The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Ryan's Links:


X-Team Blog Posts by Ryan

Ryan Chartrand on LinkedIn


Tyler Sellhorn (00:02):
Hello, everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.
Tyler Sellhorn (00:22):
Today, we are blessed to be learning out loud with Ryan Chartrand. Ryan is the CEO of X-Team providing high-performing on-demand teams of developers to the world's leading brands, including Fox Broadcasting, Riot Games, Beachbody, Coinbase, Sony, and others. X-Team has been a pioneer in the remote workspace for the last 15 years. Their community of software developers works from over 70 countries and has been an advocate for location-independent work since their inception in 2006.
Tyler Sellhorn (00:49):
Welcome Ryan, please, tell us what problems are you trying to solve with X-Team?
Ryan Chartrand (00:54):
Hey, Tyler. Awesome to be here, especially on the We Work Remotely podcast. I mean, we have been working since the earliest of days with We Work Remotely. It's great to finally connect like this.
Ryan Chartrand (01:05):
Yeah, to answer your question, what problems are we solving? I think it's really threefold. As you mentioned, we're providing high-performing teams to various forms of brands out there, and so we're making it a lot easier to hire developers, especially during a time like now, when tech is booming and companies are desperately looking for more tech talent. Like you mentioned, we're in 70 countries around the world, so we're able to tap into the biggest market of developers out there, we have incredibly talented ones as well. We're helping companies with that challenge.
Ryan Chartrand (01:37):
Then on the opposite side, we're helping the developers go through that hiring process and being able to get to work with a lot of cool companies without having to go through a lot of the struggles that they might have to otherwise. Then also, just making everything a lot easier on their end. Then the third part that ties into that as well is helping them move into this new remote work world, and especially if they're new, even if they're not new. We're helping create this community and this lifestyle around remote work, we've been doing it the last 15 years, to help you live energized. What we found is that the hardest part about remote work, isn't finding the right tools, it isn't finding the right processes necessarily, all that stuff can be figured out pretty easily. The hardest part is figuring out how to not go crazy being stuck with four walls around you and being all alone and living that life constantly over and over again.
Ryan Chartrand (02:33):
That's what we focus on a lot, is that experience that we can bring remote workers with our community, with our perks, with all the different experiences that we offer in trying to make remote work not only the best way to work in terms of productivity, but also the most energizing way to work as well.
Tyler Sellhorn (02:53):
That's really cool. I love that you guys are solving both sides of that equation. You're making remote work exciting and enjoyable for the individual contributor, and then you're also solving the problem for the businesses that you're winning contracts with and getting people together to work on the things that are getting built by these large, we mentioned a few of them off the top. But I want to go deep on the part where you're describing the experience of working remotely, at X-Team especially because that's where you have your knowledge, but when you say working in an energized way, tell me more about that phrase because that's a new phrase for me, I've not heard someone say it quite that way. Tell me more about working in an energized way at X-Team.
Ryan Chartrand (03:38):
Yeah, and maybe we can even talk about what your feeling of work is as a remote worker as well because I'm curious, I love talking and hearing other people's experiences out there today, especially now that since 2020, we're seeing all these new startups, new tools, new things coming out that are actually making things a bit more energizing than they were before. Again, it took us 15 years to figure out how to make it like that.
Ryan Chartrand (04:01):
Getting back to your point though, what does it mean to live and work energized? For me, it means am I waking up each day excited to open my laptop or dreading it? I think there's two things that play into that. Number one is obviously the culture. No one wants to go to an office with toxic people, no one wants to open up a laptop with toxic people. That's the first and foremost thing to solve, and that's a bare minimum of any business. Let's assume you're treating people well. Then it becomes what are you doing to make it exciting to want to open that laptop? That's where we have crafted this experience for people that's always there when they need it, we'll get into that as well I think. It's not something that is being shoved down your throat. It's an experience that's there when you need it to keep you energized.
Ryan Chartrand (04:53):
We talk about all the different kinds of events that we do, but there's always something happening in our community that is there for you to be excited to wake up to and tap into the things that you love the most. We always talk about how can we help you do more of what you love, because that is what ultimately energizes us. You think about what are the things that would keep you up until three in the morning because you're just so passionately in love with doing that thing, those are the kinds of things we try to tap into, those things that really, really matter to you, and bring that to you.
Ryan Chartrand (05:27):
Then we also support people to do more of that. We have this thing called Unleash+, it's probably our most important perk of all, which is this $2,500 a year allowance to spend on anything that energizes you, whether that's a video game, a gym membership, maybe that's a weekend getaway, whatever it is that you might need right now to get your energy back to where you want it to be. Maybe you are tired of the four walls around you and you need some human interaction, well, you can go to a meetup, okay? Maybe there isn't a meetup in your town for the things you love, you can start your own meetup. That money's there for you to spend on that and invest in the people around you. It's literally this budget that's there, with so many creative ways that we encourage people to use it, to get that energy back, to live in a way that you feel fulfilled every single day. That is what we've been studying and working on these last 15 years to figure out, how can we make this lifestyle even better than going to an office?
Tyler Sellhorn (06:27):
Okay. Here's the thing that I want to do with you here right now, Ryan, is that I know about X-Team and the really cool remote culture that you guys have built. Let's rewind it back. I've got a couple of notes that I've just taken from what you just said and I want to be able to go deeper with those ideas, but take us back to the beginning of when you were trying to build an agency, obviously X-Team is an agency, but you're trying to build an agency that people are going to be excited to show up to work for. Give us the bullet points. Tell us the stuff that's awesome about working at X-Team that's away from the work. You were calling it out, there's some toxic office cultures and Sunday scaries that people are trying to dodge by joining X-Team, but what are the things that are saying, "Okay, well, we've got this laundry list that is going to show up for you when you say yes to joining X-Team."
Ryan Chartrand (07:20):
Yeah. It's shocking to me what I hear from developers who join us about where they're coming from, what kind of experience they're coming from. But yeah, we will get into that. Yeah, what is it that makes ... You mentioned the word agency. I think that was the first step for us, was how do we make it clear that we aren't an agency, we are this sort of, again, lifestyle experience. We are trying to offer complete freedom, flexibility, and energy. Those are not things usually associated with an agency, and so we really sort of transformed the whole category of what kind of company you are. It's made it hard to explain what the heck we are, but at the end of the day, we build teams and we hire amazing people and we give them the best possible life that we can.
Ryan Chartrand (08:08):
To your question of what does that actually break down into in terms of cool things, we already talked about the Unleash+ as a great example of things people take great advantage of, the other interesting things that we came up with over those years were things like the X-Outpost. The X-Outpost is essentially like a co-living, co-working experience that we would spin up basically every month in a different location. Anyone from X-Team can go to it and live there, go work there alongside other X-Teamers, and also explore that area and we would support it. It would be paid for, we would also sponsor little expeditions that they would go on into the jungles of Brazil or whatever it might be. That was a great way of bringing people together in a unique way that had never been done before. Back pre-pandemic, we did all sorts of interesting live events in person as well, because for a certain crowd of people, that's what they're looking for.
Ryan Chartrand (09:03):
If we pull back again, you have to think about your people, what is it that they want? I think the challenge that most companies run into is they try to come up with one experience. We're going to just do this, we're just going to do the happy hour, whatever it might be that they come up with. What we've tried to do is look at what are all of the passions of the people in this company and how can we serve each one of those? That's why there's always something going on, because we're always trying to tap into each one of those passions.
Ryan Chartrand (09:35):
I'll give you an example. For people who are into science, we did this event called STARCON, I think a couple months ago. It was this amazing event for people who were into science and sci-fi and space. We brought in a top astronomer that they could exclusively ask questions to, we brought in this amazing piano player for this trivia event and we were guessing sci-fi songs together and just celebrating all things related to science. We were doing challenges, like if you were into biking, you could bike Jezero Crater, do that amount of distance and you would earn things.
Ryan Chartrand (10:14):
We try to just bring together everyone's passions and say, "We want to celebrate those passions together. We want to make you excited again to open up your laptop each day to see what's going on and to tap into those things that you love to do." That's what makes X-Team so unique. You and I could talk about all these things that X-Team offers all day, because there is just so many different things because we're trying to offer so many different experiences, but as you can see, we're definitely as far away from the agency experience as you can imagine. It's really trying to create this completely unique thing that no one has really ever experienced. We always say, "Come here to witness the unexpected." That is our goal every day when we wake up, is what can we bring you that is unexpected? That's been our culture for a long time.
Tyler Sellhorn (11:01):
One of the things that I want to turn back to, first of all, apologies for using the naughty word of agency, I want to turn that on its head just a little bit, because earlier you said, "We want to provide these energizing experiences for when they need it." What it sounds like to me is that you're not operating as an agency, but instead, you're giving individuals the agency to choose what they need from X-Team. Tell us some more about what you mean when you say, "When they need it."
Ryan Chartrand (11:29):
Yeah, absolutely. I think the most important thing, and I kind of touched on this earlier, of when they need it referring to it needs to be something that it's not forced into them, they cannot feel pressure. I think that's something companies need to watch out for right now, is a lot of teams are forcing people into experiences. Don't forget why they're loving remote work so much. It's the flexibility, it's the freedom, it's the ability to define their day and not have you define it for them. These are the things that were really the foundations of remote work 15 years ago that we really tried to pioneer, and a lot of other companies. I think we have to remember when they need it as the most important part.
Ryan Chartrand (12:12):
It's also not necessarily that your company should be the ones responsible for providing it. That's something that I also try to tell people is, look, X-Team is doing, yes, some amazing things and we've built this fantastic community, but it does mean you need to as well. I think that's an important thing to get across because let's not forget that there are many communities around the world, whether these are online gaming communities, whether these are fitness communities, whether they are, I don't know, whatever you're into, there's something out there for everybody. I think the future is really going to be all about these communities and making sure that people are choosing who they want to surround themselves with the most.
Ryan Chartrand (12:55):
Before this pandemic, people spent all of their time with their coworkers and that was it. There was no time to do the things you loved, there was no time to spend time with the people that you are most fulfilled by. When we talk about when they need it, it's about providing something that is there for them when they need that specific experience. We've created this because we want people to be really attracted to X-Team specifically, but if that's not your goal and you're just trying to retain talent then how can you help them connect with the communities that matter most to them? That community might just be their family, so how can you give them more time with their family? How can you help them do weekend getaways with their family? How can you, again, help surround them with the people that matter most to them? This is really what the future of work's all about, is getting people the lifestyle that they want.
Ryan Chartrand (13:49):
I think when you think about the X-Team community, it's really trying to handhold people toward that future of saying, look, there's this whole world out there of things that you love and you should be spending time with those things and those people and those places. We're going to help support you to do that, but ultimately this is how you should be living your life in the future because this is the most fulfilling way that we've found to live and work.
Tyler Sellhorn (14:16):
Co-sign on that, I am all about the idea of giving individuals agency instead of trying to act as an agency over and above the people that we work with. One of the things that I'm hearing you say back to me again is that nobody's forced to do this stuff, there's flexibility and freedom available. That's what we're talking about when we say individuals having agency. You guys put on STARCON, right?
Ryan Chartrand (14:38):
Tyler Sellhorn (14:38):
Maybe you're not into astronomy or sci-fi trivia or any of that, nobody's telling you you've got to be at this happy hour, right?
Ryan Chartrand (14:46):
Tyler Sellhorn (14:46):
But STARCON's here if that's your thing, come on over, right?
Ryan Chartrand (14:50):
You know, the coolest thing about our community, people actually pay for the experiences. Now, it's not with real money, we have a digital currency that they can earn through the community, but that's what we mean about we're not forcing this on you. If you want to be there, you can actually pay to be a part of that. We're really trying to drive home that point of this is not forced, this is here for you if you want it and you can be a part of it. That's that.
Tyler Sellhorn (15:16):
Really cool. Okay, so one of the things that I've been asking, especially the 2019 and before remoters, is to zoom out a bit, even past X-Team and past remote work generally, and just give us a compare and contrast of these different points in time. There's 2019 and the version of remote work that was then, and then there's this time right now, as we're still dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic, and then also post-pandemic, 2022 and beyond. Tell us, what are you seeing as trends and ideas that are flowing throughout, or tell us about things that are obviously different in those time periods.
Ryan Chartrand (15:59):
Yeah. Oh man, I love thinking of the war stories of before Slack even, when we would be on Skype, believe it or not, working as a fully remote company. Yeah, we we've come a long way. I think if you even go back further, even before we existed, I think that's where you start to find the secrets of where the future is heading. If you look at when the first online job boards started to emerge, I think it was late '90s, and that was a revolution because before that it was really hard to sort of get a new job easily, right?
Tyler Sellhorn (16:35):
Shout out Craigslist.
Ryan Chartrand (16:38):
It could have been, maybe it was Monster or CareerBuilder, one of those, I know it was one of those two. But yeah, before them, it was so hard to switch jobs. It was hard to send out resumes, you had to mail them, all that kind of stuff. Once these job boards came out, it was so quick and easy to get a new job that companies suddenly were like, "Oh my gosh, how do we retain all these people? Everyone's leaving." Sound familiar? Literally what we're going through right now, where we're in that next evolution of freedom in the way people work and who they choose to work for. Here, what happens? Pandemic, remote work gets adopted and now we have this great, what are they calling it, the great exit or whatever of 2021.
Tyler Sellhorn (17:18):
The great resignation.
Ryan Chartrand (17:19):
The great resignation.
Tyler Sellhorn (17:20):
Uh oh, here it comes.
Ryan Chartrand (17:23):
It's happening all over again, because why? It's even easier to get a job and change jobs. Imagine, let's step forward another 15, 20 years, what the next freedom revolution is going to be, if it's going to be even easier to either change jobs or change your careers or change something about your life and just live more free in some way. Maybe we'll be working less hours, maybe we'll be you working in some way that just allows us to, again, go toward what I've been talking about of doing more of what you love, spending more time with the people that you want to be surrounded by and doing it in the places that you want to be and that energize you the most. That's where we're headed, more and more freedom toward that as the default. When we look at what's coming, that's the thing to be prepared for, is who's going to be offering that in the most energizing way, and that's why we've been focused on this mission so deeply.
Tyler Sellhorn (18:19):
Okay. Let's flip this around. We've talked a lot about the ways that companies can be attractive to individuals to join their effort. Let's flip this around. When you say, "Okay, here's this developer, they're interested in joining X-Team," what are the things that you notice about them that says, "Oo, yes please. We'd like some more of that in our squad."
Ryan Chartrand (18:41):
Yeah. Well, I mean, it's interesting with developers because I think if you asked a developer to vet, they're going to be looking primarily for the technical reasons, how good are the coding conventions, how good is their syntax, how good is a this or that. That's good, that's nice to have obviously, but to us that's the bare minimum. If you don't have the technical chops of a senior developer, then that's that. We're looking for what's that next level up, not only that next level up where you have the soft skills, but another level on top of that, which is you have the remote soft skills. When we talk about remote soft skills, we're talking about not only just actually showing up, which is a surprisingly hard thing to find, but we're talking about people that know how to communicate in a way that is very proactive.
Ryan Chartrand (19:33):
An example I like to give is when you're writing a sentence to someone on Slack, never write it in real time. Always write it with an asynchronous mindset, thinking, "I may never get a response from this person for two days." Maybe you will get one faster, but assume you won't get a response for two days and so write your message that way. Write the followup questions that you already know might come up, get the answers that you already know you're going to need. Someone was asking me, "Can we up the budget on this thing?" and I responded in an asynchronous mindset saying, "Yes, we likely can. I'll need to know the reasons why. If this is the reason, then yes. If this is the reason, then maybe not, I'll have to check." Don't delay that conversation an extra three days. This is what I talk about of that extra level of soft skills, of knowing how to communicate asynchronously. There's so many nuances to that. Those are those extra skillsets we're looking for.
Ryan Chartrand (20:32):
I also mentioned the word proactive. That is the one thing that separates an X-Teamer from every other brand developer out there that you can think of, is that we are really trying to hone in on that. That's what our tagline is all about, keep moving forward, people who are always trying to be moving forward, and that is again what asynchronous is all about. It's people who are trying to, despite the fact that you're not working in real time, they're finding ways to keep things moving forward. That's what we're vetting for the most, is trying to find those people who adopt that mindset, who adopt that lifestyle. You can find it in their personal lives. Again, we're looking for people who are pushing every aspect of their life forward, and those are the people who become X-Teamers and those are the people who make great developers as well.
Tyler Sellhorn (21:18):
Really cool. Thanks for going deep on that. I do think there are levels to this and I think it is really important that individuals do take charge of what they're doing. It wasn't so long ago that I had none of the stuff to be able to have a podcast, but I was ready to do that and pitch We Work Remotely about it. By the time it was time for me to do it, I had the skills and the expertise to be able to do it. Yeah, very exciting to hear our experiences rhyming, in terms of saying, "Okay, hey, proactivity, keep moving forward," to hear you saying asynchronous communication practices and those are the things that we're seeing successful people do in the remote space.
Tyler Sellhorn (22:03):
What kinds of emails are you sending to people? What kinds of Slack messages are you sending? Are you able to use voice messaging, or how strong are your pull request comments? These are all things that we're really interested in going deep on because communication is not as high bandwidth in a remote working space, you've got to insert that for yourself. We're not working shoulder to shoulder in a open floor plan office, thank goodness. But on the flip side, there is some of that communication bandwidth that has to be replaced somehow. We have to show up for one another in these remote workspaces.
Tyler Sellhorn (22:42):
Okay, so I want to transition here to a different idea. I really want to be interested to learn about X-Team's strategy inside of the recruiting phase. We've just talked about it. You've identified someone that you would like to be an X-Teamer, what is it that really closes the deal when you are trying to attract that person? Because they can see, there are X-Teamers out there talking about their experience, they can identify what's happening there, but what is it about a recruiting process or even they've said yes to X-Team and now we're onboarding, what is that moment from, okay, we decided that this is a person that we like and then here is a person who has been successfully onboarded to X-Team? What happens in that space there that X-Team does better? Because X-Team is going to show up and do some things that communicate clearly, yes, this is the spot for you, and here's how you have that 30, 60, 90-day success as you join the squad. What's in that space for you all?
Ryan Chartrand (23:47):
Yeah, so X-Team has a pretty unique experience. Well, to no surprise after all we've been talking about obviously, but we actually have sort of a gamified experience within X-Team. We have this thing called bounties, and bounties are these unique challenges that you can do. We kind of talked on one before when we were talking about STARCON and biking Jezero Crater's distance. That was something that would reward you with this currency that allows you to buy these awesome X-Team collectibles, which are amazing to have, I'm wearing one right now.
Ryan Chartrand (24:20):
But yeah, the cool thing about bounties is that it's this whole gamified reward system that also allows us to put that into our onboarding. Day one, when you're starting and we've got contracts all done, now you've got your account set up, the first thing you do when you come into our Slack, aside from getting the grand welcoming from the community, is you have this assortment of bounties to choose from things that can start getting you feeling part of X-Team. Those things might be ways of introducing yourself, they might be updating your LinkedIn. Some of it's a bit administrative, yes, but other things get more interesting, finding the passion topics that you're most interested in. For example, a fitness person is going to notice the fitness bounties. What is that going to do? Well, if they start doing some of those challenges, like let's say hiking to the highest peak in their town, that's going to help them now feel part of this little community of fitness people and those people that then welcome all of them in and now they start feeling connected to that.
Ryan Chartrand (25:31):
Then we go one step further, they can actually join houses. Houses are just like in Harry Potter. The houses of X-Team are these, again, smaller communities within the bigger one that make you feel part of something special and unique to your values. For example, we have the house I'm part for example, it's called House Ragnar and we are all about Vikings and we're beer enthusiasts and all of these things. We hang out, we have our happy hours, we have our events related to Viking things. You get the point, it's another micro-community within that. Within the first month you have all of these new friends and people who are connected to the passions that you care about and you have actually things to do together. Or, of course, you don't have to do any of it, but the point is, we're connecting you with this entire energy source from the day you start.
Ryan Chartrand (26:26):
Now on top of that, then we're getting into how are we positioning you for success on the work side of things. That's where we're helping you with something called X-Academy, which is ways to learn about these remote working practices that we've been talking about, getting you up to speed on those and all the things that we've learned over the last 15 years. Really, it's all about bringing them into something. Again, those are connected to bounties and challenges and you're getting rewarded for engaging in that. We have live streams going on all the time. The point is, when they come in the door, there should be this open world adventure available to them that they can start exploring, meeting people, learning things, getting engaged in the ways that they want to, getting energized in the ways they want to, using that Unleash budget to start getting their workspace set up, using whatever they might need to get going.
Ryan Chartrand (27:20):
The cool thing about focusing on a community rather than an agency is that communities really bond together and they're always there to support each other. That's the cool thing that we have going on, to where there's always someone there to help you and keep you moving forward,
Tyler Sellhorn (27:34):
Well, Ryan, that sounds like an awesome place to conclude. I just want to thank you so much for learning out loud with us today. Any parting comments for the audience?
Ryan Chartrand (27:42):
Yeah, I think this is absolutely an amazing time obviously for remote work, but the future of work is happening right now. Like I said, it's been a good 15, 20 years since the last big moment in this movement around freedom has happened. I'm excited to be doing it with you all. I'm excited to keep seeing all these great new startups to keep coming out there and building these new tools that we never had before. I encourage everyone to keep helping push this movement forward and grateful to have We Work Remotely as a partner that's helping us do it as well.
Tyler Sellhorn (28:15):
Well, you're welcome, and thank you as well. Blessings.
Ryan Chartrand (28:18):
Take care.
Tyler Sellhorn (28:20):
Thanks so much again for listening to the show, and be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. If you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at [email protected], that's [email protected]. Thanks so much for listening, and we'll talk to you next time. 

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