Last week, LatAm Connex welcomed 10up into our family with their first placement from Chile. Our CEO Jacki Torres sat down with 10up CEO Jake Goldman and they realized that we share a vision in common. 10up is among a leading group of companies that is built around the remote model. In this conversation, Jake talked about his criteria for hiring, general advice on how to stand out as a candidate, the story of 10up, his outlook, and his vision.
It’s about passion, not cost
If we can sum up what we and Jake believe makes an impactful individual, it would be this: “quality work usually only comes from a place of passion and caring.” This shapes the way companies like ours assess applicants, focusing around three main traits. The traits we think make an applicant attractive are technical skills, good communication, and collaborative skills.
“Work, examples, and test projects speak for themselves. When vetting candidates in conversations and questions there is a lot you can tell the from quality of what they’ve produced. Candidates must also be efficient and clear communicators, and explain well what they are doing.” — Jake Goldman
Where traditional companies are often limited to US citizens that live within a certain radius of the headquarters, distributed companies find that these geographical and working status realities don’t give a candidate an edge over another. Instead, the three traits are truly the heart of the hiring criteria. 10up often hires individuals from countries that have a considerably lower cost of living than the United States but even so, the labor costs are largely irrelevant. They are even paying remote employees working from India — a country with one of the lowest costs of living in the world — between 60-120k USD per year. We are in agreement here:
LatAm Connex recognizes too that hiring remotely is about more than simply cutting costs, and that is why the screening process is crucial to bringing in great people who can integrate well and enhance teams. No matter where they live, they have to be world-class talent.
Origins of 10up
We love learning about companies that have made distributed models work for them successfully, so we naturally brought the subject of 10up’s origins up with Jake.
“Short version; I used to work in a brick and mortar shop in Providence, RI. After a few years, by the time we got to a dozen and a half people, it was really clear to me that it was straining to scale beyond that; not being in a major city and trying to grow a very niche highly-skilled talent.”
At the same time, Jake notes, “there were a lot of remote work role models in the space I was working in — for instance 37Signals (now Basecamp), who were writing a lot about the remote model. I was focusing on WordPress, an open source project that is fully distributed and there was also Automattic, a well known and respected company with a distributed model.” One a more personal note, Jake commented that it was also a time of greater inflection and change in his life: “I didn’t know where I wanted to live in a year, I knew that I didn’t want to tie myself down to where I was living. I was also in a position where I hadn’t moved yet and I wanted to be respectful of some limited non-compete elements with my former employer. It was a confluence of right time and right tools, really believing that [distributed work] had good role models and good precedent, uncertainties about where I wanted to be in my life and they all inspired me to be in that model.”
There is a lot about Jake’s passions and vision that we identify with in LatAm Connex. His biggest passion is creating great experiences, especially by making things in the field of mass communication that make others happy and touches the lives of many. This shapes the way 10up sees projects; treating them more like a service to others. We also agree that doing a job well and satisfying others is a win-win proposition. We recognize that if we can help companies by improving and facilitating their candidate searching process, then our job is well done.
Passion for what you do and standing out as an applicant
A large part of what we do at LatAm Connex centers around helping candidates that excel in Latin America to mould their style to US business practices. From 10Up’s point of view, the ball is in the applicant’s court. It is up to them to give an amazing impression during the application and interview stages. And a large part of that is being clear about why you are the right candidate for their remote job.
“When an applicant says they’re applying ‘because you’re a remote company,’ it’s like saying to a guy ‘I’m going out with you because you live in my city’ — I hope there’s a better reason.” — Jake Goldman
LatAm Connex regularly tells people that remote work is not for everybody, and plenty of our successful placements have shared with us that sentiment too. In the case of 10up, an attractive applicant makes it clear that he loves the company’s portfolio, is passionate about web design & development, and says “Lucky for me, I can also work for you without having to move!” instead of “I live in the middle of nowhere and there’s no good jobs here so I’d like to work for you.” In our conversation we also agreed with Jake that candidates should think about the skills they choose to develop when not thinking about money, versus what they do just because it’s a way to make money. This and related subjects are covered in our previous post about his interview with Find Your Calling.
Interview mistakes, advice for professionals interested in remote models
There are a few things Jake suggests you can avoid or work on to give a good impression. One thing we both strongly agree on is a candidate’s communication skills and responsiveness.
“For a company like ours, make sure you don’t have friction in communication and cultural understanding — a communication barrier in the initial interview would be like shooting yourself in the foot. Ability to speak English, intercultural communication; it’s about more than just your accent.” — Jake Goldman
Other simple things we agreed go a long way include spelling the name of the technology you use correctly in your CV or avoiding saying that you are masterful & passionate about 15 platforms and technologies when in reality it is a couple. Another big one we work on with applicants is being able to articulate cogently what motivated you to jump from one job to another if you switched jobs rapidly in succession. Finally, just avoid including skillsets and technologies that go without saying, such as Microsoft Office products, under the list of technologies you handle, because those are a given. “Small details will give a good impression.”
What does Jake think about Latin American IT professionals?
“It’s about candidates’ ability to effectively serve premium customers they work with. In LatAm there’s a huge benefit due to the time zone factor — [this is] one of the largest reasons that Canada is also a huge [source of talent] for us. No time zone issues.” — Jake Goldman
His general assessment is that the region has people with good English and communication skills. Their latest team member was just hired from Chile, and Brazil, for instance, according to him has really good candidates. Beyond that, he shared with us that overwhelmingly, the worst of his experiences have actually been with US-based candidates, not with international ones. If Latin American candidates are able to mould their communication style to US best practices and are experts in their field, 10up is excited to talk to them and welcome them into their family, just like Jeff Poulette, the newest Chilean-based project manager they have just hired in May, 2016, through LatAm Connex.
One thing that pleases us is how more and more companies based in the US are beginning to see the advantages teams based in Latin America bring to the table.