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300 remote software engineers: how we manage them at Tunga

300 remote software engineers: how we manage them at Tunga

BY Reinier Van Scherpenzeel

Our Operations Director Reinier van Scherpenzeel moved to Kampala, Uganda, in January to coordinate our projects. Read about his experiences, ambitions and his love for Africa.

“One thing I’ve definitely had to get used to was the sheer size of the Tunga community. And also the fact that when you’re working with more than 300 software engineers across the second biggest continent in the world, you spent a lot of time onboarding remote developers on different projects and for different clients.”

“Organizations that have a structured plan see that new remote developers are 50% more productive.”

“Usually, organizations do like I did. You get a developer and flunk them on site in an existing team. Most teams are strong and robust enough to pick the developer up and guide them through the works. And otherwise, strong developers always survive. There is even an expression for this, ‘throwing them in the deep end’. And, truth be told, it kinda works.

However, when you’re onboarding remote developers, this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve found out working at Tunga though, that there are some simple things you can do to avoid that. Even more so, to actually boost the productivity of remote developers. Now, who doesn’t want that?”

Be prepared

“Even if you’re completely new to onboarding remote developers and don’t know what to expect, the best thing you can do is prepare well. Organizations that have a structured plan see that new developers are 50% more productive. And that’s what you’re after, isn’t it? That’s why we’re continuously optimizing our onboarding process at Tunga. And that’s why you should take an hour the week before and create a plan on how to onboard your remote software engineers. That plan can be as simple as a schedule for the first week. Curious about what should be in the schedule? Read on!”

“Good ways to align a remote software engineers are sharing company presentations, broader project plans and maybe even financial data.”

Aligning with remote software engineers

“The first thing to do, after saying ‘Hello, how are you?’ of course, is aligning your new team member on the team and organizational goals. Then you can further align on their own goals and what you expect of them. Aligning in this sense simply means, can someone relate his or her own tasks to the broader mission of the company he or she is working for? If yes, that would be fantastic, because you’re adding another 56% productivity increase! Good ways to align a remote developer are sharing company presentations, broader project plans and maybe even financial data. Sounds scary, maybe, but to perform well, one needs to know why you are doing something. As a rule, therefore, everything at Tunga is transparent.”

Prioritize to maximize

“Whether you like it or not, beginning on a new assignment is always a sensory overload. Too much information can lead to nothing getting done at all since it becomes impossible to choose what to work on. So it is vital to prioritize the work that needs to be done, even if it is just for the first week. Not only will it result in getting $#%& done, but it will also create a sense of ownership with your new remote software engineer, since it gives them a guideline which they can apply when deadlines conflict and ask for help in balancing their priorities. At Tunga, on the first day, there is always a planning session, to make sure the current prioritization is crystal clear for every existing and new team member.”

“Looking for skills instead of gaps helps to create a multidisciplinary team that can tackle anything.”

Double your strengths

“We’ve all been there. We’ve set up a profile for a remote software engineer with everything we wish that person would bring. Of course, you will not find the perfect fit, because you cannot hire a profile. But, instead of focussing on what skills might be lacking in a new remote developer, try to see all skills you didn’t ask for but have gotten for free. Maybe he or she is very good at visuals and can act as a good tester for new designs. Or has extensive knowledge of database management, who knows? Looking for skills instead of gaps helps to create a multidisciplinary team that can tackle anything.”

Feedback from remote software engineers

“Everyone who is new in the team is a valuable source of information. Think about it. You’re introducing someone whose opinion you obviously value (otherwise, why hire them?) to every vital development process in your company. They have the rare opportunity to see those processes at face value, instead of in all the context you amassed yourself. We call the knowledge of new team members amazements, because we ask them what it is about the processes they are amazed about, and we use that knowledge to tweak and upgrade our processes. As a result, adding a new remote developer to your team suddenly becomes a great opportunity to improve!”

“And you discover there are some great people on this earth.”

“For me though, the best thing is not the extra productivity or the improved processes. The best thing is that by onboarding someone with effort, you’re getting to know them really well. You find out who it is that is working with you, on your project, on your company. Every one of those 300 developers, one by one. And you discover there are some great people on this earth.”

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