Remote-first hiring works around racist xenophobes

Yesterday I interviewed candidates in Nigeria, Brazil and Canada for a role in a new engineering team I’m putting together from California. The first two hires are in China and Brazil.

This is a remote-only company. The closest we’re likely to have to an office is meetups at a coworking space for the five of us in the bay area.

Our people are people. I’m not outsourcing to faceless sweatshops of underpaid and exploited workers. The contributors are talent wherever they are, in place. They don’t need to move to Silicon Valley.

Time zone proximity is the new localism.

These are the overlaps where my small team can meet:

4 PM California
8 AM China
7 PM Brazil

7 AM California
10 PM China
11 AM Brazil

I’m writing this at 7 AM, up for a meeting with people in India, California and China.

The difficulty of meeting makes it harder for us to get shit done when we really need to be together at the same time, rather than leaving notes to one another.

I tried to put this team together in only the Americas, aiming for locations which share some part of the work day, but the talent didn’t cooperate. The fancy New York designer flamed out. The whip-smart Chinese designer had her act together.

And of course our Indian contributor has a special angle which is far more valuable than a convenient time zone. His talent matters more.

So we meet 1:1, we leave notes via DM, we connect at the beginnings and ends of our work days. We write long messages to read asynchronously rather than having short conversations in real time. We’re working out new methods. We can do this. Nothing but sweat is stopping us from solving the time zone problem.

The H1B approach makes no sense. Forget getting people to move to the US. Fear of foreigners makes the US a nightmare to do business in.

Mnuchin and the Don are selling to inlanders who think being American makes them better than everybody else, but racist xenophobes can’t touch this. Remote-first teams massively expand the pool of technical talent for companies that can work effectively without being together in the same place or time.

The candidate in Lagos who I talked to yesterday is smart, passionate and a decent communicator, but a little too junior. But the Brazilian who moved to Halifax for a job has 15 years of experience and can work for me without moving again.

Follow the talent. The rest is just project management.

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