I'm Hugo, working on growth at Doist, a remote startup, AMA!

This week, we organized our second Ask Me Anything session in the remotive Community with Hugo.

Hugo works at Doist (https://doist.com/), a 100% distributed with 50+ employees startup that crafts great products to help us being more productive. He also created the new growth team last year.

In 2016, he worked from Porto, Iceland, Bali, and Thailand.

You can find him on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/hfauq

He was with us for more than an hour to answer our question about productivity, disconnecting, remote working, travel, growth marketing and how to handle meetings.

Here is the summary of this session:

1) How do you manage team meetings with such a big time difference?

Hey, Ana! Good question. We are spread over 10 time zones at Doist. Right now, our COO Allan is in Brisbane, and Alex, our Community Manager, is in Los Angeles. No need to say it can get tricky to set up meetings. 🙂

1- We try to avoid as many meetings as we can. If you do a 1-hour meeting with 10 people, you use 10 hours of work. We experienced that we could lay everything down in our communication app and give people the time to absorb, consider and respond on their own schedule. It makes for smarter discussions. We have a lot of quiet voices at the company, who are shining best when writing things down. It forces you to write full ideas.

2- When we do have meetings, we try to keep them on Mondays as much as possible. We try to wrap it up in 30 minutes to align everyone.

3- We now use a Todoist project to set an agenda with the group before meeting, so we don’t spend too much time repeating ourselves.

2) As it seems to be a popular topic at the moment in the general channel, do you have any tactics to disconnect, stay away from your phone/desktop when you’re not working?

Disconnecting is a big topic right now, and for a good reason. We spend a lot of time chatting, texting, watching, and plugged in the Internet. I read somewhere that people spend 10 hours a weekday in Slack. It’s insane.

Though if you want to get anything meaningful done, you have to get into what's called a “flow state”. And it’s become super hard to get in that focus mode where nothing can disturb you. It seems like we always get interrupted, and the many distractions out there aren’t helping 🎥⏩

Some tactics I try to keep up with:

1- Put my phone on silence mode, face down — I’m from Gen Z and it’s like my phone is glued to my hands. So I need to force myself to keep it as far as possible. Nothing’s really urgent. That way I keep control of when I want to scroll Instagram and Facebook.

2- No notification dot! — that one was killing me. I’m a bit of a freak with red dots and notifications in general. A few months ago I went to my Settings and cut all notifications from Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, anything that would grab my focus is now on my own terms.

3- Oxygen — I really need to get better at this but I try my best to go for a short walk, or even better, go running and exercise in general to get some fresh air. It’s so important to restore my energy. I tend to get too excited about work sometimes but I realized how good it is to take a break and get off the grid.

4- Exploring — this one as become a passion of mine recently. I got to travel a bit this year, and I took the habit of going off to the mountains, the beach, or unknown places to explore, get some cool shots, and get my mind to wander and not focus on anything but the amazing views. More photos from my explorations here: https://instagram.com/hfauq 🌲😄

3) Hi @hugo, thanks for agreeing to answer our questions. 🙂 Do you use a digital planner, paper planner or a combo?

Hey @jessi! You might have guessed but as I work for Todoist, I’m using it every day to get work done.

I’m not much of a paper guy, even though it’s something I’d like to experiment with one day.

My workflow is mostly:
1- Capture everything I need to get done for work into Todoist.
2- Break it down in smaller, digestible tasks so it will help me build motivation as I check them off.
3- Prioritize the impactful tasks. Sometimes I lean into the urgency, but I try to focus on things with impact as much as possible (working on growth, that’s the goal).
4- Get to #TodoistZero. Even though I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do (and I never do), I’ll reflect on things I didn’t do — see if it actually matters, and postpone if it does.

I was amazingly bad at getting shit done before. I still find myself really bad at this — how ironic as I work for a productivity company 😜 — but I’m more of a creative type who’s going to dig into an area of interest, explore, and connect dots over time. Rather than the bulldozer productivity master who will complete 100 tasks a day.

I’m still in the process of honing in on my workflow. A system is just the most important thing to sustain your productivity and build a positive habit that helps you do the stuff that matters to you. ✨

4) Hey @hugo - you have 15+k Instagram followers, it feels like you're successfully documenting your travels! Can you tell us more about your Instagram adventures so far?

Hey @rodolphe! It’s been a fun journey over there (https://instagram.com/hfauq).

“Documenting my travels”, you’re right, has always been what made me love Instagram. It’s just a beautiful way to capture and share moments. I also get inspired by like-minded people. It’s actually more of an inspiration tool than a sharing tool for me.

Anyway, I started this to send pictures of my exchange year in Australia to my family. Honestly, I was so bad at this, using the worst Instagram filters you can find (looking at you, x pro II).

But I really got the hang of it and tried to explore new ways to capture what was around me. There’s so much to explore, it’s ridiculous. I invested a bit of time and money (brand new DSLR) now to get better pictures.

What really triggers me to do it is that I get to explore unknown places. Locations I would have never discovered if not for the “desire to get a cool shot”. I met great people and even got to interact with some French brands.

Let’s see what comes next! 📸

5) How competitive or difficult is growth marketing for the crowded "to do" apps space? Any interesting growth lessons or learnings you'd be willing to share?

Hey @melissa! Thanks for your question 🙂

I really have no idea regarding growth jobs in the todo app space. Growth as a discipline is really new and still in the process of defining itself.

I got to learn a lot on how to grow a product since I got started at Doist a year ago. More so since Lucile ❤️️ joined me to create the Growth team. She's been taking on all Todoist related projects, while I've been giving a hand to the product team of our new communication product.

1- First lesson, growth hacking is bullshit. I really mean it. There are hundreds of people who talk about “changing the CTA color got us 300% more users” and so on. There’s a bunch of people who focus on short-term rewards and quick tactics to get rich fast. I don’t believe in any of this.

2- I probably come from a different approach, but a growth practitioner should make more people better at what they do. For example, one of our goals for Todoist with Lucile is to get more people to create a system with the product in order to get more organized, less stressed, and thrive in the projects that matter to them. Call it marketing, or customer success... I think it’s a saner approach.

3- Instead of focusing on acquisition channels first, and getting more people to sign up, we're currently trying to get more people to use the product better. We want users to learn how to create a system that works for them and help them “grow” along with us. One big project for the company right now is User Onboarding. People have an expected outcome when they sign up to Todoist: we hear they want to "get their life organized" and "stay on top of their work projects”. With the product and design teams, we are trying to help people get to that outcome successfully through a better understanding of how to use Todoist in-app but also through emails, the help center, tutorials and anything that accelerate their learning curve. Lucile and the team have been doing an outstanding job so far and we tried to get inspired for the new product as well.

6) Seems like you also have a travel bug. What was the most challenging to combine work with exploring/travelling when you first started out?

Haha, I’m trying 🎒 😄

It’s true that traveling and working at the same time comes with challenges.

The biggest challenge I faced was to keep up with a productive routine. Having some kind of frame around my day to produce what I ought to produce and then get out there and enjoy my time.

In Bali and Thailand, I was working from co-working spaces (Dojo Bali in Canggu and KoHub on Koh Lanta) and would try to create habits: same work setup, same place to work from, and a pretty consistent starting time - around 10am.

Apart from that, I felt very productive as it’s so easy to recharge. You walk 100 meters to watch the sunset, go for a crossfit session, get a drink on the beach… Lucky I am!

7) Would love to know more about how you implement the user onboarding @ugo — having tried to do some of that in the past, on behalf of different clients 😄

Hehe that’s a bit of a process! Onboarding is probably the project that’s involving the whole company: growth, designers, front-end and back-end engineers, support folks, and copywriters. We are working on two new user onboarding for the two apps, and share a similar process.

1- We would usually start with a bit of user research: what are users motivations, expected outcomes and context (following the Jobs to be done framework). The idea is to have a better understanding of what needs to get done and get everyone on the same page.

2- Retrace user journeys with user stories in mind, and see what are the current roadblocks. What is confusing or hard to achieve. What gets in your way that doesn't help people get to a “quick win” in the product.

3- Brainstorm and define onboarding flows. Here are some steps I got from a recent Google Doc:
- Pick the quick win to achieve on first-run (for Todoist, it’s completing a task and creating a project). - Plan the first-run experience: from “just signed up” to “made a quick win and now waiting for the team to kick back in”, how do they get there? - List the steps to progress through first-run experience - Optimize the list by removing any obstacles to first achievement.

4- Then a designer would get into the process of mocking up the steps for the Signup Process and the First-Run Experience.

5- A lot of back and forth with design/engineering to see what’s possible, what’s not.

6- The designer would create design elements that can be re-used in code for the engineers to work faster (in a systemic design fashion). Engineers get down on code to implement the experience.

7- Test, iterate, measure, test, iterate… 🙂

If you want some good reads on Onboarding, I can only recommend Samuel Hulick's book and Intercom on the topic: https://www.intercom.com/books/onboarding & https://www.useronboard.com/training/

8) How do you do the onboarding of new employees? do you have everything written down?

There’s a lot materials written down for sure! We have email templates for welcoming new peeps, a Google Slide to introduce every team member, some readings to do before joining. I got to read REWORK by Jason Fried and DHH, Hooked by Nir Eyal, Start With Why by Simon Sinek, and subscribe to First Round Review.

On the official day, we’ll create a thread to welcome warmly our new teammate. It’s usually filled with gifs and love 😄

New employees get a buddy that will help them answer any questions they might have about culture, processes, and current projects. There’s a lot of going on so it’s great to have someone having your back 😄 the Team Lead will organize weekly 1-on-1s on video conference to make sure they feel part of the team.

There’s a lot of administrative tasks to cater for as well. As a remote employee, you need to arrange for taxes and all so Menghan, the Finance guy at Doist, will assist you there.

Generally, new recruits will start on a very specific project that will make their skills shine, and get the ball rolling. I started as an intern (👶) and did a market research for Twist, the new tool we are working on. The project should be something not overly complex, that can be done solo within a week or two.

They will then ramp up in responsibilities and get to help on ongoing projects.

I think I covered most of it 🤔


Thanks for reading this summary, we hope that you find a lot of value as we did, and understand more about the culture at Doist and how fast growing remote companies handle their onboarding.

If you're interested to know more about our community and participate to the next AMA session, you can find more info here


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