Company Background: Andela is an "engineering-as-a-service" company that helps technology leaders build distributed software engineering teams quickly and cost effectively so they can ship faster. Andela has 1,000+ software engineers working as full-time, embedded members of development teams at over 200 tech companies and has raised $180M in funding to date.
Challenge: Pre-Meeting Owl, Andela's conference rooms included a regular front facing camera, for 10-20 people and a microphone. A newly-hired remote employee became frustrated at this setup, as she couldn’t see her colleagues' faces — only the back of their heads. It was challenging for her to feel included, as she struggled to hear or be heard in group meetings. The impact of this meeting set up led this employee to find herself waiting to interject for 20 minutes or more, as she struggled to understand the dynamic of the onsite room or sense a natural place to comment. Co-founder of Andela Christina Sass saw this problem, too, and recognized the Meeting Owl as a solution:
"Having only one front-facing camera and a separate microphone limited the ability for remote team members to know who has talking, to see their face and to hear them clearly. Particularly for meetings where a majority of the group was in one place with a handful of other remote team members, the Meeting Owl allowed us to be more interactive and for them to have a much better grasp on the dynamics going on in the big group."
Use Case: When a partner suggested the Meeting Owl to this remote Andela team member, she purchased one to try it out. She could now see and interpret faces on group remote calls, and brought it to the NY headquarters from her base on the West Coast to show her team. When her in-office teammates asked her why they needed this, she responded, "It's not for you, it's for me!" Determined to equalize her experience as a remote worker, from then on, she insisted on using the Owl for every virtual meeting that her team hosted. Soon after, Andela expanded its remote workforce from about five people to fifty — which was when the Meeting Owl proved its value on a large scale for Andela's employees. As Christina explains:
"Being able to face the speaker in real time and see her or his facial expressions is a huge benefit of the Meeting Owl. The Owl also captures the sounds better from the speaker. One challenge of remote work is that you run the risk of losing the nuance that can happen in the midst of an exchange. The Owl helps remote teams to not lose those important human signals."
Christina recalls some initial reactions from remote employees as they've implemented Owls, describing that:
"They were immediately excited as the camera angle switched from speaker to speaker. You could hear gasps and see smiles in the room. It had an immediate effect."
Problem Solved: News of the Meeting Owl spread internally between Andela teams, and as they grew their remote workforce, it became integral to the communication of their distributed teams. Off the bat, the Meeting Owl solved some major pain-points for starting meetings at Andela including having a quick plug-and-play setup, its clear audio, and its display of multiple people at once which creates an immersive experience.
The Meeting Owl now plays a critical role in helping Andela employees in Africa feel and stay connected to HQ so they can stay focused on their work. Andela currently uses Meeting Owls in medium to large conference rooms in all of their global offices, which include Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda, Kigali, Rwanda; Lagos, Nigeria; and New York, USA. As one remote employee said:
"The Meeting Owl helps you actually feel connected," and "helps to build rapport, which is especially important across cultural boundaries."
Andela sees Meeting Owls as a long-term investment in the happiness and productivity of their workforce as it becomes increasingly distributed. As Christina puts it:
"Investing in top tools for remote work, including Owl has increased our team’s performance and productivity. It also reduces frustration brought on by poor tools and loss of time. It increases employee engagement with the company’s mission and with their colleagues which makes them happier and more motivated to be at work. We would definitely recommend Owl to those looking to do remote work excellently. We already have!"
To learn how other companies and schools around the world use the Meeting Owl to stay connected, read more of our case studies.