As a tech organization that develops software for real users, our team is close to what you’d expect from the typical Silicon Valley tech startup: software developers, product managers, UX designers, as well as communications, business development, content development, and operational management staff. This team is the crucial ingredient for our work in social impact. And, as you’d expect from any tech org that expanded rapidly in 2020, our team is entirely remote. We now have project and product managers in every time zone of the United States; an awesome team of software engineers spanning both Latin America and the U.S.; and a host of contractors and partners in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
This wasn’t exactly intentional. We value the social connections that form when people are physically present and look forward to in-person events once the world opens up again. But, for now, we’re finding ways to bond even though we’re in completely different parts of the world. In fact, cultural differences make for some pretty valuable exchanges. We share firsthand insights on how different countries are responding to the pandemic; and we talk about happier things too: comparing notes on interesting organizations that are doing good work around the world, or keeping an eye out for potential partnerships. We also get to pull together some pretty eclectic Spotify playlists.
Of course, bringing together a global team, especially around such ambitious projects as Aselo and Terraso, can raise some real challenges. First of all, the logistics of working across time zones is not trivial. Someone’s bound to lose sleep, no matter how organized we are. Given that we have partners in Spain, South Africa, India, and Indonesia, that occasional 6 A.M. or 8:30 P.M. video call is the price some of us need to pay for bright California weather (Tech Matters is based in Silicon Valley).
At the same time, many of us found ways to customize our daily routines to reflect our personal lifestyle. For example, some of us work better in the morning—especially when our colleagues are still fast asleep and can’t ping us every 15 minutes! Slack or email can definitely get overwhelming but, with some amount of self-discipline, we can fight the need to reply to every single message immediately. Knowing how to use these tools means setting expectations around communication at work. As Dee Luo, Aselo’s product manager, tells us: “With people dealing with distractions at home and working across different time zones with different routines, I think there’s a healthier culture that’s created with respecting your teammates’ boundaries. You avoid this expectation that people should be available to respond immediately, which can become overwhelming and isn’t always realistic.”
There’s also something powerful about a team that spans different countries and yet is driven by a shared mission. Andrés Virga, one of the software developers for Aselo, told us that, despite the challenges of working with a global team, the experience is grounded in Aselo’s goal of expanding access to child helplines worldwide—a “powerful fuel that drives the desire to work and be committed to our charitable cause.” Nobody’s working at Tech Matters because they want to make big money. Ultimately, working at an organization like this one means being deeply committed to putting your skills in service of a social cause you believe in. This idea also underlies our field-building ethos, namely, that everyone with tech expertise and a passion for social good, no matter where they are in the world, has something to contribute to systems change.
We are all refreshingly different yet driven by our joint passion. Despite the challenges of remote work, that overarching purpose gets us up each day, no matter the time zone. So: Thank you to our team members, whose dedication and talent make for a truly great environment, no matter how geographically distant!
Interested in learning more about our work? Are you looking for a way to apply your tech and non-tech skills for good? We’re usually hiring, and we know a bunch of terrific social impact organizations looking for great tech people who prioritize meaning over money. Reach out or look for opportunities here!