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What’s the dream situation for a would-be digital nomad? Being employed by an open-minded purveyor of remote collaboration tools eager to put its products to the test and drum up publicity among location independent professionals.
Luckily, when Cora Rodenbusch’s software coder husband caught a bad case of wanderlust, that’s just the situation she found herself in. A corporate communications and internal community manager with virtual meetings company PGi, Rodenbusch approached her bosses about becoming a traveling brand ambassador by taking a year to visit the company’s offices in 24 countries, working remotely and reporting backing about the realities of life as a global telecommuter.
“They jumped on it immediately,” she reports. Now, three months into her adventure, we talked to her from the Copenhagen office where she’s juggling time zones, battling connectivity issues and planning the next leg of her journey: a drive to Milan.
Rodenbusch describes her team as “flat,” and says they work together as colleagues, so she need only supervise one direct report: a writer helping her put together the company’s internal newsletter. But just because she isn’t engaged in hiring remote workers, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have strong opinions about what types of people thrive best working away from a structured office setting. Work ethic is paramount.
“It’s almost like you’re running your own business because when you work remotely,” she explains. “You have nothing to prove yourself other than the end result of your work and you really have to own that end result and make it a success. You don’t have coming into the office early, dressing professionally or water cooler talk to help yourself. “
It’s not surprising that as an employee of a global meetings and remote communication tools company, Rodenbusch would be passionate about choosing the best tech for her trip. “Finding the right tools is key,” she insists and so is video. “That’s the one thing, honestly, that’s made the distance fade the fastest,” she says. Equally unsurprisingly, she recommends her company’s product iMeet. (As I’m an iMeet newbie, Rodenbusch insisted we give it a try for the interview and it worked without a hitch.)
Even if Rodenbusch is armed with all the best tools, connectivity can still be a challenge. “Connectivity is huge,” she says “Each country you go into has a different way to connect to the wireless, or they have a different cell provider, so that’s been probably the biggest challenge.” But she has found ways to work around the difficulties.
“Honestly, McDonald’s (s mcd) is my home away from home. They have the best Internet and a delicious cappuccino,” she says.
So how do Rodenbusch’s clients and co-workers react to her itinerant lifestyle? Rodenbusch’s takes pride in the fact that many of them don’t even know about it. “My goal is that no one knows where I am,” she says. “It makes me feel really good that I am still able to keep up with all the different time zones we have.”
But keeping up with so many connections on so many continents is no picnic, Rodenbusch warns, and you should think carefully before deciding to take on the challenge.
“During the week, I work both India and U.S. hours because my team’s U.S. That’s where my stakeholders are, and so I think that’s something that’s really important,” she says. “The weeks are pretty grueling. It’s long hours, but the weekends, that’s the best, because I’m a tourist dropped in a brand new city for the weekend.”
So if you’re dreaming of the digital nomad lifestyle, how do you know that for you the benefits would outweigh the challenges? Rodenbusch offers advice for anyone considering giving remote work a try: “Have a reason that’s bigger than work for why you want to work outside the office. If it’s pursuing a personal dream like myself, you’re going to make it work. It’s worth it to you to do whatever it takes to make your stakeholders happy and make it a success. If it’s to catch Oprah at four o’clock, then it’s not going to work.”