Growing my career remotely and lessons from two years of remotely succeeding

Working remotely for TrekkSoft on a nearly full-time basis has been both a blessing and a curse.

It’s been a blessing because I’ve got to use the rest of my time to travel and explore the world or work from home in my pyjamas without fighting through the morning traffic. It’s been a blessing because I get to structure my days according to what’s important to me, and that includes taking two-hour lunch breaks every Thursday to hang out with my Ahmah.

It’s also been a curse because I tend to feel disconnected from my team and the life they’re having in Interlaken (yes, the FOMO is hella real), the friendships they’re building, the cheese they’re having and the mountains they’re climbing. It especially sucks when I’m not around for birthday parties or Christmas parties or when a friend needs more support than a phone call.

Most days, I work late. I start late and end late and that’s how I like it. I like spending my days running errands and meeting with friends and family, doing a little bit of work in between and finishing most of it at night, when I’m at my most creative, inspired and productive.

And I love the work I do… except for the social media part (everyone knows I’m not a big fan). I love running webinars that teach people how to grow their content marketing and their digital presence, I love teaching people how our software can grow their businesses with cool features our product team has built. I love writing about things that matter to the travel industry like sustainability (screw the guys who say screw Al Gore) and marketing and Airbnb and blockchain (still not 100% sure on this one but I’m getting there); I love responding to both positive and constructive feedback from our newsletters (and there have been a few responses that truly surprise me, it keeps me on my toes); I love spying on my competition and figuring out how they kick our asses and how we kick theirs, I love scrutinising every single detail of our software and figuring out ways to make it better for the people who use it and learning how to communicate this to people who can make those changes better than I can; and at the end of the day, I love the tech and travel space. When I look at the leaders in my industry, I want to be there someday. (Shout out to Gillian Tans who I had the pleasure of listening to at 2016’s Web Summit and Taleb Rifai whose words I gobbled up like a hungry baby and who I got to walk behind as he exited the Leader’s Summit at WTM London last year.)

So how am I balancing life, travel, relationships and remote work without losing my mind, and attempting to build my career along the way?

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Let me preface my answer by saying that these were things I began doing unconsciously and it was only when I sat down to think about it, that I was able to so neatly categorise everything.

So here it goes.

1. Invest in your damn self

When I first started out as a content marketer at TrekkSoft, I was a fresh graduate with a tiny travel blog. Fast forward a few years and I’m a person with a full-time job with a tiny travel blog.

I wasn’t confident in my writing and would spend a lot of time and energy learning about content marketing – this new and fascinating world. One of my main responsibilities was to create content for TrekkSoft’s blog, which I did but I was very aware of where I stood in terms of skill. Not just when it came to writing or researching the article, or designing the visuals for it, but where it fell in the marketing funnel and if my content was truly encouraging people down the funnel.

I spent a lot of time just learning how to write better. I read article after article after article, listened to podcast after podcast, fell in love with a whole bunch of gurus like Marie Forleo and Tara Gentile along the way, downloaded as much free material I could get my hands on and read up as much as I could.

I soon realised that to bring myself to the next level, I had to put some money down. The free stuff was only getting me so far and to go further, I needed time to practice what I learnt and to invest in my learning. 

So I did.

I bought a couple of online courses from Creative Live, a few books for my Kindle and an audiobook from James Altucher. I also started paying for Audible despite the few things I don’t like about it.

I make notes on my laptop or in my bullet journal, depending on how I’m feeling, and refer to them time and time again when I’m executing a task that’s relevant. I spend half my time staying updated with industry news, tech updates, and educating myself because I want to and I enjoy it.

2. Invest in work relationships

I think it’s impossible to truly grow without the help and generosity of my co-workers. The last time I was back in Interlaken, I made an effort to get to know my colleagues better, beyond recognising their voices over sometimes terribly static Slack calls.

Offline, that included getting drinks after (sometimes during) work, hosting potluck dinners at mine, bombarding everyone at work with every new Taylor Swift song (multiple times a day to make sure they got the message) and sharing my popcorn and bacon crisps in the office.

Getting to know my co-workers as people and turning them into friends (in a non-creepy crazy way) was really fun and food was always great way to get to know them better. Those bonds and conversations spilt (spilled? I’m not sure) into work and it made collaborating on projects a lot easier and comfortable for everyone involved.

Online, I shamelessly bug people for help (when needed) and participate in conversations on Slack channels. Whether it’s giving something a “thumbs up” or actually contributing to the discussion, I think it’s a good way to remind people you exist across the world and that they too can come to you for help if needed.

TLDR: Be shameless boo.

3. Give yourself a goal

Goals are so important, although I think they’re annoying and silly and only used by productive people who wake up at 5am. Just kidding. Not really. Just a little.

I’ve set up my work goals to align with where I want to be in a year or two. I started by looking up companies and job positions that I was interested in, made a quick list of the skills I had and where I fell short and created my goals around that. Then, I asked to be included in projects that would help me achieve those goals. 

For 2018, I’d like to learn more about product management and product marketing because the role cuts through the entire customer journey and experience and that’s something I like working on, a lot. Plus, having my roots in writing and content marketing and learning how to speak to an audience definitely equips me to educate people on how to use the software, where it benefits them in their life and all that fun stuff.

I didn’t mean to give a pitch about myself there, whoops.

4. Take a break

I took two days off last week and I honestly feel refreshed and recharged. Yes yes, why would I need a break at the start of the year I hear you ask, well, it’s because I was feeling a little shit with both life and work and wanted to get away from it all. I hope that’s an acceptable answer for now.

Jokes aside though, taking care of yourself (myself) is so damn important. None of the above will be possible if I’m not mentally, emotionally and physically strong, 1000% present and ready to play ball. 

Take a break
Reading a book in Ho Chi Minh. I love highlighting lines that are so beautifully written I read them 5981 times in a row.

So when I need to, I take a few days off work, or stay in for the night, or say “no” to that project my colleague says will only take an hour of my time because it’s my time and my career and if I don’t guard it, no one else will. Read a book. Have boujee coffee, smelling it before your first sip. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking a 15-minute afternoon shower to freshen up.

5. Forgive yourself

I’ve made mistakes, large and small. I’ve submitted a press release a day late because I forgot about it, I’ve made many typos in blog posts and emails, I’ve sent out newsletters that were so soul-less and boring I’m surprised we didn’t lose half of our readership… and of course I’ve put my foot in my mouth more than once in team meetings.

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Every time it happens, which, thank God is less frequent now, I still come down on myself hard and ruthless and You should’ve known better Nic.

Of course mistakes help us grow blah blah blah, you know the spiel. I cling on to this one question by Regina Brett in times when I just want to retreat to a cave and hide forever:

Will this matter in five years?

Most of the time, whatever the fuck up was, you won’t even remember it in five years much less have it make an impact in your future life. And that’s how I get over myself, forgive myself and my mistakes, and move on.

With my third work anniversary coming up in a month, I’d like to add a large disclaimer that I’ve not quite figured it all out yet. I’m still learning how to manage multiple spinning plates, understanding how many plates I can spin at one time without losing my mind, and how to keep the remaining plates spinning when I accidentally smash one. While I’m growing in my capacity as a functioning, working adult, balance is something that has to tuned and fine-tuned over and over again. It’s never a done deal.

Whether it’s at work or life, it’s never over. You and I will never be done learning, growing and mastering. So good luck on your journey and here’s to many more years of it.

This is the article that gave me hope in remote working and succeeding in it.

 

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