Remote Career Development: Scott Hirsch Of TalentMarketplace On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely
An Interview With David Liu
You have the freedom and the time-saving aspects of working from home, and the visibility and social angle of working from an office.But always keep in mind that for a hybrid model to work, there needs to be trust from both sides — the company and the employee.
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 Scott Hirsch, CTO and Co-founder of TalentMarketplace.
With work experience combining business administration and computer science, Scott’s passions lie in enabling business processes through the innovative use of technology. He is currently automating project management recruitment with TalentMarketplace.
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”?
Thank you for having me! When I think about it, I always had an entrepreneurial mindset. Back in high school, I started a tutoring business that was quite successful, and at the same time, I had a knack for technology. So I already had that in mind when I did my Business and Computer Science degree at Simon Fraser University — I wanted to learn to use technology to enable businesses and make people’s lives easier. After school, I spent a year abroad in Japan working in web development, and a few years later, when I was doing Salesforce consulting, I got a call from one of my old university friends, and he told me about this great idea: a digital talent bench that you could access at any time — and then TalentMarketplace was born. It’s been five years, and a lot of fun and adventure since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I think the most interesting story happened right at the beginning of TalentMarketplace when we were working out of a startup incubator. It was back in 2017 when the cryptocurrency frenzy was just getting started, and many of the companies using the same incubator were working on crypto and blockchain. But then later that year, bitcoin crashed and a lot of startups went out of business overnight. It was jarring and impressive to be in the office the day of the crash and see how everyone was handling it. The following week, the office was a lot emptier. It was an interesting and humbling experience for sure — to know that anything can happen.
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?
The funniest mistake we ever made had to do with pricing — or the lack of it. We worked on our product, and when it was finally up and running, we launched and advertised it for free. We talked to a lot of great employers and companies and offered them this great talent pool where you can see candidates that are looking for work, interview them, and hire them — for free! And nobody ever got back to us.
After a month or two, we decided to charge for our services. It felt weird at first, but then we contacted the exact same companies and offered them the same talent pool with the same benefits — for a small price. And suddenly, we had a lot of subscriptions.
From that, we learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to put a monetary value on your business. On the contrary, a price tag or a fee can give legitimacy and weight to your company. But of course, always make sure you are delivering the value of the money you are asking for.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Something that I live by, and I try to relay to our team members at TalentMarketplace is “Move fast and break things”. I think it’s about not focusing on perfection but doing something to solve the pain point that we are facing right away. We often think about the great scheme of things, and that keeps us within our comfort zone.
Last week I sat down with my development team and said “I want you to make more mistakes” because I felt like the developments were going well and reasonably quickly, but I wanted them to try new things, to think outside of the box. They made mistakes while trying something new, and I was happy about it — that’s what I wanted them to do.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
I think the most important thing is to just listen and pay attention. Burnout does not happen overnight, it builds slowly, and it’s up to the leader to notice the signs and step up before it reaches the breaking point. And by stepping up, I mean encouraging people to take time off for their mental health.
We had some members of our team who were very hard working — but we could see the indicators of burnout creeping into their day-to-day life and into their work. So we made sure they knew it was ok — and necessary — that they took the time off to take care of themselves, and that everything would be fine when they came back.
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?
For starters, one of the main benefits is time-saving. On average, people spend at least 30 minutes commuting to and from work. So, by working remotely, you are putting one hour back into that person’s life — and that could mean they are better rested, in a better mood, and ultimately, more productive.
And research has shown that generally, most people are actually more productive in a remote work system. Personally, I find that having my own setup and my own space — without having people coming over to my desk every 5 minutes — works wonders for me. Of course, the dog barks sometimes, the doorbell rings — but I find these much less distracting than office chatter.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
To start, we have visibility. From a management perspective, if the employee is not with you in an office, it can be hard to understand what they are working on and if they are giving their top tasks the demanded attention.
Next, we have distractions. I know I said previously that I find that working from home is less distracting, but that’s not the case for everyone. Some people have kids at home that need attention, or simply cannot focus when their videogame setup is so close.
Tools and space also pose a challenge. Not everyone has a great setup at home, and more than that, not everyone has the appropriate space for working. Some live in a small apartment with other people, and they have to squeeze themselves into a corner or work from their bed — and that’s not ideal or comfortable in the long term.
We also have a security issue. Employees’ home accounts and setups might not be as secure as the office system and that might be a risk for companies that deal with more sensitive information.
Lastly, we have the social aspect. On the one hand, working from home may give you more time to spend with your family and friends, but it’s important to get to know your co-workers too. If you don’t know anything about the person you spend forty hours a week with, those forty hours are going to be dreadful
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?
The first challenge is visibility. My advice is to have some kind of management system. At TalentMarketplace, our development team uses Jira, and we have a board of tickets for every sprint. Not only does that organize the team’s duties, but it gives visibility to what they are doing and at what stage they are on their tasks.
The challenge of distraction is a bit more personal. From the company perspective, one proposal is to track employees’ hours. Some of our team members make use of Toggl to help track their hours and eliminate distractions since you set a timer for each task. But from an individual perspective, some of the strategies I use are closing my office door so no one bothers me and putting in headphones to block outside noise. Sometimes, I use the Pomodoro technique, and I find that makes me more productive.
Tools and space may be the most difficult ones to address. As a company, you can make it easier for employees by creating a work from home budget so they can purchase a work chair, desk, or even a new monitor and keyboard, whatever it may be to help make their work environment better at home. As an employee, you need to have a quiet, designated space for work. That can be hard sometimes — but you also have the option to go to coffee shops or even co-working spaces from time to time.
Like I mentioned before, while the social aspect has improved in some ways when working from home, workers still need to engage with other team members — the job is easier if you know the people you are working with. Companies can encourage social events like happy hours (in person or virtual) and promote cross-department collaboration. Since body language and facial expressions are a big part of human connection, I find that turning the video on during virtual meetings can be very helpful.
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?
If you’re early in your career and new to the company, it’s important that you make connections. When you are looking for a job, try to get to know people that work there beforehand, so you have an idea of the work environment, and of course, have that person to go for help in case you need it. Of course, making a connection and building relationships are harder in a remote work situation — you can’t necessarily tap someone on the shoulder to ask for a quick opinion or guidance. What you can do is make use of collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom or Google Meetings and have a virtual version of that. You can even share screens or work on a document at the same time.
But if you are a bit further in your career, working from home is an opportunity for professional and skill development. It gives you more time to focus on your tasks and maybe learn a new tool, get a certification. Since working from home saves you time and energy, you can focus on learning new things that add value to your career.
Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?
The main advice would be to have regular meetings with your team. At TalentMarketplace, we have monthly one-on-ones with our employees to check in with them and identify any necessary training or change in workload for each one.
And on the onboarding process for new employees, the basic training should include opportunities to meet the rest of the team. That way, managers can help the team build connections and relationships that will not only help with their career development but also productivity.
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. :-)
From a career development perspective, I would like to see the widespread adoption of the hybrid model. It is the best of both worlds. You have the freedom and the time-saving aspects of working from home, and the visibility and social angle of working from an office.
But always keep in mind that for a hybrid model to work, there needs to trust from both sides — the company and the employee.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can connect to me on LinkedIn and follow TalentMarketplace on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on our website.
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.