Today we’re joined by Victoria Zabolotnykh, a Team Lead on the Miro Customer Support team, who shares the trials and tribulations of building a happy, successful bilingual Support team from scratch — even from a continent away.
Hi! I’m Victoria. I work out of Miro’s Yerevan hub. I began my Miro journey back in 2015 as their 20th-ever employee! When I started, I was the Support team’s jack-of-all-trades: I handled all the customer inquiries Miro received, wrote Help Center articles, built internal documentation, and worked with engineers and product managers to drive improvements in the product. Now, I’m lucky to lead a team of wonderful CSRs and work on challenging projects to help our team evolve and expand across five hubs. My favorite part of my job is helping people identify their interests and strengths, and creating opportunities for others.
As an early employee, I contributed a lot to the company culture as it is now and am a huge advocate of cultivating an enthusiastic, collaborative environment in the workplace. Building Miro’s Support team in Sydney from the ground up presented an opportunity to do so, even under challenging circumstances.
First step: Hire a team
Back in October, we decided that we needed to launch a support team in Sydney, where a Miro hub was recently opened. The new team’s specialization was to help customers from the APAC region with a specific focus on Japanese customers.
As a hiring manager, at first it looked like Mission Impossible: we were all working remotely because of the COVID restrictions, I’d never been to Sydney, and I knew nothing about the talent market there. I wasn’t even sure Japanese-speaking people lived in Australia to hire onto the Support team!
I worked in liaison with a local recruiter, who was also new to the area. We were looking for candidates who were fluent in both English and Japanese, had brilliant troubleshooting skills, and loved helping people. At Miro, we also pay a lot of attention to whether the candidate is a good culture add. Sometimes, someone has relevant experience in their background and is interested in the role, but doesn’t necessarily click with the unique company culture we’re trying to cultivate. Thankfully, we found people who shared our values in Sydney!
Time to hire a team
Our aim was to onboard our new Mironeers within a certain period of time and help them become as successful as the rest of the team. Not only did we have to onboard them remotely, but also with a six-hour time difference. Luckily, this wouldn’t be challenging for us, because we had been working remotely for months, and had already launched a few hubs in different time zones.
On the Miro Support team, we have a strong culture of helping each other and learning from one another. This helps us keep the bar high for the support we provide to customers. It also lends a collaborative atmosphere and builds a stronger team, even though we’re spread across the globe. Every new employee is provided with an onboarding plan that sets them up for a great start. As part of that plan, each new Mironeer is assigned a buddy during the ramp-up period. At the same time, we encourage the rest of the team to participate in onboarding, making sure people meet as many peers as possible during their first weeks. This lets us not only share knowledge, but also onboard people into our culture via peer-learning and helps them build strong relationships from the start.
Overcoming the challenges of remote onboarding
Onboarding a new member to the Support team usually takes us 2–3 months. Our new team in Sydney worked really hard during their ramp-up period, but by the end they were still struggling. When we got together to discuss why that might be the case, people shared that they didn’t feel included or connected to the team in general. They were very new and only had a few hours a day to learn from their peers in other time zones due to the time difference. We needed to find other ways to help our new team members feel supported and included, beyond what we normally do in onboarding programs at Miro.
Even though our new hires were supposed to become a team separate from the one I managed, I decided to include them in all the team rituals. They could participate in a team retro or a casual discussion and see how we work together here, and how everyone contributes and listens to each other’s ideas. We also invited them to all the Slack channels that the main team used, so they could ask questions and discuss tricky customer cases.
On the Miro Support team, there are a few people who have expertise in a particular product area and great training skills. We call them Subject Matter Experts. To help our new hires adjust even better, our SMEs adjusted their working schedules for the Sydney team to join their office hours and get knowledge directly from them in real time. We also conducted regular 1:1s for open conversations to identify together what was blocking their progress, and see how we as a team could help them move faster. These steps created a stronger sense of belonging and ultimately helped our Support team work more efficiently.
Feedback: How’d we do?
When it came time to share feedback during their 360-degree feedback, every new hire in the Sydney team had the same thing to say: they were amazed by the atmosphere of mutual support and trust in the team and named that culture as one of the key factors for their success. The safe space we created via listening to feedback and implementing changes based on that feedback enabled people from various backgrounds and time zones to unite as a strong, independent, and successful team.
The new hires also said they wanted to build that same culture in the new Sydney hub. This is what they’re doing at the moment with their new team lead who recently joined Miro.
Investing time and effort in building and maintaining a great company culture pays back in any business situation. It can be a driving factor for an individual or team’s success, a motivation to join your company and stay in it for a long time. Adjusting your way of working to better fit the needs of the individuals on your team helps them, in turn, feel a sense of belonging, and creates a sense of unity that leads to personal happiness and better work. This year we made the list for Australia’s Best Workplaces™ of 2022, and it’s clear our collective attention to company culture has paid off!
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