How to manage remote teams – 3 insights from GitLab’s course in Coursera

I have recently listened to GitLab’s “Remote management course” in Coursera. While there are companies that are remote-first and were built like that or chose to adopt this structure (or other remote work structures) with the outbreak of COVID-19 many companies were forced to change and adopt remote work. This course timing is relevant than ever. Here are few insights –

  1. This course is a great PR for GitLab they present a well-studied background and ideas of remote work, including pros, cons, and trade-offs. They present their take on remote work and how it is implemented in GitLab and refer to their own handbook and resources. Additionally, course lecturers are very diverse, which I believe can be attractive to many candidates. 
  2. Physical health and specifically mental health are mentioned multiple times during the course. Working remotely raises mental health challenges which are important to mention and I’m glad they did it.  Specifically during the pandemic where interactions with other decreases and many employees didn’t choose this form of work in advance.
  3. What is a vital capability for remote employees? communication. They preach to value strong communication skills and emphasize that it is crucial in an asynchronous work environment where your colleagues are in different time zones, have varied cultural backgrounds and it might take them hours or days to answer. Well, I think it is also important for colocated employees.  Interactions with others shape our days, sometimes more than our actual tasks and it is important to be in an environment where we feel comfortable and even if we have disagreements (and I would be worried if there aren’t) they can be discussed and settled. Generally, I find many of their ideas also relevant for colocated work.

Personally, I like working remotely as it saves the commute and allows me flexible working hours. However, in the past, I had the experience of being the only remote employee and that didn’t work well. Many of the communication was in the coffee corner and was not accessible to me, promotion paths were blocked, etc.

If you are looking for a remote position, I strongly suggest this great resource – Established remote companies.

Coursera R programming course

I have recently took “R programming” course in Coursera. This is the second course I take there. Before that I took “Machine Learning” course which was much heavier course with respect both to what was taught, to the course length and to the assignments and other requirements.
  • In the world of SciPy, Numpy, Pandas and others in Python I don’t really see the advantage in R. Those libraries have almost the same capabilities while Python is a much stronger and more common and therefore supported and documented tool.
  • Visualizing the data – for me one of the best practices to gain better understanding of the data and to introduce the data to other people is creating a visualization. I really lack that part in Coursera course, I think that they should have done that extra mile, this would make the data processing more meaningful.
  • I’m not an R expert now, not even close. However, I gained some background next time I will need to handle code in R or that I will need to consider using R in a project. I saw some similarity to Matlab syntax so this knowledge might be relevant there too.
  • Language background, advantages, disadvantages, limits, theory (scoping, typing) etc. is important yet asking in a quiz from which university the language developers came from is not that interesting.
This is my code repository for this course, not brilliant implementation but those the job – https://github.com/tomron/rprog