To state the obvious, there’s no perfect engineer, thus, there’s no perfect engineering team.
With Software Developers you can usually expect to have manageable teams of six to ten engineers. With a team this size, you would usually have a couple of Rockstars, a couple of lone wolves and four or five do-it-alls. This is not bad, this is actually good news, the interesting part is solving the puzzle, each engineer should play a part, and not only the assigned task, as a manager you need to identify who is the unassigned leader, who is a follower and who is the one in desperate need of motivation.
Identifying the roles, both formal and informal, is a key managerial trait that will lead your team to success. There’s a bunch of literature on this subject, you should apply a method or two of team integration, team-solving tasks and get to know your team, its strengths, and weaknesses. Not everybody is an open communicator, especially within software engineers, but many will shine when presented with the right goal; keep in mind the proper approach to that goal should always be crystal clear.
The Mexican side of it.
Every culture around the world has its pros and cons. We Mexicans tend to be more warm, more communicative and most of us tend to rise to the challenge. Given the proper motivation, the best Mexican engineers will shine away. Do give your Mexican side of the team ownership and responsibilities, if they are the proper man for the job, they will like it; if not, there’s a good approach to pair them to tasks and watch them work together, from there, collaboration will be an easier way to succeed and you’ll find which engineer should handle each task.
Building the Team
You know your business best. It’ll be clear to know which of your staff has more seniority, who should handle the front and who should be on the back end, who can handle DevOps and whether you should integrate QA on each person or handle it separately. That being said, There’s always a creative way to handle collaboration, and that is mixing up tasks, letting the engineers participate in each other’s tasks and nurture themselves.
When setting up the team, be mindful of the feedback as whether each position should be final or they’re prone to change on different iterations or if one of them, for example, become full-stack and handle tasks on both ends, probably on an architectural level; engineers with more seniority are comfortable enough to give input at this level and it’s a great way to let them grow. Always let themselves rise the bat if they’re willing.
It’s all about the right workflow, productivity is the ultimate goal, but personal relations and collaboration between different cultures is both challenging and if taken into account properly can lead to the smoothest path to the goal.
There’s a lot of hard work being done remotely. Learning to see this through a videoconference or chat window is more than difficult. It’s an acquired trait, and as such, it should be practiced to achieve it. When setting up goals and objectives be aware that being specific always pays off, either when working locally or remotely. But the effort that it takes to reach those goals can easily be overlooked if the engineer is working miles away.
As a manager, be aware that micromanaging a team becomes especially harmful if done across countries and cultures. Not everybody understands the same point of view, and trying to fit a different cultured mind on a micromanaged project will both prevent growth and collaboration.
Time is always a difficult asset to spare, but making time to small chat with your team, before or after a meeting, or preferably, on a different scheduled conference keeps the team together. Mexican culture is rich with relations and small talk will be perceived as a bond that will result in better productivity and collaboration. It will help to get to know personal challenges, limitations, and skills; information that can be very well employed in positioning an engineer in a more productive task or team.
Take the Bull by the Horns
Bullfighting is more of a Spanish tradition than a Mexican one but you should bravely and decisively face the odds and trust your team.
If you have listened closely to your team feedback, it’s easy to spot fires before they break out. Interactions and cultural differences will always be present, but they can work for you as opposed to leaving you with a sense of frustration. Multicultural teams are rich in creative ways to solve problems and achieve goals. Employing the mentioned best practices on a steady basis will help you manage your team more effectively over time.
Ask for help, there are both capable professionals and smart honest companies eager to help.
If you’ve never done this before, there’s no harm in asking for help. In your LinkedIn professional network is easy to find a connection or two that have done this in the past. Among companies, there are those willing companies to help you draft a team (even before hiring) to take advantage of all the cultural differences across borders. If you’re clear about your needs, it’s easier to find the proper fit. Don’t be afraid to ask before you spend a dime. There are great engineers out there that can work effectively with you and your current team.
Be brave, communicate often and let your team help you reach your goals more effectively than you would have thought possible.
Alejandro Fuentes is COO in a nearshore solutions company and has been managing Mexican and multicultural teams for more than 20 years.