Building a Healthy Company Culture in Remote Teams with Ismail Aly and Ranya Barakat | DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency

Building a Healthy Company Culture in Remote Teams with Ismail Aly and Ranya Barakat


Ismail Aly and Ranya Barakat are Co-Founders of the IDS Agency, an inbound marketing and sales shop located in Santiago, Chile. Their company is 82% remote, with team members spread across 6 different countries.

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Luis: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob podcast, a podcast that’s all about building and leading incredible remote teams. And today we have a three person podcast. That’s, I think the second that we do like this. My guests today are Ranya Barakat, and Ismail Aly. And they are the CTO and the Chief Business Developer. I traded that. Ranya is the Chief Business Developer and Ismail is the CEO of a company that’s remote and that’s an inbound marketing agent. That’s right. Sorry, I choked the bit on there. The IDS Agency. They’re based in Santiago, Chile but they have that part of the business or the whole business … Is it remote? Actually, that’s my first question. How much of your business is remote? And thank you for being here by the way.

Ranya Barakat: Thank you Luis for having us. 

Ismail Aly: Thanks Luis.

Luis: It’s nice to see more marketing people. For the longest part I didn’t have marketing people, and that’s what I do, is marketing. It was strange that I was doing a whole podcast for so long, almost 60 episodes now with no marketing people. Today is marketing day. Let’s talk about how to manage a marketing agency.

Ranya Barakat: Yup. Perfect. Our team is currently 82% remote.

Luis: Wow. That’s a very exact number.

Ranya Barakat: I actually calculated it. When we started back in 2015, we were 100%  physical in an office. And then towards the end of 2017 we realized, “If we need to grow and scale well, we need to think geo flex.”

Luis: Nice.

Ismail Aly: Yup.

Luis: How distributed is it?

Ismail Aly: We are distributed over Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Mexico, Spain and the U.S. We’re distributed over six different countries.

Luis: Yeah, yeah. The Spanish people are the ones in my time zone. It’s basically across the Atlantic. That’s very nice. It’s a bit like DistantJob actually. DistantJob, we have some people in Ukraine and we have some people in Canada. But apart from that it’s also like them, and the Iberian Peninsula and U.S. That’s pretty cool. You talked about the importance of growth. But what did you feel were the biggest obstacles to your growth if you didn’t go remote?

Ismail Aly: It’s not just hiring talent, it’s actually hiring the right cultural fit. We can get talent everywhere within like 50 kilometers from our office, but to get the right cultural fit, that was our biggest challenge.

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: Yeah.

Luis: Yeah. You want to add something?

Ranya Barakat:. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Luis: No, no, no. You wanted to add something Ranya.

Ranya Barakat: I was going to add, it’s getting the right cultural fits, and it’s also being able to have a team that has a higher quality life. Because part of going remote is what you usually spend in travel time to and from work, you can actually use doing stuff for yourself as a human being. And so you end up with a higher productive team as well.

Luis: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Let’s deep into those a bit. First off culture, yeah, I agree that culture is super important. If we talk about culture fair bit in this podcast, specifically how to nurture and set the company culture while doing remote. But before we get to that, since you started hiring remote specifically in part for culture, what were those interviews like? What was the process that you found to figure out if someone you are interviewing remotely was a good fit for the culture or not?

Ismail Aly: We went through many iterations. We started like a normal interview, like how we used to do it to hire, and that didn’t really work well for us. We started to work with coaches and other HR coaches to actually identify and document our culture, and identify those core values. We started developing interview questions that would allow us to see if they have stories in their personal and professional lives that match our core values. If it’s commitment, one core values it’s like, give me an example in your professional life where you showed commitment towards your clients and inmates.

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: We also ask them how they see the culture based on the research that they’ve done on IDS prior to the interview. How do they see the culture? And we also ask how do they see themselves contributing to this culture? And we do that to prove A, if they’ve researched the company, and B, if yes, what did they see on the outside from the IDS culture, and then how we could actually evolve. Because I feel corporate culture or company culture … I don’t like the word corporate. Company culture is dynamic. It’s not static. It keeps changing it. It’s an evolution. And I’m also recently finding myself thinking, “Should we hire people to fit our culture in the company?” Or, “Should we ask how we can keep our culture evolving by having diversity in the company?”

Luis: Yeah. That’s a good point. And actually that’s another good question, because you value so much your culture. But how much of this culture came to be just naturally by just the day-to-day living of that initial team that was called locator. How much was the culture from just by your normal interactions with the team, versus something that you planned and that you steered in the direction you believed in? And I guess the followup to that question is on the steering part, what specific things did you do to steer the culture to where you wanted it to be?

Ismail Aly: Yeah.

Ranya Barakat: Go ahead.

Ismail Aly: Okay. What we did is, me and Ranya as the co-founders, we spent time looking at the agency since we started and what made us successful, and we started to look like the core values that we believe that we work with for us to reach that stage. Then what we did is a team meeting and we shared, they were like maybe around 20, 25 core values, and we share those core values with everyone. We had the discussion to get their feedback. We changed some of the wordings to make it more impactful and meaningful to everyone. Then we did innovate the democratic way, where we created the selection and put the 25 core values and everyone identify the top five most values that resonate with them. And we copied that to an Excel and picked the five most repeated values across the whole team.

Luis: Nice. That was indeed very democratic. Were you surprised by any of them?

Ismail Aly: We were surprised by the ones that were repeated. Especially like commitment, commitment was probably like 80% of the team chose it. It was quite interesting experiment to get to see how everyone identify with those values.

Luis: Yeah. That’s super interesting. That was while the team was still mostly co-located, or were you already branching out to be-

Ismail Aly: We were already branching out when we did this.

Luis: Okay. Of those remote employees, how do you ensure that the culture is transmitted to them? How do they feel part of the company culture? And especially, I guess when you’re onboarding someone new, how do you … Obviously you already hire looking to find the fit, but certainly it’s very rare that you find perfect fits. You probably still need to, during the onboarding period, to get people on board with the culture as well. How have you found success doing that remotely?

Ismail Aly: Our coach advised us with a really clever idea to create a culture committee. We picked five-

Luis: Nice.

Ismail Aly: … five random team members from different countries. Some of them work in the office, some of them outside of the office, and we started this committee. It’s for like six months and they rotate. And the role of the committee is to promote all the activities that promotes our culture values. We implemented the tool Officevibe, which is completely anonymous and it sends questions for the whole team randomly every two weeks to get a feeling of how will they feel about recognition, about their managers, about the team critics and other team members, completely anonymous but we get to see the report across the board. And we share the reports and discuss it openly on. We have a low score in recognition, what do we need to do to get the score up?

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: Yeah. That’s one very active dynamic way that we’re doing it. We also have our culture code documented, and that is a deck of slides that we share with talent that has an interest before we hire them.

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: Sometimes we go through it in the interview just to see their reaction. How do you see yourself fitting into this culture? And we go through it. It’s on our website. It’s published. The cultural committee that Izzy mentioned, one of their jobs is to keep that culture code alive, and keep tweaking it, and keep documenting it. We have a calendar because we’re working with six different countries where a team is located. That means six sets of public holidays, six sets of national holidays, six sets of different foods, dances-

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: … like September was Fiestas Patrias in Mexico, and Chile. And we have team actually from those three areas. And so what we do is we share the traditions and the cultures of each country. We reflect on all social channels. We’re trying to build this habit where we’re celebrating festivities from everywhere, and to replace what is often called cool water talk. You know when you stand around and make the coffee in the office, that five-minute chit-chat, you can’t do that with our remote team present together, so we do it online. We have Slack channels. We’re like, “Hey, what’s everyone doing this weekend?” Or, “Hey, guys did you see that football match?” Just so that you start to have this relationship where you’re in a different country, in a different time zone, but it feels like you’re sitting the desk right next to them.

Luis: Nice. That’s really cool. Have you ever had a company wide meetup?

Ranya Barakat: [crosstalk 00:13:21].

Ismail Aly: This is something we’re … Go ahead. Sorry.

Ranya Barakat: We do them online. We have monthly meetups. We have weeklies and stuff like that. But we do have in our plan when we keep adjusting and improving our agency, my dream as a co-founder is to get everyone, I don’t know, maybe on a retreat in Costa Rica or maybe Portugal, who knows?

Luis: Portugal has some nice places. I can let you know. I can help you out if you want. But definitely, definitely. We’ve never done it with everyone in DistantJob on the same location. That’s also something that we aspire to, but we have had people in the company that are reasonably close to many meetups, and we see that that has a huge, huge boost. In fact, I don’t think that I would have been working here so long, if it wasn’t for during my first year in the company actually having met and hang out for a week at Web Summit with the President and the Vice President. That was a real boom. It’s definitely nice for people to meet every now and then.

Luis: You were saying that the team meets online like weekly or something like that. Why don’t we take that chance to segue a bit into your management and leadership process? And I guess that’s probably slightly different for each one of you. Why don’t we start with Ranya? Tell me a bit about how your typical day goes or typical week, in case you don’t have a typical day.

Ranya Barakat: My role at the agency is, I’m the co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer. I am basically running, or managing, or leading, whatever the word, the sales and a large part of the services. And the way we’re structured inside IDS is we have teams by function. I meet with each of those function teams once a week. We share challenges, big wins, little wins, major screw ups, what we learned.

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: . I do that with every team. And then we were also using a-

Luis: That was daily or weekly?

Ranya Barakat: No, that’s weekly.

Luis: That’s weekly.

Ranya Barakat: Meeting daily is our project managers, because that’s like these guys are there everyday.

Luis: Sorry. Sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to clarify. And how long do those weekly meetings usually take?

Ranya Barakat: 45 minutes.

Luis: Nice. Nice. Please continue I just wanted to clarify.

Ranya Barakat: We have our weekly 45 minutes. Why we don’t make them an hour, it’s for a specific reason. We give 15 minutes of corridor chit-chat.

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: Like, “Hey. Wow, that’s a nice background behind you Tommy. Where were you drinking coffee?” Stuff like that. We allow for that human connection before we jump into the 45 minutes of whatever what this weekly conversation is about. Then it was something we were doing, but we haven’t been doing it recently and I want to come back to doing it, is we used to randomly pair two people for a 15 minute call, to just talk about anything not work related.

Luis: Nice.

Ismail Aly: But I think now as the team is bigger, we’re thinking of making the group little bit bigger. Instead of two, it’s going to be like four or five people together for 15 minutes. Different places, different life experiences-

Luis: Is it like you hold a lottery and you say, “Okay, you talk to this person.”

Ismail Aly: We have a Slack bot that randomly pair people. We can set it up to just get five people together every two weeks, and they randomly do that.

Ranya Barakat: To come back to your question, I have dailies with project managers. I have weeklies with every function team. My normal day is split, 9:00 to 12:00 is sales related, and then 12:00 to 6:00 is service delivery related. That’s how very, very top level that I manage my time.

Luis: Nice. Interesting. What about you is Ismail?

Ismail Aly: For me I’m responsible for the technology side for the business, integrating all those technologies together that gets the team working. I’m involved in sales and the pre-sales part when it’s about technology integration and how everything fits together. For the team meetings, I get involved in the operation meeting. There’s a retro weekly operation meetings and I’d like to listen to the challenges and the problems, mostly what’s not working. Because that helps me to figure out how to make things better and iterate as we go on.

Luis: Is that like a back and forth? And what’s your favorite strategy for helping people resolve those blockers?

Ismail Aly: It is more of a back and forth asking questions. The more I get to know why it’s not working or actually where it’s breaking … This is like where we started the conversation. What can we do to make it happen?

Luis: Oh, okay. Interesting.

Ismail Aly: And usually the fix is either we change our process or adjust our technology to help us. We’re very agile. We work on a three day sprint. We can iterate our process, our technology and refine it. It’s just three days and we can discover what’s not working.

Luis: Okay. Got it. Got it. I want to go back a bit to Ranya because I don’t usually get a lot of chance to talk about business developer and business team. Are your sales also remote?

Ranya Barakat: No actually Izzy and I, with Renzo who works out of the office in Santiago, we’re the three people that sell. Our sales are remote when we talk to prospects outside of Chile.

Luis: Okay. What’s that process like? Do you have someone outside of Chile who attends marketing events, stuff like that? Or do you do it fully true email marketing and stuff like that?

Ranya Barakat: The way we generate our demand is based on four channels. One channel is obviously all of our website, our content, the inbound marketing at its best. We build our business, I would safely say 90% on referrals from happy customers.

Luis: Nice. That’s the best. That’s the best strategy really.

Ranya Barakat: It’s definitely the most … It’s the best strategy because we all know there’s nothing better than a happy customer that refers to somebody else. It’s also one that it becomes really difficult for me to put in my sales plan, “I’m going to get four new leads from referrals.” Because I don’t know.

Luis: Unpredictable. That’s the problem. That’s the problem with it.

Ranya Barakat: And then we do workshops and events. Those are either online webinars or courses or physical networking events. That’s also another way of generating demand. And the other way we generate demand as Izzy said, we’re so agile and we’re so open to experiments. Izzy can say, “Hey, why don’t we use this technology to try X?” And then I’ll say, “You know what? That’s a really cool idea. Why don’t we get customer A, prospect B, person C, let’s put them together and try something.” We experiment with a lot of HubSpot partners. Because HubSpot has the tool we work with as an ecosystem of lots and lots of add-on technology. You show value by doing something different.

Luis: Yeah. Got it. Let’s switch a bit to those tools and to those processes. I found working with companies in the past that it’s … Well this is not really a remote only thing, but I guess it’s a bit harder with the remote because of all the communication that is required. But changing systems and changing tools usually comes with a very big productivity and sometimes even motivational costs to the teams. And again, on a physical team, you can just put everyone in a room and go through the tool and all of that. But in a remote team, sometimes you find even more resistant to switching tools. Since that seems to be an important part of your approach, how do you manage that so it doesn’t impact the team’s productivity or motivation so much? How do you fight the not being willing to try something new? That’s usually typical with someone that’s doing their day to day work?

Ismail Aly: We learned the hard way or so. We just learn through like rolling out new tools without just talking to anyone. But what we’ve done, I think we started this year and we actually doing good at is, before rolling out anything is to get the team involved in the plan. Because usually the change in technology or adding new technology, it’s to solve a problem. The best thing is that the team tell us about this problem. Like, “Okay, we need to solve this.” Then we can suggest, “We can solve it with this tool, or changing the configuration in one of the tools that we’re doing, and the outcome would be like this.”

Ismail Aly: Then we identify the champions within team, the people who are okay with technology, they like change. And we get those guys involved and we do a pilot, and they get involved in setting up the pilot, documenting it and creating training for the rest of the team. Then we go through explaining the change. This is how we do it. This is the training, onboard them on the change and we roll it out.

Luis: That process, how long does it usually take for each change you do?

Ismail Aly: It depends. We’re doing this change for our … We use Jira to manage our internal work, and we’re making the change in Jira. We’re moving from a cloud to server with more customization on the way we work. We’ve been doing … This process, it’s a three-month process. We’re in month number two. With something like our project management tool, the change will be something like three months. If we’re adding technology for sending emails or chat on the website, that could be like two, three week process.

Luis: Okay. Hey there. It’s Luis. Welcome to the intermission of the DistantJob Podcast. If you’re listening to this podcast, there’s a very big chance that you’re interested in building a great remote team. And to build a great remote team, you need great remote employees. That’s where DistantJob comes in. Here’s how it works. You tell us the kind of position that you need to fill, we talk to you, we try to figure out not only what are the exact requirements that that person should have, but also we try to figure out who would be a perfect fit for your company culture, because we really believe that that matters. Then once we have an exact picture of what we’re looking for, we’re off to the races. Our recruiters tap into their global network, and we filter people very well so that you don’t waste your time interviewing people that are never going to be of interest to you.

Luis: We make sure because we’re techies and our recruiters are techies as well, so when people get to you they’re already pre-selected and you just have to decide between the cream of the crop. And once you make your selection, we handle all the paperwork, we handle HR for you, we handled payments and you get a full time remote employee that’s among the best of the on the world and managed entirely by you, by your processes and following your culture. If this sounds good, visit us at And let’s get back with the show. Thank you for listening. What’s the conversation like to get people on board?

Ismail Aly: To get people on board, we have to highlight why we do this. If the reason is clear for them there’s no address for doing it for the sake of new technology and it’s actually helped them do their job. And the outcome would be something that will reflect in their KPIs. We will get the buy-in. We have to work on the buy-in internally for every change.

Ranya Barakat: Yeah. Which is usually a result of explaining the why. As soon as someone understands the why, it becomes super seamless to roll out the additional technology or the additional step in the process that will help facilitate this job move in a more efficient manner. That’s the bottom line. Also, technology adoption is something that we also deal with on the customers side, because we move businesses from Excel on to CRM. This is something a large part of our team has to deal with serving the customers. We have customers that are resistant. They think, they don’t want to use the CRM. Because we have the playbook on how to help our customers adopt new technology, it becomes a same process or a similar process to help our leadership bring on change and additional technology in the agency. And the use of internal champions, to help with the technology adoption has shown to be a really successful way of doing it.

Luis: Nice. That’s super interesting. Thank you. I want to go back to hiring for a moment, because after all that’s my bread and butter, that is the job. And I am curious to know. I know that when you interview, you value a lot finding a cultural fit and that of course includes commitments, because that’s a very high value for you. Apart from the technical skills of course that those are related to the position that the person is applying to, but what kind of skills do you find valuable for people that are going to be working remotely? What kind of skills do you look for, and how do you look for them?

Ranya Barakat: One thing I like to look out for is problem solving. How do you approach solving a problem? Because in agency life, solving a problem is something we do everyday.

Luis: Yeah. That’s true.

Ranya Barakat: Everyone in our team needs to be able to identify where their friction is coming from, why it’s coming, what needs to happen to reduce that friction. And that requires someone that has the skill of being able to solve problems in an objective manner.

Luis: Got it. When you’re interviewing someone, again, what kind of questions do you ask to draw this out of them? What do you look for?

Ranya Barakat: A question for that one would be, “Could you share with us a time in any of your previous posts where you displayed great problem solving skills?” They say, “One time I did the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” “How did you do it?” “I did the La, la, la, la, la.” “Could you dig in deeper and tell me how do …” You keep getting more, and more, and more, and more, specific until either we get the information that is convincing, or we realize, “No it’s not …” Or the type of person that says, “I don’t know. I’ve never done it.”

Luis: Nice. That’s a good one. Yes. Anything to add Ismail?

Ismail Aly: Usually I think the best way for the interview is asking the question, “Tell me a time when this happened? Tell a time when you created a marketing campaign, and it didn’t work out. How did you deal with your managers and the clients?” It’s that story that we get to know more about the thinking process. And I think this is the real skill that we need in any job. Like, “How do you process information, and order your thoughts, and take action? How do you decide?” Because the skills like technical skills and onboarding program for a month, two months or three months, you’re capable of learning almost any skill that we do in marketing today. But it’s just the way you think. This is something that you can’t learn on the job.

Ranya Barakat: Oh yeah.

Luis: Absolutely. That a great point.

Ranya Barakat: If I may, another skill that we probe for now is, how do you motivate yourself in a remote environment to everyday in the morning or whatever hours you’re working, that you actually can be in this room all on your own, in your pajamas, most probably. And so-

Luis: Probably not.

Ranya Barakat: … and switch on into work mode? Because that’s something not anyone can do. That’s a skill though.

Ismail Aly: And switch off, which is also not easy to do.

Luis: Switch off. Yeah. Absolutely. Now that this brings me to a bit of the leadership team question, which is, maybe I misunderstood, but basically you two lead the company and there’s a third person, right? The leadership core of your company, is it three people or is it you two?

Ranya Barakat: That’s a great question. Izzy and I are like the main … Izzy the visionary, I’m the implementer. And then we have team leads per function.

Luis: You are co-located, so that’s pretty much … Are you always together? Do you work together every day?

Ranya Barakat: Izzy and I we’re actually a married couple as well. We’ve worked together, and we live together, but we have separate spaces.

Luis: Okay.

Luis: Yeah. Right now I can see that the walls are different colors. Either it’s different spaces, or it’s a very weird room.

Ranya Barakat: And our leads are … One’s in the U.S. One’s in the South of Chile, one’s in another part of Chile. None of them are in the … Actually none of us, now that-

Ismail Aly: One in Texas.

Luis: You’re a married couple and you are building and growing this business that’s getting big, that’s got people working in several countries. How do you make … And you work from home, how do you keep work from invading completely your life?

Ranya Barakat: Oh, that’s an awesome question. Izzy can answer it.

Ismail Aly: This is a hard one especially when you own the business, especially both of us we’re immigrants in Chile, we have no network or roots here. And we have different opinions about this. But I think, I don’t know … I really don’t know, for me it’s-

Luis: I didn’t want to get you into trouble Izzy, sorry.

Ismail Aly: For me it’s hard to switch off. Ranya has more discipline than me to switch off. I switch off by reading. I don’t know if that switching off we’re still consuming information, but I like to consume information even when I’m off just reading, or watching something, or listening to something.

Luis: I don’t know. I just feel that if I was running a business with my girlfriend, we wouldn’t be able to have a meal where we wouldn’t be talking about business. But I guess like you say, it’s discipline.

Ismail Aly: It is discipline, yeah.

Ranya Barakat: It’s disciplined and you need to be … I think if you’re a couple working a business, for it to work out and you don’t have the work conversation at dinner, one of the two has to be very serious about, “I’m not talking about work. I am not working on Saturday.” If both parties have the tendency to, “I can keep work dragging on.” Then I would imagine it’s very difficult. But when there’s one that cuts the work conversation after working hours or on a weekend, then I think that also helps balance it a little. Because you’re right, it’s very, very simple to just get drawn into working, and working, and working all day and all night.

Luis: Yeah. That you immigrated you went to a very far away country from your country of origin, completely different language, started building a business. I can imagine that there are just dozens of lessons that you learned along the way. Some probably quite hard. What’s the best lesson and I guess that it’s still … Unless it’s the same for both of you that this whole adventure taught you?

Ismail Aly: For me the best lesson, it’s never too late to do anything you actually put your mind to doing. When I moved to Chile, I was like 44 years old. At that time it was like, anyone we talked to about the  “You know what? We’re moving to Chile to …” Like, “What are you going to do?” “I don’t know.” “Do you have a network there?” “No.” “The language?” “No.” But our objective was to look for a better life. And I think if you just put your mind to it, you can do it.

Luis: Nice. What about you, Ranya?

Ranya Barakat: My biggest lesson in this journey so far, I would definitely agree with Izzy, and anything can be done if you put your mind to it. That’s like a very holistic lesson. But a more practical lesson is while you’re growing from day one, every single process that you do, make sure you document it. We made the mistake of having that process in our head. It worked when we were seven, when we were nine, when we were 15 it started not working. Suddenly when you’re 28, and 28 people are asking you, “Hey, what do I do?” And you realize, “Oh, oh.”

Luis: Actually how do you document it? Where does that documentation live? Do you have a specific Wiki? Do you have a text file? Do you use lists? Personally, I’m a fan of having list and sharing them. I usually document my processes through lists.

Ismail Aly: Yeah. We have a Wiki. And once we started using video, actually it got a lot easier to document. What used particular couple of hours writing and taking screenshots, it’s just a couple of paragraphs and a three-minute video.

Ranya Barakat: Yeah.

Luis: Okay. That’s-

Ranya Barakat: And all our training session are recorded. The recording is on Zoom. If anyone needs to know how we approach smart goals, here’s the training. How do we do personas? Here’s the link on the Wiki, here are the example. That was something we started doing towards the end of last year, which has definitely helped with time. Lesson learnt is, do it from day one, not in year five.

Luis: Yeah, for sure. That’s a good lesson. It’s the first to hear that one. I’m going to ask, because I want to be mindful of your time. I’m going to ask a couple more questions. And then the final question. Feel free to discuss between both of you and present a joint answer, or just each one of you present a different answer. I’m happy with any way you want to do this. If you had $100 to spend with each one of your employees and you can cheat, you can just give them the $100 and say, “Get what’s better for you. You need to decide on something, a tool or it can be an object or it can be a service, it can be physical, it can be digital, but something that you will buy in bulk worth €100 per person.” What would it be, to make their work life more productive or more pleasant?

Ranya Barakat: I would vote for whatever books they want on Kindle. And a paid Spotify account, because on there is access to loads of podcasts and music.

Luis: You can also do the Kindle account.

Ranya Barakat: And the Kindle account.

Luis: The Kindle Unlimited, lets you read almost any books you like. I’m not sponsored by Amazon, but maybe I should be. Really, I should.

Ranya Barakat: That is one of the benefits that we currently offer our team. Whatever book they need, if it’s on Kindle, we have no problem to provide it for them.

Luis: Oh, nice. That’s great. That’s great. What about you Ismail?

Ismail Aly: I would go for the Spotify membership, maybe a Netflix membership. Because this is something they can use all day, whether they’re working, they’re chilling, they’re driving, they can listen to music anytime.

Ranya Barakat: If I had an extra budget, I would probably also add in something related to wellness. Maybe a nutritionist plan, or a membership in a gym. Anything on that side just to balance the-

Luis: That sounds really cool. What about yourselves? What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year or so?

Ranya Barakat: Good question.

Ismail Aly: More productive? I think working more from home. Working for myself, working outside of the office made me more productive. It’s less interruption time.

Luis: Okay. You recommend people buy a home. Got it.

Ismail Aly: Or rent it.

Luis: What about you Ranya, are you going with something as expensive as a house as well?

Ranya Barakat: Very good. I was going to say my glasses were super helpful.

Luis: By all means don’t work without your glasses, please.

Ranya Barakat: No, actually, you know what? It really helped me a lot beyond the move, extra battery charge.

Luis: Oh.

Ismail Aly: Yeah.

Ranya Barakat: That helped 

Ismail Aly: And Uber, if we’re not sponsoring … Uber helps us a lot to work, going to meetings and … You have 45 minutes of doing stuff.

Luis: Nice.

Ismail Aly: That was not an option before, yeah.

Ranya Barakat: And you know what else is super cool? You know Rappi?

Luis: No.

Ranya Barakat: Rappi, it’s a Colombian based company that launched … We can deliver pizza from Chile … Well, it’s not from Chile, we can make the order from Chile for our team in Yucatan in Mexico. If we’re ever having a meeting at lunchtime, we just send them a pizza.

Luis: Nice. Do they deliver off in U.S. or is it just Latin American?

Ismail Aly: So far it’s in Latin America and they got huge funding from Japan. They’re going to Asia and North America soon.

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: [crosstalk 00:44:22]-

Luis: … start giving people pizza if they had to 

Ranya Barakat: But the idea is get signing up for Rappi is definitely something that helps in productivity, because you can send someone anything anywhere.

Luis: Nice. That’s really cool. Good advice. I already know that you give people whatever books they want or they need on Kindle, but what book or books have you given out the most selected by you? Or if you don’t like to give books, what books have you recommended the most?

Ranya Barakat: I’ve recommended the book, The Inbound Organization to everyone that works at the agency because it really, really summarizes super well what we do for our customers. I’ve also strongly recommended a book, excuse my language, it’s called the Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck.

Luis: Oh yeah. I think that if it’s the title of the book, you don’t need to ask for, “Excuse my language.”

Ranya Barakat: That one I’ve definitely recommended. I’ve also recommended the book, Hustle.

Luis: Okay. Why? What do you think that these three books have that’s so important for people to know?

Ranya Barakat: Well, the Inbound Organization is all about inbound. That was purely 100% work related. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck-

Luis: There are many books though. What makes that stand apart in your opinion?

Ranya Barakat: Maybe I’m biased because the author is someone I really, really look up to in the HubSpot ecosystem. Dan Tyre and Todd Hockenberry. For me, I have a little bias there being a HubSpot partner agency. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck is one that when I read I felt, “Huh. Had I know this earlier, maybe my life could have been different.” I thought it would be useful to share that with other people. Anyone in and out of the office basically. I think more Hustle because working in digital marketing all over the world and online, you have to know how to hustle a little bit.

Luis: Yeah, I guess so. I actually of the three books, Hustle is the one that I’m not familiar with, but from the title I imagined what it was about.

Ranya Barakat: It’s a really good one. Very light read very quick, very-

Luis: Nice.

Ranya Barakat: He actually wrote a blog post about it. That’s how good it was.

Luis: Oh nice. Nice. I should read that. What about you Izzy?

Ismail Aly: I usually recommend the … When I recommend the book, I send them the link and whoever’s interested in the book, just let me know and I’ll send it through Kindle. But the two books I recommend are, Thinking Fast And Slow and Sapiens. And I think both they’re two amazing books about like the human thinking and taking decision process. And I think this is very helpful in business. Whether you’re dealing with clients or you’re marketing to people, there’s always a human interaction and the more you understand how humans think and take decisions, the better you will communicate with them.

Luis: Got it. Got it. Those are some nice book recommendations. I have a final question for both of you. Again, feel free to each one of you give your question or give a fair answer. Let’s say that you’re hosting a dinner with the top tech talent in Silicon Valley, or just tech companies in general. We’re talking about CTOs, CFOs, VPs of Operations, VPs of Technology, the important decision makers. The team of the dinner is a round table about remote work and the future of work, and it’s in a Chinese restaurant. You as the host can decide what’s the message that these people get inside their fortune cookie at the end of the meal. What is that message going to be?

Ranya Barakat: It’s a tough one.

Ismail Aly: And it’s for them to take a decision, or their message would influence their decision somehow?

Luis: Whatever you think, it’s something that they need to hear when they’re considering how they’re going to implement remote work in their company.

Ismail Aly: Save the world, work remote.

Luis: Okay. I’m going with that. Ranya?

Ranya Barakat: I would go with as leadership in talking about remote, we need to think of more applicable terms than the word remote, because remote comes with a connotation that you’re outside when in reality you’re very much inside.

Luis: That’s true. That’s true. That’s a good point. That’s actually a very good point. But the company is already registered as DistantJob, so I’m not going to change that. Sorry, I’m going to have to make the best out of it. But thank you so much for this conversation. I had the great time, I hope you enjoyed it as well. Before you go, I would like to ask you to please tell the listeners that are interested in continuing the conversation, or that may be want to actually avail themselves of your agency for marketing services. Where can they continue the conversation with each of you and how can they reach your agency?

Ranya Barakat: Via LinkedIn. If you go on our website, you’ll find the link to … Or there’s a bot actually on our website that opens a direct conversation and they can book me for a 15 minute call straight off the bot from our side. I’m happy to speak to anyone that has an interest in hiring a remote agency or for talent anywhere in the world that would like to join a growing agency, very happy to keep the conversation going.

Luis: Nice. What about you Ismail?

Ismail Aly: The same thing, it’s on the site There’s link to my LinkedIn profile, or with the bot, they can also book me.

Luis: All right. Thank you so much. I’ll be sure to include those links in the show notes. And it was a pleasure. See you around.

Ismail Aly: Thanks.

Ranya Barakat: It was a pleasure speaking to you.

Ismail Aly: Thank you Luis. It was a pleasure too.

Luis: Yeah, me too. And so we close another episode of the Distant Job podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners and the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice.

Luis: Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to, click on your favorite episode, any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up, and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis: And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need, and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate. 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adios. See you next week on the next episode of DistantJob Podcast.

This episode is a special three-person podcast with Ismail Aly and Ranya Barakat as guests, who are both dedicated to inbound marketing in the IDS Agency. Our guests and Luis share some insights about managing a marketing agency remotely and how the remote work model has allowed them to hire talent that fits their company culture, even if that means that their team is distributed in six different countries.

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