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Remote Career Development: David Smith at Tenscope On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With David Liu

Reading up on your passions and interests will not only expand your knowledge base but also exercise your creativity.

Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Smith.

David Smith is one of the founders of Tenscope — a future-of-work subscription design company. His background combines creativity, operations, and client relations. Based in London, he is focused on making great design stress-free and affordable so companies can grow and scale.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

David started his career as a consultant for companies like Ericsson, Mazda, and Nokia. Subsequently, he joined Visa, working in strategy and business development. Most recently he was involved with startups and fintech before devoting his time to Tenscope.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have closed more than one business deal thanks to my name. David Smith is such a common name that people have emailed me by accident, thus opening a path to establish communication and build a relationship. That’s how I met one of my closest friends.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was coordinating an event for the first company I ever worked for and when I was welcoming the catering and service staff to the location, I found myself getting somewhat annoyed as I saw a couple of waiters coming in late. Needless to mention, I gave them a lecture on the importance of punctuality and taking their job seriously. They didn’t bat an eye and by the time I was done with my speech they got to work. Half an hour later, my superior comes in asking about a couple of men who were supposed to meet him for an early drink… it turned out that the ‘waiters’ I had just scowled at were important partners of our company. Embarrassment aside, I learned a huge lesson on humility –and the importance of double-checking the identities of the people I address.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Empathy and kindness win the game — and in the business world, it is not an exception. While most people believe that a good leader or entrepreneur must be tough and solely focused on the endgame, they underestimate the real and transcending power of a person who is always willing to listen, understand, and lend a helping hand before emitting any judgments.

Climbing up the corporate ladder is always challenging. Throughout my career, I’ve seen people working relentlessly — oftentimes even aggressively — for a promotion and I always found it interesting how those consistently harnessing the power of empathy and kindness got farther ahead than those letting their sheer ambition be their compass.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?

Remember that, whilst they may be working on bringing your vision to reality, you work for them and not the other way around. So, observe their actions and approach them sincerely. Ask them about their ambitions and concerns to figure out what you — or the company — can do for them. Do not lose sight of the fact that they’re just like you: they need rest, they want a purpose, and they have dreams of their own. Help each other out!

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunities, but it can also create unique challenges. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

  • Lack of motivation — the will to work can be easily hindered by the environment at home.
  • Miscommunication — not being able to give and receive instant feedback can slow down the progress.
  • Blurry boundaries — sometimes it is very easy to pick up the phone or answer emails out of hours but that takes a toll on everyone in the long run.
  • New tools — Sometimes the new platforms can be complicated for some staff members, resulting in setbacks.
  • No sense of community — employees might not get the feeling of enjoyment out of working towards a common goal.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?

  • Lack of motivation: find out what makes each employee tick and give them something to look forward to.
  • Miscommunication: establish a “feedback hour” where you log in on Zoom or the platform of your choice at a specific time — only for 60 minutes — and anyone can drop in the session to receive your input. Don’t let the lack of attention be a bottleneck.
  • Blurry boundaries: tell your employees that you are aware that they have a life outside the office.
  • Dealing with new tools: be patient, not everyone was born tech-savvy. Build a buddy-up system in which a techy employee helps a not-so-techy employee.
  • No sense of community: make a habit of informing your team of the “small wins” and making them feel part of that success. Thank them repeatedly and individually if possible!

Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?

  • Bring value — having the initiative to help your colleagues — within your possibilities — and showing your curiosity to learn more will portray you as someone who is looking to grow.
  • Stay in touch — actively seeking feedback from your superiors and implementing it will get you noticed.
  • Learn — reading up on your passions and interests will not only expand your knowledge base but also exercise your creativity.
  • Network — knowing the right person can be more valuable than knowing the right thing. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to do it!

Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?

Finding out the long-term goals of your employees is essential:

  • If someone is pursuing a different role within your company but they need further training, sponsor their studies, or enable them to bridge that knowledge gap somehow.
  • Start a mentorship program within your company.
  • Organize talks or events with people who you know can bring value to them.
  • If you know that someone has an ambition that can be easily fulfilled by connecting them to the right person — who you happen to be friends with — introduce them!

Make the employer-employee win-win happen!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Knowing that kindness doesn’t come that naturally to everyone, I’d start a movement called “Kind Mondays” where everyone is bound to be nice and respectful to others without any reason. At the beginning it’d be difficult but eventually, we would all be primed to spread and receive a kind treatment. Just think about it… wouldn’t that make Mondays a thousand times easier?

How can our readers further follow your work online?

We, at Tenscope, run a blog and are active on social media as @tenscopedesign. You can also find me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.

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David Liu

David Liu

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David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication