It’s 12,802 kilometres, give or take, between my desk at Charitable Impact’s Vancouver office and our satellite office in Bengaluru, India.
As a fast-growing enterprise, our goal is to make that distance disappear as much as possible.
We first turned to Indian developers in 2017 to help design and deliver technology and other services in the charitable space. Fast-forward two years, and our Bengaluru team now consists of close to 40 talented individuals involved in everything from software engineering to data science.
Our reliance on overseas talent has grown and evolved over the years, but one key factor has remained constant: First and foremost, recruitment is about building positive relationships with our entire team — not just with our staff in Vancouver, but with staff in India and around the world.
Ensuring that we have talent with the right technical aptitude is only part of the equation. Ensuring that our talent aligns with our values is in many ways more important.
The mistake many companies make with satellite offices is to treat them like a separate entity, and to give them work that the head office doesn’t want to do. As vice-president of technology at the BuildDirect online marketplace, which relied heavily on overseas talent, I found that the better approach was to integrate those teams into the fabric of the organization.
Now that I’m Chief Operating Officer of Charitable Impact, I’ve been working to take that approach to the next level. We consolidate communication pieces. We ensure that if we’re doing an all-team meeting in Vancouver, we’re doing an all-team meeting in India by video. We celebrate special dates and events together — both Canadian and Indian — and we share a Slack channel where we welcome new hires, work anniversaries and so on.
I also travel to Bengaluru several times a year to work side-by-side with the team and share meals with them. On that note, I find it incredibly rewarding to experience the local culture for myself — both on a personal level and when it comes to building relationships — even if I do return a few pounds heavier. Those sambar stews are irresistible!
It is often assumed that offshore teams must dance around timezones. However, we don’t want a one-sided relationship in that regard, and we don’t want to create a sense of entitlement. That’s why we often conduct meetings early in the morning or in the evening to accommodate the 12.5-hour time difference.
My reasoning for working with a team in India isn’t about saving money. While we’ve saved about 50 percent over the cost of hiring locally, we’ve really experienced success in two principal areas: Finding skilled people in a shorter time frame than is possible in talent-challenged Vancouver, and finding senior people with experience at both the startup level and in larger organizations.
The latter understand factors like enterprise-level security, and how it needs to be incorporated. As you shift from startup to SME, you need the right processes and structures in place to be able to scale.
It also helps that India is English-speaking and has very similar IP protections and labour laws as we have here in Canada. The country is also home to some of the world’s top dedicated schools for developing software engineers. That’s one of the reasons a lot of larger organizations, such as Apple, Oracle, Microsoft and Deloitte, are turning to India and setting up extensive facilities there.
Another factor to bear in mind is that expertise ranges between countries. India, for instance, is very strong in areas like software engineering, and is emerging rapidly in data science and analytics. Denmark and Ukraine, meanwhile, are known for design, and there can be a significant difference between design styles and what works in some of the countries in southern Asia versus what works in North America.
Last but not least, Canada is very welcoming to foreign talent. I’ve had several members of the India team immigrate to Canada, and now they’re helping to facilitate communications and management between remote teams and companies here. That said, there’s an incredible number of opportunities in India for members of the country’s large and growing middle class.
All the better for giving me a reason to visit more often, and build stronger connections with India’s warm and welcoming culture. And if that includes enjoying a few dozen fiery curries and some local Indian beer, so be it…
Dan Brodie is the Chief Operating Officer of Charitable Impact.