Distributed by Design -or- How to work with a team in 12 timezones

A presentation at Abstractions II in in Pittsburgh, PA, USA by fen aldrich

At the company I work for, everything we build is distributed; our software and our company itself; my team alone is in 12 timezones. Building distributed systems is notoriously hard, but as they say, “humans are even more difficult.” As we’ve worked to build a purposely distributed team, we’ve faced specific challenges and worked to overcome them directly. We’ve treated our distributed nature as a boon to who we are and how we work, not just a challenging fact of life to be overcome, or a bug to be dealt with.

This talk dives into the details of how our company thrives on its distributed model:

  • Why we say “distributed” instead of “remote” and how that language has been key from day one.

  • How have shared values held us together as a group and how have they evolved as we scale from a handful to over 1000 employees?

  • What challenges we face on a daily basis being distributed

  • What tools and practices we use to over come them

  • How we can possibly make it work with a truly global team.



The following resources were mentioned during the presentation or are useful additional information.

  • Our Source Code

    The published Source Code for Elastic. These are some of the values and ideals that hold us together as a company

  • Blog: If you Love Somebody Set Them Free

    Blog from Antonio about how our Distributed culture enabled him to fulfill a life-goal while still working at Elastic.

  • Re-Deploy Conference

    Resiliency engineering conference. Mentioned briefly in the talk, not in particularly related, but solid conference, check it out, yo.

  • Spoon Theory

    Concepts of Spoon Theory as a metaphor for how different folks have different levels of energy and how different activities take different amounts.

Buzz and feedback

Here’s what was said about this presentation on social media.