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Remote Career Development: Maggie Chan Jones Of Tenshey On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely

An Interview With David Liu

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 Maggie Chan Jones.

Maggie Chan Jones is the Founder and CEO of Tenshey, Inc., a leadership acceleration company within a purpose to advance more women and underrepresented talent into leadership roles and the boardroom. She is a seasoned C-level executive, board director, CMO advisor and angel investor, who specializes in marketing, business transformation and technology. In addition to leading Tenshey, Maggie serves as a director on the boards of technology companies including Avast (LSE: Avst) and Open Systems.

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”?

I was born in Hong Kong and raised by my divorced mother and single grandmother, both of whom have had a tremendous influence on my life because they both instilled in me the value of education. However, I knew that in order to further my education, I would need to leave Hong Kong in order to gain more opportunities. At age fourteen, I convinced my mother to let me move to New York City by myself to live with my father, whom I had only met a few times.

After completing high school in New York City, I went to Binghamton University in upstate New York where I was quickly introduced to marketing by Professor Burger in my Marketing 301 class. I was drawn to the intersection of strategy and storytelling. I loved the idea of explaining the mechanics of a product via powerful stories that focus on the customer. I was enamored by the idea of using words and images to elicit emotions that would lead people to take action. At the same time, it required a strong analytical skillset to crunch numbers, forecast demand, and analyze consumer trends. In that way, I saw how marketing, when done right, is about both art and science, blending left-brain and right-brain disciplines. And having been in the Tech industry my whole career, I saw how it could humanize technology and change people’s lives for the better. Needless to say, I fell in love with marketing and decided to build a career on that.

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

To expand on the story we just talked about, when I was first starting out, I sent out more than 100 resumes through “snail” mail during the pre-online world in the mid-to-late 90s. It was a grueling process, and at times I felt like giving up. The questions “Am I good enough?”, “Will I ever find a job?”, and “What am I doing wrong?” raced through my mind on a daily basis. But I kept pressing on. If you’re early in your career and find yourself in the same situation, just know that it will get better. Like my mother taught me, you have to focus on what you can control, take risks, and focus on the end goal. That’s exactly the advice I give professionals I mentor, whether fresh out of college or seasoned executives. All you need is one company to say yes.

My first entry into the tech industry was as a Junior Buyer at ADIC, a Seattle-based company with about 100 employees that built tape storage product, in the pre-cloud storage era. A Purchasing Director at ADIC took a chance on me as a Junior Buyer. Even though it wasn’t in marketing, I decided to make the best out of it. “You just have to get your foot in the door,” I told myself. I needed to gain some real-world experience and to show people my capabilities. After growing from a Junior Buyer, to a Buyer, then Senior Buyer in about two and a half years, I was able to get a marketing role within the company. And that’s how I started my marketing career. But of course, there was more of a backstory to it.

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?

This actually relates to my not getting a marketing role at ADIC the first time I applied. To give you some context, no one from my extended family had a corporate job. In fact, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. When a friend and colleague of mine at ADIC told me about an opening in the marketing department and that the hiring manager asked if I would interview for that job, I thought that meant the job was mine to lose. Little did I know, it merely meant that I was one of the candidates. I did well on the interviews, but in the end I was told that I was over qualified for the job. By then, I had built my credibility as a hard worker and an out-of-the-box thinker in the company. While I was devastated to not get that job in the marketing department, it actually opened up opportunities for me to meet with the senior leadership team as they valued me as a high potential employee. Few months later, another opportunity in the marketing department opened up, at a level one step higher than the previous one. This time, with the sponsorship from senior leaders including the CEO of the company, I got the job!

The key lesson I learned was that when one door closes, another (or many more) opens. It’s absolutely ok to feel disappointment when what you have wanted didn’t go your way, but pick yourself up and keep charging again. It usually leads to better things.

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

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way” — this is what I live by. As leaders, the important thing to think about is how you go about facing and embracing challenges that get in your way. Are you going to let difficult moments take over you? Or, are you going to face them head on by working on yourself? Leaders and individuals play, more than ever, an extremely crucial role as the key ingredient to uplift and advance every key part of our surroundings. And to do so, we must first focus on improving ourselves, because in order to be an extraordinary leader for other team members, you have to be a great leader for yourself. ​

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

For your employees to thrive, you need to help them see their vision and purpose. Not only that, if you can help your employees by pushing them to expand their competencies or help them gain visibility and expand their network through sponsorship, you can take pride in the role you played in their success. It’s really a great feeling to see someone rise through the ranks and make a huge impact on the organization, knowing that you played a part in that.

One of the questions I ask is “How do you celebrate success, small or large, with your employees?” Funnily enough, an overwhelming majority of leaders often don’t have an answer. They may acknowledge the win, but they quickly move on to the next task at hand. This isn’t atypical, given the fast-paced nature of many businesses, but I also think that there’s real value in taking a moment to pause and really celebrate those successes.

All of this doesn’t come without burnout. To help avoid that, leaders need to understand that individual employees have their own motivations, their personal priorities that you can help them safeguard. Right now, flexibility is very top of mind for employees. Find ways where they can get their job done by the timeframe that you need, without dictating the exact time (e.g. 9–5) that they have to be in front of their computers. And again, take the time to celebrate your wins, small or large.

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. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?

Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

  1. Belonging
  2. Visibility
  3. Collaboration
  4. Motivation
  5. Work-life balance

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?

When I was working at Microsoft in the early 2000’s, there was someone on my team who was a high performing remote employee, and she was the only person on my team who was remote. She exemplified the following qualities:

  1. Belonging — She was very connected to the company purpose and mission. Even remotely, she model the way on how remote employees can stay connected with the broader vision and mission of the company. What I have also witness other remote employees do is to join or start an Employee Resource Group (ERG) within their companies. Career development workshops, guest speakers, networking, etc., can all be built into virtual sessions offered by ERGs.
  2. Visibility — She was very aware of the challenges of being a remote employee and worked diligently to ensure that she over-communicated to stay visible. She shared project updates, progress, and had frequent touch points with me as her manager, and the team.
  3. Collaboration — She sought out opportunities to work across teams/departments. It not only increased her network and visibility, but it provided more opportunities to team with others in her company. I also recently mentor someone who was hired into a company during the Pandemic, which means she had not met anyone from her team or her manager in person for over a year. In these cases, you have to take initiative to reach out to teammates for virtual “coffee” sessions to get to know one another and align on goals.
  4. Motivation — To avoid or reduce burnout, leaders need to know what motivate their employees, what makes them smile. In this case, she adores her two young boys. So, we crafted out time for her to be able to attend their after-school soccer practice each week. Sometimes, employees feel they are obligated to be always in the office or online during regular business hours. As leaders, you may need to give them the permission to do what motivate them and give them positive energy, which will actually increase, not decrease, their productivity.
  5. Work-life balance — During COVID, work-life balance became increasingly difficult for many people. To help your employees, you can share how you practice work-life balance in your own life. For example, I play tennis and will block out my calendar on Monday afternoons. I let my employees know I am doing this. I encourage them to block time on their calendars for things that are important to them too. As I said earlier, as long as you can get the work done, it does not have to be done during the traditional 9–5 day. You need to tell your employees that you do it and it’s okay for them to do it too. Walk the talk. From the employee’s perspective, some people like to create a separate workspace in their home or work from a coffee shop if possible to create a clear physical boundary of when the work day is done.

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?

  1. Make connections with your manager, your colleagues and ensure your goals are aligned.
  2. Stay visible by overcommunicating.
  3. Be present and prepared during team collaborations.
  4. Volunteer for projects that will involve teaming across departments.
  5. Create a diverse board of advisors as your on-going support system.

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

Having Career Development discussions, and taking a merit-based approach for career acceleration and growth opportunities. Don’t let “Out of sight, out of mind” to set in.

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. :-)

Intentional Sponsorship is something that I believe is instrumental to moving the needle for change for more women and underrepresented talent. If you look at CEOs in corporate America today, a majority of them would tell you that they ascended to the CEO role because a mentor took them under their wing and advanced them in their career. They may call that person a mentor, but when you look at the characteristics, it’s usually a senior executive with political capital and connections that identified that up-and-coming person and groomed them for the current position. In other words, they are a sponsor.

Whether I’m speaking to a client or a group of students at a university, I’m often asked, “What is sponsorship and how is it different from mentorship or coaching?” I always respond by saying that sponsorship is a measurable partnership between a higher-level leader in an organization who exerts his or her political capital to help a high-potential protégé advance their career.

In other words, a Sponsor leverages their relationships and reputation to pull you forward in your career. A sponsor serves as a bridge between where you are now and growth opportunities that you wouldn’t typically have access to. A sponsor actively backs a protégé through their career.

So, the big idea is, if leader of great influence chooses to sponsor high potential talent who don’t look like them, imagine the enormous impact it will have in advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow us on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @TensheyInc

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



In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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David Liu

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