As the world closed its doors just over 2 years ago, many businesses had to move their operations into the private homes of their respective employees. While working in an office is rarely glamorous, here at Crowdlinker the office space was sacred ground. More than just a place for digital production, but the home of legendary Friday hangouts, the fluffiest of office dogs, and of course a welcoming meeting place for our incredibly tight-knit team.
Crowdlinker has long been praised by its employees for being one of the most authentically welcoming, collaborative, transparent, and inspiring places to work. So much so that Lead Developer, Prateek Kathal, wrote a pretty passionate article back in 2019 about all the reasons he loves to work here. You can check that article out here.
Like many new team members, I began my work with Crowdlinker in 2021, after the company had moved over to working remotely. As a UK resident, the position suited me perfectly. But after reading Prateek’s glowing report of office life, I became curious. How has the transition from in person to remote affected those that came before me? How has the company supported these team members? And, for those like me who can only experience the original setup vicariously through our peers, what is it about Crowdlinker that stands out above other remote working environments?
I sat down with some of my fellow newbies and two of our more seasoned colleagues to chat about the ups and downs of working remotely, and why we love working remotely at Crowdlinker.
For context, Tess is one of our Designers here at Crowdlinker, Sarah is our Delivery Manager, and Fiona is our Director of Product and Design. Like me, they’ve all been with the company for around 1 year. Our Digital Marketing Manager, Greg, has been with the company for just over 3 years. And of course, I had to speak with original Crowdlinker hype man Prateek, who has spent more than 4 years of his career with us.
[Tina] So, for those of you who are relatively new, what drew you to your position at Crowdlinker?
[Fiona] I wanted to work for a company that was designed to work remotely. There’s one thing about having the option to work remotely, but if you’re not set up for that, it’s really hard to thrive in that environment. It’s a nice transition to work for a company where everything that we do is done to ensure that we can communicate effectively, both with our clients and our team.
[Sarah] The fact that it was remote! I was in the UK at the time while I was looking for work. I saw that Crowdlinker was a Canadian company, so I could be based back home, but work from anywhere in the world. I was trying to make the transition into tech, then after meeting Ayhan (Growth Advisor) online he said the company could use my skill set.
[Tess] I’d been contracting and working with a bunch of different companies. I really like doing a broad variety of work. I was enjoying that multidisciplinary role through contract work and the flexibility and agency it gives you to live your life. But I missed learning and working with people more regularly. I was missing those long-term relationships. I ended up applying out of curiosity, but the more I learned the more I thought “this sounds really great! I want to be around these people more.” Not only the remoteness, but the trustworthiness, and the flexibility to meet employees where they’re at in their life was attractive to me.
[Tina] Has it been difficult building relationships with other team members when most of your interactions are virtual?
[Sarah] When I first started this job I really loved everyone I was working with. I figured if I was in an office we would probably be 10 times closer than we are right now because we would actually see each other everyday and do lunch and stuff. But then again, I still feel like we’re good friends even though we don’t do those things.
[Tess] While you might lose some of those inside jokes and casual sort of coffee interactions, from day 1 it felt like a company where people can show up very authentically. It allows people to want to show up, have their camera on, and talk in meetings, which helps to give us a good sense of the team even after only a few of those remote interactions. Which is really great! It can be hard, but it’s nice to have some sort of sounding board. Things like the coffee huddles and the designer huddles really go a long way in establishing a group dynamic. It’s helped me to build a strong enough relationship with the team where I can go to anyone and be like “hey, can you help me”, which is amazing, because I am still quite new here.
[Fiona] Our company is very good at uniting the team. Every 2 weeks we have a virtual culture huddle, where we play a game, discuss what’s going on, and make jokes. It’s great. There’s also lots of opportunity to talk to people throughout the day, we use a lot of software that encourages communication and getting to know each other better.
[Tina] What about you guys, how have you found the transition from working in the office to working at home?
[Greg] The pandemic’s definitely turned the whole corporate lifestyle upside down. I think people are so used to working from home now that it’s not an issue. But I really miss the office vibe.
[Prateek] Yeah me too, I really miss the office. Sometimes the flexibility can feel like a distraction. It wasn’t a problem when I was coming into work. But now I'm sitting at home, and then something can happen like the fire alarm going off and I have to move away from my work and deal with that. I enjoy the flexibility, however, it can be hard to discipline yourself to know when it’s time to work and when to switch off.
[Sarah] But Prateek, you don’t have to work from home anymore!
More context. Sarah has been setting up shared office spaces for our remote team to access both locally and internationally. Another of our designers Carly can work from the Vancouver space, and as we talk, Greg is currently working from Yorkville. We also have access in other countries like India, and the UK!
[Prateek] I bugged Ankesh (Director of Technology) and Sarah multiple times for a coworking space, and I'm so grateful they got it done. I haven’t been able to go there yet, so I'm guilt tripping a little bit! But the people in this company put other people first. This is one of the great things about Crowdlinker. They always put their people first. Aram (Co-Founder & CEO) has always tried to put the team members first. Any problems or issues he tries to resolve them. If you bring up a point, the team makes it their priority to fix it for you.
[Tina] That’s definitely one of the things that drew me to Crowdlinker too. There’s obviously a strong culture here. It’s more like a community than colleagues. Have there been any meetups outside of work recently?
[Prateek] We did an escape room recently, I met Maja (People Operations Coordinator) there.
[Greg] That was fun!
[Prateek] It was pretty fun! Then later on I went to a DJ set with Ankesh and Ali (Marketing), and that was fun as well.
[Fiona] There’s quite a few events now that are taking place in person and in the Toronto office, so we’re getting more opportunities to meet and talk with people for those of us that are local.
[Tina] Tell me more about what it’s like collaborating on a build when your team is working remotely?
[Prateek] The tools we have like Slack are right for what we do. The only downside is we have to stay connected at different hours sometimes. Sometimes I’ll be working with people in the Philippines or Nigeria. I think the time zone difference can help though, in the instance it gives you a head start. Sometimes we can rely on people working in different time zones to continue the work after we clock off.
[Sarah] Like 24 Crowdlinker support!
[Fiona] One of our recent projects involved multiple teams spread out across the world. Everything was remote. We had people in Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, all across India, and The Philippines. It was really interesting working on such a large project with so many people, lots of different teams, different timelines and dependencies, etc, and never actually being in an office. Of course there were bumps in the road, but for the nature of the build being so big, and the number of teams involved, it went incredibly smoothly. We launched successfully and it was a lot of fun!
[Tina] Okay guys, last question. We mentioned the Crowdlinker culture a little earlier. What do you think has helped to hold this together whilst we’ve been working remotely?
[Greg] - Aram. He really tries to keep the culture even though we're all remote and a lot of people are abroad. Even the weekly culture huddle really helps to unite the people. It all comes from Aram, he’s a great leader who really cares. A lot of companies say “oh we’re like a family” and in reality it’s not. But Aram cares so deeply about everybody’s well being and success at Crowdlinker and you can feel it. Otherwise Prateek wouldn’t be here for 4 years and I wouldn't be here for 3 years. You can really feel that love and care. It comes from him, and it drips down in a way that we’re encouraged to get together on our own without any prompt.
[Sarah] I absolutely agree, and just to echo what Greg was saying - Aram in terms of priorities, when it comes to Crowdlinker, it's all about the people and the organization.
[Prateek] Crowdlinker, be it remotely or not remotely, really puts all its efforts into ensuring that whatever people in the team need, that’s a priority. That’s what the team’s all about. That’s why I've stayed here so long.
I must admit, I am a little jealous of the Toronto locals being able to soak up that Crowdlinker culture in person. Especially as our team begins to venture out once again. But I love my work at Crowdlinker. Although I might spend my days working on the other side of the world, separated by thousands of miles of vast ocean, I’ve always felt welcome. And in an environment that encourages me to work hard. It doesn’t matter that we’re from different backgrounds, living in different countries, or that we disagree about where The North or England begins. Crowdlinker really is a family, and I’m proud to be a part of it.