Working on the operations side of a company is great. Your skills will always be necessary and they are transferable to any industry. You are a necessity to any business and your experience can take you as far as you want to go. My first role in operations was as a legal assistant in a law office in small town Iowa. I was 19 years old, working as part of my final internship credit for school. The carpet was green shag, the office was mostly male and the computer screen was round and dim. Times have changed and since then I have experienced a more diverse workforce, have had the pleasure of using a Macbook and have gained many skills and experience which have elevated me to where I am today.
There are many ways you can be a great remote assistant, some will work better than others depending on your company’s culture. A few effective tips come to mind. For example, logging in from Mexico and sharing a photo on Slack of your beachfront view and latest project (just kidding!). You can schedule a weekly Zoom call with the women of your team to ensure they know their voices are heard, and make sure other teammates know they can reach out to you for help regardless of your location. Basically, taking time out of your schedule to chat with your team about work and non-work related items is always a great way to build rapport.
Working in the Tech Industry
Everyone knows there are programmers who write code and make applications and graphic designers who create cool visuals, but my field (and many others) sometimes go unrecognized. Executive assistants work in the background to help make the operations of the business flow. My goal is to make myself the “go-to” person who wears many hats, the lady with the answers for everyone on the team who can help free up the partners’ time. Some of the things I handle are: assisting with client billing and invoicing, managing calendars, time-off coordination, and travel details and daily paperwork, just to name a few.
Working alongside “techy” people can be a challenge of its own when you’re not “in-the-know”. They chat about new applications that make their jobs easier, the latest tweet joking about their [insert tech title here] struggles and bouncing ideas off each other about “how to set form values on a custom form submit callback in Drupal 8” (I had to copy that from an actual Slack conversation).
While they are unable to reach out to me for programming and design needs, I find that when my coworkers know I am good at something and they can trust me from start to finish, they tend to lean on me for assistance with other things. When that trust is finally earned (it can take a bit when you are new to the team), their reliance makes you feel important and essential. Hard work comes back full circle. Everyone likes to feel significant and finding what makes YOU feel that way is key.
Our team is fully distributed and we have many people in different time zones. With the freedom of working remotely, there can be some issues that arise. We use Slack to contact each other throughout the day. It’s a great tool that keeps us easily accessible and in slow times, allows us to make jokes and bond as if we were in the office together. If something doesn’t come through text clearly, we hop on Zoom to clarify. Sometimes being face-to-face, talking things out or screen-sharing can help add that extra missing detail. For my own organizing, I use Slack to set reminders or Trello to set to-dos. Moving them into my DONE column is its own reward. For PTO tracking, I recently created a custom Google Form to enable our team to submit time-off requests, and I have them all flowing into a Google Sheet to organize and keep track of these requests.
Being Flexible over Thousands of Miles
Working remotely is amazing. You can travel anywhere and still represent your company. As long as there is a strong WiFi signal, you are in business! I take full advantage of my remote position and love traveling the world. My favorite places are Central and South America, but I have a few European and Southeast Asia trips planned in 2018.
Working while traveling requires you to be very organized, structured and have great will-power to log in and work every weekday. When everyone around me is leaving to go party or head to the beach, I am walking around finding the strongest WiFi signal so I can log-in and provide assistance to my team.
When I first arrive in a new location, I walk around to the coffee shops in which I plan to work during my stay. I log into their WIFI that weekend, so during the week I can leave one place and walk to the next, seamlessly ensuring I don’t miss out on any messages or leave long gaps in my availability. I want to make sure I am easily accessible no matter the time zone or distance.
Another form of flexibility is working directly with many other personality styles. It helps to be able to recognize a Type A personality, and know that someone’s bluntness isn’t directed towards you personally, they just have a different communication style. Likewise, just because you have contacted someone many times without a response doesn’t mean they are ignoring you, they could just be busy and forgetful. Finding ways to interact with all of these people and making everyone as happy as they can be, takes skill, patience and maneuvering. Knowing how to word-tango and digitally nag without them knowing it, makes you a great addition to any cultured team.
Succeeding in your background role
I love working for my company and performing the role of executive assistant. I realize that some people work in different time zones, are more productive at different times of the day and have their own life’s distractions. Working with them while being lenient and doing the best at your job is the goal of this position.
Success is different to everyone. To me, it’s about being happy with my personal life while producing results that make my employers happy. The key to working remotely in a background job is finding things that do make you happy, developing a strong rapport with your peers and knowing that your position matters. What does success mean to you and what tools/styles do you use to stay connected to your team?
Reach out to us on Twitter @chromatichq and let us know your tips for success.