June 4, 2024

Across the universe: Meet five Apollonauts thriving in a distributed world

Melanie Marshall

Melanie Marshall

Here at Apollo, we’re on a mission to help developers help the world. It’s an ambitious goal, and we have an incredible team of smart, kind, thoughtful, and technically savvy humans helping us achieve it – one graph at a time. While many companies are instilling return-to-office policies, we’re operating the same way we always have: as a globally distributed company focused on creating a place where everyone can do their best work. For our employees, part of doing their best work means working from home.

Much like our services, we aren’t a monolith. While being distributed works for us at Apollo, each of our teammates have their own reasons why. Whether it’s being able to balance time with kids, raise a new puppy (and be home for lunchtime dog walks), or take on a leadership role in tech that wouldn’t be available in their small town, we’re building an inclusive company with folks from all over.

Today we’re meeting five of our teammates and learning more about why they’re thriving at Apollo. First up, let’s get to know Chandrika Srinivasan, a Senior Staff Product Manager who’s helping drive Apollo Router from London, England.

You’re new to working remotely. How’s the change been for you so far?

Working remotely has been a complete game-changer. For seven years I was commuting two hours each way. Sometimes when you’re in a situation you think “ah, it’s not that bad! I’m doing Duolingo, reading, and watching Game of Thrones.” Once I started working from home, I started to realize what a massive difference it makes. What I hadn’t appreciated until then was the extra time it brings me with my daughter. She was 18 months old when I began working from home and I was thinking “wow I would have missed out on all of this.” 

She’s not going to need me to get her dressed and take her to school eventually. But right now, during these formative years, working in an office five days a week is non-negotiable. In fact, one of my coworkers and I joke about hitting my Bath Time OKR with my daughter.

What’s a typical day like for you? 

I’m a triathlete. Sometimes my day is focused on working with my immediate team in EMEA and sometimes I know that my day is going to be super heavy after lunch, if I have a lot of California-timed meetings. In those cases, I tell my team I’m going to start a little later and I begin my day with a workout, which is a great way to start the day. I also take my daughter swimming every Friday. She thinks she’s a triathlete, too, because once she biked to swim then she ran back from the pool.

Do you feel connected to your team?

I think we just have to be a little more creative and we find ways where we can connect with each other. The engineering manager I pair with has cultivated an atmosphere where we openly talk about how we’re doing or, if we just want to hang out with someone, we can start a Slack huddle and work on our own things in silence. 

One thing I’ll add, a lot of distributed companies tend to be America-centric, but every single Apollonaut has been so sensitive about time zones. People will ask multiple times if meeting times are ok and my boss in California will offer to start early. 

Then there’s Daniel Abdelsamed, a Senior Developer Experience Engineer, living in Ohio, US.

Hey, Daniel. Good to see you again. Remind us, did you work from home before joining Apollo?

Before Apollo, I was working for a hardware company, so working from home wasn’t an option. You can’t fix machines remotely. I used to spend an hour plus of my day commuting, so Apollo being distributed was a huge draw. Plus, I don’t have to wear headphones all day and can listen to music or meetings from my speakers. The only people I’ll annoy are my cats, and they don’t seem to mind. 

Do you think there’s a difference between a partially and fully distributed company?

Apollo is built around asynchronous work. With some companies where some people are in office, some hybrid, and some fully distributed, the culture can be very jarring because it’s like you’re almost working in three totally separate companies. Apollo’s dedication to fully distributed work gives me confidence that it’s going to continue to be a remote position. 

We heard you have a sweet office set-up. Tell us more. 

I love that I get to work in my own space with my own computer set up. I’ve got the right headphones, the right monitors, and can arrange my space in a clutter-free way that helps me focus. I use two monitors: one is a normal-sized monitor and the other is this super ultra-wide monitor that I do most of my day-to-day work on. It’s able to fit a spreadsheet as large as the eye can see! 

What’s the vibe like with your team? Do you touch base often?

I feel really well connected to my team. One thing I like is that on Fridays, we have a coffee chat where we get together and talk about anything that’s not work-related; from what we’re doing this weekend, to how gravitational waves work. 

Next up, let’s hang out with Hannah Taylor, an Account Exec (AE) currently living in Oregon, US.  

Hannah, when did you first start working remotely?

I began working remotely during lockdown, and I quickly noticed I was getting more work done in a shorter time frame when working from home. I’m a people person, I enjoy chatting with people, so it was easy to get distracted in an office environment. 

Being distributed brought you a big change, didn’t it?

Working from home gave me the flexibility I needed to feel good about getting a dog. I had been thinking about it for a long time, but I like to go to the gym right after work and it would have made having a dog hard. Now I have the ability to work from home, take the dog on walks during lunch, then go straight to the gym after work – all that and my dog hasn’t been alone all day. When I think about the future and the possibility of a family, the flexibility of working remotely is really important to me.

You were already working remotely, so what made you decide to interview at Apollo?

I joined a company remotely, and then as things began opening back up after the pandemic, they asked for the team to be in office. This would have meant moving halfway across the country. Initially, I was okay with the idea, but I soon realized I didn’t really want to move. My friends and family are here, and I really like Oregon. While I liked the company and thought moving might be a great experience, I knew I would ultimately want to return here. Once I really sat with the idea, I knew that if returning to the office was required, I would look for something else. 

I was casually talking to friends in my area about this return to office choice and one of them mentioned that a recruiter from one of my previous jobs was now hiring at Apollo. So interviewing here kind of landed in my lap. It felt like the universe saying, “here you go, here’s what you’re asking for. You can stay in Oregon, be remote, and do the work you wanted.” The universe was right.

Speaking of getting a dog, let’s chat with Livia Bretz Thompson, Senior Diversity Sourcer on the Talent team, who lives in Florida, US. 

Let’s start with the important stuff: Tell us how you got your dog, Astro!

My husband and I had been talking about getting a dog for the longest time, but we never thought it was the right time. Once I started working from home, we started talking about the idea seriously. Right after I joined Apollo, we went to San Diego for Summit (our annual conference for API platform engineers and leaders), and to my surprise, Apollo had a puppy corner where you could play with puppies between sessions. 

My husband was in San Diego with me, so I started sending him photos. We were debating… are we really considering this? We’ll have to travel back to Florida with a puppy. So he came to the puppy corner and there was this specific puppy that was so chill, and we decided to adopt him. We named him Astro because we wanted to have a space theme name to remind us that we got him during the Apollo event.

Has Astro become a part of your regular work day?

Yeah, if I’m not in a meeting, he’s always with me. I can let him out to run around in the backyard and I can take breaks to play with him a bit and then come back to my desk. Having him around definitely improves my mood. I feel I’m more productive, and I’m more physically active. I take him for a walk in the mornings and during my lunch.

Do you still feel connected to your team?

I do! Not just our team, but the company offers different ways to connect – virtually, offsites, and our annual Company Kick-off where we bring the whole team together. I know I can drop time on someone’s calendar to have a quick meeting. Also, I love our cooking channel in Slack. I’m always there sharing recipes and looking to get inspired by what coworkers are cooking up. 

Our Head of Security, Andrew Smiley, keeps us safe from Nova Scotia, Canada.

Now, Andrew, you don’t exactly live in what we’d call a “tech hub.”

No, I live in a very small town in Nova Scotia, so I would be looking at over an hour drive each way to Halifax if I wasn’t working remotely. Pre-pandemic we lived in the suburbs of Halifax and I bought my current house as a renovation project. Around that time my son suddenly said he wouldn’t mind trying out small town living, so we took advantage of that and moved out here to the rural area. It happens to be very close to where I grew up. 

What do you love about your area?

The fact that it isn’t a tech hub. I can walk down the street here and decompress after work. It’s a typical small town with firefighters and mail people, a bakery literally around the corner. So it’s very easy to leave work behind after I’m done. 

How does being distributed work for you?

I can structure my day in a style that works for me. My team likes to tease me that I’m on too much, but I’m not really. I’ll do a little bit, check on my staff and communications, take my kid to school, come back, have breakfast, do some work, go for a walk, and then check into things on the West Coast. The flexibility – and acceptance of that flexibility – is really great. 

I also think being distributed levels the playing field. When I first started working, I was at a company with nine floors in the building. If you wanted to talk to the executives, you would have to brave the stairs and go up to their floor and knock on their door, and if they threw you out, it was going to be embarrassing. But when you’re distributed, everyone’s just a little two-inch square on the screen. I find it very inviting to reach out to anyone in the company any time.

Was Apollo being distributed part of the draw for you?

Yes, because I knew I wasn’t moving to San Francisco. I like the fact that there’s no office at all. Sometimes when companies have some people in office, you can often feel like you’re outside the sphere of influence if you’re distributed. There’s a remote-first mentality prevalent at Apollo. Working for Apollo felt like the big leagues. At Apollo people are joining from the kinds of companies you see in the headlines. Without having to leave my area, I get to see the trends being set, not read about them in a book a year from now.

We’re hiring! Check out our open roles and follow us on LinkedIn and X.  

Written by

Melanie Marshall

Melanie Marshall

Read more by Melanie Marshall