We recently sat down with Samsung NEXT Head of Product Enablement, Danny Carvajal, to discuss distributed product teams in a global pandemic and how it might affect how we work together moving forward.

Hear all the lessons learned about distributed product teams during a pandemic from Samsung NEXT Head of Product Enablement, Danny Carvajal, in the full episode of Product Talk above. You can also catch the highlights that are detailed below.

On his initial reaction to the new normal of distributed product teams during a pandemic

Samsung NEXT realized they were able to adapt and overcome in the new normal.

“I was a little bit nervous to be honest, when we started having to cancel a lot of these events, because that I felt was the gel bringing things together. Once we were able to show that we were able to successfully do that remotely, that sort of made me feel a little bit more comfortable knowing we can do this. We can find creative ways to replicate that.” 

How the Samsung NEXT product team has approached work from home life

Samsung NEXT was so successful bringing their distributed product teams together that other brands are using them as the template.

“You’ve got to find another way to build rapport and learn about each other. Get to know each other better and build some of those personal connections and relationships and team norms. Those things are really critical to a high performing team that is healthy. 

It forced us to design a virtual workshop that could accomplish that. We designed a two-hour workshop where teams got to basically create personal profiles of themselves with the help of Miro, which is a great tool that we’ve been using now to essentially replace the whiteboard and the posts that you would normally be using in a physical setting all together in a room. We’re now just doing that all online. 

We created this session and spent the first hour basically having everybody create playing cards talking about what are their likes, their dislikes, their favorite foods. Where did they grow up? What’s their family? What cities that they lived in. Company and just all the background stuff that you would kind of get to know from taking somebody out to coffee.

We just have to find creative ways to basically recreate those moments that you would have otherwise had in person. I’m really happy to say, Miro just published a template gallery, and that particular template from that workshop is actually featured on it. So, I’d encourage all your listeners to go and check it out. And if they’re interested in using that workshop, by all means, pull that template down. That’s super useful. 

Obviously, the team norms piece too is an interesting one, because especially as newly formed teams are coming online, and maybe you’re adding new team members on again, that in-person thing is tough to replicate. We’re finding ways to substitute it with a lot of these online sessions online workshops.”

On whether COVID-19 has changed how product teams work together moving forward

There is going to be no going back for some distributed product teams.

“Frankly, I think this whole notion of these 48-hour meetings where we fly to the other side of the world to have a session in person, those things are going to become a thing of the past. Between the time it takes on both ends of the of the trip, the toll it takes on your body, and jet lag and everything else \in the middle of that, and your productivity, right? Like there is a hit to that. Checking into hotels and flying and all this stuff. I think that a lot of that is going to come down tremendously. Fortunately or unfortunately. I do enjoy travel. That’s just going to be a reality of the situation.”

On what qualities prepare someone to work well remotely

Having an interest in all the teams and people you’re trying to work with goes a long way.

“Have some amount of grit. Be interested and curious about other disciplines. I sort of consider myself as multi-disciplinary. I don’t see myself as engineering or product or design. I’m not a designer, I’m not a product manager, I’m not an engineer. But I’m able to kind of flex and speak the language of those three.”

I think asking the right questions is also super important in these roles as well. And oftentimes, better than an answer where you said something smart, is actually to ask a really, really intelligent question to kind of get to even better answer.”

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About the Speaker
Samsung NEXT Head of Product Enablement
Danny Carvajal is the Head of Product Enablement at Samsung NEXT. He is a product development leader with experience building and delivering new products. Carvajal has a passion for optimizing team health to ultimately deliver better products and services.

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