Nice to e-meet you
Originally published on Medium on March 18, 2020.
Countries in lockdown, business on the move.
Yes these two are not necessarily synonyms and does not have to correlate. It is not also one versus another. Same with self-isolated people and running international business.
This is 21st century, for God’s sake. Tech century, communication century, everything-digital century. Let’s show that to anything or anyone that tries to separate or stop us.
Nothing beats a human handshake, especially for an important meeting, but that does not always has to happen for another networking event. Networking has become a hype. Your start-up getting funded and then burning investors’ money on visiting another networking event, whether it’s another tech. festival, crypto summit, AI conference, or smart-city forum.
Not much results will follow afterwards if you are not a super lucky gambler. In all other cases, the new contact will forget you, or you’ll forget you met him/her. It would demand investing time, brainpower, and another larger sum of money to maintain yourself in the location if you want a further in-person interaction with your new peer.
I remember Janis Bergs, Denver, CO based European entrepreneur (co-owner and U.S. representative of SAF Tehnika and co-investor of European tech. start-ups), telling his European peers in seminar on how to do business in the U.S., that he has changed from a European way of working to an American. An example: taking a business call or having a video conversation while being somewhere at airport.
“Americans are always at work” he stated.
I do also remember Fransisco Alba De La Vega, VP Global Services at Fiserv, large Brookfield, WI headquartered fintech services firm, presenting the company’s HR and work management policy. One of them — an opportunity to work from home. Employees earn this freedom by keeping up with their first month office-based working performance. Only meetings and gatherings are made at office, and 1–2 days out of 5 are required to work at office. This allows Fiserv to attract more employees from other parts of large cities, San Jose in Costa Rica to mention one, and to employees not to spend too much time in terrible traffic jams.
See below photo I took at one of their offices in San Jose. They know what they are talking about, having hundreds of employees at that one location.
I recall a co-owner of Latvian IT firm telling his story, that the firm has a small office in Riga, as everyone is allowed to work from home. He lives in 1,5h driving distance from the office, which is far in Latvia size terms. He put it very simple. There are three types of employees.
- Able to self-organize, work from home.
- Unable to — work at office.
- Still not being able to work — they don’t work for them.
Still, they have meetings at office, also the ones for their project planning.
None of the examples above really involve 100% remote working. There is always some planning, coordination, meeting, or other in-person gathering required. Who do you think are the best at 100% remote working?
- Scandinavians, boasting being №1 for remote working, with all the hipp coffee shops, co-working spaces, and Airbnbs?
- Portugal as №1 on nomadlist.com? If you do not know the term digital nomad, read below.
- Or maybe Latvians calling themselves the most introvert nation in the world?
- or Americans being always at work?
Remote working is not a remote or distance communication. I still can not imagine how nations in say Arab Persian Gulf region Arab, or Japanese, will manage to live and keep up with that, not loose to Western peers, and still enjoy the process.
Let’s try and make this work
I have 50% Asian blood. One of those nations enjoying long hours of tea with someone you know, or want to get to know. I have also an introvert Latvian blood, and culture. I raised up in countryside where you could go out and scream if you want — noone was there to shut you up.
I have been lucky to train myself working remotely for years. Due to an extensive travel for past few years, I am also used to setting up and holding meetings and even creative sessions through conference or video calls and whatsapp audio messages. I have often traveled for meetings and events, but also have had calls and meetings while on a Eurotrip.
I recall once riding a bicycle when my calendar reminded me of a scheduled video call with a Texas based organization. I was in the middle of nowhere — dirt road, forests around me. Myself with wind in the hair. So I just had the call. No idea what the other party thought of it as she never asked. I confess first thought for a second was missing it, sending a short message stating I can not talk right now.
Do not stop. Act.
Practice is gold in this case. Good news almost everyone is in the same situation. We might have to get used to someone speaking to us through video conferencing with his cat on a lap (read Tim Brown’s sales pitch story),
or kids screaming
or not screaming
Good luck, and remember — even in digital era, we are still human.