living in a remote world
I was asked to write a post about living in a remote world from Janet Hanson the brilliant woman behind 85 Broads who is working with Microsoft Office 365. So here is one of the two posts.
I first started to work in a remote world when many other people in the world were just thinking about going remote. It was the mid-90’s and I became the second person at Silicon Alley Reporter who was given the nod to go sell ads and build a revenue structure. I was taking zero money but a percentage of everything I brought in…in essence a freelancer. It was a start-up and there were absolutely no restrictions on where I worked because I set up the rules from the beginning. I’d come in once a week for a few meetings and would work from home. We didn’t have an office yet so that was a win win for both of us. I immediately proved myself capable of getting the job done so who cared if I was working remotely even after the revenues that I brought in allowed us an office space.
I was working out of my basement in Chappaqua at the time. It was our time in the suburbs when I was home with 3 kids under 5 years old. I was losing my mind and was in desperate need of some type of job related activity to get my mind working again. Silicon Alley Reporter seemed like the perfect gig.
My day would begin getting the kids to their activities and whatever errands I needed to run and then I’d make my way down to my hole…a tiny office in the basement with the basics; a phone, a set of headphones, a printer, a fax machine and a computer.
I was getting about 150 emails a day while the phone rang off the hook. I’d close the deal, print out the contract, send it over and get it faxed back. Wow…that seems so archaic now. Soon the company went from a stapled six-page paper rag to a fully bound glossy magazine. Not only did we have a magazine that was now being sold on newsstands, we began doing large events and an online daily magazine too.
Once a week I would come into the city to meet with whoever needed to see my face and connect with the people in the office. The office went from being 1 person to 40 very quickly. What became difficult was that as time went on and I had hired sales people to be in the city while I managed them from the suburbs. Although I was training them and talking to them daily there was a dis-connect from the community that was being built in the office. It was even stranger when I didn’t recognize anyone in the office and they had no idea who I was either.
What was wonderful about this opportunity were many things. First of and foremost was that I could be home and work at the same time. I bet I was more productive by myself in a remote situation than I would have ever been in the city with a bunch of people around. It was great for my kids because I might have been on my headphones doing work yet I was in the kitchen making dinner or picking them up at an activity in the middle of the day because I could.
There was one particular moment I remember vividly. I was in the kitchen making dinner and I was trying to close a sale. I was putting the chicken in the oven while stirring the rice on the stove. The kids were sitting at the kitchen table doing some activity. You could hear them in the background and the movement of pots and pan. Yes, I am a total multi-tasker. The woman on the other end of the phone says to me, where are you and what are you doing? I told her exactly where I was and that I was preparing dinner. She loved it and we closed the deal.
The work world has changed and the ability to work remotely from anywhere in the world has changed the landscape particularly for women. I am not promoting that your CFO is never in the office or particularly your head of Marketing or sales because certainly as the company grew I really needed to be present because communications happen when you least expect it. Yet, there are so many unbelievable women out there who could be an asset to any organization and they aren’t given the chance to do what I did. There is no doubt that many women who are home now could easily do a kick ass job from their own hole in the basement.