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How Chess.com's 100-Person Virtual Team Works Together

How Chess.com's 100-Person Virtual Team Works Together

erik
Aug 9, 2017, 4:58 PM 15

This month we finally hit 100 team members.

Ummm, what? Why on earth would Chess.com have 100 people on staff?

Fair question. And your follow-up might be, Wait, and you don’t have any offices? Anywhere?

No, no we don’t.

Then how on earth does it work?

Honestly? I'm not totally sure. But let me explain what I do know...


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TEAM

Our team has grown a lot over time. We started with two people in 2006 and now have just over 100 in mid-2017. What do all of these people do?

35 x Chess.com Web Developer
This is our largest group by far and deserves its own subsection for all its different teams and the technologies. These developers handle the live chess server, main website, APIs, bug fixes, new features, admin tools, payments, images, etc. We have a lot of exciting projects in the works!

6 x ChessKid Developer
Same as above, but specifically for ChessKid, our site geared toward kids under 13. ChessKid has its own unique challenges and opportunities.

3 x SysAdmin / DevOps
Nothing works if the servers don’t work. We have three dedicated pros making sure everything is up and happy for our members, and so that our developers can work.

8 x Mobile Developer
Four team members are focused on making our three apps (Chess.com, Chess Clock, and ChessKid) work well on iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch, and four are focused on Android devices.

10 x Member Support
We have a large team of support staff to handle the questions and suggestions from our many members around the globe. They aim to give personal attention to every inquiry within 24 hours and a satisfaction rating above 90 percent -- and hit their goals almost every day!

3 x Anti-Abuse / Fair Play
Keeping Chess.com fun and friendly is a top priority for us. We have three amazing detectives on the job!

2 x Statistician
We have a lot of numbers -- games, players, and analysis. Two of our teammates are working hard to discover new insights all the time.

4 x Graphic / Product Design
From animated ChessKid characters to mobile interfaces, there are a lot of pixels to design, and we have a great team to do it.

4 x QA / Project Management
With so many developers working on so many things, it takes a solid team to assure quality and keep projects moving along.

9 x Content / Curriculum / Events
Chess.com creates a LOT of content: articles, videos, lessons, streams, shows, top-level events… and we have a bunch of talented folks to do the scheduling, creation, and editing.

9 x International Content Translators
In addition to creating the content above, we are also trying to deliver it in as many languages as we can (currently aiming for Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, German, Italian, Polish, and Turkish). Plus, we have to manage the translators who do part-time work to keep the Chess.com interface and mobile apps available in more than 40 languages!

5 x Operations / HR / Marketing
In order to keep the entire machine running we also have a handful of smarties handling the operational challenges of a company and team of this size across all of Chess.com and ChessKid.

3 x Officer
CTO (Chief Technology Officer) Jay does his best to keep the rest of the team attached to reality. CCO (Chief Chess Officer) and Famed Internet Superstar Danny Rensch makes jokes in front of a camera all day. And CEO (Chief “Eh, what do you do?” Officer) Erik processes ~500 emails a day and his job will be the first one to be replaced by a robot.

Contractors
In addition to the mostly full-time team above, we use a lot of contractors to do special projects like creating more content, voice acting, photography, translations, and more. We also have several generous moderators who enjoy helping us keep the site family-friendly.


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HIRING

How do we decide to hire someone? Sometimes we have hired because we needed help to support our growth. Other times we added team members because they were passionate people who wanted to contribute. And other times we added to the team to work on new projects. All of that has added up!

Where do we find people to join the team? Almost every single person to join the team has been brought in by me (Erik). I find people in many ways:

  • Messaging our talented Chess.com community
  • Browsing github projects
  • Using Upwork.com
  • Reading job boards (stackoverflow, github, vuejobs)
  • Googling “THING + THING + resume” and cold-emailing
  • Receiving In-bound emails from interesting people


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LOCATION

This entire team lives and works remotely from homes, cafes, closets, and garages all around the globe: Canada, USA, Argentina, New Caledonia, France, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Brazil, Ecuador, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Australia, Pakistan, England, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Belgium, Germany, Belarus, Netherlands, and the Dominican Republic.


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COMMUNICATING

With everyone spread out around the globe and trying to coordinate on projects, we have to be very good with communication. Tools we use:

  • Slack (for real-time chat, asynchronous discussion, and lots of memes and emoji)
  • Email (for newsletters, reporting, and stuff we don’t want to miss)
  • Jira (for project management, bug tracking, and QA)
  • Zoom.us (for video chat)

We also try to get everyone together once a year for a meetup to put faces to the names. We’ve been to San Francisco, New York, Miami, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.


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TOOLS

Here is a list of some of the other services we use to manage our company.

  • Upwork: platform for finding talent
  • Voices.com: to hire occasional voice acting talent (for promo videos)
  • Crowdin: to manage translations
  • Usersnap: bug and idea reporting tool for users
  • Desk.com: customer support platform
  • Google Groups: for email newsletters
  • Google Docs: for docs and surveys
  • Pingboard: awesome company management software
  • Dropbox: to transfer and organize big files
  • Encoding.com: for video encoding


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CULTURE

This is the beginning section of our internal team guidance document:

MISSION
Our mission is simple: help people enjoy their lives through the game of chess. Millions of people look to chess for happiness. Some play casually while bored at work. Some have dedicated their lives to it. No matter what skill level, age, location, or goal, we want to be their platform.

GOALS
Be #1 in Play
We want to provide the most enjoyable online playing experience possible. Simple, smooth, quick, fun, and fair. On any device you should be able to easily find a game and have a friction-free experience against a fair opponent. We also want to provide as many possible formats to enjoy the game: tournaments, variants, leagues, mini-games, and more.

Be #1 in Learning
We want to provide the most enjoyable online learning experience possible. Chess players of any level should be able to find an easy-to-follow learning path for their level, with top-level instruction and practice tools. Players who are looking for more in-depth training should also have the best features to study all phases of the game.

Be #1 in Sharing, Content and Community
We want to provide the most enjoyable online chess community. Chess.com should be the home for every chess player looking to immerse themselves in the world of chess. We should be providing multimedia content in as many languages as possible, and be a safe place for users to discuss and share their love of chess.

You can read the rest of a public version of this document here.


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TEAM COMMENTS

So what’s it really like working at Chess.com? Here are some quotes from our team:

When I saw the job offer on Chess.com, I was not even sure if I should apply for this job.
Now - half a year later - I have to say: Writing this application was one of the best decisions of my life!
Gerhard, Translations

I love working remote! It allows me to check in and work from virtually anywhere I am with an internet connection.”
Tyler, QA

It is an unique opportunity to be in touch with so many people all around the globe while working from home with a cool technology stack.
Pablo, Developer

I love working at Chess.com due to its amazing team, culture and the freedom it gives you.
Winner, Developer

The only way I'd be as productive in an office as I am remotely is if I had my own office and could lock the door. I think the ability to focus deeply on hard problems and (at least sometimes) be in full control of how and when distractions come is vital to writing software. Remote has its pitfalls but if you're aware of them and know how to dance around their edges, you won't want to go back. The team at Chess.com has worked this way from the beginning so it's built into our DNA. We're used to it, and it works incredibly well for us. Stepping back though, it's a real achievement that we’ve been able to scale this to 100 people!
Martyn, Developer

It is like going into an alternate dimension where everyone strives to be awesome and we are all an extension of a genius hive mind centered on the many aspects of chess.
Amelia, Support

I believe location-independent employment is the future of the information economy, and I'm happy to work with a team that's embraced its benefits and efficiency.
Pete, Editor

It's awesome! When someone says "do you like your job?"... you answer "I LOVE IT," you know you're in the right place.
Naomi, Support

I love it! I get to spend my days solving interesting (sometimes infuriating) problems and making the best chess app better for legions of Android users.
Tony, Mobile Developer

It's my third week at Chess.com and it's amazing! The entire team is friendly and helps you out wherever they can. Working remote is great and has many benefits (especially when you live across the world like I do). It's pretty much the dream job -- combining my passion for code and my love of the game!”
Akira, Developer
It's amazing. Remote work can be a blessing and a curse, but I'm lucky to be surrounded by passionate and talented problem-solvers.
Mike, Developer

Working in such a positive environment is fun and relaxing!
Oliver, Developer

Chess.com allows me the freedom to live my life how I want, spending time with my family or in the garden, but also being able to work with fascinating people on a variety of interesting projects.
Andy, Developer

I absolutely love working at Chess.com! It's so well-organized that it's almost unbelievable that we're working together from different continents. I love what we do and I love how we do it: as a team, and doing our very best every single day.
Inés, Translations

I just got hired by Chess.com and felt welcomed in a sensational way by all the people on the team. It is pleasant to work with people from different cultures, but with the same goal. I want and hope to be part of this family for a long time.
Oswaldo, Developer

An awesome, challenging, and rewarding opportunity. And most important: a big pleasure to work with such incredible people.
David, Marketing

It's like always being on call, but never having any of the emergencies being life-threatening. Which is great, because all I'm qualified to do is write chess news reports and act silly in kids' videos.
FunMasterMike, ChessKid & Content

I've been working here for four months, creating videos, streaming, and articles. I have to say that there are three great points about this job: 1. I have a great team that can help with my work. I mean, thanks to this great team I have nice designs, help using the software, marketing, etc. That's awesome. I am sure this is the only chess company like this, and I feel lucky to be part of this team. 2. Creating content for Chess.com means I get to have a big audience, and this is great motivation. Of course I try always to do my best, but if you know you will have a big audience... you sure will do your best! 3. In my time here I have had great feedback from the team, and a great respect for my work. I feel free to choose topics and create content. And the team enjoys my style.”
Anonymous, Content

As a national master and chess teacher, my dream has been to make my passion of teaching and playing chess into a full-time career. After seven years of working in the mental health field to support my income as I worked on making chess my primary occupation, Chess.com has made my dream a reality. More than a "job," Chess.com has built a supportive community and instilled a sense of professional family that creates shared meaning and enhances the awareness of our purpose-driven mission to make chess a global resource for cognitive, social, and cultural enrichment. It is an honor to be able to contribute to this mission as a staff, member, and Chess.com enthusiast!
Dane, Content

Working at Chess.com as a remote team is awesome because it affords me the opportunity to have a good work/life balance and also meet amazing employees from all over the world.
Chuck, Developer

The team is an amazingly capable group of international people, all focused on the same goal. They are a pleasure to work with, and the ability we have to work remotely gives us a sort of freedom which is hard to replicate.
Shaun, Support


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FUTURE

I don't know what the future holds or how large Chess.com will become. All I know is we are working hard to bring together a passionate team of good people trying to make chess players happy. When we have job openings, we put them here on our jobs page

Thanks for reading!

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