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International Expansion – How to Onboard Employees in New Markets

September 14, 2020

6 min read

Let’s be honest, it’s challenging enough hiring and onboarding people in your home market, where you’re familiar with the language, culture and working processes.

When you’re starting from scratch in unknown territory, possibly thousands of miles away, these challenges are magnified. And it’s especially hard for companies looking to expand internationally at the moment, with the extra restrictions on meetings and travel.

Here at Attest, we took on our first ever US colleague this year – and we did it during lockdown. Tamer Abouleinein joined as Account Executive and he was quickly joined by six other US team members, all hired and onboarded completely remotely.

We shared our successful remote onboarding process in a previous blog to help other companies who are getting used to a new way of working.

In that blog, we heard what it was like to join a new company without being able to go into the office – but what’s that experience like when you’re in a whole other country? We caught up with Tamer to find out…

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Tamer Abouleinein, Account Executive @ Attest in New York

You were Attest’s first US employee. What made you want to get involved in establishing Attest’s US presence?

I started my career at larger companies where I learned how to work effectively with smart colleagues across global teams. I enjoyed the traditional corporate experience, however, I always felt a bit far-removed from the bigger picture outcomes of my work. I naturally gravitated towards scale-ups and startups, which is where I was prior to joining Attest. 

When you work in nimble, fast-paced teams, especially in strategic sales roles, growing the business isn’t just a huge personal success – it’s celebrated by the entire company, which helps validate our collective hard work. 

Challenging incumbents in mature markets with new and innovative products that threaten the status quo is very difficult to accomplish but it happens all the time, evidenced by the greatest companies of our generation. Launching Attest’s US presence in a new market, working alongside an incredible team, and helping to grow the business we envision was a challenge I could not refuse.

What was the remote interview process like?

Although the interview process wasn’t in-person, which is what most of us are used to, fundamentally, my approach to the interview did not change. I embraced the situation and brought my full self to the camera. After all, being the first hire in New York, I expected constant video chats with London to be the norm, even in a pre-COVID world. 

It was a wonderful experience meeting with my future colleagues, senior team members, and the founders. Overall, the process was very smooth and the team was excellent in communicating feedback and next steps.

You were supposed to be coming to London for a physical onboarding so how did you feel when coronavirus prevented your trip?

I was super excited for London! It would’ve been my first trip to the UK, and more importantly, a chance to meet the team in person. Hey, things happen (like global pandemics). Luckily for me, my teammates made a collective effort to ensure I had a seamless experience. Information was well documented, everyone was readily available to chat, and training sessions were scheduled for me a week ahead of my official start date. I felt deeply cared for.

You were employed to be an ambassador for Attest’s culture and values in the US. How did Attest help you get embedded?

My innate values naturally aligned with Attest’s core values, such as transparency, integrity, responsible autonomy, being fun and engaging, among others. From day one, every Attester demonstrated these values. We respectfully push and challenge each other beyond our comfort zones on a daily basis in a collective effort to build a better business, and most importantly, grow together.

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Did you have any concerns about navigating the differences between UK and US culture and language via remote communications?

Working at a European startup prior to joining Attest, I found that I was very much accustomed to the language and culture. I even picked up a few loaner words which I probably use more often than the average American, like ‘cheers’ and ‘proper’ – my colleagues across the pond are much better at British than I am.

Was the difference in timezone an issue when organising your onboarding?

Given the 5-hour time-zone difference from New York, I always ensured my morning routine was completed ahead of onboarding sessions which typically began between 8-9 am (eastern time). Since we’re remote and there’s no office to commute to, I was never late to an onboarding session.

How has Attest helped you get to know your British colleagues?

I knew most of my colleagues prior to my start date. Attesters connected with me on LinkedIn and welcomed me with open arms. Chances are, most Attesters share some type of common thread with you, despite our diversity in skills, experiences, and backgrounds. 

There are also interest-specific Slack channels anyone can join – fitness, food, podcasts, you name it! We also use this awesome App called Donut – it randomly pairs you with new colleagues for 30-minute coffee chats. I’ve connected with engineers, marketers, senior executives and everyone in between. I know who’s into electronic music, what kind of dishes people enjoy cooking, and when everyone’s birthdays or work anniversaries are.

How does Attest help you feel supported and part of the team, despite being thousands of miles from London?

Even though we’re physically separated by thousands of miles, I never feel disconnected from my team in London. Mentoring colleagues, exchanging feedback, brainstorming ideas, and working together across time zones to execute against our vision are all daily aspects of being an Attester. Our strong sense of culture and communication has set me up for success from day one.

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