Helping Gonzaga University Students and Alumni Clarify and Achieve Their Academic and Professional Goals

Month: April 2020

Working from Home – Shelby

This week we wrap up our series on working from home with an interview from Gonzaga University alum and former Career & Professional Development team member, Shelby Wells. Shelby is a Peer to Peer Fundraising Manager for Children’s Miracle Network in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. Children’s Miracle Network is a North American non-profit organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals, medical research, and community awareness of children’s health issues. 

Portrait of Shelby Wells, smiling for the camera.How long have you been working from home?    

Shelby: 1 year as of March 1 

What are the biggest benefits to working from home?    

Shelby: There are many. I find that I am more productive. I don’t have to dress up, there is less commute and less environmental impact. It taught me a new way to work in that I learned how to communicate well, be more comfortable with new ways of communication (zoom, phone, etc.), and learn how to connect with people in a different way when you don’t see them in person every day. Working from home makes me appreciate time at home, and helps you stay on task because you want to get it done and have free time in the evenings. Plus, I get to be with my dog. 

What are the most challenging aspects of working from home?    

Shelby: No water cooler banter – you have to work harder to form relationships with colleagues and work harder to maintain because you aren’t in same place. Easy to take work home because it is always there. Her job allows her to travel with helps her to occasionally see her colleagues in person. Sometimes you have to justify what you are doing from home – ex. Weekly report to keep track of what you are working on and hold self more accountable so don’t get questioned about what you are doing. Learning all the technology very well and checking all of them (slack, zoom, email, etc) 

What three tips do you have for individuals who are new to working from home?

Shelby: I actually have five. First, take a break in the middle of the day (figure out when your most successful hours are and plan breaks around that). Second, Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call someone (or zoom) to feel connected to your team that you might not have otherwise. Third, separate your work (have a place where you do your work and don’t leak it into the rest of the house). Fourth, have a transparent conversation with your boss about what working from home looks like. Set clear expectations.  Fifth, set a reminder at the end of the day to wrap up work so that you are ready to be done working 

What technology platform(s) do you find especially helpful to as you work from home?    

Shelby: Zoom and Slack. Also use dropbox to manage all shared documents internally and with external audiences.  

How do you create community with your work colleagues without actually being in the same location?    

Portrait of Wally, a french bulldog with brown fur and black ears and nose. He wears a red bow tie with white polka dots.

Wally is an excellent co-worker.

Shelby: Pick up phone and call. Video is a huge asset because you can see people, and I prefer that because it helps to remember their faces. So much happens in the office when you spontaneously connect, but when you work from home you have to be intentional about creating those moments. Check in on people who you might not always connect with (not just your best friends). Slack channels help because you can create channels for fun stuff (dogs, etc.).  

Do you find it helpful to create a dedicated office space to use as you work from home or do you change your work locations throughout the house through the day?

Shelby: I find it beneficial to stay in the same spot, but some days I need to move around depending on the type of work I’m doing. Some people find that really important, but you may not always have the space to do so. If you do go to a coffee shop or something, be cognizant of sound.  

Do you usually dress for work or comfort?  

Shelby: Comfort – sometimes I will dress nicer if there is a meeting with high levels, but otherwise I dress for comfort. 

 

We really enjoyed catching up with Shelby, and hearing all about her experiences as a remote worker. This wraps up our series on Zags Working Remotely, but rest assured that Fired Up Fridays will continue for the rest of the semester. Check out our previous Fired Up Friday features by visiting our webpage (https://my.gonzaga.edu/student-life/career-services/career-planning-tools-resources/fired-up-fridays), and stay tuned next week when we focus on digital networking.

Zags Working from Home – David

Keeping up with our series on Zags working remotely, we pick up with David Machado ‘10.  David and his wife, Christine (you probably remember her from our first week of Fired Up Friday) are fellow Spokane dwellers, where they’ve lived for about seven years. David works at Automattic as a Business Analytics Engineer, helping transform data into information that can be used as input in decision-making scenarios. Automattic is the parent company of familiar brands like WordPress.com, WooCommerce, and Tumblr, and has embraced distributed work since its founding, 15 years ago. David studied Accounting and Finance at Gonzaga and earned a master’s degree in Data Science through Lewis University. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. 

How long have you been working from home?    

David: I’ve been working from home since I started my current job with Automattic in May 2018. I also completed my master’s degree via an online program. So, all-told I’ve studied or been working from home for about 4 years. 

What are the biggest benefits to working from home?    

David: Broadly speaking, I’d say that the greatest benefit to distributed (remote/work-from-home) work is that it expands the realm of possible job opportunities that are available—it democratizes opportunity.  Narrowing the focus to the day-to-day realities of working from home, I find great benefit in the ability to focus more deeply than I could in an office. Other things like no longer having to commute, not having to worry about planning for lunch, and having my own coffee readily available are certainly positives in their own right, as well. 

What are the most challenging aspects of working from home?    

David: The most challenging part of working from home is probably the added layer of friction to communication. Without the ability to just swing by someone’s desk (or room, in the case of residence halls), bump into colleagues in the hallway, or hop into a conference room to brainstorm on a whiteboard together, some of those serendipitous solutions to problems are a bit harder to find.  

What three tips do you have for individuals who are new to working from home?  

David:  First, make sure to take breaks, as needed; but also protect blocks of focused time. Because you’re at home, there are generally fewer natural breaks and, where there are natural breaks, they’re shorter than normal. As some examples, your kitchen is closer than the dining hall and your bathroom is probably closer than the one in your residence hall or academic building. It’s easy to not take enough time for your brain to recharge. The flip side of taking breaks as needed is to avoid distractions when you are focusing on work/class. Because there’s less socially-enforced etiquette at home, it’s easy to have your phone out and distract yourself. Sometimes I’ll leave my phone in another room to avoid distraction and help direct my focus on the task at hand. 

Second, find a routine that works for you, and use that routine to your advantage. I’ve found there are certain parts of the day where I’m more or less productive. For example, mornings are my most productive time for work that requires a lot of heavy thinking, so I try to tackle my really complex tasks before lunch. Mid-afternoon is my least productive time, so I use that time to catch up on communication/messages from around the company. Depending on the day, the end of my day either comes with a second-wind of focus or continues that mid-afternoon slump, so I’ll react accordingly.  

 Third: Communicate, communicate, communicate— even to the point of over-communicating. Communication is challenging in a distributed work or learning environment. All the extra cues we get from being face-to-face—things like body language and tone—are absent in text, and only partially apparent on video.  Thinking about a classroom environment, in normal circumstances, your professor can “read the room” and see cues that students might be experiencing confusion. In a distributed classroom experience, that extra data for the instructor disappears. Definitely ask questions or provide feedback more frequently than you otherwise would normally.

What technology platform(s) do you find especially helpful to as you work from home?    

David: I’m a big fan of both Slack and Zoom. We use these pretty heavily throughout the week, particularly Slack. Slack is great for quick text-based communication or 1:1 calls. Zoom is great for video chat, particularly for groups of three or more. I haven’t used it, but I believe Microsoft Teams offers similar functionality to Slack.  

How do you create community with your work colleagues without actually being in the same location? 

David: My company recognizes the importance of bonding with colleagues, so over the course of a given year, we meet up with our teams in person two to three times per year (obviously, we’re not doing this at the current moment). Because of those times we’ve spent together in person, I’m able to regularly joke around with my colleagues in Slack and Zoom. GIFs and emojis do wonders for making text chat fun and creating inside jokes and deepening the feeling of community. At its core, the maintenance of community ties back to that mantra of “communicate, communicate, communicate.”   

David's workspace shows a small table with a monitor, laptop on a stand, several novelty mugs and other small trinkets.Do you find it helpful to create a dedicated office space to use as you work from home or do you change your work locations throughout the house through the day?    

David: I do find having a dedicated work space in my house (just a table in a corner of a room, not anything super fancy) helpful. It is beneficial to be able to treat a particular space as “the place where I do my work.” That way, I can feel like I’m away from work when I’m not in that space, as opposed to feeling like there’s no separation between work and everything else at home. With that said, sometimes I feel the need for a change of pace, so I’ll periodically work from my kitchen dining-counter or, when the sun’s out, my back patio.  

Do you usually dress for work or comfort?  

David: I’m going to cop-out and say both. I dress in clothes that are comfortable, but not what I’d necessarily call “traditional” work clothes. Usually something like jeans and a flannel or shorts and a polo. Sometimes a bit more casual. With that said, I do always get dressed for the day (no rolling from bed to work in pajamas). That’s part of my routine that helps me prepare for a productive day.  

Do you have any funny stories related to your work from home experience?    

David:  I don’t think I necessarily have anything laugh-out-loud funny. But I have experienced a lot of joy with my colleagues as a result of the way that working distributed gives you a window into each other’s lives beyond work. My coworker on my immediate team works from his backyard shed (and accidentally ruined his WiFi connectivity once when he tried to insulate the shed). Another coworker lives and works from a 400 square foot apartment with her partner, who is a professional alpine climber—there are Patagonia coats everywhere in that apartment. You see colleagues’ office setups change as they move house or give up their old office to be a nursery for a new baby. 

I wish all the current GU students the best. The current situation is certainly not ideal, but I hope that it can still be a time of productive learning and living in community. 

We, hope so, too, David! Stay tuned next week when we talk with Gonzaga and Career & Professional Development alum, Shelby Wells.

Zags Working from Home – Antonella

In continuation of our series on Zags Working from Home, we chat with Antonella Mediati, a ’96 Business Administration graduate and executive leadership coach based in Paris. Antonella works with tech companies as well as individual executives in France, throughout Europe, and in the USA designing and facilitating coaching programs tailored for high potential individuals and teams with a focus on performance and lasting, positive change. She has worked with some of the most influential companies over the past 24 years including Amazon, Microsoft, and Macy’s, as well as a tech startups IoT/Blockchain. (Some answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Antontella points to the camera while standing in front of a painted wall that says "When You Want, You Can"

Antonella has coached executives all over Europe and the U.S.

How long have you been working from home?     

Antonella: I have had the opportunity to work partially at home for over 14 years when I started my career with Microsoft back in 2006.  Now in my own coaching business, I use my home office in Paris as my home base, yet I often travel to meet with clients and businesses.    

What are the biggest benefits of working from home?     

Antonella: Having flexibility and autonomy. There is no need to commute and deal with traffic or public transportation. No interruptions. I can fit in a yoga class in the morning and be the boss of my own schedule.  

What are the most challenging aspects of working from home?     

Antonella: Creating structure and discipline in the day as well as the lack of human contact.  

What three tips do you have for individuals who are new to working from home?       

Antonella: Create your own structure and positive habits!  

  1. Have a dedicated workspace. Based on studies from neuroscience, it is important to keep your space clean, uncluttered, and have a “something special” that is dedicated only for work, such as a special pen or notebook. If you have a dedicated desk or table that is a plus, but it’s not 100% necessary if you do not have this luxury.  
  2. Schedule individual 25-90 minute focus times directly on your agenda every day and be reasonable with your “to-do” list. It is amazing how humans will prioritize scheduling meetings with others but rarely schedule dedicated “focus time” on their calendars. After 90 minutes of focused work, your brain needs to take a mental break. A great method that I follow and encourage clients to follow is the Pomodoro method, which you can find more about online.  
  3. Use the Chunking Method. Reflect on your theme of what you need to accomplish ahead of time (no more than 2 at a time) and deconstruct them into “chunks” or categories that are much more manageable. Then further break this down into specific actions. By breaking down problems, your brain can deal with chunks one at a time and get you almost effortlessly to your end objective! 

Example:   

  1. At the beginning of the month: What 1-2 themes do you absolutely need to progress on by the end of the month? How will you feel when you accomplish this theme? Break these themes into categories.  
  2. Sunday evening (for the week ahead):  What can you realistically accomplish for the week? Break down your categories into subcategories and plan your workweek by day (at the beginning of every day). When things get tough, focus on the reward (how you will feel after accomplishing X).  
  3. Every morning: Further break down your categories into daily tasks. Accomplish these tasks in 25-minute Pomodoro segments. Be realistic and give yourself a reasonable number of tasks to accomplish in the day.  

What technology platform(s) do you find especially helpful to as you work from home?     

Antonella: 

  • Zoom for video conferencing  
  • GSuite for all the collaborative tools (from the Cloud to Email to Calendar and more)  
  • Calendly to share my availability effortlessly with customers so we can focus on high-value discussions rather than schedules  
  • Doodle for group scheduling  
  • Canva – great for creating your own marketing flyers or online content  

How do you create a community with your work colleagues without being in the same location?     

Antonella: Being part of coaching and like-minded communities around the globe (NeuroLeadership, International Coaching Federation (ICF), WIAL, etc.) and having coaching colleagues and mentors in New York, Seattle, London, Germany, and Paris has been essential to exchanging perspectives and providing a community.   

Antonella’s workspace is both beautiful and functional.

Do you find it helpful to create a dedicated office space to use as you work from home or do you change your work locations throughout the house throughout the day?     

Antonella: Yes! I have my dedicated desk, notebook, and pen (as I mention above). However, in the summer months, I love to work outside on my terrace. Listening to the birds zooming by is the guilty pleasure I have during my breaks (that and I love coffee). Although recently, I had my window open and bird flew in while I was conducting a coaching session. I could not keep my cool. 

Do you usually dress for work or comfort?   

Antonella: I always start my day with a little yoga routine, then shower, eat breakfast and dress up in something that makes me happy. I always dress in something clean, sometimes colorful, yet always joyful to me. (I don’t like to wear shoes, however).  

Are there any other insights you would like to add about working from home? 

Antonella: During this COVID-19 time especially, check in with your emotions. Our brains and our subconscious are working on overdrive due to world events and it can hinder our concentration. It is important to be gentle with yourself and do a quick “labeling of your emotions” should you start to feel a bit stressed or anxious. As soon as you label the emotion, imagine releasing the emotion. It is a little Neuroscience trick than help you refocus. 

 

Visit us again next week to hear from alum David Machado! 

Zags Working from Home – Christine

Many people around the world are self-quarantined in their homes, which means jobs are being compelled to move from the office to off-site. While this is a new experience for many professionals (and students!), it isn’t entirely new to the world of work overall. The option to work remotely has become one of the more popular benefits requested by employees. According to a report by Owl Labs, many would even take a pay cut as high as 10% to have the option to work from home1. In addition to the desire to have this benefit, increasing numbers of the workforce are already enjoying a flexible location. Employees who worked remotely (at least part of the time) grew from 36% to 43% between 2012 and 2016, with most sources agreeing that number is likely to climb.  

To better understand what this looks like for Zags, we reached out to Gonzaga alumni who have been operating off-site from several months to several years to tell us about their experience. We’ll be featuring one of these interviews every week through April. 

Christine Machado Profile Photo

Christine Machado

First, we spoke with Christine (Kelly) Machado. Christine is a Senior Finance Business Partner at GitLab, Inc, where she serves as the financial representative for the G&A division. GitLab is the world’s largest all remote company, with over 1,200 team members located in more than 65 countries. GitLab, Inc provides a complete open-source DevOps platform, delivered as a single application. Christine graduated from Gonzaga in 2010 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Business Administration (Economics). She also is a Certified Public Accountant and earned a Master of Business Administration from Washington State University. (Some answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)  

How long have you been working from home?  

Christine: I have been working from home for 11 months. 

What are the biggest benefits to working from home?     

Christine: The biggest benefit has been the ability to live anywhere while working for a fast-growing tech start-up. Without remote work I would need to move to the Bay Area to work for a company similar to GitLab. Instead, I can live anywhere in the world. 

Similarly, I have colleagues located all over the world. I work closely with colleagues in Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Russia, just to name a few. Being surrounded by a diverse group has helped broaden my perspective.   

Also, you can’t beat no commute on a Monday morning. 

What are the most challenging aspects of working from home?     

Christine: Disconnecting and stopping work for the day. Since my company is all over the world, there are team members online at any given point. My company encourages us to disconnect, but I’ve still had to make a conscious effort. It’s easy to lose track of time in the evening so I’ve had to set boundaries for myself to log off even if I haven’t finished everything.   

What three tips do you have for individuals who are new to working from home?      

Christine: First, have a separate workspace. Part of the way I am able to disconnect from work at the end of the day is that I leave my workspace. Having a separate workspace also makes it so I fully focus on work during the day.   

Second, be aware of your personality so you know what you need to thrive. Based on my personality, I know I don’t stay cooped up well and I need in-person interactions. Before COVID-19, I went to a co-working space twice a week and on the other days I made sure to leave the house in the evening.  Now with what is currently going on I go on a walk every day. Sometimes I do it in the middle of my workday if I can tell I need to get out of the house.   

Third, socialize with your colleagues even if you are all remote. I would have laughed at this being a possibility before I started this job, but I am closer to my colleagues at my current job than I have been at any other company. We socialize on Zoom and through Slack. 

What technology platform(s) do you find especially helpful to you as you work from home?     

Christine: Zoom, Slack  

How do you create community with your work colleagues without being in the same location?     

Christine: We get together once a year for a week (though unfortunately we were supposed to be doing that this week and it was canceled due to COVID-19), which sets the foundation of our community. When I have Zoom meetings with one other person, I tend to dedicate the first few minutes to catching up with that person. I also Slack message colleagues casual/personal conversations that in a traditional office you would have.  

Do you usually dress for work or comfort?   

Christine: I dress for work. I am typically in Zoom Meetings for at least half the day and often with E-Level team members, so I need to dress professionally even at home. I also find it helps me switch into work mode when I go through the process of getting ready in the morning as if I’m going into an office.

Want to hear more? Stay tuned next week, when we continue this series with an interview from Paris-based alumna, Antonella Mediati. 

 

Sources: 

1Owl Labs. (2019). State of Remote Work 2019. Retrieved from https://www.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work/2019?hs_preview=jWDXIXgj-13385250578 

2Gallup, Inc. (2017). State of the American Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx