How the SVP of Engineering at Builder.ai leads a distributed team

Rohan Patel is the SVP of Engineering at Builder.ai, a startup that’s making it possible for more people to build their own apps without any coding experience. We chatted with Rohan at Web Summit 2021 to find out how the startup is handling the challenges of working remotely and how they address culture outside of the office.

Create an onboarding program that works anywhere

Builder.ai is going through an exciting rapid growth phase, which means they’re hiring nonstop. Before the pandemic, Patel says the company ran in-person workshops in their offices in London, Delhi, and Los Angeles that helped get people up to speed quickly. Now that everyone is working remotely, onboarding people during this busy period has been a huge challenge.

To overcome this, Rohan says Builder.ai completely reworked their onboarding program. They created a regiment where new hires go through a daily scheduled system of workshops so they can quickly hit the ground running during this exciting time at Builder.ai. This onboarding extends across culture and ways of working, as well. Rohan reveals that over-communication has been critical to ensuring everyone is on the same page. This involves creating the right documentation and being strategically repetitive.

Culture can mean respecting people’s non-work hours

At the start of the pandemic, Rohan recalls that the team worked hard to replicate some of the culture people enjoyed in the office. They attempted to reconstruct the experience of going out as a team after work by introducing games nights and other social activities in a more structured, virtual way.

Builder.ai quickly discovered that their team members really wanted to turn off their screens and have their own personal time after hours. As Rohan remembers, while everyone might have enjoyed spending time together in person, it didn’t feel as fun or natural over Zoom. Builder.ai decided to let teams autonomously figure out how they wanted to maintain social contact with each other. This way, Builder.ai can support their employees’ wishes while also letting culture thrive naturally.

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