Thriving Through Screens
Martha Aviles’ Google Calendar is an organized chaos of orange blocks marked busy. As the VP of Marketing for Interplay Learning, her schedule is crowded with meetings and check-ins with members of the Marketing team. Aviles keeps up with her bustling work schedule from her home office, something she had to create after being hired in June by Interplay Learning, an Austin-based tech company that runs an online training platform for skilled trade professionals. Despite Interplay’s recent move to Texas, the majority of their employees have always worked remotely, including the members on Aviles’ team from France and Mexico. Though the pandemic has delayed Aviles’ ability to meet her co-workers face to face, she knows all the tips and tricks for success in a remote work environment.
Q: How did you create a good work environment for yourself at home?
A: That’s a great question. I had to make a deliberate space that was an office. There was no separation between my personal space and my office, so I bought a desk, an office chair and a monitor. I have a workstation like I would in an office. That was super helpful for me.
Q: How do you balance work time and free time while working from home?
A: My quirky little habit is that three times a week, I drive to pick up lunch. Sometimes it’s literally a mile away, but I just have to make an effort to get in the car and get lunch to break up my day and have some sort of structure.
Q: What can college-aged students do to prepare for working remotely?
A: Having online classes is helping you prepare. You start getting used to having that barrier of a screen and learning that way. Also being intellectually curious and not being afraid of the ambiguity. Just roll up your sleeves, try stuff and not be scared. As we continue with remote learning or working, it’s not an equation that’s already been built, right? It’s something you’re having to figure out on your own. Having this attitude of pioneering and just keep[ing] at it every day is the right attitude to have.
Q: You’ve had to make a couple of hires during the pandemic. Did you look for any traits in the candidates as a way to judge how good they’d be in a remote workplace?
A: I did actually. Because there is so much unknown right now, you have to have some sort of centered self that can deal with ambiguity. You have to be resilient to get up every day and just be like “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know what I can impact, and here’s how I can do my job.”
Q: How would you recommend someone looking for a job or internship market themselves as someone who would be a good remote employee?
A: Giving examples of being a self-starter [and] being on top of your game. People want to see that you’re reliable and responsive, so any chance that you can prove that in your interactions are good. Also, cover letters. I can tell the difference between a cover letter that everyone is getting versus “I want this role because… Here’s why I fit…” I can tell when people have put effort into learning about the company and about me. If you want to market yourself and be different in a situation where there’s a lot of competition, you have to be thoughtful about that.