How Remote? Improve Digital

Below is a Grow Remote guest piece from Paul Harrington and Garry Turkington (CTO) of Improve Digital about how their remote team came together. The company works with over 250 of the worldís top media owners, an audience of more than 600 million unique visitors and, through them, supports the efforts of 112,000 advertisers each month.

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I started working for Improve Digital as a Database Engineer in January of this year. Improve is based in Amsterdam, but the Engineering team I work for has a number of remote team members. Most of these are based in the UK. We also have one engineer working from Slovakia, and myself from my home near Kilcolgan, Galway.

I asked Garry, our CTO, how the remote team evolved within Improve Digital:

“If you go back to 2012 when I was hired we had I think 3-4 people in the London office, mostly sales. Our tech at the time was done by some consultants in Germany and at the same time I was hired we brought on a product guy in the NL office. When Janneke (one of Improve’s founders) and I discussed my hiring she was convinced by my argument that it would be better for the company and me for me to spend 3 hours a day working instead of commuting. Especially as if I went into the London office Iíd then spend 99% of my time working with people in NL and DE.

Then I needed to hire a DBA. And since I wasn’t in the London office I saw no need requiring him to be – though of course it was available if required.

Then I started talking to some of my old Amazon colleagues most of whom are in the M4 corridor here – Mo (Director of Engineering) was the first I hired. Same logic plus also its a 15 min drive for him to come to my place.

At this point I realised we were happily making distributed teams work – the headcount in AMS was also increasing. And this meant I could look for people regardless of location which is a massive boon. It means we werenít limited to people who just happen to be within a certain circle drawn on a map”

My opinion, for what itís worth, is that remote working is fantastic. I find I can organise my time much more easily while still being able to put in the same amount of effort as I would otherwise. Flexibility of location can be very handy at times also. For example, I took a day and a half off a few weeks ago to go to the festival at Milltown Malbay. I spent the second half day working at the new digital hub at Kilrush, and afterwards went back to Milltown (with a quick diversion for a swim at Kilkee!). That sort of thing just canít be done if you are required to work exclusively in an office.

Another major advantage is this – when I commuted before (to Dangan, Galway from Kilcolgan) I would end up absolutely wiped out by Friday. These days I find Iím not tired at all by the end of the week. Commuting several hours a week will take itís toll on anyone.

There are downsides of course – winter can be bleak enough, and it would not suit the sort of worker who feels the need to be present in an office 10-12 hours a day.

Thanks for all the effort on behalf of those of us who work remote – you are an inspiration!