Name: Laura Rooke
Headquarters:
California, USA
Superpower:
Remote technical support and being a great Mom!

 

Laura Rooke is one of the best remote technical support specialists you will ever hire. She and I worked together remotely for three years in what was for me, and for the company, an extremely successful remote working experience. Most of our clients had no idea that Laura was in California while I was in the Netherlands.I was lucky enough to interview Laura about her background and experiences. We spoke on a Google Hangout on Air in August 2013.

Here are the highlights:

  • If you want a job in a particular place, then you need to put yourself in that place. Even if you’re just volunteering. Get yourself known and learn the territory.
  • If you work hard and you love what you’re doing, I find that things just work themselves out.
  • Remote working gives me the flexibility to be there for my family.
  • Be disciplined with your communication tools.
  • With remote working, it’s especially important to be on time to meetings.

How the remote technical support journey began

I started many years ago as a computer programmer in England. And from there, I moved on to being a systems analyst. From there, I went on to education where I taught system and program design.

When I had my kids, I gave up work to stay home and be with my kids. Years later, I was doing a lot of volunteer work for schools and I thought “I really need my calendar at home to sync up with the calendar that I have on me”, and I went out and bought an iPaq (a pocket PC device long before the iPhone existed). It was then that I realized how much I enjoyed technology!

When my kids got older, I was getting bored with being a stay-at-home mom. I found the HP forums for people using iPaqs and I just started answering questions. I got points for all the questions I answered. And I unintentionally worked my way to the top of these forums.

Eventually, I was nominated and awarded a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Award five years in a row (until Microsoft discontinued the award). And when I went out to look for a job, the MVP Award gave me credentials to get a job, even after not having worked for 20 years.

So even though I was doing it because I liked it, a lesson here is that if you really want a job in a particular place, then you need to put yourself in that place. Even if you’re just volunteering. Get yourself known and learn the territory.

I believe that if you work hard and you love what you’re doing, things just work out.

Benefits of remote working

Because of my enthusiasm in the iPaq forums, I ended up working from home, earning good money, with good hours, doing something I actually loved. And suddenly, I had so much work that I was working 12 hours a day. I don’t think I could have worked 12 hours a day in an office, but somehow, working 12 hours a day at home was fine. And also, I love the work that I do, so it was never difficult to work those 12 hours.

I wanted to be available for my son. I didn’t want to be stuck in an office where I felt guilty if my son needed me. For me, the main benefit of remote working is so that I can be there for my family. I like the flexibility remote working offers.

There’s a lot of time wasted commuting into an office. Even if the office is 10 minutes away, that adds up!

So even though it’s a lot of work, you haven’t got the commute and you can do things intermittently in breaks during the day. When I worked in an office, I’d come home exhausted not wanting to do anything except just collapse.

For the company that doesn’t need a full time person, employing remote staff on an as needed basis is incredibly useful. They don’t want to have to pay someone for 8 hours a day if there’s not enough work. And the company doesn’t have to pay for office space. The company just paid me for the work I did. And because I had enough work from a variety of sources, I could balance the work myself.

Challenges of remote working

You have to be disciplined with your communication tools. You have to communicate via instant message the same as you would as if you were having a conversation in the office. You can’t just leave people hanging. And because people can’t see what you’re doing, you have to make sure that you’re communicating with extra awareness.

What you miss out on when working remotely is what you would overhear if you were in an office. Sometimes the conversations you overhear are just as valuable as the conversations you have with somebody.

When working remotely, it’s especially important to be on time to meetings. Regular weekly meetings are important to just talk to each other. It helps build community. You do have to bond, and periodically, as a team, get together. Being in different time zones can also be a challenge.

Remote collaboration tools

I use GoToMeeting a lot for companies I work with. Personally, I use Join.me, Skype, and iMessage.

 


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