When the first quarantine shock eased, when the team more or less adapted to work from home mode and goes out to the virtual bar on Fridays via Zoom, willy-nilly, the question arises – what awaits us after quarantine ends? What will the world be like after pandemic?

We, being optimistic by nature, want to see the light at the end of the tunnel and therefore started the #lifeaftercovid series of interviews with start-ups that found their way through the crisis and learn from them:

  • what is their approach to team management?
  • what will happen to the hiring?
  • what help they expect from recruiters?

Today, we talk to Yegor Korobeynikov, leading Brand Team at Miro. Yegor is a customer experience and brand marketing professional with 10+ years track record. He holds a PhD degree in Strategic Management. With an experience in strategic consulting, banking, and media he is passionate about the future of  work and enabling teams with a toolkit to create the next big thing.

Miro offers a collaborative whiteboard platform that is designed to allow distributed teams to work effectively together. Support includes running brainstorming sessions and workshops to planning projects and designing new products and services. Miro has over 5 million users and 20,000 paying customers, including 80% of the Fortune 100. Recently Miro had raised $50M Series B round to support its growth.

Location: San Francisco, Amsterdam, Perm

Team size: 200-500

Hiring now: Yes

1. Will your team remain remote after quarantine?

I don’t know yet, as we have adjusted to the remote work well. As soon as we opened our second hub in Amsterdam, we were distributed across different locations and now we have five hubs globally. So we have already been distributed and we have already thought hot to adjust processes, communications and rituals to operate in a new environment. Moreover, we have a lot of cross-functional collaboration meaning that we collaborate with each other across different time zones. So I would say that we are already pretty well prepared to this new reality.

For us still a big question remains how will we operate after this pandemic ends. But I wouldn’t say that for us, it would make the same change as for a small company that suddenly became remote and distributed overnight. Some companies like Invision and GitLab and other pretty big companies had been fully remote before, but it requires completely different people who you hire, completely different set up in terms of processes and culture, completely different management style and communication and processes in place.

So I’m not sure that we will go fully remote. But this experience will definitely teach us something new that will affect the way we work. I think that there are going to be a lot of new takeaways, new learning that we will get from this new experience. And we will use this new knowledge to manage a distributed team.

2. Will you evaluate an impact of the crisis on your team?

I would say that we already do a regular check-ups with a team. It is a responsibility for every team lead to make sure that their team feels happy and healthy, that they are not overwhelmed and can operate in their full capacity. At the same time, we had just recently done an engagement survey. We do regular surveys on the company level, on the team level to address questions related to work-life balance. The emotional health was considered one of the most sensitive areas we should address during the crisis. And to be honest it was predictable for us because we had been working on this topic almost a whole year with my team.

But there were some teams that been not prepared for that. Many teams are co-working all the time and I understand why people are stressed out. Some of our team members did not have a proper setup for work at home. What we did to help our team is a delivery of their office space to home so they can organise a proper setting. People needed a proper desk, chair, IMac. Everything was done in two or three days. I think such simple thing would really be a big deal in helping people to adjust to this new environment.

Another thing that was also introduced at this point was what we called a Remote Stipend. Everyone in the company was given an additional bonus that they could spend anyway they like. Maybe they would like to get a food delivery or maybe they would like to buy plans for their home. I also think that this set of small gestures is really important as they really show how company cares about people and what company is doing rather than just declaring.

3. What is your main struggle right now is?

We need to close 100 positions and onboard all of these people.

4. Are you going to be hiring with the same speed as before?

I would say we would be hiring even more people than our original plans were. Right now, we have 100 open positions. But we will be opening more. I think that they are going to have a lot of challenges in terms of infrastructure and a lot of challenges to support business due to the increased demand. Right now we operate on the full capacity or even more so we need just to bring more people and successfully onboard them. Not just hire, but also onboard to make sure that they are ramping up in a pretty short timeframe. We do not have half a year, we need to deliver value as soon as possible because we are in a situation where we need to throw all in.

5. What would you say is the main driving force behind Miro team?

I think one of the main driving forces in our team is the product that we’ve done. It’s not just yet another product. We see that a lot of people, a lot of companies, a lot of businesses, a lot of initiatives go through these turbulent times with our help. It is not about business at all. It is about helping millions of people globally to decrease their level of stress in a completely new set up with the lack of communication tools. A whiteboard is a central place for collaboration, for brainstorming and for engagement.

When people started working remotely they were lacking tools. All other tools like Zoom, Google Docs are amazing. But we were that place where people could generate ideas, where they could brainstorm, where they could just visualize. We’ve got a lot of feedback from our existing and new customers that it would be just impossible to adapt to new realities so quickly without Miro. And we understand that it is our mission to help a lot of people, companies, researchers who is fighting covid-19, NGOs, support local communities, retailers who are doing a delivery or groceries and many more who we never thought would benefit from our product. So this gives us tremendous energy, motivation and a reason of why we should work extra hours, go above and beyond.

6. What do you think you have learned during the crisis time that will help you do better in the in the future?

I would say that one of the main lessons during this crisis is that you need to put extra energy in making people feel engaged and happy. Your support as a manager is more important than ever before because sometimes people just didn’t know how to deal with certain situations. Second, I became more sensitive and more tolerant to a lot of things. Due to current lockdown people became more human and genuine. When you are having Zoom calls, you see their homes, kids and pets – it blurs the boundaries in hierarchies. You start to see that people are real. What we will also learn as humankind is that people are people and we should be more genuine and more authentic in our work-related interaction. We also need to be more sensitive and proactive in a way we communicate to make sure people will understand what you mean, what need to be done and that everyone is on the same page. So to be more transparent and clear a manager has to bring his whole self into the process.

On the other hand, a lot of things that could be easily done in the office, and might not go the same way in remote working mode.  So managing remote team requires a new set of soft skills that will support successful management of your team. It is also challenging to set up boundaries around when it’s working time and when it’s not working time. Eventually we will learn how to find that balance and set these boundaries. Otherwise, it can lead to burning out since one may be just overwhelmed by the amount of work. My solution is to have time blocks in my calendar, when I stop having any calls and for instance walk my dog. We have to be mindful of how we work because no one knows how long this situation will last. To continue working at full capacity we need to learn different set of skills, rituals and approaches.

7. What have you done during quarantine time, which probably you wouldn’t have done in other case?

In the Netherlands unlike in other countries we don’t have total lock down. You can just go outside. So what I started to do is taking my laptop outside or doing some calls while I am walking in my neighbourhood. Also, I’ve spent more time with my family during daytime and that never happened before. We started to have early dinners with a whole family. There’s so much time left until kids go to bed so we can do a lot of things. They can play and I can read to them. This is pretty new situation for me.

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