TwentyThree: becoming a distributed team

Video is not all about video meetings! We’ve met with video marketing expert, Madeleine Holbye about how they stay connected and make things work in a distributed remote team at TwentyThree.

Madeleine Holbye is “Head of Evangelism” at  TwentyThree , and the only team member based out of Oslo (Photo: Meri Sørgaard)

Madeleine Holbye is “Head of Evangelism” at TwentyThree, and the only team member based out of Oslo (Photo: Meri Sørgaard)

TwentyThree in short

Simply explained, TwentyThree is a video marketing platform. In other words,  it’s a platform that features 4 main pillars - Video Tools, Video Data, Social Video, and Webinars - for marketers to succeed with video; 

“It lets marketers work holistically with video marketing by creating video landing pages, sharing to social channels, embedding videos on a websites, running webinars and measuring performance. Doing video marketing smart I'd say. I use our own tool a lot since I am able to see how video delivers ROI and generate leads to TwentyThree”,

Madeleine Holbye says about using the platform in her own workflow.

Madeleine Holbye has been with TwentyThree for nearly six years and currently works with managing all the earned strategies and brand management at the company. “I have the very fluffy title Head of evangelism”, she explains while laughing. Madeleine is currently the only team member at the Oslo office, and has lots of experience from both working and running a team as a remote team member.

Distributed team structure & “remote first”

Not long after establishing the HQ in Copenhagen, the team at TwentyThree saw that they needed to create ownership to what is happening out there and on the road. Since TwentyThree also has a team in San Francisco from an early stage, this change in mindset led to more established functions and norms to support remote teamwork.

Team gathering at TwentyThree (img: Madeleine Holbye)

Team gathering at TwentyThree (img: Madeleine Holbye)

“We always talk about our offices in plural. And that everyone is remote. It’s not like San Francisco and Oslo are remote locations, it’s everyone in every office, and everyone who’s on the road somewhere. Our work is about being global, so it’s more about being connected. Sometimes physically, and sometimes over video”,

Madeleine says about their remote first mindset. Madeleine herself started working from Oslo before spending time in San Francisco, to finally move permanently to Copenhagen and work from the HQ. Now she’s back in Oslo again. For a while she even worked two days in Oslo and three days from Copenhagen every week;

“I’m thankful we spent all this time together in Copengagen and figured out how to do things the TwentyThree way. It made us ready for being distributed”

Madeleine is not hiding what a learning curve it has been (and still is) to work in a distributed team and as a remote team member. She shares how they started by moving a lot back and forth trying to figure out how they could be a productive remote team;

“I think the time we spent together in Copenhagen created a very strong team feeling, and that we somehow felt we had to be physically present to establish a global team culture. After this it felt less scary to have a distributed team”,

she says about the time they spent together in Copenhagen. Madeleine is happy they have found a form of remote collaboration where she can travel less. And continues;

“Before I got my son, I traveled 140 days a year, and the year before it was even more. I think remote culture makes it less necessary to travel as much, and I’m happy about being more put in Oslo right now, while still being able to collaborate with my team”.

Why a distributed team?

At the moment, TwentyThree has offices in Copenhagen, Oslo and San Francisco. In addition, some team members are travelling most of their time. “I think we will have team members in other relevant locations in the near future”, Madeleine says when being asked about further remote employees. She continues;

“We saw that we had a need for certain team members that we didn’t find in the Nordics, and therefore established a growth team in San Francisco. Now we look at remote team collaboration as a goal, but it’s still a learning process for us”.

Removing remote isolation

By creating norms to make the informal conversations possible, Madeleine feels less isolated;

“If being remote only includes you in work related conversations, that’s what creating isolation. We talk a lot about non work-related topics as well, even though we’re not sharing the same coffee machine.”

At TwentyThree they use a lot of video and photos to make people feel included. They even have certain things set in their calendar – such as daily standups at 9 in the morning, to make sure everyone sees their colleagues daily. These standups are not always strictly about work. On Mondays, the standup includes the entire TwentyThree team, where the different teams present their status; “It creates a transparent and open culture that is very positive”, Madeleine says about bringing the team together.

Yearly team coworking/coliving week in Marrakesh, Morocco

Yearly team coworking/coliving week in Marrakesh, Morocco

The team at TwentyThree are also all about bringing the whole team together physically through different activities. These events are both social and work related;

“We often start our gatherings by having a workshop where we have an overall topic. The whole team contributes with their ideas and perspectives. When we’ve agreed on the results, we celebrate together. This is something we couldn’t have done over video.”

Once a year The TwentyThree team have a remote work retreat where they gather the whole team to work from the same location. For the last few years this co-loving/co-working retreat has taken place in Marrakesh. Madeleine gives the impression that the TwentyThree team has come a long way when it comes to remote team collaboration. They are a true inspiration and show that it is completely possible to shift from traditional office structures to new ways of working together as a team.

Madeleine works from the coworking space, MESH in Oslo (img: Madeleine Holbye)

Madeleine works from the coworking space, MESH in Oslo (img: Madeleine Holbye)

Madeleines’ 4 top tips to stay productive when working as a fully remote team member

  1. Having daily standup at 9. To remind myself and others about what I’m focusing on, instead of becoming a slave of other peoples time. It’s a lot about holding myself accountable. Putting it into words also makes me question what I’m doing.

  2. I’m a slave to Slack and Trello. So that’s my second top tip: the right tools for remote collaboration!

  3. Lowering the threshold for jumping on a video call. The moment you have something you want to bring up, this should be just as easy as walking over to a colleague at the physical office

  4. Our Monday 9am “Rollcall” is always live-streamed and always available on demand for those who can’t be present because of timezones or colliding events.

Madeleine working from MESH in Oslo (photo: Meri Sorgaard)

Madeleine working from MESH in Oslo (photo: Meri Sorgaard)

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