One year of remote work at Storyblok: What I’ve learned
Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.
It’s been one year since I started my first fully remote job at Storyblok. In my previous job, I taught web development and design at a university. The teaching position included lots of speaking and reviewing. Transitioning from a non-remote lecturing position to a fully remote engineering position was a big change for me.
How I got to Storyblok
The first time I heard from Storyblok was when speaking at the ScriptConf 2019, which Storyblok sponsored and Sebastian organized, who later also joined Storyblok as the manager of the Developer Experience team. I had a great time at the conferences and loved the community Sebastian, Stefan, and Dominik built with their Stahlstadt.js meetup. Fast forward one year later, when I was considering different positions, Storyblok stood out because of the way Sebastian and Dominik communicated and interacted with the community. I felt that it would be a great experience getting to work with them, and this gut feeling turned out to be right.
Starting at Storyblok
When I started working as a Developer Experience Engineer at Storyblok, I had not used Storyblok yet. Before starting there, I experimented with other headless CMSes and built websites with JAMstack frameworks, but not Storyblok itself. However, this wasn’t a problem at all. Sebastian gave me enough time to learn and experiment. He also tried to help with all the questions I had.
Creating a healthy workspace
In terms of the home office setup, Lydia and Alison did a great job in helping me set up my home office. They sent me a MacBook, a great display, and an ergonomic chair. Especially the chair made a big difference for me since I have chronic back issues, and having an ergonomic chair reduced my back pain a lot. I’m thankful for this good operational team that supports and helps everyone to create the work environment that works for them. Over the last year, I improved my workspace further. I bought myself a monitor arm to do some work standing and aim to get outside during the day to have some fresh air and movement.
Working in the Developer Experience Team
As a Developer Experience Engineer, I got to work on different integrational apps and write tutorials about them. The team was still small when I started, including only Sebastian, Sam, and Christian joining a bit later. I enjoyed working in this small team and gave a few talks about different headless topics like eCommerce or Next.js. My day-to-day work was quite busy talking to developers on Discord, coding apps or demos, recording talks, writing newsletters, and doing some customer support. In this team, I learned a lot about Developer Experience and how important communication with customers and developers is, especially with a technical product like Storyblok. In my developer experience role, I experimented a lot and pushed the boundaries of what Storyblok as a product can do. I got to talk to the developers about their pain points and improve the existing tutorials, to make the learning experience more seamless. Since Storyblok is fully remote, a lot of the communication we do is asynchronous. Scheduling online meetings, using Notion to document for the team, chatting on Slack, and writing outlines in Google Docs for future projects were some tools I learned to use daily.
Transitioning to the product team
After about six months, I had already learned a lot about Storyblok and all the little details it included. With version 2 of the Storyblok app on the horizon, the product team was pushing hard to release the app this year. With Barry starting at Storyblok and building up our partner team around March 2021, the demand grew to renew and expand our partner portal. The goal was to build a new learning portal for the partners to get started with Storyblok quickly. Since the product team was busy with the app development itself, I started working on version 2 of the partner portal. Over the next few months, I worked hard with our designer Nikola to get this ready, and we launched the new partner portal at the beginning of July.
Since I had been working on the product for the past few months, Alex asked me if I wanted to join the product team to continue working on the application itself. Changing the team was not an easy decision because I liked my current team. Still, in the end, I decided to join the product team, because it gave me some new learning opportunities to develop a SaaS product in a fully remote environment.
The product team
The product team was very different from the previous team because 85% of the team lives in Brazil. We would start the daily standups at 3pm in my timezone, 10am in Brazil. With me joining the team, the team started speaking English instead of Portuguese in the standups, but this turned out not to be a big problem. If someone couldn’t say what they meant in English, they would say it in Portuguese and someone else on the team would translate it. I also found that chatting on Slack was a good way of communication because the translation tools make it easy to find out what the other person is saying. The biggest difference for me between those two teams was the busy communication time. In my old team, we had the standups in the morning and a lot of communication would happen then. On the product team, my mornings are mostly free to work on the different tasks, and then after the standup in the afternoon, I would have 1-2 hours of chatting to my team about various problems until I would finish for the day.
Connecting with others
Doing communication right in a fully remote setup is not easy. It’s harder to initiate small talk and randomly talk to people. With the people that work in Austria, we often meet in a co-working space in Linz or Vienna to connect in person. For connecting in a remote setup, we use a tool called donut, which schedules a random coffee conversation with someone you haven’t talked to yet. I enjoy these coffee meetings because you always learn something new about the culture the other person is living in and this time is set aside just to socialize. We also have a few channels set up on Slack, that are non-work related: #cooking, #random, or #bookclub. For my direct team, we do daily standups to see who is working on what and how we can help each other out. I’ve found these short 15 minute daily standups to be a good way to keep your remote team connected.
To sum it up
After one year of fully remote work at Storyblok, I have to say that I still love working this way. I don’t have to commute to work for an hour, I can cook my lunch at home and I can create my daily work schedule in a flexible way. This means that during lunch I might go out for a run or meet a friend in the city for lunch. For other colleagues, it means picking up their children from school and maybe working later into the night. Honestly, I wouldn’t go back to work in an office full-time, however, I cherish the moments, where I get to connect with my colleagues in person, like this dinner we had in Linz after working during the day together in the Regus Coworking space: