My first year at Clearbit: learning how to be remote and resourceful

My first year at Clearbit: learning how to be remote and resourceful

June 06, 2019

When I tell people I work remotely, I either hear one of two things: "You're so lucky" or "I could never do that".

And I can relate to both.

Working remotely can be hard, especially at a rapidly growing and changing tech company. I was hired at Clearbit as a Growth Engineer — someone who combines development skills with marketing to create experiences that entice new prospects or help existing customers achieve more with our products — and now I head up our conversion team.

This is my first fully remote job, and I had my fair share of difficulties. I'm nine hours ahead of HQ, so there's not a lot of overlap with many coworkers. Being very social, I really missed the in-office banter and team camaraderie. It's hard to even know how a project is received when you can't see how (or if) your teammates in other departments are using it. As a person who thrives on feedback, uncertainty can rise up about whether you're doing a good or bad job and lead to imposter syndrome.

There are lots of pros though:

  • Productivity: The lack of distractions has been great for focus.
  • Team: I work with a fully remote team of awesome individuals. We have offsites, bi-weekly activity-time and push each other to learn and grow.
  • Location: I get to work and live in Spain, while travelling to visit my family in Ireland whenever I please. I've booked flights as little as six hours in advance, without missing any work or deadlines.
  • More time for relationships: Working from home means I can spend a lot more time with my fiancée and no time commuting. Planning for a family in the future, this will be even sweeter.
Clearbit growth teamGrowth team in Ireland. I'm the tall one on the left!

Yet six months into the job, depending upon the day, I was still bouncing between dwelling on the pros or cons. I could be on cloud nine on a Monday and the very next day miss being in an office, feeling out of the loop and wondering whether remote was actually for me. The emotional roller-coaster wasn't ideal for bringing my best self to work every day.

Until it hit me – I didn't have to be on the rollercoaster. I have control over how I experience remote life. I stopped worrying about the things I was missing out on, and started being grateful for all of the good things and really embraced remote life. Companies can do a lot to create great remote culture, but the autonomy that comes with being remote also means there's a lot left to you to decide how to make it work.

Finding a new path for progress

Shifting my mindset to embrace and take charge of working remotely was a game changer, unlocking a new level of personal growth. In the last six months I levelled up, because I got out of my own head and started focusing on the areas where I could really add value:

  • I've seen myself progress from a "paste code from a Google search and pray it works" hacker to a proper software engineer, working in a proper development environment. A huge thanks goes to our engineering team in helping me on this journey (special shoutouts to Rob, John, Tristan and David).

  • I shipped so many cool projects, focused on improving experiences for new prospects, helping existing customers achieve more with our products and internal teams to work more efficiently.

ICP pageI created a script for our success team to generate an ICP report, which we turned into a one-click process and shareable page.
  • I embraced my "zone of genius". I used to want to be everything to everyone, but now focus on the things where I can add most value. I say "no" more — like saying "no" to design work and entrusting it to someone else.

  • I learned how to be more resourceful with delegation and ask for help. You don't have to solve every problem by yourself. Our growth team is really special at Clearbit; we each have our areas of expertise and complement each other nicely — and I am in the lucky position where I can ask my colleagues for help or feedback when I need it. And I can use company money to hire external resources when we lack them internally.

The right environment for growth

Good work is only possible when there's an environment of (1) autonomy, (2) trust, and (3) healthy communication habits. These are foundational to any great work culture whether you’re remote or not — but it’s even more pronounced in remote.

Autonomy: At Clearbit, I have complete freedom to work across products and teams, to apply my effort where it will be most valuable. If you have a good idea, you can run with it. After taking the time to understand our team and goals, you choose how to impact them and lean on the team for help along the way.

Trust: When it comes to trust, it's as simple as being treated as we like to be treated ourselves. There is nobody to watch you work or tell you what to do – I am trusted to take my own initiative and do what is best for the team. And I trust my teammates to do the same.

Communication: And finally, we aim for healthy communication and vulnerability. This is something I have seen evolve at Clearbit during my time here. Yes, we have the basics down for async updates, great documentation, Zoom calls, and minimal meetings. But about six months ago, we got more deliberate with implementing the fundamentals of Conscious Leadership.

Now, every weekly 1:1 involves giving honest feedback ("I like that you             ", "I wish that you             "), we encourage being open and vulnerable in communication, and we bring up emotions we feel quickly and respectfully. This creates a culture of growth, one where we all are helping each other develop. It took a while to get used to, but I could never go back. This may sound like indoctrination, but our team trust is at a new high. I trust my team emphatically, and when you have that level of trust it unlocks amazing work across the board.

remote work gameAnd we also play online games like Drawful every other Friday to get some fun face-time

What's ahead

With this stronger foundation, I'm really looking forward to continued progress. Clearbit is growing quickly — in a controlled and smart way (we're profitable, and have been since six months young). From a personal perspective, I want to help with that growth, continue to learn, and one day, take my learnings to the fitness tech world to help improve others' lives. At Clearbit, I can be real about my aspirations while still learning and putting my best foot forward for the company, all while being remote.

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