Managing a Remote Development Team: A Conversation with Yulio’s CPO, Ian Hall

July 09, 2020

Like many of you, all of us at Yulio are currently entering our 4th consecutive month of working remotely. While we’ve previously shared how our marketing team was able to transition smoothly into working remotely, we have yet to highlight how our development team was able to do the same. Today, we’ll be sitting down with our Chief Product Office, Ian Hall (IH), to learn about the remote mobile tools they use on the daily, what the transition was like, and his advice on how to manage a remote development team.

Let’s dive right in!


1. We've previously sat down with Christine, the Director of Marketing at Yulio, and her experience transitioning her team into remote work, however what was your experience like with the dev team?

IH: We were very lucky, our transition to full time work-from-home went remarkably smoothly.  I attribute this to a couple of factors.  First, we have an experienced high functioning team with a long history of working together.  The team likes and trusts each other. When you don’t have daily facetime, it’s easy for misunderstandings to lead to problems, but when you trust each other those inevitable communication hiccups tend to resolve themselves quickly. Second, we already had allowances in place for occasional working from home.  We had implemented this policy ages ago in recognition of the fact that, among other things, we live in the North and snow days happen. 


2. What has been the greatest challenge with managing a remote dev team?

IH: Initially it was making sure that everyone had everything they needed to work at home safely and comfortably for an extended period.  For example, we updated machine management policies to make VPN logistics a little easier, we arranged for extra computers and VR rigs to be brought out to developer’s homes as needed.  Being so close to the Architecture and Contract Furniture worlds, we also recognized the importance of space and ergonomics so in several cases we shipped out high end office chairs to help round out a few home offices. On an ongoing basis, the challenge has really been about keeping communications flowing when we no longer had the luxury of sitting side by side. 


3. Have you made any adjustments to your team’s workflows?

IH: Daily standups, where we gather as a team and share progress and daily objectives, have always been an important part of our workflow.  With the shift to work from home, we expanded this ritual a bit to help keep everyone connected.  We picked a meeting time that worked for everyone, allowing for things like kids not being able to go to school. We also issued everyone high-end web cameras - we found that with so much isolation that extra bit of visual connection makes a big difference.  This all sounds a bit formal, and to some extent it is in that predictable patterns are important for lending structure when there’s so much uncertainty. But we also take time to banter, share anecdotes, and just generally check in on how everyone is doing.


4. What methods or platforms have you found useful in task organisation and management?

IH: We already had a highly effective task management system in place, so we didn’t need to change much on that front.  We use Jira as our sprint planning / task tracking framework, and of course we couldn’t live without Slack providing that all-important instant communication channel. We also use a positive cornucopia of video conferencing apps for speaking internally and with our customers including Slack video, Google Meet,  Zoom, etc.


5. Are there elements of in-person work you’ve found difficult to replicate remotely?

IH: It’s mainly the fun, casual, social interactions we miss. When we were all in the office we had regular close-your-computer get-togethers where we would all play games, shoot darts, have table tennis tournaments, and share a beer or two.  Those types of group interactions are tough to replicate remotely, although we’ve tried a few things like You Don’t Know Jack sessions, and some virtual team shoot 'em ups.  Some work better than others, but at the end of the day there’s just no substitute for that in person bonding time.


6. What is one Yulio feature you have found particularly useful during this period of remote work?  

IH: Collaborate is far and away the most valuable feature for remote communications. The ability to guide a conversation while directing navigation through complex scenes never fails to amaze. Especially with the rise in popularity of presenting remotely with virtual solutions, we have seen a huge spike in usage on our platform. Collaborate has been a fantastic tool for sales and product support, specifically in the area of clients looking to learn the best ways of using this technology in their presentations and integrating it into their workflows. 



7. Can you share any spoilers or secret features dev may be working on?

IH: We have a ‘walkable geometry’ pipeline in the works that we think will open a lot of doors for our customers.  Imagine being able to fluidly guide your clients through not just pre-rendered positions but any position in your project in real-time while they follow along in their VR headsets or browser.   We are pushing the current generation of headsets and browsers to their limits to provide a great experience, one that does not compromise the ease of use and visual quality Yulio is known for.  I can’t wait to see how our customers will take it and run with it!


8. One last piece of advice?

IH: Despite all of the scary things that are happening, it never fails to amaze me how adaptable and innovative people can be. Sometimes it’s little things, like someone with sewing skills making masks for coworkers, sometimes it’s seismic, like the enmasse move to working remote as we’ve been discussing, or the accelerated uptake of VR in business we didn’t expect to be hearing from for years. I find this spark of creativity in the face of adversity endlessly encouraging.

We want to say a big thank you to Ian for taking the time to share his experience and advice on how he was able to successfully lead his team remotely. For more information on how you can create stunning immersive presentations, click here. To hear how you can start using our online platform to create stunning remote VR presentations, reach out to us here to chat with someone from our team.


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Rachel Chan

Rachel Chan

Rachel is a writer for Yulio, covering all things VR. With a keen interest in creativity and innovation, Rachel enjoys seeing how businesses use VR in their workflow, and how they have been transformed by it.