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Many people have questions about my life abroad after coming home from three months of traveling as a digital nomad. How does someone in Human Resource work remotely? How did I get started? What do I do while I travel? Is my company okay with me working remotely? (Spoiler alert = Yes they are!).
After connecting with Women Digital Nomads, I realized these questions were not just coming from my peers but many aspiring and current digital nomads too. Well, you asked and I answered!
Check out some of the most frequently asked questions we received about working remotely.
Getting started as a digital nomad
How do you get started as a digital nomad?
There are many paths you can take to becoming location independent. The two most common ways are freelancing or finding a remote company to work for virtually as a full-time employee.
“What skills do you have that could be useful digitally?”
My recommendation for people trying to become a digital nomad is to find your outlet and take baby steps. What skills do you have that could be useful digitally? Who in your network needs consulting work? Could you perform your current job virtually? If you work for a company that already allows you to telework or have a flex-time, consider asking them to support you in a situation where you can work remotely for a week or for a month at a time.
“Working while traveling full time is not for everyone.”
I would also recommend thinking about why you want to be a digital nomad – working while traveling full time is not for everyone. Other ways you may be able to travel long term includes saving up for backpacking trips, working gig jobs while traveling or volunteering abroad.
Once you know what type of work is a good fit for your skills and the type of travel you are hoping to accomplish it is easier to narrow down where to look for remote jobs. Some sites I would recommend to get you started include: Remotebase and WeWorkRemotely.
How do you find freelance work?
If you’re considering freelancing, start thinking about the skills you offer and how you can use them to begin building a client base.
When I first got started, I reached out to previous managers and asked if I could do consulting work for them. I also leaned heavily on my professional network to share my availability and goals. I learned to be more open about new opportunities and took on client projects that were not always directly aligned with my background. These gigs helped build my portfolio.
What skills are needed to break into the IT industry without formal coding experience?
You generally need technical experience of some kind to break into the industry.
In some cases, you can rely on other strengths. For example, if you have significant sysadmin experience but limited coding, you might be able to grow into more advanced roles over time.
For people hoping to get into the industry, I recommend doing side projects and setting up virtual labs to play with and experience new technology.
Working and traveling
When you first started, how sure were you that things would work out with what you were doing? How scared were you?
Going against the normal 9-5 office job in order to travel the world can definitely be scary.
When I first started I thought a lot about job security, the safety of the locations I was visiting, and the potential for community. Thinking through these things and choosing my route based on these factors helped reduce my anxiety.
What is the average time you spend in one place?
I try to stay a minimum of one month in each country I visit. This allows me to get to know certain areas quite well and not feel pressured to rush through a bucket list of tourist attractions.
By spending more time in a certain area I can easily balance work and travel.
What does a typical week look like for you?
Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, I have recurring meetings throughout the day so I always plan my work around those meetings.
I like to start every day with a short walk to wake up and learn more about the city I am staying in. I then find either a co-working space or coffee shop to set up my office for the next few hours. I also try to seek out a few gyms with classes in every city I visit.
I have more flexibility on Wednesdays and Thursdays and plan work around the city I am in. Sometimes I choose to explore during the day and work in the evening or I work during the day in order to partake in a fun local event.
Do you find yourself working way too many hours so you can have the freedom of location, but yet find that also translates into having little time to truly explore and enjoy your travels?
I balance my time by integrating work and my travels together. I treat finding a new place to work as a fun activity for the day – trekking to the other side of town to work at a café in that cool neighborhood I haven’t been to yet. I also use sightseeing activities or events as a reward for getting my job done.
What are some great connectivity hacks for working in remote locations?
Connectivity is one of the most important things to be able to work remotely. I make sure to plan out co-working spaces and coffee shops in each neighborhood I plan on visiting so I can pop in to do work when needed. I bookmark these on an offline map so they are readily available.
I also carry a portable hot-spot and buy local SIM cards to connect my laptop and phone on the go.
How do you find affordable accommodation when you travel (longer than 5-6 days) – that are not hostels?
I generally like to balance private rooms in hostels for the social experience with looking for weekly or monthly discounts in Airbnb homes (many times you can email the host and inquire about special rates for longer stays).
Two things I have not yet personally tried is looking for accommodation in digital nomad Facebook groups or a Co-Living accommodation, both of which are popping up in the trendier “digital nomad hubs.” Co-Living is not necessarily the most affordable option but it does offer a sense of community, housing, and reliable WiFi, which might be ideal for some travelers.
How do you deal with loneliness? What do you do to make meaningful connections with others?
Loneliness on the road is real but not impossible to overcome. I make sure to check in with friends and family back home as well as seek out groups of people on the road through interest based meetup groups, co-working spaces, and through organized activities.
A free walking tour is one of the first things I do in each city both to get a lay of the land and also to meet other travelers.
Working full time at a company also helps. DuckDuckGo helps facilitate connections with our team through a variety of virtual team building such as “neighbors” talks, “get to know your company” blogs and company meetups.
Additionally, there are lots of communities you can join if you are nervous about traveling on your own. Check out Women Digital Nomads’ Retreats & Camps page for some ideas!
What are some of the most effective ways to protect my privacy and that of my clients if I am working as a digital nomad?
The most important things to do include: Full Disk Encryption (phone and laptop), 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) wherever possible, and using a password manager. For more tips about protecting your privacy online check out: Spread Privacy’s privacy tips
Which is a bigger challenge: Having the right digital skills to work online, or possibly having to work all the time because you are not confined by the traditional working hours?
That definitely depends on the person! I think the real challenge lies in the holistic skillset you are bringing to the table as a digital nomad.
In order to be a successful remote worker, you need to be proactive and self-motivated to make sure you are getting work done and not getting caught up in traveling aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle.
How DuckDuckGo makes remote work, work
How does DuckDuckGo help the employees on productivity and teamwork being fully remote?
DuckDuckGo has a variety of organizational support and tools to help our fully remote team stay productive. We organize everything we do around company objectives and commit to one top priority per person each week.
Additionally, each team member has a personal Project Advisor to help them navigate project milestones and obstacles as well as a Career Advisor to help with long-term career goals and skill development.
How do you build culture remotely?
DuckDuckGo is a very mission-driven company. Our mission to build the world’s most trusted search engine. People work here are motivated by our shared vision of raising the standard of trust online. We all personally want to work towards a future that we want to exist.
We take our shared core values seriously and strive to create a place where everyone enjoys working and finds it extremely rewarding. To that end, we are constantly working on and trying to refine our culture for the better. This comes from documented blog posts about our culture to exemplifying and rewarding behavior that reinforces our core values and team expectations.
We also have a shared set of cultural icons, activities, and events such as sharing GIFs, quarterly Hack Days, Low Hanging Fruit Days, and Organizational Days, and our Green Bow Tie award (a weekly employee award for going above and beyond that is passed on from the previous winner).
What do you use to set up time for meet up with clients around the world?
Scheduling meetings are one of the biggest challenges for a remote company with employees living in L.A., Philadelphia, Tokyo and many places in between. We rely on Doodle that has a feature to convert times into your local time zones in order to coordinate times that work well for all stakeholders.
Do you use an app for self-accountability?
At DuckDuckGo we communicate in Asana, our communication is very transparent internally and therefore it helps us stay accountable via weekly project updates.
What platforms are you using to work with your online team?
At DuckDuckGo we communicate using a variety of platforms:
- HipChat: For casual quick water cooler conversations or synchronous questions
- Asana: For more formal announcements, asynchronous conversations, and project management
- Zoom: Video conferencing for meetings and 1:1 conversations
For the available roles at DuckDuckGo, when does it start?
DuckDuckGo has a very unique hiring process. We offer candidates paid projects, including an initial contracting period, that provides both us and the candidate the opportunity to validate if there is a good fit by actually working together. Overall the process generally takes between 4 weeks to a couple months.