Mutt Data was born as a remote first-company, this was before Covid-19, restrictions and lockdowns. Before working from home became the new normal. When the time came to define how to work, Mutt´s founders thought back on their previous work experiences trying to identify what really mattered. All of them came from tech backgrounds with experince spending hours coding and a common dislike for the constant interruptions and distractions that open offices tend to foster.
A few common themes came up: Ownership, trust, clear goals, communication and deep work.
These elements had to be pillars of Mutt´s work culture, mutters’ had to feel ownership over ongoing projects and results, clear expectations and objectives had to be set together from the beginning, communication had to be commonplace and upfront allowing people to stay in the loop. Above all, trust and productivity had to be incentivized.
Additionally, understanding that the work carried out at Mutt Data is demanding and couldn´t be perfomed half-heartedely or in a state of distraction was fundamental to the new work culture. Basing a lot of their decisions on Cal Newport´s Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World, the founders kept the following aspects in mind when defining how to work:
Remote Work seemed to be the answer to the common pain points of traditional modern work cultures. By going remote Mutt Data could allow its employees to choose and control the environment they worked in and customize it to fit their needs and preferences.
These considerations quickly led to a series of questions: Was an office really needed? Was the amount of hours someone sat at the office going to improve our work or help the chances of achieving our goals? Did we need so many meetings?
The answer, no, no and no. What Mutt needed was the right tools and practices to promote and take care of productivity and communication. There is no perfect recipe, or one size fits all sets of instructions but we can share our thoughts on remote work and some of our learnings.
We´re not talking about a three day office, two day hybrid arrangement. We’re actually full remote. We have Mutters working full time from Tucuman, Parana, Santa Fe, Rosario, Cordoba, Mendoza, Lima (Peru), Bariloche and Buenos Aires without any need for them to attend our headquarters.
Furthermore we have our very own Mutt Nomads who travel the country working from a variety of different spots as they go. The secret? There is none, just good internet connectivity.
We have adapted our processes, tools and communication to function at our best, not just remotely but asynchronous. As we continue to grow as a company, we also continue to adapt our human resources policies, finding new ways to properly tailor to remote hiring, cultural and technical onboarding, career planning and growth, feedback loops and relationship building.
During the last two years most of us worked from home at one point or another and although technically this can be considered remote we always like to highlight one more difference: Async vs Sync.
In a nutshell, Asynchronous work means that work isn’t happening at the same time for every single person.
Focustime and deep work periods are usually when we do our best work so we make use of async tools and best practices. We work hard to establish the correct use of tools and clear processes throughout the company and we learn to differentiate between urgent messages and important communication that doesn’t need to be answered right away.
How you decide to communicate internally can set you up for success or failure. We believe you have to pay special attention to the negative implications of traditional real-time synchronized comms and the use of tools such as group chats as the primary methods of communication.
We highly recommend the article, “Is Group Chat Making You Sweat” by Jason Fried on said topic. In it Fried highlights some common painpoints in traditional work cultures such as mental fatigue, fostering of ASAP and FOMO cultures, implied consensus, inefficient repetition, over-informing in real-time, lack of context, etc.
We found that fostering async use of Slack from day 1 mitigated a lot of the common issues and pain points of synced group chat communication, allowing us to avoid the negatives while enjoying the PROs of tools like Slack.
As we have mentioned previously in the post, the ability to engage in deep work without distractions is primordial to being productive.
We take the time to think if meetings are necessary. Also when we´re answering messages or commenting on docs we contemplate our answers and think of the best way to communicate our ideas, add references, examples, etc. This basically reduces miscommunication and unnecessary back and forths.
Finally, and this must be the most important pillar of async at Mutt we incentivize verbosity. The important thing is being verbal, communicating progress and blockers via the correct channels and task tracking tools. This way relevant people stay in the loop but focus time is respected.
Productive async work is highly dependent on the correct selection of tools. We avoid emails when possible and recommend Slack, an all-in-one digital workplace that allows Mutters to work without distractions as well as serve as a virtual water cooler for small talk.
Alice, on the other hand, avoids micro-managing and incentivizes verbosity. Once a day, Alice asks what they´re working on and what is blocking them.
In line with being verbal and keeping people in the loop we also recommend using tools like ClickUp which makes tracking ongoing tasks, projects and backlog ideas so much easier and visual.
We opted for ClickUp over Trello or Jira because they offer good customer support, a simple UI with a variety of useful views, embbeded emails, documents and sheets as well as time tracking and sprint capabilities. Additionally, async work is facilitated as its possible to assign specific people to tasks, sub-tasks and comments. Furthermore, its great for setting and following up on personal, quarterly and annual goals.
We’ve all heard “Don’t bring work home with you” before, when it comes to remote this might be a bit of a challenge. We recommend designating a specific area of your living space to be your remote office. Being consistent with this spot will help separate work from living.
It’s also important to invest in good gear and take the time to make sure your space is comfortable and healthy. Which is why at Mutt Data we make sure all mutters´ basic gear needs are taken care of. We highly recommend this quick video on how to set up your desk, chair and tools.
We don’t need to be in the same room to get things done but technology can´t completely replace in-person interactions, neither would we want it to.
Face-To-Face is still necessary for certain situations. To build long-lasting and trusting relationships, foster a welcoming environment for acculturation and, build upon a shared purpose or goal we still need to get together.
We actively set out to organize our Annual Mutt Day, Annual Mutt Trip and other face-to-face events where we can work on our values, our team and our relationships. And yes, we might have less face-to-face events than other companies or than we did before but that’s what makes them so very much more valuable.
We´re still learning as we go, but almost three years in we can confidently say it works! When done right there are countless benefits to being a remote first company, these are a few:
Does a remote-first job appeal to you? Looking for a young multidisciplinary and dynamic environment? Let us tell you a bit about Mutt:
Mutt Data builds automated data products that drive incremental business value, we are a group of passionate Data Nerds working at the forefront of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Problems.
We´re growing… a lot. In the past year our team has gone from 15 fulltime Mutters to more than 50, we´ve become AWS Partners and we grew our sales by more than 300%.
We also proudly released SoaM our end-to-end framework for forecasting and anomaly detection products and implemented Lisa our ad tool.
We offer all Mutters
These are just some of the reasons that make Mutt Data a great place to work.
Interesting? We think so too, we took the liberty of adding some recommended reading material. Enjoy!
We hope you´ve found this post useful, and at least mildly entertaining. If you like what you´ve read so far, got some mad dev skills and like applying machine-learning to solve tough business challenges, check out our team openings here.