Zuora is the leading cloud-based subscription management platform, a B2B SaaS software provider for subscription-based products and services. I joined it back in August after spending 8.5 years at Western Governors University (WGU); my last role there was Marketing Technology Manager. At WGU I was in a B2C online higher education setting.
At both Zuora and WGU, my role is to track the entire tech stack that Marketing uses. By working with stakeholders, various departments, and vendors, I strive to optimize the stack through technical, contractual, and organizational behavioral tactics.
I am also a contributor to MarTech and have presented at a few of its associated conferences.
Tell us about your team!
Where are your teammates located?
I live in the Salt Lake City area. My boss and one of my colleagues are in San Francisco. The fourth teammate is in the St. Louis area.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
My three teammates are Marketing Operations practitioners, which means that they work a lot with our CRM and Marketing Automation platforms. That means that they often work with different stakeholders in and beyond Marketing on sending out email messaging as well as maintaining our account and contact databases. They also help with the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) model.
What are the components of a strong remote culture?
I think that trust is a big factor. It is one thing when everyone works in the same physical space, but it’s hard to track people when they are in different places. Thus, it is important to have trust between colleagues that they will be available when they’re needed and meet deadlines.
It is also important to have regular conversations about things that have nothing to do with work. This can include all sorts of things including: movies, holiday plans, and hobbies. It is nice to know that people you virtually spend a lot of time with are more than just coworkers -- just like if y’all worked in the same space.
Another very important factor is open communication. It is sometimes difficult to read non-verbal cues or demonstrate things for other people virtually. So, it is very helpful to have safe places and times for candor. That way y’all can better understand where everyone is coming from, exercise emotional intelligence better, and grant each other grace. Further, it is important to openly acknowledge that working remotely from each other has its pros and cons.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections. Strong connections are built with Hailey.
How do you make sure your team is happy and engaged in their work?
It is important to meet on a regular cadence.
My Zuora team meets on Tuesdays to discuss what we’re each individually working on that week as well as what else is happening in the broader organization. Then we meet on Friday afternoons to celebrate our wins of the week, and that meeting is certainly lighter. Individually we have regular sync up sessions with each other to further stay on the same page.
It is important to have regular conversations about things that have nothing to do with work.
What's your biggest challenge as a remote leader?
There are many challenges -- just as there are with working in the same space. I would say that it is exhausting to be in so many virtual meetings. It’s strange that something so physically tame is so tiring. That is why it is important to allow people to take mental breaks.
My Remote Manager Toolbox
At WGU, we would all jump on a call and play the mobile game Psych!. The game is premised on knowing quirky stuff about each other, and it was hilarious to see what we thought best described each other.
Further my boss at WGU, would send us all a DoorDash gift card. We would all order a meal to get delivered, and we would eat lunch together. We did so virtually, but since we all used to work together in the office, we met once or twice at a park to hang out in a low-risk setting for COVID-19. At Zuora, we do a similar thing virtually once a month or so.
Both teams rarely have done anything formal, but we typically start team meetings with small talk about non-work stuff. Let’s just say I work with some citizens of Bachelor Nation...
Products & Tools
Zuora sends out bi-weekly mini-surveys asking how things are going. Our direct boss reads those.
WGU uses Motivosity that allows people to give each other small sums of money to celebrate achievements or to recognize each other for living our leadership and cultural principles. Motivosity allows its users to either purchase gift cards or donate the cash to a charity. Zuora uses Achievers, which is similar.
Resources for remote leaders
Books, webinars, and online courses (LinkedIn Learning, Pluralsight, Coursera, etc.) about emotional intelligence, feedback, and coaching are all helpful.
Make your company a great place to work
"Adding Hailey has been by far the lowest effort, highest impact thing we’ve done to bring our globally scattered team together!" - Mary Grace Reich