How to host remote baby showers

We’re experiencing a bit of a baby boom at Skillcrush and could not be more excited about it.

A sampling of responses to a recent birth announcement in our team chat:

  • “OMG WE HAZ BABY!!!”
  • “omg he’s so cute i’m DYING”
  • omg get that baby in a skillcrush onesie omg omg

To give us an outlet for our excitement and, you know, support the new parents, our CEO suggested we start hosting remote baby showers. Over the the last few years, it’s become one of my favorite Skillcrush traditions!

Baby showers work surprisingly well in a remote context. They celebrate a really happy occasion, while removing the elements that can make traditional baby showers less than fun. In our version, there’s no guilt or obligation to attend, it lasts a half hour instead of a whole afternoon, and there’s no risk of embarrassment via silly shower games.

And yet, when I mention that baby showers are one of my favorite ways to bond as a remote team, I often get confused looks. So I thought I’d share how we host remote baby showers at Skillcrush.

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On being fair and making exceptions at work

A friend of mine recently had her first child and returned to work full-time. I have other friends with kids, but this is the first time a very close friend of mine has become a parent. It’s given me a new perspective on the ways we choose to support new parents, and the ways we think about fairness in the workplace.

My friend shares her office with a coworker so she has to leave to pump breast milk each day. Luckily, she has access to an empty office that allows her to pump in relative privacy and comfort. Unluckily, the computer she uses at work is a desktop.

It takes my friend over an hour to pump each afternoon. She’d like to continue working during this time, but there is only so much she can do on paper or from her phone while she’s away from her desk. This means she has effectively lost 5-7 hours of her workweek to pumping. Her office is short staffed at the moment so this often means she has to stay late, or let work gone undone.

Now, there are a half-dozen open offices in my friend’s workplace. Temporarily moving her into one of them—so pumping is less disruptive to her day—would make her significantly happier and more productive, but her employer won’t consider it. They have a rule that only employees at Director-level and above are allowed to have their own offices and they don’t make exceptions.

In effect, they are being equal at the cost of being fair.

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We Work Remotely recently put together a round up advice from remote people leaders and were nice enough to include my two cents. It digs into all the good stuff: building a positive culture, making the right hires, and getting shit done… remotely!

You can check out the article (and a picture of me with a camel 😂) on the We Work Remotely blog.

More requirements, not required

​The​ ​hiring​ ​process​ ​most​ ​of us​ ​are​ ​using​ ​these​ ​days​ ​is​ ​built​ ​on​ ​the​ ​premise that​, ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​quickly hire the best candidate,​ ​we​ ​need​ ​to​ ​narrow​ ​down​ ​our​ ​pool​ ​of​ ​applicants as much as possible.​ And it assumes​ ​that​ ​the​ ​best way​ ​to​ ​do​ ​​that​​ ​is​ ​to​ ​put​ ​up​ ​barriers​ ​for​ ​applicants​ ​at​ ​the​ ​very​ ​beginning, which often leads to us​ ​writing​ ​wish​ ​lists​ ​longer​ ​than​ a kid’s ​Christmas​ ​list​ ​and​ calling ​them​ ​“requirements” for the job.​

​​I​ understand​ ​why—we’re​ ​all​ ​busy,; ​we’re​ ​all​ ​sick​ ​of​ ​wading​ ​through​ applications from ​spammy candidates​ ​who​ ​didn’t​ ​even​ ​read​ ​the​ posting,; ​and​ ​we​ all ​need​ ​help​ ​RIGHT​ ​NOW OMG​. ​And the​ ​truth​ ​is,​ ​we​ ​can​ sometimes ​hire​ ​some​ ​good​ ​people​ ​this​ ​way. But​ ​if​ ​we​ keep doing ​what​ ​we’ve​ ​always​ ​done,​ ​we’ll​ continue getting what ​we’ve​ ​always​ ​gotten:​ ​a toxic​ ​industry​ with a​ real diversity​ ​problem. We​ ​can​ ​and should do​ ​better,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​good​ ​news​ ​is that our job postings are an easy place to start.

A​ ​job​ ​posting​ ​is​ ​often a candidate’s​ ​first​ ​touchpoint​ ​with​ your ​company, and ​the​ ​gatekeeper​ ​that​ ​decides​ who will ​be​ ​in​ ​your​ ​candidate​ ​pool​. So, you should make sure your job posting isn’t throwing up unnecessary roadblocks that deter good candidates from applying.

Those roadblocks might look something like this:

  • 5-7 years of experience required
  • Bachelor’s degree in x or y required

If you aren’t hiring a doctor, lawyer, architect, or another professional required by your jurisdiction to have a degree, I urge you to think about whether or not requirements like these should make it into your job description. Especially if you work in tech.

Here’s why.

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How We Build Company Culture as a Remote Team

Skillcrush is a completely distributed company, meaning that we have no central office and are located all over the world, spanning languages, continents, and timezones. With the exception of a few clusters (several of us live in New York City and we have a bustling Florida contingent), most of rarely see each other IRL—if ever. The entirety of the Skillcrush team has never physically been in one place together, leaving us to guess at each other’s heights. Instead, we do everything digitally, from meetings over Google Hangouts to daily chatter on Hipchat.

You might think that working in your house or coworking space—far away from your coworkers—is lonely. In fact, we recently talked about fighting isolation as a remote team on the first episode of our podcast, Hit Refresh. In the episode, our producer Haele commented that most of our institutional solutions for building culture on the team fall to me, our Director of Operations.

I’m embarrassed to admit that the thought had never really occurred to me. At least. . . not really. There are times where I feel like the team mom—the one who makes sure everyone gets a gif party on their birthday—but, honestly, I think that has less to do with my job and more to do with my personality. So the episode got me thinking about culture-building and how it really has to be a team effort instead of a top-down initiative instituted by managers or executives.

I often encounter skepticism from people who assume we couldn’t possibly know each other the way co-located teams do, and that a bland company culture must be the price we pay for flexibility. But we are anything but boring! In fact, in a recent anonymous survey, the five words most used by our team to describe our culture were fun, friendly, empowering, supportive, and welcoming.

On a day-to-day basis, we make a point to talk about (and celebrate!) things other than work, and to let team members take the lead on team-building activities. We chat about our weekends, our kids, and our lives just like any other coworkers. We have real friendships over our computer screens—both in one-on-one chats and in group settings.

Just as critical to our daily interactions are the special events and clubs we make happen to foster our company culture and relationships. Here’s a look at some of the things you might recognize from your own office, just moved online.

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