Success With a Remote Engineering Team

By Nate Crosno, Sr. Web Developer

“Tech Company” might not be the first thing that comes to mind when someone hears the name Limos.com, but the truth is we have a great in-house engineering team (If I do say so myself). With Yahoo all over the news after revoking all remote working privileges, we want to share our success. As the company has grown we’ve experimented with various techniques and feel we’ve settled into a steady rhythm of deploying quality features at a very quick pace with an almost entirely remote engineering team.

Our team currently consists of all remote developers while our QA, DBA, and management works primarily in our SF office. We’re a Rails shop and have had much more success finding qualified candidates by opening up the possibility of working remotely.

Your mileage may vary of course, but here are some aspects that have been key to our success:

Daily Video Stand-Ups

I’m going to start with the biggest one right off the bat. I’ve been working remotely for over a decade now and daily video stand-ups have seriously changed how I feel about my job. From my own perspective I feel like I have gone from the lone cowboy wrangling code on the prairie to part of a cohesive team. Every morning at 10:45 we all jump on a Google+ Hangout for a quick 15 minute status update.  We keep it short-and-sweet and then regroup afterward if any more in-depth discussions are needed.

Pair Programming

Yes, it can be done with remote teams! About a year ago we started getting much more into pair/team programming and it has definitely made a difference. Not only has the quality of our code increased, but so has team morale and productivity. We have also been blessed with team members that really gel well together.  As a natural outcome of our team dynamic, most of our developers spend the majority of the day on Skype with at least one other teammate. Each sub-team works a little differently. Some spend almost 100% of the time screen sharing and working on the same task together, and some of us go back-and-forth between working together or on separate tasks (though usually as part of the same project). Even when we are not directly screen sharing, being constantly connected over Skype has improved our code by allowing us to quickly bounce ideas off one another and allow for impromptu code reviews — the same way you would in an office environment.  I can also attest that it personally helps keep me focused. It took a little getting used to, but there are no longer awkward silences, and a long period of quiet concentration is no different than it would be in the office.

In addition to Skype and G+, we also use a lot of IRC amongst the team for quick group conversations that don’t quite warrant a phone call but need more back-and-forth than email.  This is actually a more recent addition to the team and has lessened our use of other tools (sorry, Yammer).

Regular 1:1s

We all have weekly video calls with our direct boss. We all get busy and it’s important to have that reliable time carved out — even if there is not much new work stuff to discuss.  The time can be just as important to catch up on personal stuff, which helps build the bonds that are sometimes missing when compared to folks who are always in the office with more opportunities for chit-chat.  (IRC has helped with this as well.)

Staying Organized

We stay pretty close to most of the Agile Development methodologies with daily stand-ups, backlog grooming, etc. Our current task management system of choice is Pivotal Tracker. Keeping the backlog of tasks well groomed and ready for us to attack has gone a long way towards increased productivity from our team. Good communication between Engineering and the business side has been critical. As Engineers, we love being involved early in the idea stages of projects and having input, but we also really want the ideas to be fully baked by the time we actually start working on them.  This of course is nothing unique to remote employees and is key to the success of any team.  However, communication between in-office business folks and the remote Engineering team takes practice, which brings me to my final point . . .

A big, dedicated video conference system in the office.

The room we have reserved every day for our Stand-Ups has a big screen TV hooked up to a little net-top PC with a web-cam.  The first person in the room fires up G+ and invites the rest of the team.  This makes it so much easier for everyone in the office to participate and feel the remote people are there with them.  We use the same room as much as we can whenever there are meetings with people in the office.  I can’t stress this enough: video, video, video. We are visual beings and it really tricks our minds into thinking the person is really there and you’ve had a “real” interaction with them instead of just a phone call. Seeing facial expressions, hand gestures and the like is huge.

To sum it up, the key has been to keep our remote employees from feeling remote. The latest crop of VOIP with video, screen sharing tools, and nice high bandwidth connections make all of that so much easier when paired with a few simple practices. It’s a world of difference from when I started doing this 10+ years ago.

When you are disconnected from your team, you drift off and start doing your own thing (ala Yahoo, from what I’ve heard).  None of us are micro-managed but we are all constantly connected and have a real sense of a team community.  We want to see the team succeed.

Posted in Limos News

Join Limos.com, Sabre & Tnooz for a Free Webinar [UPDATED]

Thanks to Tnooz, Sabre and all those who joined us this morning for the “App Explosion” webinar. For those of you who were unable to join us, you can watch the full video of webinar here:

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It’s no secret that smartphone apps are connecting travelers in new and rewarding ways. But it may not be as apparent that B2B apps are quickly reshaping the technology and service behind travel.

Join Limos.com and the Sabre Travel Network, on tomorrow from 11am – 12pm EST for a free webinar hosted by Tnooz, about the growing market for B2B apps and the technology behind the Sabre Red App Centre.

We’ll talk first-hand about how Limos.com, winner of the 2012 Sabre Red Appy Awards, is tapping new markets worldwide with an innovative new travel app for agents.

Space is limited, so reserve your seat at this webinar today.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted in Limos News

Best Little Black Friday Giveaway

Let’s face it, Black Friday can be a bit frustrating. There are deals everywhere you look, but are they really deals, can you find better deals somewhere else, do really want to wait in line with a bunch of strangers at midnight and do you even need another 32″ TV?

You Know You Want One

Limos.com is keeping it simple this Black Friday – no gimmicks, no confusing deals. Just some free gear.

Simply include @Limos in a tweet using #BlackFriday with a picture of your Black Friday ride (black car, bike, bus, pogo stick) for a chance to win a sweet Limos.com t-shirt (seen in this picture). That’s it!

And if you find yourself in need of a ride to transport that new 32″ TV home on Black Friday, give Limos.com a shot. It might turn out to be your best deal of the day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Contests, Cool Rides, Deals, Fun Stuff, holidays, iPhone, Limos News | Tagged , , , , ,

Let The Holiday Travel Season Begin – Airport Rides From $33+

With the holidays upon us, people everywhere are preparing for another busy holiday travel season. Most have begun to scour the web for deals on airline tickets and hotels, but few realize the biggest savings can be found on ground transportation.

Affordable Holiday Travel Airport Rides

This holiday travel season, Limos.com is helping you save on transportation to and from the airport with rides from $33+.

Visit our Holiday Travel Rides page and see how much you can save.

To celebrate the start to the hectic holiday travel season, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite holiday travel movie scenes. Enjoy, and happy traveling!

Honeymoon in Vegas

Home Alone

Meet the Parents

Elf

Christmas Vacation

Scrooged

Posted in airport, Cool Rides, Deals, Fun Stuff, holiday travel, holidays, Limos News | 1 Comment

Important Information Regarding Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast on Monday night to devastating effect. Many residents in the area are still without power and water and are just starting to pick up the pieces. This includes dozens of our valued operating partners. We currently have an estimated 20 percent of our regular private car supply available in the region.

As many residents return to work next week with limited access to public transportation, the demand for our private cars is greatly increasing.

Limos.com is working with our partners in the region to free up more cars, but this effort will take some time.

In the meantime, please be advised of the following:

  • If you currently have a ride scheduled between now and Wednesday, November 7th, please know our customer service team is doing everything in its power to fulfill the ride. If you have any questions or concerns about an upcoming ride, please call (toll-free): (866) 546-6726Due to the high volume of calls, you may experience longer wait times than usual. Your patience is appreciated.
  • Due to the strain this shortage has put on drivers, as well as a gas deficiency in the area, you may notice an increase in the cost of rides. As our team is able to pull more vehicles into the system, these prices should begin to decrease.
  • Although private car vehicles are currently exempt from HOV restrictions, rides are taking at least twice as long. Please plan accordingly and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.

Thank you for patience as we work through this situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Posted in Limos News | 2 Comments

Ride Like an All-Star, Duh!

Guest Blog Post: Keith Lumpp & Astro Araujo, Limos.com

There are plenty of things to love about October, including harvest time, Halloween and most places are finally cooling off from summer. However, what excites us most here at Limos.com is the gluttony of sporting events we have to mindlessly entertain us.

Keith & Astro, Limos.com Resident Sports Experts

From the Major League Baseball (MLB) and Major League Soccer (MLS) playoffs, to the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) jumping into full swing, there aren’t many better months for sports than October.

With all of the different sporting events in October and throughout the year, we at Limos.com encourage you to consider taking a black car to your favorite team’s next game. Here are some benefits to riding in style:

  1. Relax – Taking a black car to a sporting event is the least stressful way to get there. And Limo.com makes is easy to book an affordable and trusted ride – both online and from your smartphone. By riding in a black car, you’re letting the driver worry about traffic and parking. You’re also avoiding the large, and sometimes hostile crowds associated with public transportation. So relax and arrive in style.
  2. Ride Like an All-Star – You might not be playing in the game or sitting court side with Jack Nicholson or Spike Lee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there in your very own “private luxury box”. You’ll feel like one of your favorite athletes pulling up to the venue without breaking the bank to get there. Go ahead, player, roll down the window and sign some autographs!
  3. Make it a Party – A game is the perfect excuse to gather a group of friends and have some fun. Start the pre-game celebration the moment you get into the ride. Have a few beverages during the game, and be assured that you have a designated driver waiting for you in front of the venue once the game is over.

Whether you’re a Limos.com regular or a newbie looking to book your first ride with us, October is the perfect time to join the #RideRevolution.

P.S. GO SF GIANTS!

Posted in Cool Rides, Deals, Fun Stuff, iPhone, Special Occasions | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tips for How to “Ride It Right”

Guest Blog Post: Jessica Cress & Tres Steffler

The night has finally come. You’ve planned every last detail to ensure this special night goes without error. Your guests have RSVP’d, you picked the right outfit, you reserved the limo, and you’re ready to enjoy the evening. The guests begin to arrive, pictures are being taken and smiles are big. The limo arrives and guests begin to pile in. And that’s when you notice…

Ground transportation tips & deals

Your party of 14 doesn’t fit nearly as comfortably as you’d hoped in the 14 passenger limousine you reserved. Well, you may be cramped, but it’s nothing a few cold beverages won’t fix. NO ICE?!? You rented a limo and there is no ice? Now this has completely turned your night around. Just when you thought your night couldn’t get any worse, your driver rolls down the partition and asks you for directions for the itinerary you’ve handed him. This night is going downhill fast and you wonder to yourself: what could I have done differently?

Here are a few tips from the pros at Limos.com for getting the most out of your limo experience…

1. Book the appropriate vehicle for your occasion:

Your limo operator will prepare your vehicle and craft your experience differently for a wedding than for a bachelorette party. These are entirely different experiences and have different demands of your limo service provider, so it’s very important to help him or her make your event memorable by reserving the appropriate vehicle type.

2. Be aware of the size of your party when reserving your vehicle:

Be sure to confirm with your operator or your Limos.com Service Representative that the vehicle is the most appropriate for your passengers and your expectations. Just because your limo is legally permitted to fit 10 passengers doesn’t mean that it should! 10 teenagers may fit perfectly for their Prom, but 10 6-foot adults may not fit as comfortably in the same vehicle.

3. Ask Questions:

You may be surprised what your operator is willing and able to provide to make your experience memorable – but you need to ASK! Ice, balloons, flowers, red carpet – all these things and more may be very well within your reach. Your limo service provider is willing to meet or exceed your expectations, but needs your instruction to do so. Furthermore, do everyone a favor and email your operator an outline of your itinerary. No one wants to be stuck giving directions, and it may be unfair to assume that your driver knows the location of every new restaurant in town.

4. Look at Star Class:

Be sure to look at a company’s star class and read its rider reviews. Operators are given service rankings ranging from 3 to 5 stars, and will often be priced commensurate with their service quality guarantees. If you expect a brand new vehicle, you will likely need to pay for a 5 star operator. If your expectations aren’t as demanding, you may feel more comfortable saving money on a 3 or 4 star limo company. Also, do the community a favor and leave your own reviews of your experiences. Good, bad, or indifferent – your reviews will also help guide others’ purchasing decisions.

Follow these tips next time and you will RIDE IT RIGHT!

Posted in Limos News | 5 Comments