Planetary Perspectives: Josh Gross

By Helen Chen, 13 August, 2018

Meet the Planetary team! We’re a team of multidisciplinary designers and developers spread out across 3 times zones and 4 countries. Despite having a dispersed team, we come together and build awesome products while having fun, and we want to share our insights!

Each week, the series Planetary Perspectives will feature an interview with a team member on their experiences of working remotely, building productivity, and maintaining work–life balance.

Illustration by Feifei Ruan

Where are you currently working from right now?

Brooklyn, NY!

How long have you been at Planetary and what is your role?

Five years as the Managing Partner.

Please share an interesting and unusual fact/hobby about yourself.

As a teenager, I was a big contributor and participant in the arcade machine build/restoration community. I built two arcade machines, as well as developing software for use by the (small) community.

What’s your secret talent?

I can fold my ear inside itself.

On Working Remotely:

What do you enjoy most about working remotely and what do you find to be challenging?

I think the most enjoyable thing about working remotely is that it really gives you the freedom to work where you’re most comfortable, whether that’s an office in a coworking space, a coffee shop, your house, or literally anywhere else.

On the other hand, the most challenging part might be that you don’t see the team in person on a regular basis, so you need to find other ways to build camaraderie and connection.

What do you think Planetary does well in regard to having a dispersed team?

Energy and collaboration. One of the biggest fears I’ve heard about being remote is that you lose this sense of excitement and ease of collaboration.

“Being remote-first and focusing on making sure our team regularly connects has really ensured that being remote doesn’t impede the spontaneous collaboration and excitement around projects.”

What is a common misconception of working remote that you’d like to clear up?

That you can’t build a cohesive, energetic, productive team. Clearly it’s possible, but remote employees need to come first, not second. Structure your communications, activities, and events around being able to participate as remotely.

How do you build rapport if you aren’t meeting someone in person?

The best ways I’ve found to build rapport are by creating opportunities to chat that aren’t solely centered around work. One-on-ones, games, and just open chat where teammates can share what they’re doing in their free time, what they like to do, etc.

“In essence, creating possibilities for serendipitous moments of learning about and sharing with others.”

What’s your weirdest/most interesting video conference experience?

This is a tough one, mostly because little things happen fairly often. My favorite moments are when someone (a pet, a child) sneaks into the background, doing something unexpectedly distracting and the person on the call has no idea. 😂

In managing/working in a remote team, what are some things you implement to promote team-building?

This is a challenge and, honestly, we’re still trying new things out. One of the most important things is making sure the team sees each other at least twice per week, and has a chance to check in with one-another.

We’re also exploring ideas around remote events such as pizza “lunches”, games, and other team-building exercises that can be worked into an average week without being disruptive.

Additionally, once a year, we get everyone together in person. Some in-person time really helps the team get to know each other outside of just the day-to-day work context.

When it comes to efficiency and maximizing team dynamics during projects, what advice do you have more someone managing a remote team?

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the best way to manage a remote team is good organization and trust. Organize your projects and tasks to make sure requirements and deadlines are communicated clearly in an asynchronous way. Don’t rely on synchronous communication for important details. Ensure the team knows where to find and understand what’s expected of them. Then, trust them to do the work.