We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. To help satisfy our curiosity, we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better.
Join us in our next installment below as Nadia Vatalidis—VP of People at Remote—shares her vast experience and insights around remote work.
We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.
My name is Nadia Vatalidis and I am the Vice President of People at Remote, where we enable employers to hire anyone from anywhere. Over the last six years of my career I’ve focused on building teams in a remote-first environment, and thinking about how companies can access the global marketplace for talent while also making it an inclusive, equitable, and satisfying experience for every person.
My career path has not been linear; I originally wanted to become an architect but found that technical drawing wasn’t my strong suit. I eventually found my calling in HR and operated my own recruitment agency in South Africa, but really dreamed of working for an international company. I was lucky to find a remote-first role with GitLab where I helped to scale the company from 70 people to 1,300 in more than 57 countries. That led me to my current role with Remote, where we are growing at an even faster pace across even more countries.
If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?
Super direct but with the energy of a 10-year-old. I never steer away from adventure or getting outside—my friends and family can absolutely attest to that 😉
Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?
Back in 2016, I told my family and friends I was joining a company that had no offices and operated entirely on the Internet, called GitLab. A few people said it sounded like a scam and that I may never see a paycheck! It ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
Not only was I able to experience being part of a rapid-growth Silicon Valley startup, right from my home in sunny Johannesburg, but I was able to meet and work with incredible humans from all over the globe.
I saw firsthand how remote work can be a powerful way to expand access to opportunities beyond the limits of someone’s geographic location, and that has been a major motivator as we scale Remote.
What’s the most impactful lesson you’ve learned over your career thus far?
If you only have five minutes, get your first iteration live in five minutes.
My previous manager and then acting Chief People Officer at GitLab, Carol Teskey, taught this to me and it’s become my favorite time management hack.
Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?
To me, building a better world of work is about flexibility.
Remote work is not necessarily about working from home or from any particular location. It’s about creating a new dynamic between employer and employee that is all about flexibility, freedom, and trust.
People want to be trusted to manage their work responsibilities around their personal lives and wellness, not the other way around.
For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?
Working at a startup, you quickly learn not to romanticize the past and to accept that change is constant. I think that’s a lesson we can all keep in mind as we think about the future of the workplace.
Work has evolved so much in recent years and it’s just not possible to go backward. I’ve found that when you are able to lean into the change instead, there are some incredible benefits to take advantage of.
What’s one thing within our control that we can practically do to build a better world of work today? And, how do you recommend going about it?
When you enable people to work from their chosen location, you also have to let go of the traditional idea of a 9-to-5.
At Remote we work asynchronously and I would encourage more companies to explore it for themselves.
Asynchronous work means not requiring all members of a team to be online simultaneously. Instead of relying on meetings (synchronous communication) to share information and discuss issues, we default to written communication and documentation. That means that no matter when someone comes online, they have the information and most importantly, the autonomy, to maximize their productivity without depending on others.
I recommend working async for a few reasons.
First, it’s a productivity hack—you enable each person on your team to get more stuff done independently. Asynchronous work is also more inclusive and equitable, by enabling people to schedule their work responsibilities around what’s going on in their lives, whether that be childcare, wellness, or simply being on the other side of the globe from the rest of your team.
Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?
Flexibility in my view is and will be the number one benefit towards a better world of work.
I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?
I’ve had the opportunity to share virtual speaking opportunities with Kalifa Oliver, Ph.D a few times and I’m in awe of her experience in diversity, equity, and belonging. I specifically enjoy how kind and direct she is on these subjects and I’ve learnt so much from just being on the same virtual “floor” as her!
Our CEO at Remote, Job, is such a great example of someone you should follow. He cares deeply about equal opportunity and bringing way more opportunity to locations that are often forgotten or underestimated when it comes to critical and core talent. The video I shared under the previous question is why I’m so inspired by Job.
Another leader that has always inspired me is Laurel Farrer. Her advice and thought leadership specifically about the future of work and building a better future for all has been super inspirational to me. I also share her views on the flexibility and organizational design around virtual distributed global teams.
How can our readers follow your work?
You can find me on Twitter at @NadiaVat, and you can also follow @Remote to keep up with everything we’re doing at Remote.
Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!
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