Interview to Debbie Chew

Debbie ChewDebbie Chew, is a remote based SEO specialist at Dialpad, you can find her via her website, twitter and  LinkedIn.

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

At my previous company, I worked in Taiwan for several years before moving back to the U.S. in 2019. Around this time, our team had been trying different iterations of hybrid work (some days at the office, other days at home) so we adopted remote-first practices. From there, I slowly transitioned to working remote full-time, and in a completely different time zone.

2. What do you think are the main advantages of remote work?

There are many but the first thing that comes to mind is how thankful I am to have no commute. I like efficiency and commuting everyday felt unnecessary since a majority of my work can be done online without having to be in the same room as the rest of the team.

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

I miss being able to hang out with colleagues during lunch, after work, or on weekends. I consider myself an extroverted introvert, so although I don’t need to constantly socialize, it’s a nice change once in a while to do non-work stuff outside of work hours with colleagues.

4. From what cities or countries have you worked since you have become remote? 

I started working remotely full-time a few months before the pandemic, so I haven’t worked remotely from anywhere aside from my home.

5. From what type of places do you prefer to work?

I prefer to work from home because I can connect my laptop to a monitor and have control over the noise level in my home office (except when my dog barks, of course).

6. What places would you like to travel to while working remotely?

I sometimes miss living in Taiwan and I would love being able to see the ocean outside of my window, so I’d choose somewhere on the coast of Taiwan, such as Kenting.

7. What advice would you give to overcome the main challenges of working remotely? 

One of the biggest things I learned after working remotely is that being your most productive self is an iterative process. There are many tools and ways you can keep track of your tasks, but the main thing to keep in mind is that what works best for you might not be the same for someone else. Once you try different things and find what works for you, your productivity will significantly increase.

For me, I realized that I don’t love having a long laundry list of tasks. Since there are always new tasks being added to the list, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead, I figure out what are my top 3-5 tasks each day and write them down — with the biggest, most important task of the day at the top. Anything I don’t get to that day gets rescheduled (and re-written) for the next day. This repetition reminds me to either prioritize tasks that are constantly rescheduled or delegate it to someone else.

8. What tools do you use and are your favorites to work remotely?

After writing out my to do list by hand, I like scheduling time blocks for each action item on Google Calendar. Another tool I use is Noisli which allows me to mix my own ambient sounds when I need to do something that requires a lot of concentration. I like to hear the sound of the fireplace with a little bit of rain in the background.

I’m biased but I also like using Dialpad Meetings to meet with colleagues. One of the coolest features is that it uses Voice Intelligence to pick up on action items said during a meeting.

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

Since my company is based in the U.S., it’s a pretty straightforward matter for me as my taxes are withheld by my employer. I use Credit Karma to file my taxes for free.

10. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely and companies making the remote switch?

For people who are looking to work remotely, my advice is first understand what you value in a workplace. As you start interviewing, ask questions to understand each company’s remote work related policies such as:

  • how flexible the work hours are (are you required to work 9-5 or is it 100% up to you?)
  • how they communicate (do they have a meeting-heavy culture or is it mostly async?)
  • how do employees meet/bond (mandatory happy hours, casual hangouts, etc.)

As companies start transitioning into a hybrid work model, my advice is that it’s crucial to adopt remote-first practices, like documenting your processes and respecting other team members’ time (especially when they’re in a different timezone). This often boils down to being inclusive and making sure everyone in the company is on the same page and have equal footing, no matter where they’re working from.

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