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Remote working in the tech industry - tips from the experts

Friday May 1, 2020

Dunedin-based FinTech PocketSmith’s Jason Leong joined the SHIFT cohort last week via Zoom, to talk about the PocketSmith team and how they manage their communications and work from a number of locations. 

PocketSmith started in Dunedin twelve years ago with a team of three, and a simple product idea to predict how much money people will have in their financial future. The team has now grown to nineteen and is still based in Dunedin, with a huge focus on customer experience, customer support with empathy, high-level data security and great communication.

The PocketSmith Team

Most of the PocketSmith team spend time working remotely from their homes. “New Zealand has invested heavily in fibre and rural broadband, we are ahead of many other countries,” commented Jason when talking about the opportunities that fast internet has enabled for remote working, versus a decade ago.

The most important key to working remotely is how we communicate, particularly with respect to and consideration of each other’s work practices, observed Jason.  

This highlighted the term ‘asynchronous communication’ and the importance of minimal disruption to chunks of time set aside for deep, focused work like coding, writing, designing, strategising, and problem-solving. Jason highlighted the fact that “each time we need to ‘context switch' (between tasks and interruptions), it costs 15 minutes each side of your deep focused time”. This is a huge challenge when you are working around distractions such as young families, or have continuous notifications from things such as Slack or emails.

Jason also suggested approaching your online meetings and conversations with a fully formed idea and clear outcome expectation. This minimises the to-and-fro of unnecessary information and could be a huge time saver.   

Another great distraction-reducing tip was having separate channels for each chat topic, for example, “Food”, “Project #201” or a “Water Cooler” general catchup channel. This helps you filter out the ‘noise’ of many distracting conversations. These conversations are important for team morale of course, and are not discouraged at PocketSmith. 

Jason Leong, CEO and Co-Founder Pocketsmith

“Very few tech entrepreneurs are purely from the tech sector,” Jason discovered when he co-founded the start-up incubator space The Distiller (Dunedin and Auckland), a safe, supportive environment for start-ups to thrive within.

Jason described how the value of the diversity within the PocketSmith team, which includes artists, musicians, writers, photographers and game designers, helps to ensure the best possible product development. 

PocketSmith also recognizes the need for a focus on their team’s best work output instead of the expectation of a 40-hour week. They offer time off through the week for their team to concentrate upon their health and well being, family and personal interests, which are of even more importance since Covid-19.  

A huge thanks to Jason for sharing his valuable time and industry knowledge. 

Jason Leong, CEO and Co-Founder Pocketsmith presents to SHIFT 2019 cohort in Dunedin.

If you would like to share your tech experiences with our students, please email info@signal.ac.nz or call 0800 990 024.

View our SIGNAL Industry Insights page to see our current line-up of industry leaders, sharing their experience with our SHIFT Cohorts.

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