Reflection on my work at Remote Year

Remote Year is indeed a badass startup, it “brings together communities of professionals, entrepreneurs, and adventurers for an unforgettable year of personal and professional growth. Together, they spend a year living, working, and travelling in 12 different cities (around the planet), seeing the world as they never have before.”

I joined the company 6 months ago as an Operations Manager, precisely 13 hours after my plane landed in Vietnam. I had spent the previous 18 months in England and around Europe for my master study in Sustainability and Design. “Enough of thesis and science, I need to do some manual labour” – I thought to myself as I signed the contract. I wasn’t prepared for what has turned out to be an extremely exciting, challenging and reflective project.

1. My definitions of success:

I initially had two definitions of success (DS) joining Remote Year team:

DS1 – To learn how to manage a distributed team scattered around the planet.

  • Takeaway: Surely enough, I was part of a team that spends countless hours on an equally massive number of cloud-based platforms as 100 of us, sitting in every corner of the globe, coordinate almost unimaginable logistics. There was a joke that we should make an interactive global map live during our transition weekends (when many groups of clients simultaneously moving from countries to countries) – the sky would be full of Remote Year planes. I personally think systems for distributed teams (larger than 50 employees) are nowhere close to perfect, but they are usable and affordable. Developers are moving fast. In short, it might be cheaper to operate a global digital SME nowadays than to operate a local one (with stores and/or physical assets).

DS2 – To observe client groups in such an ambitious social experiment. I studied different pillars of sustainability (ecological, financial, social) and I was fascinated by the chance of witnessing first hand the future of (collaborative & digital) work.

  • Takeaway 1: I have had the privilege to host four groups of clients – one group in their 2nd month, one group in their 5th month and two groups in their 12th (last) month (yes, there were decent crying parties). There are different psychological patterns attached to different legs (4-month period) of the journey. However, clients in their later months are much more comfortable with location-independence.
  • Takeaway 2: There is a strong sense of community that gradually develops throughout the year. There are many outside opinions questioning the actual positive impacts left by the communities as they travel around the world. However, ‘positive impacts’ is just one of the many development schemes designed for Remote Year participants. In my opinion, inclusive and positive communities will produce collective impacts. How to build those communities? Remote Year might have an answer.

2. Protect the dignity of the service 

I have spent a fair amount of time working in the lifestyle, tourism, hospitality industries and found myself coming back to those industries from time to time. People often talk about two parties: the service provider and the customers. However, I have a slightly different view: There is a third party, the success maker – the service itself.

Remote Year promises every participant (1) coworking space, (2) private room, (3) transportation, (4) interest-specific personal development “tracks” and events. In operational terms, those translate into perfecting the art of scouting and negotiating, not only for the best but also for the most valuable deals.

My philosophy about hospitality is protecting the dignity of the service and getting the best and only the best option. We spent months on looking for and looking at accommodations and workspaces. I personally negotiated every contract to make sure we got the best value and guest experience for the budget. A lessor literally puzzled when I walked in and asked for all the lightbulbs in that apartment building changed into daylight lighting that is softer on the eyes. The list went on.

As a result, Ho Chi Minh City accommodations were ranked #1 globally by Remote Year participants. My OCD paid off.

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– Skye