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Perspectives: Global remote work
When remote teams are scattered across many time zones and continents
For this issue of Perspectives, I spoke with Tamilore (Tami) Oladipo (she/they). I first met Tami when we worked at the same marketing agency. Tami is now a Content Writer at Buffer (and I use Buffer myself and am a huge fan!). Tami lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Buffer’s small team of under 200 employees is spread across more than 25 countries. Buffer also observes 4-day workweeks.
You can subscribe to Tami’s newsletter — Creator Kinfolk — for one in-depth piece of advice and one AI prompt every week.
We talked about her approach to remote work and what it’s like to work with globally distributed teams. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Anna Burgess Yang: Tell me about your first experiences with remote work.
Tami Oladipo: I lost my job in April 2020, which was in office, because they were downsizing due to the pandemic. I wallowed for a bit and then I started searching in general because everyone was talking about remote work at the time. And I was like, “Ok, this doesn’t seem impossible to do.”
I didn’t know anyone who was doing it from Nigeria, working for companies from anywhere else in the world. But when I have an interest in something, I double down. I would spend hours doing research on the best ways to apply for jobs and then I would put stuff into practice. So I would apply for everything, and I would get tons of rejections. But that helped me refine my process.
In October, I had joined a content community and the hiring manager from a marketing agency was super active. She had posted a job opening for a content marketer and I reached out and asked, “Do you hire people truly from everywhere.” And she said, “Yes, feel free to apply!” And I applied and got the job, my first full-time remote job, like an employee.
ABY: How much do you think a company’s culture and its approach to remote work impact work?
TO: I think I’ve lucked out — I’ve never worked in a place where time binds my tasks. I’m not working hourly. I’m not tracking my time. Since the start of my career, my work has always been project-based.
Buffer is very much structured like that. On the content team, we have bi-weekly meetings and we set up a week’s worth of ideas. Everyone just pulls from that list and you communicate. You can use the tools that are available. You can mark something in Notion when it’s ready to be edited. You ping people in Slack when they need to be pinged. Everyone’s sticking to that.
And also, there’s nothing else expected on top of that. It’s not like you’re being called 24/7. In fact, we try to cut down on calls as much as possible to make sure that everyone is working efficiently. I do most of my core work during the middle of the week. It’s freedom for everyone to choose what to do with their time and also respect for other people’s time.
I don’t think I could ever go back to a five-day workweek. I’ve thought about it, like “How much money would you have to pay me?” Maybe a reduced workday overall. So I could work five days per week, but never a 40-hour workweek again.
ABY: What do you think is important for a good manager-employee relationship in a remote environment, especially when teams are so spread out?
TO: I think being able to connect with them as a person, beyond work. Because with remote work, there are so many barriers in place like location and time. If you’re not from the same country, then culture and race. You already have so many things stacked against you that you have to find points of connection. So it’s not just about the work.
My manager is really good. She’s invested in my career growth. [But] there’s never a sense that I have to be perfect all the time or that I have to be on top of everything all the time because that’s not healthy or realistic. I feel comfortable enough to mention it to my manager or anyone else.
In terms of practical things, I have a document where I track all of my tasks. I make sure to talk about what I’m doing instead of assuming people are seeing my updates. I’m also mentioning these things for anything that may have slipped under the radar and then it also helps with documentation, in terms of promotions or if you need to revisit something — the document is there.
I’m always working towards the next level and improving. But I also think the manager themselves plays a big role and I’ve been lucky in that sense. I’ve never had a manager who didn’t advocate for me and someone who advocates for you is so important. I think good remote managers are few and far between. Some people just don’t know how. I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or a training thing. But some people are just not. Your manager and your team definitely play a role in remote success. A good manager changes the game.
ABY: You’ve worked with U.S.-based companies. Is it harder, since some companies aren’t willing to (or able to) hire globally? What does that look like from a job search perspective?
TO: That’s actually an important thing that I think a lot of people miss. There are definitely categories of remote work. There are companies that can legally only hire within their country. There are companies that can hire from anywhere, but they choose not to hire from anywhere for whatever reason. I like to divide this into two levels of awareness.
1 - When I first started, I would apply everywhere. I knew that I wanted to work in marketing, but I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. Content marketing was the thing I honed in on and once I started applying for only content-related jobs, that was when I really started getting a lot of interviews. So that was the first time I started looking.
By the second time, I was aware of the limitations. Who would probably hire me, what to filter for. What to look out for as well. By the second time, I knew: I’m applying for content marketing jobs and I’m applying to companies that will hire global remote. It was always a question and consideration in the back of my mind. I would apply for jobs that just said “remote” and didn’t specify what type of remote. So I would get an interview and then they would be like, “Where do you live?” I live in Nigeria. “Oh, we don’t hire from Nigeria.” Like, why didn’t you say so?
I got to the point where I would ask and send a message: Will you hire someone from Nigeria? I think companies have gotten better at that. They’ll indicate if they only hire in the U.S. or U.K. or specific countries within the EU and nowhere else. It helps to narrow down the “remote-ness” of the job.
2 - Searching is even harder now. There are less jobs. Most people in the U.S. are looking for jobs. So some companies wouldn’t even be [hiring] globally unless they want to save money — that’s another thing to keep an eye on now.
People take advantage of international remote job seekers. Do you accept the job just because you want to get experience? With the exchange rate here, the gap is really wide. $1,000 will get you really far in Nigeria. Like really, really far. And a lot of people will benefit from that amount and I can’t in good conscience say “Don’t take these jobs.” But at the same time, you’re being taken advantage of if someone is offering you $1,000 a month to do a million and one things. So it’s all very dicey and interesting.
ABY: What about hours, for globally remote teams? Should companies try to work specific hours, so they have some overlap?
TO: I think overlap is nice to have. I do have overlap with my teammates on both sides. I work U.S. Eastern Time hours, which means toward the end of the day here is when I’m just starting. But it works out for me because I’m a night owl anyway.
But there are so many tools. You can have recordings. Most of my career has been like this: being able to just do the work. Do my job and go home. There are days when I don’t even interact with anyone on Slack. Because a day like today, it’s just a couple of things here and there and there’s no need to message each other. We’re adults. We know what we’re supposed to be doing.
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