Remote Work Excellence: A Guide for LATAM Contractors Engaging with North American Teams

Why You Should Read This Guide!

Whether you’re transitioning from a local company in Latin America to your first international contracting job or you are seasoned in projects for US tech companies, mastering your new role is very crucial.

First, congratulations on landing an exciting new gig. You’ve aced the interviews, signed your offer, and notified your current employer—you’re set to begin. 

Well-done on these achievements! Now to the hard part.

Let’s prepare for what comes next to ensure that you not only meet but also exceed the client’s expectations.

This guide will help you understand why some contractors fail while others rock and take you through what to expect and how to succeed in your new contracting job. Let’s make this a successful journey together!

How To Succeed In Your New Role

At DevEngine, we have been connecting software and data engineering talent from Latin America with companies in the US and Canada since before remote work became popular. With this extensive experience, it’s only right that we share what we have learned about how things work and the best practices every new contractor should follow. 

Whether you have considerable previous experience or not, the following tips can help you execute your contract like the pro you are:

  1. Trust is Key

Remote work arrangements are fantastic — they allow you to work at your own schedule without the confines of the traditional in-office model. However, this excessive freedom is what makes most remote employers naturally cautious. 

By some conservative estimates, upwards of 7% of remote workers juggle side gigs at the expense of their main job or even hold two jobs outright. Some surveys show that this figure could be as high as 85% for some industries. 

The good and bad news is that clients are aware of this risk. Even if they don’t notice that you’re side-hustling on their company time at the beginning of the contract, it’s just a matter of time before your dual commitments come to light. As you can imagine, this isn’t something your future boss will be thrilled about.—so don’t risk it. 

The majority of people aren’t organized enough to handle long-term remote work with minimal supervision, often leading to a drop in productivity over time. Be mindful of the concerns your hiring manager might have about remote arrangements and proactively address them through your actions from day one.

Building trust is essential and can be achieved through clear communication, consistent and visible outputs like daily code commits, punctuality at meetings, adherence to agreed timelines, and detailed time tracking with comprehensive daily notes. Trust must be earned! 

Remote work demands tangible deliverables—this is how your team will know what you’ve been up to and evaluate your performance. 

  1. Build Your Reputation From Day One

“When I got here, I dominated. They thought I worked 100 hours a day. Now, no matter what time I get in, nobody questions my ability to get the job done. Get it through your head. First impressions last. You start behind the eight ball, you’ll never get in front.”

-Harvey Specter, Suits.

You only have one chance to make a good first impression — use it wisely.

Building a solid reputation starts the moment you join the team. Remember, no one at your new company is familiar with your past achievements or how great you are at your job. Carrying over your badges and accomplishments from one continent to another requires active effort and a deliberate approach.

As thespians say, you’re as good as your last performance. While your new employer might have been interested in your industry experience during the hiring phase, their focus now is how well you execute your current tasks. Therefore, you should always strive to be as productive and professional as you can.

Each interaction is an opportunity to show your professionalism. Below are some actionable tips to make a lasting positive first impression:

  • Always be on time for meetings. Stand-ups or daily gatherings are visible events and are taken seriously by the team. Therefore, it’s crucial to attend them and always check in on time—being 2 minutes early is even better than being on time. 
  • Always have your camera on. Switching on your camera might seem like a simple thing, but the reality is it communicates your presence and full commitment to the meeting.
  • Come prepared to every meeting. Think about what you will discuss beforehand so you can provide a concise and focused update on your work, such as the status of the tickets you are handling. 
  • If you’re unsure about what’s expected or if you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s far better to seek clarity or assistance early than to delay a project and keep your team in the dark.

By consistently demonstrating these professional behaviors, you actively build a strong reputation that highlights your reliability and dedication. This can help you make a successful transition into your new role. 

  1. Be Visible

Visibility is crucial in a remote setting. If nobody really knows what it is that you do – why would they keep you around in today’s challenging market where companies are continuously looking for avenues to cut their wage bills? 

As a result, your work needs to be seen, not just done. For example, it’s important to find the right balance between striving for the “perfect code” and delivering a functional, reliable code in a timely manner. While taking months to write the perfect code might sound reasonable, it can actually be counterproductive if you don’t issue occasional updates to help the employer track your progress.

Make your contributions known without tipping into being annoying. Every manager faces a crucial decision at contract renewal time: “If I don’t extend this contractor’s agreement, will my life be easier or more difficult?” You want to make sure that you’re indispensable and the answer is always “No, I can’t let them off because the value they deliver is way too great to go without.”.

Always keep your camera on during meetings. People need to see you and remember what you look like and what your personality is like to really care about you. As a result, It helps to personalize your interactions and build meaningful connections. It also helps to use your real office space as a background when possible. If you’re not in a position to reach the office, choose a setting that is familiar to the client to enhance their comfort level and trust in you. 

  1. Respect The Client’s Way

Don’t give advice or be critical before your dev environment is even set up. Take the time to listen and learn. Understanding the client’s methods is key before you start sharing your own ideas for improvements. It’s important to follow the client’s procedures, rather than stubbornly sticking to how you might have done things in the past. 

Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean you should always nod your head and salute “yes” at everything the client says. No.

As a matter of fact, good companies and experienced managers always appreciate thoughtful ideas and process improvement suggestions – that’s part of the reason they hired you. Your experience and ideas matter big time! 

As you settle in, you’ll find the right moments to suggest sensible enhancements. When you do, ensure your contributions are thoughtful and considerate. This shows you value their approach and are committed to enhancing the team’s effectiveness, not just changing their methods.

  1. Create Your Own Perfect Work Arrangement

Remote setup gives us the opportunity to build work around our lives—which is why we all love it so much. The truth is nobody enjoys micromanagement, including your new boss. However, micromanagement can be triggered by a few common issues, such as  lack of clear communication, unmet promises, or delivering something different from what was agreed upon. 

How do you avoid this?

The solution is simple — create a perfect home work environment that allows you to stay productive and meet the employer’s expectations and project deliverables. Take the time to reflect on the points discussed in this guide; if you can check all those boxes, you will likely create a work setup that is ideal for you—one that keeps you happy and productive, a feat that might be more challenging to achieve in a traditional office setting.

Below are other additional tips to stay productive while working from home:

  • Ensure your home office is comfortable, well-lit, and functional
  • Tidy up before and after work to eliminate distractions
  • Keep refreshments and other frequently used items within easy reach
  • Have detailed work-plans for accountability
  • Update your employer as soon as any inconveniences arise to avoid keeping them waiting
  1. Core Hours

It’s crucial to understand and firmly establish your working hours around the client’s needs. Within the first two weeks on the job, have a conversation with your direct manager about core hours and time overlaps. Your manager needs to know where and when to find you. Although time zone differences between Latin America and the US/Canada are generally easily manageable, even a 2-hour difference requires careful consideration.

Be aware of what’s acceptable and what’s not. With your boss possibly in a different time zone, and other team members also working remotely across Latin America, it’s essential to account for these variations and demonstrate flexibility. Remember, there are meetings that can’t be moved and some core hours that are non-negotiable.

Obviously, we all have partners to support, kids to drop off at school, pets to walk, aching teeth to pull and leaking roofs to fix from time to time – have clear understanding of how to plan your errands and how to communicate them properly to the team. You are not expected to be glued to your desk from 9 AM to 5 PM without pause, but clear communication about your schedule and delivering results on time are crucial expectations.

  1. Communication Best Practices

We all speak English as a second language here at DevEngine, and while no one will hold an accent or imperfect grammar against you, it’s something to be aware of. Communication proficiency is less about your English language skills and more about your habits and practices. Consider these useful tips from day one:

  • Written communication. Rest assured that your first 5 emails will create a lasting impression on the client – positive or negative. We encourage you to utilize tools like ChatGPT, Grammarly, or others you prefer to craft meaningful, professional, and error-free messages and documentation. Remember, the effectiveness of documentation and emails primarily hinges on content, not just form. Stay focused on what the message needs to achieve.
  • Verbal communication. In remote work settings, you’ll often communicate verbally during video meetings such as daily scrums and status updates. When it’s your turn to speak, you may find all eyes on you. Keep your updates clear and concise, focusing solely on the topic at hand. Employ straightforward status keywords like “Done,” “In Progress,” or “Delayed—Need help,” to streamline your updates without unnecessary detail. Preparation and clarity are key.
  • Communication Tool Proficiency. Whether your team uses Slack, Teams, or another platform, becoming proficient with these tools is crucial. Utilize statuses to indicate when you are away or need focus time—simple tactics that enhance your visibility. As a general rule, during the working hours aim to respond to Slack/Teams messages within 15 minutes and important emails within 60 minutes.
  1. Deadline Awareness

Be very aware of your deadlines – not delivering on time without any prior communication is the biggest taboo with US and Canadian teams. This is the surest and quickest way to derail your career. While delays in features or projects are somewhat normal, clear and proactive communication is absolutely essential if you anticipate missing a deadline. Simply put, promising to deliver something by the end of the day on Monday and then turning up with the solution on Wednesday without having kept your team and manager informed will not fly, even if the solution is solid.

  1. Virtual office setup

This is the third time we’re emphasizing the importance of keeping your camera on during meetings in this guide. Yes, it’s that important. It helps keep you “human” to people on a different continent who have never met you in person. It maintains trust, and it forces you to stay organized daily — wearing clean and professional clothes, combing your hair, and keeping the books on the shelf behind you tidy. 

A turned-on camera is your friend—it helps you self-organize, stay focused, and be successful working remotely over the long term. We strongly recommend using headphones to limit noise and interference, and investing in the fastest internet connection available. Make sure that light comes from the front (not from behind you) and your face is clearly visible on the screen – eye contact is important in all human interactions. 

Think about it from the standpoint of what your office tells the client. Do they see you as a professional and reliable contractor, or will they spot red flags?

  1. Keep learning and investing in yourself

Your B2 level of English or your Azure certification might have helped you secure this job, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Think about it this way: when your contract is up for renewal, you’ll have a much better chance of negotiating a pay increase from the position of, “I’ve learned X and Y and can now deliver Z for the team and add value to the project,” rather than, “I need more money because inflation is high.”

For example, if your English proficiency is at B2, don’t just assume it will improve because you are now working in an English-speaking team. Seek out formal classes to advance to C1. If your grammar is already perfect, consider courses that can help you refine your accent. If your English is impeccable, why not join Toastmasters to polish your public speaking skills? There is always room for improvement.

Don’t be surprised if the client is willing to fund some of your English classes, exam preparations, or professional certifications. Talk to us here at DevEngine, and let’s explore what options are available. We are committed to your success and are here to support your growth. 

  1. Take the Long-Term Perspective

Many believe that frequently changing jobs is a quick path to higher earnings. While it’s true that moving to a new gig often leads to a rapid pay increase, this strategy has its limits. It’s crucial to focus on long-term success rather than the immediate gain of a few hundred dollars. Your true success will stem from your skills and reputation—both of which are built by committing to complex projects over substantial periods.

Meaningful products often take months, or even years, to develop. Generally, no significant work is accomplished in less than 12-18 months. Consequently, engagements shorter than this duration may be viewed unfavorably on your resume, as they don’t reflect the perseverance and depth of experience that more extended projects demonstrate.

Starting a new job is supposed to be hard, especially during the initial phase when you’re learning and trying to settle in quickly. Instead of panicking or looking for an exit when things get tough, adopt a long-term mindset. Be methodical, seek help from your team and DevEngine, and focus on figuring things out. Doing meaningful work will pay off over the long term.

By dedicating yourself to enhancing your skills and deepening your project experience, you position yourself to access more intriguing and substantial work. This approach not only leads to fewer job changes but also enables  you to negotiate larger salary increments when you do decide to make a career move. Ultimately, a long-term perspective not only elevates your professional trajectory but also ensures you are seen as a valuable asset capable of handling significant challenges and driving projects to successful completions.

DevEngine Is Here To Support You

Our success is directly linked to that of our consultants. We are committed to supporting consultants every step of the way as you embark on this exciting journey. The guidelines outlined in this manual are designed to help you navigate the complexities of remote work and ensure that you not only meet but exceed the expectations of our clients. Remember, we are here to assist, guide, and support you in achieving your career goals.

Wishing you all the best as you move forward. Here’s to a successful partnership and a prosperous future!