Designing the Future of Work

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The C in Co-Working Space Also Stands for Community

wordgram-of-coworkWhen I first arrived in town I used Meetup to find people who shared common interest. That led me straight to Locus Co-working space. Once in the door, I quickly connected with both the startup community and the writing community, common members of co-working spaces. It has been almost three years now and although I never signed up to co-work at Locus, I realized that I spent time in one of the two spaces at least once a week.

When my new job took me away from Prague for months, my homecoming included reconnecting with my friends at Locus. I write every Saturday with a dedicated group, committed to various forms of media that involve the written word. We have bloggers, and novelists, and game script writers, and PhD students writing a thesis. We come from different countries, different generations, different genders. Our bond is a long-term fascination with words on a page.

It was through Locus that I joined my E-publishing Mastermind group that has single-handedly taken me from talking smack to preparing to upload my first ebook, Two Broke Chicas, a Travel Series, December 26th, just in time for people to use their Christmas gift cards and make their New Year’s Resolution to travel more. Mentor members, like successful sci-fi writer, Bill King, have made my dreams come true.

While plopped on a big fluffy couch to wait for the group to start, I realized how important Locus was to my social life, and sense of being, in Prague. What my virtual membership gave me access to, besides one day a month and access to my e-Publishing Mastermind group, was a community. A place I could belong with people who shared my passion for a flexible work life.

Community = Thrive

Just like we need a Tribe, we need a community. Research found that people who belong to a co-working space report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices. Read more: Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces


Grind, is a growing network of coworking spaces in New York and Chicago. Community manager, Anthony Marinos, shared, “When it comes to cultivating our community at Grind, we’re all about the human element. We consider ourselves as much a hospitality company as we do a workspace provider. Our staff knows all of our members by name and profession, and we’re constantly facilitating introductions between Grindists.”

Research in Forbes magazine showed that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger. Co-working spaces can be a place for women, known for being great communicators and collaborators, who don’t excel at building power networks can find a safe space to start. (Women tend to build deep and narrow networks women-networkwhile men wide and shallow ones.) I’ve added several women to my network from Locus, and started an informal dinner group to encourage young professional women to support each other, over a glass of wine.

Building Intentional Communities

Some experts believe that co-working space should be built more like intentional communities. Example, Brooklyn’s Friends Work Here. Founded by NYC-based Swiss-born designer and entrepreneur Tina Roth-Eisenberg, who’s also behind the international lecture series CreativeMornings (which happens monthly in Prague, but mostly in Czech) and Tattly. The space came as a response to Roth-Eisenberg’s negative experiences in “soulless” coworking places that are more focused on making money than cultivating inspiration among its members.

A Wealth of Human Resources

Locus is how I found my brief dog-sitting gig. I enjoyed several days of pretending to own a dog, forced to take several walks every day, which did wonders for my mental health. I’ve enjoyed people passing through town and people here for the duration, like my friend Sarah who first came when it was Czechslovakia, and still communist. She is at heart a historian, writes historical fiction, and loves talking about the history of this country she calls home, as a well-informed outsider.

It was hysterical and inspiring to sit in on Texas Holdem’ Poker night, where people from around the world turned into ruthless gamblers who might gut you for a pair of Ace. It was motivational to listen to Regina and Mike talk about becoming Courageously Free, and through that relationship I was interviewed for their podcast – which should be out just in time for my book launch.

There were people at Locus doing, looking for, thinking about the exact same things as I was. We all wanted to marry our fascination with social media and our passion for words. I could pick the brains of people who, like me, were inspired by Prague, determined to make their literary dreams come true. We figured out all kinds of ways to make money with words. My critique and Saturday writing buddy, Beth Green, will fix your words for a fee. Which still leaves her time to search for an agent for her first novel, represent on Booklust and @bethverde, and be a Wanderlust columnist at

My writing group has sustained me, in ways both creatively and emotionally, over noodles and pivo at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from Locus. We’ve discussed our lives and our loves, U.S. and European politics and the meaning of feminism.

We’ve shared critique groups and book front-cover
launches, like Sonya’s soiree for Under a Caged Sky, held at Locus Slezka, where we toasted with glasses of wine under the skylight, with Prague as the backdrop.


Staying Engaged

partyOnce I’d had that moment of realization, that my co-working space was my community, I started to look around for other ways to participate. Engaged in the social media connection and found easy, fun ways to stay involved. I am looking forward to the Christmas Party catered by Ethnocatering, a social enterprise of migrant women that serves authentic food from Georgia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Armenian. You can’t find this deliciousness in restaurants. I know, I said it, that bad M word. Well, I must own it because here in Prague, I’m a migrant. A tax paying, law abiding expat seeking shelter and new beginnings.

I know I’m not alone in this revelation and would love you to share your experience of finding community in co-working spaces. Tell us your story in the comment section here at the Global Mobile Worker Project.

Global Mobile Workers in Color

faces of colorThe internet promised many things upon is inception. To democratize knowledge by sending information to the farthest cornors of the earth, to shed light on the evils and corruption of governments, and to break down the barriers of gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. You could chat with people all over the world and they wouldn’t know your gender, your age, your race, whether you were fat or thin, tall or short. It was a golden era.

One would like to believe that for freelancers it still exists. Clients on Upwork, Guru, 99Designs  and are making their decisions based on a robust description of skills and past accomplishments. Certainly, their choices are based on rational facts, relevant statistics, valid assessments. Well, maybe not.

As the sharing economy evolved there was a drive to create a sense of instant trust. It led to the decline in online anonymity, which has introduced its own problems.

You’ll buy from an unknown retailer on Amazon because you can see the seller’s rating. On Amazon there are no photos, just facts. But, when you get to sites like Uber and Airbnb trust is created because you know up front the driver’s name and license plate, or you’ll rent someone’s private home because the host has a public identity, a woman in Los Angeles who loves to eat at the Jewish deli two blocks away. She looks perfectly nice in her profile photo.

We digital nomads of color face a different world when we travel the globe. Recent disclosures about bias on Airbnb reminded me that the world is far from fair and impartial. The bias that is attached to a face and a name can impact where a digital nomad can stay, and most importantly, opportunities for freelance work.

Airbnb While Black Podcast
Click here for a Transcript of airbnbwhileblack – How hidden bias shapes the sharing economy

In #AirbnbWhileBlack: How Hidden Bias Shapes The Sharing Economy, the experiment run by researchers Michael Luca and his colleagues Benjamin Edelman and Dan Svirsky at Harvard Business School was explored. They sent out 6,400 requests to real AirBnb hosts in five major American cities—Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington.

All the requests were exactly the same except for the names they gave their make-believe travelers. Some had African American-sounding names like Jamal or Tanisha and others had stereotypically white-sounding names like Meredith or Todd.

Hosts were less likely to accept guests with African American sounding names. Researchers found discrimination across the board: among cheap listings and expensive listings, in diverse neighborhoods and homogenous neighborhoods, and with new hosts as well as experienced hosts. They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names than with white-sounding ones.

The findings are in line with the degree of racial discrimination found in other studies about who gets taxi tips or job call-backs or good rates on classified ads. Similar results have turned up on eBay. Black Americans even have trouble getting email responses from government officials.

Names - CopyThe Airbnb experiment was modeled off a well-known study that found racial discrimination in the job market when they sent out resumés with black- and white-sounding names. The Airbnb study even used the same names: Tamika vs. Laurie, Darnell vs. Brad and more.

My partner and I noticed it immediately when we started using Airbnb with my profile. We changed to using her, she is White, and got much better results, internationally.

This unconscious discrimination isn’t harmless for either party. The researchers found that the discrimination was costly for hosts, a lesson that extends beyond Airbnb. Hosts who rejected a Black guest often never found a replacement customer for those same dates. As a result, the researchers calculated that individual instances of discrimination translated to forgoing about $65-$100 in revenue. Washington Post

To See the Full Report

What is Unconscious Bias?

It’s natural. It’s unintended. It can affect decisions. It can be mitigated.

Unconscious bias occurs when people favour others who look like them and/or share their values. For example, a person may be drawn to someone with a similar educational background, from the same area, or who is the same colour or ethnicity as them.

Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offered a helpful description.

A manager who wasn’t successful at school may listen to, or be supportive of, an employee who left school without qualifications because, subconsciously, they are reminded of their younger self. The same can be true of a manager who is educated to degree level, favouring employees who have also been to university. This is known as affinity bias, because they feel an affinity with the person as they have similar life experiences.

And then there is the halo effect. This is where a positive trait is transferred onto a person without anything really being known about that person. For example, those who dress conservatively are often seen as more capable in an office environment, based purely on their attire. People notice behavior that reinforces the bias and ignore behavior that does not.

The story most commonly shared to explain the impact of unconscious bias is the transformation of symphony orchestras. Some brilliant artist suddenly realized men were being favored over women, and that perhaps the best musicians were not on the stage. The leading symphony orchestras started auditioning musicians behind a screen. A simple curtain doubled the talent pool and transformed what orchestras look like, says Iris Bohnet, a behavioural economist and professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Dear Clients – What about Steve Jobs?

An example of how this works in the work world is highlighted by a study from the job site Indeed, which discovered that bosses who attended a top-ranked college preferred to hire employees who also graduated from a prestigious institution. Specifically, 37 percent of managers who said they went to a top school said they like to hire candidates from highly regarded universities. That compares to just 6 percent of managers who didn’t attend a top school.

On the flip side, 41 percent of managers who didn’t graduate from a top-ranked college said they consider candidates’ experience more important when making hiring decisions. Just 11 percent of managers who did attend a prestigious school said the same.

Despite their desire to bring in employees from highly regarded schools, most managers agree that going to a highly rated school doesn’t translate into being a top performer. Just 35 percent of all of the bosses surveyed said top performers generally come from top schools. Instead, the managers surveyed said the ability to work well with others, strategic thinking, and self-direction are much more indicative of high performance.

Here unconscious bias works against the interest of the client or employer.

What’s a Freelancer to Do?

One step some companies are taking when hiring? Stripping resumes of names and other identifying information and assigning numbers. So perhaps that is something that freelancer websites should explore. Perhaps it should be standard to select an avatar that reflects how we view ourselves and have a name like Upwork Rising Star #106.

How Does Race and Ethnicity Affect Digital Nomads?

Being different in a small pond - CopyAs I sit in the middle of Europe amid the emotionally inflamed dialog about immigration, being other and different in a new country resonates. When travel is part of your life, and sometimes part of your job, how does one cope?

While listening to a podcast about the current state of Venezuela I was confronted with my own unconscious bias. The host introduced her guest “back with Nicholas Casey, The New York Times Andes bureau chief, who’s based in Caracas, Venezuela and covers the region. He previously worked at The Wall Street Journal. He led the paper’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reported on the Arab Spring. He was also based in Mexico City for five years.”

And then the host asked:

I’m wondering if, in covering Latin American countries, as an African-American, if you’ve faced any kind of racism. Race is different in Latin America than it is in the United States. Are there any stereotypes that you have to confront? And how do racial issues compare, in the countries you’ve been in there, to the United States?

Casey was African American!

And, he had quite a bit to share on the topic, which I suggest you hear straight from him. Nicholas Casey Fresh Air Podcast


So Now That You Know What Are You Going To Do About It?

Change begins by just being aware that we have unconscious bias, because we all do. Focus on the positive behavior of people and not negative stereotypes. If you are an Airbnb host read the person’s review, and try to get past the name and the photo and the unconscious images that creates for you.

Another useful exercise is to imagine a positive contact with the group toward whom you may have a bias. Research has shown that simply visualizing a particular situation can create the same behavioral and psychological effects as actually experiencing it. For example, in tests, individuals who imagined a strong woman later showed less gender stereotyping than people who had imagined a vacation.

If you are an Airbnb user try  a browser plugin called Debias Yourself that Airbnb users can install in Chrome to scrape names and photos off of the home-rental site. (“That isn’t quite what Airbnb intended,” the researchers explain of their plugin, “but it’s your computer, and it’s your right to configure it as you see fit.”)

Google has committed to tackle this problem in their own workforce and shares the unconscious bias training they have developed online. It’s free, it’s painless, why not try it.

Rework with Google – Unbiasing

Google Bias Training on YouTube

If you want to test your on implicit bias, go straight to Project Implicit. Again it’s free; maybe not painless. Be Brave!

For realistic picture of what it means to Black in America, only one of the places I’ve experienced being Black, and after three years of international travel, by far the worst, take a look at When Whites Just Don’t Get It.

Fun fact discovered in my research. According to the U.S. census 90 percent of people with the last name Washington are black and 75 percent of those named Jefferson are black. Are founding fathers really got busy on their slave plantations.washington and jefferson


No Place Like Home


It’s natural that I would take stock of my time in Seattle on the day of my departure. It’s been an impactful trip. I am glad my reintroduction to the United States was in a city I didn’t know well. I could say hello to my country with a fresh perspective. With the same sense of wonder I greet each new city in my travels.

For Digital Nomads a sense of home is always a challenge or at least a peculiar idea. Home in any traditional sense, the country of your birth, is often a storage space or friend’s and families basements and garages. It is always a conversation, at least in our heads, where is the place we should plant every last possession we own. Each city you visit is answering that question. Is it the place you want to get nest like in the old days. So, when I touched down on the land of my birth it was a test of belongingness.

It has been a wonderful adventure. I’ve explored the city just enough to want to come back. I’ve had brilliant surprises like running into a SWA friend at a coffeehouse in the city. I’d gone there to write and had forgotten my converter for my now Czech laptop charger and it was just about to die. I was lamenting how I would entertain myself for three hours, before I could head to Oyster Happy Hour at Flying Fish. And then, a miracle. A friend walked by, looked about, our eyes met and we screamed. “Ray?” “Robin?” We were both incredulous to see each other in a Seattle coffeehouse. He was in town for a wedding and I was in town for work.

Robin and Ray Take Over Seattle

We spent three delightful hours learning about each other’s lives. It felt like kismet and karma and a plain good time. Ray was my people. Someone who loves travel as much as I do and integrates it in his life in powerfully creative ways. Ray is a dancer who uses his body as an instrument, and treats it well so that he can dance all across the world. Ray shared the amazing video he had made in cities like Paris and we talked about the travel show he is born to do. You can see his brilliant work @ Ray Takes Over the World

I’ve enjoyed the city. It surprised me with its beauty. Seattle is a town begging the sun to come and doing it justice when it arrives. The city is filled with balconies, rooftop gardens and restaurants with outdoor seating. Seatlites are prepared to celebrate the sun. I shared several sunny days while nesting in this city. Every outdoor deck was filled with smiling citizens. And, I saw Seatlites tuck under when the rain came. Umbrellas optional. There are plenty of fun and funky places to shelter, so it’s not so bad.

Two Tech Cities on the Bay

Seattle has been an amusing opportunity to see another city built by tech, whether it was internet or aerospace. And, the one thing Silicon Valley and Seattle have in common is traffic. So, I’ve enjoyed Seattle. At the same time, I have felt good about moving on. Two minutes on any news channel in my 700+ channels of nothing to watch, the reminder of how things have become dark in America settled my thoughts on exploring other pastures. I packed all the goodies that I could only get here in my suitcase (astonished it all fit) to head back to the city I’ve fallen in love with. That’s the life of Digital Nomads, we can love many cities. We enjoy each one for its unique beauty, tastes, and entertainment.


When Everything Isn’t a Rainbow – The LGBT Digital Nomad

Rainbow Flag

Being a Digital Nomad takes vision and courage. And being an LGBT Digital Nomad takes it to a whole other level. It’s surprisingly something I have rarely written about. I suppose it was my border crossing, leaving Prague for Seattle, that compelled me to finally speak up. I was raised by Civil Rights Activist who moved our family to Tempe, Arizona because there was a law on the books that it was illegal for Black people to live there, and well, we were Black. (My family and friends are sick of hearing this story, except it defined me in so many ways).  I was raised by parents who not just supported, but kind of insisted that I protest the Vietnam War in eighth grade, even if it meant being sent home. Yet, I came out as bisexual in San Francisco way past the age when I should have known better. My exposure to homophobia is really still in its infancy, but has been heightened in the gay skittish Czech Republic. So, it’s not surprising that my hands tremble on the keyboard as I write this since I clearly thought I was a badass. But, a badass in San Francisco, hell, anywhere North of the Mason-Dixie line (sorry global citizens – that is euphemism for the South), is nothing compared to being LGBT out in the big wide world. And, this is the first time I’m outing myself on a global level.

That border crossing felt like a defining moment when I asked myself if I was just being smart or cowardly. My partner and I travelled through South America and constantly made judgement calls about how to behave in each new country. We were pleasantly surprised by the openness in Chile, and saddened by the distress of our friend in Bolivia who couldn’t be herself to her friends or family. Everywhere in between, until we got to Cuba, was somewhere in between, where it was best to leave it unspoken.

When I arrived in my new country, the Czech Republic, I was eager to participate in the 5th Annual Prague Pride. I was troubled by the stories of people whose families claimed to accept them, as long as they didn’t tell anyone else in the family, or the village, or the country. Their families were oblivious to the SHAME label they were tattooing on their children’s souls. My partners grandfather still wanders what I’m still doing here.

Since I have become a U.S. citizen subject to the laws and whims of other countries, quite frankly, I haven’t done much better. When I needed to get a Visa to spend Christmas with my daughter in India I was struck with a moment of guilt given the laws against sexuality in India. I had friends in Silicon Valley from India who shared what is was like to live in fear and shame. That was the context that had me completely deny my sexual orientation to get my visa at the Indian Embassy in Prague. When the Embassy official was scrutinizing my application and questioning my reasons for being in the Czech Republic he asked.

“You’re husbands Czech?”

“Yes, yes, he is,” I replied, without a moment’s hesitation.

I told myself it’s what you’ve got to do to get what you want.

India overturns ruling decriminalizing homosexuality

Shaded world map showing which countries punish homosexuality and what punishments they have; India’s Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that decriminalized homosexuality. MCT 2013 With BC-INDIA-HOMOSEXUALITY:DPA

It’s the fall back explanation for LGBT professionals. The one I didn’t need when I was in the gayest city in the world, but the one I had adopted in my new hometown, where I was so desperate to create success.

So, I was headed for a business trip, excited about my new job, grateful to be working for such an amazing company, and then I went through Immigration at the Prague Airport.

The Immigration Officer questioned me in Czech.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t speak Czech”

“What, you live in this country and you don’t speak Czech?”

“I’m studying. I have my Czech flashcards in my laptop bag.”

Dismissively, “Is your HUSBAND Czech?”

With only a moment’s hesitation, “Yes, yes he is.”

Czech Border CrossingThere it was again. This man for whatever reason he might make up in his tiny mind could stand between me and doing my job.

There was no joy in it, no satisfaction. I heard the voice of my parents as they pushed me in my stroller at a march in Chicago where we would listen to Dr. Martin Luther King. “If we don’t make sacrifices nothing will ever change.”




Universe grant me the courage to once and for all stop avoiding using pronouns, hiding behind the term “My Partner,” and say loud and proud. “Yes, yes SHE is Czech.”

This Digital Nomad wants to make the life of freedom, creativity and innovation available to everyone no matter who there are or who they love. One day, no matter where I plug in my laptop, no matter where I’m getting my WiFi signal, the world will support and celebrate my love the same way I support and celebrate love in any form, in any place.



Dear Readers

I hope you’ve missed me while I was transitioning to a new life. Gone are the lazy days of working at the kitchen table for a couple of hours before I even brushed my teeth. Afternoons at co-working spaces with a random collection of digital nomads. I have transitioned into the world of the employed.

9 to 5

It doesn’t mean I am in the world of 9 to 5 or that I am no longer global and mobile. I’ve taken on a role with a team that is spread across the globe. Our tiny team of three supports people in Europe and North America. One of my teammates is in Seattle and two of us are here in Prague.


The technology has improved dramatically since I began writing this blog. Video-conferencing technology was either clunky or state-of-the art (like Cisco’s visionary telepresence), but very expensive and often guarded as a resource like the gold in Fort Knox (sorry Europeans, maybe a better reference is the Central Bank). My company has made the video-conferencing technology fairly seamless, and I spent the last week in team meetings with my colleague in Seattle via video conference. Ergo, the lack of 9 to 5. What technology can’t change is time zones. So, my teammate has early mornings and I have late evenings, and we make it work across oceans and continents.

time zones

While my company relies heavily on distributed teams, they still have anchor locations, like Seattle in the U.S. and Luxembourg in Europe. Other companies have taken a more radical stance and have done away with offices altogether, relying on collaborative tools like Slack and Dropbox.

Flexjobs started out with a small list of just 26 “virtual”companies in 2013. By 2014 the number of remote or telecommuting job listings on the site rose 26 percent, with companies like Basecamp, Mozilla, Zapier, and FlexJobs itself, that operate either mostly or entirely virtually.

Distributed Workforce

The Things a Company Can Do with Global Mobile Workers

Here are some notable examples from FlexJobs.

Acceleration Partners

Acceleration Partners is a digital marketing agency and all of the job listings on Acceleration Partners’ site offer remote work options. In addition, its full-time employee benefits include “work from home or flex offices” and “work/life balance for all employees.” We think those are pretty great benefits!

appendTo Describing itself as “100% distributed,” appendTo does have an office in Illinois, but “everyone in the company has the freedom to work from wherever they feel makes them the most productive.” In fact, the ability to work from anywhere is one of the company’s core values. Virtual companies are finding that when people are comfortable in their personal work environment, they are more productive and efficient in their jobs.

Articulate develops award-winning web, mobile, and desktop applications for the rapidly growing online learning space. Every one of its 150 employees works from home 100 percent of the time. Executive Vice President of Brand Lucy Suros says, “We’ve always been fully distributed, so it’s in our DNA. Because working remotely requires a lot of trust, you have to put people front and center. Ours are smart, kind, fun, and results-oriented, which makes Articulate a pretty magical place to work.”

At posting time, web services company Automattic Inc., has 312 Automatticians working in 26 countries, 174 cities, and 36 U.S. states—all working from home. It also offers flexible schedules and staffers can set their own hours so they can work when they’re most productive.

Basecamp  “Basecamp is a company spread out across 26 different cities around the world. Our office is in Chicago, but everyone at Basecamp is free to live and work wherever they want.”

The Cheat Sheet
The Cheat Sheet aims to distill the day’s news for readers to quickly peruse and digest, and its model clearly resonates with its 15 million unique visitors a month. Though based in Asheville, North Carolina, The Cheat Sheet’s staff is completely distributed and “welcome to work from anywhere: your home, a coffee shop, or even the beach! We care more about high-quality results than your location in space-time while you create things our readers love.”

This IT automation company proclaims its support of “having a life outside of work” right from the get-go on its careers page, and says, “We’ve worked hard to create a remote-friendly culture and believe you can have a big impact no matter where you live.” In addition to telecommuting, Chef offers

“Codebusters is a hardworking team of passionate health information specialists. We love working with healthcare providers to capture accurate and meaningful patient data. We work as a distributed team, openly collaborating to solve problems, from documentation to coding to claim review.” It also offers interview and resume tips on its careers page for anyone interested in applying to work at Codebusters.

Elastic is a distributed team with two hubs, one in the Netherlands and one in San Francisco. But it stresses, “we also have colleagues in Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Spain, the UK and Romania—to name but a few. We care deeply about the quality of the team, which is infinitely more important to us than where you’re based.” Plus, they purport to offer salary packages that may be well above the industry average—not a bad combination!

Equation Research
The team at FlexJobs can certainly relate to Equation Research’s reasoning for being a distributed company: “When we launched back in 2000, we set out to build and grow a company that NEVER HAD AN OFFICE. It was not a fear of the old food in the back of the refrigerator that drove us—it was the inspiration of building a different kind of experience for the people that shared in this adventure. It was part of the innovation we craved.”

Fire Engine Red (2nd Year) 
This marketing and technology company loves working virtually, and it offers perks like a virtual walking group, a virtual book club, and bring-your-pet-to-work day every day, because everyone works from home!

The Ghost Foundation
A nonprofit blogging platform committed to publishing—that’s Ghost. To add to its uniqueness, it says of its work environment, “Our headquarters is the Internet. If you have a wifi connection, we have an office near you. We’re a distributed team working online from all corners of the planet. We don’t care about counting the number of hours you spend in a chair at a desk in a small room each week. You can live wherever you want, and work however you like. As long as you’re online, you can be ‘at work.’”

A well-known marketplace for development work, GitHub is also a distributed team, with over 260 people working across the world. As “a remote and flexible workplace,” GitHub says, “Work/life balance is important to us, which is why we offer flexible work schedules and unlimited PTO. We believe that if a job allows for it, people should work wherever they’re happiest.”

Greenback Expat Tax Services
Providing a specific and unique service to thousands of clients in over 140 countries makes working virtually a no-brainer. In fact, in this company’s FAQ section, when asked how it’s able to keep prices so low, it responded that being virtual is a big part of the answer! “Because we are a virtual team, we do not have the additional hefty cost of offices, commutes, etc. This allows us to spend money where it matters: On ensuring our customers have a reason to return every year.”
Kato’s aim is to fix business communication by offering a one-stop portal for all organizational communication. And it’s also virtual: “Work from Nome? Work from Rome? Work from home? Kato is a fully distributed organization headquartered in Oakland, California. We’re looking for engineers, marketers, and writers passionate about the business communication business.”

We couldn’t say it better ourselves: “Our core team of paid staff and volunteers work collaboratively to develop our strategies and campaigns. As a virtual organization, we use conference calls, IM, and email extensively to communicate, to create, and to care for each other. Our team enjoys a results oriented work environment where the challenges and joys of balancing work, family, and personal time are understood.”


The maker of Firefox, Mozilla is a nonprofit organization with a distributed team and a lot of remote workers around the world. As the company says, “We have 13 global offices and people working in more than 30 countries. If you work best from home, that’s not a problem. We can support you anywhere.” Most of the open jobs on the company’s career page right now are remote positions.

As the makers of a well-known WordPress multilingual plugin, OnTheGoSystems is the perfect company to use a distributed team. Sixty full-time staff members work from 6 continents, 32 countries, and 53 cities, with a headquarters in Hong Kong. The one main qualification across all jobs? Being able to “coomunicate in English.” Bah-dum ching!

PeopleG2 A very unique addition to this list, PeopleG2 started out as an office-based company but made the switch to a virtual company in 2008. “Chris Dyer, PeopleG2’s founder and chief executive, initially made the switch because his expanding workforce was bursting out of the company’s existing office space, but also to weather financial pressures caused by the recession. Operating as a virtual business worked so well, he never looked back.” Virtual companies such as PeopleG2 have discovered the benefits of virtual teams and are operating successfully in the online world.

While ProofHQ, a company that supports marketing teams in the online proofing process, is technically based in Dallas, Texas, and asks many of its hires to be based in the Dallas area, it also says that, “All our roles are remote working, so you can be based anywhere and work from your home office, the garden shed, the beach, the slopes, or local coffee shop. We don’t care as long as you deliver and get the job done!”

The team at this web crawling platform company is completely distributed, with 90 people working from around the world in areas like professional services, sales, support, and more. The company looks for people who “thrive in an environment where you can operate autonomously…and have great communication skills.”


The makers of online collaboration software for virtual teams, Sqwiggle practices what it preaches. “Building a fun and social culture within a remote team can sometimes seem impossible.” Sqwiggle aims to make the impossible possible.

Citing long, uninterrupted stretches of focused work as one of its main reasons for being a remote company, TeamGantt says, “We all know what it’s like to work in an office. While it can be a lot of fun, there are meetings to attend and countless interruptions from coworkers with questions, small talk, etc.” And Nathan Gilmore, a co-founder of the company, says, “I think that some employees who work from home could get more done in one highly focused, uninterrupted two-hour stretch of work then some people would be able to get done in 8+ hours working in an interruption filled office.”

The founding members of this team management company includes “social scientists and an improv comedian,” and while it’s not shy about cracking jokes throughout its website, it is serious about helping people better manage team sports and groups. About its distributed environment, TeamSnap says, “Some people work in our headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, while many others work remotely from all corners of the USA as well as a few in Canada, UK, Australia and Croatia. In the US, we’ve got people in Portland, Raleigh/Durham, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Austin and San Diego, just to name drop some cities.”

Universal Mind
On its careers page, Universal Mind touts its remote and distributed team: “Our team members are located across the United States and around the globe. We hire the best of the best regardless of geographic location.” And when explaining why people would want to work at Universal Mind, it says, “Our workforce was virtual before virtual was cool. Whether we work in our company office, on our dining room tables, or at a hip coworking loft, we believe in individuality and autonomy—not set hours or corporate face time.”

Ushahidi has a unique goal—to gather crisis information from the public during real-time events happening around the globe. To do this difficult and important work, the company says, “We are first and foremost a virtual organization, with team members hailing from across the globe.”

Varsity Tutors 
This private academic tutoring and test prep company offers tutoring services online, in-home, at libraries, or wherever is convenient for its students. All of its employees work from home in remote positions, which it points out, means “no commuting time!”

VLP Law Group
This group, formerly “Virtual Law Partners,” has really embraced the benefits employers receive from telecommuting work arrangements. It is one of FlexJobs’ virtual companies that has “invested in technology rather than expensive offices. We work in a lean, low-overhead environment.” And, “Where and when you work is entirely up to you and your clients. Most of us work from home or at our clients’ offices, allowing us to better coordinate work and personal commitments.”

The Wirecutter
The Wirecutter is a resource that helps people locate the best gadgets based on its research, testing, and editorial content. “The Wirecutter is a 100% remote organization and as such applicants should feel comfortable (and preferably have a good deal of experience) with this arrangement. You should feel comfortable conducting a majority of your correspondence with the team over the phone, team chat, IM and video calls.”

Acknowledging that building a company with a distributed team comes with its own rulebook, Yarnee has written blog posts on how it runs a happily distributed team, and the17 tools and services it couldn’t live without. Great reading for anyone either working for, or managing a distributed team!

Flexjobs 100

Flexjobs list is now up to 100 companies, and even my new company is on the list.

FlexJobs has a Guide to the Best Companies for Flexible Jobs, a searchable database of over 30,000 pre-screened, legitimate employers that embrace and offer telecommuting and other flexible work options.

Going to work every day with my new employee badge around my neck hasn’t changed my belief that Digital Nomads, Distributed Work Teams and Mobile Workers are the wave of the future. And, I’m not the only one who continues to chant the mantra. Here are some other great places to explore and celebrate the world of the Global Mobile Worker.

Winning with Remote Work

Check out the Top Companies Winning at Remote Work.

To Learn more about the rapidly expanding world of Global Mobile Workers here are some other great blogs: Blog Blog

Zapier Blog

Future Work Report Blog

Remote Nation






The world of virtual work has exploded with more and more talent committed to work from anywhere. Last fall LinkedIn announced the launch of a pilot program called ProFinder, which connects companies to talented freelancers. Although ProFinder is currently only open to Bay Area professionals in accounting, graphic design, and writing and editing, the program is expected to grow and succeed because of LinkedIn’s massive membership.

But the social network has its work cut out for it — with sites like Upwork and Freelancer leading the way over the past decade, LinkedIn may be too late to the freelance marketplace game.

For freelancers, the plethora of freelance job sites has many of us dazed and confused about the best options. There are several factors to consider:

  1. How much of my hard earn money will the site take as a service fee and are there other hidden fees that will shrink my dollar,
  2. Does the site require the buyer to put the project money in escrow or have some other way to ensure I will get paid for the work,
  3. What is the quality of projects on the website, and
  4. Will I be competing with a global marketplace of freelance talent that drives down what I can earn.

I am inspired to talk about this topic after being seduced by to complete a profile. During my daily walk through the web they came to my attention and the job offers looked mighty good. It wasn’t until after I had completed the process that I realized Outsource expected me to pay for the privilege of competing for a job. Big Opps. Now I had to figure out was it worth it.

UpworkThere is very little information out there for freelancers about the value of using any particular site, and there are pros and cons to all of them. While a global marketplace for jobs is a plus it also means you compete with talent that is willing to work dirt cheap.

The global competition pushes job pricing way below market value. There have been web coding offers for $1 to $2 an hour.

I focused on the best websites to find freelance jobs for a broad category of work. There are sites like Toptal, which if you pass their rigorous prescreening process, promise cream of the crop opportunities with clients like, J.P. Morgan, and Airbnb, but the site is limited to web developers and designers.

Here is what I found out about the “top” sites for freelancers.


The leader on the job boards, freelance marketplace giants Elance and oDesk merged into a single company that recently changed its name to Upwork. They revamped their platform to serve more than 10 million freelancers. Upwork offers a wide range of job categories from web and mobile development, writing, sales and marketing, design, management consulting and legal projects. Upwork aims to make the entire process as frictionless as possible, offers payment protection, and a software application for hourly projects that takes screenshots of your work to satisfy clients that you weren’t just fooling around on Facebook.

Upwork now even offers freelancers access to affordable health insurance and other employment benefits. Plans start at $105/month and can include benefits like 401(k), dental coverage, and W-2 tax filing. Upwork, like all of the sites, handles the money transfer, which is a huge value add when you and the client are in different countries.

Upwork charges 10% of freelancer’s payment instead of an upfront payment for freelancers. Companies pay nothing. The disadvantage is that anyone can and will post jobs and quality of the postings isn’t the best. Upwork does provide you with some historical data about companies, but it’s a freelancer beware environment.


The “world’s largest outsourcing marketplace” boasts over 10 million registered users and $1.3 billion in projects posted. Freelancers have several options for work, including project-based jobs, hourly work and contests. Freelancer competitions allow you to compete with other freelancers to earn engagements and create a winning brand. With millions of projects posted, a contest win is a way to get your name out there as a top freelancer to attract more clients. While all of the job sites send you postings that match your specific skill sets once you create a profile, Freelancers seems to offer better fits for me as a writer. Freelancer only charges the employer 3%, which means there is a low quality bar for projects, and charges freelancers 10% of money earned through the site.


A little different from your average freelance job-listing website, instead of having companies post their projects so freelancers can apply, this site has freelancers create “gigs” based on what they’re best at. That way, freelancers sell their services to the companies that find them. You can categorize your gig by keyword so it shows up in multiple searches. Given the name, buyers come here looking for talent at a bargain. However, you can build up a reputation and make a living through repeat business.


Branded as an elite online work marketplace that enables organizations to find and engage top-tier finance and consulting professionals for project-based work, SpareHire offers top talent without the high cost of an expensive firm or hiring a professional on a full-time basis. They claim to have former McKinsey and Deloitte consultants in their stable of freelancers. Although, I met the requirement of two years of consulting experience I never heard back from them. Even after two emails to confirm their process.


A “purpose-driven business that desires to help people start and build their own businesses and live their dream of being independent.” They have over 600,000 jobs posted and over 150,000 satisfied buyers in over 226 countries.

The site has received a number of recent very bad reviews that claim freelancers have not received their funds and the escrow process has not been fairly followed. I signed up for the site and found it very interesting that at no point did they advise about the fee arrangement, be or that I would have to pay to bid for jobs. After digging through the site I learned that I am given 15 free proposals and must pay for any more, and the fee for using the site is 15% (excl. VAT) on the first £175 (or €210 or $280 USD) earned in the month and 3.5% (excl. VAT) on all work earned after that in the month.

See additional reviews at Best freelance websites- people-per-hour-review


The site is designed to help businesses easily manage an independent workforce. In addition to talent found on the site, companies can bring their own independent contractor workforce into a private talent pools. Companies can build custom, on-demand talent pools based on skills, location or certifications. They make it easy for talent to join the site with an offer to import your LinkedIn profile (it didn’t work when I tried it).

Freelancers, independent contractors and consultants use WorkMarket at no cost. They can receive work and get compensated without paying anything. Companies pay a subscription fee, so they have to be serious about using the site as a source of talent.


The granddaddy of freelancer websites, claims a global pool of over 1.5 million freelancers, also known as “Gurus,” ready to help businesses with technical, creative or business projects. Guru offers a payment protection guarantee. Meaning businesses pay Guru and Guru disperses the finances to the respective Gurus. Funds can be sent by Guru through PayPal, credit card, e-check, or wire transfer. In addition to handling the 1099 filings and foreign exchange translations, Guru has created “loyalty dollars” which help businesses collect up to 2% cash back when paying with check, e-check, or wire transfer. Guru offers over 220 categories and easy steps for finding and hiring the perfect freelancer.


The site requires you to sign up and pay a monthly fee. My assessment ended there.

Something that is both a pro and a con is the relatively small amount of users. The hefty membership fees ensure that only those that are very serious will apply to jobs. Thus, clients receive fewer—but higher quality—applications. Clients don’t have to comb through hundreds of poorly matched proposals and if your quote is not read in 5 days, Outsource will refund the credits back to your account. The 70,000 current registered users are dwarfed by powerhouses like I had to question an investment in a brand new site.

Outsource guarantees that if you’re not hired within 6 months, you can have another 6 months of membership for free.

One reviewer of reminded me of something I hadn’t considered, surprising for a reformed lawyer, the blanket statement regarding IP rights assignments. For those offering design services this can be important.

See More Reviews of Freelancer Websites

Check out this Top Ten List for Other Options or this discussion on Quora




You Can Win on Both Sides of the Chalkboard

Not even ten years ago, all that came to mind when I thought about online courses was dodgy internet degrees from exotic places and online licenses from churches you’d never heard of so you could officiate at a friend’s wedding in the mountains. Now Edtech is booming. A huge $2.51 billion was invested into edtech companies in the first half of 2015. The long list of education startups at Web Summit 2015 was testament to a thriving industry.

Shock was my response when my sister announced she would be teaching all of her classes online this semester. My sister did not own a computer until two years ago when I moved out of the country and she had no other way to keep in touch. The delivery and installation of this computer was a carefully coordinated mission between my techie brother and I. Something close to a Martian landing. Now her college had offered this solution so she could work from home and recover from health conditions, since she only had one year to go until retirement. Online education had arrived and officially impacted every demographic.

How Digital Learning Technology Will Change In The Next Decades

According to a 2015 Babson Research report one out of three U.S. college students is taking at least one course entirely online.

Digital classrooms are reshaping more than colleges and universities. Just as technology has blown open the music and publishing industries, learning is now an open source experience.

Digital Learning BoxDigital Learning Goes Open Source

Companies like Khan Academy launched a movement for free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan is funded by donations, now with significant contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.

Online programs like Khan Academy are known as MOOCs, massive open online courses. These are generally free and available to anyone with an internet connection. Itunes University is a good example of a MOOC. You will find thousands of courses on a broad range of topics. Of course, because its free, you may study by yourself, usually without any feedback or accreditation.


Some Freelancers find it helpful to demonstrate their skills. Sites like Upworth and offer free online tests with scores.

Two high-profile companies have pursued a badge-based future: Coursera and Udacity. Both began their lives as providers of MOOCs. Coursera has bet on content and brands from top universities. The launched “Specializations” in 2014 and now offer 75 different programs, the vast majority from a single U.S. university.

Coursera CEO Rick Levin – former President of Yale came onboard last year, in part due to his unparalleled connections in China and throughout Asia – and has said that the Specializations/certificate model is “financially sturdy enough that it should pave the way for Coursera to become cash-flow positive in the foreseeable future.”

See PC Magazine Review of Coursera

Udacity pivoted in 2013, when it announced “Nanodegrees” developed in partnership with top technology companies like Google’s involvement in the Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has done the same with iOS (Apple) and Tech Entrepreneur (Google). Back in September, Udacity revealed it had 10,000 students enrolled in Nanodegrees – a number growing by 30% every month.

teach onlineThere’s Money in that Knowledge in Your Head

There are other online education marketplaces like CreativeLive, General Assembly, Treehouse, and Skillshare that offer freelancers the opportunity to get paid for what they know. Bloggers and “thoughtleaders” make money with online courses on these platforms. See “Why Top Entrepreneurs Will be Teaching Online in 2016.”

In the heavy weight division are emergent online providers like Udemy and PluralSight. Like the Uber of education, certain platforms, like Udemy, allow global teachers to create and benefit from their course content.

Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Launched in 2010, Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, easy and free to create online courses. Like Amazon with eBook publishers you keep 70% of the revenue from your courses (or 85% if you directly refer the customer to the course). How 10 Instructors Earned $1.6 Million on Udemy in One Year.  If you are a visual learner go to Slideshare – 16 Tips to Make Passive Income on Udemy.

Former high school math teacher Rob Percival, the company’s top instructor, has made more than $2 million since 2014. And Percival’s friend and tennis partner, Ben Tristem, says he earns in the high six figures teaching game development.Not everyone gets to Malta, though: Average Udemy teacher take-home pay is $8,000.

Read More in Fortune.

Another online teacher success story is Kunal Desai, founder and CEO of Bulls on Wall Street, a company that teaches people to trade stocks online. Desai came to his idea to launch Bulls on Wall Street while working as a successful stock trader. Read more at Why Online Education is a Popular Path for Entrepreneurs in 2016

Pluralsight began as a provider of online technology training, and recently acquired the Orlando, Fla.-based Code School, which offered dozens of instructional courses and videos for developers. The $36 million deal was Pluralsight’s sixth acquisition in the past 18 months, as it continues its strategy to buy up smaller companies to expand its footprint in the online learning industry, and strengthened its position against companies like Skillsoft, and new competitor, LinkedIn.

online learning providersWith LinkedIn’s acquisition of, Pluralsight is geared up for an online education fight. In early April, professional social network LinkedIn shelled out $1.5 billion to acquire, one of the largest and oldest online learning marketplaces; their goal to become the professional enrichment destination of choice.

Pluralsight surpassed $85 million in revenue last year and roughly doubled its revenue every year. The company is prepared to IPO early this year. While LinkedIn’s shares recently fell 42% on news of larger than expected losses. If you are curious about how LinkedIn tries to make money see more at LinkedIn Financial.

So freelancers can both feast and be feasted upon in the online learning market. If you are in the market to upgrade your skills take a look at The 10 most popular free online courses for professionals.

If you think you have something to offer here are a list of additional resources.


  • Another way to earn money teaching online is YouTube. And, of course there is a YouTube Video to tell you how. “How to Make Money Teaching Online Courses on Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed”


I Speak Technology


I speak technology

Pressure to Learn the Language

When you actually settle in a place there is a subtle pressure that builds month by month to speak the native language of the country. Speaking Czech is practically a political issue in a country whose language has as interesting a history as the country itself. The comment I often hear from Czechs, “why would you want to learn a language that only 10.5 million people speak,” could be said by someone from pretty much every country in Europe and Asia. To be fair, knowing only one language is unheard of here. Czech and English are just the beginning, and at least the minimum. Or it’s Czech and German, Russian, French or Polish. A little Dutch and Hungarian.

Speak a Universal Language

So while I sit in three hours of Czech classes each week, my head spinning at the challenge, I hope to bridge the gap with my shared language, technology. I have loved technology since I was young, although never encouraged as a girl, in college I cheerfully carried my punch cards to the data center, yes it was Cobalt and we had to code on punch cards. Although I headed in another career direction, law, I took my love of technology with me and knew every software program any of my law firms used, was a Palm Pilot early adopter, joined a startup on a wild ride (unfortunately months before the first dot com bust), and blog about technology here.  I speak technology, and that may be the most important language on the planet.

The New Digital Divide

Defin Technology GapWhile most see the digital divide as a generational issue, it’s not. It’s a mindset, a value statement. I had lunch with a smart guy who told me how he makes a living at online education. Spends hours of his day at a computer, yet draws the line at a smart phone. He proudly tapped his indestructible long past warranty Nokia on the table. It’s true, they used to make damn good phones that we were seduced away from with pretty icons and the promise of continual connectivity.

I encounter people of all ages on one side or the other of technology. Everyone has their boundaries. As more and more of the world becomes the Internet of Things I have to wonder what will happen to these people. His resistance futile or am I the fool.

Read this hysterical interpretation of the digital age gap – I am guilty of none of these things and my daughter better shut up.

A World Without Technology

RevolutionEven in the apocalyptic worlds without digital technology depicted in films and television, like the U.S. TV series Revolution, humanity seems to find a way to gather together enough technology to blow each other up. Hell, fire is technology, especially in the wilderness.

Yet, technology has been a game changer for poor countries and disempowered people. The Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, the first woman ordained in the Southern Congo Conference, understands the power of technology.

“My cousin, a villager in Congo, cannot even write, cannot even read, but she has a cell phone,” she said. “That is powerful.”

At Game Changers Summit, a conference on using information and communications technology for development, Revi Stering,  whose work with NetHope centers on gender inequity in technology, reminded us that technology is considered so empowering there are examples of villages barring women from using phones or punishing them for using them too much.

“Women have been killed for using technology.”

I worry for the citizens distanced from technology, which has opened up so many opportunities for developing countries and individual enterprise. Only an apocalyptic event will stop the bullet train of progress, and what happens to those who don’t get on?

One of two startling projections in the World Bank’s “World Development Report,” released last week:

The probability of certain jobs’ nullification-via-technology is extremely high. Most likely to be affected, according to the report: agricultural jobs, clerical jobs, and service industry jobs.

US Tech Job Growth

The Technology Gap will Become a Canyon

Is Technology the Answer to the Technology Gap?

The U.S. is, by design or sheer bad management, not prepared to supply the talent of the future.

US High School Computer Science

Not only is the U.S. not skilling up the next generation of workers, there is a wave of former middle class Boomers, who lost industrial jobs and don’t have the technology skills to get back into today’s market. If the issue is ignored, it will create a permanent underclass at two ends of the population.

Here in the Czech Republic there is a generation of women whose transition from a communist economy did not include an upgrade of their technology skills. These women, in their fifties or older, find it difficult to sustain employment in this highly transitional economy. There are limited resources to address their technology skills. Organizations like Czechitas work to find ways to support women in this demographic.

The World Economic Forum thinks that technology is the solution and highlighted the companies that are filling in the grid.

World Forum Online Ed

At the ‘Summer Davos’ World Economic Forum last year in China, the “employment and skills: discussion confirmed language as the largest barrier to online learning for the majority of the world’s population.  The group discussed the opportunity to leverage technology to create a universal language that could break down the linguistic communication gap. Top Seven Gaps in Education and Learning that Need to be Addressed over the Next Decade

YouTube ButtonLearning online doesn’t have to be fancy. I am a huge fan of the University of YouTube. Whenever I need to learn a new tip or trick, optimize my phone, or learn how to draw a box (for my book cover), you can find it on YouTube. I even set up a training program on Word and Excel on YouTube for my technically challenged partner.


So, to the technically challenged, or to those who struggle to  learn another language, hop online and learn how to speak technology.

WebSummit 2015 had an entire track on education online. My lunch companion  is staking his economic future on the industry. It’s worth a look from both sides of the equation, teacher and student. Next week – ONLINE EDUCATION – WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME.




Can I Get Some Collaboration Up in Here?

Collaboration in the Cloud is What It’s All About

The second most important word in corporate culture – Collaboration – gets its power from it’s role in the most important word – Innovation. Hard enough to accomplish with everyone in the same place, it can overwhelm companies who need to make it happen across the globe. Collaboration geniuses like Steve Jobs couldn’t even grasp the possibility. He built his concept of collaboration on people bumping into each other on the way to the bathroom, then designed an entire building around it.

The reality lost on Jobs and hundreds of other tech leaders is that even if you hire people from all over the world, once you put them together in one place you lose the perspective they could bring to a business challenge if they lived in another country. Companies large and small search for the Holy Grail, the collaboration tool that will make their teams productive, efficient and happy.

As workers try to balance work and family, who can now text you their urgent needs while you are in a meeting, even teams in the same town need help. The need to work from anywhere has intensified.

Things Have Changed Since I Started This Journey

When I first started my global mobile journey my technology challenged team had finally begun to feel comfortable with ÜberConference.   We used the call record feature to start meetings on time and hold late joiners accountable to listen to what they missed later. Poor call quality on cellphones ended the relationship, and the lack of interactive screensharing (which they have since address). Back then (only 2013) I was an early Cloud adopter. Now the whole world has joined me in the clouds. See How Can I Call You In The Virtual World?

Too Many to Choose From

What hasn’t changed is the overwhelming number of companies in the space. No two best of reviews list the same ten companies, or five.

It’s a tough job and one I tackled recently with Prague based art and finance startup ARTSTAQ. Team members, including the CVO and CEO, were either heavy on tech skills or heavy on art or finance industry knowledge. All sides needed to understand the other ‘s work, and quickly. Only the tech guys had run virtual teams, and the level of comfort with technology varied widely.

What My Experience Taught Me

I added three new apps to my experience databank with the Czech-based startup team, Trello, Podio, InVision, and took my Dropbox and Google Drive skills to the next level. I learned a great deal about how teams adopt technology – the biggest risk with a collaboration tool.

Trello Tragedy

TrelloWe started with Trello, which I had used successfully with another team. It was a disaster. The CEO struggled to translate his GANTT chart into an action focused structure.  Even our small team of ten people didn’t find it useful to keep track progress or communicate quickly. The problem, of course, wasn’t Trello. The problem was not being able to translate the project architecture of the startup to Trello.

So, I was sent in search of something better.

Podio Disaster

PodioI did an exhaustive search for a product management tool. We also needed a CRM, and would eventually need a knowledge management tool. Oh, and because we were pre-funded it had to be free.

I made a presentation to the team where everyone agreed that technically Podio was the best product to address both our product design and CRM needs, and I got a Startup deal from Podio that allowed us to add the entire team as users. The launch fell flat.

At the same time the tech team introduced SLACK, a crowd favorite. Nobody wanted to put the time into Podio setup, shared Podio how-to-videos, pleaded with the team. It just wasn’t intuitive. I spent hours learning the product.  Out of frustration I had to create the project architecture for the data, web and business development teams to hand over a turnkey Podio platform. That increased the group adoption rate by one, me. When I left, CRM was still done on excel spreadsheets.

The SLACK Success Story

SlackOn the other hand, Slack was a huge success. Practically idiot proof, people enjoyed real-time communication and moved projects forward faster. We used the random channel to share silly jokes. SLACK was really a bonding experience, with the less technically savvy excited and confident to use the app. But, without a real organizational tool our weekly team meetings suggested we could move faster with more coordination. The team felt a little lost and overwhelmed in face to face meetings. The experience highlighted for me the challenge of collaboration, even when people work in the same town.

SLACK is not really a project management tool – it is about communication and sharing; ideas, documents, video. You can’t track progress or assign to-do’s. Stay tuned. SLACK had a big presence at Web Summit 2015, and the team seemed buoyant. They can quickly build on functionality based on feedback from their community. Slack does support all of your communication in one place, instantly searchable, available on mobile. And it integrates with Dropbox, Asana, Hangouts, and ZenDesk.

Shout Out for Basecamp

BasecampBasecamp (formerly 37Signals), a company I’ve talked about before, but because they are an example of a company built with and for remote workers, is a product I’ve used and enjoyed. The challenge is always to get the team to channel all activity through the portal. It worked really well for the team located in six cities. Basecamp felt well organized and fairly easy to use, and offered collaboration advantages for both internal teams and our external client teams.

So How to Choose?

I did spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations to help my team understand the option. I looked at how the team worked and if the collaboration tool integrated with other apps we valued. But, given the dynamic nature of the industry these are really feeble evaluation tools for the long-term. Companies pivot or explode every day.

Since there is overwhelming data that companies with greater gender balance are more successful it may be strong predictor of the best long-term bet. We invested a lot of time when we set up and use these products. I applied this approach once before to pick a cloud storage tool.

Now the consumer cloud storage market has been disrupted by Amazon, OneDrive and GoogleDrive. My fan favorite in Dropbox vs. Box, with decent gender balance at 15%, survived the tidal wave (Box went corporate and JustCloud is just hanging in there). Here are Dropbox numbers from 2014: 34 percent female, 4 percent Hispanic and 1 percent black.

When I first did an analysis like this you could find at least the leadership team on the company’s website. Companies seemed to be less likely to post their employees photos and titles online – possibly because of the increased backlash against companies in tech for the lack of diversity. I was able to get some data.

Company Men % Woman % Total
Basecamp 35 76% 11 24% 46*
Podio (owned by Citrix) 8 89% 1 11% 9**
SLACK 14 74% 5 26% 19***
Trello 6 50% 6 50% 12+
Citrix Executive Team

Citrix Leadership Team

*This is all of the employees of Basecamp

** Executive Leadership Team Only

*** This is all the employees listed on CrunchBase – the Leadership Team is six guys

+This was the leadership team on CrunchBase

Both Dropbox and Slack were recently listed in Textio Top Ten: Tech Companies with the Most Gender-Neutral Job Listings. This is a sign that the desire for gender partnership is strong, given the numbers and the fact they even pay attention to gender bias in job descriptions.

The Trello numbers are unlikely current, so I can’t give them a fair assessment. Basecamp numbers look good, and they are leaders in remote work, an important factor for a company that builds collaboration tools.  That said my vote of confidence goes to SLACK. I trust that they will be able to build on their success and offer us the COLLABORATION product we crave in the Global Mobile World.



Wisdom and Experience – The Secret Weapon in the Talent Wars

Unfilled job openings

We continue to hear about companies struggling to fill open positions.

It’s true there is a skills gap in the marketplace. But, I don’t think that explains the whole story. The pervasiveness of technology has escalated the pace of change in every aspect of our lives, including the world of work. The result is multiple areas of dysfunction. I’ve already explored the outdated thinking that workers must be located at home office in Global Mobile Workers – A Solution to the Talent Gap. Now, I want to explore yet another piece of obsolete thinking.

The Youth Obsession is Unsustainable

All of the Founders that I heard speak about talent at Web Summit focused primarily on one demographic – Millennials. In tech these days, people in their 20’s are worshiped.

“Young people are just smarter,” Mark Zuckerberg infamously said back in 2007.

Global Demographics

Besides being fundamentally untrue, it ignores the demographics of the labor force. There simply aren’t enough Millennials to staff the current workforce.


Even more importantly, the workforce demographics reflect the consumer demographics. Ignoring roughly a third of the workforce is simply bad business.

Yet, tech companies are doing just that. Everyone is competing for the same talent segment. The trend towards workers becoming obsolete in their 50’s is simply unsustainable.


The result of this thinking is a large pool of extremely experienced, out-of-work people in one of the hottest job markets in the world.

The bias in favor of younger workers begins with the job posting. Ads for “recent grads” or “digital natives” telegraphs that seasoned professionals need not apply. When you move on to the interview stage the code word is “overqualified.”

Over 50 is Where It’s At

Companies are missing the boat on this one. Contrary to popular belief, workplace vitality peaks around age 57, according to an Israeli researcher’s study.

“Workers’ vitality fuels the success of the organization, and the fact that professional vitality is preserved and actually rises well into one’s 50s indicates that organizations investing in this aspect of the workplace will be able to benefit from productive workers for many years.”

Companies often overlook the wealth of knowledge, experience and skills that equips seasoned workers to contribute. These workers have cHold age against youcrucial business relationships and industry contacts that cannot be recorded in a manual. And, life experience is critical in understanding how to implement and execute on new innovations and products. This type of wisdom comes from hard-learned lessons that often comes from living and learning through mistakes.

The assumption that older workers will cost more is also outdated thinking. Because of changes in how companies compensate their employees, with pay being tied more closely to performance than to tenure, older workers do not cost significantly more than their younger colleagues. In fact, older workers tend to be more engaged than younger workers, which contributes directly to a company’s bottom line. Disrupting The Way We Think About Older Workers

With the cost of unplanned turnovers running between $7,400 and $31,400 per employee, depending on the industry, greater stability translates into bottom-line security for companies with a higher census of mature workers.

Where’s the Demand for Talented 50+ Workers?

The stereotype that seasoned workers are inflexible and resistant to change or acquiring new technical skills is unproven, and in my experience just wrong. When given the chance, the majority of them want to embrace new technology and new skills.

Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just for the Young

Bloomberg Beta in a study on patterns of business founders identified that 38% of founders were actually over 40. A study, funded by the Kauffman Foundation, found that the typical successful founder was 40 years old, with at least 6-10 years of industry experience. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are more than 50 as under 25. More experienced leaders tend to have deeper networks, know-how managing teams, and better business savvy and skills for delivering on the vision.

Fill the Gap with Talent That Get’s It

So talent hunters. Don’t be scared off by a two-page CV, with lots of capability. Don’t assume that seasoned talent is more interested in the salary than the opportunity to make a difference.

The Intern Experience Never gets old

REMEMBER – Global Mobile Workers De Facto Get Technology – We’ve Made a Lifestyle Of It.

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