My first month at Bunny Studio: a distributed-first company
+65 employees in 18 countries in a mission to team up the world’s best creatives
This year started way different than I would have imagined last year. In December 2020, the Product Design Leader of Bunny Studio reached out through LinkedIn sharing an opportunity for a Product Designer role at Bunny Studio.
I’ve searched about the company and found out many things that called my attention in its blog. Since its founding in 2012, Bunny Studio has been operating as a remote-based company. I was also intrigued about their product and way of working.
Want to read this story later? Save it in Journal.
I’m glad I’ve said yes to this opportunity. Now, one month has passed, and even though I’ve read many articles about their culture, there were still many positive surprises in this first month.
Here I’ll share a summary of this journey, going from the positive surprise until my challenges. I believe this is the future of work for most tech companies, and we can all learn together.
But wait, what does it mean to be a distributed company?
It means that the employees work from everywhere. In the case of Bunny Studio, there are +65 employees in 18 countries. They trust their employees will get the job done, and there’s no micromanaging nor tracking working hours. Communication and its culture don’t depend on a physical location to be effective.
It’s a multicultural environment based on a strong culture and values.
Did you know that recently, Spotify has also announced to be a Distributed-First as well? :)
And what is Bunny Studio?
Bunny Studio is a marketplace that started as a voice-over niche, where clients could be matched with voice actors. Recently we’ve been expanding to more categories such as Video, Design, and Writing, delivering high-quality creative services.
It’s worth highlighting what differs us from regular marketplaces that just focus on making the connections between the client and the freelancer.
Beyond being a marketplace, we deliver memorable experiences to our clients by providing predictable pricing and turnaround times whilst guaranteeing to deliver the project in a timely manner with the best quality possible.
There are now more than 30,000 professionals that speak over 50 languages on the platform.
Great! Now tell me about your first month
First, there was a fun welcome at the Slack, as shown in the image below:
And also on Confluence:
What you’ve seen above is a well-structured onboarding, and I want to talk about it below.
A well-structured onboarding
On day 1, I had a 1-hour meeting with the Head of People Operation to talk about the onboarding process and set up all my accounts (i.e., e-mail, Confluence, Airtable, etc.).
In Confluence, they had an incredibly organized onboarding checklist for each day. Until day 10, I knew I’d learn and discover new things about the company.
It was great, as I knew the expectation was clear for this period. It lowered my anxiety, and as my friend, Camila said, “the urgency to prove yourself” as soon as entering the company.
On day 9, it was the Customer Operations day, where they explained the platform and the process of fulfilling the projects. I enjoy this part as there were 3 exercises related to figuring out what our competitors are up to, learning about our services, and suggesting how to improve them.
It was part of it to pretend I was a client and buy a service with a budget they gave me.
On day 11, each new hire starts your own team’s onboarding. Mine was the Product Onboarding. If you are an engineer, it is Engineer Onboarding.
It was still a surprise while reading one of the onboarding checklists: the compensation formula and everyone’s salary were open for everyone to see.
This transparency brings more trust and fairness to the salaries, especially in an industry where there’s still a gender pay gap, where “the median salary for men is roughly 19 percent higher than the median salary for women”, according to PayScale data from 2020.
The competitive rates are also part of their principles. If more than 20% of the candidates don’t accept the job offers stating that compensation is a reason, this is a trigger for the People Operations team to review their compensation.
“We will review market rates and declined candidate offers to determine what adjustment will be needed.” Maika Hoekman, Head of People Operations
Meet the team experience
On day 4, we, the new hires, were invited to meet the whole company.
There was a list of employees, and they proposed us to invite 4 team members to each meeting and make sure that all 4 were available in their calendar.
I ended up scheduling the meetings with 3 more people who entered the company on the same day as me, so we spare each other's time (thank Jules for proposing it!). As soon as the company starts growing, even more, it might be challenging to keep up with this activity. They already know this, and I believe their experimentation mindset will help find another good solution.
In the meeting, people shared about their roles, themselves and at the end, each new team member asked a personalized question.
With the answer to these questions, we created a blog post in our personal space in Confluence then shared it with the company.
Here is the post I’ve shared with all the answers:
In these calls, I had the incredible opportunity to talk to people from different roles and countries, such as Nigeria, Colombia, Buenos Aires, Egypt, and even the Philippines! In this case, it was 10 hours ahead of Brazil, so I ended up scheduling a call at 5:15 am from Brazil. It wasn’t mandatory, but my husband and I already wake up at 4:15 am, so it was easier for me.
It was fantastic to meet them all and hear their responses as well. I felt like traveling the world without leaving my house.
Always with the cameras turned on
In this remote environment, it is easy to start talking to people without turning on the cameras. Maybe that’s fine for some people, but at Bunny, the principle is to have the cameras on, and they follow it.
“If you would not be working remotely, you would also not have a paper bag over your head during a meeting, would you? You can choose a webcam from your computer or an external one.” — Maika Hoekman, Head of People Operations
4 Day Work Week
The company believes in the modern studies that have proven that “the ability to recharge is crucial to have a productive and engaged team,” as Maika Hoekman stated in the onboarding readings, so they decided to start an experiment in Q3 2020 of a 4 day work week.
I’m so glad to be part of this experiment. In 2020, I translated a blog post from Anne-Laure Le Cunff (an ex-Google employee) exploring how much work is enough work, which has similar conclusions, mentioning famous innovators with short working hours.
So in this experiment, people only work 4 days a week and choose one day free, Friday being the default day. They had some hypotheses, like: “By implementing a 4-day workweek we can achieve the same company results”.
And given the results, most of the hypotheses were validated true, and they decided to continue the experiment.
It is Q1 of 2021, and it continues!
For new hires, like me, the 5th day is a dedicated learning day until I reach the 90 days.
Talking about the 5th day to read, “Learn continuously” is one of the company’s values, and they mean it. I'll explain it.
There is a list of readings with more than 50 articles that go from learnings about the company, product readings, and mandatory books. I guess this might be a concern for some people as reading is not everyone's strength. I do love it and ended up liking their book's suggestions as well.
I also don’t believe that only by reading you can learn, there are many different ways to do it. And when I said about “they meant it,” the learning value is because I’ve read some previous retrospectives and post mortem documents with their “Lessons from failure.” Reflecting on previous experiences, failures and talking openly about them is a great way to learn.
I found it unique to hear in my hiring process about a failed experiment from the person that was hiring me. She shared how it was special to her to experiment with the safety to fail and learned from it.
We are crazy about self-development and take every opportunity we can to learn. Every failure, victory, difficult conversation, and instance of feedback are a chance for us to learn and improve on a daily basis. If we fail, we take ownership of our mistakes, reflect on them and learn. If we succeed we ensure we celebrate this and share our achievements with others. — Bunny’s Values
Documentation policies and written communication
At Bunny Studio, they aim to document everything and centralize it in Confluence. There are Guidelines to keep the organization. It helps to save everyone’s time and fosters a shared understanding.
The main tool for communication is Slack, and there is also a guideline for using it, such as communicating in English, getting to the point, etc.
And one thing I’ve noticed is how well they express themselves on it.
They can be lean and assertive, as set in their principles, and fun and receptive with GIFs. As in the real world, we make some expression that expresses all thoughts; they use gifs in the same way. It's so funny! (If you ever read any other article from me, you will notice I'm using more gifs in this one. Hopefully is not bothering you.)
Different time zones
We have 14 time zones, and to make it work, the calendars are organized and reflect each one’s routine. If a person is in a non-working hour, we find a better time to schedule the meeting. Otherwise, asynchronous communication might be a good solution.
Harvard Business School Course
Before I start at the company, the Product Design Leader told me the company was paying me, and other Product Team members, the Disruptive Innovation Strategy Course from the Harvard Business School. What a nice surprise!
The course was one of a kind opportunity for me to learn, and I was excited to do it. I knew it would be intense, and by the time I'm writing this article, I'm still on the course.
There are assignments with deadlines and moments of interaction with other professionals. The system shows some of my answers in different parts of the course, contextual to the study's module. The course automatically assigns participants, so we do some team discussions as well. In one of the exercises, I had the chance to talk to a person from Egypt to practice together a Jobs To Be Done interview.
We talk about the course in a Slack channel to discuss the theory and ideas at the company.
Ok, now my challenges
Just remembering that this is my personal opinion, it applies to my context and point of view.
Lots of things happening
The main challenge for me was to deal with all activities and its deadline. I was doing the onboarding activities, the course, readings a recommended book, and started taking some squad tasks.
All of this had a due date, and at some point, I started feeling anxious. The onboarding readings would stay there even after this period, they said, and I could read it later.
They trust the new hires, so nobody was checking to see if I did something or not. I only felt that way because I like to get things done on time, and I started doing things on the weekend to catch things up.
I like how they incentive constant feedback, and I felt safe to share my thoughts and questions openly at this beginning. Their experimentation mindset, and process well documented, makes it easier to iterate this process if needed.
I also have to say that I’m not a native English speaker, so all this English information was a plus on this topic.
The company has a process where they buy equipment for each new member. Since we are a distributed company, they ask us to buy the equipment in our country's store and use their credit cards.
The challenge was that some marketplaces in Brazil that I’ve tried to buy didn’t accept the foreign card, and I had some difficulties in this process.
In the end, they already changed this process and started sending the money so each one could buy it more easily.
There are many learnings in this process, and even in a distributed team, I felt in a diverse, welcoming, and transparent environment. Thank you all for that, specially Vlado, my team, and the People Ops team!
I recognize my privilege of being here, and I hope for more tech companies to get inspired by it to start creating the companies we want to work in.
Thanks for reading!
Learn more about us here:
How We Work - Bunny Studio
Bunny Studio | Raise your bar, team up with the best creatives
Also, feel free to contact me via LinkedIn.