Managing Technology Remotely at Rumie

As CTO of a young, dynamic educational technology non-profit, I wear many hats. For instance, even though we have several dedicated programmers, I often join in as a developer, coding Java long into the night. Then I’ll put on my DevOps hat and deploy to AWS.

During the day, I fetch my Product Manager hat to define and prioritize features. Next, I’ll find myself wearing the QA hat, testing software and logging bugs.

You may be surprised to find out that I do all of this remotely, managing the ebb and flow a good 4,400 kilometres from our head office!

How does this all work?

First, Rumie has an amazing team of people. That’s half the battle won right there!

Second, we have some great tools and processes that keep us moving along quickly. Let’s take a look at how we use some of them.

Slack




Slack is an amazing tool, but like any tool, it can be misused. It’s easy to start relying on it to track important things like feature requests and bugs.

Unfortunately, that’s a really bad idea. Slack excels at quick, simple communication, but tends to fall apart when it comes to organizing things and finding them a few months later.

We use Slack to make quick requests, engage in “water cooler” talk, and quick “FYI” broadcasts, but for important, business-critical decisions and information, we have other more appropriate tools.

JIRA




When it comes to software development, you are dead in the water without a good issue tracker. I’ve used many different ones over the years, and even built one from scratch.

All of them have their flaws, but after much evaluation, JIRA checks in as one of the best. Its agile features, polished UI, customizable workflow, and deep integration with other Atlassian products make it the best solution for Rumie.

We use JIRA not only to track and fix bugs, but also to plan our product roadmap. We make sure that everything that needs to be done has a JIRA ticket. That makes it easy to track and link all related information throughout the development cycle.

I have one simple rule when it comes to JIRA: “If it doesn’t have a ticket, it doesn’t exist.” 🙂

Skype




Even though Microsoft seems to be trying to destroy it, Skype remains the de facto business VOIP client.

Although I find myself annoyed by the recent UI changes, and animated advertisements, Skype’s voice quality still seems far better than competitors like Google Hangouts.

We might switch if a better alternative emerges, but for now, Skype is our go-to program for remote meetings.

Google Drive/Docs




Whether you’re preparing a presentation, a financial spreadsheet, or drafting a proposal, Google Docs makes it easy. Everything is web-based, meaning you can sign in on any computer or device and start working right away.

It especially shines when it comes to collaboration. If you haven’t seen the Docs live multi-user editing, it’s pretty amazing.

Meanwhile, Google Drive (a competitor to Dropbox) lets you store any type of file and easily share and sync it with specific people, or the entire organization.

Gmail




Even with all of these amazing tools available, email still remains the lifeblood of most organizations.

I’ve been using Gmail since the closed beta in 2004, and it really revolutionized the way I handle my email.

I’m a big practicer of “Inbox Zero,” the art of dealing with your email promptly and then archiving it so you don’t end up with an unmanageable Inbox. Once you learn how to use filters, and get familiar with Gmail’s shortcut keys, you too can join this elite club. 🙂

As you can see, we use a wide range of software to keep everything running smoothly at Rumie.

They give our employees and volunteers the opportunity to remain effective while traveling on business. Our team members even have the freedom and flexibility to spend some time working from an alternative location, like their home office or a coffee shop.

These tools aren’t a full replacement for in-person contact and team building, but they really help when you’re managing a high-tech organization from thousands of miles away.

Written By: Jason Hanley
CTO at Rumie


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