How Gamification Makes Remote Teams Engaged, with Vera Lakmaker

Gabriela Molina

Vera Lakmaker is the head of remote work at Gameye, where she keeps the team together, happy, and healthy. She has a background as a games journalist where she focused on writing game reviews to in-depth articles about history and games. She also focused on doing marketing, community management, and project management for several indie-game-related projects.

Vera Lakmaker

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host, Luis, and today with me, my guest is Vera Lakmaker. Vera is the head of remote work at Gameye. Vera, thank you so much for being on the show.

Vera Lakmaker:

Hi, great to be here.

Luis:

It’s a pleasure having you, and I want to jump right in, into the remote work situation, though I know that we’re going to end up talking about games eventually. But…

Vera Lakmaker:

Of course.

Luis:

But head of remote work, this job description almost didn’t exist a year ago or two years ago. Certainly, I first encountered when a previous guest from GitLabs, Darren Murph, took it on and made a big deal about it in LinkedIn. And that was the first time I started hearing about it. So, why don’t you start by telling us what is your remote work trajectory and how did you find yourself eventually becoming a head of remote work?

Vera Lakmaker:

Right. Well, my story is probably a little bit different than most. Well, indeed, Darren Murph is the first. I actually got into the whole remote work business thanks to my gaming connections actually. My first experience was working in game journalism. I was actually working for multiple volunteer game journalism sites in the US, in Europe, and indeed, with my podcast that I told you really about, with someone from South Korea. So being distributed was really into my DNA already. Also, most of my friends were scattered across areas because I was gaming in World of Warcrafts. And even though most were in the UN, I also had friends in the US.

Vera Lakmaker:

I was a project manager for a gaming company as well, or, well, also volunteer project called Black Help Brigade back in the day. And there I was actually the producer, which I was actually in charge of everything related to project managements, HR, recruiting, motivating team, working just immediately. So really all the things that needs to be done on the operational level. I just worked for around six months, and I had my own podcast. So I had to set my own times and I had to, yeah, take charge of my own work while actually still working, getting paid through my student jobs as well. I was also doing my masters. So I don’t know how that went. That masters got somewhere lost along the way. I finished that last year actually.

Luis:

Hey, congratulations. What are you a master of?

Vera Lakmaker:

I’m actually a master in history. I finished the global history in international relations at the University of Rotterdam. And my…

Luis:

I wish I had known that before the introduction because I would’ve added your title.

Vera Lakmaker:

Oh, I don’t really care about titles. But my masters was also about games, which is really fun. So, actually things that happened around 10 till seven years ago actually came back around 2020 when I was on the brink of losing my job, well, really. Me and my former employer are still on a very good basis, but I wanted to study, wanted to finish my masters, and they wanted someone who would come to the office once the pandemic was over and it was back. I live in Belgium, and they were Rotterdam. And that, well, that’s an hour traveling back and forth. Most of the most horrible traffic jams you would come across in the Netherlands. So it was a little bit of a discrepancy there. And because I wanted to finish my masters, I came across an old acquaintance with me called Elmer Bulthuis, CTO of Gameye. He said, “Well, I’m looking for someone.” I said, “Okay, what do you want to do?” “Well, I’m looking for someone who can make everyone with Gameye happy and healthy.” So someone who takes charge of a social event, someone who takes charge of indeed the wellbeing, and indeed someone, and this is the most important, who doesn’t forget birthdays. And I don’t have a lot of talents, but I do have a talent for finding a good birthday game.

Luis:

Nice.

Vera Lakmaker:

So, and having previous experience within gaming, having experience actually as an IT person as well, because I landed off the gaming into IT, that was a unique mix. And they were like, “Welcome aboard.” And we had nice talk, and yeah, they looking for a nice job title. And knowing GitLab and actually knowing of remote working and of the title, ‘head of remote,’ it was like, “Oh, that’s perfect title, because that’s exactly what you’re doing.” And that’s how I ended up with the title ‘head of remote.’

Luis:

Yeah. It certainly sounds much better than birthday gift buyer, right?

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah. Or…

Luis:

Chief birthday gift buyer, right?

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, chief happiness officer is something that would fit along the lines as well. But my work is not only making sure… It’s my primary goal, but it’s…

Luis:

I don’t know. I’m not a fan. I secretly hate happiness. So that’s…

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, I do like happiness. There’s nothing better than actually making my team happy.

Luis:

That’s lovely. So I want you, for people who might be listening, I want to try to figure out a bit how the conversation that felt that you actually had the credentials to do that kind of job went because I actually have a very similar trajectory to you. It’s very interesting, right? I started working online in game journalism, same as you do. I can’t even call it journalism because for the longest amount of time I wasn’t even paid to do it.

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, me neither, but it’s still journalism. Even though you didn’t get paid, I got paid in games and it’s still a valid something, I think.

Luis:

No, but that’s when I started. And then I went and got my masters, right? Same as you. But I really built that experience working with people internationally through the internet on the video game sites, on the video game blogs, on the video game podcasts. And then eventually, and especially leading a raiding guild in World of Warcraft, that’s something that I talk often about the show, and just the logistics and the coordination and handling the different egos and the necessities of everyone. But then I never thought that would make me, that could be considered a qualification for doing remote work. I mostly got into my remote work thing by accident. Right? It was just I was a writer. I started writing about remote work for a client. The client thought, “Oh, you really got the hang of the dynamics of this.” And it was only later after I was in my position as director of marketing for a fully remote company that I thought, that I realized that, oh, I just started doing the remote evangelism thing, but I’ve actually been learning about how to do remote for like 15 years. So I didn’t find that way. I just lucked into my current job. I really didn’t find a way to communicate how my previous experience prepared me for it.

Luis:

So, how was it for you? How did you explain to your current boss that, “Hey, here’s what I did in the past, and here’s why it matters”?

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, I think I’m just extremely lucky to have stumbled on this opportunity, because I remember back in 2009, when I started World of Warcraft and having my own guild… Even though I didn’t raid, I had my own guild, and even though I changed very many guilds, I always was the person who would organize stuff within the community. So I was always the internal community manager. Every job I’ve been in, I’m always the one who advocates, “Okay, well, we should do something more, because I work with you eight hours a day, five times a week. I want to get to know you. You don’t have to be my friend. You don’t have to be my family. But I need to know what ticks.” And that always has been the internal factor.

Vera Lakmaker:

And well, back in getting in with gaming, it was always like, “Yeah, but what are the real world applications?” I remember reading an article. I don’t know from who or… This sounds horrible, but reading an article that those skills that you actually learn with gaming are skills that will be later applicable in real life. And back like 10, 12 years ago, that was all bogus in my head. But working remotely and actually seeing what’s happening now, those parallel are very, very funny. And probably you noticed that as well. My gaming experience and remote work, it’s so natural for me seeing people. It’s like, “Oh, it’s the first time that we meet. Oh, you are actually exactly the same.” It’s no different. I mean, the first time that I met someone when I was 16, it was like, “Ooh,” it’s exciting because you see someone in real life, and video and webcam weren’t a big thing back then. But you notice that you fall in those social patterns, even when they’re written via video. I never really had someone that was totally different unless they had wrongful intentions. Luckily I didn’t come across them.

Vera Lakmaker:

So those parallels really made a difference. And then I think the fact that I had a personal connection to the CTO and ending up back in gaming, I think that, yeah, was one and one together.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So there’s a couple of things that I want to go back to, a couple of flags that I want to plant. Again, I think that it’s the social aspect of the MMO in particular, right? Or of the social aspect, the dynamics of being part of a virtual writer’s office when doing the game journalism. For example, I wouldn’t say that my 100 hours of have prepared me for anything in real life. That would probably be giving it too much credit. But I do think that the social dynamics of managing a guild, that could be any number from 20 to 200 people, right?

Luis:

And you said something that’s very interesting that I want to drill down on, which is that you said, “We don’t need to be friends. We don’t need to be family. But I do need to know you.” And I find that many companies try very hard to make the employee to say, “Oh, we are all a big family.” Or you have to have fun in the office. It’s mandatory, right? You’re not part of our culture if you’re not playing games and having fun and doing the same things as… And I think that’s missing the point, right? There’s a reason why we call them guilds and not families. Right? And within a guild, there can be several teams and et cetera. So I wanted to ask, how has that informed you? Without falling into that trap of trying to forcefully make everyone into friends or a family, how do you make people have that very particular online world connection that allows them, I guess the right word is, to rely on each other towards a common goal?

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah, well, I think that you already said it. At Gameye, we often talk about a sense of community and the need for a sense of tribe. I mean, you are working towards, especially in gaming but also in working, you are working towards a common goal. I don’t have raiding experience, but if you are doing a raid or a dungeon, which I really like to do, you have different tasks at times. You have to first set of rules, a set of encounters, and every particular role like to think, like the healer and the DPS, all have to work together in unison to defeat that. That’s not, in my honest opinion, not particularly different from, “Okay, I have this project that needs to be finished. I need this and this, and this team member to do it. And this and this particular task needs to be done.” It’s, for me, exactly the same.

Vera Lakmaker:

And in a raid, it becomes, of course, more bigger, just because you have around, well, 10 if you’re in small group, to 25 in a bigger group, and you need to communicate with each other. And you need to know how people are. If you have someone who gets aggravated very easily, then you need to give the person not a task of being the tank, but someone who’s probably… I like to think about the Warcraft characters, but having a fire image as the one who gets aggravated. That motivates that person to be the top damage, number one on the damage meter. While someone who’s probably more calm and collected and actually can lead would probably be more of tank and actually make sure that everyone’s in the right place, that the whole party is defended.

Luis:

Yeah. And you know those things about them. Sorry, sorry. Please continue.

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, I’m already done.

Luis:

No, no. So you need to know those things about them, right? Maybe the person is playing a tank, but again, as you say, they are very aggravated when things don’t go exactly right. So maybe they’re better at off tanking, right? Grabbing some of the minor ads or something like that. So yeah, so that’s a very interesting take on dynamics because it’s also very meritocratic. It’s very about knowing the person’s temperament and the person’s skills and figuring out how they fit. You know, what’s the best… And not just what’s the best place for the group to achieve their goal, but also the place where they will enjoy performing. Right? Because they’ll be in a place where they’re not just coasting. They’re in a place where they’re being challenged, but they’re not being overwhelmed.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yes. And that’s, I think, the crux of everything. I mean, you need to work towards a common goal. I currently am really into reading the dynamics between video games and how that can build and relate to team building. And unfortunately, I haven’t found any articles about will work. I have a ton of articles that I need to run through, and I believe they’re somewhere. But what I found really, really striking is that the article that I read today really focused on that as well.

Vera Lakmaker:

My cat is actually meowing, and she won’t quit.

Luis:

No problem.

Vera Lakmaker:

I don’t know if you hear it, but…

Luis:

This is a cat-friendly podcast. That’s fine.

Vera Lakmaker:

That’s great. Well, she’s a great cat. But anyway, this article really talked about the fact that as team members want to work together, your neurological brain waves have to move in unison. It’s that feeling when you’re working with someone together and you know they help you exactly when you need it. For example, you’re working on a project and a colleague says, “Well, I’ve done this and this,” and that’s exactly what you needed at that time. I have one of my colleagues who is perfect in that regard. “Am I forgetting something? Have you thought about it?” “Yes, exactly. That’s needed.” Feeling of working in unison is very important within team collaboration.

Vera Lakmaker:

And the fun thing is that research tested three different of methods to test that. And what was very striking is the fact that we need, in order to move in unison, you have to use movement. People work better if they can see you, if you have, moving your hands. Walking together is a great way to work together. But also according to their research, video games actually take that component and put it in a social environment. I mean, getting the Zoom fatigue, I never get Zoom fatigue because when I’m gaming… I get Zoom fatigue if I’m just sitting still all the time, listening. Well, if I’m gaming, I can do it for hours and hours at once. And according to them, that’s exactly the movement part of working together. And I thought that’s what’s really, really interesting.

Luis:

Yeah, because when you’re gaming and you’re in Zoom, you’re actually not always looking at the Zoom window, right? See, I actually do Zoom pretty well now when I’m talking one on one with someone. But in meetings that are like 3, 4, 5 people, I just do 30, 45 minutes of that and I’m knocked out. Right? I’m done. I’m done for the day. Right? That it. It’s just overstimulating to be looking at the screen with nine faces or something like that. But then in a video game, it’s different, right? It’s different. I’m paying attention. My senses are funneled to what’s happening in the screen, and then the people, my teammates, are more on the periphery. Right? So it’s easier to focus in that sense. It’s also easier to be in the zone. Right? You’re actually doing a task at the same time, so you’re in the zone and you’re still understanding. It’s a bit like driving, right? You can have a conversation with people while you are driving and you’re not running into the other cars or out of the road, because you have a focal point.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yes, exactly. And according to that research, it’s exactly the spatial awareness that you create within a game that actually contributes to working together, feeling more comfortable working together. And I found that very striking, that research.

Luis:

So I’m wonderingif you read the Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken? I’ve read it when it came out like 11 years ago, and I have it to reread because I want to revisit it in the light of remote work.

Vera Lakmaker:

All right. No, I’ve never heard of it.

Luis:

Okay. So I’ll send you a link. I’ll send you a link because it’s exactly the kind of thing that you’re trying to figure out more, and I’m actually going to try to get McGonigal on the podcast. So if I ever do that, I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know because I’d love to have her. I think that something like five or seven years ago… I don’t know anymore because when COVID came, time kind of compressed. So it seems like it’s been a decade since 2019, right? So I don’t even know. But a long time ago in a galaxy far away, there was this thing called gamification.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah. And it’s still a thing.

Luis:

Yeah. And gamification to me, as a fan of video games, it always seemed like it was a solution looking for a problem. Right? It’s like no one asked for this, but it’s cool anyway. So, but now I’m starting to think that it’s probably, in the age of remote work, that’s probably where gamification makes more sense than ever before. And I really wanted to start to wrap my mind around it. Did you have any thoughts on gamification and how it could be applied to remote work?

Vera Lakmaker:

Oh, yes. I have. First of all, gamification is also a very old concept and, yeah, in research, it has been used in quite some time. And indeed, it gained traction in the past 10 years regarding gamification, making sure that you actually… What’s it called? That you actually indeed have a task at hand or a problem, and actually make it gamified in order to make it more easy to approach or easy to learn. That concept is different from games, just because you have a voluntary aspect. But serious games and gamification have the purpose to teach something, while a video game always focuses on the entertainment purposes. So that’s really the difference.

Vera Lakmaker:

And gamification is, for me, quite interesting because, for me personally, it helps me to motivate something. If I have to do the dishes at home, which I hate, or actually cleaning, I hate cleaning as well. Seeing the mountain of dishes I have to do, I can either say, “Oh, I have to do it, and it’s going to be a drag.” Or I can set myself a challenge like, “How far can I clean these plates in 30 seconds? What happens if I do it while I’m dancing? How can I motivate myself?” And gamification is, I think, a brilliant way to motivate people and get people to learn something. I mean, I kind of get gamification serious games to each other whenever I would. I’m not an expert.

Luis:

Have you ever played forks versus knives?

Vera Lakmaker:

No, I haven’t.

Luis:

No. So it’s the game for people like me, who actually have a washing machine; but then after the dishes are done, I find it incredibly boring to basically dry and put away the stuff that comes out of the washing machine. So I play forks versus knives, which is a very simple game. It’s basically taking the forks and knives right out of the washing machine and seeing which are in the majority. Right? And whoever has more wins, right? And I have to say that so far forks have a big advantage. Right? Spoons I stopped counting because the spoons always lost. But I keep finding it keeps being interesting to do it because every now and then, a fork will win. Right? Every now and then, forks will win. So it’s kind of like rooting for the underdog. Yeah, I agree.

Vera Lakmaker:

That’s a way it needs to make something very mundane interesting and exciting again, which is a great example. Thank you for that.

Luis:

It’s not my credit. It’s actually from another podcast, a podcast in the health sphere, a doctor called Dr. Peter Attia. I heard about this, and I kind of, “Oh, yeah, yeah. This sounds silly, but let’s try.” And I actually find it strangely addicting.

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, it’s often silly things that work for us. I mean, our brains are… I remember one of my classes about history of all things, in cultural history, referring to [inaudible 00:25:06], which actually was a Dutch cultural historian who actually found earlier works on history and games, called, the playing man. And he really referred to the fact that we humans are designed to play. We learn by playing as a kid. We learn still by playing even when we’re older. We forget that we stop learning once we’re out of high school, which it isn’t because everyone knows, who works remotely or works in IT especially, that you keep on learning. And since we are so hardwired to gain our social interaction and see the world around us around from a playing lens, actually, yeah, it’s very easy to adapt to that concept. That’s why gamification is, in my opinion, very interesting. We circle back to gamification.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah. Just a note before you… Please hold that thought.

Vera Lakmaker:

Sure.

Luis:

So, the other formal is originally Dutch, is that right? Interesting, interesting. Because I tried to read that book, but the Portuguese translation was horrible. I don’t think I can learn Dutch easily enough just for the purpose of reading it. So I guess I should pick up the English translation. I found the ideas interesting, but the translation, the Portuguese translation was just so boring that I couldn’t integrate any of it.

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, I’m not stylish here that you actually… I mean, is quite old already. I believe it’s in old Dutch as well. I would just get any article that actually features. And actually summarized it brilliantly. So I would just get the research. I mean, I’ve never read the whole text myself or the whole book, because I always had to use little parts of it in space of a grander narrative, like for example, my master thesis. So, but it’s still a fascinating concept though. I actually know of a local board game. They actually had it framed, the quote of in a very long time, and I think that’s just brilliant.

Luis:

Okay. It is, it is. So please, please, you are circling that back to make a point about gamification.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yes, gamification. Well, gamification and remote work, I think that those concepts should go hand in hand, just because indeed we have that article that I referred, already established that we work together if we have common goal, if we move in unison. And I think the play aspect is another way to motivate people. I mean, you can either really work by yourself and work by yourself and all alone, or actually work with a colleague, either synchronously or asynchronously. Adding a play element, it will motivate you. It’s also a reason why hackathons, for example, are a great way to come up with creative ideas, to come up with innovative solutions for particular problems. And I think that also it will have the same aspect, if that makes sense.

Luis:

No, no, no, it absolutely does. It absolutely does. So let’s step back a bit now from the game part of it, though I’m happy to be here all afternoon talking about games and gamification. But tell us a bit more about… Because again, it’s a new job, right? This is a new job position, the head of remote. So tell our listeners… A lot of the distant job listenership is actually in leadership positions in companies. Most of our listeners are people that have their own businesses, and some have been doing remote forever. Some are transitioning into a hybrid situation, or from a hybrid situation to a fully remote situation. So it’s actually interesting to hear from someone that’s doing this job. What does your typical day look like as head of remote? What does your typical week look like?

Vera Lakmaker:

Oh, that really, really depends. Since I’m doing a dual role, also taking part of the infrastructure side of Gameye, it might actually… One week, I might be fully focused on actually working with Linux and making sure that my server capacity is all up to date and everything is updated for the rest. Or in it, weeks that I spend writing documentation, planning social events, or thinking about how we could do better. This week, for example, it really was we want to organize every four months, something showing real life. So I’m currently doing, yeah, researching and thinking about how we can actually all come together. We have had a couple of meet-ups throughout the year, but never really formal. It was always surrounded either just two people are in the same country at that point, like, “Let’s meet up,” or a game developers conference, or people, just a lot of us are situated either in the Netherlands as well. I’m in Belgium, so it’s quite easy to go there since the countries are very small. But this will be our first time that we actually are moving together, yeah, seeing each other and being in charge of that. Or I might be spending my time actually looking for a new person to join us, which is an interesting journey as well.

Vera Lakmaker:

I think that the main difference between me and a lot of listeners is that I am not a senior executive. I’m just someone who fell in love with remote work. And actually, even though I’m called head of remote, I still consider myself very junior in the role. So yeah, I’m a typical week for me is so diverse that I can’t really pinpoint what I’m doing. It’s so, yeah, it’s so different for every day of the week.

Luis:

Yeah, but that is quite common, especially in growing companies, startups, growing companies, et cetera, that you do have to wear many hats in addition to your official title. So, that makes absolute sense. Tell me a bit about culture building in Gameye, if that’s okay. Right? You might have reasons just by company policy not to reveal what goes on inside. But if you can, I’m interested in knowing what are some of the initiatives, virtual initiatives, not meet together initiatives, that you’ve found, activities, et cetera, that you’ve promoted to make the team connect more with each other.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah. We currently have around, I think, five different things that we iterate constantly. First of all, most of them is actually a particular game that everyone within our company likes. And some of us, most of us are gamers, not all, and even the people who are not a gamer are really, really fanatic with this game. It’s actually a card game. Actually, we talk a lot about video games, but I actually, in the past years before the pandemic, I was way more into board games and organizing events around that. I actually had to circle back being a video gamer during the pandemic, which was an interesting story. But yeah, so playing a lot of games. We played especially, the card game. We played, which is a Pictionary game, which allows you to draw, and you have to guess. It’s a very typical game.

Vera Lakmaker:

I like to play Dixit as well, which is actually board game, which we haven’t played it in ages, but it’s a game in which you have beautiful cards and a card dealer has to talk about or has to describe the card either in a sentence or in a song, or mostly will use a word. You have to put a card there that associates, that you make an association with, with this particular word as well. And people actually have to choose which your original card, because there are more different choices. You don’t exactly know which one it is. And that game in particular is actually really, really good to understand how people make associations with certain visual objects, with certain cards. For example, you can have a card indicating a chicken and little chicks, and you can say, “Well, chicken,” and then that’s probably the only card that people will single out. But if you say, for example, “Beginning of life,” and you see the chicks hatching, and you have other cards that actually refer around the same thing, it’s already different. So I really love playing that with anyone who says gaming is not for them. I will guarantee you that they will like this game. What have we played before?

Luis:

Yeah, that’s a great game. I actually know of it, but thank you for explaining it for the listeners. It is a great game. And the trick is, if I remember, is that you actually want to make a plausible explanation of your card, but you don’t want to make it so obvious that everyone gets it, because then you don’t get the maximum points. Right?

Vera Lakmaker:

Exactly. Which I love it because especially if we play with new people, I notice that playing it with the same… With my neighbors, we play it, love it. Me and my female neighbor, we think the same. Our brains are almost the same. So I get her card, she gets my card, and our boyfriends sometimes are different. But yeah.

Luis:

And that’s actually a very important… Going back to the point of remote work, that’s actually a very important exercise. It’s very well picked up, that game. Congratulations. It makes a lot of sense because one of the hugest difficulties in communicating when working remotely, it is really mind reading. Right? It’s that either you get very specific with texts, that I always encourage people to do. I encourage my teammates and the people in my company to write… Obviously, don’t write a huge essay every time we want to say something, right? Try to be as short and concise as possible, but be very specific. Right? Don’t leave anything to guess because we end up… When we’re talking, when we’re verbally and using body language, and when we’re close by, we tend to engage in a decent amount of mind reading that’s not possible over the internet. Though, when you play a game like Dixit, in a certain sense, it’s about learning how other people think about things. So then as you get to play more with them and you just try to understand the associations that they make, you do get a little bit better at mind reading. So then that will make you better at implicit communication. So, that’s actually a fantastic choice. I had never thought about that. Thank you. That was a very good choice on your end.

Vera Lakmaker:

Another suggestion, if you want to go in that line of thought, is Code Names, which you can actually currently play online, in which you actually have words and you have teammates, and you have to discuss with your teammates, “Okay, which word are we going to describe?” And then you have to say one word and actually can say… Well, for example, you have ‘tea’ and you say ‘cup’ in that word, then they probably will get that word. But if you, for example, have the words ‘tea,’ ‘Big Ben,’ and I call a random, which is a little city in the United Kingdom, you could actually say ‘UK’ and say ‘three,’ the amount of words. And maybe if you have colleagues that sense your associations, they will pick those three words. And the faster you do that, the higher chance you have to win, which is also we played as well, yeah. Which also, for the category, they have a varied range of games that you can either play online or offline as well, that actually promotes that as well. But I really like Dixit in that regard, because it’s so visual and it’s so stunning, the cards, and you have lots and lots of options. And I don’t know how many hours I have in that game, but it keeps surprising you.

Luis:

It’s very fun. It’s very fun. Okay. So I do want to be respectful of your time. I need to… Let’s start to wind down with some rapid-fire questions. The questions are rapid, but the answers don’t need to be. So, starting off, if you could give one thing to everyone in your team… And by one thing, I mean you need to give everyone the same thing, and it can’t be money or a gift card. You have to decide on a thing. Now, it could be virtual, could be digital, could be a real life thing, but it has to be the same thing for everyone in your team. What would you give them?

Vera Lakmaker:

A virtual headset.

Luis:

What? Sorry?

Vera Lakmaker:

A virtual headset, a virtual reality headset. Just what remote.com actually did. I think that would add another dynamic layer on how we interact and actually how we could collaborate and game as well. I mean, I’m not a huge, big VR fan because I often get nauseous. But I think that the network would really, really be interesting, especially for a gaming company.

Luis:

I was actually one of the early adopters. I got the PlayStation VR, and eventually I was gifted the Quest too. And I do have to say, I was lucky that there wasn’t a lot of games that made me nauseous. Mostly racing games made me nauseous. I could play the other kinds of games fine. But you do develop your VR sea legs the more you play. Eventually I did notice that. Initially I played for an hour and then I was like, “Okay, I think I need a break.” And now I can just spend the whole afternoon in VR and I’m fine. Right?

Vera Lakmaker:

Nice. That’s nice.

Luis:

That does happen. That’s actually a great suggestion. What about for yourself? What have you bought within the last one year or six months that has made your remote work better or more productive?

Vera Lakmaker:

Ooh, that’s a good question. A new chair. This one is actually very awful. We bought another one for my boyfriend, which I use for time, which is Ikea Marcus. It’s a low budget office chair. And I know lots and lots of people get it. They’re always saying, “If you’re on the small budget, get that chair because it’s economical.”

Luis:

It’s great.

Vera Lakmaker:

It’s great.

Luis:

I always feel that. People always ask, “Luis, you’re such a big gamer. Why don’t you have a gaming chair?” And I’m like, “Gaming chairs look cool, but I think they’re uncomfortable as heck.” Right? I’d much rather have a good Ikea chair.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yep.

Luis:

Right? So yeah, so that’s great. So thank you. What about… We’ve talked a bit about books before. I don’t know if you have any favorite books or maybe you have favorite articles. But when you were trying to get up to speed for your position as head of remote, when you were trying to really figure out remote work, what were your favorite books? What books would you give to people who want to learn more about how to optimize remote work?

Vera Lakmaker:

Oh, books, that’s actually good. I actually read articles. I haven’t thought of books.

Luis:

Articles is good if you want to recommend.

Vera Lakmaker:

Well, the first start you should get is the Remote Work Handbook by GitLab. It’s, I think, the first basic Bible there is, if you want to start working remotely, including the two courses, the Remote Work Foundations and the Managing a Remote Work Team. For the rest, it really depends on what you want to achieve, what your role is. I personally look up lots and lots regarding employee experience and employee engagement and employee happiness. So a little bit more into the, yeah, the HR side of the role, which is interesting. And then I end up on websites like, well, the hbr.com, the typical HR sites.

Vera Lakmaker:

What do I like to read more? I have a whole database and collection of stuff that I end up reading, but it’s all scattered around the internet. And then I have a bunch of books that I try to start reading them, but I have to sit for it, and my brain is easier to get onto a website.

Luis:

It’s harder, right?

Vera Lakmaker:

It’s harder. I try to sit for it.

Luis:

I noticed that five years ago, it was much easier for me to sit and read a book than now. Right?

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah.

Luis:

I guess that my brain is just getting used to getting that information in smaller chunks.

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah. And I have a book, some part that I still want to read, and it’s still on reading list, but then I end up reading so many scientific articles.

Luis:

Yeah. For sure.

Vera Lakmaker:

It ends up at bottom of the pile.

Luis:

All right. Well, the final question, this one should be a breeze for you because you are good with the community stuff. Let’s say that you’re organizing a dinner, right? You are organizing a dinner, and in attendance are going to be the heads of remote, of companies from all around the world. Right? So it’s the big head of remote dinner. And the twist is that you are doing it at a Chinese restaurant. So, as the host, you get to choose the message that comes inside the fortune cookie. So, what are these people going to get?

Vera Lakmaker:

Be awesome.

Luis:

Be awesome. That’s a good answer. I love that. I love that. You came up with that almost instantly. Congratulations. That was impressive, but it’s good.

Vera Lakmaker:

Thank you. Yeah, I’m very for the, you know, make people happy and encourage them in everything that they do. And I think that everyone should be embrace their awesomeness and keep doing what they’re doing.

Luis:

I think that’s the title of the podcast: Be Awesome with Vera Lakmaker. I think that’s it. I think we got it.

Vera Lakmaker:

Awesome.

Luis:

I think we got it. All right. Vera, it was a pleasure having you. I would like you to speak a bit before we leave, speak a bit about Gameye. Who is it for? Where can people learn more about Gameye and also yourself? You know, when people want to continue the conversation, where can they reach out to you?

Vera Lakmaker:

Yes. Well, let’s start with Gameye first. Well, Gameye is actually a server orchestration company. That’s probably the easiest way to describe it. We develop an API technology, which is very easy to scale your multiplayer sessions. So, for example, we have gaming companies going towards us saying, “Okay, I have a game. I want to create multiplayer games. I don’t know how big it will be or how small it really.” Normally you would go to the big competitors and they will give you surface, give you capacity amount. Then you have to pay for it. Either you don’t use or use it. We say we do it in sessions. So, basically, we have one shared infrastructure, and based on the capacity they use, they get charged for it. So it’s way easier. It’s way cheaper as well. And we just got to host back in June, which was for the best multiplayer of the year by the PC Game Awards.

Luis:

Which one?

Vera Lakmaker:

Luis:

Oh, nice, nice, nice. Congratulations on that. What about yourself? Where can people find you?

Vera Lakmaker:

Yes. You can find me on LinkedIn. You can find me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is Vlakmaker, which is fun if you’re Dutch, which actually means of a flat maker. It’s just a combination of my first letters and the rest of my name. Also, Vlak also means train in Slovak, which is also very fun about it. You can find me… I recently started my own blog called RemoteWorkGeek.com, which I want to post lots and lots of things about everything that I like about remote work. I’m currently up in writing an article about what the hell is remote work actually. But then you…

Luis:

You have started there?

Vera Lakmaker:

Yeah, we have started there, but I end up in the nitty gritty of terminology, which cause delay in the article that I want to publish, including, well, I have lots and lots of idea that I want to do there.

Luis:

Well, please send me the links so I can include them in the show notes. It was an absolute pleasure having you. Thank you so much for being a part of the show.

Vera Lakmaker:

Thank you for having me.

Luis:

Ladies and gentlemen, this was Luis with the Distant Job Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. And my guest was Vera Lakmaker from Gameye. See you next week.

Luis:

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 are 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. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners.

Luis:

Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to DistantJob.com/blog/podcast. 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 with that, again, DistantJob.com 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.

Luis:

And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of Distant Job Podcast.

Managing remote teams, regardless of the size, comes with its challenges. From finding the right communication tools to figuring out the best processes to encourage teamwork and collaboration.

During this podcast episode, Vera Lakmaker shares the power of gamification in remote work and how there are certain strategies you can implement to increase the motivation and engagement of your remote team.

Highlights:

  • Why building a happy remote culture matters
  • How to connect with your remote team
  • Strategies to encourage remote work remotely
  • Gamification and remote work
  • Using gamification to motivate your remote team

Article Recommendation:

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