5 Ways to Combat Communication Problems in Remote Software Development

As a Technical Delivery Manager at Andela, I’ve managed hundreds of engineers across a wide variety of client engagements. In this blog post, I’ll address some of the common communication problems I’ve seen engineers struggle with on remote software development engagements, as well as advice about becoming a better communicator in a remote workplace.

Common issues engineers face on remote engagements

Many of the biggest challenges engineers encounter in their day-to-day responsibilities and workflows relate to communication.

Understandably, communication in a remote workforce takes some getting used to. Gone are the days we could just tap our coworker on the shoulder when we had a question. Additionally, software developers joining a new remote team are oftentimes reluctant to ask for support or vocalize any type of question because they want to be seen as self-sufficient. However, this can be problematic and often create bigger issues.

The truth is that organizations encourage questions, provided that these questions are informed and based on research. This is because many companies have complex systems that they won’t expect you to understand right away. In fact, 9 out of 10 clients expect that you will get stuck at some point. So if you don’t ask a lot of questions and try and get up to speed, it can actually be a bad sign.

With that said, here are some communication tips I’ve compiled so you can combat communication problems at your current or future remote engagement more effectively.

3 tips for communicating effectively with your manager 

  • Tailor your communication to match your manager’s preference. Find out whether they prefer to be notified on Slack, email, Jira, or another application and make sure you record any updates or questions there.
  • Keep your manager informed of your whereabouts with Slack status updates. Nobody needs to know your every move, but if you need to take a personal day or know you will be away from your computer for several hours, either message your manager directly or provide a status update on Slack. Everyone on your team will thank you.
  • Ask questions when you’re stuck. If you keep quiet and try to figure out everything on your own, you could make a mistake that sets a project deadline back. As a rule, I tell the engineers I manage that if they are stuck on some component of  a project for more than 30 minutes to give me a shout.

2 tips for communicating effectively with your teammates

  • Listen with empathy. By empathizing with your teammate and listening carefully to their perspective, you may be better able to identify different issues and how to solve for them. Additionally, empathetic listening builds rapport, which is necessary when you’re collaborating closely with your team to deploy code to production or meet a product deadline. 
  • Provide concrete feedback.  Nobody likes vague, open-ended feedback. If you’re running into issues with a coworkers’ work style or performance, take the time to provide actionable feedback rather than resorting to vague criticism.

At the end of the day, being proactive is key

The best way to combat communication problems on remote software development engagements is to communicate proactively. Ask questions and speak up when need be. As long as you ask thoughtful questions, it's better to over-communicate than to stay stuck. And when you get negative feedback, it’s not the end of the world. Learn from your mistakes and make your next project a hit. And if you’re on an Andela engagement, keep in mind that the TDM is there to aid the success of your project.

Are you a software engineer looking to work with the most innovative companies in the world? Apply to join Andela today.

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