CodeRiders’ Director of Business Development, Zaven sat down for an interview with the Authority Magazine.
About Zaven Ter-Stepanyan:
Zaven Ter-Stepanyan holds the position of Director of Business Development at CodeRiders, a software development firm headquartered in Yerevan, Armenia. With a prior background in intercultural communication and the hospitality sector, he has a passion for branding, corporate culture, and business strategy. Zaven works towards the goal of making CodeRiders an exceptional workplace for its employees.
About Authority Magazine:
Authority Magazine is one of the best publications for reading in-depth, and interesting interviews, featuring people who are authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. Authority Magazine’s mission is to empower and motivate people to take action toward their dreams and goals through sharing interviews with successful professionals.
CodeRiders is a software outsourcing firm operating in Yerevan, Armenia, a popular tech hub. CodeRiders provides web development and design services, software outsourcing and IT consulting, mobile app development, and custom software development services. The company has a rich portfolio of providing cutting-edge tech solutions to companies of various cultural and industrial backgrounds since 2013.
-Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
-I began my career in the hospitality industry, where I gained a valuable understanding of different cultures and mindsets. Working alongside world-class professionals, I developed an excellent work ethic and appreciation for corporate culture and organizational values.
When I joined CodeRiders, the company was transitioning from a web development school to a custom software development firm. Since then, I’ve been involved in all aspects of business development, including branding, corporate culture, recruitment, sales, marketing strategy, and more. Over the past 7 years, I’m proud to say that our team has achieved our goal of establishing ourselves as a reputable custom software development company, and I credit our success to our exceptional team, who have always been the cornerstone of our present and future achievements.
-Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
-One of the most motivating moments of my professional life occurred when our company encountered significant difficulties due to management errors towards the end of 2019. The experience was arduous for both management and employees, and there was uncertainty regarding whether the team would back the modifications we planned to implement to rectify our blunders and maintain our CodeRiders vision. The day after a lengthy speech detailing the situation, we anxiously awaited to see if anyone would arrive at the office for work, which would signify their support. To our immense relief and inspiration, the entire team gradually showed up, one by one.
It was apparent that we were all committed to reconstructing CodeRiders with our cherished principles and the wisdom we had acquired, and that we were not just colleagues but a united team of brothers-in-arms.
-Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
-In the early stages of our company, we worked tirelessly, often pulling all-nighters and treating our office like a second home. We neglected the importance of taking breaks and getting adequate rest. During one project, we encountered a frustrating bug while working on a PDF-generating tool. Despite hours of debugging and rewriting the functionality, we couldn’t find a solution. It wasn’t until we took a coffee break to give our brains a rest that we realized the mistake — we had been refreshing the downloaded PDF document instead of refreshing the browser page. It was a humorous moment, but also a valuable lesson for us. We learned that taking breaks and getting proper rest is crucial, as it’s better to spend an hour working with a fresh mind than working for hours while fatigued.
-What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
-I believe it’s important to take breaks from work and have at least two holidays per year. To add some variety to your daily routine, consider incorporating activities that differ from your usual schedule. For example, you could have breakfast with colleagues in a downtown café or take a day off to spend time with your pets at home.
In addition to these changes, it’s always beneficial to learn something new every day. This could involve reading a book, exploring a new technology, or even chatting with an AI like ChatGPT for fun!
-Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?
-In response to the pandemic in 2020, we made the necessary shift to remote work at CodeRiders, and this marked the beginning of my experience managing a remote team. Since then, we have established a flexible work style that allows team members to choose whether they prefer to work from home or the office. Our productivity levels have been exceptional since we established this flexible work style.
Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?
Maintaining team spirit is one of the fundamental values we uphold at CodeRiders, but it can be challenging in a remote work setting. With a lack of regular face-to-face interactions, remote teams may find it difficult to foster a sense of unity and cultivate a shared team culture.
Recommended: 5 Key Reasons Startups Hire Software Developers from Armenian Software Vendors
Apart from this, smooth communication is another hurdle that we have faced. In-person interactions allow for immediate feedback on requests or questions, but we have been able to mitigate this problem with the help of excellent communication tools. However, the unavailability or unreliability of these tools can pose a challenge at times.
Furthermore, remote team members may face difficulties in maintaining a work-life balance and managing their time effectively, which can lead to burnout or underperformance.
Working from home can present challenges, including managing distractions such as noise from children, other people, pets, or construction work from nearby neighbors.
Additionally, onboarding new team members may be difficult as it may take longer to establish a connection with the existing team due to limited time spent together.
-Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?
-To overcome these challenges, we have adopted a flexible approach. We schedule multiple meetings throughout the day, not only to discuss work-related topics but also to have virtual lunch breaks or casual conversations over coffee, mimicking our previous in-office routine, which was a highlight of our day. Additionally, our team enjoys playing online video games together in the evenings.
We have also taken steps to ensure reliable communication tools by having several options for each purpose. In case one or two of our tools become unavailable, we can rely on another to meet our needs.
To maintain a healthy work-life balance, we encourage our team members to establish a fixed routine, allowing them to determine when the workday ends and their personal time begins. It is essential to have weekends available for leisure activities or doing something different, spending time outside of the apartment that one might associate with their remote work office during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be challenging to stay in shape during such situations, so we suggest learning something new, working on a side project, doing some exercises, playing a musical instrument, or going for a walk as a way to avoid burnout.
To minimize distractions, it is advisable to set up a home office in the quietest available room of your apartment. If that is not possible, using earphones and politely requesting others to respect your work hours can be a viable alternative.
For introducing new employees, a practical approach could involve assigning tasks that require close collaboration with one or two team members. This will enhance teamwork and increase the time they spend together. Additionally, organizing team activities such as going to a bar, spending time outdoors, or playing games after work hours, if feasible, can also be beneficial.
Recommended: 5 Powerful Facts about Team Spirit in Software Companies
-In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?
-Fortunately, I haven’t had to criticize any of our team members at CodeRiders during our remote work, and I can’t recall any specific incidents that required it. However, if the need arose, I would suggest conducting video meetings as a means of communication. This would allow for the use of body language and facial expressions, which can aid in conveying feedback positively and effectively.
-Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
-Before giving criticism or negative feedback to someone, it’s important to express appreciation for their work, even if it didn’t meet expectations. It’s important to remember that there may be external factors that contributed to the person’s performance, such as personal issues or family problems. By expressing gratitude, you can start on a positive note, which can make the recipient more receptive to your feedback.
In terms of communication, it’s beneficial to use the principle of positive-negative-positive. This means starting with something positive, like thanking the person for their work, followed by constructive criticism if necessary, and ending on a positive note. This can reinforce the recipient’s value as a team member and their alignment with the organization’s vision and mission.
If the communication is not too formal, using emojis can also be a helpful way to convey a positive tone.
-Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
-Maximizing communication is key to maintaining a strong sense of connection with your team while working remotely. Utilizing communication tools such as Slack and Google Meet can provide the flexibility needed to replace in-person interactions with virtual ones. In addition, consider sending small deliveries such as coffee or cookies to team members as a way to express appreciation and make them feel valued. These simple gestures can go a long way in fostering a sense of togetherness and camaraderie within a remote team.
-What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
-Being transparent with your team is crucial for the success of any organization. It is critical to communicate your expectations clearly, to provide your team with the tools and information they need to achieve their goals, and to encourage them to ask questions, share concerns, and make suggestions. At CodeRiders, we believe that transparency is one of the key factors that make us the best place to work. By empowering our employees to make decisions and take responsibility, we create a culture of trust and mutual respect. This leads to excellent results and helps us achieve our goals as an organization. We believe that people make a difference, and by ensuring our team is happy and empowered, we can serve the well-being of everyone in the organization.
-You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
-My belief has been that wars and aggression could be eliminated if people comprehended and acknowledged the depth of our interconnectedness, regardless of factors such as physical location, social status, education level, wealth, race, gender, religion, health conditions, etc. At one point, we even had an idea for a social network that would visually represent these connections and ties between people from all over the world. Unfortunately, we did not have the necessary resources to bring it to life. Perhaps someday, we will revisit this idea and create a tool that will allow people’s voices to be heard loud enough so that politicians and other leaders cannot ignore the message and promote aggressive campaigns against any nation or group of people.
-Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
To book a free consultation with Zaven leave your message here. Zaven will give answers to your questions regarding your software development project as well as provide time and cost estimations. We are also open to providing suggestions for the client's product if needed.
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