Jennifer Aldrich is the Senior Manager of Design Community Partnerships at InVision, the digital product design platform used to make the world’s best customer experiences. Jennifer has an educational and psychology background, but she fell in love with design and UX and has worked in that industry for more than a decade.
Luis: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. My guest today is Jennifer Aldrich. Jennifer is the Senior Manager of Design Community Partnerships at InVision. Jennifer, welcome to the show. Jennifer Aldrich: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here. Luis: It’s a pleasure having you. Let’s jump right into remote work. I’m not going to do the usual coronavirus introduction, spiel, et cetera, that now everyone is forced to go remote and it’s the age of remote because quite honestly it’s been like six months and I’m tired of that. Everyone knows the context in which this podcast is happening. So let’s try to do something new here. Luis: And actually tell me, how is remote work like at InVision? How is InVision’s relationship with remote work and how do you think remote work has helped make the company better? Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, man. InVision is just an incredible place to work. So I’ve been with the company for five years now. And when I first interviewed, we had 50 employees. So we started at 50 and now five years later, we’re up over 600. So the growth in the company has just been unbelievable. And from the very beginning, InVision started as a remote first organization. So coming into it, I had had some experience working remotely part-time at my last startup. So I knew what I was getting into. I had done it several days a week and I kind of had a good feeling for it and everything, but InVision it was just such a different experience and that’s because from the very beginning, every employee was remote. Jennifer Aldrich: So you weren’t trying to loop in one person in a different office to get them involved in conversations. And it made an environment where everyone has to have really clear communication skills in order to make it work since everyone is distributed. So the communication at InVision as a remote company is actually even better than any office I’ve ever worked in, in a traditional setting. It’s just been incredible. And as far as the impact it’s had on the company, it’s a huge impact. Jennifer Aldrich: We’ve been able to hire literally the best talent in the world since we’re fully distributed, and we have employees all over the place. I mean, it’s been such an amazing experience getting to work with people all over the world every day. It’s just a wonderful place to work, but yeah, I think being remote has had a huge impact on the business. And then with all of the things going on with the pandemic for us, even though it feels different, which is interesting, you wouldn’t think it would since we’re used to it, it feels a bit different, but having been in the remote setting this entire time for our company, it just was kind of business as usual but they’ve been incredibly supportive and wonderful as all of these things have been going on in these horrible situations. Jennifer Aldrich: So I think that they were even better prepared to help the staff deal with all the things that were going on. It’s been kind of like a safe haven. It sounds strange, but everybody coming together to support each other where other companies were kind of scrambling around and people were panicking a bit while this was going on, it felt like a safe haven coming to work in the morning and being able to talk to people who are going through similar things and kind of understood the situation. So yeah, it’s had a huge impact on the company. Luis: Awesome. Awesome. So you said that you joined them five years ago and coming from a startup where you occasionally worked remotely. I always tell people that one of the most important parts when they’re going remote is how they onboard employees. So I’d like you to share a bit, well, how was your InVision onboarding experience and especially how did it compare with your previous onboarding experiences in non-remote companies? What is the secret that makes the difference between an in location onboarding and a remote onboarding? Jennifer Aldrich: That’s a great question. It’s funny this is something that I’ve talked about with someone else as well. It’s when I started, when we were tiny … We were a tiny startup. We were very small and we were just getting started. So the onboarding experience it was pretty low tech. We just kind of jumped in and got an email with some software. We had to download with some forms to fill out, send it back. But now as we’ve grown and scaled, we’ve brought on an entire people team. So there’re our HR teams. We call them our people team, and they have built out this incredible onboarding experience and it’s a week long of people coming in getting to know each other. There’s a small group setting. There’s a large group setting, there’re different components. Luis: Wow. Jennifer Aldrich: They go through classes that first of all explain our company culture, how we do things, communication styles, which tools we use for which types of communication. It instills the feeling of our positive company culture from the very beginning, so people understand that this is not a place where negativity and poor workman treatment can happen. That’s not a thing that we tolerate at InVision. It’s a wonderful place to work. So setting that in the very beginning, setting that as the baseline has made a huge difference in our company culture. Jennifer Aldrich: And another thing that happens during our onboarding is since we’re a designs after a company, like we have a whole suite of collaboration tools and we work with product managers and engineers, and we work with designers of course, and we have all these cross-functional tools for collaboration, like we have one called Freehand, that’s like a white boarding tool, and we have people using that all the way across our company, we use a really heavily, it’s been a game changer for communication. And we have large companies that are our customers that are using it for even things like engineering interviews. Right now during the pandemic especially, it’s been so powerful for organizations- Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. It’s been really great for communication. So anyway, during the onboarding … The reason I bring that up is because during the onboarding, every new employee through a full product training hands-on as a group. So they’re not just jumping into a company knowing that there is a product that they’re going to be selling or working with, they actually know how to use it, how it applies, how it can benefit companies, right from the very beginning. And I just think it’s such an incredible experience because so many companies don’t do that. That’s not something that’s common. Luis: Oh yeah, for sure. For sure, and it’s great that it’s a great initiative because you know that they’re already using it remotely. Jennifer Aldrich: Yes. Luis: And so in DistantJob’s case, that’s actually something that I try to do. Everyone that comes into the marketing group should interact with recruiters in one way and even be part of our recruitment process because that’s our bread and butter. I do think that there’s a lot of value in everyone in the company knowing how to interact with the product. Jennifer Aldrich: I agree. I agree. And something else that they bring people in when they joined the company is they train them in the basics of design. Like they actually talk through design and the tooling and how it works and the concepts behind it and give some history and give some tips on how things can be improved and let people try. It’s just such a neat environment having a design first foundation and then same thing with engineering, bring them in and explaining how that process works and the different types of groups that we work with, and it’s just such a neat environment. So yeah, we’re very education-based when it comes to onboarding and as well as being an employee. It just continues to your entire time at the company. You’re constantly learning new things. People are very open about sharing their knowledge and educating each other. It’s just such a neat environment. Luis: So you mentioned something about putting people in a large group setting and in a small group setting. And can you elaborate a bit about that? What does the virtual office experience like? How do you differentiate between the settings? What do you think is the benefit for people during the onboarding process? What does this look like? Can you please go a bit more into detail about this large group setting versus small group setting? Jennifer Aldrich: Absolutely. So we use Zoom for all of our web conferencing so that everybody can either see a face or you can be on the webinar setting, whichever is, but most convenient when we’re onboarding, we have the way that our people team has set it up. When I say large group setting, it’s like an entire incoming group of people all at once and kind of a classroom style setting on Zoom where there’s the person who’s in the people team kind of presenting to the group. But then they take after those presentations, they split people apart into small groups so that they can actually get to know each other, discuss what they’re learning, kind of do some hands-on activities. Jennifer Aldrich: And it builds that sense of community and builds those relationships from the beginning. I know people who have worked here for years and the people that they’ve gotten extremely close to where the people they met during the onboarding process, which is really neat, even though they’re in different departments, it’s people from every department all over the company. It’s not just a certain group at a time. So yeah, it’s a really neat environment. Luis: Cool. What’s the biggest differentiator between this and your previous onboarding experiences at other companies? Jennifer Aldrich: I think that at InVision, the onboarding sets the foundation for the company culture in a way that I’ve never experienced at any other traditional company. So at other companies, it’s like you come in, you fill out all your paperwork, you learn a little bit about the company and then you go off and do your thing. Here, there’s an entire segment of the onboarding that’s about company culture and about expectations, and it just builds that sense of community from the start. And that’s also something I don’t think is very common in traditional offices when you have to rely on bumping into someone at the water cooler to build a relationship. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: Here they focus on that relationship building immediately, and I think it makes a huge difference. I think it would make a huge difference in traditional settings too if companies took the time to take that step. Luis: Oh, yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: But yeah, I think that’s one of the primary differences. Luis: Yeah. I usually say that in traditional companies you can get away without doing it because it sort of happens on its own. Maybe not in the optimal way it could happen if it was something that you actually worked at, but it will still happen just by virtue of you having a bunch of apes in close proximity. But in a virtual company, in a remote workforce or a company, then you need to actually work at it. You need to actually define how you’re going to build that culture. So tell me a bit about the process. During that onboarding, what are some things that they do to create that sense of community to kickstart their insertion into the culture? Jennifer Aldrich: I think just giving everyone the opportunity to really closely connect is huge. It’s absolutely huge. A lot of times with onboarding in traditional companies, you all get dropped into like a conference room. You’re not allowed to talk to each other. You’re just being presented at instead of interacting with one another. And I think giving it that completely different experience where, yes you get a presentation where then they break it into the groups where you can actually get to know one another, I think that makes all the difference in the world with building that sense of community. Jennifer Aldrich: And then also discussing the culture outright, just starting at that point, makes a huge difference as well in the way that people get to know each other. It’s like a … I don’t know. It’s just an experience for people to come out of it feeling really close to each other, which I think it’s just a neat feature of the company. It’s really great. Our people team is phenomenal. Luis: Yeah. I once met the person or again in location company that her first day was, she arrived at the cubicle and there were two IKEA boxes so she could assemble her desk. Jennifer Aldrich: What? Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, that’s awful. Luis: That’s the best onboarding ever. Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, that’s horrifying. I can’t even imagine. Oh yeah. That’s not a great first impression. Luis: Oh no. You see, this is the way you get the person to bond with the workplace because she actually built it with their own two hands. Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, my word. That’s terrible. Oh, I can’t even imagine. That would be the – Luis: This is my desk. I built it. Jennifer Aldrich: … slightly. Yes. Seriously. Good grief. Oh, that’s terrible. Luis: Yeah, it’s definitely. Definitely. Okay. So let’s talk a bit about what you do at InVision and specifically your team inside in InVision. How does your remote work relationship work between you and between you and the team? Tell me a bit more about the team and about how you interact remotely. Jennifer Aldrich: Sure. So the role that I’m in, I’m the Senior Manager of Design Community Partnerships. And what that entails is, I have the best job ever in my opinion. I actually get to interact with the design and engineering and product community all day long. I get to talk to people on social. I get to meet with people through Zoom, find out what’s going well for people, things that they’re struggling with, and then I get to take that information back to our organizations to figure out ways that we can best support our community, which is so much fun. I also, and this is one of the best parts to my opinion. I also get to help … I’m actually running our Design Forward Fund process, which is so much fun. Jennifer Aldrich: So I get to go through the organization and look through the community and find individuals and organizations that are working on projects or events or educational resources that are bettering, not just the design industry, but really the world as well. So people who are focused on things like accessibility, diversity, and inclusion, things along those lines. I get to help invest in those organizations and in those individuals to help boost what they’re doing and give it a platform. And it’s just such a rewarding job. It’s so much fun to work with people and see what they’re working on. And I’m always blown away by the things that people are actually putting out and the impact that they’re having on the industry. I love my job. It’s been so much fun. Luis: Nice, good to know. Good to know. So tell me a bit about your typical day. How do you usually run your typical day working remotely? Jennifer Aldrich: Sure. So while I get up, I’m not a morning person, which is great because we run on a 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM East Coast file schedule. So I get to sleep in every day, which is glorious. And then I get up and I hang out with my pups and sign on and check in with my team, see how things are going, and then I pop in and check my email and I kind of try to get all that stuff out of the way first thing. And then I hop on social media and start interacting with people. I have learned to block, and this is something that one of my second bosses taught me to do. When you’re in a remote environment, things are moving so quickly and there’s a lot going on and you get pinged on Slack a lot. So there’s a lot of things that are happening that can interrupt your workflow. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: Something that one of my original managers taught me is to block off times during the day for our focus work, and that’s something I had never done ever in my life before. And it has been so beneficial. Just having that block on the calendar of like an hour or sometimes two hours, depending on the size of the project that I’m working on that week, that’s pure focus time that’s uninterrupted. I can mute my Slack notifications. I can really focus, and it’s made a humongous difference in my productivity. It’s been absolutely fantastic. Luis: Oh, yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: So that’s a tip that – Luis: I am quoted as saying that my favorite Slack function is the away function. Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, geez. It’s funny because I actually love Slack. I’ve been a huge fan of Slack since they first launched actually. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah, I got to use their products. Luis: No, it’s like video games. I love them, but if I spend the whole day doing with them, I won’t do any work. Jennifer Aldrich: Gotcha. Yeah, you need to take a break for sure. Yeah. Something that one of my co-workers does to help with that actually is they have their Slack open on an iPad that’s next to their machine. Luis: Oh, yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: So instead of seeing those notifications pop up all day long, they just focus on their laptop. And then they have several times a day that they pull the iPad front and center, answer all their Slack messages and then push it back over to the side. And their manager has like their phone number. So if there’s an emergency, they can always get in touch with them quickly, but it has really helped that person with focus as well. Luis: Oh yeah. Yeah. Nice tip. Nice tip. So that’s your usual day. You mentioned Slack, you mentioned Zoom. Are there any other tools that you use, any other tools that are part of your virtual office, so to say? Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah, we use InVision. I know this is going to sound like a product plugging in, but we actually use InVision all day long. As a remote company, it’s just a really powerful tool. I mean, as I mentioned, we use Freehand constantly for all of our interdepartmental communications. When we have meetings, we use it, it’s a live collaborative tool. So it’s whiteboarding where you can go in and everybody can see what you’re doing at once and you can all collaborate on content and take notes and interact through it. It’s really powerful. So that’s something we use non-stop. Jennifer Aldrich: Just InVision in general, from our design perspective, we use our own product. So they -.They make it and they use it while they’re making changes to it. So we’ve got like the prototyping tools and then we have boards and inspect and DSM. We have our design system manager and all these things are just in constant use during the day for us. So yeah, I would say that InVision and the suite of products that comes with that, all the collaborative products and then as well as Slack and Zoom, I wouldn’t say those are the three that I’m in the most during the day. Jennifer Aldrich: And then of course, I’ve got my stuff that I have running on the side that I just enjoy. So I use Spotify all day long, because I’m a big music fan. So that’s always running. And then I also have an app called AnyList. So I have Echo Dots all over my house. And there’s an app has an echo integration where you can set it up so that you can add items to a checklist just by talking to your Echo Dot. And it goes to my phone and it goes to my laptop. Jennifer Aldrich: So if I’m working on something in the middle of the day and then think, “Oh, I have to do this thing later.” and I don’t feel like taking the time to jot it down or I don’t have anything available, I just say it and it goes right to my list, which has been really, really helpful from a productivity perspective so. So I’d say that, that’s another tool that I use pretty regularly during the day. Luis: Nice. It’s like a nice virtual assistant that you have back in call 24/7. That’s really cool. Jennifer Aldrich: It is really nice. And it’s funny because it was actually designed to be a grocery list app, which is wild and that’s still how they market it, but I use it all day long for office productivity. I really love it. Luis: Okay. So regarding this whole remote work business, right? Sure, InVision was made to be remote from start, but that’s not the case. Most people are just being forced to work remotely now and a good amount of people find that it’s actually pretty cool or interesting at any rate. So what do you think is the most interesting thing going right now in the remote workspace to you? Jennifer Aldrich: For me, so like the impact that it’s had on my life from that perspective? Luis: Yeah. Considering the way that remote work is moving right now, right? With the COVID situation, more companies than ever are going remote. How do you think things are going to shake out? Do you think that remote work is going to have a major boost? Do you think that people working remotely will eventually be asked to go back to the offices? What do you think is interesting right now? Jennifer Aldrich: I think this is incredibly exciting to be honest, having people. It’s a horrible situation and it’s extremely unfortunate that this is what ended up pushing us into this change, but I’ve said for a lot of years, since they started working remotely full-time, I really do truly believe that it’s the future. I mean, this really shoved us quickly into that future, unfortunately, and it made a really tough transition for a lot of people because working remotely during the pandemic is not the same as working remotely. Jennifer Aldrich: So right now people are remote, but they have their kids home and there’s no childcare that they can rely on so that they can have focus time. And they’re in their homes with family members constantly. There’s no break. You don’t have an area where you can really get to and really focus. So my one concern about this situation is that many people are getting a bad experience with remote work thinking that this is just the feeling you get any time that you’re working remotely, but this is a completely different thing. Totally different working during a pandemic than it is actually working remotely for a living. So that part’s unfortunate. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: But I think that a lot of the people- Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. A lot of the people going through it right now are enjoying it, even with all this stuff that’s going on alongside it. And I think that companies are starting to really see the business and the feasibility of making this work at a large scale. So with companies like Twitter that are offering to let people go remote full-time, and you’ve got a whole slew of other companies that have followed suit since then. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: It’s opening up an entire segment of the population to be able to work. And I think that, that’s not something that people think about often in relation to remote work, but for example, like I’m chronically ill and I’ve been working remotely all these years and for the first four and a half years that I was InVision, nobody even knew I was though. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: Because I could work full-time for a 100% capability, get everything done that needed to be done, invest all of my energy and really power through my work and enjoy what I was doing, and I was chronically ill. Nobody had any idea. And I was so chronically ill that my doctor had been trying to get me to go on disability prior to getting a full-time remote job. I was in that bad shape. So being able to instead of going on disability, move into a company that has given me the opportunity to climb a career ladder. Being remote it’s something I would not have had the opportunity to do in a traditional office because I can’t go there. Jennifer Aldrich: So that type of thing, people aren’t really thinking about. And then as far as diversity and inclusion goes, for inclusion, of course, that makes a huge impact. People who have issues with mental illness, they’re able to work remotely much more easily than they can in a traditional office. People who have issues with mobility, which is part of the reason that I struggle with as well with low immune systems, people all over the world who may not have the opportunity to get into a different type of career that they’re really interested in if they had to rely on local jobs, it’s just opening this entire world of opportunity. And I think that a lot of times people see remote work as a job perk, digital nomads, people in their 20s who don’t want to … They want to Luis: Yeah, I agree. Absolutely. Absolutely. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. And that’s like the … Yeah, it’s Luis: And it’s really the pathway to true diversity because you actually get people from multiple countries and cultures instead of just people from different shades from your own country- Jennifer Aldrich: Exactly. Luis: … which is still good, but you really get real diversity when you go to different countries. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah, I totally agree. And it’s been the most incredible opportunity. I grew up on a dairy farm in Central Pennsylvania, which is kind of strange and working in technology wasn’t something that I had in mind. I went to Penn State University and got a couple of degrees. None of them were in software design. My background is education and psychology of all things, which seems very unrelated to what I do now, but having the experience to work in the industry that I’m so passionate about, the startup that I joined was in an incubator outside of the university and I just fell in love with design and UX. Jennifer Aldrich: As soon as I had the opportunity to start doing it and being able to stay in this industry, even after that tiny startup was acquired, I thought that was going to be the end. I thought, “Well, if I want to keep doing this, I’m going to have to move to San Francisco. There’s no way I can do this in Pennsylvania.” And then having the opportunity to work remotely for InVision gave me that opportunity to continue with his career that I’m so in love with. So yeah, I just think it’s working. It’s an incredible opportunity for people all over the world. Luis: If you’re okay with that, I want you to talk A bit more about the disability and the chronic illness part, because- Jennifer Aldrich: Sure. Luis: … that’s actually the reason I joined this industry. I was a practicing surgeon before I started working in DistantJob and in this industry and I interacted with people with disability because my fiancee at the time had multiple sclerosis. She had an actual disability diagnosis and her brother got into a car accident. So he was a paraplegic as well. So it was like … And so I spent so much time around these people that were really talented people and hardworking, not just saying that because I had the good relationship with them, that they were good at what they’re doing, but I’m not saying they were genius, but they really didn’t have the opportunity to chime. It was really untapped potential. Luis: They were good, hard workers, but people just wouldn’t give them … Businesses, local businesses, they wouldn’t just give them the time of day. Even though it’s technically illegal to not give jobs to people like that based on their disabilities, we all know that businesses always say that they find someone with more experience or the CV doesn’t exactly match the requirements, but there’s a lot of ways that the company can, let’s say sneak out, because they have this false belief or maybe in some cases, if it’s true, belief that it will impact productivity because yes, productivity is impacted when you can’t walk as well as someone else and you still have to drive to work, or sometimes your immune system is having a bad day, so you’re not feeling so well and going to work, you’re not going to be as productive. Luis: But what I figured out is that home, those people can actually be as productive or even more productive than someone else. They can really let their talents shine. So that’s my story and that’s why I decided to ultimately find a job in a remote recruitment company. I’m wondering, how do you think that we are going to change our hiring practices based on remote to better include and find and seek out these people? Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, Well, first of all, your story just gave me goosebumps. I think it’s so incredible that you’ve jumped into an industry to help out people that are struggling in the ways that you’ve mentioned, and thank you for that. It’s so heartwarming to hear that -. Luis: Well, I’m not doing it. It wasn’t the sacrifice. Jennifer Aldrich: I know. No, no, no. I know, but- Luis: When you go to working at the medical office eight hours a day, you literally don’t see sunlight some days- Jennifer Aldrich: Right. Luis: … and then you can … And now I’m working from my home where I can actually hear the waves crashing on the beach. I’m not doing that to say that it’s been a huge sacrifice for me. This position that I did it because it was the right thing, right? I’m not going to play that card. Jennifer Aldrich: That’s incredible. So to answer your question, my experience was very similar to the one that you were describing, where my main system is compromised, of course, because I have mixed connective tissue disease and a rear seizure disorder. And between the two of them, it just made going into an office with the immune issue. Just, it’s not a possibility. Luis: Oh, yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: As you mentioned, people who have chronic illness and things, their skillset doesn’t change when they end up in a disability situation. It’s not like all of a sudden I forgot everything that I’d learned over the course of my career for 15 years. Just because I can’t walk into an office and will get sick around people, it hasn’t changed the skillset, and I think that’s something that’s difficult as you, just answering your question, with local offices when someone comes in that visibly you can see that there’s an issue. Jennifer Aldrich: The first thought is, “Oh, this person isn’t going to be able to work as hard as everyone else.” And that’s illegal as you mentioned, but unfortunately it’s something that still happens. And a lot of times it’s a subconscious bias. Some people don’t even realize they’re having that response. So it’s really unfortunate. But anyway, I think that remote work, the reason it’s going to just expand the workforce and give all these people the opportunity to work is because it’s a non-issue. Jennifer Aldrich: If I’m on a Zoom call doing an interview, nobody has any idea that I’m ill at all. I’m fine. My voice is strong, I look fine, It’s totally okay. And I can work from my bed on bad days. So if I’m having a day that my mobility is just completely shot and I’m really sick having a flare, I can be sitting in my bed completely, a 100% productive, getting everything done. So I think that these things are going to make a huge impact because companies aren’t going to have that initial response when somebody is walking through the door where they can have that unconscious bias kick in. They’re going to be forced to actually look at a resume and look at a cover letter and then talk to someone on Zoom without ever having any idea that any of these underlying things are going on. Jennifer Aldrich: And it’s interesting because I wrote an article about the experience that I’ve had. Again, after four and a half years … It took me four and a half years to finally get comfortable enough to talk about it with the people I work with because I was thinking, “Oh, it’s going to ruin my career. If I talked about this, people are going to find out I’m ill and they’re not going to want to hire me.” But- Luis: How silly does that look like now? Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah, it’s so wild. And it was such a fear and my mentors just really pushed me, and they’re like, “If you’re comfortable talking about this, this can impact a lot of people’s lives because so many people are going through these things and they lose hope. They actually lose hope. They don’t think that they can continue working. They don’t think that they can have a career that they love anymore.” And just knowing that, that’s a possibility now for more and more people as this remote workforce expands, it’s just so exciting to see this happening. Jennifer Aldrich: But yeah, I just think it’s an incredibly exciting time right now in history. And I think that it’s going to make an absolutely enormous impact on the talent availability, and I’m so excited to be able to talk to you and your organization since you’re really pushing this whole ideal forward and the work that you’re doing, and it’s so impressive and it’s so exciting. Luis: Yeah. Thank you so much. We do try our best and this is the reason I joined. And thank you by the way for sharing your story. Your mentor pushed you in the right direction. It’s important to hear stories like that because it helps you think, “If that person can do it, I can do it as well.” Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. Luis: It’s something that I estimate the value of that. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I actually, after I published that article, I had, I think it was eight employees at my company reach out to me and I hadn’t published it internally. It was a post I just put it on a blog like Medium. It was a Medium blog post, but I had eight different employees at my company reach out and say, “I’ve been battling chronic illness this whole time too and I haven’t told anybody about it because it’s scary.” It’s a scary thing to talk about, and seeing other people talk about it just does give that feeling of comfort. Like, “Man, I am not the only person going through this right now.” Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: And it took me four and a half years. So the other thing I like to say is people are like, “Oh, I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it.” And I said, “Then don’t. Don’t talk about it if you’re not comfortable because that’s a very personal thing to discuss and taking your time with that is absolutely fine.” It’s funny because for all these years also, I’ve been terrified to do podcasting. It just scared me to death, the thought of it, because I blogged constantly, but I can edit those any time. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: So not being able to edit myself with such this like, “Ooh, it was kind of overwhelming and a scary thought.” And that’s another thing my mentors really pushed me and they were like, “You just need to do this. You’ve been putting it off for years. It’s going to be fine. You’re going to really enjoy it once you get started.” They were right. I love it. It’s so much fun. And I really appreciate you having me by the way. Luis: Hey, it’s my pleasure. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. But it was just one of those fears that I just had to kind of conquer. And as you mentioned, having mentors who are really supportive, that pushed you in those areas that caused you some discomfort, put you outside of your comfort zone a little bit, it’s not a pleasant feeling at first, but it can really change your career. It can change your life. Just going that extra step that you’re afraid to take. Luis: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So this was a bit intense. So what do you say? We wind down with some. Jennifer Aldrich: Okay. All right. Luis: Then rapid fire questions. The answers don’t need to be rapid fire. You can be as expansive or not, as you’d like. Jennifer Aldrich: Okay. Luis: So first thing in the morning you open your computer, you open your browser. What are the browser tabs that are open by default and also apps? Jennifer Aldrich: None. I am that person that has no auto task. Yes, I like to be able to launch everything myself in the morning and it just gives me that clean slate feeling where I can jump in slowly, one thing at a time. It helps me with my focus. So yes, I am that person. The only thing that auto lunches on my laptop at all is Slack that just opens by itself and everything else I do one at a time. Yeah. Luis: That’s the one thing I have that I don’t open by myself. Luis: Yes. I guess I’m just that antisocial. I cannot with no people. Please, no people in the morning. Jennifer Aldrich: Sorry. Luis: Yes. Okay. You might not want your teammates to listen to this, but if you had $100 to spend with each person working with you, what would you give them? And the rule is, you need to give the same thing to everyone and you can’t give them the money. Jennifer Aldrich: Amazon gift cards all the way. Luis: That’s a bit of a cheat though. Jennifer Aldrich: That’s probably a cop-out. Luis: That’s kind of a cheat though. I did say no money. It’s technical- Jennifer Aldrich: I know. Okay. It’s technically money. Okay. Let me think about this for another minute then. We’ll go The noncheat route. I would probably, let’s see. I would give them all updated Wi-Fi. Updated Wi-Fi routers. Yep. That would be my approach, and that’s something that I actually ended up doing with my office. We get an office stipends and I got all new routers all over my house and a mesh Wi-Fi. And it is the best investment I’ve ever made in my life. So I think that’s the gift that I would give to my teammates. Luis: Wow. You’re giving the gift of the internet? Jennifer Aldrich: Yes. Luis: That’s actually a very good gift. Actually on a related note, just a couple of weeks ago I gave myself the gift of pulling a wired internet connection from my main hub to my working space, and that has been awesome. Jennifer Aldrich: Ooh, I bet. Jennifer Aldrich: It’s true, even after all this time. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: It’s absolutely true. Luis: Whenever we get the cyborg-cybernetic thing going on, we need an internet port in our net. That’s going to be something that we can do with that. Jennifer Aldrich: It’s funny. Yap, that you’re right. There you go. It’s coming. Luis: I’m not going to connecting with my brain to Wi-Fi every time I changed locations. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. It’s just not worth it too much stress. Yeah. Luis: It just plug me in. Just plug me in. Jennifer Aldrich: It’s all right. Luis: Okay. So purchases, what purchase has made your work life easier or more productive or more balanced, whatever the plus is in the best year? Jennifer Aldrich: In the past year? Well, definitely the Wi-Fi made a huge difference. That is something that I just changed. And I had had a good connection before, but having the mesh all over my house has just been life-changing, constantly great. And then just this isn’t something like a major impact on productivity, but something that’s been really great as a remote employee as I finally invested in a ring light and it’s not one of the giant ones that you have to plug into the wall. It’s just a small ring light that has a little clamp that attaches to my desk so that when I’m on Zoom, I don’t look like I’m in like witness protection, like a shadow and you can’t see my face. You can actually see what’s going on regardless of the time of day. Jennifer Aldrich: And then also having a microphone that actually doesn’t pick up as much ambient noise in the background. I had been using, this is awful, but I had been using my AirPods, which is fine, it’s okay. But the noise in the background, I hadn’t had to listen to myself. And then my daughter, one day I was on Zoom with her when she was at school, she was like, “Why is your sound quality so awful?” Like, “Oh no.” Because I’d been using those for years. So that’s why we got the new microphone set up. My daughter helped me out with that. Luis: Yeah. Would you care to talk a bit about brands? Specifically, maybe not for the ring light, but for the microphone. What is your microphone of choice? Jennifer Aldrich: This microphone is actually not a giant, horribly expensive one, but I’ve been so happy with the sound quality. It’s a Samson C01U Pro and it gets the job done. It’s great. It just has a little tripod. I don’t have a boom or anything. It just, it works really well. Yeah. I’ve been really happy with it. Luis: Nice. To me, really the proof of a good microphone is when I don’t need to have to wear headphones. If I can just talk with other people and have my head free off impairments, that’s when I’m satisfied with my microphone. Jennifer Aldrich: Absolutely. Not picking up all that background noise makes such a difference for sure. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: Yep. I agree. Luis: Okay. So what about books? What book or books have you gifted the most? Jennifer Aldrich: In the design industry the books that I absolutely love, the first one that I bought ever when I started my UX career was, Don’t Make Me Think. Luis: Okay. Jennifer Aldrich: It is one of my absolute favorites, quick, easy read. It’s just brilliant. It’s a great book. Jennifer Aldrich: Yeah. It’s wonderful. It’s really short and sweet and directly to the point. And it’s just a really fun book to read. So that’s one of them. Another that I loved was, The Design of Everyday Things, and that book made me look at the entire world in a different way. Luis: Oh, yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: That was when I first started my career. Yeah. It just made me look at everything around me differently. I’ll never forget. One of the examples in the book is having how you walk up to a door and it sometimes has a handle or a push bar, and some doors you walk into them because you expect the push bar to be a push bar but it’s actually a handle. That was one of the examples in the book. And people’s personal response to that is often, “Oh, I’m an idiot.” And, “No, this design is terrible. That isn’t a horrible design that should not be existing in the world.” So just changing the mindset between, I’m not doing this correctly too. This is terribly designed and needs to be improved is something that changed the way I would look at the entire world. And it helped me focus on making sure that I make better experiences for the people using my products. Luis: Yeah. I can definitely feel you. I feel a slightly more negative version of that. Once I started my career on marketing, my BS detector was so upgraded just from studying marketing that I’m like, “Wow, I really was a schmuck.” Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, no, definitely not. But it is funny how it changes your entire perspective once you get really into it. Luis: Exactly. Exactly. You just see so many layers of manipulation in so many places in society and especially in media that you just you’re … You’re like Neo once he sees the Matrix. It’s really wild. Jennifer Aldrich: You’re right. It is really wild. There’s actually another book related to that, that’s called Hooked. I don’t know if you’ve gotten to read that one yet or not, but it’s very much in line with what you were just discussing, like the manipulation and how people get hooked on technology and the triggers that set it off. It’s really interesting. It’s read. Luis: Yeah. Nice. Nice, good recommendation. Hooked. Jennifer Aldrich: Yes. Luis: All right. So finally, last question. This one takes a little longer to set up. So let me start. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner. You are hosting a dinner where there’s going to be a round table about remote work and the future of work, and you are inviting important guests from tech companies from all over the world. These are decision makers, CEOs, CTOs, hiring managers, et cetera, the people that are going to shape the future of remote work. And the twist is that you are hosting the dinner at the Chinese restaurant. So as the host, you get to choose the fortune cookie question that goes inside the fortune cookies. What is your fortune cookie question? Jennifer Aldrich: Wow. All right. So give me a second to think about this one. So this is for the future leaders of the world. Luis: It doesn’t need to be a question, by the way. It could be a message. Jennifer Aldrich: Okay. I think I would go along the lines of something like, my message to those folks would be, you’re working to support your life. Work is not life. Luis: All right. Jennifer Aldrich: So what I would put in that fortune cookie. I think that’s something that a lot of people, especially sometimes leadership and companies lose sight of. Luis: Yeah. Jennifer Aldrich: The employees are just there to work. They don’t think about their lives in the background. And that’s something at InVision that I’m so grateful for. Working for Clark Valberg, he is just incredible. He’s a kind hearted human being in addition to being a brilliant business-minded person. And I think that, that’s also partly why we have such an excellent company culture is because employee care is at the center of the entire organization. But yeah, I think that would be my fortune cookie message. Luis: Sounds great. Sounds like good fortune cookie message. Okay. Jennifer, it was an absolute pleasure having you as a guest and talking to you. So I’m sure that there will be follow-up questions from the audience. Where can the audience get in touch with you to continue the conversation? How can they learn more about InVision and more about what you do at the InVision, any projects that you might have coming, et cetera? Jennifer Aldrich: Oh, I would love to get in touch with people who are listening. I’m really active on Twitter and my handle is twitter.com/jma245. And I’m on it daily. Love, love, love to connect with people there, and people can feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn. It’s jenniferaldrich1, is my handle there. So if they’d like just to pop in and say hi and connect, I’d love to do that as well. As far as InVision goes, we have our primary website out at invisionapp.com. Jennifer Aldrich: And if anyone is interested in looking for remote jobs in InVision, we have, if you go to invisionapp.com/jobs, it’ll pull up all of our job listings and we are hiring even now. We’re pretty much always hiring and it’s a great place to work. So I recommend checking that out, and yeah, I think … Oh, and if you want to check out some of my writing, I write over, it’s medium.com/@jma245. So that’s my typical handle if you want to check it out, and I would love to connect with everyone. Luis: Sounds great. We’re going to include all those in the show notes. So ladies and gentlemen, this has been a Jennifer Aldrich from InVision, and this was the DistantJob Podcast, I’m your host, Luis, a podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. Thank you so much Jennifer for coming. Jennifer Aldrich: Thank you so much for having me. It was an absolute pleasure. Luis: And so we closed another episode of the DistantJob 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 gets to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to DistantJob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode than 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 as 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 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 at DistantJob Podcast.
Although remote work is the new normal for most companies, many others have been doing it for the last couple of years. They’ve learned what works and what doesn’t regarding managing virtual teams. In this episode, Jennifer Aldrich takes us through her journey, working for 5 years at InVision, a remote-first company. She shares why onboarding is a crucial step that all remote companies need to consider and how having the right strategies leads to better company culture and engaged employees.
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