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Workstyle Stories 003 - 'Kerry'(1)

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Welcome to Workstyle Stories, because life changes, and every life is different. This week, I'm joined by Kerry Kiel. Hi Kerry! Hello, Alex. Hi. And we're going to be talking about travel, we're going to be talking about synchronous and asynchronous working, and we're going to be talking about work fitting around life. But before we do that, Kerry, just tell us a little bit about who you are, where you come from, where you live and what you do. Okay, my name is Kerry, Kerry Kiel. I'm originally from the UK. I'm currently living in Thailand and among other things I do digital project managing, I run my own company, and yeah, take projects, freelance projects on, here and there. It looks like you're living the dream. I mean, that background and the weather, it just looks spectacular. Do you like my palm trees? Yeah. I'm feeling the real need to get out and sample nature now having seen you. So, tell us a little bit about your work then, because you haven't always lived and worked in Thailand have you? So - what took you there? Where were you before that? What were you doing? Okay. So I actually came to Thailand originally to be a diving instructor in 2003, and then I kind of went along the diving career ladder, and ended up running my own dive centre in the Hilton in Phuket. Then I fell in love, and wanted to get married to a German man - and as part of that, after 10 years in Phuket, we moved to Germany. I followed the job, I was in an office job there and then went on to Africa, and I've actually gone full circle and I'm back in Thailand now, but luckily enough, I can keep my work and keep doing my thing because of what we're talking about today, which is workstyle. Wow. So you've done a lot of travelling, I mean it sounds pretty envious. Talk to me about your - you said there you had a proper job - in Germany was it? Outside of the scuba diving, I then got a proper job. You were living the nine-to-five dream. So, talk to me about that and how did that work? So, you went to Germany with your fella and what was it like? Well actually it was part of my own dream to go back to Europe, and after 10 years here in Thailand I thought I wanted the norm, which was nine-to-five and being in an office with other people and, I thought that would be for me, and I just felt very limited by it. I didn't feel like I could get where I wanted to be with it and I missed the travel. My husband's career actually involves a lot of travel. I wasn't able to be with him and it was very limiting to me. Yeah, absolutely. So what happened then at that point? So you stopped doing that, or did you... you relocated didn't you because your husband travels a lot? So how did that go down? He got an opportunity to move to Africa, and actually I think the first thing that came with me was the stress of that, because I didn't want to lose my job, but I did want to be with my husband, and it was really stressful. It's like, how do I make this happen? And you know, that, that takes its toll on your mental health actually, it takes its toll on your relationship, and I needed to find a way - and that's when I started to look into freelancing and how could I retrain? How do I have the time to retrain? How do I do that? I just had to take a serious think about getting out of the traditional, let's say nine-to-five, but the traditional working model, and find something new that works. Yeah. Okay. So you moved whilst you did that job though, right? So you didn't just do it in Germany? Is that right? So you were doing it from all over? So that's quite forward thinking of them to let you do that. But, how was it, in reality, that working- you know, being the the remote worker, if you like, of the team when a team is in Germany? I know what you mean, because when I first moved, I found myself, okay, I was actually in Africa - I was in Uganda first, and later in Nigeria - and I felt limited because I wanted to know more about those cultures, I wanted to know more about those countries. I wanted to be a part of those countries. But I was working, still somehow tied to the traditional model, working remotely, but the rest of the office were nailed in nine-'till-five in Germany, what I thought expecting me to be nailed to that same time frame, that same model and I felt restricted by it. There was no time for me to go and meet new people or do new things, because I had to be at my desk. So fast forward then, so obviously you took the plunge at that point then to stop the nine-to-five, albeit with the benefits of having the ability to travel and to work from anywhere. The issue more was about being in a different place to everyone else but working to the same schedule; so sort of almost synchronous working, albeit perhaps in a different time zone. So, you obviously decided to change direction and you are where you are now. So tell me a little bit now about what you do differently today. So how is life different for you now? Well I have the opportunity to get away from my desk and not feel guilty about it. You know, I communicate my hours to those that I work with on each project. I think that's quite an important thing to say, and I think that, you know, workstyle is not necessarily fixed for me. I don't like to be fixed by it or feel like I have to be at my desk. So what I've done is week by week, or sometimes month by month, depending on the project, I define my workstyle to make sure that I have those opportunities to be able to enjoy where I live. So that might be to be able to take my dog for a walk, or to go down to the beach, or to a running group that, you know, we meet at certain times of day. Every Thursday afternoon, I go and play tennis. But I'm not actually working any less. I've just kind of shuffled my hours and my life around what I do. Exactly, and that is so important, because you can get so bogged down, just sat at your desk and feeling like you can't live, and that's what the new workstyle has done for me, if you like. So that's brilliant. So from your point of view, obviously, things are rosy, and that's great. But in terms of the people that you're working with then, so the problem that you had before with this kind of asynchronous synchronous working, so expected to be together at the same time how does it work with everyone else? So you said that you tell people when you're working and when they can work with you, but how does it work in practice in terms of the people you work with all knowing what they're supposed to be doing and doing the things that they're doing if you're not working together at the same time? Does everyone have the same approach? Yes, everyone I work with has their own workstyles, actually, and we all respect that. So, you know, there's a lot of collaboration in documents sometimes, rather than having endless meetings. We can actually get through a lot and achieve a lot just through some of the applications that are out there. You know, be it collaborating in Google Documents, or collaborating in forums or Slack channels or something like this, and I think those kind of tools are really important because you can still share fun things like pictures and chat and emojis or something like this and make it a bit fun. Also, like I said, my workstyle, because it's not fixed, it can be quite flexible to the project I'm working on. So if I know that there is a weekly meeting, and the team are getting together at this time each week, it's fine, it's an hour of my time. But I will find time - I'll work around that. So if it happens that on a Friday suddenly I'm working a lot of afternoons, I won't work Friday mornings for a month, or something like this. It works - for me anyway. Brilliant. So you're in control. I love the way that you talk about shuffling because I think really, that's what this is all about. Being able to shuffle your own priorities, be responsible for the things you're responsible for, but in charge of when and where you do them, and that hopefully gives you more of a fulfilled life, and the way you talked about it, in terms of connecting with the country you're living in, or the people you're living near and being more in touch with that as you travel and explore. I think that's inspiring and something that I think all of us would love to do at some point. So Kerry, thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Yeah, I think life changes, life's flexible and I just like to be able to have a workstyle that reflects that as well. Good for you.

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Posted by: _kim_nguyen on Sep 8, 2020

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