remote job consultationWe are offering free consultations on how to lead & manage remote teams during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn More

How to Define Culture in a Remote Setting with Darren Murph from Gitlab

As GitLab’s Head of Remote, Darren Murph works at the intersection of culture, process, hiring, employer branding, marketing, and communication. He knows everything about shaping remote teams and charting remote transitions.

Darren also holds the Guinness World Record for being the most prolific professional blogger, with over 10 million published words across mediums.

Follow our guest on their social media:

Successful remote employee

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host, Luis, and this is a podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. My guest today is Darren Murph. Darren is the Head of Remote at GitLab where he works at the intersection of culture, process, transparency, collaboration, efficiency, inclusivity, onboarding, hiring, employer branding, and communication overall. He is also a Guinness World Record holding journalist and a global communications and marketing professional. Darren, welcome to the show.

Darren Murph:

Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Luis:

GitLab has quite literally written the book. I can even say curated the library on how to work remotely. So there’s a lot to get you in an interview with you. The week before the show, I gather more or less what I consider the complete portfolio of content that the guest has produced and go through it. In your case, that’s pretty much impossible. I kind of wonder though, being that you’re so prolific. You’re Guinness World Record, if I remember accurately, is due to how prolific you are as a blogger and writer.

Darren Murph:

Yes. That’s right.

Luis:

How much of that how-to remote library was a contribution of yours?

Darren Murph:

That’s a great question. So the Guinness World Record was earned at a consumer technology publication called Engadget. I was a prolific writer at Engadget, I started writing in what I call the golden era of consumer technology. It was right as the original iPhone was launching and it completely changed the landscape of who paid attention to consumer electronics. When I got that record, it was an article published on the site every two hours, 24/7, 365, for four straight years, which is kind of nuts to think about. But that was about six million words at the time and about 17,000 articles. It’s up to closer to 30,010 million words now.

Darren Murph:

In the process of all that writing, I wrote a personal book, Living the Remote Dream on kind of how remote enabled me to achieve that Guinness World Record while I was at Engadget and tips and tricks that I learned along the way and fast forward to now at GitLab. Remote working is so much easier than it was then. We have nearly ubiquitous LTE, we have laptop batteries that can last an entire workday. It wasn’t always the case. 10 years ago, it was much more difficult to work remotely. And I think the world, in general, has come around to the concept and it’s way less foreign now than it was then.

Darren Murph:

But then once I got to GiLab I thought this is an amazing platform to share more. Not only the open source learnings that GitLab has learned over the years but also my personal experience in working in co-located spaces and hybrid remote spaces and now at GitLab at all remote space. So the remote playbook, if you go to allremote.info, that takes you straight into the all remote section of the GitLab handbook and right there at the top, there’s a PDF guide with our best learnings. I was the lead author on that and it was a pleasure to take that on. We continue to iterate on that as we go. We know a lot of companies had become suddenly remote. They’re looking for advice and tips on how to thrive as a remote team. It’s a gift to be able to share that back with the community.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah, thank you for that. It’s definitely an incredible resource. So obviously, just work for historical context. This is being recorded in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic. So obviously, remote work has been forced upon many companies, certainly, upon all the companies that managed to do it. So it’s especially relevant now. But GitLab as a company, I guess that’s a good question if you continue on the train of thought, what made you decide? What made GitLab decide that this knowledge needed to be curated and out there and available to everyone, right?

Darren Murph:

Right. It’s a great question. So GitLab has been open source and open core from the very start. What’s interesting about GitLab is that we open source and publicize our company handbook. So unlike most companies where you have an internal handbook and then external marketing materials to the world, GitLab only does it one way, it’s all public to the world. So the entire GitLab Handbook, everything about processes and protocols, even our health benefits and things like that, it’s all public. It’s all in the handbook, which is publicly accessible and this really works to keep us accountable. GitLab was all remote from the start. The first three employees in the company were in three different countries, they had no choice but to work remotely. They briefly had an office coming out of Y Combinator in California that lasted about three days and then people just stopped showing up to the office but work continued to get done.

Darren Murph:

We quickly realized that there was no need to make anyone commute, we can save a lot of money by not having the office and we can look for the world’s best talent instead of trying to convince them to move to one or two geographic locations. So that was part of their DNA from the very start. And it became obvious that this was something significant. When I joined the company, we were at almost 700 people globally, completely remote around the world. And now we’re at over 1,200 in more than 65 countries. That’s a big deal. That’s the world’s largest company with absolutely zero company-owned offices. Even our executive team works remotely.

Darren Murph:

As we were scaling, we saw the need for a couple of things. One, we have a lot of people coming in from co-located spaces and they need help acclimating. This is a different way of working. We do things very differently. We have a very articulate prescriptive set of values. And for a lot of people coming in, it can feel disorienting or jarring and a lot of it actually is counter to what you would learn in a typical co-located bureaucratic corporation. So we have to find ways to reinforce these things to give people permission to truly operate differently. So that’s part of my role, is working with the People Operations Group and hiring and onboarding and making sure people have what they need to thrive remotely.

Darren Murph:

And if I’m writing all of that down, I might as well document it in a way that can also benefit the greater world. Because we fundamentally believe that the rising tide is going to lift all boats, and we’re going to do whatever we can to spread opportunity globally. That includes equipping other companies that wants to go remote, whether it’s all remote or just becoming more remote fluent and integrating remote first practices into their own organization. We’re doing this anyway. So we’re going to write it down for our own teammates, we might as well write it in a way that other companies can lean on. And what we’ve seen, especially during COVID-19, is a lot of companies have found our remote playbook. And they’ve sent it around to their team and said, “This is our blueprint. This has worked for GitLab. We’re going to take what we can from this and start implementing some of these.”

Darren Murph:

And it’s really heartening to see that because I fundamentally believe remote enables you to live a completely different life than you could otherwise. It’s really personal for me, it’s really important for me. I’ve seen a lot of companies embrace remote. I’ve seen the Zillow CEO say, “My notion of work from home has been completely turned upside down. All of the myths I’d heard about this job can’t be done from home, it turns out it can. And there’s actually a lot of freedom and flexibility that comes from that.” And it’s exciting to see. I think, if we see the world embrace this in what is clearly a sub-optimal time, if they lay the right infrastructure once we do return to some sense of normalcy, I think there’ll be a lot of positives on the other side of it.

Luis:

Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned the positives on the other side of that because when I go to that documentation, and also when I go through your personal README, I get the sense that GitLab is the land of fairies and unicorns where the honey flows in rivers and all of that. It just seems to be the most wonderful place to work ever. Look, I’ve worked with many companies, big and small. I know what bosses think. The reality is that most bosses think, “Yeah, that won’t really work. That doesn’t really work. That sounds too good to be true. When you assign people that level of autonomy, that level of autonomy, that level of responsibility, you won’t be able to get people as productive as they should be.”

Luis:

In fact, there’s a part that I read again in your personal Read Me, that struck me as very unusual where you say that you don’t expect your employee’s job to be the most important thing in their lives, which is something that I think is obvious, common sense. I personally believe that as well. But it’s kind of taboo, right? People kind of don’t say that. So I was wondering what is your main argument for the naysayers? What are some stats, some values that you can present to say, “Look, no matter how much of a fairytale this looks like, it works.”

Darren Murph:

Yeah. It’s a lot to unpack. I’ll start with one stat that always …

Luis:

Yeah, it’s quite long winded, but I do think epic company is in a unique position.

Darren Murph:

It’s good. This is the conversation that needs to be had because a lot of people are asking this right now. I’ll start with a stat and that is GitLab’s voluntary retention rate is north of 85%. What this means is that the vast majority of people that come to GitLab choose to stay at GitLab and we want them to stay at GitLab. This is with giving them ultimate freedom and autonomy to live and work where their soul is most fulfilled. So we’ve proven that it works, we’ve proven that if you give people that freedom and autonomy, you treat them like adults, you hire people that are managers of one, they come in and they understand that results matter, not inputs or being seen in the office. Turns out that’s actually really good for business. Your people are your greatest assets.

Darren Murph:

There’s a company called SAS, a software company in North Carolina and their CEO frequently says that, “95% of my assets come and go to work every single day.” And what he means by that is the people matter more than the hardware, the servers, the software. That’s the fundamental belief that the people matter more. It all starts at the heart of the company and laying the right groundwork and building the right culture for this to work. I understand where it comes from when people say, “It wouldn’t work here. People wouldn’t be productive. People, if we just kind of left them on their own devices, they wouldn’t actually contribute to the company.” To me, that is an admission of a fundamental core problem at the company, it’s not a core problem with the individual.

Darren Murph:

What this means is that you’re not creating a work atmosphere where they feel invested in any meaningful way. What I’ve seen in this COVID-19 situation is a lot of team leaders and managers are kind of grappling with this reality of, “You know, maybe I haven’t done a great job of writing down and articulating the metrics that I expect from people and that’s why I have this fear that when they go work in their home office instead of our office, I have no idea if they’re going to do anything meaningful for the business.” And my question or my come back to that is, you know, “Did you ever know they were doing anything meaningful in the office or should you have been more prescriptive to begin with?”

Darren Murph:

And at GitLab, we solve this by writing down metrics, our OKRs and our strategy are all public. Everyone across the company can see what everyone else across the company is working on so we know we can roll the proverbial boat in the right direction. It’s not that difficult to write things down. It’s just a forcing function and a discipline that most companies do not take and remote forces you to write it down. The thing I’ll come back to here is for most people that are fixated on working in an office, if someone said, “I want to move from Floor Three to Floor Four.” Or, “I want to move from the right side of the building to the left side of the building.” Do you really think that would impact productivity one way or the other? Of course not.

Darren Murph:

Well, what if they say they want to move from the left side of the building to the way left side of the building? With the way left side of the building being their home. And when you break it down like that and you realize that a space is just a space, what really matters is did you articulate what you need this person to do? Did you equip them with the right tools, the right communication workflows, the right team to actually get things done? It really falls back on the leadership and the manager to make sure you equip people with what they need to work well remotely.

Luis:

I get what you’re saying. And obviously, this is a program about remote teams. I understand the remote angle, if you will. But the reality is that I do think there’s something more, because it strikes me that if GitLab, in an alternate universe where remote work never existed, was a co-located company with everyone in the same building, it still strikes me that it would be a pretty awesome place to work.

Darren Murph:

Yep, that’s exactly right. And I think you’re onto something major here, which is what we do to make our remote team work well is actually not exclusive to remote at all. This would actually help us thrive even as a co-located company. The things that we do, the way that we work, how we document our culture, how we give people clear guidelines on where work communication happens and where informal communication happens, all of this makes us a stronger, more cohesive, less dysfunctional company regardless of where we’re at. Frankly, remote forces us to do things that all companies should be doing anyway, we just have to do them way more intentionally and much earlier on in the company.

Darren Murph:

And a great example of this is on the communication front. What can oftentimes happen in a co-located space is a project may start in teams or Slack, then it may funnel over to email. And then it’s just some verbal hallway conversations. And now you have this fragmented idea that’s kind of all over the place. Now how that gets solved in an office is someone calls an ad hoc meeting, you pull in the people that you need, and you sort of Band-Aid it until everyone is “on the same page.” Instead of fixing the root problem which is, “Why don’t we funnel all of the work communication around this one project into one tool in one place?”

Darren Murph:

And again, this is something that works well remotely because it has to, we can’t just call each other into the same physical space and figure it out. But this would make your life a lot better in a co-located space, too. And so my hope is for companies that are suddenly remote or even temporarily remote, do some of these things, improve your meeting hygiene, improve your communication hygiene because it will make your company stronger regardless of where you’re at. Even if you transition some or all of your company back into the office.

Luis:

Yeah. I mean, that makes absolute sense. We’re going to go back to documentation. Before, I want to plant the flag there and talk a bit about hiring because you mentioned retention as basically … I asked you for metrics of success and the main thing that you came up with was retention. Now, I have personally experienced by trying to be the good manager, the good team leader, I have personally felt that some people working on my team were taking advantage of that. And I had to learn essentially, I decided that I could take two alternatives. I could be more of a tyrant in my managing or I could be more of a tyrant in my hiring process. And I choose that which I felt is the smaller of two evils, which is being more of a tyrant on my hiring process. How do you make sure that the people you hire aren’t going to take advantage of your generous culture?

Darren Murph:

Yes. I think you have a good approach. You articulated that well. We have a public page in the handbook. GitLab has a public page called Biggest Risks, and they outline the biggest risks to the company. And literally the number one thing is lowering the hiring bar as the number one risk to the entire company. So what that means is we have to be very prescriptive and very intentional on the hiring front to make sure we hire managers of one. This is one of our sub-values where someone is capable of and thrives in an environment where they are given the freedom to construct their day in the way they need to construct it, that they understand that metrics matter, results matter, and the way that you get there, each person is going to approach it a little bit differently.

Darren Murph:

This is not something that is naturally intuitive to everyone and it’s something that we specifically interview for and screen for. The other thing that we are very intentional about is talking about our values at every stage of the interview process. So for most companies, if you ask them what their culture is in an office, a lot of it has to do with the office decor or how the light comes in through the window or the general vibe, energy, and persona based on whoever is in the office. That’s a bad way to define culture, because that means your culture kind of oscillates depending on the mood or economic conditions.

Darren Murph:

We want our culture to be defined by our values. Values equal culture. So we write down all of our values and a lot of sub-values on how you exemplify those. And we talked about this in the interview process. We want people to know upfront, “These are our values. This is how we exemplify those. Does this resonate with you? Is this a place you’re going to be comfortable? If you’re given this much freedom, what are you going to do with it? Talk to us about examples where you had autonomy in the past, or you were a manager of one. We want to know all of these things.”

Darren Murph:

So we’re very articulate about it in the hiring process. And I’ll say GitLab has the advantage of we’ve been this way since the start, which means that no one has accidentally ended up at GitLab. You have to opt into the way GitLab works, you have to opt into an environment where you can be a manager of one. Some people, frankly, don’t want to opt into that. You’ll see some people right now that are suddenly remote and they’re actually struggling with it because they opted into a very rigid boxed corporate structure because they knew that’s what they needed to thrive in.

Darren Murph:

So now suddenly, when they’re outside of that, it’s like a fish out of water and they frankly don’t know what to do. And that’s okay. We’re all different, we all want different things, we all thrive in different types of work environments. So this isn’t for everyone, just like the typical office isn’t for everyone. So as a hiring manager, you really have to know what you’re looking for and interview for that to try to get as much foresight as you can on how someone will operate once they’re given that level of freedom.

Luis:

All right, those are good tips. So now let’s go back to the documentation part. On all the material that I read about you and written by you, and again, that’s about 1% of your total output, it was as much as I could read in a week’s time, but you really stressed the documentation. Right? So for example, it’s important when building a company to create culture, one important step is to create the source of truth handbook, to keep everyone in the loop. So now, due to the current situation of the world, we have a lot of companies having to catch up fast.

Luis:

Ideally, companies would already have a remote program or even be fully remote but the reality is that a lot of them are having to catch up fast. What would you think are the top three things to start with? Apart from the onboarding, which obviously is crucial, but apart from the onboarding, what do you think are the top three things that a company should define in their source of truth handbook?

Darren Murph:

This is a great point. We try to work handbook first. I expressed that terminology, because you’ll often hear, “Make sure you document things.” But that’s a dangerous assumption because if you allow each team and each individual to document on their own accord, you kind of get this Wild West of documentation where some people document in Notion, some people document in Google Docs, no one shares anything amongst each other and you end up with these really well-documented communication silos which don’t actually help the organization.

Darren Murph:

So the first thing is agree on a universal single source of company-wide truth. It has to be company-wide. So this needs to start at the leadership level and say, “All right, this is where we’re going to document. This is the structure.” And you can iterate on it but at least tell people, “This is the one place to go.” So that your entire team, whether they’re in the office or out of the office knows where to go. So the first thing is make it one place, not multiple places.

Darren Murph:

The second thing is define how communication works. Tell people where work communication happens and where informal communication happens. At GitLab, all of our work communication happens within a GitLab issue or merge request, we actually expire our Slack messages after 90 days and that’s an intentional forcing function so that people don’t start a project in Slack, because they know that in 90 days, they will have no history of it, no trace of it, no context. So it’s a forcing function to not do that but to actually start the work in Slack. So put some guardrails and some articulation around where communication can happen.

Darren Murph:

And the third thing is start your handbook, if you’re starting from scratch, as an FAQ. What are the most frequently asked questions? Write down who the directly responsible individuals are for every section of your company. Write down answers to basic things like how do I get access to our VPN. Fundamental basic things that may not have been an issue in an office setting, they may be an issue now. So start by just writing down the most basic questions. With day after day after day, your handbook will start to get bigger and bigger and more deep.

Darren Murph:

GitLab’s handbook has over 5,000 pages printed out today, but it started as one. So I would not be daunted or overwhelmed by starting with a blank page. And in fact, if you go to Google and Google the Suddenly Remote Handbook, we actually have a very rudimentary handbook at GitLab that anyone can use. You just sign up for a free GitLab account and essentially a framework for how a handbook can look so you don’t have to start from scratch. You can take some of our core learnings, use it, modify it, it’s all open source, it’s all creative commons so you don’t have to start from zero. Google the Suddenly Remote Handbook and that will get you started.

Luis:

I’m actually curious, when you onboard someone, you obviously can tell them, “So first thing on the job, go read our handbook. It’s only 5,000 pages, get back to me once you’re ready.” How do you recommend people use your single source of truth?

Darren Murph:

We actually explicitly tell people, “Don’t try to read 5000 pages.” Probably not

Luis:

You can just say that?

Darren Murph:

We explicitly say that because we do understand that at most companies, one of the first things you do in onboarding is read the handbook. So if you come here and try to do that, you’re going to be reading for a really long time. Instead, we teach you how to find what you need to find. Essentially, we teach you how to use Google and how to use search and how to search for things to self-service and self-learn to find what you need. If I asked you if the internet was too big and had too much information, of course, you would say no, because you know how to search it. So essentially, we try to teach people how to search the handbook for what it is they need to know. So the skill here is teaching people to find what they need. The skill is not reading really quickly.

Darren Murph:

So we’re very prescriptive about that in onboarding. Onboarding for us starts as a GitLab issue, we have over 200 check boxes spread out over six weeks, so people know exactly what is done and what is not done, what to read, what surveys to take, what forms to fill out, et cetera, all of it is documented. So for a remote team, as much of the burden as you can shift to documentation and away from humans, that’s the recommendation. That enables GitLab to hire 20 and 30 people in the same week, and actually be able to onboard them in an effective way.

Luis:

Awesome. Okay. So as a manager, I know that you care a lot about your people not being overworked, about your people’s workload. You also want them to document relentlessly, to write things up in as much detail and as specifically as possible. Assuming that the person leading the documentation has no context or has little context as could be considered reasonable. So in my mind, when the team is asked to relentlessly document, it’s very easy for them to become overworked. So how do you balance that? How do you balance the need for documentation with the need to do work?

Darren Murph:

This is another thing that we hire for. Frankly, we look for people that love communicating with low context, that love writing things down. It is not a passion for some people. And you find that out really early on. The reason why this works is it’s company-wide. So what I mean by that is if you have everyone in the company with the same burden of documentation, they will inevitably slow other paces down to match that. The issue that you run into is if some part of the company believes in heavy documentation and another part doesn’t, when now, a part of the company is spending a certain portion of their day documenting and another part is not. Obviously the dynamics of that are going to be different. And the longer you allow that to be the case, the more out of sync those two parts of the company get.

Darren Murph:

So documentation has to be something that is a core part of the job. So I would actually boil it back down to performance metrics. Take a look at merge requests or documentation that were added throughout the quarter. This should be something that is talked about in a performance review. What gets measured gets done. And at GitLab, we actually do look at contributions to our handbook. And it’s really important in your company to tie that back in some way to how a person is doing, how invested are you in the documentation, how much are you contributing. Because frankly, it’s just as important to your long term success as something like sales metrics. The amount of knowledge gaps that you plug by documenting is immense and it only grows more powerful over time as your company scales.

Darren Murph:

I benefit today from things that people wrote down at GitLab nine years ago. That’s incredibly powerful. And then another 10 years from now, imagine the knowledge that new hires will get because people have documented all along the way. You just have to break your notion of time. A lot of people think day to day, week to week, but we’re thinking on a much longer almost generational scale, where knowledge is going to be increasingly important the longer this company exists.

Luis:

All right. I know that one of your policies is flexibility in work hours. I usually ask and I want to ask you as well, what does your usual day look like? I know that you probably don’t have a usual day. So I am going to change the question slightly and say what does your usual week look like? What makes you get to the end of the week and feel like, “Okay, this was a good week in Darren Murph’s career”?

Darren Murph:

The thing I love about remote work is it allows me to live a nonlinear life and work a nonlinear workday. And I’ve broken this concept down in the GitLab handbook. And it’s something that has enabled me to thrive. Which is, oftentimes I will start my day with work and then I’ll take a few hours away from work and go do something that’s completely not work related. And then I’ll come back in for a four or five hour block and then I’ll leave again. So I actually kind of work my day in chunks. I’m very biased towards an asynchronous work day, every day looks different.

Darren Murph:

A great example I have for this is if you know someone who lives in a ski town, they probably love skiing and they especially love skiing on days where they get fresh snow. So this is ideal in this situation because maybe you wake up, you look outside, you’re thinking, “We’re getting fresh snow. Okay, I’m going to actually go out to the mountain this morning. We’re going to get a few hours of runs in and then I’m going to come back home and start my day at maybe noon or 1:00 PM and work later into the evening. Because when it’s dark outside, I can’t ski anyway so I don’t really mind working late because in exchange for that, I was able to ski all morning with the best possible power.”

Darren Murph:

This is a very simple example of the life you can live if you empower employees to live a nonlinear workday. So for me, I love getting up in the morning and getting outside. I love to go take a walk with my wife and son, enjoy the daylight while it’s there. Then I don’t mind working a little later into the evening because again, if it’s dark outside, doesn’t really bother me. This also better aligns with my peak productivity hours. I’m not naturally a morning person. I much prefer to work later into the evening than to start early. But this is counter to how a lot of people at GitLab work. A lot of people love to get up at 5:00, 5:30 in the morning, get their day done early and then enjoy a much longer later afternoon.

Darren Murph:

The power of remote is that enables that to exist but it only works if you center work in an asynchronous tool. So we use GitLab, which enables asynchronous work. Yes, there are times when we need to communicate synchronously and sometimes that does cause friction, but it’s way less than most companies which default the synchronicity in absolutely every element of work. So hopefully that gives you some sort of light into how a nonlinear day works. But no day is the same for me and that’s what I love about it. And you want to hire people that love that element of work, because they’ll give a lot back more to the company when you enable that kind of lifestyle.

Luis:

Awesome. Sounds great. We do try to aim for that. At DistantJob, the solution that we found is ask for people to have a four-hour overlap, because we are not that distributed as you so it’s more feasible. We have people from Ukraine to South America so that’s feasible. But I can imagine that when it’s 1,200 people, it becomes more tough across all the world.

Darren Murph:

Well, the funny thing about that is I fundamentally believe that time zones actually get easier at scale. So I completely understand the benefits of having as many people overlap as you possibly can. But the crazy thing is now that we’re at 1,200 people, we have just naturally filled in so many of the time zones around the world that it actually gets easier to hand work off because there’s so many people that are just wanting two hours away from each other on a global basis. So if we were only 10 or 15 people and you had each person spread out three or four hours apart, this is really difficult.

Darren Murph:

But now that we have 1,200 people, we have so many people filling those timezone gaps that it actually gets easier. So I tell people, “If you want to solve the timezone problem, go all remote and then hire a lot of people around the world and you’ll find out that a lot of people live in slightly different time zones, which ends up making your team naturally have this sort of 24-hour cycle of availability.” So that’s one thing that we’ve seen actually gets easier. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but it’s worked out pretty okay for us.

Luis:

That’s a good point. Thank you for sharing. So I usually end the final quarter of the show with a session of rapid fire questions. Are you up for that?

Darren Murph:

Let’s do it. Love it.

Luis:

The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be, you can feel free to expand as much as you’d like.

Darren Murph:

Cool.

Luis:

So first question, what browser tabs do you have open right now?

Darren Murph:

Let’s see. I have a couple of calendar tabs, a couple of Google Docs. I have Techmeme, love Techmeme. I have Mediagazer, also a great repository for media news. LinkedIn, a couple of GitLab merge requests, a couple of GitLab issues, and actually a Fender tab. I’m looking at a new bass guitar, have some fun with that.

Luis:

So are you the kind of person who this is what your morning looks like or you’re just look like me? I open tabs and then I save them for later and open and save and eventually I have to press reset?

Darren Murph:

More like that, I think I’m kind of in-between being very prescriptive and OCD about tabs. I don’t like to have too many. When I can’t read the first four letters of the words in the tabs, I know I’ve got too many. That’s when I start closing them. So anything under about 10, I can mentally manage. Anything above that, it’s gotta go.

Luis:

All right. So if you had $100 to spend with each person working for you, what would you give them? There are just a couple of rules. Number one, you can’t just give them the money. Number two, you can’t ask what each individual wants, you need to buy in bulk.

Darren Murph:

Wow. That is a phenomenal question. I think I would probably give them a gift certificate to a ticketing organization so they could buy a ticket to an event of their choosing. We have such a global team that it’s difficult to say one thing that would universally apply to everyone but I feel like once this is all over, the first thing we’re going to want to do is go to some of that. See a concert or see a sporting event, see something happening in the outside world. So I think we should all go to whatever it is, concert, venue of our choosing, and have some fun.

Luis:

It’s good. I’m getting people picnic baskets.

Darren Murph:

Perfect. Yes, let’s all go to the park and take a good inhale of fresh air.

Luis:

That’s my take. What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive over the past year?

Darren Murph:

Multiple monitors. I have three monitors and with each additional monitor, my life gets a little bit easier. Not because it necessarily enables me to do more, it just allows me to have less friction in moving pains. I know Sid, our CEO, has some insane amount of monitors. It looks like a NASA bunker in his house. But more screen real estate. It’s actually made it really difficult for me to go back to a single laptop screen. I noticed a big productivity hit when I have to do that.

Luis:

Yeah, I’ll second that. That was my experience this year. This year, I went multiple monitors for the first time. I am working with two now. And I have to say I was used to working on a big screen and then I split it into two, but it’s much better just to have two. Right now, I’m having this interview, I can look directly at you, I have my interview notes on the second screen and it’s just such a much better experience than haggling windows and splitting screens and whatever.

Darren Murph:

Yes, it absolutely reduces the mental burden when you don’t have to constantly shift things all around the place. Yes, if you’re able to get another monitor, do it. It will help out tremendously.

Luis:

Okay. So what book or books have you gifted the most?

Darren Murph:

Book or books have I gifted the most? I’m going to be honest and say that I am way behind on the book reading front. One book that I have enjoyed of late is called The Best Yes. It’s really important if you feel kind of overwhelmed and you have a lot of great options, how do you choose the best yes. That also applies to life and work. So I’ll go with that one just because it’s most germane for me right now.

Luis:

All right. Okay, so final question. This one requires a bigger setup. This one is not rapid fire. So here’s the setup. You are hosting a dinner where there’s a roundtable. The roundtable is about the future of work and working from home and you are inviting anyone that self-importance in that tech company. CEOs, hiring managers, Executive VPs of Operations, et cetera. Now the twist is that this happens in a Chinese restaurant. So you, as the host, get to choose a message to put inside the fortune cookies. What is your fortune cookie message?

Darren Murph:

Wow, this is a great question. I think the message would read, “Do we really have to do things the way we’ve always done them?” And the reason I say that is I’ve recommended this to companies who have found themselves suddenly remote and they’re essentially trying to copy the office environment and paste it into the virtual environment. And I think a core question to getting to the next phase of that, unlocking the power of asynchronous and actually doing things differently instead of just kind of copying and translating an environment in is to ask yourself the question, “Do we have to do this the same way we’ve always done it? Is there a reason we’ve done that or can that reason be questioned?” So I’d love to plant that seed in people that have the power to make huge organizational change and then see what happens next.

Luis:

That sounds like a lovely question. Thank you for sharing. For the people who want to continue the discussion, who want to continue the conversation, where can they find you? Where can they reach you? Where can they learn more about GitLab and all the awesome resources that you have available regarding remote work?

Darren Murph:

Yep. Absolutely. You can find me on Twitter. I’m @darrenmurph. You can also look me up on LinkedIn. And all of my guides and GitLab’s resources on remote can be found at allremote.info.

Luis:

Awesome. So we’ll include all of that in the show notes. Darren, thank you so much for being here. It was a pleasure.

Darren Murph:

Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Luis. And for all those listening, thanks so much for lending an ear. Godspeed.

Luis:

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. That was Darren Murph from GitLab and this was Luis with the DistantJob Podcast, a podcast about building and managing awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

So we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, any episode really, and subscribe.

Luis:

By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form. And, of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need and we will make sure that you get the best of possible candidate, 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of DistantJob Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

With the pandemic, millions of companies are struggling to succeed at remote work. And most of them have faced the reality that remote work is not the problem; their company’s culture is.

In this episode, Darren Murph reveals why some businesses are failing in their attempt to work remotely. He also shares his insights into the meaning of culture and how GitLab, having approximately 1200 remote workers, has a culture that all their employees connect and relate with.

''That's the fundamental belief that the people matter more. It all starts at the heart of the company and laying the right groundwork and building the right culture for this to work.'' Click To Tweet

What you will learn:

 

  • How to make sure employees have what they need to thrive remotely
  • Strategies for having a successful remote transition
  • How to onboard new employees effectively
  • Insights about GitLab’s culture
  • Tips for defining your company’s culture
  • How to make sure you hire candidates who are the right culture fit
  • 3 things companies should do when transitioning to remote working

 

Book recommendations:

 

 

This interview is part of the DistantJob podcast. To hear more from leaders and successful entrepreneurs on how to build and lead winning teams, check us out on Anchor.fm and on our website.

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!

 

Don’t miss out!

Subscribe to our newsletter now and receive our latest eBook “Agile in Remote Teams” for free.