Blog Post

Distributed People

    
December 4, 2014 Author: Rachel Taylor

Rocana is a fully distributed company. Our employees live and work where and when they want and manage the right work/life balance for themselves and their loved ones. As a result we can hire the most amazing, talented professionals anywhere in the US, Canada and, eventually, around the world.

Why did we decide to be distributed? It’s because of people.

Put the Horse in front of the Cart

Every big, successful company eventually ends up distributed (acquisitions, sales & field technical teams, access to specific talent), but by the time they have a few thousand employees the company’s DNA is set in stone. The communication pathways, the way people make decisions, the political dynamics are ingrained. Employees don't learn how to execute as a distributed team, and the company struggles to transition from a culture based in the physical to the virtual world.

We’re building Rocana to be a large, successful technology company so we are building our company distributed from the beginning. This means that we’re building today the methodology and infrastructure required to support a distributed workforce. We're investing in make sure every process, interaction, communication and fiber of the company can run distributed. This investment is already paying off, but it doesn’t come for free.

False Positive

In a physical office it’s easy to confuse people’s daily attendance, group coffee runs, lunches, birthday celebrations and other normal social group behaviors as alignment, company loyalty, enthusiasm or even “culture”. But sometimes what people interpret as a “good culture” is actually a group of people who happen to work for the same company and show up in an office everyday giving the illusion of alignment. We don’t have the benefit of seeing people every day, we can’t afford to assume that we have a great culture.

As a 100% distributed company we can’t take important things like culture for granted. We have found that we need to be 100% intentional about instilling and nurturing shared vision, work ethic and beliefs in a company that’s spread across multiple states and timezones. We aren’t living in the physical echo-chamber of our culture, so we have to constantly look for ways to proactively help every person feel empowered, engaged and passionate about their contribution and the direction of the company.

Freedom

Trusting our employees to work where they want, when they want and how they want creates an amazing sense of empowerment and loyalty across our organization. We believe that people will live up to whatever expectation we have of them. We expect our employees to care, be engaged and deliver against aggressive goals. We give them the autonomy, tools and resources to be successful. At Rocana we focus on impact and results, not how many hours your butt is in the seat.

Recruiting & Retaining Top Talent

In the Valley, the competition is tough. The David and Goliath analogy doesn’t seem to quite do the scenario justice when you’re an early Seed/Series A company competing against the monoliths of Silicon Valley. When you need to hire those precious 5 or 6 engineers over the next 12 months just to ensure you are able to deliver against expectations, it doesn't come close to a fair fight. Even at my previous company, the big data darling and powerhouse Cloudera, whose most recent round of funding was a staggering $940m, we constantly found ourselves competing against (and sometimes losing to) the big 5 - Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple.

Being 100% distributed gives us the ability to hire the best engineers in the United States and Canada. We offer people the opportunity to work for an enterprise infrastructure technology company that’s solving big, challenging problems from wherever they are. In exchange, we get amazing engineers who love what they’re doing and how they’re allowed to do it. We don’t have to try to convince people to uproot themselves and their loved ones, move to Silicon Valley, compete for smaller houses at higher prices than nearly anywhere else in the world, ultimately to be outbid by someone offering 25% over asking in cash! Yes, that’s the Bay Area and the price of our own success!

Solve for Success, Sustainability and Scale

We are building Rocana as a distributed company so that we can focus on hiring and retaining the BEST employees, period. We are not limited to the best people who happen to work in a specific geographic location and whom we can afford. The biggest companies in the world are sucking the talent oxygen out of the Valley. This is good for them, they are riding the wave of the success they’ve built. The way we startups can compete for the precious talent that is the key to our success and viability is to go distributed. This levels the playing field. We give amazing people the ability to work on their terms and they’ll reward us with love, devotion and 200%.

It’s a competitive advantage. It’s a way of life. For me, it’s the only way to work.