How a Remote Culture Architect hopes to build a better world of work
Darcy, Director of Culture and Innovation at TaxJar, a thriving remote SaaS company, shares her remote work journey of 4+ years.
1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m Darcy. I’m the Director of Culture and Innovation at TaxJar, a thriving remote SaaS company. My home base is San Diego, California where I live with my boyfriend and my derpy perfect golden retriever, Blanche. I’m a people person and I absolutely love learning about human beings and what intrinsically motivates them to do what they do. My purpose is fulfilled when I learn what makes people tick, understand their values and intentionally design experiences around those values.
At TaxJar, I specialize in values codification, values integration and scaling culture (it’s oh so hard - and OH so fun!).
One of my favorite sayings is, “Remote doesn’t kill culture. It reveals it” and I am fascinated with the remote work movement that COVID-19 sparked globally. Having been fully remote for 4 years already, I love to help people re-focus on their culture and understand that it’s the deepest and most important part of running a successful and profitable long-term business.
I’ll never work any other way than remote and absolutely love the agency, autonomy and creative insight it gives me. I believe that anything is possible - even in a remote environment(I even run a “great remote baking competition” 1x a year!). While it might look like I’m goofing off from my photos, I actually take my work super seriously and have both a mobile office and an office in a local co-working place which really helps me to establish community (something that I’ve found to be essential for a remote professional who loves people).
When I’m not behind a screen, I’m exploring other cultures, cooking, dancing on my surfboard, swimming, riding my lil’ 50cc scooter named Paula Abdul around town, and hanging out with my dude, my friends and my pup.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I’ve never really *fit in* to corporate desk life...I worked for a global travel company for 4 years and absolutely loved the culture, but when I was there, full-time remote work was not an option. There was also a strong social sentiment that anyone who wanted to grow their career needed to be in the “hub” of tech (San Francisco). You couldn’t pay me any (and I mean, any) amount of money to move to SF, so I decided it was time to take control of my own destiny. I moved to the mountains to do some soul searching and realized what I missed most about my past life was working with super smart people, on super hard projects, making really cool things that provide value to the world. I found TaxJar (a group of people with those same values) and they shared my same deep value for autonomy in remote - the rest is history!
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
Absolutely. While I had worked across time zones and with global teams in previous roles, I hadn’t worked for a fully remote company with no offices, anywhere. Not only did my first few months of being remote exceed my expectations, it just continued to get better. I also made a point to reach out to as many people as I could in the first few months to develop deep connections and relationships - those moments are intentional and because there aren’t hallways to bump into, those moments of intentional zoom connection and shared interest pings became invaluable to me.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
There are quite a few resources out there but I find We Work Remotely to have a wide array of remote roles for a variety of skill sets.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
The best: The fact that I have full autonomy over my life. No one tells me what equipment I have to use, there’s no commute, I don’t have to move anywhere I don’t want to, and it allows me to keep super strong relationships with the people (and dogs) I love most in my life. I love surfing before meetings, working from the road, and getting on a plane to a desired destination (when it’s safe of course) without having to worry about losing any work or the fear that I’ll get in trouble. I just get what I need to get done, and do it really well, in a way that supports both my life and my team.
The worst: Always being on. We’re in an age of consistently being connected to others, which is both a blessing and a curse. I really care about what I do and who I do it with, so I have to set really clear boundaries for myself to make sure I’m nurturing my needs so I can also be there for others. Disconnecting is really difficult for me, and has become a conscious practice.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
Bose noise canceling headphones (I love to get deeep in the zone), Basecamp, G suite, and Zoom. I’m sure I could think of 100 more but those are my immediate go-tos :).
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
Oh my god. When I was on mutual assessment (basically a working interview), I had access to my CEOs credit card and company Amazon account as it pertained to my role. The first weekend I joined I didn’t realize I was still logged into the company amazon account and ordered Pitch Perfect on my CEOs credit card and watched it 3 times...I logged in on Monday and he just pinged me saying “so, you like musicals, eh?” Whoops - lesson learned - always make sure you log out of company sites at the end of the day!!
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Give yourself some grace. It takes 6 months to 2 years to psychologically assimilate to a fully remote working environment if you’ve never done it before. Depending on what type of role you have and what type of company culture you are working in, it can actually be a pretty big culture shock...give yourself permission to take agency over what best supports you to deliver results.
We’re socialized to be cogs in a wheel and when you remove the office sometimes the autonomy and freedom is so great that you actually have no idea what to do with it, so you just fall back into old patterns. Stay conscious of your behavior, set supportive boundaries, and don’t forget to have fun!
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
I truly want to help everyone I meet and interact with to learn how to live into their values and do things that bring them joy, meaning and purpose. I see a developing need for more and more intentional culture architecture as more and more companies decide to go remote (hey, they need it in office too). I’m pretty excited to lean into that need, and use my zone of genius to help others be happier, healthier, and help shape organizational environments that are not only successful in the market, but also feel good to be a part of.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
I think it’s the way of the future and a way to heal a lot of the unhealthy societal norms that have plagued our work/life balance since the Industrial Revolution (at least in the US). However, I think it’s going to really take some time for companies and people to shift their mindset and perspective to long term remote working when COVID ends (someday, right?). Regardless, it's the way of the future and the companies that are able and willing to shift to a remote-first model will have a strong competitive advantage to other companies in their market.
11. Where can we follow you on?
LinkedIn is my jam! Feel free to connect with me there :). Website coming soon.
My company’s website: TaxJar