Remote Career Development: Prezi’s Lorraine Lee On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely
An Interview With David Liu
…Whether you live alone or live in a house full of kids and pets, you’re going to get distracted. One technique I use to help me with this is time boxing. Plan out what you’re going to work on, when you’re going to work on it, and how long you’re going to work on it. Plan the most thought-intensive items when you’re most productive (for me, that’s usually early afternoon after I’ve gotten all my meetings out of the way and checked all my emails and Slack messages). Then, don’t be afraid to take a break afterwards. This is going to help you reset and feel fresh before you start your next task.
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 Lorraine Lee.
Lorraine is a top-rated virtual keynote speaker and leader at the intersection of editorial and tech. With over 300,000 LinkedIn followers, she helps professionals become more productive and successful. She is also the Editorial Director at Prezi and a LinkedIn Learning Instructor, and has been featured in and contributed her expertise to publications including Inc., ReadWrite, and Entrepreneur.
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’m someone who has always loved creating content with impact. I studied journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism then began my career at a messaging startup that was founded by one of the first 10 employees at Google. I then moved to SlideShare (a LinkedIn company at the time) as one of two editors. I later joined the LinkedIn Daily News team, where I was one of only a few editors writing Daily Rundown articles (which has since been transformed into the LinkedIn News module in the top right of your LinkedIn Feed). After seeing the potential of this news product, I was sent on assignment to Hong Kong where I wrote the Daily Rundown during my day so LinkedIn’s U.S. audience would have the news waiting for them in the morning. When I returned to the U.S., I joined the editorial team’s Special Projects team, where I created and hosted one of LinkedIn News’ most engaging video series (#FemaleFounders), was the editorial lead for LinkedIn’s first newsletter product (Newsletters), developed the social media strategy for the LinkedIn News operation, and wrote and reported for the LinkedIn Lists franchise. After 6 wonderful years at LinkedIn, I made the move to Prezi, where I was its first editorial hire. At Prezi, I lead a small and mighty team that works closely with influencers and thought leaders to create, record, and livestream compelling videos to educate and inspire people all over the world on topics across business, sales, marketing, L&D, and education.
While at Prezi, I was named a top virtual keynote speaker by ReadWrite, and have since had the chance to speak at Fortune 500 companies, tech firms, top-ranked universities, and more on topics ranging from creating engaging virtual presentations and building a personal brand on LinkedIn to leading virtual teams and designing impactful hybrid meetings. Through all my work I’ve remained passionate about helping professionals become more productive and successful, and I’ve built a following of more than 300,000 on LinkedIn who turn to me for insights and advice.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting thing that has happened since I started my career is something that happened this year. I set a goal for myself to improve my public speaking and get better at virtual presenting, and what started as a personal challenge has opened the door to so many unexpected opportunities. I was named a top virtual keynote speaker by ReadWrite among other business leaders I admire and respect including Nir Eyal, the WSJ best-selling author of the book Hooked, Calendar co-founder John Hall, and Salesforce Growth Evangelist Tiffani Bova. I became a LinkedIn Learning Instructor (“Virtual and Hybrid Meeting Essentials”), a finalist for “Content Marketer of the Year” as part of the Women in Content Marketing Awards, and a sought-after speaker at Fortune 500 companies, tech firms, non-profits, top-ranked universities, and more! I was also selected to teach a course about video and LinkedIn through Maven, a cohort-based learning platform co-founded by the Udemy and altMBA co-founders.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One piece of advice I like to share is, “over prepare but don’t over plan.” When I was younger, I was someone who wanted to have it “all figured out,” but the more I advanced in my career and the more life I experienced, I realized that you can only plan so much. If you become too rigid with your plan, you’ll miss out on opportunities that come your way that you never would have expected. At the same time, it’s always good to try to prepare for what’s to come so that you’re ready for when these opportunities and experiences present themselves by doing things like learning new skills or creating healthy habits.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
Embrace empathy and focus on the person first, not the worker. We have to remember that our teams are all people first with lives, families, and friends outside of work. Make sure to check in and ask how your employees are feeling. If they continue to respond with the typical, “Good, how are you?” response, try sharing your own vulnerabilities and challenges to encourage your team to open up.
Embrace continuous feedback. In our remote and hybrid offices, I find that teams crave feedback more now than ever. In the office, it was easy to say “good job” or give shout-outs in passing. Now, we have to make sure we are adapting that to a remote and hybrid setting. One thing I do is now is after publishing a weekly team newsletter to the whole company, I will give a shout-out in Slack to each person on the team highlighting something great they did that week. I’ve also added a “kudos” section in team meetings. When it comes to constructive feedback, I set up a monthly meeting with my direct reports so we can give feedback to one another (yes, it’s important to get feedback as a manager, too!). This way, sharing and receiving constructive feedback is less intimidating, and we’re making sure that we’re catching any potential issues early on. Communication is key in a remote setting.
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?
Working remotely has provided so many benefits — it’s hard to choose just one! One of my favorite changes with remote work is how it’s leveled the playing field for employees. We’re no longer doing conference calls where one person dials in and then the rest of the team looks like ants in a conference room. We see everyone’s faces now. Our virtual setup has also led to more inclusive meetings. We recently came out with a new feature at Prezi called on-screen responses that allow for meeting attendees to add text, images, stickers, and GIFs right into their video feeds instead of using the chat box. Besides it being more visually engaging in meetings, it’s a way for more introverted personalities to contribute without figuring out when to unmute or worry about speaking over other colleagues. This isn’t possible to do with in-person meetings and tech has really opened the door to exciting new ways of work.
I also find that there’s an increase in productivity without the distractions of everything happening in an office.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
2. Engagement in meetings
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?
I mentioned that one of the benefits of remote work is that I can be more productive and focused. It doesn’t come without its challenges, though. The factors that contribute to that productivity also exist because we don’t have interruptions to encourage breaks or we find it difficult to create boundaries between home life and work life. Here are some things you can try to avoid burnout:
-Go on a walk around your neighborhood to start your day; or take a break at lunch
-Take your full lunch break
-Use a sheet to cover up your computer when your workday is done
-Even if you’re not traveling anywhere, take the day off. You’d be amazed what one extra day in your weekend can do to refresh your mind. As a manager, I ask my team to take one day off every few months to rest and recharge. As a manager, it’s also important you’re taking days off to set an example for your team.
2. Engagement in meetings
-We shouldn’t try to translate our in-person experiences into our virtual setting through features like screen sharing. Our virtual setups give us unique opportunities to do work differently and better, and we need to take advantage. I leverage tools like Prezi Video to create more engaging, productive, and collaborative meetings by bringing my content into my video feed with me so that attendees can see my face and body language — two things that are so important in helping us connect with one another in our virtual setups. Organizations need to embrace more virtual collaboration tools to set their teams up for success and ensure that they are not just surviving, but thriving.
-I remember the first virtual happy hour we did for our broader Marketing team at the start of the pandemic. Someone who is normally very quiet talked a lot, and it was a clear sign to me that teammates were craving connection. Most of us are probably tired of the virtual happy hour, but there are ways to add some new life into them. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to have a large group join a virtual happy hour “just to chat.” It’s hard to know when to jump in and it’s awkward constantly talking over each other. I recommend always providing some sort of activity. For example, you can plan a trivia game or participate in an Escape Room (there are many companies out there that offer very creative activities for virtual team bonding). Or in our team meetings we rotate asking a “Question of the Week” about any topic and it’s a great way to move beyond the, “How was your weekend?” question and get to know teammates better.
-The interesting thing about our hybrid workplaces is that there isn’t one playbook for how to do it well. We’re all figuring it out as we go. However, as we figure out what works and doesn’t work, we need to make sure this information is documented and socialized to leaders and teams. If everyone is operating based on a different playbook, it’s going to negatively impact team productivity and cohesion.
-Whether you live alone or live in a house full of kids and pets, you’re going to get distracted. One technique I use to help me with this is time boxing. Plan out what you’re going to work on, when you’re going to work on it, and how long you’re going to work on it. Plan the most thought-intensive items when you’re most productive (for me, that’s usually early afternoon after I’ve gotten all my meetings out of the way and checked all my emails and Slack messages). Then, don’t be afraid to take a break afterwards. This is going to help you reset and feel fresh before you start your next task.
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?
I love continuous learning. Every Friday I block off time in my calendar for 1 hour to learn something new. I typically take a LinkedIn Learning course on a topic that interests me, and then the best part is you get to add a certificate to your profile once you’re done. This way when people visit your profile, they get a sense for what areas you’re knowledgeable about and passionate about learning.
Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?
Similar to those monthly feedback chats, I also schedule monthly Career Chats. This is a time to talk about whatever my direct reports wants to discuss, and to check in on the goals they’ve set for themselves.
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 would love if there was a movement that inspired everyone to “pay it forward” in our professional lives. Many of us are fortunate enough to work in jobs we love where we’re excelling, but many people also feel stuck, unmotivated, or they don’t have access to a strong network or resources. Sometimes, all it takes is a person willing to chat with you for 15 minutes to set you up for success in the long-term.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.