Workplaceless’ CMO on pursuing the career she loves while being an incredible mom
Jacqueline is a Remote Work Advocate and the Chief Marketing Officer at Workplaceless
1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Jacqueline Zeller, Chief Marketing Officer at Workplaceless. I’ve been working remotely for five years and have become a passionate advocate for the opportunities that remote working affords to so many people. I’m also a mom and a wife who loves to travel, to be in or near the water, to visit new places, to try new activities and foods, and to laugh loudly.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I originally chose remote working because it’s what worked for my family. I wanted to continue to grow in a career that I loved, but my life with two small kids required a level of flexibility that wasn’t achievable with an hours long daily commute and being stuck in an office. Our family moved to five different cities across three countries in a period of six years. Constantly searching for new roles based on location was exhausting. Once I realized working remotely was an option, it opened my eyes to new ways to achieve my career goals. The challenge became uncovering the specific opportunities.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
For my first remote role, I was the only remote team member. Everyone who reported directly to me, my management teams, as well as my peers, were physically co-located. I felt energized by the ability to work when and where I was most productive, and this was reflected in the accomplishments of myself and my team. I was able to develop some strong relationships even while physically distant that I’m grateful for today.
However, there were also challenges in terms of conversations happening and decisions being made within the office, where I only found out after the fact. I found remote work to be empowering, but like everything, it has a learning curve to truly excel.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
My first remote role was the evolution of an office role. My family relocated from Switzerland to the US while I was on maternity leave, and when my leave was up, they offered for me to return to my former role but from my new location now six time zones away. Remote work frankly wasn’t on my radar as an option prior to then, but I wanted to try it out. Once my eyes were opened to remote, I started paying attention to resources and companies leading the way for remote professionals. That’s how I came across Workplaceless and proactively reached out to see if there was a way for me to support their growth and mission with my marketing experience and skills. It ended up being the ideal fit and timing for my skills and the business needs.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
First, I’ll say my remote work experience varied significantly by company. Not all companies (and not all leaders) support their remote employees and give them the resources they need to thrive. I’m incredibly grateful to now be at Workplaceless, where we are constantly learning and implementing best practices to support one another as well as deliver solutions for our clients.
The flexibility to meet the needs of my career and the needs of my family. Frankly, I could not have this life without working remotely.
95% of everything. Increased work productivity, greater sense of team trust, extended trips / visits to family without the need to take vacation because I can work anywhere, time savings, time to spend on my mental and physical health during the day, cost savings,... I could really keep going.
Loneliness. I love being physically around people and there are days that go by where I only see my kids in person. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily routine of the work, and I now need to be more intentional about committing to opportunities to physically connect, knowing that these are energizing to me. (Granted this was all pre social distancing and I’m operating with a new standard for physical connectivity.)
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
Oh, there are so many tools. Dare I have an unpopular opinion and say there are too many tool options? It can be overwhelming. I’ve been saying I would love a “remote tool selector” program. Where you put in your company parameters (e.g., size, budget, team objectives) and then said program outputs a recommended 2-3 tools in each category. Anyone interested in creating this?
I digress… I like a basic slate of tools that can seamlessly speak to one another. My top categories, and favorites within are:
- Video conferencing (Zoom). There’s definitely a balance needed, but I love seeing my teammates.
- Asynchronous collaboration (Google Docs). I cringe every time I see work-in-progress attachments being emailed back and forth.
- Project Management (Click Up). So helpful to understand and align on priorities.
- Dialogue (Slack). I love a channel that encourages and stimulates easy dialogue.
I’m also a recent Caveday.org convert. Not so much a tool, but rather a group focus session. It’s been a helpful resource for me in setting aside large chunks of time to work in a community environment.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
I’m not sure it fits the most exciting / hilarious prompt, but one of the most surprising things I’ve found is how strong of relationships you can develop while virtual. I love the casual moments with my colleagues, but I’ve also grown a fondness for virtual games.
One game that has recently become one of my favorites is “Hot Seat.” Each team member takes a turn in the “Hot Seat” while teammates rapid fire and random assortment of questions in the chat for said “Hot Seat” team member to answer as many as they can. Questions are intended to be light-hearted in nature—a couple include:
- Favorite breakfast food?
- Last book you read?
- Have you broken a bone?
- How do you eat an Oreo?
- Did you have any nicknames growing up?
Everytime, I learned so much about each person, and little answers stuck with me and were great jumping off points for future conversations.
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Set boundaries for yourself and communicate those to your team. I block my days based on my working hours as well as based on chunks of time where I aim to accomplish deep work, when I’m focused on everyday tasks that can tolerate interruption, and when I’m available for meetings.
But equally important is sharing that information with my team. Not only does it help manage their expectations on my responsiveness but also gives me the mental space to fully shift into that current work mode. I share my time directly with relevant team members but also leverage our team tools like shared calendars and Slack statuses.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a field I love and working with a company and team that I truly cherish. While my career trajectory took some turns from what I’d planned out in my mind a decade ago, I’m beyond grateful. My focus now is on supporting the growth of our business and within that I continue to challenge myself in terms of skills and capabilities and I’m growing professionally.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
Oh my, the future of remote work seems to have so many variables at play right now. I’m optimistic that we will continue to see a growth of remote work as both individuals and companies recognize the benefits for both sides. However, I know people who’ve been recently forced into work from home situations, are disheartened and frustrated. This is definitely not business as usual even for those of us seasoned remote workers.
While I’m optimistic about the overall growth of remote work, I’m also hopeful that more companies will start to support their remote employees in proactive ways. Instead of just handing them a laptop, signing up for tools, and sending them home, companies will start to invest in upskilling and professional development for their workers and leaders, so that they can overcome challenges together and thrive in an aligned way.
11. Where can we follow you on?
I’m on LinkedIn here, but I’m not interested in growing my network for the sake of having a larger network. I really love to understand a shared connection: be it an experience, a passion, etc. Send me a message! I’m also often the human behind the scenes of our company Twitter here.