable, keeping team members on schedule by holding everyone accountable to the same timeline. However, there are also some potential drawbacks, like fragmenting the team’s work or making it difficult to collaborate on complex tasks. Additionally, the Pomodoro Technique relies heavily on individual motivation and discipline, which may not be evenly distributed among team members. Ultimately, whether or not this technique is beneficial for teamwork depends on the specific team dynamics and goals. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this, so strong management of the project is required to make it work as it should.

Final thoughts

Regarding software development, the Pomodoro Technique is a powerful tool to increase your daily productivity, keep deadlines under control, and help developers make progress every day. And while it has some important downsides to keep in mind, as a solution to daily distractions, it can get the job done. With all that said, we can extract the following key takeaways from it:

  • Keeping your daily productivity can be hard depending on the project and its requirements, but there are a lot of methods out there to help you with that.
  • The Pomodoro Technique is the most widely used, thanks to its low-tech approach and simplicity to keep a working rhythm.
  • However, the rigidity of this technique is not for everyone, but nothing stops you from fine-tuning it to your personal preferences. 
  • Also, it can be counterproductive to teamwork, so having a solid direction and management during the development cycle is critical for a successful implementation of the Pomodoro Technique.

Scio is a Nearshore software development company based in Mexico where we believe that everyone deserves everyone should have the opportunity to work in an environment where they feel like a part of something. A place to excel and unlock their full potential which is the best approach to create a better world. We have been collaborating with US-based clients since 2003, solving challenging programming puzzles, and in the process showcasing the skills of Latin American Engineers. Want to be part of Scio? Get in contact today!

Is your talent distributed or remote?: A new way to look at inclusion in the workplace.

Is your talent distributed or remote?: A new way to look at inclusion in the workplace.

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

At this point, the adoption of remote work has become normalized, to the point of (almost) becoming standard in many sectors of the software industry; all said, the option to work away from an office is now a pretty popular perk among developers and engineers all over the world.

Is your talent distributed or remote?: A new way to look at inclusion in the workplace.

However, even if we understand the benefits of this model of collaboration, it doesn’t mean we have completely mastered it yet, and plenty of discussion about the best integration of people beyond the office space is still happening. Mainly, there’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of both remote and distributed work, and while there are certainly some similarities between the two, there are also some important differences that we should know about. 

Namely, that one of them is way more inclusive and equitable than the other.

But what do we mean by this? Remote work, as the name suggests, simply involves working from a remote location — usually your home. Distributed work, on the other hand, involves working with a team that is spread out across multiple locations, cultures, and languages. Nearshore development, for example, is a type of distributed work where team members are based in different countries within the same time zone, which allows for esaier collaboration and inclusion, as everyone can participate in meetings and discussions in real-time.

Distributed work, on the other hand, means that people on the team are decentralized. It means the company has made a conscious decision not to have a “center” that’s more important than any other location. In other words, remote work builds back from the real estate (we have an office, let’s fill it up) whereas distributed work builds forward from the humans doing the work.

And why is this important? Because nearshore development models are much more inclusive and allow for a greater diversity of voices and perspectives. In an increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to work together that are respectful of different cultures and traditions. Nearshore development helps to make this possible.

The importance of diverse perspectives

Is your talent distributed or remote A new way to look at inclusion in the workplace.

There are a lot of reasons why diversity and inclusion are important in software development. For one, it helps to create a more collaborative environment, because people who come from different backgrounds, and have different experiences, can share unique perspectives and skill sets to make a more innovative and effective software development; after all, if you’re developing software with the help of a diverse group of people, the end result will be more inclusive for a vast range of people using, making it stronger and potentially more successful. 

Additionally, diversity and inclusion help create a more positive work environment, as an employee that feels respected and valued is more likely to be engaged and productive, as well as attract and retain top talent. When employers manage to shift their way of conceptualizing the traditional office and look for talent beyond this setup, they can discover that the best talent doesn’t necessarily have to be in a specific place; by creating an inclusive environment, they signal that they are committed to attracting diverse candidates, which can include the best and brightest from any backgrounds. 

Ultimately, diversity and inclusion lead to better software development, and a more positive work environment.

The collaboration that Nearshore development creates between businesses and software developers, taking place in countries that are geographically close to one another, has many benefits, but one of the most important is that it helps to promote inclusion by breaking down barriers”, says Luis Aburto, CEO, and Co-Founder of Scio, an organization based around collaboration all over LATAM.

So naturally, a more distributed workplace that can reach this variety of voices is the best approach to ensure that inclusion and diversity flourish within an organization. The problem, however, comes when the structure of an organization becomes purely remote instead of distributed, and the advantages of diversity and inclusion start to become diluted. In the words of Jensen Harris, CTO at the software platform Textio:

When there’s a center — a headquarters or physical office with just some team members who are remote — there’s a power differential. […] Some employees can work with them in person, while others are “just remote.” The result? Employees working at headquarters see their leadership more. They’ll get noticed more, run into a VP in the kitchen and when it’s time for a promotion, the VP feels like she knows the guy she’s seen in person better than the remote staff. It’s just human nature.

In Scio’s experience, though, a strong enough culture can ease many of these issues in regards to visibility and working relationships, promoting in-house activities that encourage an understanding that goes beyond the workplace: video-call meetups and activities, for example, can bring a team closer and build the rapport necessary to keep everyone on the same page, and thus ensure a seamless collaboration during any development cycle. 

The challenge of diversity in distributed teams

Is your talent distributed or remote A new way to look at inclusion in the workplace.

However, this doesn’t mean that a distributed workplace isn’t without challenges. When it comes to Nearshore development, where both the teams and the clients share a time zone but are still spread geographically, one of the biggest barriers to inclusion is language. When businesses and developers are working in different countries, there is a potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication that can lead to frustration on both sides and ultimately make it difficult to get work done. Nearshore development helps to reduce the risk of this happening by allowing businesses and developers to work in the same language, which in the case of Scio, is easy to achieve thanks to the proximity of the US (from where most of our clients hail) to the rest of LATAM, especially Mexico. 

Still, beyond language, a challenge to inclusion is culture. When businesses and developers are from very different cultures, there can be a lack of understanding and respect for each other’s traditions, which can again lead to frustration and difficulty getting work done. Nearshore collaboration helps to reduce the risk of this happening by bringing businesses and developers from similar cultures together; for example, with LATAM being very close to the US, there are shared traditions and knowledge of each other’s cultures that benefit any collaboration between these territories.

There are many other benefits of nearshore collaboration, but these two are some of the most important when it comes to promoting inclusion. By breaking down barriers like language and culture, nearshore collaboration helps to create an environment where everyone can feel respected and valued. And that’s something we can all get behind.

Evolving our understanding of remote work

The way people work is changing, and companies are starting to catch on. There is a growing movement of companies that are ditching the traditional 9-5 in favor of a more distributed model, where employees can work from anywhere in the world.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, a survey of office workers by 451 Research showed that two-thirds of people worked from home at least some of the time but only 13% did so all of the time”, cites the Dropbox blog Work In Progress. “For these companies, the social contract for employment is not about showing up physically, but showing up mentally and engaging fully from wherever you are. The employees commit to being part of the team and doing the work, and the employer commits to making both possible.” 

 

There are a lot of benefits to this model. For one, it allows companies to tap into a global talent pool. It also gives employees a lot more freedom and flexibility when it comes to their work-life balance, but there are also a few challenges that come with this model. One of the biggest is making sure that everyone feels included, no matter where they are located. After all, as the quoted Work In Progress blog concludes: “companies that merely tolerate remote workers rarely expend the effort to make them part of the daily rhythms and incidental interactions at HQ”, and will rarely keep their remote top talent.

So understanding both the advantages and limits of a distributed workplace, where “remote” means more than just having someone with a computer connected from far away, is the next step for the new landscape of collaboration that is changing our approach to software development. As a Nearshore company, we understand the value that diversity and inclusion can have in every successful project we collaborate on.

The Key Takeaways

Is your talent distributed or remote A new way to look at inclusion in the workplace.
  • Working away from the office is an increasingly popular model of collaboration that the software industry is starting to adopt openly.
  • However, there’s a challenge in understanding the difference between mere remote work, and a distributed organization, which can be crucial for the success of an organization.
  • While “remote work” works well with collaborators that are still local (to a point) or with hybrid models, a distributed workforce with people permanently far away requires a different approach.
  • A strong culture that builds connections between clients and teammates beyond work is better equipped to deal with challenges and obstacles.
  • And more importantly, a distributed workplace tends to be more inclusive and diverse, which enriches the software development environment and leads to better solutions for everyone.

Scio is an established Nearshore software development company based in Mexico that specializes in providing high-quality, cost-effective technologies to help you reach new heights. We have been developing since 2003 and our experience gives us access not only to the knowledge but also the expertise needed when tackling any project. Get started today by contacting us about your project needs – we’ll be happy to help you achieve your business goals.

It’s (not) about time: Why is managing your energy the best software development approach?

It’s (not) about time: Why is managing your energy the best software development approach?

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

There’s a (not very old) saying about how you can’t manage time, only energy, and nowhere is this truer than in the world of software development. As a developer, there are always going to be more things on your to-do list than you can hope to accomplish in a month or week, so the key is to learn how to stop looking at them in terms of work hours, or you run the risk of being overwhelmed. 

It’s (not) about time: Why is managing your energy the best software development approach?

Think about it this way: when you’re trying to manage your time, you’re limited by the number of hours in a day, but when you’re managing your energy, you can get a lot more done because you’re not restricted by the clock. You can work for as long as you have the energy to do so and take breaks when you need to, meaning that you can be much more productive overall.

There’s also another advantage to managing your energy instead of your time, especially if you’re part of a Nearshore software development company like Scio: Collaboration. When you’re working with a team of developers in a variety of time zones, it’s important to be able to manage your energy levels so that you can be the most productive at specific hours of the day, or risk getting burned out. The key is to manage your energy, take breaks when necessary, and work along your natural body clock to be as productive as you want.

Also, managing your energy instead of your time also allows you to be more flexible in your work schedule. If you have family or other commitments, you can work when it’s convenient for you and take breaks when you need to. This flexibility is essential for software developers who want to maintain a healthy work-life balance. So yeah, this approach might solve a lot of things for the busy developer of today, but what is the secret to this? How can you start effectively managing your energy?

The delicate balance of energy

You should know that everyone has different “input/output” settings, so to speak, that dictate how easily we spend and regain energy during the average workday. And this is because programming affinities vary from person to person, and different tasks require a different effort from us.

As I got up one morning and looked at 15+ meetings starting at 8 am, and ending just before 11 pm, all I could feel was exhaustion even before my first meeting had started […] but in my own start-up, I racked up 8 -100hr weeks without a sense of mental exhaustion. I wrote code well until after midnight every single day, took a cab home, and started refreshed the next morning”, expresses Gerald Haslhofer, an experienced engineer and team lead at Microsoft in his blog “Manage your energy, not time”. What he is getting at is that time commitment by itself wasn’t the deciding factor between feeling exhausted and refreshed when working; instead, the nature of both responsibilities demanded a very different energy output from him.

The trick is realizing that not all tasks drain energy from you at the same rate, and in fact, some of them help you regain it instead, and those generally are the activities you enjoy doing. Just think about your average sprint: which parts of it are your favorites? And why? 

In other words, the best software developers know how to manage their work so that they can maintain a consistent level of energy throughout the day, week, or month by spacing their responsibilities evenly. They know when to push themselves and when to take a break, in many cases following the so-called “20% Rule”:

If you spend less than 20% of your day on activities that energize you, you will quickly be unhappy with your job no matter what.

It’s (not) about time Why is managing your energy the best software development approach

After all, it’s no secret that the traditional 9-to-5 job is becoming increasingly obsolete, and with the rise and popularity of remote work, more and more people are seeking out alternative arrangements that offer greater flexibility and autonomy. However, even with these changes, the majority of workers are still spending the majority of their time on activities that don’t energize them. And considering how this 20% accounts for about 80% of your results at the end of a project, finding the flexibility necessary to manage your “input/output” of energy is more important than ever. So here are a few ways you can start to reclaim that 20% and beyond:

 

  • Protect your creative time: We know that software developments involve many things beyond solving the puzzles of writing code, but having a dedicated schedule to sit down and go wild with your favorite part of the job is how you get the best results. So if you are in a good environment where you are free to set aside some time during the day without interruptions, you’ll quickly see how energized and focused you can be. 

  • Start with the big things: It probably sounds like a good idea to begin your day by tackling the “smaller” stuff of your to-do list first, like attending meetings, correcting mistakes, compiling feedback, etc., and leave the big, juicy stuff for later in the day interrupted, but in practice, it can have a negative effect. After all, if you only output energy early, how much will you have left by the end of it? So starting with the big stuff you like to do the most can be a better approach; by the time you need to do the not-as-fun parts of your day, you will still be fresh and ready.

  • Keep your mind in mind: How do you feel about any given task in your daily schedule? What excites you, and what makes you feel tired? Paying attention to what you feel about a task is important for the final result; your mood, needs, and obstacles affect everything in your workflow, and in many cases, even doing what you love can feel like a chore if you are doing it with the wrong mood. So taking breaks, discussing the issue with your teammates or manager, and trying to occupy yourself with something else entirely can help you accomplish stuff even if your energy is not up to it that day. It’s okay, we are humans, and never forgetting that fact can make you more effective in the long run.

Collaboration is key

As a software developer, you have a career that allows you to work from anywhere in the world. And as freeing as that is, the rules apply the same whether you are in an office or at home, so learning how to manage your energy during the day is crucial to reaching success. 

That’s why it’s so important to find ways to infuse your work with meaning and purpose. Whether it’s by taking on additional responsibilities outside of your core job duties or simply seeking out opportunities to contribute to something you’re passionate about, there are plenty of ways to make your job more satisfying. That’s why a good collaboration culture is so important today: these opportunities are more common in an environment where everyone is on the same page concerning individual talents and needs.

One way to do this is to take advantage of the collaboration offered by Nearshore companies like Scio we were talking about at the start of this article. Working with other developers in time zones close to you can help you get more done in a day, as you can overlap your work hours and get more things done, although it’s not just about the number of hours you can work. Nearshore collaboration also helps to create a culture of continuous learning, where you and your team are constantly sharing new ideas and approaches, creating the kind of cross-pollination of ideas that leads to more productive and innovative software development.

That’s why a Nearshore development company like Scio is so attractive in terms of flexibility and collaboration; Nearshore is all about culture and working with people who understand your point of view and approach. This makes it easier to communicate and collaborate effectively because when working with people who understand where you come from, can help you focus your energy on the task at hand, rather than on trying to explain yourself over and over (the source of many superfluous meetings that you might be familiar with).

And when you collaborate with nearshore teams and clients from different cultures you are constantly learning new things, it’s easier to spend a large portion of your day on tasks that energize instead of exhaust. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to infuse your work with meaning and purpose, whether it’s by taking on additional responsibilities outside of your core job duties or simply seeking out opportunities to contribute to something you’re passionate about, there are plenty of ways to make your job more satisfying.

It’s (not) about time Why is managing your energy the best software development approach_2

The Key Takeaways:

  • Productivity is better conceptualized as the amount of energy you have to spend on a task, instead of the time you take to complete it.
  • Not all tasks require the same amount of energy, and the natural affinities of the person define how much effort you need to complete something.
  • Good management takes this into account, and plans around it, assigning optimal scheduling for meetings, sprints, reviews, etc.
  • To this end, google collaboration is critical to the correct use of energy during software development; a good team dynamic means you spent less energy trying to keep everyone on the same page and more on the product itself.

Scio is an established Nearshore software development company based in Mexico that specializes in providing high-quality, cost-effective technologies to help you reach new heights. We have been developing since 2003 and our experience gives us access not only to the knowledge but also the expertise needed when tackling any project. Get started today by contacting us about your project needs – we’ll be happy to help you achieve your business goals.

HR, AI and the future of job applications: Where are we headed?

HR, AI and the future of job applications: Where are we headed?

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

Maybe it’s not exaggerated to say that the future will be driven by machines. With advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, neural networks, and algorithmically-driven programs; machines can be applied virtually anywhere, from transportation, to design, to even art.

HR, AI and the future of job applications: Where are we headed?

And right now, one of the hottest new trends, at least when it comes to Human Resources and the job market, is the implementation of job interview software that can select, completely neutrally but with 100% accuracy, the best candidate for a given position. Or at least, that’s in theory what is supposed to happen, but what is the reality and ramifications right now? What does a machine do that an HR professional can’t, and what are the limits of these kinds of technologies?

The theory: Machines looking for data

The most common programs for this type of work are called Application Tracking Systems (ATS), which is software that helps businesses manage job applications. These systems automate many of the tasks associated with recruiting, such as posting job ads, screening resumes, and scheduling interviews, and often use machine learning algorithms to help identify the best candidates for a given position. 

Many ATS systems also offer features that allow candidates to track their applications and receive updates on the status of their hiring process, normally with minimum human involvement, and they are getting popular by the day in most industries, with software development and technology at the forefront. As explained by Oracle: 

Some organizations lack the reach to connect with top job seekers or to cast a wide enough net in the marketplace. Others are missing critical data on the right channels to find specific candidates; other organizations may lack brand recognition and the means to develop it. An ATS can help address these critical candidate challenges”. 

It’s no wonder, then, that these systems are becoming so popular, thanks to the many key advantages they offer over traditional methods of recruiting. For one, machine learning and artificial intelligence can sift through large numbers of applications quickly and efficiently, instead of relying on human recruiters to go through every application, which is both time-consuming and expensive.

Furthermore, these programs can identify patterns and trends in data that might otherwise be difficult to spot by the human eyes, which could help businesses to better understand the kinds of candidates that are most likely to be successful in a given role, as well as identify potential red flags that might indicate that a candidate is not worth pursuing. And more critically, artificial intelligence can help automate repetitive tasks like sending out interview requests or scheduling follow-up calls, freeing time for human recruiters to focus on more strategic tasks, such as developing relationships with potential candidates. 

And the cherry on top is that an ATS can help a company ensure that its hiring practices are fair and compliant with equal opportunity laws, ensuring inclusion and openness to all kinds of candidates. So with many issues solved, what are then the challenges that these systems face? And can they completely replace a hiring process done through interviews and human interactions? 

HR, AI and the future of job applications Where are we headed

The reality: Machines finding (only) data

At a first look, the idea of using IA to select job candidates isn’t far-fetched; after all, the heart of it is just comparing information: the needs of the position vs. the experience and skills of the applicant. Current job application software could theoretically perform this well by using specific data points calibrated to look for particular needs. However…

Job hunting may be one of the few instances where technology doesn’t improve our lives”, says an article by the Wall Street Journal about the flaws in these tools. That’s because most companies use Applicant Tracking System software to parse the resumes they receive. This helps recruiters by simplifying the task of assessing resumes. But research indicates that the ATS rejects a startling 75% of resumes because of formatting, insufficient use of relevant keywords, and other criteria that have nothing to do with candidate qualifications.

The reality is that, while these systems are designed to help employers sift through the hundreds or even thousands of job applications they receive, in practice they often end up weeding out qualified candidates making the job search even more competitive, and with less accurate results for the final candidate. And the problem only grows when we start to rely on IA to drive things like interviews or tests instead of human interaction.

For example, in the podcast “In Machines We Trust” of the MIT Technology Review, the effectiveness of these virtual tools was tested, with some startling results: “One gave our candidate a high score for English proficiency when she spoke only in German”, and “[the] algorithm assessed candidates differently when they used different video backgrounds and accessories, like glasses, during the interview.”. 

And that’s without getting into the parameters and limits of these tools, which necessarily reflect the limits and parameters of the people designing and implementing them. As mentioned earlier, the idea for many of these ATS and AI interview software is to help companies find the best possible candidate for a job, but who and how defines what is “perfect”? Or “fair?” To quote the aforementioned MIT Technology Review:

Instead of scoring our candidate on the content of her answers, the algorithm pulled personality traits from her voice, says Clayton Donnelly, an industrial and organizational psychologist working with [AI-powered interview software] MyInterview. But intonation isn’t a reliable indicator of personality traits, says Fred Oswald, a professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Rice University. “We really can’t use intonation as data for hiring,” he says. “That just doesn’t seem fair or reliable or valid.

HR, AI and the future of job applications Where are we headed

The question, then, is how an organization interprets and analyzes the knowledge and insights offered by this technology. After all, the biases of AI job interview applications can be difficult to spot, but they can significantly impact who gets ultimately hired. For example, if a company’s AI job interview application is trained on purely historical data, it may mistakenly favor candidates who are similar to those who have been successful in the role in the past. This can lead to talented candidates being overlooked simply because they don’t fit the profile of those who have been successful in the role before, and whose needs may have changed since. So to overcome these biases, companies need to be aware of the limitations of their tools, like:

  • They’re powered by machine learning, which means they’re not always accurate. Although machine learning is evolving by the day, and results could only get more accurate in the future, right now the flaws of the algorithm, the parameters of the search, and the logic behind these programs could be driving out valuable talent today.

  • They often screen out qualified candidates because of resume format issues. If you have ever tried to use a program to scan a PDF, transcribe a conversation, or use an IA to describe an image accurately, you might see how unusual formatting can trip the entire system up. 

  • They’re designed to save time for recruiters, not applicants. So a system could ask for some very specific and time-consuming requirements from the applicants (like aptitude tests, CV formats with little flexibility, keyword density optimization, photos, etc.) that, while useful for an organization hiring, could discourage a valuable candidate from applying.

  • They’re biased against certain groups of people. For example, a study by the New York University’s IA Now Institute discovered that “such systems have historically had trouble understanding women’s voices”, and it goes from there, so relying on them could be counterproductive to the goal of “fair” hiring.
HR, AI and the future of job applications Where are we headed_3

Machines helping humans (and not the other way around)

These technological tools will keep getting improved and optimized, that’s for sure, but the value of a person involved directly in a process as critical as hiring the perfect candidate cannot be underplayed”, says Helen Matamoros, Human Capital Manager at Scio. “Because, even if the idea of automating these tasks is no longer out of reach, we must not forget that hiring people goes beyond selecting skills and experience; a cultural fit with the organization, the capacity to grow, the disposition to collaborate and teach others, and else are things that an algorithm, as perfect as we can make it, cannot master on its own, and need the criteria and experience of an expert that can take away such information and use it properly”.

That’s why the “Human” portion of “HR” is still a necessity, even in an age of IA and automated software: tools that help perform our jobs better and more effectively, without taking away what makes the system works: understanding from person to person to ensure the best possible choice, which is the approach Scio has when looking for talent to join our organization. 

Because beyond merely selecting and onboarding a candidate, the idea of our process is to ensure our vision is shared, both parties (Scio and the candidate) have clear and common expectations about collaborating, and ensuring that any new Scioneer fits right in with the team. These tools might facilitate some of these processes, but at the heart of it, the future is still relying on expertise to make the best possible choices.

 

The Key Takeaways:

  • Hiring a candidate for an open position in an organization is a critical activity that can be time-consuming and expensive.
  • New kinds of software and IA-based tools can help with this, but they come with a lot of caveats.
  • Relying solely on them to hire someone for a position can have unintended consequences, from discouraging talent to apply, to giving incorrect insights to make a final choice.
  • Having people involved in the process is still invaluable because hiring a person goes beyond checking a CV: it has to be a cultural fit, make sense with the team dynamic, and be a fit for both the candidate and the organization, and that can be something outside the scope of a program.

Scio is an established Nearshore software development company based in Mexico that specializes in providing high-quality, cost-effective technologies to help you reach new heights. We have been developing since 2003 and our experience gives us access not only to the knowledge but also the expertise needed when tackling any project. Get started today by contacting us about your project needs – we’ll be happy to help you achieve your business goals.