Camelia Roman knows that perfect is overrated—and she’s keeping that in mind as she works on several DIY home-improvement projects.
“I have big plans for microcement. We’ll see how it goes!” says Camelia, smiling.
The Android developer at global media streaming company Plex believes in the power of experimentation in more than just her home improvement projects. It’s something she’s kept front of mind throughout her career.
“Don't demand perfection from others, or yourself. That’s very common nowadays. We’ve all looked for perfection for so long. And we’ve finally learned that it’s not the way to go,” says Camelia, referencing lessons learned during the pandemic.
We sat down with the Romania-born and -based developer to hear more about what she’s learned over the years, including what advice she has for other developers building their careers remotely.
Finding Her Space
Camelia liked math in high school, and when she entered college, she set out on a dual path: psychology and computer science.
Two years in, her program required her to get some on-the-job experience, so she found a role as an Android developer. The job helped her make a decision on her future path, and while she’s still interested in psychology, she satiates that interest via books and Ted Talks.
Camelia came to her current role by way of a startup that Plex acquired in 2017.
It meant going from being a team of one to one of many, but Camelia enjoyed that. “It was a bit intimidating, because at the previous startup, I was the only Android developer, and I was working alone. Here, I have very experienced colleagues, and I was wondering if I would be able to keep up,” she says.
She did, though, and has been thriving at Plex for over five years now.
“I was happy for the change,” she says. “When I met with one of the founders and the CEO, it sounded like an awesome place. And after all these years, I still think it’s true.”
5 Tips on Thriving While Remote
Plex has a headquarters in California, but it’s always been a fully remote company. Here are the guiding principles that help Camelia find success at work, even while working with colleagues in different countries:
- Practically, always have a video backup. “Most people have had those problems: internet stops working, your dog starts barking, computer crashes, et cetera. I’ve learned the hard way to have a video prepared that I can share in case my presentation doesn’t work as I would have wanted it to,” says Camelia, sharing that she once had this problem and accidentally autoplayed a video of her cat to her entire company. “Even though everyone was very understanding, it’s still better to have a video or PowerPoint of what you want to share instead of dealing with whatever the remote demo gods will throw your way!”
- Have the right attitude. “It’s common sense, but accept that we are all humans. We make mistakes, we should own our mistakes, we should fix them and learn something from them if we can, and then move on,” she says.
- If you’re having trouble focusing, let your workflow change as needed. It’s normal for personal to-dos to creep into the workday, says Camelia. But the nice thing about working remotely is being able to control your own schedule, and it’s good to take advantage of that. She gives an example: “Maybe my mom’s coming over and I haven’t done the dishes. Instead of looking at my watch and saying, ‘Okay, in one hour, my mom will come; in 50 minutes, my mom will come,’ it’s better to just wash the dishes and be done with it.”
- Approach imposter syndrome with gratitude. “My colleagues are very experienced and very smart, and instead of being overwhelmed by that, which sometimes happens, it’s better to be grateful that you have something to learn from them, and to take advantage of that,” says Camelia.
- Ask for the help you need—and give it, too. Even now, years into her career, Camelia regularly finds herself confronted with things she doesn’t know. When that happens, she first goes online and looks for help. Her second port of call is her colleagues. “I still have a lot to learn, and that’s what makes me happy, in a way. I’m not stagnating,” she says. “And it’s good to remind ourselves that there’s always something you can learn, or something that you can teach. Teaching is very rewarding, too.”
How to stay productive and positive while working remotely
With the outbreak of COVID-19, scores of people are finding themselves working remotely for the first time. Trying to stay productive while at home with so many distractions can be overwhelming, so we asked women tech leaders what they were doing to work from home successfully. Along with getting a great pair of noise canceling headphones (game changer!), they have 10 excellent tips to help you thrive in a work-from-home environment.
Share your favorite work-from-home tips in the comments!
1.Enjoy the outdoors (to the extent that your situation allows)
"Getting outside during the day is crucial for staying happy and productive. It's also one of the perks of not being tied to an office. Most days, I break my day into halves with the middle part of the day (the sunniest!) set aside for playing in the outdoors." -Kiersten Brezina, Community Manager at Karat, Nomad (Currently, Arizona)
2.Create a lively workspaceSchool notebook with coffee cup, smartphone and plant on wooden table. Top view from above
"Bring life to your desk. If you can, work where there are windows and direct sunlight, and put a lovely plant-friend on your desk. This will stimulate your mind and protect your eyes from painful overhead lights." - Lauren Batcheck, Senior Director of People, Good Money, Utah
3.Stay organized with a daily schedule
Mary's Nespresso machine is one of her must work from home items
"A few things that have kept me very productive during these trying times, is creating a daily schedule and to do list- all while holding myself accountable to stick to it. (Trello Boards or any free project management tools are great to utilize!) " -Mary Sellaro, Talent Branding & Events Specialist, CarGurus, Cambridge MA
4.Spend time with your coworkers - virtually
"Have time to get together, without an agenda with your team, it can be even do work while everyone is on zoom, so that there is a feeling of others around you." - Camila Franco, Senior Director of Product, Good Money, California
5.Break large projects in to bite sized chunks
"Focus on the outcomes of your work. It is easy to get overwhelmed. Break big outcomes into smaller steps. What do you need to do to get that larger outcome complete? Do that next step. Focus on moving the ball towards those outcomes. Don't get wrapped up in distractions. Start small with three big things you need to accomplish, do those and then prioritize the next three things." - Debra Brown, our VP Sales, Americas, Chainalysis, NYC
6.Making parenting a team effort
"I'm fortunate in that I am able to alternate hours with my husband so that we can both continue to WFH while caring for our young son. I'm glad to have his company during the day and have appreciated the opportunity to be more involved in our son's development." - Natasha Jaffe, Tech Lead Manager, Flatiron Health, NYC
7.Add lots of breaks into your day — and know that it's okay to treat yourself, literally!
"Take breaks at home that you could never take in the office. Take non-lunch food breaks. Learn how to make just one dessert that can last for a few days. It could be anything but it has to be something you love. Leave your computer and take bites of this often. I had cheesecake for breakfast between morning calls today, and I'm not mad about it. [Also] find something that smells amazing and be present in it for a couple of minutes. Burn incense, essential oils in your aromatherapy machine, or put your favorite lotion on your hands. Anything that brings you peace for a few moments. Breathe as deeply as you can and get the oxygen levels rising in your body." - Julia Landry, Design Director, Good Money, Texas
8.Enjoy your furbabies (and set yourself up for success by designing a space you love)
Diana Tuck's trusty four-legged sidekick
"I have 4 great office mates - two dogs and two cats - who are readily available for impromptu cuddles. It's a great stress reliever! I've also surrounded my office with plants inside and out, with a few bird feeders outside my windows. And noise-cancelling headphones are a must!" - Diana Tuck, Software Engineer, Elastic, WA.
For more great tips, be sure to check out Elastic's latest blog post about working remotely.
9.Get dressed like you're going to work
"Get dressed every day: What you wear can really affect the way you work. Wearing clothing that you would normally wear to go outside helps set the tone for the day." - Chloe Chow, Senior Product Manager, Good Money, California
"I put myself in others' shoes, and I think that's why I like working in Human Resources. My job is global, so if I can't envision what it's like to work in Hong Kong during political unrest, or London during a complete national lockdown, I can't direct a team which designs the most effective programs to help our employees who work and live there.
It's also important to think really locally, to the people all around you, right now. Look at every situation from as many viewpoints as you can. Whether you're in a meeting, or managing a lateral relationship, or managing 'up' to your boss, think about what it might like to be in their shoes." - Renee Christoff, Head of Global Associate Engagement and Corporate Responsibility, T. Rowe Price, Maryland
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Scott Morris, Skillcrush
My entry into remote work was so out of the blue that I didn't have a lot of thoughts or opinions on the topic before I was hired. One day, a friend of mine at Skillcrush put out a call on Facebook about a job opportunity, and a few weeks later I was back in the workforce after 12 years away from paid work. Of course—since Skillcrush is a fully distributed company (meaning we all work remotely)—my return to work happened from my home here in Santa Rosa, CA.
For me, being able to work from home was a dream come true. Because a remote work situation fit so perfectly with what I'd been looking for—part time work that gave me the flexibility to keep up with my full-time, primary parenting duties—the benefits were obvious. I hadn't read a single article singing the praises of remote work, but I didn't need to—I was already sold. As I learned more about working remotely and interviewed people on the topic through my new job, I was surprised to learn that there were quite a few perceived downsides to remote work or aspects of distributed companies, that gave people pause.
One of the main concerns people seemed to have about the prospect of remote work, is the fear that working outside of a conventional office environment will simply be too lonely. This was a somewhat foreign concept to me, as my own entry to remote work was from a point where I was already home by myself for long stretches of time. But if you're approaching remote work from a more traditional office atmosphere, with water cooler talk and happy hours, it's true that there will be a significant change when you trade that in for a home office, or a public library, or a coffee shop, or any other location with Internet access. But that change can be as positive (or negative) as you want it to be.
From my own experience over this past year, I've found that remote work doesn't lead to isolation—regardless of your background. It's true that remote positions are different than working in a fully-staffed, brick and mortar office, but different doesn't have to mean lonely. In fact, despite its unfortunate name—remote work can provide you with a platform for making a whole new wealth of connections in your life, in ways that conventional work can't.
The caricature of a remote tech worker usually depicts a frenzied computer programmer alone in a poorly-lit room, hammering away at a keyboard late into the night. And while I've pulled some late nights myself to meet deadlines, specifically because my flexible schedule lets me work when it's convenient to the rest of my life, the isolated nature of this trope is a fallacy.
Remote workers don't exist in vacuums. We work with teams, for clients, for customers, and for companies—all arrangements that involve other people. Unlike conventional jobs, the people we work for and with, are literally positioned all over the world. From my own suburban perch here in Northern California I work with people as far-flung as my editors who live in Brooklyn, our Customer Support Manager who lives in Finland (by way of Texas), a WordPress developer who lives in Miami, and our Curriculum Director who lives down the street from me. In a conventional, physical workplace, this kind of diversity of lifestyle and perspective would be hard to replicate. Sure, there's always conference calls with clients or teams from out of area, but it's not the same as working virtually side-by-side with people from such varied locales on a daily basis.
And we really do work side-by-side! Remote work doesn't mean we operate individually in isolated pods. Anyone who's "at work" is logged into our company's HipChat room, and in a way it makes people seem more present than if we were scattered throughout a physical office. If someone is online and available, you know exactly where to find them, and—due to our geographical range and flexibility of work schedules—there's almost always someone else "in the building." Even when I'm working odd hours in my timezone, there's usually a co-worker or two an instant message away who I can bug with a meme or bad joke. It's our own version of water cooler talk.
But what might really surprise people who have yet to work on a remote team or for a distributed company, is how quickly and easily remote colleagues are able to go past the superficiality of small talk, and really get to know each other. Although it's counterintuitive— since we interact mostly through text, Zoom, and Google Hangouts—there's an immediacy to our remote connections that makes people want to open up, be themselves, and share their feelings and ideas freely.
Because we're only virtually face-to-face, and many of us won't ever meet in person, there's a need to cut past pretense and make our virtual work relationships seem more real. From my own perspective, I can say that I feel more connected to my remote colleagues after a period of months than I did after years in some cases at previous, conventional jobs. Part of it, too, goes back to our all being together in the same HipChat room. In a physical workplace it's possible to never see employees from a different department or who work in a different part of the building, but, in our distributed workplace, we're all swimming in the same pool of Giphy-fueled space. Because of that, I've struck up work friendships and acquaintances with people I don't even interface with professionally.
Looking back after a year of working remotely, I feel that remote work isn't an inherently lonely or isolating situation that needs to be alleviated with tips or tricks. Sure, without spending some time putting yourself out there proactively and making connections with your remote community, you will run the risk of feeling like you're on an island. But those same feelings of loneliness and isolation can happen in the middle of a crowded office. Where remote work does significantly differ from conventional office jobs is in its ability to provide connections for people who aren't in a position to take on in-person work, and who otherwise would be facing significant challenges of isolation.
In my own situation as an at-home parent who was looking to get back into the workforce, I actually found myself feeling totally isolated by the prospects of conventional work. On one hand, there was a part of me ready to add a job back to my life, but having to do so at the expense of my role as a parent brought its own feelings of loneliness and loss. Similarly, I imagine there are other people whose backgrounds and lifestyles present these kinds of challenges—for instance living outside the range of conventional employment hubs, or living with chronic illnesses that make it difficult to work traditional 9-5 office hours.
For people socially or physically left out of the conventional workforce, remote work is a viable arrangement. In that sense, remote work is a solution to isolation, and it's no surprise that this solution is a hallmark of the tech industry. At its heart, technology is all about connectivity. So much of tech centers around streamlining and facilitating the flow of information, which inevitably brings the participants in that flow closer together. Despite the stereotypes of screens cutting people off from one another or leading to ruinous spirals of antisocial behavior, technology has consistently been a driver in my own social and personal life.
I met my wife and several friends I still have today through our participation in pre-Internet online Bulletin Board System culture, and—contrary to our parents' concerns that we weren't spending enough time with "real people"—it doesn't get more isolation-busting than that. By adopting the remote work model, the tech industry continues this trend of bringing people closer together, whether or not they're anywhere near each other physically. When we talk about things like in-person tech meetups or jobs at companies that are geographically connected to tech hubs, it's easy to forget that this excludes groups of people who are physically isolated from these opportunities for various reasons. But with the ability to participate remotely we get closer to the ideal of everyone being welcome in tech, and it's hard to feel lonely with an invitation that inclusive.
An Inside Look At Our VIP Office Hours With Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter is the Director of People at Buffer, a fully remote company hiring through PowerToFly. In addition to working as Buffer's Director of People, Courtney has a knack for writing - she's appeared in TIME, Fast Company, Lifehacker, Inc., and more. With four years of professional remote work experience, Courtney has a wealth of knowledge about the characteristics of successful remote employees and workplaces.
On May 18th, Courtney sat down with a small group of PowerToFly VIPs and provided tips for landing a top remote job as well as advice for being successful remote team members. Would you like access to informative, valuable, and exclusive chats with successful women like Courtney? If yes, then click here to become a PowerToFly VIP and join our community of women committed to empowering one another.
Q: What do remote companies look for in a candidate? (outside of the job description)
Courtney Seiter: In my experience, the main thing we're looking for in a candidate is communication skills. The ability to communicate is important in any job, but it becomes even more important when you're working remotely. People tend to miss elements like body language, that make communication a little bit easier when you're working face-to-face. We really have to over-communicate as a remote team, and that means we overzealously look at every word in a remote job application and how that person is expressing themself.
Q: Can a bad interview be rescued? How?
CS: I've had this happen before with candidates who didn't know the answer to a question and they let it impact the entire interview. The best way to recover is to just scooch right past it and don't dwell on it. Do it with confidence, and then, at the end of the interview, it's totally fine to correct or clarify points and reflect on a question.
Q: What's it really like working on a remote team?
CS: This is kind of a hard question to answer in a succinct way, but the highs are high and the lows can be low depending on your personality type. The main takeaways are that folks love it, and once you've had a remote job, you tend to want to work remotely forever. That's probably a sign that it's going pretty well for folks. The number one drawback to the experience tends to be loneliness. So, if you're a real extrovert—you thrive on experiences with others, being in the same physical space, and having that energy—it might be tough for you. You might be able to supplement that with joining a coworking space or finding a community in some other way. It's not impossible, but that can be a challenge when working remotely.
Q: How can I increase diversity in my "bro" team?
CS: I have so much empathy for these situations because these are hard topics and issues. It's going to take a lot of patience to get there. It's also really great if you can see the groundswell happen within your own team. Change can happen, and it's going to feel slow and hard, but you have to take a minute and enjoy those little victories on the way to getting to the big mountaintop.
Q: How can I prepare for a remote career transition?
CS: If you're trying to transition to remote work, it might be great to talk with your company about working remotely once a month or however often it makes sense for you. Then, you can say that through your experience working remotely you were able to accomplish X,Y,Z, and show them what you've achieved in your "trial period". Just a little bit of remote experience can help if you're looking to transition, but more importantly it's the traits, like being self-motivated and communicative that warrant the most success.