Name: Sheila Sewe
Current Job: Sales Resources Specialist, Remote
Current Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Can you share with us your experience with remote work and how you landed your current position?
I have about 3 years of experience working remotely. It all started late 2019. I worked for a Kenyan start-up that had flexible working and had already adopted a hybrid working model. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we had already adopted to working really well remotely. The economy wasn’t doing too well and we took pay cuts in order to survive. Around the same time, a former colleague started a website (PeopleWho) where he would post remote roles. Most of these roles were product oriented (software development, research, design etc) and were more suitable for my husband. I would check them out and share the suitable ones with him. That’s when I had a eureka moment, realising that, these companies must have other remote roles that could be suitable for me. I would actively go into these other companies’ career pages; get to know more about what they do and see if there are suitable remote roles in my field. That’s how I found out about Remote and after reading more about the company, the values and mission, I applied to some roles that I was interested in. I was a match for one of the roles and that’s how I got in.
Can you explain the nature of your remote company’s business?
Remote makes it easy for companies to hire and pay people living anywhere in the world. We take care of payroll, benefits, compliance, taxes, stock options, relocation and more for international employees and contractors. Talent is everywhere – opportunity is not. Remote closes the gap by enabling employers to hire anyone from anywhere, providing access to opportunity so people everywhere can build better lives. We help companies become global powerhouses by expanding their access to talent beyond their borders.
What does your typical workday look like?
I start my day at 6.30am when my kids wake up to prepare for school. I have twin girls who are 6years old and a 2-year-old boy. My husband or I take the 6year olds to school every morning at 7.20am. He also works remotely.
Once we are back home, we prepare for the day, have breakfast and we are usually in our home office by 8am. I start work at 9am.
Between 8am and 9am, I study (thanks to Remote’s Learning Budget). Sometimes, I start work when I want to take a break from my learning. I generally like to work between 9am to 6pm, with a break for lunch at 1pm. In Remote, we work async, so the hours are very flexible and I am able to set my work hours around what’s happening in my family and life.
My two-year-old is mostly handled by our amazing nanny, and she knows that she can interrupt me at any time in case of any issues or if she needs a break herself J. He interrupts us many times and for the most part, we sometimes work with him in the office – unless it is a full-blown tantrum.
How did you handle receiving job rejections?
Rejections are never easy L. They are as painful as heartbreaks, sometimes worse. Whenever I am applying for a job, I put all my effort into it, and keep reminding myself that I have value, I am skilled and I am capable, whether I get the position or not. That makes it easier to move on to the next application. Positivity is always key when applying for jobs. I also lean into my faith in God and always pray for better outcomes.
What are the must-have tools and platforms you utilize for working remotely?
Slack – for quick communication with teams and social connection. Using emojis bring life into the messaging – we use emojis a lot.
Loom – since we work in an async environment, Loom videos are perfect to share ideas and communicate.
Project Management tools – Asana, Kissflow, Basecamp, Monday.com (basically whatever rocks your boat here)
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance while working remotely?
Set boundaries – If everything around me is generally predictable (by this I mean, my school going kids are in school, my toddler is happy with his nanny, my husband and I are healthy), I make sure that I start and stop my work in time. Every. Single. Day. This gives my family that predictability, and I am able to work effectively. My children know they are welcome in my office at any time, but they also know that we work from home and there are times they will find me in a meeting or deeply focused on a particular task. I take breaks to help them with homework, prepare their evening snack, and help with usual life questions.
Being disciplined – remote working is not for the faint-hearted J. You need to be disciplined in order to meet and exceed the requirements and expectations. This doesn’t mean working yourself to death. It only means you have to be a great manager of 1.
Planning my day in advance – I try and visualise my next work day in advance. When are my meetings (if any)? What tasks did I intend to finish that I didn’t and will need to start with those tomorrow? What are the things I saw today that will determine what I do tomorrow? Asking myself these questions prior to the next working day gives me a sense of stability and working without panic. I am able to start my next work day calmly and focused. Of course, in this life you can never plan everything and there will be days where all these just fly out the window and I have to wing it; but for most days, this helps.
Know your limits – diligent remote workers are more susceptible to exhaustion and burnout. If you enjoy your work, it becomes even harder to detach yourself from your work. Give yourself mental breaks. If you work from home or a co-working space, ensure you take some time to enjoy the sunshine (or rain) in between tasks, rest when you need it, hydrate and remember to eat as well. Basically, take care of your physical and mental health even as you work remotely.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest advantages of working remotely?
Flexibility – Remote working (and especially async working) allows me to have a flexible schedule. When I need to rest, I do so – no questions asked (literally); when I need a mental break – I can take the opportunity to do so – guilt-free. I am able to be a part of many aspects of my family’s life example (picking and dropping my kids from school and getting the opportunity to interact with them in this manner, help them with their homework, be part of their playtime at home and other examples). I do not have to choose what to focus on at this point in my life. I get to do it all (be a wife, mum, friend, colleague/employee) and I am grateful for this.
Increased productivity – I do not lose time in commuting or in unnecessary meetings (thanks to async working) and I can pursue some other personal interests without hindering or jeopardizing work. For example, I can wake up and bake for my family and still be able to start my work on time.
As a remote worker based in Africa, what advice would you offer to those seeking remote work opportunities?
Decide what type of remote work you are looking for and narrow your search to these types of roles. For example, not all remote working opportunities are open to remote workers based in Africa. More companies are hiring in Africa, but there are some companies that will hire remotely but only in specific regions (you will see these advertised as Remote (US), Remote (UK) etc)
Use LinkedIn to get to know about global remote organisations. Many of them post their opportunities on LinkedIn. For LinkedIn, the platform still doesn’t allow job posters to indicate “Global” or “Remote – Worldwide”. You will need to check in each opportunity (preferably on the company site or in the full job description) to see if they are a fully remote working company that hires from all parts of the world.
Follow remote work experts or influencers on LinkedIn. They post lots of advice on remote working including companies hiring remotely and also where to search. Example: Hanna Larsson
Not all companies work async. There are companies that hire remote workers but will expect you to work specific hours depending on their preferred time zone. You will need to adjust your lifestyle to suit these types of roles. Again, these will (or should) be indicated in the job description.
Last and most importantly, check out Remote’s I Choose Remote page, as it has lots of resources on how to find remote jobs, remote interview tactics and advice on visas and work permits for those who want to relocate.