JournalSep 2013

Levelling up in St Petersburg

Being a part of a distributed team is a very different experience. Despite the many fantastic benefits, one of the biggest downsides of being scattered around the globe is not being able to connect in person with the people you work with on the same level you’d usually do in an office environment. Imagine this: in my two years with Hanno, I’ve never actually met any of my teammates in-person. Not until a month ago, anyway.

Jon in Russia in front of a street scene at night
Jon in St Petersburg

When the rest of the team returned from 2 months of co-working in Valencia, I decided it was time to bust the myths of bears roaming the streets of Russia, and set sail for Saint Petersburg so Jon and I could meet up for the first time. The plan was quite simple: to spend some quality time in the cultural capital and to get to know each other better while doing it. It was by no means a tourist mission, but rather, a rare opportunity for both of us to better understand each other and find ways to improve the way we worked even more.

It’s happening.

Here I am at the airport looking at the timetable, anxiously trying to spot the London flight info and hoping it wasn’t delayed. I was pretty excited, to say the least. A bit nervous too–it’s not everyday that I meet a foreign friend. It almost felt like a first date. Constantly stressing over the language barrier and feeling embarrassed by my accent-that’s how I was expecting myself being for the next few weeks. In reality it only lasted a few hours. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start of the trip.

We spent the 3 weeks working at Zonaspace, the largest co-working space in Saint Petersburg, located in a huge ‘art cluster’ of exhibition spaces, design shops, small restaurants, and many other establishments that all the creative types of the city frequent. It even had a rooftop space for an ultimately relaxed working experience on warm summer days and white nights. But I digress, that alone deserves its own blog post or two.

Working together, in person, proved to be a great experience for both of us. Naturally, it only proved once again that no matter how great IM and Google Hangouts can be, you can’t completely cut out the need for meeting up face-to-face once in a while to get to know each other better. Things were running smoothly from the get go. We were successfully meeting deadlines and delivering top-notch work for our clients, while still taking enough time off to get to know each other better outside of the studio.

I felt like I’ve never felt before. Being so focused and productive, actually achieving better results than ever before, was truly satisfying. To me personally this trip was a real eye-opener. I was able to look at what I do and how I do things from a different perspective. Having a team member sitting right next to me, helped me understand how important it is to communicate everything and avoid holding back, and how more frequent communications help the whole team to do a better job. That’s something you might not fully realise when you’re working remotely and on a totally flexible schedule. Especially when you’ve skipped the whole ‘working in an office’ phase and moved straight from being a lone wolf, to fitting into a tight knit remote team.

This kind of trip is just one of the benefits of working in a small team rather than being a freelancer working on solo projects. When working in a team like ours and travelling like this, you have all the upsides of freelancing, and also have a great team to back you up and help you through the toughest parts, not to mention the isolation of working on your own all the time.

Jon and I learned a lot about each other and this knowledge definitely helps to better understand how and why we do things in a certain way at both of our ends. As a team, we’ve always been striving to improve every little thing we do internally. And these recent experiences from traveling and co-working together make it so much easier for everyone on the team to organise our internal working process better. It has been less than a month since we got back, and we’re already reaping the fruits of our labor. I’ve started changing my lifestyle and working schedule as a consequence of the trip, which has really helped me achieve more. I feel energised to work even harder and am more passionate and excited than ever for what the future holds for Hanno. Ahoy mateys! All aboard the Hanno ship.

In Soviet Russia sights see you.

I must say Saint Petersburg has been good to us. The beautiful architecture, and inspiring creative scene means it has passed the Hanno test with flying colours, and deserves to be marked on our travel map as a place we can call one of our homes away from home.

Not only have we found another place, after Workether in Valencia, that we can meet together as a team to work from, but we’ve also discovered another amazing city that we fell in love with. Thank you, Saint Petersburg. We’ll surely be back.

Posted by
Sergei Tatarinov

With the team since 2011, Sergei is a creative technologist who bridges design and engineering at Hanno.