In the third episode of LEAP’s new season, we hear an interesting story from Antonio Chiappetta, who works as an iOS software engineer at Elevate Labs. Elevate Labs is a startup developing a brain training tool designed to build communication and analytical skills. The company’s meditation app, Balance, has made Elevate Labs one of the leading brands in the mental fitness sector. What’s more, Elevate was selected by Apple as the Best App of the Year in the United States in 2014.
The Dream of Landing a Job in Silicon Valley
Originally from Italy, Antonio studied in Finland pursuing his master’s degree in ICT Innovation in a double degree programme at Politecnico di Milano and Aalto University.
He first heard about Startuplifers while attending Slush in 2019, a startup event held in Helsinki every November. Around the same time, Antonio was looking for an internship to complete his master’s thesis. Despite knowing that landing a job as a thesis worker in the US was challenging, he decided to apply as working in Silicon Valley had always been a dream of his.
Connecting with Elevate Labs Through Startuplifers
Antonio was connected with Elevate Labs through Startuplifers. After impressing during his interviews, the company offered him an internship as an iOS software engineering intern as well as an opportunity to write his thesis while working at the company. Without hesitation, Antonio accepted the offer.
Arriving to San Francisco And Onboarding Remotely
Antonio arrived in San Francisco in March 2020, right around the same time Covid-19 swept across the US forcing companies, including Elevate Labs, to shift to remote work.
Just a couple of days before starting his new role at Elevate Labs, Antonio received an email from the company saying that he would be onboarded remotely. “I took this news as a bit of a disappointment,” he says, “But I was hopeful that things would go back to normal in a couple of weeks time”.
As we know now, that was not the case. However, Antonio was glad that from the very beginning of the new “work from home” practises, the team at Elevate Labs did all they could in order to make remote work as smooth as possible.
New communication practises and sharing social activities helped the team to adjust to the new normal and before they knew it, the team started to notice the positives of working remotely. For example, team members were happy that they no longer had to commute to work from afar and from the company’s perspective, remote work gave an advantage in cost savings as a physical office was no longer necessary.
Working Remotely from Europe
Today, Elevate Labs has around 50 employees of which the majority is still based in the Bay Area. However, after the company shifted to fully remote mode, most of the new hires have joined the company from other locations and also from different time zones.
For now, Antonio is one of the only employees currently based in Europe. In order to be able to work with the team in the US, he plans his work days to overlap between 4-5h with the US team. Thanks to apps like Slack, Zoom and Google docs, the communication between team members has been smooth.
What About Connecting With Colleagues While Working Remotely?
We asked Antonio how he connects and gets social with his colleagues when working remotely:
“We use a lot of virtual social activities to help the team connect despite the remote setup”.
Every month the team organizes social all-hands where the whole team comes together for fun activities like learning how to make Boba Tea or experimenting with new apps. Besides virtual activities, the team is also planning physical team gatherings when the pandemic is over.
What are the practicalities when working remotely for a US based company?
What does working for a US based company remotely from Europe look like? What are the practicalities in terms of taxes and employee benefits?
“Since Elevate Labs doesn’t have an entity outside of the US, the only way they can employ me is as a contractor. I had to start my own company in the country where I’m fiscally resident, which is Italy. I get paid through a platform that converts my salary from USD to Euro. Regarding health insurance, since I’m a EU citizen, I simply use my Italian Health Card in the EU to get the same services as local residents.”
The Future of Remote Work
As remote work has become the new normal for many of us during the past year, there seems to be an ongoing debate as to whether remote work is here to stay and whether we will ever return to working in an office full time.
So Antonio, what do you think of the future of remote work?
“Remote work is helping workers find a better work-life balance, and companies have now access to a greater pool of talent at reduced costs. I think this will make people move away from big and expensive cities, and help redistribute work opportunities out of a few countries or cities. Maybe in a few years people like me won’t need to say goodbye to their family and fly to the other side of the world to build their career.”
Tune in now to hear Antonio’s whole story from making the leap to Silicon Valley, onboarding remotely, moving back to Europe and practicalities of working remotely for a US based company.
Available on all major podcast platforms.