People Stories: Trust is Crucial for a Remote-First, Geographically-Distributed Workforce
I am Catalin David, a software engineer on the YugabyteDB Managed team. I’m originally from Romania. I studied in Germany for five years and have been in the USA for the past ten years. I was exposed to computers at an early age, since my parents had a computer at home for a while. Then they got me a ZX Spectrum clone (Felix HC-90 made in Romania), and “byte by byte” they taught me how to get computers to do what I wanted them to do.
While at university in Germany, I met and spent a lot of time with two future early engineers at Yugabyte. For the better part of three years, we had lunch and dinner and worked on projects together. Even though we went our separate ways after university, we kept in touch, and I was interested in the challenges they faced at Yugabyte. So when it came time for me to search for a new job, Yugabyte felt like a natural place to interview and join remotely from Seattle.
I have been at Yugabyte since March 2022, but it feels like I have known the people on my team for far longer than that. Throughout the onboarding process, I was very impressed with them. They were always willing to help and took the time to answer my questions. Since this was the first time I was going to work remotely in a new environment, I was afraid that I would feel isolated and not be able to make an impact. That could not have been further from the truth. The culture of my team (and the company as a whole) is amazing in this regard. Even though some of my colleagues are thousands of miles away, it sometimes feels like we are in the same room. Add to this the fact that Yugaybyte is made up of smart and experienced people, and we have a recipe for success.
I have always been passionate about distributed systems (it was one of my favorite classes in university). But even more than that, I like interacting with customers, building software they like and use daily, and (most importantly) having fun doing it. My role at Yugabyte allows me to do that every day. So I am excited to head to my home office, where I get to work on new exciting features, get customer feedback, and try to help everyone on the team.
One of the things that I have noticed and appreciated most about my fellow Yugabeings is the sense of “togetherness” we all have. Of course, it could be work related, where we pull together and act as a team to reach a goal. However, that sense of togetherness also permeates through our “Healthier You at Yugabyte” program and/or our celebrations for Halloween and Diwali. Here, I feel like a part of a bigger community, giving me a sense of purpose to do my best job.
Earlier this year, Yugabyte revealed the core values of our company: Trust, Relationships, and Outcomes. I believe trust is crucial in a remote-first, geographically-distributed company such as ours. Even though you might not be in the same room, you need to trust everyone, be transparent in all your interactions, and always act with humility and integrity. I have experienced this first hand since a couple of projects that I am involved with have been in cooperation with Yugabeings in India, Europe, and North America. When we have meetings to do status reports and plan further work, I am always intentional about transparency. If something was not done, I take full responsibility for it and try to make it better. I want my fellow Yugabeings to trust me.
In terms of relationships, even though I have not been here for that long, I have already mentored a couple of interns and new hires and helped them get ramped up on their projects. I try to take time to answer all their questions in a timely manner. I try to “pay forward” the great onboarding experience that I had. Our team also has regular happy hours and team lunch meetings, and we try to build a strong sense of community in our distributed world.
One of the great things about the culture here is that impact and ownership are greatly appreciated and celebrated. In our regular company-wide meetings, we always recognize people in the company who have recently had a positive impact. Moreover, everyone in the company is encouraged to speak up when they notice someone making an impact so they get the praise. And the great thing is that we do that.
I have spent the past 9+ years at a big company, so the startup environment is very new to me. My biggest learning so far is that small teams of motivated people with clear goals can operate quickly and make a large impact. As to my growth, leading a project has forced me to be more organized, to do better assessment and reporting, and to trust the people I am working with.
My wife and I have a 3-year-old son with whom we enjoy spending time. We explore and discover the world together. We try to get him interested in hiking, riding bicycles, and other outdoor activities during the spring and summer. In the colder months, we build things with Legos and, for better or worse, whatever else we find around the house.
Any advice for your fellow colleagues or new hires or to those who are looking at Yugabyte as a potential employer?
Whether you are at Yugabyte or not, I believe you can use your company values and apply them in your work and daily life. Whether with your peers or the 3-year-old in the room, you must build trust and be there for each other to celebrate the good times and help in those less fortunate moments. That trust will be an excellent first step to building long-lasting relationships. Last but not least, whether it’s your spouse getting a promotion, the toddler learning how to draw, or your peers fixing a customer issue in record time, make sure to celebrate the impact that they are having!