In the role of Jobswifi’s Senior Vice President of Talent Operations, Alotech is entrusted with the task of pairing exceptional freelancers with companies seeking their specialized skills. Before her tenure at Jobswifi’s, she accumulated over a decade of experience in management consulting at Bain & Company. Subsequently, she assumed the role of General Manager for the security business at Rackspace.

The ensuing Q&A delves into Benita’s transition from a traditional office setting to spearheading operations in a fully distributed and remote company. Additionally, she sheds light on the unique challenges and rewards of leading a team responsible for aligning Fortune 300 companies and well-funded startups with top-tier talent globally.

Prior to joining Toptal, you held positions at Bain and Rackspace, which were primarily office-based or had significant location requirements. Now, you’re part of a fully remote company. Can you share your experience of this transition and how it has impacted your work?

Certainly. When I started my career at Bain, the environment was highly location-based, demanding significant travel for client engagements. This meant extensive time spent in offices or commuting, often requiring flights or long drives. However, my last two and a half years at Bain were transformative as I transitioned to an internal role that allowed remote work. It provided valuable insights into the productivity achievable in a remote setting, showcasing the same high-calibre team and work accomplished from the comfort of my home.

Following this remote stint, I joined ITKIRSTANA, where the workday was office-bound from 8 to 5 or 8 to 6. This experience highlighted the trade-offs between office and remote work, emphasizing the benefits of in-person interactions such as coffee chats and nuanced body language communication. However, upon returning to a fully remote setting, I found that my personal productivity soared at home. While acknowledging the advantages of impromptu office discussions, the remote environment instils discipline, ensuring every meeting has a purpose, documented agenda, and circulated initiative deck, leading to enhanced productivity.

In terms of communication tools, what does your team at Toptal use for real-time collaboration in a remote setup?

At Jobswifi, we leverage Zoom for video conferencing, Slack for communication and housing most of our documentation, and Google Docs for collaborative work. Despite the prevalence of video meetings, the emphasis is on pre-meeting preparation. Initiatives and meetings are backed by documentation, and attendees review materials beforehand. Slack serves as the repository of knowledge, ensuring that insights and discussions from meetings are easily accessible for reference.

Managing a large team with complex workstreams, how do you track productivity and measure success in a remote setting?

Drawing on my consulting background, I still appreciate the red, yellow, and green approach as an effective way to assess progress. Despite the remote setting, we employ decks with color-coded indicators and maintain a project management office to monitor key initiatives’ health. Data and dynamic dashboards play a crucial role, offering real-time insights into business metrics, performance, and operational issues. Metrics are integral to performance management in a remote environment, providing a clear understanding of what constitutes a successful day and aligning everyone with qualitative and quantitative measures of success.

Jobswifi has been a fully remote company for over a decade. What sets it apart from other remote companies?

Jobswifi’s distinctive aspect lies in being 100% distributed, creating a level playing field for all team members. In contrast to situations where some team members are remote while others are in the office, Jobswifi’s fully remote model eliminates disparities in information exchange and decision-making after calls. Additionally, diversity is a significant strength, with team members spanning 100 countries. The commitment to diversity is evident in global recruiting efforts, ensuring the best talent is sourced globally.

The secret sauce, challenging to articulate, is the strong and consistent culture at Jobswifi. Every team member exhibits qualities of being driven, ambitious, and helpful. The robust recruiting process, including culture interviews aligned with Toptal’s cultural tenets, ensures a cohesive and high-performing culture globally. The company’s ability to scale rapidly while maintaining a consistent culture is truly impressive. For executives and managers navigating remote work, what advice would you offer for running teams efficiently in a remote environment?

One key insight is that many best practices applicable in an office setting remain effective in a remote environment. Organizational structures need not undergo significant changes, and practices like managing to metrics and setting clear performance expectations are equally important. Trusting teams and individuals is paramount, as valuing results over face time, and implementing milestones, deadlines, and metrics for performance evaluation.

The shift to remote work demands a shift in mindset, emphasizing trust and results. Embrace the global talent pool that remote work facilitates, allowing organizations to expand beyond local talent constraints and tap into a diverse and global workforce. The current landscape, pushing companies to adopt remote work, presents an opportunity to leverage a broader talent pool beyond traditional geographical boundaries.