Managing from India – 5 tips
I’m writing this post from Mysore, India where I’m working for the entire month of February.
Coming here was a nail-biter for me, but not because of typical western concerns like bedbugs, heat, smog, or monsoons. What terrified me was the idea of traveling all this way and not being able to do my job effectively. I oversee operations and finances at Grio, participate in business development, and am currently managing two projects. If anything were to prevent me from working, I would need to grab the next flight and go home – arriving a minimum of 40 hours later!
I suspect this is somewhat of a rare situation – a manager in India directing an American onshore team. Having managed several Indian teams from San Francisco over the years, it’s interesting to experience the reverse.
So far things have been going very well. While I’m still learning, here is some of my early advice:
1) Make sure you are wired and ready. Before I left, I bought a new macbook air and a set of subcontinental power adapters. I also made sure that I had booked an apartment with solid internet and a backup generator. The lighter computer made travel easy, and having a reliable connection has meant very few disconnections. I’m relying Skype and Google hangouts for calls, and haven’t had to purchase or enable a phone. Microsoft charging for previously free features on Skype is annoying though, grrr. The generator has been a lifesaver – on a few occasions I’ve been on a call with a client 8700 miles away and a blackout takes out the neighborhood (but not me! :)).
2) Work the same hours. This is difficult but necessary. Mysore is 13.5 hours ahead of San Francisco. To ensure overlap with the team, I have been sleeping from afternoons until evenings. I wake up at midnight every day (10:30 am Pacific), do the 30 second commute to the living room, hold my first standup meeting, and work until the morning. This schedule gives me late mornings and early afternoons to practice yoga, drink coconuts, and eat idlis. I can’t pretend that this schedule is comfortable, but it’s the price I’m paying for a “working vacation”. Alternatives are to stay home or lose touch with the company.
3) Chat frequently. To make up for water cooler and elevator talk, I’ve been popping up on IM much more often than usual. Annoying, maybe, but it gives me a good idea of what’s going well – it’s important that any project issues are detected and addressed early.
4) Delegate! Before I left, I deputized a few senior engineers as account leads. So far they are doing a great job and I expect it to be a very good move long term for Grio’s clients, the engineers, and partners Santo and Doug and me (we were getting spread a little too thin). It’s very rewarding to see engineers who have been with us for years grow into leadership roles.
5) Being remote is an opportunity to see and work differently. I’ve noticed that working from a different place has made me more creative. This was a unexpected surprise! I find myself thinking more about strategy, I’m writing more and I’ve put more effort towards Grio’s social media efforts. At home, I can get so embroiled in day to day operations that the vision part of running the business can take a back seat. It’s actually a refreshing change to have daylight hours when everyone else is asleep! I have two weeks left in Mysore and I plan to continue to use some of this time to recharge and to think about Grio’s future.