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Hiring the Right People for Your Remote Team with Mario Peshev

Passionate and multitask expert, Mario Peshev is the CEO of Devrix, an european-based digital agency.  He is also the owner of Growth Chateaux – his small consulting special advisory business. Besides being a tech expert, business advisor and digital consultant he is also a content creator.

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Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the Distant Job podcast. I am your host Luiz, and my guest today is Mario Peshev. Mario is the CEO of DevriX, a business advisor, digital consultant, content creator. He basically does everything, so that’s my introduction for you, Mario, welcome to the podcast!

Mario Peshev:

Hey, thanks for having me. And hello everyone. Thanks for listening to the show.

Luis:

So this is a podcast about managing and building awesome remote teams, but I actually want to start by drilling down a bit on the “he does everything” because I usually have a more focused introduction for my guests, but it really is the fact that you don’t have a niche, right? You don’t really have a niche, you do a bit of everything.

Luis:

And I guess that I want to start on how do you manage this lifestyle? I mean, my background, I started as a dental surgeon, right? And then I moved on to writing, into marketing and working with vet companies. But I really like the dental practice still, but I just had to drop it because I couldn’t manage to juggle everything. So what’s your secret sauce?

Mario Peshev:

To be completely honest, everything I do is more or less related, because I do run an agency and DevriX is 50 plus people now, but it is a technical agency and my background is actually in tech. I studied software engineering for nine years or so and I’ve spent a lot of time actually building projects and working in companies, leading teams as well actually, conversing with clients more or less on a daily basis, or at least having weekly meetings with customers. So it’s kind of a natural progression of moving from tech to management to more responsibility and more managerial activities on the entrepreneur end of things. I do, however, enjoy writing a lot, and I have for as long as I remember.

Mario Peshev:

This is why my first blog started in, I think, 2006 and I’ve been blogging ever since, first as a documentation journal for problems that I faced at work and other challenges I’ve had, and then kind of tried different journeys. I stepped into training, it was technical training, but it also required preparing presentations and documentation and exercises and a bunch of other different things. So yeah, I am dealing with a bunch of different things, but it’s more or less a natural path for me, again, from software engineering to management.

Mario Peshev:

Whenever you deal with this, you definitely have to handle all things tech, from servers to development to infrastructure, VPSs and network conflicts in the office and whatnot. And moving to management, it handles pretty much everything else from recruitment to coaching to building scalable and efficient teams to onboarding and training. Which leads me, when I mentioned training, means building a knowledge base and documentation and processes and workflows and all that jazz. So things are really a lot more connected than they seem on the surface. But of course if I want to look cool, I say yeah, doing so many different things that have nothing to do with each other.

Luis:

Well yeah, but of course the connection is there, and that’s really important. But just the switching from a maker mindset to a manager mindset, right? Just that I think you probably do it impressively fast. Otherwise I don’t see how you could have been as productive as you were, because for example, I look at through your website and just by looking at your personal website, it feels like you are like a full-time content producer. Right? It does feel like that. I assume that it was accumulated over the years, but it’s just so neatly organized. You have your topical blog posts organized, and guides, and the content is not like that. So some people do two to three minute content bursts so that they are easily digestible for LinkedIn and stuff like that.

Luis:

It’s basically marketing tricks, right? Your content has some actual weight behind it. There’s no article of yours that’s less than a 10 minute read because you actually dive deep into explaining. So I actually think that yes, the connectedness matters, but there’s something. And maybe it’s something innate, maybe it’s a skill that’s innate to you and that you don’t really know what to explain. But people usually are a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. But the stuff that I see you doing, you do it to a much deeper level than a jack-of-all-trades.

Mario Peshev:

Well, so when I started dealing with marketing at some point back in time, because again, marketing is what I kind of enjoy doing, but I definitely don’t consider myself as a marketer because I’m doing a lot of different things. As you said, it’s kind of a mixture of jumping between different areas of expertise. So when I started dealing with marketing and actually hiring marketing people in-house and whatnot, I stumbled upon a very interesting term or a definition for great marketers, which is a so called T-shaped marketer. And the concept of the T-shaped marketer is really simple. For example you’re really good at SEO and SEO is your true North star, but you can’t really just arrive at SEO. You need to know a little bit of tech because our social media uses SEO, you need to know a little bit of extra content marketing, a little bit of design because design is related to user experience, and user experience is important for time spent on site, and so forth. So great marketers start with something and then they kind of have to gradually level up horizontally to just improve their knowledge base toward what they need to accomplish support in a more professional and efficient manner.

Mario Peshev:

And I’ve noticed that the same thing is just as valid for software engineering, which is again my core profile, because lots of beginner developers, especially those who went through a eight week boot camp or something, they lack the essentials. They don’t know the basics. They don’t know how operating systems work, what the concept of computer architectures are. When they write some code and try to execute it, what happens if they push a lot of traffic to it? Is RAM going to be a problem? Is it going to be a input output operations? There’s a wide myriad of questions that you need to be able to answer in order to be efficient at your job, and most beginners, especially those who haven’t gone through a computer science degree, they’re just narrowly pushing vertical throughout one direction. And unless they are able to catch up horizontally and be able to cover those basics, they’re simply going to suck. Really as simple as that.

Luis:

So the person who mentored me on marketing the most, that’s actually a concept that he brings up often, especially when hiring, the T-shaped marketer. It never stuck with me, but I do advise my marketing team to try to do that. When people join me and they are more junior and they are really in one field, I do tell them to branch out. Because I didn’t think about it as T-shaped, but when I was developing my early career, I thought about it as overlapping circles. So I started as a dentist, and then I figured out that I could also work as a marketer, because the dentist makes decent money, marketer does decent money. But what about if you have a dentist who knows marketing? Then the circles overlap and your opportunities skyrocket.

Luis:

Now let’s say that you add a second skill to that. Let’s say that you add another skill, that’s software development. Then suddenly you can develop very specific niche, dental software, and market it. So the more concentric circles you can have in your career as part of your skillset, the more unique you are, the less offer and more demand. So it really is a good tip. I can see that you’re building a career off the same principles.

Mario Peshev:

Yeah. And what you said about the second complimentary skill there’s this guy called Josh Timely. He’s long time Forbes contributor, he’s the owner of a marketing agency, MWI, and he is also the author of a book I really enjoyed. It’s called CMOs at Work: Chief Marketing Officer Support. So it goes through I believe 27 different Chief Marketing Officers, interviewing them and asking them what sort of problems they face, how they scale organizations. And it’s wonderful, it’s a brilliant book. He’s also a thought leader, and one of his key concepts is the so-called “genius zone”. That’s precisely what he’s talking about. I don’t remember his precise ideas, but for example, he’s a skateboarder and a marketer and something else.

Mario Peshev:

So those three things combined together shape or really niche down best expertise in these three things together. And those are some storytelling that’s improving his likability for that and creating some engagement and some kind of aura around him, something that makes him interesting for people and something that creates a unique story as compared to everyone else. So that genius zone is definitely linked to what you’re saying here, and that is something that could be super helpful. And being able to build software, for example, for dentists, dental professionals, since your background is in that, and being able to market it. That’s a really badass niche core skill.

Luis:

It’s really helpful. So, so I want to start heading in the direction of remote work. I know that your company is not fully remote, but it’s mostly remote. You have, I believe I read something along the lines of 70 to 80% of the people working for you work remotely, right?

Mario Peshev:

Yeah. To be completely honest, it’s going down a little bit for the time being, but we are still trying to scale it back to the numbers that we wanted. Up until two, two and a half years ago, it was about 70% for sure. Recently we’ve been hiring more in-house. But the main reason for that is that we’ve got some high-profile projects that really require a lot of collaboration and a lot of on-demand support, pretty much real time stuff going on. And that’s kind of the reason why we had to catch up and hire some folks in-house that are able to collaborate together and whatnot.

Mario Peshev:

But we still do have remote staff out. You’re still looking for a multiple. We still try to build a wonderful organization that’s remote first and even if we have more people in general at the office now, especially now since it’s winter, half the time, half the people are simply not working from the office because they are sick or they have some family duties or they have some sick kids at home or they have something else.

Mario Peshev:

So being remote-first in the first place allows us to actually manage all that. And traditionally I do have my own personal branding and consulting special advisory business, which is called Growth Chateaux. It is actually a small team of four more people helping me and my consulting clients, and it’s fully remote. So we are 100% fully remote. I’m more than happy with that, and the business model itself allows for us to be fully distributed and be able to work with weekly sprints instead of solving ASAP emergencies that need to be done in five minutes, or T minus five.

Luis:

What I like about that explanation is that you use remote as one more tool in your arsenal. So you said that you’re hiring more locally because you have a reason for hiring more locally. So when you shift that, what is the situation where you feel that you should hire more remote?

Mario Peshev:

So again, we do like remote people and we still have remote people. Up until not too long ago, we were primarily remote. Right now, we’ve reached down to a couple of different industries and one of them is really vivid and really fast moving. It simply requires immediate reactions. We’re talking about publishing space, but websites serving over 500 million pages. So an outage of a couple of minutes usually means that 70,000 people are not reaching sites. So instantaneous reaction and immediate fixes and all that is simply paramount for our plans to succeed. So this is one of the reasons why we need people in-house who are able to solve problems rapidly.

Mario Peshev:

Aside from that, there are two other important matters that define whether we are remote or not. First off, even back when we were remote, we had some people in the town that I live, and at first it was kind of fun working remotely, but at some point in time people just need a decent collaboration environment. If you build a great culture instilled within a small to mid sized team, you can really build a family of people who really enjoy working together. So that’s one of the things.

Mario Peshev:

The second thing is we are trying to teach more people because I’ve spent some time in education. I enjoy teaching people and hiring juniors remotely, something that I firmly don’t believe works unless you’re paying them an intern fee. If you need to pay a normal entry level salary for a specific type of job remotely, it’s really hard to rely on people to be responsible enough to have work coaching, adhering to business hours or adjust. I’ve experimented for about 13 years now. And of course there are some exceptions, but in general, juniors tend to be younger people who are juniors, obviously have no expertise, meaning that they don’t have work expertise, meaning that they come out straight out of college, skipping classes and doing homework assignments the night before and all of those bad habits, we call it. And just hiring junior people remotely is generally not working.

Luis:

That’s super interesting to me, because of course I don’t have your experience, I have some five years of experience. But in marketing, specifically in marketing, I can’t speak for development or anything else, but I’ve actually had more success with the junior people. Now there’s a value equation there. Obviously the junior people get paid slightly less, and there’s a time equation there. Obviously I have to give more training to the junior people. It’s probably something that we’re going to get into, but I have found the most productive and excited and engaged- and that’s something that I know you’ve written about in the past, so we’re going to talk a bit further on in the conversation, about engagement- are actually the junior people, in my five-year experience in marketing.

Mario Peshev:

Well, it depends because again, there are junior people and other senior people. I’ve interviewed some journalists who are in theory marketing veterans with 18 years of experience in media and so forth, and they aren’t a good fit simply because their skills are outdated, and their content marketing habits are mostly about newspapers and a bunch of other things. I’ve had some junior people who are really excited and motivated and eager to learn and improve and yada, yada, yada. But they still suck.

Mario Peshev:

And I mean in all honesty, we’ve started with some of those people, and some of them don’t have the emotional capacity to persevere with us. I’ve had at least three people leaving due to negative feedback over the first month. Like quitting for negative feedback. Junior people with no expertise come with 70 grammatical mistakes on a two sheet paper that I’m very calmly explaining, “Hey, this is barely readable since there are lots of grammatical issues here and it needs a redo. Go and start Grammarly and let’s start with these, take someone to proofread it, and then get it back to me.” And the guy in the meeting an hour later just quitting the job.

Mario Peshev:

And I’ve had other people doing the same thing, just ego and false expectations and the millennial preciousness type of activity, parents saying “you’re the best and you’re going to be a hero and you’re going to be a rockstar, yadda, yadda, yadda.” There’s a ton of psychology behind all that. Lots and lots and lots and lots of words from people like Simon Sinek and other folks explaining how millennials work and how they function and how they can enter their workplace. However, it’s a little easier when they’re in-house, they can actually see a few of the vibe or this environment. Then they actually understand that people are busy and struggling at work and dealing with a ton of shit, and they can just relate a little better.

Luis:

I would say that I usually filter those out during the interview process, and not 100% successfully of course. But I’m usually very clear in the interview process, especially when it’s a junior person, but actually with seniors as well that look, this is a new thing that we’re doing, the remote work thing, no one knows how to do it super properly. So I am going to give you a ton of feedback and a lot of it will be negative. So you should expect that, and if you think that this will be a problem for you, then we’re not the right fit. But that can definitely see your point. I mean it has happened a couple of times with me for sure.

Mario Peshev:

To be honest with socio-cultural thing, people in different countries behave differently and there’s definitely a lot of emotional experience you need to have on a multicultural level in order to be able to scale that. For example, my other company is mostly comprised of Filipinos, part of the Philippines. Again, we do have four other people, three of them are Filipinos and one of them is a junior and we hired her remotely, but she went through someone else on the team. So as a result it’s a lot easier because their culture is really a lot more compliant and a lot less ego-driven. So given the opportunity, they’re really welcoming this opportunity and they’re really willing to commit in the long term and lots of other things. They have another problem that if they get negative feedback within the first two weeks, they may actually disappear and not show up. That’s another cultural thing, but that’s because they’re afraid to fail. There’s other psychology for that, but you know the joke, in certain countries it seems to know that.

Mario Peshev:

So you need to assess ego, you need to assess potential, you need to assess market expectations as well within the given country. For example, if you hired in, let’s say Africa, just an example, we’ve hired a WorkRes developer with eight years of experience from Kenya about last year or so, and we had to let him go to two weeks later because he didn’t even have a solid state drive with his laptop. Which is something that locally every computer that has been assembled over the past eight or nine years has an SSD by default because it’s 10 times faster than standard SATA drive and it costs a hundred bucks. You know what I’m saying? Just as an example, in his country or like his region or whatever it is, it’s not as common or it’s too expensive, whatever it is. And he didn’t have an SSD, and an operation that takes 20 minutes for a junior here took him seven hours simply because of hardware issues.

Mario Peshev:

What I’m trying to say is culturally, that’s also really important, and it’s something that has to be taken into account. But yeah, we definitely don’t hire remote people or remote juniors unless they come with some solid background, like a recommendation of being brother, or sister, or wife or something like that of someone on the team. We can trust that they’re going to stick around. And the other problem is retention because again, average retention, especially in IT and in Digital is really low. People are leaving for all sorts of companies, more money for traveling to the States every couple weeks or whatever it is, all the fun stuff and all the fun jobs.

Mario Peshev:

So retention when we know that we need to spend 8 to 10 months training someone before they actually start accomplishing something, and the average tenure is 14 to 18 months, is it worth investing that much? Most of the time it simply isn’t.

Luis:

Of course retention is a good point. The amount of time that you invest in someone should definitely take into account the retention that you expect. Though I would say that in my experience, retention for remote positions is much bigger than the industry standard. Haven’t you had that experience?

Mario Peshev:

This again depends on country, which is country defines culture and stuff, and the specific city or town the person lives in. When we have people who live in a small, tiny little village with 300 people and stuff, of course retention is through the roof. They don’t have any opportunities locally, and if they’re nice people they’re not explicitly looking for a remote job. And also there aren’t so many remote opportunities. Let’s face it, that’s a fact. If we have people living in a major metropolitan city, you have lots of opportunities and sometimes they actually miss the vibe and miss spending time with people and so forth. They don’t have to commute so much as well because their former job is a 15 minute walk from their place and the former job also provides free breakfast and a ping pong table and the water cooler chats and all the other fun stuff.

Mario Peshev:

So again, it’s really culturally based and it’s really also depends on kind of the type of work and the type of industry. Like, example, if we are looking for a content or something that’s not as digital and it’s not on spec, for the most part, retention is good. In software engineering, it’s extremely hard to retain people. In marketing it’s kind of social, mostly we have success but we also have some hit and miss. So the more you go more digital bleeding edge kind of things, the harder it is to keep people around and keep them happy and entertained and whatnot, simply because there is the Googles and the Microsofts and the Facebooks and everyone else, huge names, larger brands, hypey perks and benefits and whatnot and commutes and swag and everything you can ever dream of.

Luis:

Yeah, for sure. So since we are talking about the retention, let’s move on to engagement because that’s something that I’ve read some of your essays, and you do consider engagement to be one of the main challenges of working remotely, correct? You make the point that it’s important for the employee to have investment on the organization and the brand. Of course part of that you can get out of the box just through the job interview, can figure out how much excited. But let’s be frank, if I’m interviewing someone for Distant Job, probably they haven’t heard about Distant Job, they don’t know about Distant Job’s culture. We try to make it explicit on the site, but we are still a medium-sized business. So we don’t have a super, we don’t ever have a super popular brand, so it’s not reasonable to expect that people are excited coming in.

Luis:

And as you point out also in your article, some people are looking for remote work, not necessarily because they expect to love their work, but just because it fits their lifestyle. And to me that’s a red flag, right? I want someone who is excited to do their work. They don’t need to be excited to their work specifically at Distant Job, but I don’t want someone who is wanting to be a remote worker just because it’s really convenient for them to take care of their kids or whatever. Obviously I want them to have a balanced life and they want them to be happy in their life, but I want them to work for me because they really enjoy doing marketing. So, other than trying to suss it out during the job interview, how do you think that you can build and improve engagement?

Mario Peshev:

Oh man, that’s a wonderful question and that’s really one of the main pain points that we’ve been struggling with. And again, I mean even if people don’t recognize the Distant Job brand, I do firmly believe in certain things like the culture and the vision and some of the unique selling propositions that Distant Job has. Like people who are just passionate about recruitment, or people who had a family relative who struggled to find a job or move to a weird city and was unemployed for a couple of years because they couldn’t find a job. Now all of those stories that actually make people committed to the purpose of these opportunities. For example, even if we hire locally here, because headquarters are in Bulgaria, if we hire here and people come and don’t know a lot about the company, we are the largest WordPress agency here. We are the only company that’s scaling insanely high traffic, and we are the company that WordPress retainers and recurring revenue, WordPress at scale, right?

Mario Peshev:

So if people are excited about those things and truly passionate about, and they have a story of like, “I come here for the retainers because I’m tired of working on one-off projects and I want to improve as a software engineer, and every time we’re trying to cut corners because we have a fixed budget and the plus site, and then we leave,” or whatever it is, then this is something they would be committed about, and this is something they would enjoy. Of course I’m spending a lot of my time and my own personal brand, so people who are enjoying my work, and the way I think, and the way I present information, and the way I’m building this culture, this generally tends to build better engagement because people do respect me and inherently they do respect the organization that I’ve scaled. And we can work together as one big family and do that.

Mario Peshev:

So again, I do believe this is something that could be gathered more or less through the interviews. But the main problem is, even if we are really improving our interviewing process, we are going through two, sometimes even three iterations through interviews. We do have some sample tasks, we do background checks, we do a lot of things. I’ve personally met and have had conversations with professional interviewers, people who have spent a lot of time learning how to lie at interviews and learning how to overcome common questions by the most desirable response that you can think of. And given that unfair advantage of people who know that they need to cheat at the job so that they can get a job, it’s really messy when at the end of the day something doesn’t turn out to be as great as it is.

Mario Peshev:

And I see that every single time I have someone leaving, and whenever we have a magazine interview, or whenever they’re passing on their resignation letter. We often go through things we’ve discussed when they started, and a year or two later how these things are no longer valid and how they’ve changed their mind and how certain things are no longer important, or they come and say, “we want to work with leading edge products to learn new tech and exciting teams and evolution.” Then say, “I’m going to a shitty product job and I’m going to do two things per month because I want to chill and just rest, and I’m going to be completely fine with that.”

Luis:

I really enjoyed reading about your challenges with hiring and because every single negative thing that happened to you, I was going through it and I was like, “yeah, this happened to me. Yeah, this happened to me. Yeah, I had someone like this.” And you even used the term that sometimes the excuses for not delivering work are so embarrassing that they’re more embarrassed than “the dog ate my homework” or something like that.

Mario Peshev:

True story. It’s true story.

Luis:

It really is. There’s a question that I always like to ask. That is, “what does Distant Job do?” in the job interviews, and you’d be amazed at how many people have no idea what the company they’re interviewing for does, right? And on the other end, when someone comes into a job interview and tells me “I heard you talk about this on your podcast, or I saw this YouTube video with the president of the company,” then I already know that that person- it’s not about ego, it’s not about knowing that, “Oh, this person actually went and looked at my stuff.” It’s that they already know something about the company. They are able to tell me something about Distant Job and about how we work. And fakers don’t usually take the time to do that, unless you have a really good severance package after one month.

Mario Peshev:

Yeah, definitely agreed with that. And to be honest, because since you’re kind of in the recruitment slash employment business, especially when we work with on-site recruiters- and we’ve almost given up on that because it’s just pointless- people come in and they know the recruitment agency has scheduled 10 interviews, throughout a single week. They don’t even know which company they’re going to, they don’t know names, and if they have a test assignment to do after that, they usually just scratch the company altogether. They’re like, “I’m going to 10 interviews, hopefully receiving about four offers and I’m just going to pick the best offer,” or something like that.

Luis:

It’s tough. But I’m glad it’s like that because that means my company has a purpose. So I am happy that recruitment is hard. It’s exactly because of that situation that we started with Distant Job, because instead of trying to be a super scalable solution that moves thousands of CVs every week, we actually have an artisanal approach where we have a small, dedicated team that does as much job for our clients as possible. So then, instead of seeing a thousand CVs off clueless people, we go through those thousand and you get the top three that are already a fit to your values, to know about your company, have already been pre-vetted in terms of hardware, you don’t get people with terrible connections. So that is actually the niche that we found. Sometimes people ask me what’s your secret? And we say it really is just only hard work.

Mario Peshev:

We just care about people.

Luis:

Exactly. We care about companies. I actually don’t like the “we care about people,” because ultimately we do good stuff for people. I joined this job, I joined the remote work thing personally because I was interacting with people in my family that were disabled, couldn’t properly walk. So I really wanted to get into remote work to help people like them. But the main people I want to help are companies that are having difficulty hiring. So I don’t like taking the, “Oh, I’m doing something so good for the work world” approach. Yes, what I do is good for the world, but I’m concerned more about companies than individuals when it comes down to it, that’s my job.

Mario Peshev:

That’s interesting, by the way. And it’s an interesting thing because most recruiters, they say they care about people placing people in the best companies and yada, yada, yada. And [crosstalk 00:33:27].

Luis:

Well, I place people in a place that they’re going to be well-treated. I don’t like working with companies that I know are sweatshops, or that are going to make them work on a project for three months and then letting them go. No, I care about people in that sense. But who I serve is the company.

Luis:

So anyway, I wanted to talk a bit about your management style over the week and day. When you’re managing your remote people, and I guess this transitions a bit to the hybrid team as well, what does your week look like? What does your typical day look like?

Mario Peshev:

Honestly, it’s entirely nuts every single day. And I don’t have a specific agenda as much as I’d like to have, simply because I’m mostly fighting fires from whatever front. And that’s one of the benefits and one of the curses of being, well, it’s not really jack-of-all-trades, but like being involved in all trades. But we do have a toddler, a two year old, young little girl. So throughout the day I’m usually driving her to the nursery or picking her up, trying to spend some time with her.

Mario Peshev:

On the evenings, throughout the day, again, it’s really dynamic. Mondays, we do have some meetings and some things, Thursdays as well. Throughout the week I do have some podcast meetings like this one, or some client meetings or some other partnership, Mini Mastermind are dealing with. We do Slack a lot for most stuff, alongside our project management system of course, so most of the time I use Slack as more or less push notifications. I’m not interfering with anyone’s work unless emergencies are raised, and emergencies are raised frequently, so this is why I jump in and say hey, what’s going on here? Is there anything I can help with? Are we short-staffed here, do we have to touch base with the client and let them know whatever? Is someone on the team unhappy, someone sick, are there any other problems, yadda yadda yadda. [crosstalk 00:35:31]

Luis:

That’s a Monday meeting, right?

Mario Peshev:

Come again?

Luis:

That’s on Monday, right?

Mario Peshev:

Yeah, we do have Monday meetings, and we also have Thursday meetings. Monday is mostly about the weekly sprint and potential problems that people may face. Thursdays it’s more about managerial with internal managers and team leads discussing possible problems with plans, like hey, we’re not hitting our goals, or facing some regressions regarding this, that.

Luis:

That’s so cool, we do the exact same thing on the exact same days, it seems. That’s so cool. So I’m interested about your Monday meetings because I’m a bit OCD, and huge Monday meetings usually bother me a lot because they’re never as productive as I want them to be. And especially if I only do it with the marketing team, it’s okay, but I’ve tried bringing other people in from other teams, so they know what marketing is doing, and so that marketing knows what they’re doing. And then I honestly have trouble moderating it. So when you’re mixing teams from various specialties, because you want all the company to be on one page, how do you try to moderate things so that people don’t end their Monday just completely exhausted?

Mario Peshev:

So first off, the Monday meeting is completely remote, of course, on Slack. And we do have a general channel that’s hosting everyone from the organization. So it’s kind of two separate meetings, and the second branch seems to do more, but roughly speaking, 10:30-11 we do have the all hands meeting for the entire team, which is primarily 5 minutes of announcements, like greeting new people, we landed a new client, we have some wins, success stories and stuff. And then the other 20-25 minutes is usually status reports, or what did you do over the weekend, what was the best article you read last week, who else deserves props from the team? Some general questions, some people are texting and then also reading back through other people, and sometimes they are threaded discussions going on.

Mario Peshev:

There is also a mysterious question at the end of the first meeting so that people don’t come prepared with everything to be [crosstalk 00:37:46], right? And it makes it more interesting, so the last question’s always fun. So this is 10:30-11, the entire company, everyone can see what everyone else is doing and whatnot. Then 11-11:30 we do have two parallel meetings, one is tech meeting and one is marketing meeting. They go into two parallel channels with some stuff going on there, and again, whoever wants, they can also join in the other channel and monitor or see if they can help and stuff.

Mario Peshev:

So the whole set of meetings lasts for a full hour or less, sometimes it’s about 45 to 50 minutes. It’s not too long, it’s not too short, but given that we have about 50 people joining the first meeting, I think it’s fair that it lasts 30 minutes. We don’t want to cut it too short and just having tons of copy-paste messages running down at the same time.

Luis:

You obviously like talking, I enjoy talking. I talk too much during meetings. How do you avoid, and how do you make sure that other people in leadership positions in your company, avoid just taking over all the meetings?

Mario Peshev:

That’s a good question. To be completely honest, I don’t really like talking. For the most part, I prefer chilling and just sitting on my laptop and doing some stuff and whatnot. So [crosstalk 00:39:09].

Luis:

This has been flowing quite nicely, so I am grateful as ever that you are opening up so much with me.

Mario Peshev:

Of course, it’s definitely a pleasure. But bottom line, whenever you have a meeting on Slack, people don’t tend to talk too much simply because it’s really exhausting and time consuming. It takes time to actually produce a long response, it drags up everyone’s time, so this is kind of self-moderating itself, from what you’ve gathered. And if it isn’t, someone jumps in and says “hey guys, this has been going on for 4 minutes and we just see this typing, so let’s push it back, or someone prepare a summary if possible.” Or something like that.

Mario Peshev:

With onsite meetings, so Host or anything like that, for the most part they are short as well. We only have one long meeting, which is our project manager slash project ownership meeting on Thursday at 1:30. This is the only one that maybe is a little bit longer and maybe have more conversations and stuff. But it’s a necessary evil, the way we see it. Like sometimes might have a problem that they are really passionate about, so even if they eat up a little bit more time, we understand that it’s an actual pain point that they are struggling with.

Mario Peshev:

And sometimes people are coming up with other suggestions from other perspectives, or “hey, that’s how we do this in this project,” and “that’s how we do it here,” or “two years ago we used to do this and now we do this, how can we get it back?” Or like “I’m dealing with this,” and two other people say “hey, I’m dealing with the same problem,” so then senior management, we jump in and say “hey, let’s sit down and see how to fix that job.” It’s a necessary meeting, see who raises what hell and try to prioritize that.

Mario Peshev:

So yeah, for the most part honestly, we have a lot of work to be honest. We just have a lot to do and people are not really interested in spending too much time in meetings.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. So this brings me to what, to me this is the biggest challenge in remote work, which is a bit of a communication paradox. In most businesses, and I’m meaning traditional non-remote businesses, there’s too much communication, there’s too much talking, there’s too much where you will be at desks or at water coolers, there are too many meetings, there’s too much communication, and not enough work. I’m not saying it’s quality communication, often the problem is that the communication is plenty but it’s not quality.

Luis:

But then we go to the remote work situation, where we say, and I think that we say rightly so, that there needs to be more communication. But then if you already have too much communication at a regular enterprise and you try to move to the remote workspace, then communication needs to expand because many things need to be said through two or even three separate channels. Then amidst all the communication, when do you actually get time and focus to get any work done? How do you solve this challenge?

Mario Peshev:

Yeah, that’s another great question. I’ve always said communication is problem number 1 for work in general, and especially for remote work. It’s always problem number 1 because of all the misunderstandings and all misreading body language, because you don’t see body language, and misreading situations because you don’t communicate, you don’t know what’s happening anywhere else. So communication is definitely problem number 1.

Luis:

By the way, you transmit a lot of body language over webcam. When you’re sitting with someone like me, where I just keep my hands folded on my lap, then that’s even more of a problem.

Mario Peshev:

Yeah, definitely, I’m definitely expressive. And to be honest for those of you who don’t see, which is essentially almost all of you, I’m bearded, usually wear dark clothes, and my face is just more darkish and it seems more negative, especially when I haven’t had enough coffee and stuff. So unless I’m more expressive, it may really appear as I’m yelling at someone, or I’m really negatively trying to convey something. And especially the more dark, gloomy, deep voice. So it’s really easy to misread, especially if someone is more paranoid and more inexperienced and we haven’t worked with them enough. And that’s definitely a problem.

Mario Peshev:

But in general, what we are trying to do in that case is first off, like I said, we are trying not to hire junior people remotely for the most part. Because again, with juniors, it’s easier to- my favorite one is someone just first off being late for work with an hour because they don’t know how important it is to come on time or whatever. And then they spent six hours on a 20-minute exercise because they simply don’t want to ask, and they’re afraid to ask and afraid to communicate and don’t know what’s normal, and they just only heard stories from other people who work and whatnot.

Mario Peshev:

So with more experienced people, generally it’s a little bit easier. Also it’s a little bit easier to set up some expectations and some weekly sprints and probably some recurring tasks, and have a streamlined, clear way of communication. So this way, when we have that, whether we’re hiring in marketing or tech or operations, we always say “hey, this is all the things you’re doing, this is what the job responsibilities are.”

Mario Peshev:

And the first two weeks or so they’re going to be onboarding, here’s our handbook, which is about 30 pages long. Lots of stuff we’ve spent time writing there and preparing for intro. Here are documentations for products, or here’s our Wiki which has some frequently asked questions for the marketing team, whatever it is, and here’s your team lead or whatever who is going to walk you through the basics.

Mario Peshev:

So this is pretty much for everyone, the first two weeks, or they have some general starting tasks to work on over the first two, three days and just get themselves familiar with everything. And after those first two weeks they’re supposed to have some skills from a previous job, and also some background on the company processes, and have recurring tasks they work on, and also some one on one or one-off tasks they also have to work on.

Mario Peshev:

So that’s how we try to tackle it. Again, the problem is, especially with introverted people, you know extroverts, they’re generally pushier and say “hey, I have this problem,” “hey, can you help me,” “hey, I’m struggling here,” “hey,” just this whole communication is just happening. With introverts it’s really hard to just drag out whatever the problem is because they’re afraid of sharing and they would be banging their head toward a task for a significant period of time, and so forth. So to combat the introvert type of people, especially with tasks at first, first off we try to ask them to bring us every couple of hours in a group channel with other managers or team leads. Like, report three to four times a day over the first two weeks so that we know that everything’s running fine.

Mario Peshev:

If it’s mandatory to do that, first off we see if they can actually follow instructions, because most cannot. And second, since they know they have to report, they have to be sincere and say “hey, I’m struggling with this,” and then we’ll say “okay, what’s the problem? Let us help you.” And you’re trying to set the tone over those first two weeks.

Mario Peshev:

And additionally for tasks that we know are really short and simple, we say don’t spend more than 30 minutes banging your head on this alone. If you spend more than 30 minutes, just let us know because we don’t want you to spend 4 hours on a 30-minute task. So setting those boundaries and constraints is also helping set a little bit more realistic expectations.

Luis:

Oh, absolutely. Those are very good points, and I think that I could actually spend another hour talking with you. But you probably don’t have that hour and neither do I. But I want to move on to some rapid-fire questions. The questions are rapid-fire to wrap the show, but you don’t need to be rapid-fire in your answers. Feel free to talk as much as you like. So number one: if you had 100 euros to spend with each person working for you, what would you give them? And just two rules, number one, you can’t give them the money, number two, you can’t give a specific thing for each person, you need to buy in bulk. So what would it be?

Mario Peshev:

Either online courses or books. I guess those would be the main things. If I can invest all the money, it’s probably going to be some fun project online that everyone’s enjoying, like online game with gamification, which is pretty fun. But aside from that, books or online courses.

Luis:

Okay. So since you’ve mentioned books, I guess I can jump onto another one. That is: what book or books have you gifted the most? Given to people.

Mario Peshev:

Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, The 701 or so Behavioral Questions is another one, and there’s one that I haven’t gifted recently but it’s Project Manager 3.0, I believe, the guide to or something like that. Those are probably the top three.

Luis:

That sounds very explicit. I’ve never heard of the other two, the Project Manager 3.0 I need to check out. Nice. So what about yourself, what purchase have you made over the past year or so that has made your work life easier or more productive?

Mario Peshev:

It’s about a little bit more than a year, but my smartwatch is something I can barely live without.

Luis:

Oh, nice. What’s the scenario?

Mario Peshev:

Push notifications, mostly. I’m able to just drive and taking calls or just monitor my wrist for certain notifications. It’s definitely helping me stay or to do some other chores, or be at the bank or commuting or washing the dishes. And my wrist is buzzing and I can definitely see what’s going on without having to [inaudible 00:49:12], and then I can just tap and respond to voice without touching my phone. My phone can be on the table or somewhere else. Especially when I’m walking outside, it’s cold, it’s winter, it’s really tricky and I don’t need to use my phone as much. So that’s definitely one.

Mario Peshev:

And the other one is my other headset, which doesn’t have such a distant mike, but the other one is voice-assistant activated. So this is helping me again literally listen to notifications while I am walking, which is like Slack messages and emails and all that jazz, and also respond to them on the fly. So those two are definitely helping me whenever I’m out of the office.

Luis:

So what brands are them?

Mario Peshev:

The watch is Samsung Galaxy Watch, and the headphones actually have two of them which are voice activated. One are Sony WH700 or something, and the other one is Huawei free buds 3, which is just the buds. It’s almost like air pods, but it’s Huawei or android, and I just like them better because their geometry is better with my ears.

Luis:

Awesome. For work, Android or Apple and why?

Mario Peshev:

Android 200%. Infamous Apple hater, I don’t enjoy Apple, any of their Apple stuff aside from their old iPods- you know, the video ones that were 80GB or so. Anything else, it’s just like, wasteless piece of crap.

Luis:

Okay, that is probably the most controversial thing you have said on this podcast, but it’s a good place to vent!

Mario Peshev:

Completely open-source Android Linux…

Luis:

I recommend Apple to everyone, just because it’s good for people not to spend- we don’t have to spend too much time thinking about other setup stuff, and just can get to work. But again, background is as a dentist and a writer, so you can see how I can appreciate them. But you know, different strokes for different folks.

Mario Peshev:

For sure.

Luis:

Okay, so the final question. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner with the tech execs of the top tech companies all over the world, people like CEOs, CTOs, hiring managers et cetera. You are hosting a dinner, and the round table at the dinner is about the future of work. And as the host, and because you are hosting it at a Chinese restaurant, you get to pick what’s inside the fortune cookies. So what is the message that all of these people are going to crack open on their fortune cookies?

Mario Peshev:

First one is going to be “education is going to disappear and be completely placed in the hands of companies,” or another message like “there’s going to be a union of top companies deciding the future of education.” So the whole message is about, there are too many juniors out there and you are definitely struggling with finding qualified people, so companies should be more responsible towards junior and sending more people teaching at universities and deciding on the future of university programs and so on.

Mario Peshev:

I guess there’s going to be different messages for everyone, but they’re revolving around this one. Companies, we need to sit down and reinvent education in the sense of take education from the hands of the government, and stop wasting five years on creating an educational program because five years is a couple centuries in tech and digital and whatnot. So we need to have those alternative programs in official universities, just working hand by hand, in training people to become great experts.

Mario Peshev:

And in fact to be completely honest, one of my main problems with remote juniors especially, and sometimes with juniors, and I’ve spoken with others, retention rate is a major problem. And I think that if there was an alternative education that companies can spend a year with a junior, or companies should spend three years with a junior, or the other way around, so that they can graduate in that specialty. I think this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for both companies and people, because they need to stay for longer period to get their diploma, and the company can invest a year so they can get at least two years of actual decent work from that individual.

Luis:

Oh yeah. We could have a whole podcast about that. I am in favor of the apprenticeship model for sure, and I used to say that, again completely different area, but I used to say if I was made the dictator of the education system, I could get dentists graduating in half the time and they would be twice as better. Because education is definitely a challenge. So good place to end, thank you so much for your time Mario. Certainly people will want to continue the conversation, so why don’t you tell where people can reach out to you to continue the conversation? Where can they find more about your businesses?

Mario Peshev:

Absolutely, and Luiz thanks for having me, it was definitely fun. People can head to mariopeshev.com, which is my website, or look up my online. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, on Twitter as @no_fear_inc with no underscore fear underscore inc. So LinkedIn and Twitter is when I spend the most time on, and I also do try to post daily work slash career, recruitment. Thing is, on Instagram, because Instagram is the new go-to platform and my handle is @dailypeshev. So definitely make sure to check out those accounts, and reach out for any feedback or follow up questions you may have.

Luis:

And we will have links to all of that in the show notes, and in Mario’s profile at our website. So this was another episode of the Distant Job podcast with your host Luiz, and my guest Mario Peshev. Mario, thank you so much.

Mario Peshev:

Thanks for having me, and thanks everyone for listening!

Luis:

And so we close another episode of the Distant Job 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.

Luis:

Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, or any episode really, and subscribe. 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.

Luis:

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 possible candidate 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the Distant Job podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Managing teams, specifically hybrid teams, is not an easy task for anyone. However, getting the right people in your team makes work a lot easier. Building a great team is about being able to ask candidates the right questions and making sure if they will be the right fit for your company.

In this episode, we have the chance to listen to Mario Peshev and his experiences in hiring and building strong teams. He shares the advantages of having remote employees and the importance of hiring people that understands your company’s culture. But to understand the culture of the people you hire as well:

'You need to assess ego, you need to assess potential, you need to assess market expectations as well within the given country'' Click To Tweet

 

What you will learn:

  • Managing hybrid teams
  • The importance of cultural differences in teams
  • Engagement as one of the challenges of working remotely
  • Building and improving employee engagement
  • How to know is someone is the right fit for your company

 

Book recommendations:

 

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