Kristi DePaul
December 23, 2019

Interview with Kristi, a CEO and remote team leader

Kristi is a CEO, remote work author, and speaker. In this interview, she shares the impact of new motherhood and remote team leadership on her work.

How did you get started with remote work?

I began working remotely back in 2013, first as a marketing consultant working with startups and universities, and then in a fulltime communications role with a large higher ed IT association.

I'd already spent six years in traditional brick-and-mortar jobs but was eager to break free from the four walls of an office--knowing full well that I could accomplish anything I was working on from anywhere I could use a laptop.

That was such a freeing feeling. I stayed in that role for two years before striking out on my own with a teammate whom I've known for decades. Now there are six of us.

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What are you working on?

A LOT is happening these days! I run a fully remote content marketing firm called Founders Marketing, with a distributed team that spans ten time zones. We develop content and social strategy for organizations focused on the future of learning and the future of work—so learning design firms, popular education blogs, remote-focused startups, edtech companies, and mentoring platforms are all part of our current client portfolio.

My background is in marketing communications in the education space, so they appreciate our domain expertise. The work takes the form of content audits, editorial strategy, writing (blog posts, social campaigns with imagery, case studies, etc.) and high traffic blog curation.

But behind the scenes, I'm also responsible for business development activities and all the less-than-sexy tasks tied to running the company.

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What's your typical work routine?

There is no routine, other than coffee in the morning and time with my baby girl at various intervals (dictated by her to a certain degree).

Well, I should say that I try to do more project work that requires concentration in the AM and then have meetings and do the fun admin work (this is a boss's life!) in the afternoons.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

Yes—I have a wonderful tiny office/library in Israel that's filled with framed prints, photos of loved ones, running medals (all participation!), and tchotchkes from my global travels. When we're in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle, I've got a large, less-cluttered room to work out of with a view of the sea.

Photo of Kristi's workspace

Photo of Kristi's workspace

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How do you stay on task?

I live according to my calendar and my very low-tech to-do list.

But yes, I still get pulled away from things; not every item is crossed off by the end of a day, much to my chagrin.

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What do you like about remote work?

The freedom and flexibility it provides me to pursue a career I love without geographic constraints. Now I love it even more that I get to be with my little girl most of the day. (My husband and I both work remotely, so that's how we make it work for now, but we will need to call in the cavalry once she's mobile.)

Aside from this, equity in education and democratizing professional opportunities are two passions that fuel me—and I love how the prospect of distance/on-demand learning and remote work enable both.

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What do you not like about remote work?

It can occasionally feel lonely and a bit disconnected.

When I think back to days working in offices with some very funny and likable past coworkers, I sometimes wonder if I'm missing out on that day-to-day camaraderie.

But video chats, virtual networking events, and even being active on Twitter all help to alleviate that somewhat.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

Our team uses Google Suite, Trello, and Buffer, but we also embrace whatever our clients prefer, which includes various content management systems and other project management tools like Asana.

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Do you have any advice for remote workers?

I do! I've written somewhere around 170-180 or so blog posts for on a very wide variety of topics, from networking, loneliness, career development, team dynamics and entrepreneurship to negotiation and finding new clients, and then some.

I even wrote a post about why it's great to work from home with your pets. I'd love for your readers to check those out and connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter if they're looking for more specific advice.

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How do you decide priorities?

Definitely not LIFO (that is, last in, first out)--if I've learned anything from a few econ classes back in the day, it's that you must prioritize your work by what's most important, not the most recent or seemingly urgent. Defining 'important' is where the real challenge lies!

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How do you know when to push yourself vs rest?

I spend most hours of any day now at least a little tired, if not fairly fatigued.

As a mom of a newborn, I had to recalibrate my expectations when it came to getting anything done.

It may sound cliche, but as a parent, I think I manage my time even better than I did before because there are more interruptions and a whole lot more to do in terms of my responsibilities.

By this point, I know when to batch a bunch of meetings in a row versus giving myself a half hour to rest or take a little walk around the block.

One of the biggest challenges for newbies, I think, is not overpromising and under-delivering. Yes, you might be able to get to that proposal or document before the end of today, but why not give yourself a little breathing room? Always schedule breaks for yourself.

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What are the benefits of building a remote team?

There are so many. You can hire the person who's the best fit for the role, no matter where they are.

You save time and money on a commute; you make far less of an impact on the environment; you (and your team) can potentially travel the world and learn about other cultures in the process, or stay close to home and care for loved ones.

It's everything that working in a cubicle isn't.

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What are the challenges of building a remote team?

Finding people who are motivated and driven to get incredibly high-quality work done on deadline is a biggie.

Everyone wants to work remotely, but not all pros are wired to be productive outside of an office environment—or at the very least, many will require a ramping-up period.

Another challenge is communication: though I'm not into phone calls (as my husband can attest!), I will call a teammate or client at the first whiff of a misunderstanding. I've found that it has staved off confusing circumstances and has strengthened relationships.

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What are the biggest issues when companies try remote work?

Ha! See above. Sourcing and hiring hardworking people who will thrive in this highly flexible environment, and establishing thorough and clear communication protocols is an issue.

Beyond these two, building a robust company culture is absolutely possible, but it does require an intentional commitment on the part of company leadership.

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What did we forget to ask Kristi DePaul?

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Kristi DePaul

A remote work author and speaker, Kristi DePaul is CEO of Founders Marketing, where she leads a team that is providing nuanced content for the future of learning and the future of work.

Kristi is a new mom, an extremely average marathoner, an avid traveler (50+ countries), and is capable of embarrassing herself in three languages.

She lives with her quick-witted husband, sassy stepdaughters and energetic baby in Tel Aviv, Israel and the San Juan Islands of Washington State.

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