The current world context changed the way that we’re working and will, most certainly, shape the future direction of work. Even though (forced) ‘work from home’ does not equal ‘remote work’ in most cases, we can expect to see a spike in demand for remote jobs in the years to come. Each month we bring you a look into our team and what it’s like working for In Marketing We Trust. This month we’re interviewing Cecilia, our Client Services Director.
As a fully-remote company that started more than 7 years ago, we’ve had our fair share of difficulties and learnings, which managed to shape our resilience and the amazing company culture that we have today.
Through our monthly interviews, we aim not only to showcase the amazing skills that IMWT’ers possess but also to shed some light on the different motivations, obstacles and best tips in different job categories. All of them remote, of course!
Remote Jobs – Interview with a Client Services Director
Part of the Management team, Cecilia is IMWT’s Client Services Director. She is an insightful and solutions-driven digital media professional with experience dealing at an Executive level – also known as ‘Mama bear’ inside the team.
With almost 4 years at IMWT and over 11 years of experience, Cecilia manages not only to be an excellent strategist and Director but also a highly appreciated people leader. However, even Cecilia was not immune to the hardships of starting a remote job, back in the day.
It’s commonly known that the beginning is the hardest. What was the hardest thing for you to overcome when starting at IMWT?
There are 2 things that were hard for me when I first started:
- I came from the corporate world where your deliverables are not tied back to hours, just deadlines. Having to adjust to a consultancy setting where you’re charged by the hour was really challenging. However, now that I have done it for almost 3 years, I enjoy the challenge of knowing I have a specific amount of time allocated to deliver something. It forces you to think in a different way and it pushes you to be way more efficient with your time.
- Managing 5 accounts from Day 1 in a remote environment. 3 years ago IMWT didn’t have the onboarding program and processes that we have today. We have come a long way!
When I started, as onboarding I was only given a page per account that I was meant to manage and a few names of IMWT’s team members that could help me; names that I forgot 30mins after I was handed over the accounts. I was alone at home, in front of my computer with a thousand questions that I wanted to ask the person sitting next to me. But guess what? There was no one because we all work remotely!!! I had to learn the hard way. I was doing crazy hours learning how to communicate with team members (Slack), taking video calls (Zoom) and learning how to use our brand new project management tool that was introduced a few months before I started (TeamWork) to make sure I could deliver and keep my clients happy.
I must confess: I thought I knew SEO before I joined IMWT. I soon realised that I knew very little compared to what was required of me to do a good job and SEO was only a small part of it. My learning curve was very very steep the first year. I had to learn lots more on SEO, start from scratch on CRO and even do an Executive Course on Managing Data Science teams which I still don’t know why I agreed to do, but there you go. However, I couldn’t have done it without the support of the team and tools that we have access to. The team was key to my development.
What was your first remote job? How was it?
My first remote job was doing some SEO Consultancy for thecarousel.com – It was a nice, stress-free job. Lots of flexibility and very interesting.
What motivated you to pursue a remote job as a client services director?
At the end of 2015, my husband and I decided to move from Sydney to Singapore because my husband was offered a job. I had to quit my job of 7 years at Bauer Media and I was terrified of the idea of having to look for a job. I really wanted a part-time job because I have 2 kids. However, Singapore doesn’t have that many part-time jobs for working mothers whereas Australia is very used to that approach. I wasn’t really looking for a remote job. I just wanted a job that allowed me to continue to learn and upskill myself in the Digital Marketing world while being there for the kids when they got back from school.
Now that I have done remote work for several years I think it is the best setup for me because I can be at home with the kids in the afternoons, but I also have the flexibility of travelling and being able to work from anywhere in the world. This is priceless for me.
What are your best tips on working remotely?
Build TRUST and COMMUNICATE well.
Building TRUST is really important while working remotely. Build TRUST with your team by demonstrating reliability … This is SO important! You also need to TRUST that your team will deliver what they committed to.
COMMUNICATING your productivity is key so that everyone knows what you are doing otherwise there is no visibility of everyone’s productivity. At IMWT we call this “Working Out Loud”.
In a regular office environment, we can see that our teammates are physically present and engaged with something – we see how everyone is productive and this creates an environment that inspires us to demonstrate our productivity too. Team effort produces a sense of TRUST, which binds a team together. But when we work remotely, we don’t have the built-in awareness of everyone working towards the same objective. Therefore TRUST and COMMUNICATION play a much bigger role when you work remotely.
Also to be able to work remotely in a successful way you need to ADAPT to a different mindset. As a remote worker you need to be:
- MORE proactive & independent
- Have STRONGER teamwork ethics
- MORE reliable, results-oriented and very responsive
Besides the above, the only other tip I think is worth mentioning is, if you are planning to work fulltime remotely make sure you have the discipline to start your day at a specific time but also FINISH your day at a specific time. When you don’t have to commute, you can end up working way longer than you should and it isn’t very efficient. It is not sustainable long term!
What is the most challenging part of being a client services director?
Addressing conflict within the team.
When things get complicated and you lose visibility, you know that if you were in a “normal” working environment the situation could be fixed by having everyone in the same room and get a feeling of the energy/read the room and act based on it. Since you don’t have that option, you really need to work hard on your communication skills, on always assuming positive intent, being honest and fair with everyone and catering for everyone’s needs as much as possible.
Fixing problems while working remotely takes longer and if it isn’t done in an efficient manner it takes a lot of time and energy to fix it. I have managed to address this by taking the time to hear the team out, ask questions instead of making any assumptions, while always being respectful of others … it is much harder than it sounds, but when done this way it really pays off.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
My exposure to so much knowledge within the team and industry. I work with a VERY smart bunch of people. This really encourages me to continue to learn and upskill myself. I love being around smart people … and they are really nice too!
How do you manage to lead a remote team effectively?
I’m sure there are better ways to manage teams remotely but this is how I do it:
- GET PERSONAL. When you work remotely, it can become a bit robotic if you don’t look after the human side of things and you can very easily lose connection with the team. I like having a personal connection with everyone in the team and invest the time to know what they do when they are not working and for them to know a little bit about me too. This is great to get to know them better and build relationships. When working remotely you do need to think about this and make it a priority because the environment isn’t there for you to interact with people unless you do it. You don’t really bump into people.
Besides the fact that I enjoy it, I believe people are more engaged and therefore more efficient when they feel connected to their team. Building a strong feeling of belonging within the team makes everything easier and more enjoyable … at least for me. I still think I don’t do enough of it.
- RESULT ORIENTED MEETINGS. I always have structured and result-oriented meetings – If I am facilitating the meeting, I never go into a meeting without knowing what the objective of the meeting is. I don’t necessarily share an agenda but I always have an objective in mind.
- PROCESS, GUIDELINES & DOCUMENTATION. I make sure the team follows the processes & guidelines set for Account Managers and that they document as much as possible.
- REGULAR CHECK-INS. I have weekly or fortnightly meetings with my team to make sure they are OK to independently deliver, help them unblock a situation, and be there for them.
- UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. While in a meeting, I try to not engage in non-meeting activity and offer my undivided attention. Be 100% there. However, I don’t always do it and this is terrible! I experience this on a weekly basis from other team members and when you don’t have the other person’s attention you immediately lose motivation. We tend to believe multitasking is a skill. However, when it comes to meetings it isn’t. It is disrespectful!
Your best tips for someone looking to start out as an remote Account Manager or Client Services Director?
GO FOR IT!