JOHN RIORDAN is the Director of Support Ireland at Shopify. In this interview we discuss how to build conscious connections using video conferencing and pop-up offices, finding your cadence and socialize when working from home, how to manage the feeling of being always on, and tips for managing remote teams. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/johncriordan , www.shopify.com)
His tips for working remotely:
- Operate in small teams. When you’re working alone all day (from home or wherever) you need a sense of connection. Working in tight-knit groups of 8 to 10 gives you a feeling of working together as a unit.
- Socializing is important in avoiding the potential risk of loneliness that remote work comes with. If you’ve gone a few days where you have chatted with anyone outside of your “ecosystem” or company, arrange to meet someone for a coffee.
- When you’re being trusted, the hardest thing to do is to self-regulate and stop working. Remember that there will always be tomorrow. Turn off your notifications or even remove apps such as Slack from your phone on weekends.
- Remember that you have to be comfortable in the place you choose to live. Don’t go and live somewhere you wouldn’t be happy being unemployed.
- Be very mindful of the organization and type of role you want in a company. Learn what the company’s ethos is on remote working. If you can, ask someone who is currently working there or who has worked there in the past.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Great, and we’re live. So welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette, and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Today on the line. I have John Riordan, who is the director of support Ireland at Shopify. And John, you’re in Cork, Ireland, as we just said, and I’m so excited to speak to you because I’m a big fan of Shopify. I use it myself on my website, it took me like 10 minutes to set up, which was, which is amazing for an online store. We’ve come a long way in the last five years. Let’s start with the first question. What does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
John Riordan: My virtual office is to I’m in the attic room in my house. I have the essential things for me to get my job done–a standing desk. And I have a very simple standing desk from a company called the readydesk.com which I believe is based in San Diego to just to kind of simple kind of almost like an idea pack and build a desk. But for me, that’s crucially important because I’m not sitting down all day and I can stand up. So that’s, that’s an essential part of my day. And in fact, it would be one of the hardest things for me to actually give up. If I was not to if I was to go and work in a physical office space because I’m used to standing up and walking around pretty much all through my workday.
Lisette: Okay, I have a standing desk myself totally in love my favorite piece of furniture.
John Riordan: Absolutely.
Lisette: Indeed. All right, and other things that you have to get your work done. I’m assuming good Wi-Fi connection.
John Riordan: Yeah, I’m fortunate that I’ve got a stellar Wi-Fi connection. It’s about a 200 Meg Wi-Fi actually sorry wired connection I’m right beside the router. So I’m, yeah, I don’t have any for any upload or download speed. I’m typically I’ll typically over 100 meg both upload and download and I check it probably once a every two or three weeks just for fun, and it’s rarely below three digits.
Lisette: Wow, wow hooray. That’s the future. I love it. I only have like 50 megabytes per second, but it is really enough for what you need, you know for video and…
John Riordan: With, to be honest, I mean, I work from time to time in more rural parts of Ireland and I’ve been able to work a full day with a Meg and a half to two Meg upload and download. And there have been days when I’ve actually been able to operate completely on my phone. And that’s just simply on 4g, and all of it like the great thing now and this is quite different from what it would have been 10-15 years ago. All the basic tools that you would want, slack Zoom, and a whole host of others are all fully, fully available on the phone and the suite of products available on a standard iPhone or android is just absolutely fantastic. There. Were kind of out of excuses these days Lisette.
Lisette: Yeah, it’s a computer in our pockets. It’s absolutely powerful. Yeah, I have a two-year-old nephew who knows now on YouTube how where the skip ad button is told, and he knows, he can find what he needs to find I’m pretty amazed by it also made me realize how addictive The phone is and we’re going to talk about something like that in a bit. But first, you’re the director of support Ireland at Shopify. What does that look like? You said that Shopify is a 100% remote company. So that’s pretty modern. And…
John Riordan: I’m going to slightly correct you there with the support organization is 100% remote. So we’re, we have about 4100 employees in the company, which is very it’s become a very large company very quickly, and we, you know, we’re probably the fastest-growing companies who’ve passed over the billion dollars threshold we are the ones with the fastest growth rate. So from you know, it’s a, it’s growing at a really impressive clip and one of the challenges is how do you scale that particularly from a support perspective and a decision was taken about six years five to six years ago. That was the need with this incredible need to, to service all of the merchants that we have, which is totally over 800,000 Believe it or not across the world now, to service their needs, we would have needed to bring on an awful lot of people. And that’s, that’s a real-estate hog. It’s very capital intensive. So the decision was taken to go and look at a remote operation. So about five years ago, the first foray into remote work was done in Ontario in Kingston, Ontario, and its spawn it’s grown from there and it’s gone from Ontario to, to DC and Canada. And then the first footprint outside of Canada was in Galway in Ireland almost four years ago. Three just yeah, almost four years ago. And one year ago, we put a footprint down in Wellington, New Zealand.
John Riordan: Also have some remote staff in Lithuania and we have some remote staff also in Sweden. So we’re kind of, we’re moving really quickly so your point earlier on about us being 100% remote the support organization is 100% remote bar one or you know bar some folks who are office based in Canada from you know, from a headquarters perspective, you’re always going to have, you’re always going to have that but largely we are a we are 100% remote support organization,
Lisette: And how does this work? So, how do you communicate with everybody do I mean how, what does this look like in terms of logistically
John Riordan: Yeah logistically, I suppose you have to go look at what are the core foundational elements and probably key foundational element is small teams. So we typically operate in teams of eight to ten. And that’s an incredibly important part because you are working all day long online, on your own at home and you have to have that feeling of connection. And when you’re tightly bound, really entangled with another group of you know, with a group of eight or ten people and you’re operating all day long, you all start at the same time you will finish at the same time. You have your kind of team meeting at the start of your workday, and you all assemble again, at the end of the day, you have that feeling of really tight feeling of the squad working together as a unit. That’s an essential part of working remote. working from home is not a case of just off you go, do whatever you want, think about it and be off out of the ether for eight hours. It’s just not like that. And the in the companies that do superbly well at remote build all of these conscious connections in a really smart manner to make sure that people have those connections right throughout their workday. So there they don’t have that feeling of loneliness. Now, everybody who has worked or does work at home does feel some kinds of loneliness We are, we are by nature, very community-oriented, we want to touch and feel and be close to people, we have that feeling that visceral feeling of belonging and that will never that’s it’s just a primal thing. It’ll never not be the case. But the all of these connections help ameliorate some of those concerns for people so you just don’t, you just don’t feel like there. I could get to the end of the day, not having actually physically met somebody yet I feel completely enriched. And I’ve had a wonderful day talking to lots of different people because the majority of the calls that I do are on video. So when I connect with my team, with my Leadership Team and their leads as well. It’s almost all done on video conference. And that’s an essential part. That’s something that didn’t really exist up until probably five or six years ago because we didn’t have the bandwidth capabilities. And we didn’t have the tools like your Google Hangouts and your Zoom that appear [Inaudible 08:18] whole variety of other tools. None of those really existed at industrial scale, up until fairly recent time. So I would say the Advent it’s a small team, and the strong use of video are very important elements. There’s one other element actually that I want to add from a Shopify specific perspective that we do and we do really well is we have a concept called pop up offices. Very simple thing. It’s like, it’s like your pop up a retail store. Without in Ireland, we have no office. But every now and then we actually have a, what we call a pop-up office where we will set up in a hotel typically we will just take over a conference room for a day. We hang out a shingle. And all the folks who live in that particular city are welcome to come in. if they so choose, they come in and they work for the day work together. We buy them lunch, everybody just I suppose coalescence for the day and collaborates and talks and goes through their regular workday. And off they go home that evening. So we don’t have the real estate costs. But we make a small investment in having these pop-up offices. So typically, in Ireland, we might have 65 to 70 pop up offices a year.
John Riordan: So yeah, so folks all over Ireland have an opportunity to, to gather if they so choose, there are plenty of people Lisette who would prefer not to, and that’s totally fine. Yeah, but those people who like to have that feeling of community, that feeling of belonging, we afford them the opportunity to gather on a fairly consistent basis.
Lisette: I love the idea because the question is really marginal compared to what you get by getting people together like that. I’m assuming the camaraderie that’s built the just yeah, just meeting each other in person does really help. Go ahead.
John Riordan: Let me give you a cost comparison. If we were to have an office, we would more than likely require a receptionist or an office manager or somebody of that ilk to essentially look after it for us. The actual cost of employing the fully allocated cost of employing that one person before getting any utility out of the whatsoever, is actually more than the amount of money that we spend in all of our pop up offices right throughout the year.
Lisette: Right and that doesn’t include the real estate and everything that comes along with it correct.
John Riordan: Yeah.
Lisette: Brilliant, really. I used to be a big fan of everything remote. I am the remote office manager for a remote team part-time and in my spare time, I should say I was really opposed to us getting together in person. But we started getting together in person about a year and a half ago, just once every six months. And I have to say the camaraderie that built on the team and we had a great team before. But the first place we met was Lisbon. And one night out in Lisbon, drinking and dancing in the streets, and our team has never been the same, it. So I’m a big fan of that. And I love this idea of pop up offices because I would love to see my colleagues more often not every day, but more often. So yeah,
John Riordan: And the standard, the standard comment when people meet each other for the first time. It’s always almost always the same thing. You’re much taller than I thought you are. Are you much shorter than I thought you were?
Lisette: Totally because video really equalizes us all and that’s, that’s great. That’s absolutely great. Okay, so what are some of the things you struggle with at Shopify?
John Riordan: Well, I’ll personalize this for a second. It’s, it’s one of the things that I struggle with because this is, and this is an interesting one for me because I’ve been heavily involved in remote work for an awfully long time. But it’s only in the last two years where I have been fully a hundred percent home-based and working out of a home office. You know, I’ve had plenty of times in my career where I was traveling, non-stop. So you could say I was remote as in I was always in a hotel and an airport lounge and I literally was I had that itinerant Peril pedic lifestyle, I was just shooting all over the place. But now I’m a concentrated workspace in my home. And the challenge for me was actually I was quite nervous going into it. Because what would I like, would I be a good caged bird? Would I be a caged bird? You know, I just kind of like, you know, what was going to be like if I wasn’t able to get out and what I gathered very, very quickly, was, you have to be comfortable in hitting your own cadence. And for me, you know, if I go through a couple of days where I’m not actually chatting with somebody from outside of my ecosystem in the company, I, I live very close to, to the suburb of Cork City here. So I’m like 500 meters away from a coffee shop, I will arrange to meet someone for a cup of coffee, somebody outside of my work ecosystem. And that is a connector for me. It’s also kind of a bit of a release valve. And it’s something that I over the first six months I did on a far more regular basis. I don’t need to do it now. But I love having the capability. It’s almost like kind of my, my the card to take out of my pocket every now and then if I need to, just to get a little bit of socialization. And I think that’s a very important thing and it’s something that should never ever discount is that aspect of, of potential aspect of loneliness and socialization and people find their Caiden’s in their own way. But that, for me was one of the challenges, was one of the challenges was, would I be able to survive? Would I be able to survive in a home office, given that I’ve never worked in it before? And he and the bizarre thing is, I spent probably fifteen years advocating on behalf of remote work from an office-based lens. Now I was on the other side, and I actually had that feeling of nerves, but it’s worked out superbly, and I, I don’t think I could ever I really don’t think I could ever go back.
Lisette: Do you miss being on the go?
John Riordan: I’m more on the go now because I control my own time. And I find actually, it’s the, it’s the classic thing that everybody tells you in the remote world, that it’s, it’s underpinned by trust. And when you realize that you’re being trusted, and you’re trusted, implicitly, the hardest thing to do is to actually self-regulate and to actually stop working. And that’s one of the challenges that it’s kind of one of the other management layers that fits across all aspects of managing a remote team is understanding when somebody is too far all in and they’re actually working too much. And how do you actually get them to slow down and understand that the sun is going to go down? And it’s going to come back up again tomorrow, and the same tasks will still be there and it’s okay.
Lisette: Right? So okay, so there’s a couple of things here that I want to get back to. I’m not going to forget to go back to the always-on thing because that is a huge issue for a lot of people. But I’m curious about how you found your cadence in the beginning what kind of what was the process like what did it look like a bit? Did you go out to a bunch of coffee shops? Did you try staying at home? What was it like for you in the beginning? How did you find your cadence I should say?
John Riordan: Um, I think it was a bit of luck, to be honest with you, I talked to quite a number of people who’d worked remote. And one of the best bits of advice I got was, you know, go for a walk, get out on a regular basis and just, just get away from your desk. And somebody else in the course of conversation said to me, you know what, get to know the people who run the local coffee shop. Because on a crappy day, when just you know, when you’re, you’re you feel like you’re, you’re pushing the lawnmower up the hill all day long. You’re going to want a friendly face and you’re going to want to go somewhere and actually just sit down and have a cup of coffee and go wows me and have a smile, you know, get a smile from somebody. And that was important. I remember that was an important moment for me was to realize that Yeah, there is a value to actually just going out and connecting with other people from totally different walks of life and just sitting in your chairs.
Lisette: You know, I always felt like bartenders and coffee and people who work in coffee shops should get paid so much more because they are such a pillar of support for so many communities they have got like bartenders, I mean both coffee shops and bartenders especially you just see you have regular clients, you have people down you have people are up. You see people’s lives over the years, grocery store clerks’ kind of the same thing. So yeah, great…
John Riordan: I’m much happier that there’s a coffee shop close to me than the bar.
Lisette: Yeah. Amen. So, back to the, the point of being always on. And I mean, this happens, this is kind of an interesting point because many managers don’t want people to go remote because they feel like they’re going to be lazy, or they’re not they don’t know what they’re going to be doing. And work isn’t going to get done. And it seems like from I mean, I’m talking to a very biased section of the population, but it seems like the opposite is true, that people have more of a problem turning off than they do with laziness is not the issue for the vast majority of people. How is a manager? Do you recognize that?
John Riordan: Well, let me let’s let me peel back one level on this one for a second and look at the motivation set behind people who choose to work at home and choose to work remote, because then we may be able to get to understand why it’s hard for them to disconnect. So I’m going to take an Irish example. And I think there’s a there’s an equivalent of this in every country, but the capital city is Dublin. You know, probably 40 to 50% of the jobs in the country are in and around the Dublin area. So you know, the country leans heavily into, into Dublin, so there’s a lot of traffic congestion, but there’s also a lot of opportunities. So if you’re in the labor market in Dublin, you have plenty of alternatives. Okay, so if you’re living there, it’s great because if, if this job doesn’t work out, there’s plenty of other stuff there. Now Move that job to a very remote part of Ireland and you are making, you’ve made a decision that I’m now going to take a job in a small town with a couple of hundred people on a remote on the remote west coast of Ireland. Once you’ve made that decision, and you’re you’ve made a bet on that the chances of you know there is not a safety net. There are really no other jobs. So you are all in on that particular job. So you have a massive vested interest in making sure it’s correct. You will do anything in your power because you’ve made a conscious decision to actually move yourself and your family to and you’ve made a lifestyle choice, and you are going to make that work. Now that’s a very different motivation set than hey, I’m in Dublin, this job doesn’t work. There’s so many others to soul So many others. While when you’re out here on the west coast of Ireland in a small village, you are going to turn the Earth upside down to make it work. So when you look at it from that point, from a motivation perspective, you don’t understand why when if somebody, you know, in their eighth hour of the day, ninth hour of the day, and they’re in, you know a mid-level management job, why are they still striving and striving and striving. And as a leader, you have to be able to notice those folks who are essentially overworking because that is one of the biggest challenges. It’s like it to be able to say to somebody, you’re doing a great job. Just, you know, you’ve done a really good job today. Thank you very much. Thank you. It’s time to…
Lisette: Go, watch a movie go to the bar.
John Riordan: Yeah, exactly. remind people that one of the reasons that you chose to live outside of the city so that you had the time to commune with nature to go out, go for a walk with the dog for a walk, go play golf, go surfing, go do whatever it is that you want to do. Do and to constantly remind people of that work-life balance choice that they made. And that really they have to, you know, have to get that balance right. So, to me it’s one of the core skills from a management perspective is watching out for some of those tell-tale signs of people being too far all in.
Lisette: Okay, interesting. So what are some of the can you go into what are one or two of the tell-tale signs that you see they’re always on?
John Riordan: Slack is a wonderful tool. We use it all the time. But it’s a there’s a real tell-tale sign of the person who’s answering slack messages at ungodly hours. No, please don’t. So, you know, encouraging good behavior from the very start encouraging people to turn themselves off make themselves inactive, encouraging people who are on weekends to take slack actually off the phone. I mean, there’s nothing wrong taking it off your phone for a weekend and putting it back on, on a Monday morning. Not too many people do it. I’ve seen some people do it very, very successfully. I wish I had the guts to do it myself. So maybe saying it publicly, I might actually do it once. But… [Crosstalk]
Lisette: Different screen, you know, I’ve put it on like you have to swipe twice to get to it.
John Riordan: That’s called cheating. There’s, there’s rip the bandaid off and take it off your phone, go on vacation. Take it off. We don’t do it enough.
Lisette: Yeah, it’s very true. It’s very true. I mean, I really I personally really struggle with being always on because I love my work. I love the people that I work with. And there’s always something to do and the more I work, the more money I make. So it’s a highly motivating driver. And then at the end of the year, like in Christmas, I just crash because I’ve been going so hard.
John Riordan: And Lisette one of the hardest things is, is talking to peers from other companies who don’t do remote work, and they come at you Come at me with the whole issue of trust, like how do you trust people and you’re trying to explain to them that look, once you trust people? You never have to ask that question again. It’s actually the rubric has changed completely. And it there’s a ton of other things that you’re looking at with your, you’ve got to slow people down. They just don’t get it until they actually get it. And then you have people come back and go, God, why? Why did I think like that? How did I get it so wrong? And unfortunately, there are, you know, remote work isn’t for everybody working from home isn’t for everybody. But there are industries where it is so tailor-made perfect. And I think I think we’re just I think we’re at the very early nascent stages of the rollout of work from home. I don’t think it’s been fully mainstream yet. I don’t it most definitely hasn’t kind of become institutionalized across a lot of the big companies. You still have You know, I think there’s a, there’s probably a full generation or maybe two generations of leaders that need to be flushed out the top end of organizations, for people to realize that this can really, really, really be a driver.
Lisette: Yeah, when you do it right, the sky’s the limit. But you mentioned before we started recording that you were helping to set up remote programs at Virgin Atlantic and in apple. What? I mean, was there hesitation or pushback from companies on doing this? I mean, did you have to fight to do it or was the obvious choice?
John Riordan: Well, I was incredibly lucky that I worked for a company that was smart enough to allow you to do stupid things. And that was that was a classic for the management team at Virgin Atlantic were very smart, calculated risk-takers. So I approached the leadership team with this idea, I mean, I came across this remote working concept, I think in about 2002. And somebody pitched the idea to me, and I thought, this is the dumbest idea I think I’ve ever heard. And within about an hour, I was driving back from Boston down to back down to Connecticut where I was living. And on the way down, I had kind of the road to Damascus moment where I realized, actually, this could actually work. And I thought about and thought about it, and I called the company that was doing this remote work. And I had them come talk to me. And my question for them, and I got three meetings with them over the course of three months. And Mike, I finished each meeting with the same question which is, okay, where’s the catch? And I couldn’t work out where the catch was. And over time, we ended up we made a decision within three months that we were going to take a contact center, which was in Greenwich, Connecticut, which is one of the most exciting sensitive towns in us where we are and we the contact center there to take that contact center and actually bring it down from you know two hundred and fifty person contact center down all let attrition take its course. And then every time we needed to replace we replaced in this company that was doing this home-based work. And what we found very quickly was that as we allowed attrition kicked in, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy more and more people went hang on if nobody’s being replaced, then there really isn’t much of a future here. So it kind of window down a lot quicker. We spooled up the remote working group down in Florida. And within a year, we had literally transitioned the whole thing to this group in Florida. And it was really interesting to watch. A group of motivated people working from home who are just so incredibly grateful to get which some work that at the time was fairly high end which was, you know, business class airline ticket Sales working from home in Florida. And it was hugely successful. And you know, he was the management mindset at virgin which was Go on, take a risk, give it a give it a try. And it was enormously successful.
Lisette: You also mentioned about the tools back in 2002. We sure did not have slack. And we sure didn’t have bandwidth. And then you mentioned, you’re doing the communication dial-up modems, which I could hear the sound in my head…
John Riordan: Oh, yeah.
Lisette: You say it. So I’m a big advocate for using the right tools. And you were saying, hey, you could use the dial of motive and still do this.
John Riordan: Yeah, I mean, when I look back at the technology that underpinned what we were doing, I actually win. But the thing is, it worked. So we required people who were working from home to have three phone lines. They had their own personal phone line, which was a prerequisite that they kept on their own, they couldn’t mix that with work. So that was phone line number one phone line number two, was the phone line that they provided to us, for us to pipe the call into them. And phone line number three was used for data. And they had to have an office. What we required is what was required by the, the company that ran this network was that they all had redundancy as well. So there were people who had multiple other phone lines to make sure that they had redundancy. So when you look back and this was 2002-3-4, timeframe 200-3-4-5. So it was doable back then. So when I hear people going on and on about the fact that you need an incredibly strong broadband connection to do it. When you have the will, and you have a group of people who are really going to push it. There’s an awful lot of things that can be done and can be done very successfully. So I tend not I tend to tune people out. When I hear people bleeding on too much about the, the lack of infrastructure and looking for governments to get involved and rolling out this broadband plan or that Broadband Plan. I’ve never seen anybody who wanted who wasn’t able to create a scenario where they were able to make it work for themselves.
Lisette: Oh, interesting. So I’m one of these infrastructure promoters. And I’m a, I’m a Skype I’m a renowned Skype for Business hater oh, okay.
John Riordan: Me too. I, I have a distinct allergy to Skype for Business. I apologize to all my friends at Microsoft for saying that.
Lisette: Yeah, I mean, I love Microsoft. I have a huge respect for the company’s great tools, great products as just Skype something went wrong was Skype for Business. I feel something went really wrong with Skype for Business and they can’t seem to fix and so I feel like it really gets in the way of good communication. And, and yeah, and that is sort of the crux of remote working is having good communication amongst your team members. So I have a deep respect that you’re able to do this with dial-up modems. And now we have all kinds of great bandwidth and, you know, and we’re stuck the Skype for Business. So, yeah, it’s a, it’s a double-edged sword. So, okay, well, you can make it work with Skype for Business, I’m sure. But why put your why, why put yourself into that kind of,
John Riordan: There’s so many other excellent tools available for free.
Lisette: Yeah, or even close to free? Yeah. Okay. We’re coming to the close to the end of the time. And man, I knew I was going to go over. But I have to ask you a little bit about team building because this is in your LinkedIn profile. And a couple of articles that I’ve read about your online team building seems to be sort of a specialty. What advice would you give for people to create these conscious connections as you referred to, and have this camaraderie? I think it’s an important part of the team, not everybody, not everybody thinks it is. But I really think that camaraderie, it kind of makes them it’s like the magic ingredient of a team. So how do you do that?
John Riordan: You know, it’s, and it’s kind of fairly basic blocking and tackling. It starts with the size of the teams, which I referenced earlier on. The next element of it is ensuring that at least once, if not twice a year, the team gets together in person. I think that’s something that you and I talked about earlier as well off offline. That’s a very important element. I talked about these pop-up offices, which provide the ability to have a connection. We do a regular kind of remote town hall or remote, what we call AMA, ask me anything, where we afford people the opportunity to come online and you know, a very large Zoom chat room and we have a panel group, group of people who will present a topic and then we have a Q&A session afterwards. And they’re very important. I mean, they, they can be quite trivial at some fixed, you know, at a co-located company. Because it’s just another opportunity for everybody to kind of walk down into the main hall and have a, have a talk and try to put somebody on the spot. It becomes very meaningful when people are giving up their time at home, and actually compiling questions. And people take it very seriously. And it’s a very important aspect of, you know, working out what the direction of the organization is. So that’s a very important conscious connector that gets used. I think what’s they’re the key ones that we do we didn’t we have one very large group every year that where we all get together where we get everybody in the team in Ireland together for about two to three days in a local in a location in Ireland. That’s always a great opportunity to blow off a bit of steam and to catch up with people. And we refer to that as our annual summit. And it’s kind of the fulcrum around which a lot of the year actually kind of rotates.
Lisette: Lovely. I love the idea of these remote town halls are asking me anything’s because it sounded, it really promotes transparency in companies. And just the name asked me anything really promotes a level of transparency and trust in a company that you are allowed to ask anything and that you will get an answer back from a variety of people.
John Riordan: Yeah from a leadership perspective, it really puts you on the spot as well, because you have to be able to answer every question one of the things that we’ve, we’ve kind of got a little bit better at doing is, you know, in a lot of these, there would be some questions you’re not going to get to. And what we’re trying to do now is actually type up the answers to those questions and share them with people afterward so that everybody feels that all questions that are asked, get answered. So it’s not a case of questions being cherry-picked. But it’s something that we’re constantly evolving, we’re trying to do it better. And when I look back at what we did three months ago, I want it to be so much better when we do it in three months’ time. So you have to just constantly change and try to get better.
Lisette: Right. I like the idea that it’s always evolving as well that it’s not always this I mean, it has to be tools are changing the ways we work, new people are coming on board. It has to be evolving. So a couple more quick questions. One is what do you like personally, about working from home? What’s in it for you?
John Riordan: What’s in it for me? I personally find it better when I’m in control when I feel I’m in more in control of my calendar and how I allocate my day. And that’s, that’s just kind of us. I suppose a small kind of tribal thing for me.
Lisette: How do you organize your day? What does a typical day look like?
John Riordan: You know, when I look, I actually it’s very hard to kind of say a day because I’d have to spend it out over a week with, you know, fairly large number direct reports. And then I have a fairly wide peer group as well and to try to mix in the right number of one to ones with all of those people. And then to actually have them as meaningful as possible with you know, we’re, we’re both kinds of documenting and taking action items and following up not overly rigorously or anything, I mean, it’s not like frog-marching people into a room and going through the action items. It’s, you know, a lot of it is connection and, you know, spending a good five or ten minutes, you know, bonding with somebody over some various topics that you’re working on, but a lot of it is down to one to one meetings. The other aspect of it is, is the group meetings, and when you work in remote, they become very, very important, and what I, what I love is when I’m in a meeting that’s a hundred percent remote, where everybody is remote and everybody is it’s very democratic. It’s a very democratizing process when everybody is working in a, either in their home office, or it’s just everybody’s on screen, what the challenges is when you’re the only person who’s remote and everybody else is in either a conference room or in a variety of different conference rooms. That remains a challenge. And I don’t think that’s, that’s going to always remain a challenge. So we just need to get better at it. And I think most companies are getting a lot better at educating office-based folks on how to how to incorporate remote workers in these large scale kind of group conference calls. I think it’s, it’s evolved so much better in the last three or four years. I still, I still have tremendous pity for those friends of mine who work for companies, where the general the mode of communication is audio conference calls, and they’re on to our conference calls with sixty to a hundred people from all over the world and not a lot of my friends are involved in multinationals here in Ireland. And it is it is. It brings me back to days that I just shake my head over it’s like, oh, God, I couldn’t go back to that.
Lisette: Yeah, it doesn’t seem like a, you know, it’s like if you have to, it’s better than nothing. But just barely it’s barely that old spider phone in the middle I used as presentations to show the like odds. So 1980s we could do so much better these days.
John Riordan: Absolutely. We can.
Lisette: So okay, the second last question, I promise, which is if advice for people who are just starting out, what would you if somebody was just starting to work remote? What would where would what would you tell them to start
John Riordan: Where they’re comfortable. In other words, like, don’t go live somewhere where you wouldn’t be happy being unemployed. I mean, and that’s probably the most basic bit of advice I heard, probably twenty-five to thirty years ago, was don’t take a job in a city where you wouldn’t be happy being unemployed. In the same way, don’t make a decision on remote working without understanding that you might actually not have a job there. So you got to be comfortable in the place that you choose to live. Once you’re very comfortable in the place that you can choose to live, and you’re resourceful and you’re smart. There are tremendous opportunities now to go out and seek companies that are comfortable and willing to essentially pipe the work into your home. But you’ve got to get out there. You’ve got to get out and network. And I think what people will find is in probably 2017 and 2018, the volume of Google Searching on the term remote work is has been ratcheting up and ratcheting up significantly, I found even 2019 the first month of 2019 to be exponentially higher in terms of the interest in remote working than I did in twenty in 2018. So, you know, I, I’m a firm believer that that remote work is going to become more mainstream, it’s going to take a long time, it’s going to be probably ten to fifteen years before it truly is as much of a mainstream activity as some of the kind of I think the activists would claim it’s going to sneak up but it’s going to sneak up gradually. And you know, once the once you’ve chosen where you want to live, being very mindful about the type of organization and the type of role that you want. And I would focus on the company and the company’s ethos towards remote working. How does a remote worker get managed, handled, treated, talk to other people who work as remote workers or work from home employees in that company? What does that company do to inculcate, the, they work from home into the general co-located population and vice versa. So all of those things are part of the exploration of working from home. But if you do that, if you make if you do those, Stoke those steps correctly, you’ll find your Shopify or your other companies who are, you know, deeply invested in remote work, and you’ll find those ones that meet your need.
Lisette: Yeah, there’s a lot out there, and more and more every day, which is great. Yeah, I equate remote work with freedom, just freedom of all kinds of things. Whatever it is, I have a colleague who wants to train for a triathlon, you know, somebody else wants to walk their kids to school in the morning. So it just depends on what your freedom is. But I like that the flexibility offers that kind of freedom and that’s not going to go away because once you get a taste can never go back.
John Riordan: Absolutely.
Lisette: Sort of where it is. Okay, very last question, which is if people want to learn more about you, where is the best place to find you?
John Riordan: Probably the best place to find me is on LinkedIn. There aren’t too many people called John Riordan and there aren’t any others John Riordan Shopify, so I can be found there. And I’m always willing to start a conversation regarding remote working. That’s something that very passionate about and I think there’s a, an enormously important social and environmental and mental health and physical health play for all of us to actively encourage control and in some cases, nudge people a little bit closer towards making those decisions to either put more jobs out in the remote world and for more people to actually take that big step and live where their heart wants them to live, not where their wallet wants to live.
Lisette: Love it. Thank you so much for your time today. I took copious notes over here and can’t wait to put them in the show notes. Thank you again, John.
John Riordan: Thanks, Lisette.
Lisette: All right, everybody. Until next time, be powerful.
Individuals, Interview, Podcast