Building a Remote Work Culture: An Interview with Jaimee Newberry

Jaimee Newberry is a designer, consultant, coach, speaker, writer, and all-around awesome person. She contributed to the broadcast of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, helped lead mobile strategy and design for Zappos, and was Director of User Experience for Black Pixel. We recently talked with Jaimee about podcasts, tiny challenges, her new book, and her talk for the upcoming AEA DC and AEA Orlando: Special Edition.

It's been two years since we did one of these. What have you been up to in the meantime?

Yes! I think we did this in late 2014. I'm excited to share a few of the most recent things.

The Unprofessional podcast wrapped in 2014. But this year co-host Daniel Steinberg and I knocked out Season 1 of the “tinychallenges” podcast. It's also been quite an honor to be a guest on a handful of shows including Release Notes, Debug, and iOhYes.

In terms of professional coaching, I've coached more than 40 individuals and teams with culture, process refinement, career path/development, collaboration, and communication. This has been some of the most fulfilling work of my life, and I'm still going!

But the biggest and possibly freshest news is that in February 2016 I accepted a role as Chief Operations Officer for the premiere iOS+Mac+Android dev and training company, MartianCraft. We're a 100% remote team—we are honored to serve some of the largest and sharpest teams in the world! I love this team and I'm excited to be a part of such an incredible company.

What sold you on joining MartianCraft, and what are you most looking forward to doing there?

Joining MartianCraft was not only about the ability to continue working 100% remotely from my home, and the understanding that I'm an independent mother with two young girls. It wasn't only the amazing, talented, and kind individuals who work here, or the offer to accept a role that feels like, “Finally, at last, it fits!”

What sealed the deal for me was that working with MartianCraft never once made me feel my gender. I've worked in a lot of environments that felt like a “boys' club.” But from our first conversation about the potential to work together, to agreeing to come aboard full time in the capacity of COO, at MartianCraft I've simply felt like an empowered human being. I've felt listened to and clearly understood, rather than dismissed or placed in a glass case. I've felt elevated, rather than shelved. I've felt supported and encouraged.

I'm most looking forward to strengthening, and sharing externally the amazing stuff this team does internally—from experimenting in our MartianCraft Labs, to refining the process of what it means to work and collaborate remotely, internally as a team, and with our clients. Kinks in remote culture definitely come up, and we actively work them out. We've got a lot of information to share!

I've been experimenting with quite a few other things, as well. I started an experimental YouTube vlog, I've been writing a good amount of Medium posts and #coffeewithjaimee sketches, while also trying/testing new apps, hanging out with my kids, and most recently putting some focus back on my physical health.

All this experimenting resulted in starting something more officially called #tinychallenges. The idea is to break things down really small, like two minutes or less per day, in order get out of our own way and DO MORE. Experiment, learn, mess up, try again. Put stuff out into the world. Every day is an opportunity to push ourselves and grow, even if only in the tiniest of ways. Over time, these #tinychallenges add up to life-changing things.

Tell us more about #tinychallenges!

I started experimenting my way through 2013 with small, random challenges after a severe case of burnout triggered by the loss of my dad in 2012. Eventually, I committed to doing a random monthly challenge for every month that had 31 days in it. Because of the momentum and fun, it quickly grew into something I did every single month. Every new month, a new challenge. I was never very consistent with how I tagged these projects in the early days. Sometimes it was #31days, #30days, sometimes #randomadventures; it varied depending on what I was doing.

My friend Brad Heintz, upon joining me for a one-month challenge, suggested unifying the name to something easier to follow and join. We landed on the name: “tinychallenges.”

Our Slack community continues to grow, a related podcast was born as well, and I've been invited to share my story all around the world, about how I used tinychallenges to eradicate excuses and build-up to writing the first draft of my first book, which is currently with an editor, and will hopefully be ready to share with the world by 2017! It's my favorite talk to give!

A book? Congratulations! What's the title and topic?

Thank you! I'm super excited! It's called, They Call it a Comeback: The Essential Guide to Surviving Life Burnout. It's the book my primary audience has been asking me for, for a couple years. I'll reserve further details until the book announcement, hopefully this fall.

You have a talk in DC and Orlando called “The Art of the Sell.” What will attendees take away from it?

My goal is that designers and developers will take away some really practical skills that will tighten up the way they talk about their work, and how they communicate in their day-to-day interactions. In our line of work, we have to be salespeople. We sell our ideas internally to our teams and managers. We sell our work to prospective and existing clients. Selling is in every fiber of our work as designers and developers.

In the past, selling was a skill I fumbled through by wearing a lot of different hats over the past 18 years—from production artist to Chief Operations Officer and everything in-between. I did it wrong a lot. And, while I'm constantly realizing how much more there is to learn, I'm excited to share what I've learned so far. I believe my information will make life a bit more blissful for designers and developers in regard to the fine art of working with other human beings.

What has you most excited these days?

Three things that cover a broad range of my day-to-day activities, outside of being a mom:

  1. Helping teams/individuals with culture, process refinement, collaboration, and communication.
  2. Hammering out the sticky points in remote-employee culture through experimentation. I love this work and I'm honored that I get to do it not only with my team at MartianCraft, but that we get to help other incredible teams through coaching and training, as well.
  3. Finishing my first book.

Congratulations again on the book, Jaimee—we can't wait to read it!

Jaimee Newberry will present “The Art of the Sell” as part of An Event Apart DC and An Event Apart Orlando: Special Edition, to be held at Disney's Contemporary Resort October 3-5, 2016. Don't miss your chance to see this enlightening session and many others—register today!