Embracing full remote while building an even stronger company culture based on close collaboration. We share some of the lessons we save from this challenging and weird year.
Just a year ago, we were getting ready for the Christmas season at Z1. The mild and bright winter of Seville allows us to still enjoy time outsides. We don't have snow in this part of the world, but in exchange we can enjoy a BBQ on our patio, go hiking in the mountains on a sunny morning or go jumping with the team on trampolines (yes, we did that) after playing paintball (yes, we did that too).
Like every December, we celebrated the Z1 Summit, a party in which colleagues working remotely from other cities come to visit the ones working from our HQ in Seville. Last year we all went to the countryside on a bus. It was like when we were kids and we went on joyful field trips with schoolmates.
We headed to Sierra de Aracena, a spectacular area just an hour from Seville. After enjoying the still autumn tones and the smell of rosemary, thyme, and damp earth, we had a great lunch in a restaurant in front of the fireplace. Ah… Big times! 2020 was coming, and it sounded good, right?
2020 was coming... And it sounded good, right? We did not know what was about to happen.
We did not know what was about to happen. A couple of months later, with the pandemic spreading through Europe and anticipating the measures of the Government of our country, we had to decide to go fully remote to ensure the safety of all of us. So we said goodbye to collective breakfasts in our kitchen, to foosball and table tennis, to beers in the sun on Fridays. But never to optimism and teamwork.
As we have previously written, Z1’s co-founders Héctor and Carlos communicated the change to remote working with a message full humor and good vibes, despite those days’ harshness. In it, they encouraged us to prioritize our circumstances over work and called us to calm down with the now classic Z1 quote: "If this were a zombie attack, we have plenty of ammunition."
We had it. Today, a year and a pandemic after that day in the mountains, we can confirm that we have not stopped growing. Our workforce has increased 62% in a year (from 39 to 63 digital experts) and we are going to close 2020 with more than $4M in revenue and over $1.5M in profit, and having developed more than 56 projects for different companies in six countries (Canada, USA, UK, France, Kuwait, and Dominican Republic).
But above all, there are a few important things that we have learned this year. We already knew the first one, but in 2020 we have experienced it in reality, and we have helped other companies to bring it to fruition: working from home does not mean the end of a close collaboration between colleagues and partners. We continue growing together regardless of whether we live in Seville, Vancouver, New York or Bogotá.
To us, partnership means cooperation, collaborative decision making, and two-way trust. And this year we kept helping our partners meet their specific product milestones, prioritizing critical outcomes within business, timeline, or budget constraints. Remote work was always part of our culture, which is why the transition caused by COVID-19 was a soft landing we didn’t mess up. And, yes, on Fridays we keep meeting to have fun and talk about everything but work via streaming.
Crafting meaningful experiences
The second lesson: we have experienced ourselves that the brightest ideas emerge from the worst crises. In these challenging times, the ingenuity and good work of developers and designers like us will play a fundamental role. If something has become clear to us in these 12 months, it is that the world has made the definitive leap to digital, so it is in our hands that the Internet continues to bring us closer to the world without distancing ourselves from life.
It is in our hands that the Internet continues to bring us closer to the world without distancing ourselves from life.
Héctor Giner, our CEO, said it in one of the press interviews he had at the beginning of the lockdown: “Today, every sector that is not efficiently digitized presents the need to take this leap and, therefore, opportunities for improvement. With the pandemic, we have verified that fields that are key to the functioning of society had not taken the step to digital as expected. Investment in technology in the second decade of the 21st century has been directed toward travel, transportation, and the continued growth of the Big Four. Today, with this crisis, it has become clear that we have to advance in sectors such as education, health, commerce, or welfare. They all need the help of studios like Z1. We want to be there.”
“With the pandemic, we have verified that fields that are key to the functioning of society had not given the step to digital as expected.”
Héctor Giner, Z1's Cofounder and CEO.
And there we are already, in fact. This year we have entered the world of health with products like Less, aimed at moderating people’s relationship with alcohol consumption by applying a Mindfulness philosophy; or Trip, an app focused on experiences that expand consciousness and enable self-exploration.
We have got to know the culture of Bitcoin in-depth, helping the investor and entrepreneur Gareth Stephens to develop an app that teaches users in the ins and outs of the virtual currency; we are helping to reduce users stress thanks to Mailman, a superhero who tames any email inbox so that we have more organized and productive days.
We have also worked closely with Cole Nussbaumer to design the Storytelling with Data community, a platform that brings together a vast group of people who want to hone their data visualization skills. We feel like we are part of the Black Lives Matter movement collaborating with Mentor Spaces, a start-up that connects underrepresented talent with experienced and influential leaders. We are also proud of having been part of Seeds Investors, an exciting new company with an incredible values-based investment platform we helped design and build.
We have been fascinated by collaborating with leading companies in our country that are developing products for a better and healthier life at home, such as sofiathinks—a smart technology that learns from the inhabitants of the house—and Airtales, which helps us to know the quality of the air we breathe.
And not only that: we have trained 12 people in our Lab. We have learned how to improve our recruiting process or how to make the most of technologies such as React and movements such as No-Code to offer an optimal service to our partners, people with whom we enthusiastically collaborate, as if we were part of the same team, as if they were sitting next to us.
All this has happened in a very complicated year. And the best thing is we have had a good time achieving it and trying to improve every day by ensuring the well-being of a team working completely remotely.
There is one last lesson that we take from 2020. We are more aware of what we have achieved, where we are, and what we want to keep it with the same enthusiasm and dedication, always collaborating side by side with our clients. Thanks to all of them for trusting Z1.
Let's build a better year with imagination, passion, work, and conscience.