Currently Daniel, Manuel, and I are working from Vancouver. Therefore I want to tell you a bit about why we are here and then give you a glimpse into life in Canada.
A little bit of background
VSHN grew a lot since we started five years ago. We went from one customer with one server to over 350 customers and 1300 servers in 16 countries. With the growing number of customers also their requirements and the number of managed systems grew. And with all of that the amount of work we have to do during the night in Switzerland. More systems mean more maintenance work. More customers mean more migrations and changes (that have to be rolled out during the night to minimize the impact to regular services). Bigger, international partners means having developers from all around the world working on platforms managed by us. And these developers have support requests around the clock.
This presents us with a problem. We at VSHN love to help our customers and provide quick solutions to their problems. But one thing no one from us is keen on, is getting up at 3 o’clock at night or working through the whole night to upgrade systems. Not only is working at night not so much fun, also these people are missing the next morning to do their normal work.
We were looking for the obvious solution: find people that work when we are sleeping in Zurich.
Where should the new office be?
With that, the idea to open up a new office in another part of the world came up. I started talking to some of our customers and partners who already have offices in other countries or are working as a remote team. I talked to Comerge about their experiences in Kuala Lumpur, Sherpany about handling teams that are distributed, Amazee.io about being a fully distributed company and many more.
I learned a lot of things during these discussions about what is important to setup a company abroad. Our main take-aways were:
- It has to be in a timezone approximately 8 hours away from Zurich
- It has to be in a location with a decent IT scene
- We want the same philosophy in the new office as we have in Zurich
- We want our engineers go to the new office for 1-3 months at the time to train the local engineers, but also to have senior engineers on staff during the night
- A VSHNeer from Zurich has to lead the new office initially
After a lot of discussion and planning we came up with a list of interesting places. There were cities like San Francisco, Austin, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Perth, Sydney and many more. During that process some more important limitations were discovered:
- It should not have too much latency towards our servers in Switzerland
- We would prefer as a first location, somewhere were the culture and language is not too far away from what we know
- Regarding coordination and maintenance it would be better to start with a location in a timezone which is about 8 hours behind (west of) Zurich as there are more support requests and maintenance during that time
- Some countries are not interesting for political or legal reasons (e.g. data protection, Example: USA, China)
Vancouver as starting point
After considering all these points – and some personal choices involved as well – we decided to do a proof of concept for two months in Vancouver.
On Saturday, October 5 2019, Manuel Hutter, Daniel Hauswirth and me, Matthias Indermuehle set out on an adventure to Vancouver!
The first weekend we spent exploring the city, after that the work started. But that is a story for the next blog.