Over the last several months we’ve connected with a number of Fuzers on how remote work has shaped their experiences as product developers, as leaders and as professionals working on a global scale. In the latest iteration of our Fuze Life series, we spoke with Fuze VP of Product Michael Affronti on tips for professionals who are looking to take advantage of remote work as it continues to grow in popularity. Here’s the interview:
How has remote work impacted your career?
Impacted would be less accurate than say, “defined.” I’ve always been passionate about travel and exploration, so I knew from a young age that no matter where my career led me it was going to involve some sort of permanent flexibility. I’m fortunate in that I also discovered my love for technology and software in my youth as well – my grandfather bought me a computer after I broke my arm as a kid and I spent a whole summer teaching myself to code. As many will attest, tech is a field in which flexible work styles are not only available but embraced. In this way, I’m lucky that my wanderlust tendencies and chosen career path align – it enables me to try living in new cities while still staying true to my professional aspirations.
While the culture of remote work is increasingly second-nature in many “offices” today, this wasn’t necessarily the case when I first started out after college back in 2004 – people didn’t have the wealth of tools and platforms available now which enable remote work. We had VPN, but it didn’t really fit with the way I knew I wanted to be working. This frustration drove an early dedication to finding new ways to make people more productive, regardless of their working style or setting. This passion ultimately inspired the thinking behind our first company, Contactive, which built contextual information into phone calls. We then met the team at Fuze and decided to combine Contactive’s technology with its unified communications platform, seeing it as an opportunity to take that goal to the next level. Fuze has always been, at its core, a company that shared my dream of improving the way people work, so it was a natural fit. The rest, as they say, is history.
What have been the biggest lessons since you fully embraced the remote lifestyle?
While the popular terminology is “work from home,” the reality of the matter is that for many professionals, home isn’t where they’re actually getting things done. The verbiage inspires images people waking up five minutes before clock-in and knocking out emails in their pajamas (and, yes, I’m guilty of that myself on occasion). But the situation on the ground is that getting remote flexibility right requires more forethought than you might initially expect. The appeal of flexibility is that it empowers employees to take ownership of how they get things done, whether that be from a coffee shop, a hotel lobby, a book store – it’s highly individualistic. But the cost of this, is the extra steps you need to take to ensure you’re still able to hit the same level of productivity – personal responsibility is huge in making remote work, “work.”
For me, as someone who spends a majority of his time on the road, I live and die by my calendar. When you know your travel schedule is going to be hectic and you’ll still need to make time to get through projects, your calendar can be a safeguard to keep you on track. Recently I was in London speaking at IP Expo and knew about a week in advance that a project was going need my attention, so I blocked off an hour and a half in the hotel lobby to keep myself honest. It almost seems counterintuitive, but adding structure around your flexible work helps strike that balance.
Any other final thoughts?
I fully realize that as far remote work goes, I’m on the far end of the spectrum of living it to the fullest. There’s been a number of articles about how technology is complicating the notion of work-life balance, and I’m in many ways the embodiment of that. But it isn’t farfetched to say that there’s an appetite for what is at the core of this lifestyle – self-empowerment. Whether that be a once-a-week work from home schedule or something more permanent, the key to finding success is adopting a certain level of self-awareness, and putting the processes in place to help you maximize your potential.