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Leading with Empathy in a Virtual Setting with Corine Tan

Corine Tan is the co-founder of Sike Insights; an early-stage Techstars backed startup building the emotional intelligence platform for remote teams. Their mission is to help remote managers lead with empathy.

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Corine Tan

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob podcast, your podcast about building and leaving awesome remote teams. With me today I have Corine Tan. Corine is the co-founder of Sike Insights and early-stage Techstars backed startup building the emotional intelligence platform for remote teams. Their mission helping remote managers, I’m sorry, lead with empathy. So Corine, welcome to the show.

Corine Tan:

Thank you so much for having me. Super excited to be here.

Luis:

It’s an absolute pleasure. I’ve spoken with Corine’s fellow co-founder, Sid. In the previous episode, it was published I believe a month and a half ago, where we discussed their first product, the Kona an AI-powered Slackbot that helps you lead your team with empathy and mindfulness. And so, I’m looking forward to know an update about Sike Insights and Kona. But please, Corine, tell our listeners a bit more about yourself and what you do.

Corine Tan:

For sure. I think the best way to start this kind of conversation is probably to start at the beginning. And so, just for some context, my name is Corine Tan. I’m the non-technical co-founder of Sike Insights. So, at UCLA, where I met my two co-founders, Andrew and Sid, I majored in English. I studied creative writing. I basically had a background that didn’t really land itself to tech right away. I entered UCLA hoping to do film and kind of realized that wasn’t for me. I joined LA Hacks, which is our hackathon on campus And that’s where I met Andrew, we were leading a marketing team together. And Andrew told me, “Hey, my friend from my entrepreneurship, Brett said he’s building this startup that I think you might really be interested in. We need somebody who can write. We need somebody who can do marketing and sales, so would love for you to talk to him.”

Corine Tan:

At this point of my college career, I had no intention of putting something else on my plate. I was already working part time, I was having several clubs on my plate. I was doing several units in order to graduate early. I graduated in two and a half years technically from UCLA. So, it was definitely like I was putting more and more on my plate and I just was like, “Okay, enough.” But once I talked to Sid, it was incredible. He was building this performance management tool that use personality API’s as a baseline, kind of adding more human elements work generally, not really remote work just yet. I couldn’t help myself and I was just like, “Okay. I’ll join the team. I’ll be your marketing person.”

Corine Tan:

And at that time Sike Insights was a completely different startup. We were building for in-person teams. We were building an onboarding tool, and it was something that we dove right in headfirst into product without actually validating it. So, it was a huge wake up call when nobody wanted it. Nobody wanted a tool to help them get to know their in-person teammates, when that’s the whole purpose of onboarding, is to get to know and talk to people like human beings. But in October, kind of the light bulb went off. Sid actually talked to Josh Coyne, from Kleiner Perkins during his Kleiner Perkins fellowship and was able to figure out like, “Hey, remote work is where we really need to be more human.” And so, that was in October, and ever since it’s kind of taken itself from there. I think that offers a baseline.

Luis:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. So there are many interesting things to pick up there. So, it was, right? We are recording this in January 2021, but it was 2020. Probably the year, where in our lifetimes, were more emotional intelligence was needed in managing teams. And then, most teams now are a virtual, remote. So I mean, how has that been like? I’m sure you’ve gotten an incredible amount of data, and then an incredible amount of feedback. So, tell me about this. What does this incredible influx of people working remotely has helped you figure out?

Corine Tan:

Definitely. I think, to give you an idea, we literally talked to Darren Murph, one of our key advisors. He’s the head of remote at GitLab. He joined in-

Luis:

Yeah. I believe he introduced me to Sid.

Corine Tan:

… Yeah. Oh, fantastic. He joined the team as an advisor in January. And at the time, we were stoked. It didn’t really seem like-

Luis:

January 2020. Right?

Corine Tan:

… 2020. Yes. January 2020. Exactly a year ago, I think. So, we didn’t really know how big remote work would get. We could see that it was the future and literally two months later, it just became everyone’s current present situation. So, to have Darren become an overnight celebrity, to have everybody talking about remote work was never something that we could anticipate. One thing that I am constantly singing praises about was the pivot to remote work in October was fantastic, because it was a clean slate for us. It was definitely one of the most dramatic pivots that we had. We completely started over. And so, with that, it actually came a huge kind of learning mindset. We’re all in our 20s. I’m 21. I’m the oldest on the team. And so, it wasn’t like we really had that much background on remote work to begin with.

Corine Tan:

So, with that kind of humility came a lot of learning and growth. We basically hit up anybody that we put on LinkedIn complete strangers, just asking, “Would you be open talking with us about your experience leading your remote team?” This was before worldwide remote, so we had this huge kind of several interviews. At this point, we’ve conducted 500 in the past year. But at the beginning it was maybe 50 interviews, worldwide pandemic starts and then everybody’s remote. Everybody wants to share and talk about their experiences. So we have this lovely kind of timeline in our research where we have started in October, people’s perspectives on remote work, how it’s kind of a niche concept to how it’s in everybody’s concept. How it affects everyone, how it’s changing the way people think about work. So many major tech companies have decided to go remote first for an indefinite amount of time. And so, this exciting kind of transformation is all tracked in our research.

Luis:

Yeah. It was definitely… I mean, 2020 is not the best year for many things. Right? For most things even, but definitely for remote, it worked out okay. Right? It worked out fine. So hopefully, some good will come out of this whole mess. Right? And the workforce and the people’s concept of work will come out of this crisis rejuvenated and better for everyone. That’s my hope anyway. I’m an optimist so, we’ll see.

Corine Tan:

And also adding to that point, it’s not like with remote work you can kind of separate the bad from the good.

Luis:

Yeah.

Corine Tan:

When managers are leading teams, they have to deal with the incredible losses that people have been suffering either from close family members or friends. They have to deal with the incredible political turmoil and different kind of social issues that are happening that are affecting day-to-day work. So, when we talk about work, it’s no longer just like, “Leave it at the office.” There is no office. You’re working right in your bedroom, like I am right here. And so, we definitely need to treat workers like humans and understand just the incredible context that’s happening in this unprecedented year.

Luis:

Treating workers as humans. What an odd concept, right?

Corine Tan:

Yeah.

Luis:

That’s a point that I was making earlier with another guest, is that we spend so much of our life in work and ideally, we like our work, but it’s such a waste if we don’t bring our humanity to work. Right? If we’re working, and we keep the rest of our life apart from it, that’s no good. That means that you’re not really living for a huge chunk of your day. So, the work you’re doing is definitely important, even if there was no crisis. Right? Because the healthy thing is to have our humanity be showcased at work and be recognized at work.

Corine Tan:

Definitely.

Luis:

Yeah.

Corine Tan:

And I guess, a silver lining of the crisis is that it’s finally bringing the attention to a lot of major executives that, hey, culture is not just something that we talk about. It’s something that we need to live and enforce, because that’s how you give your co workers, your teammates, kind of a safe harbor a home during all this craziness. This is how you retain your talent, how you kind of go beyond the office and actually have a company that transgresses borders and transgressions like cultural differences, et cetera.

Luis:

Yeah. I want to pick a bit at your background as a creative writer, because I also have a background as a creative writer, and I actually pointed that as one of the main keys for my, well, modest success in remote working. I do think that the ability, no matter how good Zoom gets and how good connection gets, the reality is that no one can be on Zoom calls 24/7. It’s just not efficient, and it gets tiring really fast. So, the majority of the communication still happens written. Right? Either through a project management system, like let’s say Basecamp or through chat like Slack. I find that the biggest determining factor in someone being good at remote work and performing well in remote work is clarity of written communication. How have you felt that your background as a creative writer has influenced your approach to remote work?

Corine Tan:

Definitely. I like to think that when you think about tech, a lot of folks think about the technical skills that come with it. Being a developer, knowing different coding languages, being able to operate an agile kind of methodology. What we don’t really talk about though, is the soft skills where you need to be able to communicate. You need to be able to express your thoughts, convince others, really get buy-in for what you’re trying to share. That takes incredible people skills. It’s not necessarily something that is emphasized through one particular major track or professional program.

Corine Tan:

And so, you’re completely right. Written completely transforms how you conduct a remote team. I think the best example of that is how asynchronous teams work. If you’re working across dozens of time zones, let’s just say, and you want to make sure that the entire team can exist with their humanity, not have to wake up at crazy hours just to adjust to your schedule, but can also remain super, super productive, that you’re going to have to turn to written communication at some point. And you’re going to need to make sure that what you’re writing and communicating is not only legible, but also transfers your idea, kind of has that… Ah, the word escapes me. But it allows you to really translate what your entire vision across these time zones, perhaps across cultural barriers as well to the recipients, to make sure that they understand exactly what’s going on. And that’s how you can create kind of a synchronous mind across asynchronous time zones is exactly through written communication.

Corine Tan:

For my own benefit, I think being able to come in with a non-technical background has given me incredible perspective. Not only am I able to contribute to product in a much more customer-facing perspective, but it also allows me to contribute entirely to our customer acquisition angle where writing is king. I mean, content is king and being able to actually write creatively, not just navigating the hoops and valleys of SEO, but actually means to create content that brings value to individuals and actually shares knowledge. I think it’s been incredibly rewarding to be able to come at that with a nontraditional background.

Luis:

Oh, yeah. I certainly agree. In fact, that’s more or less the way I built my career as a marketer as well. So, I can definitely echo that thought. At the end of the day, it’s a bit overused the term, but absolutely agree, content is king. But more than that, specifically to remote work, being a writer, I wonder if you found out that it made understanding remote work a bit better, because writers have been working remotely forever. Right? It’s that, sure, there’s the concept of the newsroom, but most writers send their papers in. Right? They send their papers in, we tend to work alone despite, sure you can collaborate on the project, often with an editor or something like that, but the most of the creative work of the writer actually happens in our heads or in front of our keyboard. So, it does feel like, do writers have an unfair advantage when transitioning to remote work? You think?

Corine Tan:

I mean, to flatter myself I’d like to say yes, but to be honest, I think anybody can do remote work. I do think the aptitude of a writer and the ability to both collaborate and work creatively in silos is incredibly beneficial to remote work, just like you say. It’s actually one of the things that attracted me to be so stubbornly attached to being an author as my main career choice was just the flexibility of it. I could create worlds from my own desk. I could not have to drive anywhere to go to work. It just seemed like the perfect solution. And as it turns out, there’s a lot of careers that allow you to do that exact same thing, and it’s called remote work.

Luis:

Yeah. So, on the marketing angle, I find it very interesting because a year ago, my major concern as a marketer was convincing businesses that remote work was okay and actually more than okay, it was better than the regular way of working. Now, fast forward one year, and that’s not a concern that I have anymore. Everyone does remote, like it or not. Right? So, how have you noticed that your marketing necessities have evolved over the past year?

Corine Tan:

Completely agree. And I think it’s beautiful that our startup has kind of grown up with this entire wave. Complete remote, let’s just say. I will say that as we are creating content, one thing that we’re starting to talk about, is different stages of mode transition. So what we’ve been noticing is, companies are actually past the first stage where the uncomfortable part is kind of adjusting all your systems, Zoom, Slack, JIRA, what have you. The uncomfortable part is trying to conduct your stand ups in a remote sense, let’s just say.

Corine Tan:

Now we’re moving towards, “Oh, crap. We have remote work indefinitely.” How are we going to make this work? How are we going to make sure that our co-workers can build relationships similarly to how they would at a cafeteria? How can we make sure that we actually have our culture translating across all the different locations that we’re in? How can we make sure that people actually feel at home in their home office, if that makes sense? And so, the way that that’s working is really interesting, because content is now moving towards what we see as a soft skills angle. How can you lead your team better? How can you make sure that you can translate your vision across different teammates? It’s no longer about the hard skills of turning on Zoom, let’s just say, or making sure that you can lead an agile meeting across distributed time zones. It’s about making sure that you can actually lead your team effectively. And that’s very exciting, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about. That’s our wheelhouse.

Luis:

Exactly. So tell me a story. Tell me, I mean, obviously no names, to protect the individual’s privacy. But tell me a story of someone who used your product in order to enhance the team soft skills, let’s say?

Corine Tan:

Definitely. So, we’ll call this manager Steven. And Steven is an engineering manager at a 200-person startup. And what they’ve noticed is that they put a lot of time into making sure that they lead with empathy. They take a lot of courses, they’ve been listening to podcasts like this one, they’ve been making sure to read a lot of books, but the actual acting out of what they’ve been learning takes a lot of work. It’s difficult to remember everybody’s individual communication styles, to remember how people are feeling, and to remember to ask how people are feeling every single day, on top of their back-to-back meetings, on top of their need to care, to fires, et cetera.

Corine Tan:

And so, when it comes to leading remotely with empathy, it’s something that they’ve always wanted to make sure so that they keep their team cohesive. But it’s not necessarily something that comes easily because of all the distractions and barriers. They encounter Kona, likely because I bothered them on LinkedIn. I definitely have bothered many people on LinkedIn, because I just want to hop on a call and kind of introduce them to what we’re talking about. And they’re interested because they want to help out. They want to talk about remote work, they want to share their experience. And as we’re demoing this product, the reason there’s this, aha moment click is because it automates, processes that they’ve already practicing.

Corine Tan:

Kona’s work with…. Kona generates automatic insights on your work style. Its personality API is able to basically take texts translated to personality, and then we translate that into actionable insights. So for somebody, maybe a company that has worked with me guides inside their culture, that’s an instant go to have like, “Hey, I don’t need to write two to three pages on my work style every single time I need to introduce myself. I can just have Kona do it for me.” For somebody who currently wants to do check-ins for mood realizes that Zoom calls can be very transactional. Kona automates regular green check-ins. It allows for managers to be able to automate this kind of, how are you doing this morning? See an instant readout of like, “Okay. 50% of my team is green. We have some yellows and one red. Let’s address the red.” And be able to address blockers in real time and also assess the trust of their team.

Corine Tan:

And so, these small features. We’re still building out a lot more habits. Already enforcing what, I think his name was Stephen. Stephen’s managers practices already are, and so they’re kind of using Kona, and as they use Kona, they realize, “Holy crap, my team actually does have some issues with psychological safety, perhaps. Maybe everybody’s kind of used to working in their silos and they don’t really feel comfortable sharing ideas because maybe they’ll get shot down.” Kona brings that out, because suddenly everybody’s sharing their feelings. Maybe one teammate is kind of a little bit more hesitant to, you have a conversation with them, you realize what previous experiences are blocking them, et cetera. and suddenly everybody’s talking.

Corine Tan:

One of the most beautiful things that Kona does is actually enforces conversation. And so, we’ve actually had a team talk about like, “Oh, I built my kids bunk bed, but I lost a toenail because I bashed my toe into it.” And so, all these folks are now talking about how they either lost toenails or things, or how they love bunk beds, and you have a lot more bonding and cohesion. Similarly, if somebody mentions, we’ve had somebody share that they’ve lost a loved one with the Kona report, and saying I’m in grieving, please give me some space. People have been able to reach out with their support and kind of be able to show that person love from far away. So, that’s kind of all the different ways that Kona has help Stephen’s team.

Luis:

I’m wondering, to what point does it parse language in a way that, I mean, for example, it’s a common known thing that that we often know the least about ourselves. I mean, it says you must… I don’t remember the quote right now. I’m making a mess about it, but it’s something like you absolutely must know yourself, and you are the person that you know the least about. Right?

Corine Tan:

Yeah.

Magalhaes Luis:

So, something in that region. So what it boils down to is that, often the things that we say about ourselves aren’t the things that are actually true. How far does Kona, that in actually parsing from the person’s style of communication, let’s say, and inferring that person’s disposition?

Corine Tan:

So, retrospectively from our beta class of about 25 companies, we’ve found that it’s incredibly accurate to the point which it surprises people.

Luis:

Wow.

Corine Tan:

I can tell you exactly what happens with the AI. It’s sometimes starts with a box. But I can say that Kona is able to find the personality footprint within text. It uses Big Five personality as kind of a backdrop and allows the text to translate into these Big Five insights. Research has shown, there’s plenty of papers written about it, that Big Five is one of the most accurate kind of unchanging personality types, and so one kind of assessment will allow you to get a pretty accurate idea of what a person is like. That being said, we don’t really like to prescribe.

Corine Tan:

So, obviously, you are your best frame of reference for yourself to a certain extent, and so we’d like to provide kind of a draft of, this is what we think your personality type is. And then, the person being assessed can look at it and say, “This is right, this is wrong, this is right, this is wrong, throw out or edit the things that are wrong, and then publish the profile for the rest of the team to see. And so, the idea is that there is a level of self preservation, editing, et cetera, so it’s not too harsh, and then you can present it to the team.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, that’s what… I mean, the Big Five personality test tends to seem harsh to the people who take it. Right? That’s one of the, I wouldn’t say flaws, because it has nothing to do with it. But definitely, when you do a Myers-Briggs personality test, it’s almost fun to see the responses. When you do a Big Five personality test, you’re like, “Oh, my God. These are not the scores that I would like to see.” For some reason, the words tend to have a more negative or neutral connotation, whereas the Myers-Briggs tends to make everyone feel like they’re special. Right?

Corine Tan:

Yes. And I will say the wording… So, the most exciting part is that Big Five traditionally just been limited to psychologists, and the ability to bring it to the people is really exciting. I will say that there are certain words that just bring a huge question mark. There’s a Big Five facet known as liberalism, and it doesn’t have anything to do with your political stance. And so, that kind of gives you an idea of how certain terms and facets can be misleading-

Luis:

Yeah. That’s what some people use, openness to experience. Right?

Corine Tan:

Yeah.

Luis:

Instead of liberalism. That’s-

Corine Tan:

Exactly.

Luis:

Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Neuroticism also comes usually with a huge… It’s not a word that people like to see associated to themselves. Right?

Corine Tan:

Yeah. So what we found with Kona is that it’s just easier to kind of factor away the personality facets themselves and just kind of give you the meat of it saying, “You work better in groups. You work better in one-on-ones. You require a little bit more reassurance during performance reviews.” So, translating Big Five to personality is what makes Kona special.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So, tell me a bit more about your own style of working, and how do you manage your remote workday, especially as a… It’s a very creative occupation, marketing and especially with the background writing. How do you usually manage your remote work day? What are the levers you pull in order to find your focus and the tools that you use to be able to do the things you need to do in order to make Sike Insights a success?

Corine Tan:

Definitely. So, a bit of a peek into our tool stack, we use TurnUp to create kind of a virtual office setting. We definitely work synchronously because thankfully, we’re in the same time zone. That may change in the future. We use it for any sort of customer facing calls. We use Slack, of course, for our main headquarters, definitely sending all of our documentation through Slack, Notion for my personal documentation, and Google Docs for any sort of collaborative documentation.

Luis:

Notion is quite hardcore.

Corine Tan:

Yeah. Notion is just… I don’t know. I think it’s lovely. It’s like you’re able to kind of change different backgrounds and such. And so I can be creative while still having my sales notes. So, yes. Love Notion. I will say that we use Trello to organize all of our tasks. And we use, I think I mentioned this already, but Google Calendar owns my life. So, everything that I need to be doing at any certain time is on Google Calendar. That being said, so for my actual work day, we usually have a standard around 9:00 AM, and that’s kind of when we hop on 10:00 and we talk about the day’s work, what we’re going to do, what we did yesterday. We have a… I usually set up all of our sales calls, I’m doing all the outreach. And so, I like to book it from 9:00 to 1:00. That allows… We dedicate that to meetings themselves, and we kind of expect whoever needs to be on those meetings will be on them.

Corine Tan:

Usually Andrew and I tackle sales calls, and what can be really annoying, but took me a really long time to figure out is that if you have a sales call, and another sales call, and there’s only 30 minutes in between maybe even 15 minutes, it’s really hard to get anything done in those 30 minutes. Maybe small tasks, you’ll be able to get it accomplished. But for a major Trello card, you’re gonna need at least an hour. And so, figuring out that that is our blocked meeting time, and that we’re not just going to have anybody book whenever they want on our schedule, we’ve had folks book literally for 11:30 PM one time, because of time zones. So, learning that through trial and error has been fantastic. I actually go to… I do kind of an early brunch now, so I’ll do 11:30 for food and at 2:30, I’ll go for a bike ride around campus.

Corine Tan:

What I’m realizing more and more is, I used to think productivity was just being grinding. Just, I’m not speaking English or… Being productive was all about grinding. That’s what I thought. I thought that I needed to be working constantly in order to be actually accomplishing my tasks. And what I didn’t realize is that I was setting myself for the early stages of burnout. So, actually being able to kind of create a resilience through regular exercise, regular meals, actually, focusing on cooking for myself has been fantastic and a huge contributor to my productivity.

Corine Tan:

After my bike ride, I take a shower and then I go and dive into whatever creative tasks I have. Maybe it’s redesigning the website on Webflow, maybe it is writing a blog post, which I have to do today. It’s a lot of kind of heads down work where my Sike boys know not to disturb me. Tandem is wide open, of course, if anybody needs to chip in, but usually it’s something small and I can kind of just have heads down time to write what I need to write, draft what I need to draft, figure out, maybe create a strategy or some sort of content plan that we have. So, that has been huge in kind of creating a cadence for being productive and getting the most out of my day.

Luis:

You have a full day.

Corine Tan:

Definitely.

Luis:

Well then. So, tell me about, let’s say that the team at Sike right now, it’s a small startup. Right? How many are you?

Corine Tan:

There’s only three of us. Yeah.

Luis:

Okay. So there’s only three of us. So, this should be pretty easy. Right? Let’s say that you have $100 to spend with each of your co-founders. You need to buy the same thing for both, but you can buy anything with $100, just not a gift card. That would be cheating. Right? You can give them the money. What would you give them?

Corine Tan:

Individual gifts? Or just like or.

Luis:

I mean, I was saying something that you think would be practical for Both. Right? Because the intention is that it would scale. If someone was 100 people, they could follow your advice and get 100 things. Right?

Corine Tan:

I think the most exciting thing for us right now has been Swag, but that’s not a… We haven’t had money for this. We’re running very, very lean, so the idea of being able to buy stuff for Swag and actually show off our setup is very exciting of course. But for actual practicality I think just investing in… I actually have to think about this.

Luis:

Please do.

Corine Tan:

Yeah. I think investing in something that keeps them active. And I want to say that they could possibly choose so maybe some sort of a gift card just some sort of sports equipment thing, because we’ve all been complaining about how we’ve been sitting at our desk all day. There really isn’t a long time. So, some sort of gift card for some sort of sports equipment would be fantastic. Andrew’s been going on runs. He recently finished the 5K. Sid recently bought a tennis racket to keep himself active. I regularly go on bike rides. So, just giving some person a fun to be active so they’re not at their desk constantly, I think would be my choice right now.

Luis:

It’s over 100 bucks, but there are some nice video games to keep you active. We’ve bee keeping active, a lot actually, with the Ring Fits for the switch.

Corine Tan:

All Right. I have it.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, that’s under 100 bucks, but you do need to have a switch. And the president of this job has actually been raving and even putting stuff in our YouTube channel about kickboxing on the Oculus Rift. Right? On the Oculus Quest, actually. The Oculus Quest, the new VR thing from Facebook. So, those are definitely nice options if you’re into indoors exercise.

Corine Tan:

Definitely. And I think with the pandemic going on, finding ways to do exercise not only keeps you healthy, but also keeps me sane. A lot of us aren’t really in our house period, we can’t really be social with our friend, so getting out seems to be the main activity.

Luis:

Absolutely. So, what about yourself? What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year?

Corine Tan:

I can’t really show you on this podcast, but I have this gorgeous LG dual monitor that’s two monitors. I think it’s 30-inch wide.

Luis:

Oh, my.

Corine Tan:

That has been a game changer because before, I did all my work, literally for the last 10 months, I’ve done all my work on my laptop, which is fine if you like carpal tunnel, but I think for writing, for being able to send follow-up emails in bulk, being able to have my entire HubSpot CRM spread across one screen while also looking at my email, fantastic-

Luis:

Even writing. Right? I mean, it’s like it’s a silly thing, but I have a MacBook here, and I really love it. But the reality is that if you get one of the smallest ones, it’s too small, if you want to get one of the biggest one, it loses portability. So it’s really nice just to being able to connect it to a real monitor and writing on that monitor. Right?

Corine Tan:

And I think because most of my activities, whether it’s talking to friends, watching Netflix, et cetera, it’s all on my laptop, being able to kind of plug into a display in my head, and it says, “You’re going to work on work now.” Versus if I’m just sitting on my bed using my laptop. I’m kind of like, “Oh, maybe I’ll dip into Netflix a little bit or Pinterest and see what’s going on there.”

Luis:

Yeah. That’s actually one of the most challenging things for me, since adopting remote work like five years ago, is that I always got my entertainment from screens, and now I got my work and my entertainment from screens. So, basically most of my life is spent on screen. So that’s… I mean, let’s hope that Musk get on with the Neuralink stuff soon so we can do everything with our brains and stop using screens. Right?

Corine Tan:

So, you mean your brain becomes like a screen, I guess? Yeah. That’d be super interesting.

Luis:

You see this stuff projected in your retinas, I suppose. Right?

Corine Tan:

Okay. Yeah, for sure.

Luis:

Yeah. Are you a book gifter? Do you usually good gift books?

Corine Tan:

I love books. I feel like as an English major, I’m obligated to say that, but truly, I think being able to read is one of the things that builds your empathy. That’s the whole purpose of the humanities itself. So, I read fiction, I read non-fiction. I love memoirs, I love poetry collections. I was recently gifted the Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. So, I’m very excited about that.

Luis:

Nice. So, what books have you gifted the most?

Corine Tan:

Well, so far with this boys, it’s been a lot of leadership books. So, Brene Brown, Techstars, was able to kind of give us a book called Reboot about kind of taming your inner demons so you can be your best leader. I think leadership books right now kind of makes the most sense, because that’s kind of what we’re talking about everything that we read in these books were able to directly express through Kona and kind of help managers be their best self. I will say, however, if we’re friends, it’s usually… I’ve been reading a lot more Asian American writers. And so, trying to gift that, encourage folks read writers that are not white, male, and dead would be fantastic.

Luis:

So, any tips?

Corine Tan:

For? Sorry?

Luis:

Well, for Asian American.

Corine Tan:

Sorry, I don’t understand the question. Tips for-

Luis:

No. Can you give me a book written by an Asian American that you would recommend or that you’re gifting?

Corine Tan:

For sure. I don’t know why I didn’t understand. Kazuo Ishiguro, one of my favorite authors, his prose is just fantastic. And there’s a reason why he’s won so many, huge literary prizes. Te Ching is one of my most favorite short story tellers ever. He’s just fantastic at kind of taking science fiction and translating it into the sublime. And so you have a lot more focus on. It’s kind of… almost if you like Black Mirror from Netflix, you might like Te Ching. It’s a lot more talking about just human side and how we express that through technology. I mean, I’m a little biased, but Xuan Juliana Wang, she was one of my professors at UCLA, just released her short story collection and it’s just a fantastic reading because I finally have characters that look and feel like me. Vietano Wang is just fantastic. I believe he’s a professor at USC and just one of those writers that just gets the human experience. So, those are some of my favorites just off the top of my head.

Luis:

Okay. So final question. You are hosting a diner for the tech leadership from all around the world. On the dinner there’s going to be a Roundtable about remote work. Now, along with Deandre, you’re sending a small message with HD dish, right? That they can read before they start their meal. Same message for everyone attending the dinner. What is it going to be?

Corine Tan:

I think a quote might be a little bit… it could be effective, but it could also be cheesy, I think. Not unless I’m serving something with lots of cheese. How’s that? I think to-

Luis:

Everyone loves cheese. Right?

Corine Tan:

I’m a little lactose-intolerant. But yes.

Luis:

It’s the price we pay for goodness.

Corine Tan:

I still love cheese, I’ll still hurt

Luis:

Exactly.

Corine Tan:

I think just reminding them that you are the future of work, and we are counting on you. The idea that the future of work doesn’t just necessarily mean that individuals will be working like this in the future. And future work means what is the future of how people are going to spend a third of their day. How is that going to look like? What are we going to represent? What values are we going to uphold? And just reminding everybody that even though we’re currently living it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re at the best cadence that we possibly could be. That we should constantly iterate constantly uphold ourselves to the sort of standard and make sure that remote work truly reflects what we’re trying to create with the world as a whole.

Luis:

That sounds lovely. I think it’s the perfect place for us to close. So, Corine, thank you so much. Now it’s the time to tell our listeners where can they find more about you? Where can they find more about Sike Insights, maybe give your product a try? How can they reach out?

Corine Tan:

Yes. So, if you’re interested, you can always email me at C-O-R-I-N-E @Sikeinsights.com. I’m sure there’ll be some sort of description as well. You can also send me a note. Lovely to hear from anybody listening right now. For the actual website itself, just visit sikeisnsights.co. You’ll be able to kind of access our form to sign up for our wait list. This is a little bit on the download, but we will be launching Kona very, very soon. I believe February 2 is our kind of date to be on Product Hunt. So, that’s super exciting. You can find us on Product Hunt hopefully very soon. Follow us on Twitter as well. Send loves, just hilarious kind of banter Andrew tweets about fantastic product stuff. And if you’re interested in EQ, I’m constantly sharing resources there. I can share that. I think I can either text it to you. I can also just say our handles. Andrews is just Andrewzowe08. Mine is itscorine. Sid is, I’m pretty sure just sidindia. So, find us on Twitter, dm us. We always love chatting with folks. And I think those are the main links that I’m supposed to be sharing.

Luis:

Okay. Yeah, we’ll add as much as possible to the show notes. So, it’s been a pleasure, again, and thank you so much for being a part of the DistantJob podcast. Thank you for being on the show.

Corine Tan:

This was super, super fun. Yeah, thank you.

Luis:

And thank you for listening. This was the DistantJob podcast with your host Luis. A podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you again next week.

Luis:

And so we close another episode of the distant jobs 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. 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. 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, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who you 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 adieu. See you next week on the next episode of DistantJob podcast.

More ways to listen:

Remote work keeps continually transforming. There are new tools to have efficient meetings and a better workflow, all to increase productivity. However, one of the major challenges teams keep facing is to build connection and the right company culture virtually.

In this episode, Corine Tan shares insights on the importance of leading with empathy when you have a distributed team. She also highlights why culture is crucial when starting a company and that leaders should never take it for granted.

''We definitely need to treat workers like humans and understand the incredible context that’s happening in this unprecedented year.'' Click To Tweet

Highlights:

  • How leaders can bring empathy to a virtual environment
  • Defining your company culture
  • Why soft skills are crucial in remote work
  • Tips for communicating efficiently remotely
  • How to avoid burnout

 

Book Recommendation:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!