Interview: Michelle Robbins

Michelle Robbins - RemotersMichelle Robbins is a marketing technologist, Vice President of Technology for Third Door Media, Inc. – the parent company for news sites Search Engine Land & Marketing Land; and the events series SMX (Search Marketing Expo) and MarTech.

A key member of executive management, she has been with the company since it was originally founded in 2006. She directs, manages, and implements all technology initiatives for the company brands and sites.

She has built and lead the technology team, and has personally developed and maintain numerous custom back end applications and web based tools for each of the brands to support IT operations, brand mobile strategy, and product strategy to further company growth and increase marketing services capabilities. Additionally responsible for integration, management and maintenance of all third party information and marketing technology systems (CRM, CSM, CMS, etc.) utilized by the various business divisions.

You can find Michelle in Twitter & LinkedIn.

1. How did you started working remotely? How did you do the switch?

My move to being a remoter was organic, and happened in stages. After I had my first child, I was not keen to spend the majority of his waking hours away from him. For the first few years, I would go into an office 2 days a week, and work from home on the other three. After I opened my own consultancy, I switched to being remote full time. I’ve been happily and successfully doing this for over 15 years now.

2. Which are the main advantages that you find by working remotely?

The advantages for me are all lifestyle related. Not having a commute gives *so much* of your life back, it’s truly transformative. Having the flexibility that allows me to continue to grow in my career without sacrificing my time with my family – has been invaluable.

3. Do you think you have disadvantages or that you’re missing something by working remotely?

I think you have to work harder at staying connected if you work remotely. You have to make it a priority to join local meetup groups, seek out local co-working spots, or get together on a regular basis with other consultants and colleagues.

4. From which cities or countries have you worked since you have become remote? Which has been your favorite one?

Munich, Frankfurt, Vienna, London, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Las Vegas, Boston, San Diego, Napa… It’s honestly tough to pick a favorite, but I’ve often thought of moving from Los Angeles to New Orleans, so perhaps that’s indicative!

5. From which type of place do you prefer to work from? Coworking spaces, coffee shops or others? Do you have any specific place?

I’ve been doing this for so long now, that I find it distracting to work anywhere truly public. I tried the coffee shop thing a few years ago, and just couldn’t get anything done – very difficult to focus. I much prefer my office, or colleagues’ offices or private/semi private coworking spaces.

At least once a month my team and I meet for the day in the conference room of a friend’s business – it’s terrific because we are all remote, and having that face time  strengthens our communications and cohesiveness as a team.

6. Which places would you like to travel to -from where you would enjoy and work from- as a remote worker?

There’s a good deal of Europe that I’ve not explored, and am quite eager to!

7. What would you say to the companies that don’t believe on hiring employees who work remotely?

I would question their commitment to improving their bottom line, employee morale, and diversity.

8. Which tools do you use to work remotely?

Communication tools are critical – Slack, Skype, GotoMeeting, Email, Twitter, and the good ‘ol telephone.

9. How do you manage your business and taxes as remote working professional?

As a professional myself, I believe that you hire professionals to take care of things that are not in your own set of skills and proficiencies 🙂  I have an accountant that takes care of all my business and personal taxes.

10. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely?

It’s not for everyone, and it won’t necessarily work for all teams.

For individuals, take a critical look at ‘how’ you work – how you best communicate, how you derive fulfillment from your job. If you find that much of that fulfillment includes face to face collaboration and camaraderie, remote working may not be for you.

For employers, you have to have a lot of trust in the people you hire. That puts the burden on you to be thorough in evaluating candidates – understand their personality, you’re not just hiring for skills, you’re hiring for independent work ethic as well. Some people need oversight and direction more than others. Teasing out the right fit for remote positions can be challenging – be committed to allowing time for the process, and for really getting to know candidates as people.

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