Sofa vice president: how I work as a product director at full distance

Hey. My name is Maxim Vinnikov, I am Vice President of Product Management at Aurea Software. In the same company, for which Slava Kulakov, familiar to many from history , works as he became a freelancer, receiving $ 200,000 a year. Questions and comments on that post continue to go so far, so today, already by way of my example, I will tell you what the actual work itself is already for myself, for which such fees are paid - and I will try to answer questions on the topic live.

[update] Live answered the questions that appeared in the comments for the day:

According to Aurea and ESW Capital standards, each employee must work 40 hours per calendar week. Based on my position and physical abilities, I adhere to the 5/2 schedule. My main working window is located in the interval from 14:00 to 19:00, this is a total of 5 hours a day. Another 3 hours a day will be finalized when it is more convenient for me: one day I can work late in the evening, the other I start in the morning to get free early.

Since the team is 100% decentralized and we do not have offices, all the interaction between employees goes online. I, as a VP (and this is a managerial position), I am involved in various work processes of many people more than the average developer. This is also worth considering.

In general, my working day has a fairly simple and stable structure; any person to one degree or another standardizes his day and makes adjustments to the usual course of events only as necessary. But it doesn’t matter if you take the VP position in the company or you are a linear engineer, as part of your team work there are working phone calls, they are also rallies. As if sometimes I didn’t want, the rally is not a military commissar, you won’t run away from him. For planning communication and, in particular, all working phone calls, we do not invent a bicycle and use the Google calendar. Rallies are planned according to the Google calendar of the desired employee / employees with his / her further notification (by mail or, for example, on Skype). As you might guess, this activity occurs precisely in the framework of the “main” working window during the day. "Basic" because the format of my work implies the need to adapt to colleagues, to have points of intersection of working time with them. At the same time, I solve individual tasks that do not require the participation of other people when it is convenient for me myself.

Such a schedule can only be called partially flexible, but you need to understand that there are limitations imposed by my position: VP cannot ignore the conversations or meetings assigned to him. To answer the question, what am I specifically doing, I’ll give a schedule for one of my Thursdays:

  • 9:00 - 11:30 - woke up, soaked in bed, jumped up, because the son again pulled food from the bowl from the dog, had breakfast, walked a little with his family.
  • 11:30 - 12:30 - phoned the engineering team, discussed the list of “orders” (read “work front”) for the second quarter.
  • 12:30 - 13:30 - engaged in personal tasks.
  • 13:30 - 14:30 - rally with Chief Architect, SEM and Product Managers of one of the products. Engineering proposed the idea of ​​refactoring, it was necessary to discuss what should be done according to the standard process, so that this change fell into Roadmap.
  • 14:30 - 15:00 - 30 minutes of Skype and mail.
  • 15:00 - 16:00 - a meeting with the L2 product management team, we discussed what specifications we will write in the second quarter.
  • 16:00 - 16:30 - here I was supposed to start lunch, but the rally dragged on ...
  • 16:30 - 17:00 - managed to have lunch, cheers! : D
  • 17:00 - 17:30 - a meeting with L3 and L2 managers of one of the products - a difficult situation with the "order", they discussed what we would leave and what would be thrown out of the second quarter scope.
  • 17:30 - 18:00 - a meeting with the new VP Product Management, he told what changes will be in the neighboring team, whose "services" we use and in which he is now VP.
  • 18:00 - 18:30 - skype, mail.
  • 18:30 - 19:00 - a weekly 1: 1 rally with the manager of my team of technical writers.
  • 19:00 - 20:00 - getting ready for the weekly 1: 1, already with my boss.
  • 20:00 - 21:00 - spent an hour with the leader, I reported the status, discussed several issues important to me, and discussed his questions.
  • 21:00 - 22:30 - I rested a bit, a difficult day, stayed with my son a little, helped put him to bed.
  • 22:30 - 24:00 - some time for independent work. Reflected in Jira and other project tracking tools the decisions made during the day. I took a couple of tasks from my personal backlog.
  • 0:00 - 0:15 - a traditional walk with a dog and spa.

According to the above schedule, it can be seen that interaction with different people takes a considerable amount of time, and a little more with your own boss. In total, I am subordinate to 24 people (14 of whom report directly to me), plus contacts with neighboring directions are superimposed on this figure. Because of this, it’s not possible to somehow move various meetings at one’s own will, because in this case the schedules of all the other people interested in working with me will “go”. In general, in this regard, life is greatly facilitated by the simplicity of the Google calendar, which clearly shows who and when is free.

In terms of organizing meetings and calls, a rather short hierarchical chain within the company with the possibility of both vertical and diagonal communication is also very helpful. I can’t even dream in a nightmare that I’ll have to knock on my leader so that he knocks on the leader of a neighboring direction in order to coordinate my conversation with his subordinate. I just find the right person (it doesn’t matter, higher or lower in the hierarchical ladder) and communicate directly with him, which I reflect on the calendar. This simplicity saves a monstrous amount of time and nerves.

It will be cunning to say that rallies take up all my time and the working day begins with them. Of course, the day starts with a cup of Nescafe Goldreading mail, and then everything else. But in general it is obvious that if you have two calls assigned - one at 14:30, and the second at 18:00, then in the interval between them it is easier to work, the gap is too small. According to my own observations, most of my work activity, taking into account individual tasks, takes place in the window between 12:00 and 20:00. At the same time, I believe that “the cat is more likely alive than dead,” that is, my schedule is flexible enough to comfortably organize my own offline activity and personal life. If necessary, in the first half of the day I can take time for myself or my family, take a walk with my child, solve some pressing issues, while the rest of the city sits at work.

Self-control and efficiency

As it has already become clear, my weekly labor activity, like that of any of our other employees, revolves around a value of 40 hours. In addition to the “bright” side, the ability to plan one’s own time also has a “dark side”: a person must be able to plan his day / week efficiently and be highly self-organized, so that he can observe this plan later.


The WorkSmart activity tracker helps a lot in this. To make it clearer, in a nutshell I’ll explain how this tracker works. WorkSmart is an internal time tracking tool that is used by almost all people working for companies in the ESW Capital group (including Aurea, where I work or Crossover, the blog of which this publication is posted). After turning on, the tracker starts tracking activity, collects statistics, and can also take screenshots of the screen for your manager and photos from the webcam. Speaking of photographs: this tool is not used everywhere and not always, it all depends on the particular company and its management. Much more important is how the tracker calculates the time.

Each of my work hours is divided into 6 equal time cards for 10 minutes, which record activity at the computer. Within one time-card, the tracker records which applications were used, how much time I spent in a particular application, takes screenshots and photos from a webcam, if this function is enabled. This data is used to compile my personal statistics on productivity and the distribution of working time between different applications and types of work activity, for example - how much I “spent” in the mail in a week and how much in JIRA. Also, this data, of course, is used to control the integrity of the remote employee, for example, if the manager suspects an attempt to cheat and cheat the tracker. But the main purpose of the tracker and the entire WorkSmart program is still not control,

At the same time, the following positive things should be noted:

  • Tracker statistics are available to the employee himself and you can evaluate your performance;
  • you always know how much time you have left to solve the set tasks;
  • the tracker disciplines;
  • the tracker allows you not to process a lot of time, as is customary in many Russian companies.

The peculiarity of the managerial position in the companies of the ESW Capital group is that refining and “sitting until blue”, as if you are Korean, are not what they are not expecting from you, but are not even recommended. For the same reason, managers, unlike developers, are not paid for processing. Therefore, it is in my interests to avoid going beyond the agreed time frame and to solve all pressing tasks exclusively during the working forty hours. No matter how the Dev-Factory model looks from the side, but you should not work within its framework far from "from here to the fence." Refining most often occurs in two cases:

  1. This is the overtime agreed with the manager, which is caused by the production need.
  2. When working with a recently acquired company in which the processes have not yet been debugged (ESW Capital is a group of companies that buys other organizations and optimizes their processes and costs for profitability).

Production necessity is a concept familiar to everyone. This type of processing is typical for developers and is consistent with the manager. Often all refining in excess of 40 hours is paid at full rate. A very important nuance lies in the fact that the developer can always refuse overtime. Well, actually, maybe a person has gone kayaking or taiga for the weekend, or maybe he's just tired and wants to relax - that's none of our business. If a manager is refused a proposal to work overtime, then he cannot somehow change it by methods other than persuasion.

This Crossover probably differs significantly from other companies: if you refuse to work overtime, even if the party requires it, the employee will not have any consequences, in any case, neither I at Aurea, nor Crossover Director for Russia Vladimir Yeronin can remember such situations. In general, overtime is only voluntary and by mutual agreement of the parties. But you must always remember that overtime is consistent exclusively with the manager and should not be confused with overtime and knocking out of the schedule (provided that it has been drawn up adequately and fairly).

The second situation with the purchase of companies already affects managers at the level of SEM, VP and higher. In such a situation, Slava Kulakov recently visited and, perhaps, he will gather his thoughts and tell himself how much this increases the load. According to the tracker, I work an average of 42 hours a week. This is more than the norm, and when I reach 40 hours I can turn off the tracker and forget about work until Monday, but also put off until tomorrow what I can and should "eat" today not in my character. For the past year and a half, I worked at my maximum for 47 hours at the current position, and it was an emergency week, but what can I do. As a manager, these extra 7 hours were not paid to me, but the above example is definitely not the norm and this happened to me only once.

In general, the idea that a person has to work exactly 40 hours and no more is mutually beneficial: the company cannot overload with tasks except for some exceptional cases, and the employee, in turn, must meet the allotted time, after which he turns off the tracker and work is delayed until the beginning of the next calendar week.

Aquarium Fish Syndrome

They often ask me if I feel like an aquarium fish, which is monitored with the help of a tracker. I can’t say that such work is suitable for everyone, and I won’t campaign for widespread implementation - like any system, the tracker is not perfect. In general, various preferences and opinions are normal. Someone hates trackers, others hate open spaces, in which they can sneak up on you from behind and look over your shoulder. And it can be anyone: from the boss to the annoying colleague. But if you compare the tracker and open space, then in the case of the first one it is guaranteed that access to the data except for the employee is available only to the direct management, who will not bother about the conditional smoking room that the person watched on YouTube during the lunch break. More precisely, the manager will not even know this: the tracker does not record information,

Why am I: I never had the feeling of being in an aquarium, and I got used to the tracker almost immediately, without a period of some painful adaptation. Perhaps this depends on each individual person, but pretty quickly I completely stopped thinking that someone could control my work or express any claims to effectiveness. In general, if you are a conscientious employee and fulfill your goals and tasks, then the manager rarely wants to use the “control” functions from the tracker - everyone has enough to do :) So if you go to work with us, and not try cheat, then the tracker should not scare you at all.

For me personally, such a regulated system in terms of load balancing is extremely convenient: I can talk with my wife, take a walk with my one and a half year old child, solve some household issues or take my family to the sea whenever I want, and not when I can take a vacation. And, of course, I don’t stand in endless Moscow traffic jams or shake in the subway for three hours a day. In my eyes, coupled with the size of the salary and local corporate culture, these advantages outweigh all the disadvantages. Would I exchange my current job for a similar position in the office of a company with a 50% increase in salary? No, I would not change.

How to work with a laptop on your lap all day and not get burned, and other important questions about the life of a remote worker - in my stream today at 19 hours

Thank you all for your questions, the broadcast took place. Unfortunately, there were few online viewers, so instead of live communication, it turned out, rather, a podcast. Watch the result on Crossover Russia channel on Youtube, share your impressions and ask for more!

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