DEREK SCRUGGS is a partner at Blue Spruce Holdings, “real estate investing made simple”. He was previously CTO of ContentBLVD. At the time of our interview, Derek was the vice president of Staunch Robots. Their company worked with remote teams in Colombia and the United States. When many U.S. companies were following the trend of outsourcing to India and Eastern Europe, Staunch Robots had the idea to outsource in South America, thus solving the time zone challenge. Derek mainly works from his home office and finds that having a regular routine helps him stay on track.



Subscribe to the Collaboration Superpowers Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.


His tips for working remotely:

  • Have a regimented schedule.
  • Regulate your energy to maximize your productivity (take naps!).
  • Eliminate distractions to stay focused.
  • Use chat tools to help create a virtual water cooler.
  • Use tools to automate process whenever possible.


Podcast production by Podcast Monster

Graphic design by Alfred Boland


Sign up for the Collaboration Superpowers newsletter (green)

Original transcript

Lisette: Great! We’re live. Welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette. I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And today I’m speaking with Derek Scruggs in Colorado. And Derek, You’re the VP, Vice President for Staunch Robots. The name got my attention immediately because I’m a big fan of robots and telepresence. We’re going to get into all of that, but first I want to know. Tell us about you and what does your anywhere office look like? We’ll start with that question and then dive in into the harder stuff.

Derek: Well you saw my dog just run by.

Lisette: Totally.

Derek: She sometimes comes with me. My anywhere office is pretty simple. I have a MacBook Air and pretty much all of what I do is online, whether it’s writing code or managing projects. I write blog posts. I do podcast interviews as well. Pretty much all of that can be captured on my laptop. What I’m speaking to you now is I have an iMac but I’m going to get rid of it. I don’t really need it. Just with my MacBook Air and a large monitor, it’s really the same thing. A big thing for me this year is streamlining – getting rid of clutter and getting rid of stuff I don’t need. And I do that every few years. I’m pretty good about not letting it stack up but I do have a stack of things I’m getting rid of and one of them is going to be the iMac.

Lisette: I’m a big fan of the streamlining process myself. When I moved to Europe I had one suitcase and that was it. For some reason, it was so liberating that I really remembered it ever since.

Derek: Yeah I fantasize about that. I have a friend, you maybe know him, Andrew High, he spent 2 years basically wandering the globe. He had a total of 18 things. He’d given up everything he had and he was actually even featured in New York Times. He had 1 pair of socks, 1 pair of shoes, a pair of sandals, his laptop, his iPod, and 2 shirts, shorts and pants. That was it.

Lisette: It’s surprisingly freeing when you don’t have all that stuff, I’ve noticed. Is this working remotely with Staunch Robot, I get the impression that it’s kind of new. Not brand new but sort of new. Can you tell me about that a little bit?

Derek: Yeah. I’ve never really done it before. I’ve done tech startups for a long time, 20+ years I’ve been doing them. And in that context we’ve sometimes had remote people but most of the time we’ve all been in the same place. And so when I started talking to Staunch Robots, I was not sure about it. I was like I don’t know, I like having people in the same room. But after, I worked with them on a project and I was pleasantly surprised at how well we were able to do things remotely. I think it requires a little more planning. You have to think a bit more strategically about how you’re going to run the project, but the tool and the blog post you mentioned, we talked about that. The tools we use and the purpose of those tools. But if you do make that effort, it’s actually good because software development, especially in a startup context, it can get very loosey-goosey and that may work for the first year or so, but if you’re trying to scale to any level, you need to start adding process. By thinking through that upfront, it actually makes the development process go more smoothly and really get a sense of what it is you’re working on, what you’re going to accomplish, where the roadblocks are, so on.

Lisette: So being remote basically forces you to plan more because [4:18.] And if you were to say, what has been the most challenging thing for you about going remote. What’s really something that’s hard to make work?

Derek: It’s hard. You have to really be conscious of culture, company culture, doing it virtually because there’s no real water cooler to stand around and chat. So we use chat tools to help with that but it’s still something that we do. We have daily chat but we also do a meeting every other week online where we just get online and talk about what’s going on. I would say that’s the trickiest thing. I can’t say there’s a magic bullet for that. It’s just something you have to be conscious about. I think on a personal level it’s really easy to screw around, honestly, to not be in work mode. For me it really helps to have a regimented schedule in terms of when I get up, when I’m at work, when I’m not at work. I get dressed. I don’t just stay right on my pajamas all day. I take a shower first thing in the morning. I have a separate place where I work. That helps me a lot, I think.

Lisette: I’ve heard this before, people recommending the schedule and to have a real office space. And even for me I noticed that. I just have a one-bedroom apartment so everything’s in one room and then I got the room divider and that works, in one sense, to hide the bed that’s behind me so that it has a more professional look, of course. The working clients, you just don’t want the bed in the scene. There’s something professional about it. But then also when I put up the screen in the morning, it gives me a little divider in the room of like this is now office mode. And when I see myself and meeting this, seeing myself, I think it does make a difference. It’s surprising having a separate space, how much difference that makes.

Derek: Yeah. When I’m at home, I’m usually working on my iMac. When I go to coffee shop I take my MacBook. But even at home, the MacBook, I rarely have it in this office. It’s my fun computer when I’m at home. I’ll have it downstairs on the couch or in my bedroom. You just sort of keep those, as much possible keep those activities separate.

Lisette: So you even have 2 separate things, not even just a separate office but also separate equipment, which is interesting.

Derek: Yeah. That wasn’t really planned but it does work that way. And they do blend together because as I said if I go to a coffee shop and work, I am using the MacBook for there. But generally when I’m home, that’s just my fun computer.

Lisette: Would you go back to a co-located situation given the choice or…

Derek: Maybe. It depends on the context. I would say that I haven’t truly taken advantage of the upside of virtual as much as I would like, and that’s actually one of my goals this year, is to do more of that. Staunch Robots is actually based in South America. There’s 2 of us in North America but I’m the only one who does development and project management in North America. All of our clients were in North America. But I did go back in October, late September, October I spent about 5 weeks in Columbia. In that case I wasn’t virtual. We do have an office there so I would go into the office every day. But with all my clients, I was remote. I really enjoyed it. I love the experience of living in a foreign country, not just visiting but living. I really enjoy it. One of my goals this year is to do a lot more of that, not just necessarily in foreign countries but I would like to…I mentioned earlier I’d like to try living in some warmer locales, so at some point this year I plan to go spend some time in Southern California. I’m thinking I might try Miami for a while. I’m thinking Charleston, South Carolina, a few different places. And that will be when I really take advantage of the freedom that remote gives you.

Lisette: Yeah I have a term for that. I’ve made up my own name for that. I call it a work holiday. It’s not going somewhere on a holiday. You’re actually going somewhere to experience new place but you’re also working. You can work during the day and hang out in cafes or whatever at night or explore.

Derek: It really helps me to have something to anchor me, a little bit, like something I have to do every day. I actually like that.

Lisette: The routine.

Derek: Yeah

Lisette: So tell me a little bit about Staunch Robots. Now I’m curious, how does the team operate? And then we’re going to dive into tools because I saw in your website you guys use lots of tools. I’m really curious about that.

Derek: So Staunch Robots was started by a guy named Todd Morrill. He’s the founder and CEO. He’s also an American. He actually went to school here in Boulder. He went to CU Boulder, the university here, and studied computer science. But he never made it as a career a programmer. I should say he never tried to. He likes technology but everybody wants to be a programmer and he spent most of his 20s basically wandering around Southeast Asia, working on himself doing things like 10-day meditation retreats and things like that. But then he eventually did get into the business world and he somehow ended up in Argentina with a friend of his and they ran a similar kind of company there and a few years later Todd broke off on his own. He moved to Columbia by that point. There is a mega trend that’s been going on for the last 15 years, which is the possibility of outsourcing offshore type work. There was a lot of hype early on and a lot of that was done in India and Eastern Europe. Gartner calls it the hype cycle and this happens with any technology. There’s all this excitement about how great it’s going to be, but then it doesn’t really live the expectations and then there’s this trough of disillusionment but then it starts to catch on again. I think that’s where we are with offshoring over the last 40 years. We’re on the uptick part. There was a lot of disappointment early on. Some of the challenges, if you are using folks in India or Eastern Europe, it’s just time zone. It’s hard to coordinate schedules. I’ve often thought, I remember years ago thinking if South America can penetrate this market, they have a real advantage there. And lo and behold I’ve discovered there was a company doing it, Staunch Robots. I started talking to them a little bit about this time last year but seriously last summer. They do have developers in Asia and Eastern Europe, but most of the developers are in South America. That solves a lot of the time zone challenges you see. The tools have caught up. You mentioned tools. I’m sure we’ll get into that. The tools have caught up with the possibilities, and so there’s a lot more infrastructure, I guess you could say.

Lisette: It seems in the last 5 years tools have really come a long way. And now the offshoring and also internet has come a long way, bandwidth keeps increasing exponentially all over the world in terms of availability and quality. You’re right, given the time zone, I didn’t even think about how much of an advantage that actually is. It seems like an easy thing but I have to say it comes up at every single interview as an issue. And even in my own work, it’s totally an issue. Twice a year when the time zone changes, Europe changes 2 weeks after the US and even just that 1-hour change can mess you up for the entire time.

Derek: The funny thing too, I’m pretty sure there’s no country in South America that even has daylight savings. Columbia, in Medellin where the company is based, right now it syncs up to Eastern Standard Time. Is it standard or daylight we’re on? I never know. But right now it matches up with the East Coast. But come March or April when we change the clocks again, it will match up with central time. That’s something our developers have to be aware of. That’s part of my job is to warn them when stuff like that happens. Fortunately, that’s not a bad thing, Medellin matching East Coast time. Sao Paolo I think is maybe 1 or 2 hours even ahead of the East Coast and that’s about as far east as our developers go. They like that, right? They don’t have to get up at 8:00 AM to work with an East Coast client. They can actually sleep in a little bit.

Lisette: Right, there’s an advantage there. And 1 – 2 hour’s difference that’s totally manageable. Unless you get back down, that’s totally manageable. Are there any cultural issues that have come up that have been difficult to deal with?

Derek: I would say a little bit. Most developers we work with have very good English skills, but sometimes they don’t. And so that can be a challenge and that’s part of my job, is to sometimes translate what the client wants. And when I say translate; it’s not that I speak fluent Spanish. I speak some Spanish and I’m working on it, or I don’t speak any Portuguese. This is true in any tech business. Sometimes the client says they want something but they can’t really translate what that means technically. Sometimes my job’s to do that anyway. And it’s just a little bit harder for people whose English isn’t at the native level. I would say that South America is definitely in my experience, which is limited I should say. I basically only spent time in Medellin. It’s a little bit more of a laid back culture there. It’s not the type-A New York hustle that some people might prefer. That doesn’t mean you can just cracking the whip, right? You have to translate what we need into their world. It’s an ongoing…I don’t want to call it challenge but it’s something to be mindful of.

Lisette: Right. It simply comes up. I know, living in Europe, there’s a difference in every country that you go to. Even Germany is only 10 kilometers away from me and as soon as you cross the border, there’s a clear difference and it’s hard to even articulate what exactly the difference is but it is there and everybody feels it. I ask because I don’t understand. I’ve been really trying to understand the cultural issues and what they are for people. People just say it’s actually just awareness of the culture and just knowing how people operate but in general everybody’s a human and we’re the same. Different holidays maybe, different customs of course.

Derek: Yeah. It’s funny too. I think it’s honestly just a function of climate. Like Medellin, it’s a perfect place. It’s never too hot, never too cold there, year round. The only bad thing you could say about it is its get a fair amount of rain but not as much as somewhere like Seattle. And the upside of that is it’s really green and it’s mountainous. It’s a beautiful place and I think if I grew up there, I would think the world is just a beautiful place where wonderful things come to me, whereas if I grew up near the arctic circle, I would think the world is a very harsh place where you better have all your ducks in a row and be organized and efficient or you’ll freeze to death. It makes sense if you look at it from that perspective.

Lisette: Right. You could be a little more laid back. I’m sure when you go San Diego and you then spend time in Southern California, you’ll notice that there’s also a more laid back culture there.

Derek: For sure.

Lisette: You’re right. There’s a link with weather. There has to be. There has to be. I want to talk about tools now. I’ve been dying to get into this. On your website, the first thing actually I was going through and I was writing down some of the notes and notes from who you are in the website and I wrote down “lots of tools” and then I continue to read and in your blog article you mentioned “we use lots of tools.” So it’s a thing. It’s a thing with you guys. Why do use so many tools?

Derek: Well it’s partly the evolution of software development itself over the past, basically since about 2000. The term I’ve already hear a lot is Agile, Agile programming, Agile development, Agile business. These are all terms you’ll hear from around. I won’t go into a deep explanation, but basically it’s a more organic way of building software compared to the past. The past used to be you’d have this big, long, thick documents of specifications and you had to develop those. To some degree there’s still an element of that. Specifications can be useful. But it’s really about breaking down what it is you’re trying to build into the smallest units possible and building as much as you can as quickly as you can in what they call a sprint, which can be 1 week or 2 weeks. And then looking at that and saying “is this going in the right direction? Does this work the way we need it to work? Maybe we should change this one concept because it doesn’t work from a user perspective or it turns out we don’t really need that after all.” That’s the macro environment. And then there’s a lot of tools that have popped up over the years to do that, whether they’re electronic or some of them, a lot of people just like to use whiteboards in a very structured way. There are tons of tools that pop up and when you add into that the remote environment, there’s both tools for management project and there’s tools for knowing what’s going on in the project at any given moment. That’s a lot of what I talk about in that post you referenced, is what tool do you use at what stage? For example, before a project starts, if we’re still just pitching it and estimating for the client, we haven’t actually signed them up as a client, it’s better to use something ad hoc like Google Docs and spreadsheets. We use Basecamp for some of the basic organizing stuff. But then once they become a client, we use something that’s more structured like Pivotal Tracker or Trello. There’s lots of different tools like that. The ones that I write about in that post are basically ones that I inherited. I can’t say they’re best of breed and I’m careful to say that in the post because there are a lot of really good ones and oftentimes in terms on your specific needs what the best tool is. I mentioned Pivotal. For software development, one of the big things that arisen the last several years is test driven development so that when you write new code, you also write a test to make sure it works because a really common problem with software is you add a new feature and suddenly it breaks something that you wrote 6 months ago. And so there’s a lot of tools to help automate that process as well, and notify you when something’s not working. That is a Godsend. Having those kinds of things just in the last few years has made life so much easier for developers.

Lisette: And do you find that you’re constantly experimenting with new tools or is the set that you have it’s pretty much you guys try to work within this set?

Derek: I don’t experiment a whole lot. I have a couple of go-to tools that I use. Sometimes it’s driven by the client though. They may have their own toolset they want to use. In that case we’ll go along with whatever it is they want. But I’m pretty happy with what I have and I hadn’t seen a real need to use something else.

Lisette: I ask because I hear some teams they allow all of the developers or all of the people in the team to choose their own. The tools expand and contract, the tool based on what it is. I was just curious how Staunch Robots did it. But it sounds like you have a set of tools that works really well. No need to…

Derek: Yeah it’s really seductive. This is true, like I got into it just kind of personal years ago and it’s really easy just to chase the new shiny object, this new thing. And if it does have a feature you really need, then you probably should use it. But most of the time, there’s not a lot of changing circumstances from project to project. There’s basic needs. You need to cache the requirement. You need to track whether it’s being done. You need to be able to communicate throughout the day, and you need to be notified when system level events happen. The tools that we use, I feel, are pretty solid for this purpose.

Lisette: What do you guys use for a communication tool for the team? I don’t think I caught it. Was there a centralized chat system? Oh HipChat, I think, you use.

Derek: We use HipChat a lot for just team communication. It’s got some nice features. I actually personally prefer something called Flowdock, which I did a separate blog post about that. But it’s not either-or, you can use both. Flowdock can serve as a chat tool, but we don’t use it for that purpose. Most of our chat is done through HipChat, although occasionally my partner Todd will ping me through Skype just because that’s what he happens to be working in.

Lisette: Right. Skype’s pretty common. I assume there’s lots of informal communication that also happens on HipChat, not just the back and forth. Do you guys have that?

Derek: Yeah on stuff. We actually have a little robot, a bot that you can send commands to in HipChat. Like you can say “image oh my God” and it will search Google for the first image that comes up that’s relevant to oh my God and it will put that into HipChat, just silly games back and forth, kind of like the office part of work. One of my favorite ones is excuse. If you just type in “!excuse” it comes back with a very technical sounding excuse for why the system broke.

Lisette: Brilliant.

Derek: So uh-oh the website’s down. !excuse – it turns out the database wasn’t…you know, the library with 50 excuses you can use.

Lisette: That’s brilliant. I would love that. So you mentioned something that caught my attention. I’m familiar with Agile and the Agile development world, but you mentioned Agile project management and it sounds like if you’ve been in the startup, managing startups for the last 20 years, they’re in that world. I’m really curious, what is the difference for you in managing a remote team and managing a co-located team. Also, and maybe what it means to managing in Agile way, if there’s anything to highlight there.

Derek: Most of my work has been on the software side but if it comes to managing our marketing campaign, I’m going to be honest and say we don’t have a really good system for that. I know there are people who do and I don’t think it’s necessarily…it’s sort of the nature of our business. We’re very small. A campaign for us a little thing. It’s not a television campaign or a huge project where we’re going to be advertising on lots of websites or anything like that. It’s much more organic. Here’s an idea we’re working on and we’ll usually use just Google Docs and screen share things to do that. I can’t say having a real great insight in how to apply that to non-technical functions.

Lisette: Yeah I know, fair enough. I’m just really curious because there’s this big debate in Agile, I don’t know maybe it’s not a big debate anymore, but it seems to be there’s a debate whether Agile and distributed can co-exist. I think it has to. There are so many situations in where we can’t all be in the same room. Then what? I don’t even like the argument of should we or should we not do it. To me it’s like we have to do it in certain circumstances. So if we have to do it, how do we make it work? That’s really more of what I’m interested in. Have you heard this debate about distributed and Agile? Clearly you guys are making it work.

Derek: Not really. There’s definitely a broader argument whether distributed works at all. We saw with Yahoo, Marissa Mayer [26:45] when you come to the office. I think there is room for debate with that. I think it depends on the type of company you are and the type of projects you’re working on. There are certain things where it’s probably better to have everyone at the office. In terms of just pure software development, maybe within that there are certain types of things that you don’t want distributed. I imagine if you work for the NSA they don’t want stuff going over the network that’s not 100% encrypted and secure and all of that, so it’s security risk for them. Maybe there are similar types of environments to that where it makes sense to have everyone in the same place. But I think for most of the run of the mill development – building websites, building web apps, building mobile apps, I think you can get away just fine with distributed.

Lisette: What about in the startup culture? It just got me thinking. In the startup world, it feels to me that things move quickly and fast. We don’t have a lot of time. There’s not a lot of money usually. You need to get the idea to the market as quickly as possible, and thus being co-located, you’re in the flow, pinging ideas off people all the time. If you’re a startup, are you at a disadvantage if you’re remote do you think?

Derek: I’m not really sure about that. I don’t know if you are or not. I think it really comes down to the personality of the team and whether they have worked remotely before. Startups, most of them fail anyway. Most of them are going to fail, period. I’m not sure that you can put your finger on “well if we weren’t remote we wouldn’t have failed” or “if we were remote we would’ve succeeded.” Some of our clients are startups and its worked out just fine. But then again, we’re the order takers. We’re not the decision makers when it comes to what’s the strategy of this company and what should this website look like. Sometimes we are but usually we’re not making those kinds of decisions. I think if you’re making those kinds of decisions, it might make more sense to have everyone in the same place. But for the implementation, oftentimes it can be just a big distraction. If you’re in a big open office and you’re trying to work on building this new feature and everyone’s tapping you on the shoulder to ask your opinion every 15 minutes about something, there’s a lot of companies that argue very strenuously that that’s a terrible way to do it. The 37Signals guys, WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, he’s a huge believer in distributed and would have it no other way. There are arguments being made for both sides. As I said, I think it comes down to do the principles who will run this company, are they already comfortable with distributed. If they are, then there’s probably a good chance it will work.

Lisette: Right. Then that gets me thinking on another question, which is personality. Have you guys hired people at Staunch Robots where it just didn’t work, the remoteness of it didn’t work. How do you screen for personalities?

Derek: It’s really hard. If you go to our website, we actually have a blog post called How to be Staunch, which describes some best practices. There’s lots of little things that you look for. Let’s say you’re trying to schedule an appointment at some point. Are they mindful of the time zone? Do they notice? Do they say something like “how about 3:00 Eastern or 2:00 PM Central.” Do they think in terms of time zones? That’s just a basic skill that a lot of people they just don’t do that. They just don’t think that way. We look for that just as part of the scheduling process when we’re doing interview with them to see do they get that right, do they show up on time. Are they comfortable with video? Most of our hangouts are actually not video. Just to save bandwidth we’ll just turn off our cameras. But you can see, some people get kind of schemed up with the video. They’re uncomfortable. That’s an indicator that maybe they’re not really used to working remotely and not comfortable with that kind of environment. We ask them a lot if they’ve worked remotely before, what kind of projects they work, what kind of tools they’ve used, what are their projects. That can give you an indicator as well. But still it’s hard to tell sometimes. We’re not batting a thousand when it comes to picking people who can definitely work well in this environment. There’s a little bit of trial and error there.

Lisette: Well I think some people think that maybe they can do it and then when they actually start to do it in real life, they think “I thought I could do it but actually it’s not for me.” Of course in the interview process everybody’s on their best behavior.

Derek: Right.

Lisette: It’s hard to tell.

Derek: Yeah it is. You have to assess it out a little bit.

Lisette: Interesting. I did the same thing with the hiring process, I’ve checked out what’s their bandwidth speed, what’s their remote office look like, how do they behave on video. I think that’s a really big thing because it’s true. I think with a remote team, I use video a lot to connect with people because I like the personal nature and seeing all the gestures, I think that’s important. It’s important for me and my team to use videos.

Let’s see, we’ve talked about just about everything. We’ve got culture and productivity, the communication, the tools. I guess 2 last questions. One is if you were going to give somebody a tip for a business or a person that’s going to start working remotely, what’s the tip that you would give? What’s some advice from Derek?

Derek: Definitely have a schedule. Sit down and figure out what hours do you work. It doesn’t have to be the same every day. Maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday is one thing and Tuesday, Thursday is something else. Figure out your schedule and work backwards and forwards through that. I’m a big believer in getting enough sleep. If I don’t get 7-8 hours a night, I’m not really productive at all. Figure that out in terms of what time do I get up every day, how much time do I need to get going every day. I give myself at least an hour, and then work backwards. That means I have to get up at 7:00 AM. How much sleep do I need to get the night before? When do I need to go to bed? I sometimes have insomnia and they found that looking at computer monitors, iPads, active lighting, blue lighting I think they call it, can affect your sleep. For me, I will not look at a computer after about 9:00 at night.

Lisette: Wow!

Derek: I love to read in bed and I actually had to go back to…I used to use a Kindle for everything, but I can’t do that. Once it’s about 9:00, I put it down. I have magazines I read instead or just paperback books and that has really made a difference for me.

Lisette: Has it been noticeable then, not using a glowing screen?

Derek: Yes. Well has it been noticeable? I think so. I think it has. It’s only recently that I really got militant about it, but I feel like eliminate any risk because if I don’t have enough sleep, I’m just terrible. I’m not very creative, I’m not very focused. When I talk about regimented schedule, I would say get right down to the nitty-gritty of how much sleep do you need? When are you going to get up? Try to get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. And have that working for you. I would also say I have a nap every day too. I’d take about a 20-minute nap in the afternoon. It’s really important for me to regulate how much energy I have through any given time. That’s the #1 thing – have a schedule, stick to it. I guess another one is use tools to eliminate distractions. I use a plugin for Chrome, Stay Focused, and what it does is you can set a certain amount of time every day that you allow yourself for doing things like Facebook and Reddit and whatever. And then you could specify what sites to block. What sites fall under their curfew, I guess you could say. I use Google 100x a day, so I can’t block that. But other sites I block, so that means I only get about 10 minutes a day to browse those sites and if I go past that, I can’t see them anymore. It blocks them.

Lisette: Smart. It’s really smart. It’s the same story, you go on Facebook and then an hour later you’re looking at something ridiculous, some article on Entertainment Tonight or whatever that you tap.

Derek: Yeah. It’s really easy to get sucked down that rabbit hole.

Lisette: Right. People build content in order to lure us. They’re experts at it.

Derek: Yeah.

Lisette: Put up the defenses. I guess the last question would be if somebody wants to learn more about you, what’s the best way to contact you and to do that?

Derek: Two ways. One, if you want to learn about Staunch Robots, just go to There we have a blog where I post. I do most of the content there around topics like this. We also do a podcast where we interview different business and tech thought leaders, you could say. Personally, I have a website and I actually do my own podcast, which is called Semi-Random Walks and that’s geared more toward just what are the life choices people make, what are the random things that influence the choices you make. I think most of what it focuses on now is business because that’s just who I know, business people. But I’m also talking to more creative, artistic types. I think one of the false narratives we have of imminent people is that they have this nice, smooth rise to success. They did this thing and that led to this, and that led to this, and that led to this. I think it’s much more like this. Tried this one thing, it didn’t work. Or I just randomly met this one person at a conference and that changed my life. There’s so many of those types of interactions that I think played a really key role in people’s lives. I can determine who you marry if it weren’t for some crazy circumstance at how you met this person. That’s what I’m trying to surface with that. One of my personal mantras, I guess you could say, is to embrace randomness. I didn’t come up with that. I heard that somewhere else. But basically if there’s something new or different to try, then just do it because you’ll never know where that will lead. Going to Columbia, for example, that was definitely a new thing for me. That’s a lot of what I talk about in my podcast, are those kinds of things.

Lisette: I love that idea. I think anybody that’s lived long enough has had exactly what you described out. A few of those random moments where you think “oh my God, life did a 90 degree turn when X happened.” Those are some of the best moments. I’m flooded with my 90 degree memories right now, oh yeah, totally. Thanks. I really appreciate talking with you today. I think there’s a lot of great insights here, some really good tips. I think I have to regulate my schedule more and maybe get a paperback book and put my Kindle away at night.

Derek: Yeah, give it a shot.

Lisette: It’s hard. I’ve got everything in that Kindle. Alright, thanks so much everybody. I really appreciate you listening. And until next time, be powerful.


Work Together Anywhere Workshop by Collaboration Superpowers


Download our guide to icebreakers for better meetings and events

Success! Check your inbox to download your virtual icebreakers!