YouTeam
Leveraging unique expertise with remote teams

Leveraging unique expertise with remote teams

Interview with Dee Dee Walsh, VP of Marketing & Business Development at Mobilize.net

Mobilize.Net brings software applications forward to modern web, mobile and cloud platforms, and makes this process more simple and fast. Formerly known as Artinsoft, the company has already helped millions of developers to successfully modernize billion lines of code over the last two decades. Headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, Mobilize.Net also runs a remote team in Costa Rica. This allowed the company to tap into unique pool of talent, which could not be found elsewhere in the world. Although distance can be a serious hindrance to cohesive communication, Mobilize.Net successfully manages the 200-strong team based across two countries. In this interview with YouTeam’s CPO and co-founder Yurij Riphyak, Dee Dee Walsh, VP of marketing and business development at Mobilize.Net, opens about challenges of streamlining communication and setting goals for a distributed team.

Tell me about the first steps, your journey from an idea to a decision to start a new venture that was going to be built by a remote team?

Probably, as it often happens, this decision was somewhat planned and somewhat spontaneous. In our Bellevue Washington office, many of us are ex-Microsoft, and a couple of generations ago, we were having a platform shift from Win32 to .NET. We had millions of developers that we didn’t want to lose, so we had to come up with a plan of how to migrate old code to the new platform. A couple of us went all over the world to find new solutions, and we discovered this group of insanely smart PhD candidates and their professor down in Costa Rica. They had this technology, semantics pattern matching, which no one else was doing at that point. Microsoft invested in them, and they formed a company. Fast forward to 2012 – Arthur, CEO of Mobilize, left Microsoft, and he made proposal to that company that we had warmed with our Microsoft investment about modernizing their business, and they liked the idea. Originally, we were going to exist as two separate companies, but after a couple of months we’ve merged into one. We have close to 200 people in Costa Rica, the vast majority of our company – product development, professional services, some of the sales team. There’s some sales marketing here in the US, as well as our CEO and some technical positions.

The main reason for choosing that location was the smart people. But there are so many advantages that we’ve learned since then. When I was at Microsoft, I worked with India and China a lot, which both have huge numbers that engineers and great amount of talent, but Costa Rica has the time zone advantage versus other countries.

What was the mode for hiring this team? Did you set up your own subsidiary office, did you have an HR representative or did you hire an agency on site

No, we have all the people work for us there, we have HR, finance, and operations – we don’t outsource any of that. We knew these guys from Microsoft. And we knew that no one else could do what we’re doing with composite compilers, as it’s fairly specialized. We don’t even have a direct competitor! That particular talent, that particular expertise was crucial.

So what Mobilize does is that if turns a code written in different languages, different frameworks into .NET. Mobilize compiles it in a way to enable such transition. That’s why it was crucial for you that the core technical team already had this unique expertise with .NETs?

We take old 90s, mostly client server legacy, our builder .NET, and we modernize it for web, so that it goes on a browser, or a phone or tablet. Yes, the team had to understand how compilers work.

We have a number of teams in different Latin American countries. But we don’t have any in Costa Rica. What makes Costa Rica a special place as a work location?

It’s an interesting country, and of all the Latin American countries is probably the safest and the wealthiest. It’s protected by the US so they don’t have to spend money on a military, and all their money goes into education. There’s very powerful, educated population. They have a very strong middle class versus a lot of other Latin American countries, the economy does well, they do a lot of eco tourism. So it’s a very desirable place to live and to go on vacation.

Getting back to how things work. You have you mentioned you have around 200 people. They are not only developers, but other types of experts as well?

Primarily developers. The thing is, in Costa Rica they have bad traffic, so there’s certain days of the week when people can’t travel based on the number of their license plate, on certain days they’re not allowed to go into the office. So everybody has at least one work at home day down there and meditate. And I think that part of the benefits that we offer.

Did you ever think about going further with that, because there are companies of a comparable size that don’t have offices at all, like people working from home and from different countries. Did you think about this kind of model or doesn’t make too much sense for you?

We use Zoom and Teams and every kind of voice option you can have, so we spend a lot of time on the phone. But I have to say that getting together face to face, there’s nothing like it. Last week, our whole company got together in Costa Rica and had a board meeting. And then we had a bunch of meetings together. And it’s funny how much you get on the same page.

How often do you do that? Is it usually the US team that flies over to Costa Rica?

Yes, because there’s only eight of us up here in the US. So the whole company gets together probably once a year, but each of us goes down more than that: I go four or five times a year, and our CEO the same, and then some of our salespeople too. I know that working remote is inevitable. People want to live where they want to live. I live in Seattle, and there are people who do not want to live here. At the same time, it is hard, I think, to get things done without the ability to walk down the hall and talk to each other. We have a very technical sales process, you have to be an engineer, basically. We’ve had people who didn’t work out of the office trying to sell and they all failed. The people who succeed are the ones that we have here in the office.

“I know that working remote is inevitable. People want to live where they want to live.”

Do you have people from Costa Rica coming to the United States? One of the founders I interviewed for the book had their core team in France, and they had about 45 people in San Francisco. They would fly engineers over from France, three or four at a time for a couple of months to San Francisco, and then move them back to France, and fly to another party. So they go back home and charge the rest of the team with this kind of energy.

We bring our executive staff up a couple of times a year, but everybody’s so busy, that it’s hard. We have brought some of the engineers up here, three at a time, to get on the same page and get charged, as you say, but we tend to go down to Costa Rica more than they come up here.

Let’s talk about the tools that you use to communicate, because communication is crucial. Can you can you name your to toolkits per usual?

We use email, Zoom, Skype and we just moved to Teams – because we’re Microsoft partners, we get a lot of software included, so for us it makes economic sense. And then we have a meeting time for certain things. We have to be very clear about what the deliverables are, so that we can make progress. we make sure to consistently follow up with each other. But it’s easy to have someone put you off if you’re not in their face. You have to be on top of it everything all the time. And if you’re not really, really motivated, you will fail.

“We have to be very clear about what the deliverables are, so that we can make progress, we make sure to consistently follow up with each other.”

So my last one would be maybe a little bit trickier question. We are all builders here. Time after time, we have this kind of ideas to solve the problems which are related to work. Can you can you recall the last time you had those kind of thoughts? What would I build? What is missing?

Have you ever used virtual chat rooms, where you can see another person in life size? It’s even hard to tell that you’re not in a room with a real person, that’s how real they are. The bummer is, there is still a disadvantage of time difference. What would be nice is to have a monitor on all the time, so we could just have casual conversations, like a tunnel to each other offices. That would be amazing.

 

Yura Riphyak

Yura Riphyak

Yura Riphyak is a Co-Founder and CPO at YouTeam.

A serial entrepreneur, Yura has founded 4 companies since 2010, with 1 successful exit. Before starting YouTeam, Yura co-founded Hubbub.fm - a “Twitter for Voice”.
Yura is also an LSE-graduate in Economics, mentors a number of startups and teaches a crash-course on business modelling in several universities.

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