Considering expanding your engineering team overseas? While daunting, the rewards could outweigh the challenges. 

On this week’s episode of Dev Interrupted, co-host Conor Bronsdon welcomes Kelly Vaughn, Director of Engineering at Spot AI, back to the show. One of our most listened-to voices, Kelly dissects the decision-making process behind opening a new office - from the long list of potential countries to the myriad factors that clinched the decision.

Outside of the big picture stuff like navigating timezones and culture differences, Kelly also shares valuable insights on ground-level practices, such as the importance of local recruiters and strategies for discussing equities and contractor partnerships.

Episode Highlights:

  • (2:53) How do you even decide to open an international office?
  • (6:30) Creating "swim lanes" for distributed teams
  • (9:30) Why Kelly and Spot AI chose Poland for their new office
  • (12:40) Who took part in the selection process
  • (15:45) Opening a new office vs hiring a software house
  • (23:00) Managing timezones and cultural differences
  • (29:00) Equity conversations
  • (31:30) The importance of local recruiters
  • (35:20) Kelly's advice to other eng leaders

Episode Transcript:

(Disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

Conor Bronsdon: Hey everyone. Welcome back to Dev Interrupted. This is your co host Connor Bronsdon. And today I am happy to be welcoming Kelly Vaughn back to the show. She is the director of engineering at Spot AI. Kelly, welcome back.

Kelly Vaughn: Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be back here.

Conor Bronsdon: Yeah, it's always a pleasure having you on here and having a chance to chat with you.

You're one of our most popular guests, actually. I don't know if you know that. It's your third appearance on the podcast and every episode does really well on download, so of course we want to have you back.

Kelly Vaughn: It's because I bring the hot takes. It's cool.

Conor Bronsdon: That's simply part of it, but I think for those in the audience who maybe aren't familiar with Kelly yet, haven't been introduced, part of the reason we really value her is that It's hard to bring that level of insight and Kelly's experience as a host, a speaker, and a leader, who's also been an entrepreneur herself, brings these really interesting lenses to her approach here.

And today we're going to have the opportunity to talk a bit about something that I think is relevant, both as an internal engineering leader and an entrepreneur, which is setting up an office in a foreign country, a different area from where you're living, brings unique challenges. It's something we've done with Linear B.

And. In the past you've had some of these other faceting conversations that I think are in informative of this as well, you've leveraged your background as a trained therapist, discuss how to build healthy dev teams, you joined us for a panel discussion on how to treat developers as creative problem solvers, not cogs in a machine, and these are cultural pieces and understanding of your team that I think is highly relevant, particularly when you're trying to work across cultural lines.

Highly recommend folks check out both those episodes. We'll put links in the show notes. Thanks. As I mentioned, they're two of our most popular episodes of all time. But let's dive into this incredibly interesting, but I'm sure also exhausting process of setting up a company that, that has a foreign office.

How do you even arrive at the idea and kind of get started?

Kelly Vaughn: Yeah. When you're thinking about expanding your team, when you work in a remote environment, talent is everywhere. And that is 1 of the major trade offs you experience when you have an in house or hybrid team versus a remote team is, the remote team has the added benefit of being able to hire from anywhere.

And, we have some engineers who are already based in Europe. So this is not a new concept to us to begin with, but we are definitely, very keen on expanding internationally because, there are a lot of benefits that we're absolutely going to be getting into shortly from a cost standpoint, from a culture, add like value, add standpoint that, we were just, we were ready to make that move and expand into another country to continue to build on our team.

Conor Bronsdon: And I remember the last time you were, on this podcast, you recommended a couple great books to me about, dealing with leadership across cultural lines. I want to say thank you for that. I actually started the culture map and I've really enjoyed it. I think it's a great example of understanding some of the different unique challenges or just unique perspectives that countries bring and how those business cultures can interact.

But it goes a lot deeper than that, as you mentioned. I think there's that kind of clear example of recruitment in a remote work environment. I'll share that I now live 90 minutes south of the city I was hired in originally because I'm in a remote work environment. My wife likes a joke.

She imported me to her hometown. And then, also, of course, as I was here at Linear B, here at Dev Interrupted. We have team members who are all over the United States. We have some in Europe, and then we have a large office in Tel Aviv, Israel. And it's absolutely been a huge benefit to us on recruitment, as you mentioned, but it has brought some unique challenges.

I know you were part of the process at Spot of kind of making this step. How did you come to the conclusion that you said, Hey, we want to really set up a kind of hub elsewhere than our current team?

Kelly Vaughn: I think a lot of it ended up coming down to cost. I think that was the major as we're startup, we're growing startup, but we still have to stay within our means of being able to hire really talented engineers and we can only scale our team as much as we can to, be respectful of the runway that we currently have as we're continuing to grow.

from a customer standpoint as well, as we have made this move from being, more SMB to more into like mid market enterprise, there are different needs that these enterprise customers have, and we needed additional hands to actually. Build out a number of these features, not only that, but from an architectural standpoint, like the roots of our dashboard and our appliances and all the infrastructure that we have in place, what got us to where we are today is not going to get us to where we are in that next phase.

And our team is, we have an amazing engineering team across the entire board, but there, there are only so many engineers on our team. And we're able to really leverage additional hires internationally that is significantly cheaper than what we would be hiring for based in the US.

Conor Bronsdon: So this is really interesting and I want to dig more into that selection criteria, why do you pick the country? You did. What were the kind of criteria you considered? But you brought up something that I think is interesting here, which is the distribution of work across distributed engineering teams.

So I know that you have team members in Poland now. I know you have team members in the United States and elsewhere. How are you distributing teamwork? Is it members of Myself? Team members in Poland and team members in the U. S. are all working on the same feature. Is it distributed so that, the folks in Poland are doing a particular feature while folks in the U.S. are focusing on another piece of the architecture? How are you handling that distribution?

Kelly Vaughn: It's really important to establish those swim lanes because if you don't have clear swim lanes of who is working on what, you're going to get crossover and you're going to end up. With the, as any engineering team skills, when you add more people to the team, it gets really confusing about who's going to be working on what.

And so the way that I've approached splitting it up is I know where the interest and the strengths lie in the Poland team.

so when I'm thinking about What I'm going to assign over to the so to back up a little bit.

I am director of engineering over what we call our core experience team. So we own the dashboard. We own our API. We own the cloud infrastructure and we own the mobile apps as well. So we have a pretty broad spectrum of what we're covering. And one of the things that was really important to me. From a for the Poland team is in order to really, get them more involved on the team and not feel like they're siloed because they're literally separated by an ocean as well is we need to start bridging relationships, not just within the core experience team up with other teams as well.

And 1 of the. Really easy pathways for that is to work with what we call our embedded video team, which is more on the firmware and the appliance and camera side. Now, both teams have to deal with observability and monitoring and uptime. These are very important things for any company, but it's also one of those areas where we're currently looking at right now, where we definitely need improvements in order to continue to grow.

And so I decided from a swim lane standpoint. Let's have them own those types of items from a observability and monitoring and deployment process, because again, this is also what the team is interested in working on out there, and then they can start building relationships with the folks who are working on that embedded video team.

The one thing I wanted to still make sure of is I didn't want them to feel like they're only working on internal tooling and back office tooling that they're also able to work on direct customer impact type. Projects where they know they can see and they can talk to the customers and they can see that direct impact that they're having that the U.

S. team gets. And so when I'm thinking through, splitting up those tasks of the major projects that they're going to be taking on with the major initiatives, there's a little bit of both. They got the back end work, you got the front end work, you have the internal work, you have the customer facing work, to give them that nice little mix.

Conor Bronsdon: So you've had this very intentional, distributed work strategy, but you're also building hubs, it sounds like, where it's oh, we have a hub in Poland, we have a hub in the U.S.

Kelly Vaughn:Exactly. Yeah, we have various hubs within the U. S. since it's, this massive country. But we also have this hub that we're building in Poland.

As we're thinking about our Long term growth as a company, we will be expanding into Europe for our customer base. So why don't we start establishing that hub somewhere in Europe in Poland is a really great opportunity for that. Which we can also dig into. Since I know we're also going to be talking about why we chose Poland in the first place.

Conor Bronsdon: Let's jump right in. Why Poland?

Kelly Vaughn: Cool. Yeah. We had narrowed our search down to basically four different countries. And they're really spread out all over the world. We have Chile on the list, because we do have some investors who are based there, and we also have some employees who are already based in Chile, Poland, because there's a lot of crossover from working styles between Eastern Europe and the Americas.

And that was something that was really important to us as well as the, Tech density as well. So the amount of talent and the caliber of talent you have there. India was also on the list for a lot of those same reasons. And then Mexico was on the list too with the added benefit that it's the same time zone that we're already working in now.

So we took that and we started thinking we had this long list of items that we're comparing, from a an H. R. standpoint from a cost standpoint from tech density from travel. How long does it going to take us to actually fly to one of these locations? And how much is it going to cost us? So not just the how much is the talent cost there, but The everyday cost of living there as well and getting to and from this country

And then lastly, language barrier. That was a very important one that we had to think about because, you have Chile and Mexico, you've got Spanish, Poland, obviously you have Polish. And while all of these countries do have English speaking, engineers, you do still run into some cultural and language barriers that could absolutely hinder the working experience across the team.

So we cross up Chile from a, a tech density standpoint. It does take a fair bit of time to actually fly down there. We eliminated in Mexico, because of the language barrier. I am learning Spanish right now, but not many of our team does speak Spanish. And I didn't want that to be a barrier there.

And then, so we narrowed it down to India versus Poland and both of them have their pros and cons and I spent a long time and so did our chief product officer talking to various people on our network.

I was, in various Slack orgs being like, Hey, if you've expanded a team to either India or Poland, or especially if you've considered both, I want to talk to you. And I was just getting on 30 minute to an hour long calls and just telling me like. What is it? What worked well? What did you go think about?

So you're, your experience working with this, what are some, gotchas that I should be thinking about as we're making this decision and what it ultimately came down to is knowing that we are eventually going to be expanding into Europe. Poland makes the most sense.

Conor Bronsdon: I have a note here that you also looked at retention rate of employees within the different countries. Can you expand on that?

Kelly Vaughn: Yeah. So this 1 was a particular topic around India. I spoke with a number of folks who have expanded offices into India, and that was 1 of their. Biggest complaints that they had that the retention rate is significantly lower.

That, especially for American companies who are expanding into India and building a hub in India, you don't see that same level of loyalty that you might see in Eastern Europe or especially in the Americas. And somebody might, start a new job and then three days later, they get a better offer elsewhere and they'll go.

from a cost standpoint and from a team stability standpoint, that revolving door is a major point of concern.

Conor Bronsdon: And in making these decisions, it sounds like you worked with a couple of other internal stakeholders who all was involved in the process. And how did you incorporate that input to make a final decision?

Kelly Vaughn: Yeah. So our team of founders was definitely involved. Our VP of people was involved in our VP of finance was involved. So I think everyone had their special area of expertise and opinion, to bring into, into this conversation. Our VP of finance is of course, thinking from a cost standpoint, but also how much does it cost to, have a business entity there and how difficult is it going to be to set up our VP of people is looking more from a retention rate.

What are the employment policies that exist? In these certain countries, how does it compare to what we currently offer in the United States with our U. S. based team? And then, of course, I guess the executive team is just also thinking broadly from A growth and skill standpoint. And I'm thinking from a tech density and engineering talents and how is this going to expand, our engineering team, not just my core experience team, I'm the only one who's currently hiring in Poland.

That's not going to be the case forever. How is this going to impact from a talent, viewpoint , are there firmware engineers? Are there AI engineers out there? And so that was another consideration that I was thinking through as well. So we all had our different areas of focus that we were bringing to the table to discuss these options.

Conor Bronsdon: Was there eventual overall consensus or was it a controversial decision in the end where it's oh, half the folks are for India, half the folks were for Poland. How'd that kind of come about?

Kelly Vaughn:  I don't think it was really controversial, but I know our chief product officer who I used to report to, which is why we were working so closely together on this.

He and I were both very much do we do India or do we do Poland? They both have their added benefits. And I think We had our individual reasons for, why he might want to prefer India and why I might want to prefer Poland, but It was a definite it was a consensus at the end. Like we both saw that this was the best path forward for us for this time.

Conor Bronsdon: And I think I, I hear from you this thing that we've talked about previously in conversations on this podcast, where, you really zero in on. What's the long term implications of this decision and how does it align to the internal company culture we want to build? Because you're thinking about not only, okay, are there AI and firmware engineers we can hire long term to scale this engineering or we want to have it be 200 people in Poland versus, 10.

And you're also thinking about what are the projects and the features that these people want to work on? Because we mentioned retention rates like that's a key part of employee happiness of people delivering their best work is does this align to what they want to do? And if you just pick a random country and say, Hey, this is the cheapest potential country, but the Type of talent there isn't aligning to the type of engineering you're doing.

Yeah, it's great if I have a great react engineer, but if I need them doing something entirely different, then maybe it's not the right fit. So I think that consideration of both. Internally, like this is what we're going to be working on and scaling is really important. But it does bring to mind another option that I'm sure you may have considered.

What about using an agency or acquiring a software house, given all the logistical and operational challenges of this?

Kelly Vaughn: We actually did talk about this as well as a potential option. And, there are definite cost implications. There are benefits to, let's say, acquiring a small dev house and embedding them into their team because they already all know each other.

And so that, that really adds to making you have your, you have your overall company culture, you have your engineering culture, and then you have your subcultures that exist within that from a team perspective. From a location perspective. And so they would already have this established internal Poland culture, let's call it.

That would have to then embed into our team. So 1 of the things that kind of gave me pause. There are a number of reasons from a a legal logistical standpoint. There are definitely, key considerations to make there. But 1 of the interesting things that I was encountering when I was exploring.

Exploring Poland as an option is dev houses are very popular there. And there is a big difference between being an engineer who works on projects and being an engineer who works on a product. And I know this from experience because I used to run an agency. And so I know how service minded engineers think in that it's usually like they have a start I'm working on this very specific task, whereas On the more product side, you have to think much more broadly.

How are customers going to use this product? How are they thinking about the user flow from start to end? But also how are, our 250th customer and our 10, 000th customer, how are they going to have different experiences? Are they going to have different experiences? And so bringing that product mindset is a very different way of thinking about the work, the engineering work that you're doing from a long term capacity.

It goes from, I just need to build this thing to how is this going to bleed into and impact everything else that I'm working, not just now, but any of the other engineers on the team and also into the future as we continue to scale. And so that was one of the things that kind of gave me pause about going the hiring a dev shop route because you'd have to train product thinking as well.

Conor Bronsdon: Absolutely. And I think it's, we talk about product thinking, but I think it's also just a strategic lens, where a lot of. Teams maybe don't embed that passion into them about the product if it's just something that we're like, Hey, I'm doing a project here. Yes you'll find devs who are passionate and we'll do that.

But are they thinking about to your point, the long term implications, and do they map to those cultural values and that cohesion you mentioned? I know that's something that's very important to you. How does spot and in particular your team? Plan to maintain its cultural values and cohesion as you expand in Poland and elsewhere.

Kelly Vaughn: So one of the things that we're being very intentional about is, I'm going out there every single quarter because I think it's important for me to get FaceTime with everybody out there, from a, I am their U S conduit since I'm, directing the expansion of this Poland office.

But we're also having engineers go out there too. Who are our U. S. Based engineers or European engineers who have been with spot for a while so they can learn more about, how we function as a company, not just from as engineers as well. They can bring a lot more historical context in there, but it goes both ways.

We shouldn't just be sending folks out to, out to Poland to work out of our Poland hub. They should also be coming stateside. And this is actually next week is going to be when, one of our Poland engineers is going to be coming out for our engineering and company offsite to get the full company experience.

That's probably going to be totally overwhelming because they're meeting literally everybody else at the company at the same time when they've met me and our chief product officer.

Conor Bronsdon: I think that kind of experience is really important though. There are a lot of orgs that Went remote during the pandemic and were not intentional about creating a sync work culture or creating You know cross time zone work culture and accounting for these different cultural barriers in particular a lot of them who said oh we don't need to do off sites.

We're talking on zoom all the time and It's not the same and you are really missing some of that in person team building that you need. Like I, I'm a huge proponent of remote distributed work, but I do think it's important to get together occasionally and say, Hey, we're going to be intentional. We're saving a bunch of money on these offices.

We're saving much money on hiring. Let's invest it in the culture so that we can not only reap the benefits, having more experienced team members, but also ensure that they are aligning and. Desilo the way we need them to be.

Kelly Vaughn: Exactly. And that is actually if we needed to bring some sort of hot take into this that is why I decided that we need to start in Poland with a hybrid culture, not with a fully remote culture, because if we are building a new office in a new country.

And we're building a new team out there. It's important for them to work together to define what it is to mean to be an engineer at spot who lives in Poland. And, as this team continues to grow, they have the face to face interaction of being able to collaborate, which. You and I can both spend an entire hour talking about the benefits of that face to face interaction, as you literally just alluded to.

But it's not going to stay that way forever. It's not going to stay this long term, you always have to be in the office three days a week. It's a very important thing to establish at the beginning. And then based on how the team is growing and how they're working together, you can continue to taper off.

But that is also why we ultimately decided right now we don't have a physical office out there. We're working out of a co working space. So we have that flexibility to change as we need to, and we're not really locked into a, this corporate office environment.

Conor Bronsdon: Can you unpack a bit more how you're thinking about the long term of that? It sounds like you're saying, okay, we're going to start with three days in office, two days remote. Do you see that shifting rapidly or is it something where you just have the option to? How are you thinking about it?

Kelly Vaughn: I think it depends on how quickly we scale that office.

I think it's really going to come down to the people who are in that office as well. And that's the other reason why, we chose a centrally located, co working space in Warsaw, but, as we're continuing to interview folks, and we're continuing to add new engineers to the team, we need to understand, where do they live, What's their family life like?

Like, how are they getting to and from this office? What's going to be most convenient for the entire team as a whole. And so from a timing standpoint, I don't really know when we're going to continue, like going to taper back. We currently have one engineering manager and two engineers out there. So it's still a very small team.

And at that size, honestly, it's a little bit easier to. And work from home because it's not too many of you, but as you add more people into that office, that's when it becomes really important to. Help establish what that culture is going to be.

Conor Bronsdon: I really appreciate you bringing this lens of we're just starting this and here are the kind of the challenges and the positives of what we're doing.

And here's our long term approach because I've talked to large companies that have cross culture offices. I used to work at Microsoft where, obviously you have offices and. I don't know, hundreds of countries. And, they establish culture. I think people don't think a lot about how do you set this up and get it running the right way.

And that's a lot of the hard work is happening now. How are you managing things like time zone, those language and cultural differences we mentioned, But what's the approach you're taking as you set up?

Kelly Vaughn: Yeah. We do have the added benefit of this is not our 1st time hiring in Europe since we do have some folks who are already there.

So our team is already used to working across time zones. But I think, as I have thought about. Working on this international team, we need to have some sort of equal time when we can all sign on, for unfortunately the West coast, that is 8 a. m. For East coast, that's 11 a. m. For Europe, for a lot of Europe, that's 5 p.

m. And then for India, it's late, unfortunately. But we have to have some sort of time when we can all meet together and we can all get that face to face time. On, Google meet or on zoom or wherever it happened to be, since you are international and we are remotely distributed, but, having that face to face time is important for building that culture, but, then breaking it down into how do you instill that same level of culture into your asynchronous communications on slack.

And in having those smaller meetings we have our core experience team meeting that happens every week. That is the entire core experience team was somewhere on the West coast. We go from West coast, India. I think we have the international team. Basically we had a very geographically distributed team, but then the Poland office also has their own standup as well that they can do on their own time zone too.

you have to also balance, when you're working with people who are in a different time zone, they're going to have their own meetings as well. Be super respectful of how much time they're actually spending in meetings, because the more time you spend in meetings, the less time you're actually going to be able to get functional work done, especially with a contact switching.

Conor Bronsdon: No question. What are some of the surprises that have maybe come up as part of this process, whether it's, cultural surprises or just simple challenges in setting up that remote office?

Kelly Vaughn: First of all, Polish is a very difficult language to learn. Let's cross that one off. I have this this Polish dictionary on my desk right now just in case I get inspired and just pull out a random word and then I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce it.

I think it's important to learn at least the basics. If you're going to go to any country and get a general understanding of their language and culture, a lot of logistical, Differences when it comes to hiring in Poland. For example, their contracts, you have a contract of employment, which is going to be much closer to your standard, like W2 employee here in the U S but then you also have a B2B contract, which is similar to a contractor agreement, but also not, it's basically the way that, the engineers are taxed.

And there is a financial incentive for them to go on a B2B contract versus contract of employment from a tax rate. Level and it changes however long the engineer is actually on that contract, like working as a B2B, contractor on a B2B agreement. But there are also differences in the way that employers have to handle contract of employment versus B2B and how many B2B employees you can be hiring.

When you're like. Google. Google has an office in Warsaw, and when you're Google you can say contractor of employment or bus you're out, you have to be on like a standard employee for a much smaller startup. Like we are, nobody knows who Spot AI is in Europe since we don't have customers out there.

And so we still have to establish who we are as a company and, our values, what we stand for, and why it'd be a really great idea to work with us. And so it's a give and take. And for us, part of the thing is you're taking a chance on us so we can open up our opportunity to also hire you as a B2B.

under a B2B agreement instead. So that was one of the big things that took a long time for us to understand. I think we spoke to probably four different people and please explain this tax setup because I just literally do not understand. And then the other really big one is notice periods. In the U S you can be like two weeks and I'm out.

See sometimes you expand it, extend it. Sometimes you're like, yeah, no, I'm just out. And then you have in in Poland, I know this is also the same in other countries as well, depending on how long you've been at the company, is how long your notice period is. Anywhere from ASAP, if you're immediately available, you don't have a job, or you're running your own company or whatever, to two weeks for, that first month, I want to say to a month notice period.

All the way, if you've been at a company for, let's say, three years, you have to give a three months notice period. Wow. Which is really fun for planning.

Conor Bronsdon: Yeah. That's really interesting. I can only imagine that's going to throw some wrinkles in down the line. I'll be curious to come back to you and say, so now that you've been operating this office for four years, like how has that notice period piece affected things?

Cause I'm sure there's going to be some interesting events.

Kelly Vaughn: We're already feeling it because from our finance team, I'm We have this budget for hiring, of course, but with that we schedule out when these hires are actually going to happen. And when our VP of finance is please don't hire everyone at the same time.

I'm like, don't worry. I literally cannot do that in Poland. So you don't have to worry about that. But I still have to think about the timing of everybody starting and who happens to be in our candidate pool and who we're interviewing and who we're thinking about making an offer to, and then when they can feasibly start.

We're talking to one right now who needs to give upwards to a two month notice period. And the other caveat with that is that you can potentially shorten that notice period. If you have a signed agreement with your employer. Okay. So when we're like, Oh, we really want you to start sooner. Can we just pay out the rest of your contract?

And they're like, absolutely not. You can't in the U S we'd just be like, yeah. And you know what, here's some extra money come sooner. You can't do that in Poland.

Conor Bronsdon: that is a fascinating that is a fascinating. Wrinkle to throw in, and I'm sure it's not the only one. How about let's say equity offerings, that communication around these other pieces of being a startup employee, is that different across cultural lines as well?

Kelly Vaughn: It is, yes. So in the U S we're very familiar with how equity works. We understand the, the early investment. The earlier you get in a company that goes big, the better off you're going to be when they eventually, fingers crossed, have a liquidity event or go public. But there are fewer companies in Poland that have actually gone that entire route to have this liquidity event or go public.

And there are a lot of people all over the world. This is not just Poland, but in countries where this is less common, where it's like monopoly money. Like you're. Technically saying this is what you're giving me, but I'm just going to write it on a piece of paper and hope that it's worth something at some point, which, let's be honest.

That is how equity works but it takes a lot deeper explanation of this is why this is part of our compensation package. And this is what we consider this to be worth. This is what the value is. This is what our strike prices. This is what, if we go public, this is what we're expecting this value to be.

But again, It can go that way. It might not go that way. Fingers crossed we get a lot of money and everyone's happy. You never really know. And so for some employees, they're not interested in equity because they just I want cold, hard cash. Like I want it in my bank account so I can spend it now or I can invest it now or do whatever I need to do it with now.

And they're less interested in those equity options you might get.

Conor Bronsdon: Interesting. So I'm sure that has adjusted the mix of how you're making offers and probably how do you have to have these deeper conversations with people you're potentially recruiting to say, okay, what is it you want versus?

Kelly Vaughn: Yeah. And in a lot of companies, especially a lot of startups use equity to help reduce the cost of your base compensation, improve retention and all. Exactly. And so you have to take a different approach for some of them who just aren't interested in equity.

Conor Bronsdon: And related to that, I think I am realizing that I don't think that we actually explicitly defined what a B2B contract is in Poland.

Just to make sure I'm understanding this well, this is when an employee wants to essentially contract through their own LLC. So they'll have, their own company where they're then contracting as, hey, I'm being hired. As a business to support your company, is that correct?

Kelly Vaughn: That's correct. Yes.

Conor Bronsdon: And then how are you handling recruitment?

Are you working with a local recruiter to address cultural differences and ensure smooth operations? What's the approach you're taking?

Kelly Vaughn: Yes. And this is something I think is very important. If you're expanding into another country, get a local recruiter. Do not assume, the ins and outs of how to hire in that country, because chances are, you're probably missing something.

And. You also have the added benefit of the time zone, of course. So our recruiting team that we've been working with in Poland, they're much faster to be able to speak with the candidates because they're all in the same time zone. Whereas, when I was doing the initial rounds of hiring, I had.

My meetings basically started at sometimes 7 38 AM, just so I can get enough, interviews in. And that's, it gets a lot tougher to schedule that out. So definitely use a local recruiter and lean on the recruiter for understanding the differences in the hiring process as well. We are used to for better or for worse.

Throwing an engineer through the gauntlet of nine interviews. I'm not saying we do that at spot. I'm just saying that this thing that we all, we are all very familiar with. Exactly. Whereas that is not going to be respected in a lot of other countries. They're like, I will do three interviews and I'm not going to do more than that.

And so you have to have a very good, clear reason for why you are going to be having them interview more. Because we have actually increased the number of interviews that we do in Poland, not from a. Not from the perspective of we want to make sure that everyone in the U. S. has an opportunity to get their opinion in on this particular candidate, though.

That is a very important thing at the beginning again to have, more as we're starting exactly have more of the leadership team. Speak to them. We don't do that now for even our U. S. base hires that we're doing. It's a much it's a much shorter time frame, but. As interviewing is both parties, so we should be, we're interviewing you, but you should be interviewing us as much as possible as well.

And so we're using this as an opportunity for you to get to know as many people in the US on, in the US based office as well, to form an opinion around. Is this the company that I would like to work with? Because again. We don't have this presence in Europe. And so you're learning about who we are from these interviews as well.

And so we leave as much time as possible for questions and very clearly explain our roadmap and why we do things the way that we do. And I think we've got a really good interview process down now, but it definitely took some tweaking as I continue to do these, especially these intro interviews, because I tend to start an interview with an overall, like an overall overview of.

The company and our teams and where people are located. And there are certain words that you would use to just, describe like, Oh, tell me about a project you worked on and, that was really technically complex, whatever. But when you think project we think okay. I built this particular feature When you talk to somebody in poland you say that they're like, oh I worked at this company And so it's a very different it's just little differences in the way that you interview that you have to continue to Just listen for those cues when you're interviewing these people and change the way you're interviewing as well but also make sure especially if you're the hiring manager you're communicating with the rest of The interview team, the panel, so they're able to adjust their process as well.

Conor Bronsdon: These are great insights. And I know a lot of folks listening either are partway through this process themselves, where they're spinning up an office in another country or, are thinking about this kind of same approach. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your perspective as you start this up. Are there any other closing thoughts or advice that you would have for other engineering leaders who are considering either opening a new office or are saying, Hey, we're not having as much success as we'd like to.

We need to think about. How we're approaching this culturally.

Kelly Vaughn: That is actually a really good point. You just made there and this is some of the best advice that I got from my boss or head of engineering is don't expect to get it right. 100% of the time when you're starting a new office and be okay with getting it wrong because.

If you're entering into a totally new country, a totally new culture, a different way of working, different work ethics, different styles of communication, you're not going to nail it every single time on your hires. I think, any manager, any hiring manager would know. We probably don't have a perfect track record forever of candidates that we eventually made an offer to.

That is a natural course of management is that you're not going to get it right every time. But this is really important when you're expanding internationally and to recognize when something's not working out and really understand why it's not working out and what changes you need to make to adjust moving forward.

So that's a very good point that you made there to bring that up.

Conor Bronsdon: Fantastic. And for those of us who want to continue to follow Kelly's journey with, this remote office development and her experiences as an engineering leader and insights, I highly recommend checking out her newsletter at, her lessons and engineering leadership newsletter is a great one.

We recommend it from our own Substack and, Kelly, any other closing thoughts from you?

Kelly Vaughn: No, I really appreciate this time as always. Always love talking to you. You plugged, the Culture Map by Erin Meyer earlier. Highly recommend reading that, especially if you're and it's something I told my team.

If You're going to be working across cultures We already work across cultures now. But if you're into reading, highly recommend this book. I also highly recommend Crucial Conversations because that is just a good book for everybody to read to learn how to talk to each other. Fantastic.

Conor Bronsdon: These are great pieces of advice, and we're going to drop links to these books in our show notes as well. Kelly, thanks again for coming on and for everyone listening. If you're going to check out Kelly's sub stack, consider checking out the Dev Interrupted sub stack as well. Each week, you'll get.

Yeah, thank you. Each week we're going to give you the latest episode of Dev Interrupted right in your inbox every Tuesday as well as articles from some of the best engineering leaders in the industry. Maybe Kelly will do a guest article for us sometime soon. Maybe we'll see. Okay. Upcoming events and of course all of your favorite Dev Interrupted episodes and content past and present, all the insights, none of the fuss.

You can check it out at devinterrupted. substack. com. Kelly, thanks a lot for coming on. I'd love to have you back again soon. 

Kelly Vaughn: Thanks. Really appreciate it.