Karim Osman

How Mapillary Works Remotely

I’ve done an interview with Remotewise.io, which is the leading resource for remote work and they share findings from world’s top remote companies. We covered Mapillary’s way of working remotely and maintaining cultural values within a distributed team. You can read the full interview below.

Hello! What’s your name, your company name and your role there?

Karim Osman, Mapillary, Director of Business Operations

Can you give a brief overview of the company background and what you guys do?

Mapillary was founded in 2013 with the goal of making street-level imagery and map data available to everyone. Our team’s mission is to build technology and tools to help understand the world’s places through images and make this data available. We want everyone to be able to use our data to make better maps, create a safer traffic environment, develop our cities, visualize places and stories, and help people in vulnerable places.

What percentage of your company works remotely and have you always been remote-friendly? If not, what prompted the change?

100% since day one

What do you see as the biggest advantages of working remotely?

The flexibility to plan your daily working schedule in a way that makes you the happiest and most productive. And, having the ability to work with a diverse team from all around the world is a great advantage.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and the obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

The biggest challenge would be finding the holy grail between work and personal life. Especially when you’re not physically going away from home, the line between your work and personal life is very thin. As a matter of fact, the two seem to influence each other throughout your days, whether you like it or not. I think applying stricter rules to create a better separation between work and personal life could have helped me in the past. Also, more frequently changing environments throughout the day could bring in more balance.

What do you look for in a remote employee and how do you hire for good company fit?

We’re always looking for people that are not only passionate about our mission but also would like to go beyond that and help to create something unique. We value transparency, flexibility, honesty, and compassion, and often it takes just one or two chats with someone to get a feel if this person would fit in the rest of the team.

What elements make up a successful remote team? What’s the trickiest aspect to leading and managing a remote team?

I think the core values of a remote team should be precise and something everyone one thrives and strives for. At Mapillary, we focus heavily on written asynchronous communication in our daily work. The core of our communication is transparent, open, and supporting each other through trust. We default to transparency so that everyone can learn, chime in, and help out. One of the things we live by is that we engage in conversations at an early stage, we’re as clear as possible, and share any thoughts about anything. The trickiest part to lead a remote team is at the stages of transition. That’s when a team tries to scale up and at the same time is for example still small need to figure out their flows through adjusting values, tools, and communications methods to figure out what works best for your team.

How do you nurture your culture and the personal relationships within the company?

To bring team members across teams closer together, we organize weekly calls between them which we call ‘Fika’ calls. The Swedish concept of Fika essentially means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat. In our case, we do this entirely remotely through video calls. Besides that, we yearly organize two offsites where we bring the entire team together to meet, work, and play. To us, offsites are the perfect way to nurture our team culture and improve bonding between fellow ‘Mapillarians’.

What advise would you give to a team just starting out as a remote company or a team transitioning to remote work?

A distributed framework gives you the advantage of running a global company that never sleeps. You won’t be restricted to a geographical area when hiring; you’ll have greater flexibility, and the ability to have happier employees by creating a better balance between work and personal life. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ways of working. We’re still just seeing the beginning of remote work, so companies that go down that route have a great opportunity to shape what distributed work means to them. At Mapillary, we’ve always worked with complete transparency as it makes us faster and is realistically the only way we can operate a distributed team. Transparency and trust are two core values for us, and everyone knows it because we practice it every single day. Find out what your core values are and let it be your team’s inspiration to grow themselves and the company.

Source: Mapillary Company Interview