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Tasks Over Time: OpenVPN’s Yurii Opanasenko on Prioritizing Productivity

Here at OpenVPN, we have a motto that “every team member is a co-owner of the company.” Yurii Opanasenko, the OpenVPN New Billing Product Manager, explained what this means: “In a small or mid-size company, every person can see how their particular efforts help the company grow and flourish. Moreover, if everyone around you is proactive and takes extra responsibility, I would say employees are co-owners of such a company regardless of whether they have shares.” 

At OpenVPN, there is no room for disengaged employees. Managers prioritize individuals that will take the initiative in their work and take a personal, vested interest in the company’s success. To ensure the workplace encourages this level of high performance, Yurii shifts the focus from time spent at a desk to tasks to be accomplished. “At many large enterprises, there is often a lazy approach to work that doesn’t prioritize taking initiative. People at companies like that often open their laptops with the focus of using up a certain amount of time, rather than accomplishing specific tasks. At OpenVPN, we ensure the opposite.” Yurii explained that shifting focus from time spent to work completed is hugely beneficial to the organization, positively impacting performance, and maintaining a healthy workplace culture. As a result, the company is brimming with enthusiastic and bright individuals. Yurii feels lucky to work with so many mature teammates who are passionate about the products they are working on.

“Without spending too much time discussing hiring practices, I will say that we do not welcome candidates that have an ‘I don’t care’ attitude,” Yurii said. There are no lackadaisical people on his team — everyone is very passionate about working together on customer-facing features that allow users to achieve more with less hassle. “I also appreciate my team for helping build a friendly and supportive atmosphere, where even a failure is treated as an opportunity to learn and do better,” he said. Yurii does his best to be available at any time so that issues and ideas can be discussed as soon as possible. “I like that at OpenVPN, anyone can raise an issue or counter-argument, so decisions are made collaboratively and are rational rather than emotional or selfish. Delegation is easy since ‘everything is a ticket’: once logged, it will not be forgotten.”

As a New Billing Product Manager, Yurii analyzes the current product state and communicates with stakeholders to keep the product’s roadmap up to date and the product itself up and running. “Billing should help Customers fulfill their needs and shouldn’t be an obstacle. It is a pleasure to see how each added feature helps real users – both external and internal – such as customers, support engineers, and customer success representatives.” Yurii explained that the new billing model allows easy centralized scaling of subscriptions without the need to interact with the activated Access Servers. “As a result, we see more and more happy customers and far fewer support tickets.” 

Another way Yurii and his team achieve high levels of productivity by not enforcing particular locations or times for work — which is unique from a lot of other businesses. Over the past few years, many organizations have invested a lot of time and resources into bringing employees under a single roof. However, experts have found that this hurts overall productivity since most people need uninterrupted time to focus on work. Being in an office makes it difficult to get continuous-time to focus because of unscheduled meetings, managers and coworkers popping in, and other distractions. Yurii and his team don’t have to worry about that since they all work remotely. He explained, “My team and stakeholders are spread across different cities, countries, and timezones, so we can’t all work under the same roof. Many even work from home — using OpenVPN, of course — which means less commute time, and more time for life.” 

Get together with some of the OpenVPN team and their families

However, Yurii did explain that like any work model, remote work has challenges to overcome. “There are certainly downsides to not working in an office on a fixed schedule: you can’t have a friendly chat near the coffee machine, you can’t gather all the teammates into one room to discuss complex tasks, etc. But we got used to it: we’re using more explicit descriptions in Jira tickets, spending more time on phone calls, and discussing and improving our processes in retrospectives. Plus, we meet in person at least once every six months for team building activities.”

Because they can pick and choose when and where to work, the employee’s on Yurii’s team have a better work-life balance.  This means they bring their A-game to work with them every single day. Yurii also said that despite everyone working remotely, he has not noticed any significant negative impact on productivity, even without seeing his team in person each day and being able to check in on people. “Micromanagement is not an option for remote collaboration, that is for sure. Our teams need a lot more trust and self-discipline — but I truly believe we have mastered that.” 

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