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Published April 17th 2019

Bigger, Better Brandwatch: James Stanier on Flexible Working and a Global Engineering Team

Brandwatch VP Engineering James Stanier discusses how the merger has changed the way the engineering team works

When you manage multiple teams working on a complex product integration as well as being a prolific writer, you’ve got to be good at managing your time.

James Stanier and I sat down to discuss what he’s working on right now, and the changes Brandwatch’s merger with Crimson Hexagon has made on his working day.

The best of both

His teams are doing important work in making sure the best of both Crimson Hexagon and Brandwatch are brought together in the new integrated product that will be released later this year.

“There are all sorts of things in the Crimson analysis engine that Brandwatch didn’t get round to doing that we can now build in which is going to be really beneficial to our customers. When they come across to the combined platform they’ll feel at home, even though it’s new.”

“I’m now working quite closely with teams based out of Boston and Argentina,” James says, although he also has engineering teammates across Brighton, Berlin and Stuttgart.

A new global team

“What’s been interesting with the merger happening is that we were previously very European time zone-centric, so everyone was only ever really an hour different,” James says. “You could run your work day on normal hours and it was easy to talk to people whenever you wanted. But now we’ve got people in North America, people in South America, we’ve had to slightly change our ways of working.”

James explains that the communications tools he uses for chatting to people all around the world are pretty similar to those he uses with the people next to him – Zoom, Slack, Google Docs, Github, etc. That said, time zones and a lack of face to face communication present constant challenges.

“No one’s solved how to do a whiteboard session together when you’re on the other end of a video call – there’s no easy way to do that. It’s a pain when you want to sit next to each other with a piece of paper and draw diagrams, but we’re getting better at finding ways around this, even if it involves holding up paper to the camera.

“The ‘I think you’re muted’ conversation is still pretty common.”

Flexible hours

Technology isn’t the only thing that’s helping the global team to communicate, though.

Teams within Brandwatch’s engineering organization have began instating their own rules around flexible working. For example, the Brandwatch Audiences team work core hours of 10am-4pm, and can choose whether they want to come in earlier or stay later.

“The merger has forced us to be more remote friendly and be easier with people working different hours of the day,” James says.

“If you’re a parent or caring for somebody, just knowing that you work somewhere that has the flexibility to not let that suffer is a key ingredient to staff feeling happy and supported.”

Working from home

There’s also been a relaxation of the rules around working from home.

“I do one or two days from home each week. Given that we’re globally distributed, there would be days that I physically travelled into the office only to be working with people in different locations. So why not work from home?

“Switching up your environment where you’re working is good for your brain. It’s added more variety into my work day.”

He also admits it’s great for getting washing done on your lunch break: “Stuff gets done which really helps. It doesn’t fill up your evenings.”

I tell James that I like to work from home now and again but I tend to go a bit mad if I do it for too long. He seems to have it down, though.

“You have to look after yourself. It’s easy to roll out of bed, roll to your desk and suddenly it’s the end of the day and you haven’t moved. You have to get up, get dressed, and go for a walk or do some exercise at lunch time.”

Freeing up time

Making the most of flexible working means that time is freed up for what’s important to you, and James has been very productive recently outside of work.

He writes the blog ‘The Engineering Manager’ which has had articles featured by Medium a few times now – it’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested in tech and company culture.

His blog posts have started all kinds of conversations internally about Brandwatch’s culture.

“The more that people talk and share articles on all these kinds of subjects the more it becomes a no brainer to start moving towards them,” James says on his writing around flexible working (that preceded the current changes).

Any chance you can write about dogs in the office next, James?

If you’re interested in joining Brandwatch’s engineering team you can take a look at vacancies here.

Thanks to James for taking the time to chat with the Brandwatch blog. Check out The Engineering Manager here.

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