Remote Career Development: Mohana Radhakrishnan Of ExpertusONE On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely
An Interview With David Liu
Companies need to invest in better tech. The inefficient systems and processes that companies are struggling with now, as they’re adjusting to remote work, can be modified and improved with the right technology. Companies need everything from more efficient digital filing systems to better communication platforms that reduce the overload of notifications most employees struggle with.
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 Mohana Radhakrishnan, Founder of ExpertusONE.
Mohana shapes the way ExpertusONE goes to market by presiding over the processes, business objectives, and performance goals the company has set into play. Her ability to relate to each client’s unique needs within the world of LMS enables her to cast vision and direction for the future of ExpertusONE, and the future of workforce learning. She focuses on helping companies reach their compliance goals, optimize training with extensible apps, and keep employees engaged with workforce learning.
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 came to the U.S. about 30 years ago to become a CPA. I had already worked in financial services before I moved here, and when I finished my certifications, I began working in the finance world. Quickly, I moved into the tech-support side of the company, managing products and figuring out how to optimize tech tools for the company I was working for. That’s where my relationship with tech began, and it has, of course, grown from there.
I worked with a financial technology startup as a project manager before we founded ExpertusONE, and that gave me a look at the world of entrepreneurship in tech. We started the company 20-plus years ago while I was working as a consultant for Cisco, helping them determine how their LMS platform would be used, developed, and customized.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Client retention is a huge goal for us, for any company, and we’ve always made an effort to follow up with our clients and give offer recommendations for our prospective clients. Many years ago, I had traveled to meet with a client and we had a very positive meeting. I was leaving the office, headed down to my car, about to pack up and leave. One of the corporate executives I had just met with came running down the stairs and out the door to catch me and said that he had just been contacted by one of our prospective clients, someone looking to hear about his experience with ExpertusONE. He asked me, “What should I say? I want to give you a good recommendation!”
It struck me that this client had such a positive experience with us and wanted to support us so much that he ran down the stairs to talk to me immediately, in person. He could’ve sent an email or telephoned to chat, but it was so important to him that he took extra time out of his day to make sure he was supporting us.
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 don’t know if I have a story of a funny mistake, but I will say that humor is essential in any business leadership journey. Whether I’m pitching our product to prospective customers, helping an existing customer resolve an issue, or working with our internal teams to make sure we meet business objectives, I always try to communicate with a sense of humor that helps people feel connected and lowers the stakes of the conversation. When business interactions are stuffy and impersonal, it makes the everyday work experience less enjoyable. I think that forming relationships with employees, customers, colleagues, and so on is essential, and there’s nothing better to bond us than humor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You know what you know.” Confidence is so critical to business leadership, or any type of leadership, and it’s important to be confident in what you know. Only from there can you assert yourself, make contributions to conversations or decisions, and cultivate your place in the larger picture of that professional world. This has been extremely relevant to my life as I have worked in tech because some people have found me unassuming — often, I was overlooked because people didn’t realize I was the co-founder of the company. Instead of getting frustrated, I just pulled from that wisdom and adapted. I knew what I knew, and I shared it with people. That confidence and self-assurance earned me their respect.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
The burnout we’re experiencing today is so different from what I experienced at the beginning of my career. The rate at which notifications pile up, emails are sent, and responses are expected can be totally overwhelming and exhausting. The best things companies can do to help employees thrive and avoid burnout is to invest in the tools that make communication easy (so they don’t have to filter notifications from several apps at all times) and to provide room for growth.
Employees quickly burn out when they aren’t motivated, and most employees are motivated by climbing to the next level of their careers. Business leaders can proactively prevent burnout by providing their employees with opportunities to explore their fields, develop their skills, and grow in their expertise — the things they probably enjoy most about their jobs — as they are completing their assignments.
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?
Once we adapted to working remotely and companies got smarter, I think we realized the benefits of the opportunity — not just cutting costs of office spaces (for those companies that went fully remote) but also the way that it gives employees greater flexibility to work how they need to work and manage their lives.
In the tech sector, remote work has led to an abundance of opportunities to advance technology and make tools more functional for remote employees. For employees, it’s a wonderful opportunity to invest in their careers and enjoy spending more time at home (especially those who had commuted prior to the pandemic).
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
Working remotely started out, for many people, as a necessity during the pandemic. Because all of this started out as a “sink or swim” strategy, I think we adopted some negative elements while we were trying to create parameters for remote work at first. Many employees were overloaded with notifications, didn’t have access to the tech tools that they needed, took video meeting after video meeting, and then worked even longer hours afterward. To me, the five main challenges of remote work are:
- Inefficient systems: Most companies were unprepared for the rapid switch to remote work, and it left employees and leaders in a bind trying to communicate effectively and work from home without the right tools. Even though we’ve had a chance to recover, many companies that have stuck with remote working strategies are still working to revamp their tech stacks for this new world of work.
- Siloed communication: The challenge of remote work is that you don’t have immediate access to your coworkers and managers. You can’t just walk over to a desk. One of the biggest problems resulting from this is that communication can be siloed, and not all members of a team or department will necessarily have access to the same updates or information required for work. This makes the employee experience more isolated and extremely challenging, and communication suffers because of it.
- Disengaged employees: Some disengagement was to be expected during the pandemic because of the shock that it caused. Now, as companies continue with remote strategies, employees must be kept engaged with their work and with their team members. This is more difficult to achieve in a remote environment.
- Lack of passion for work: The pandemic caused workers to reevaluate what they are doing with their lives. When the social aspects of working were removed and people were working from home, they began to ask themselves if what they are doing is worth it. Remote work acted as a magnifying glass and helped people ask good questions about their passions. But this created a challenge because employees are working to figure out if they should stay where they are, or make a move.
- Lack of career development: So much of the last year has been spent in “fight or flight” mode, and few employees have had time to think about developing their careers. This, in turn, affects engagement with work. Working from home can reduce the healthy competition among employees and lead people to become disinterested in their jobs.
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?
Given my background, of course, I am going to say that technology is the solution — but I really do believe it is. We have essentially converted our analog workplaces (in office) to digital ones (remote), and we need the tools that will support this new style of working.
- Companies need to invest in better tech. The inefficient systems and processes that companies are struggling with now, as they’re adjusting to remote work, can be modified and improved with the right technology. Companies need everything from more efficient digital filing systems to better communication platforms that reduce the overload of notifications most employees struggle with.
- We need structured communication. With so many outlets for communication during remote work — from personal phones to work emails to workplace chat systems — employees and leaders are overloaded. Companies should use the right tools to facilitate communication but also set clear standards and expectations for communication — like only using work devices, limiting chat systems to less-urgent details, or monitoring progress through a digital project manager.
- Cultivate workplace culture. Company culture is still important in a remote work environment. Companies can leverage workplace culture to cultivate employee engagement by facilitating interaction online or in-person (as is appropriate) and creating opportunities for employees to engage with each other. Digital learning is another great place for this to happen, whether through required team courses or leadership classes — employees can engage with each other around that training.
- Optimize productivity with integrative tools. We’ve already talked about the notification overload that employees experience, but the best solution to productivity loss is to make work easy for employees — reduce the number of platforms used and make sure that, within your tech stack, those applications can work together and integrate. Choose tech tools that complement the other applications and systems you use daily.
- Designate time and resources for career development. Career development fell to the wayside during the pandemic, but employees are eager to rediscover their interests and passions and refresh their careers. Companies can support this by offering opportunities for growth, like leadership courses or a new set of virtual certifications that help employees develop their skill sets. This must be a conscious effort. Our digital LMS system makes it possible for companies to provide career development courses alongside employee onboarding and training courses so that — as employees have time — they can develop their careers and enhance their skills.
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?
Nurturing and advancing one’s career is really a personal journey; you have to be willing to invest in yourself and dedicate your own time and energy to your career — that’s where it all starts. Practically speaking, though, learning is always the best route for advancement and growth. Set aside time to learn about your field, follow the news about your industry, and keep up with trends. If you want to advance to a leadership position, consider speaking with your manager and ask about the next steps required for advancement. Take courses that bolster your career, like technical skills within your industry or even languages.
Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?
Education is the most important investment employers and managers can make on behalf of their teams. By providing the right tools for career development and advancement in their industries, employers can demonstrate to their teams that they want to facilitate growth. This can mean offering practical certification courses — perhaps specific to software or new technology that is popular in the industry — and it can also mean personal development courses, like communication, time management, or leadership skills.
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. :-)
I think we need a movement toward empathetic leadership. We must make remote work more inclusive. It’s important to acknowledge people by name, even on video calls, because it’s important to connect with people.
In this remote and hybrid environment, leaders must also trust their employees. We must operate from the premise that people are genuine and committed. This same movement toward empathy, from the leadership side, will help employees feel engaged and therefore enjoy their jobs more. This is a new frontier in the work experience — that we are caring for the employee’s whole life, not just their work life — and I believe it is a movement that will continue to transform how we work and live.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.