Thriving with Global Teams: Insights from Scandiweb

Back in 2019, life was different at Scandiweb compared to what it is now. What do we mean by this? Well, let’s start from the beginning!

Not only did we celebrate our 16th anniversary in 2019, but we also entered a new and unfamiliar stage in our life brought about by the pandemic. We call it “the big pause.” And the pressing question at that time was—WHAT NOW? Where do we go from here? Will we actually go anywhere? Nobody knew. We could only come up with unclear answers, and even more questions.

And just like that, Scandiweb went global!

Fast forward to almost three years later, we are still in a world burdened by a pandemic. But we’ve managed to see positive growth. Let’s have a look at the current situation of Scandiweb at the prime age of 19—a young adult!

As of 17th March 2022

  • Employees: 536
  • Nationalities: 29+

At a time of uncertainty, we saw an opportunity and grabbed it by the tail. WE WENT GLOBAL! 

This article is not going to focus on HOW to go global, but what a global team looks like, how they work, and what struggles project managers are met with in their projects.

Managing a global team requires leadership and communication skills, cultural awareness, and, most importantly, the ability to adapt and be flexible.

Online First

When we started, we did not focus on the project teams. We focused on everyone. 

Our attention immediately turned to the word remote. It was the one word that very accurately captured the kind of life we were all thrown into when the pandemic hit. Even though “pandemic” was officially the word of the year according to Merriam-Webster, “remote” was probably the most used word among colleagues working from home and who were constantly on Zoom calls to catch up. It was easily the second biggest topic on news channels and in online spaces. It mattered that we talked about it with great interest.

Just like the rest of the world did, we also went remote at Scandiweb. But we didn’t like all the negative connotations the word came with—distant, disconnected, alone, etc. So we decided to explore alternative concepts to refer to our new work-life of not being confined within the four walls of a physical office. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Online First
  • Digital Office

A digital office was created to connect everyone, no matter the time zone, no matter the location, no matter the barriers (but yeah, broadband/network issues matter!). But we will examine these challenges in more detail in a future article.

Q&A with the project managers

We wanted to get the perspective of people from within the company that are actually working with global teams so we got in touch with two of our project managers here at Scandiweb. We asked Iryna Rubanava (originally from Belarus, currently living in Latvia) and Carina Esteves (from Brazil) to share their experience of managing and leading such diverse teams.

How global are your teams?

Iryna: “My team consists of people from such countries as Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Poland, Netherlands, Macedonia, Georgia, Egypt, Indonesia, Brazil.” 

Carina: “We currently have people from Brazil, Latvia, Argentina, Belarus, Vietnam, Georgia, and Egypt.” 

After having spent some time working on projects, what benefits do you see from being in a global team?

Iryna: “The most impactful benefit is the different backgrounds of our colleagues. Some of the culture and character differences can create an interesting mix of opinions, ideas, and team spirit in general.” 

Carina: “I think the international experience and cultural exchange is enriching for all of us, as it allows us to foster new ideas through diversity. Another benefit is that since we are available more hours throughout the day, we can respond to people, including partners and community members, more promptly than if we were all working under the same time zone.” 

What three difficulties can you think of that come with leading a global team?

Iryna: 

  • The same things from the previous point can also turn into downsides, i.e., if the team members are not open enough or patient enough, and if they fail to adapt to each other. The language barrier can also become an issue.
  • Time zones differences and different national holidays can make teamwork complicated, and it can double the effort required for some things. But it’s also possible to turn it into a benefit when there is almost always someone from the team who is available to work on a project.
  • Some countries tend to have network issues more often, which may slow down or block the work of some team members at unpredictable times.”

Carina: 

  • Managing global teams requires a further level of adaptation: not only in leadership and management styles but also in approaches to different cultures.
  • We work in very different time zones. For some pairs of people, we have only three hours of overlap. With less time to interact throughout the day, it’s important we take this into consideration when prioritizing our tasks. It’s also crucial that we master our asynchronous communication.
  • The main language of the company is English, and it is not the native language of anyone in the teams. As a consequence, things sometimes get lost in translation, or some subtle aspects may not be very clear. Then, there is also the social aspect of communication. For example, as a Brazilian, I’m used to being very warm, always asking how the person is before starting a conversation and taking a few minutes just to say goodbye at the end of each call. It was a bit of a struggle for me at the beginning, realizing that this isn’t socially necessary for other cultures—that we can be more direct and cut to the chase. But now I like it: I think we solve things faster without all these social requirements I was used to.

What advice would you give to a project manager leading a global team?

Iryna:

  • “A project manager leading such a team should be open-minded, be able to help all the team members to adapt to each other, and make sure everyone feels comfortable and not discriminated in any way.
  • “More precise planning is required to make sure that differences in time zones and national holidays don’t block anyone. It’s important to have a spreadsheet with all team members filling in their availability for the next one or two months.
  • “It’s important to have as many detailed guides in the written format as possible—this will decrease the risks of someone not understanding verbal instructions or missing a piece of information.
  • “At team meetings, it’s good to dedicate at least some time to discuss each other’s weather, news, food, holidays, etc. This will make people feel closer and more united as a team.”

Carina: 

  • Be open and understanding. Everyone has different backgrounds and this is even more true in a team with people from all over the world.
  • Be clear about what is expected of every person in your team, including when it comes to managing the working hours considering the time zones. 
  • Have the team meetings at a time when everyone can join. This will help create a bonding atmosphere for the team.

How has leading global teams made you feel?

Iryna: “It definitely helps to develop soft skills by improving communication and problem-solving, along with practice planning and creation of detailed documentation for the team. And of course, it’s just interesting to work with people from all over the world and learn something new from them :)” 

Carina:It’s great. I feel able and open to the challenge of working with any nationality around the globe. I can see how this has helped improve my soft skills and I’m happy that my teams have a good dynamic.” 

Scandiweb and global teams

For a company that’s focused on being online first, we have to find ways to energize everyone involved—to work together as a team across departments, borders, languages, time zones, and cultures. At Scandiweb, we find that working with global teams is a challenge worth taking. We are thriving and we are ready for more.

What’s next for Scandiweb soon reaching the age of 20? And then 25, 33, 100… and so on. Why not join us and find out for yourself? Head on over to our Careers page and see which team fits you best.

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