Podcast 12: Interview with James Hirst, Co-Founder of Tyk

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In this episode of the HomeWorkingClub podcast, Alex has the pleasure of interviewing James Hirst, the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Tyk, a global “remote first” company.

We know our readers are always interested in remote working opportunities, so thought it would be interesting to speak to somebody who had put remote working right at the core of their business.

James has some fascinating insights to share, including advice on what remote first companies look for when recruiting. He also discusses some of the challenges of running global remote teams, and peers into the future to consider the “new normal” of remote working.  

Included in this podcast:

  • An explanation of what Tyk does (0:48)
  • All about running a “remote by default” company (2:14)
  • What do remote companies look for when hiring people? (7:20)
  • The challenges of working across timezones and cultures (12:20)
  • The changing face of remote working (17:06)
  • Is the ability to work from home a skill in itself? (21:33)
  • How is the world of work going to change in the coming months? (30:03)
  • Some final advice for aspiring remote workers (35:50)

Supplementary Links and Information

Full Transcription

We have edited some repeat words and unclear sections to enhance readability.

ALEX: Welcome to the HomeWorkingClub podcast. My guest today is James Hirst from Tyk. Hello, James.

JAMES: Hi, Alex. Good to be here.

ALEX: Excellent stuff. You are the COO and co-founder of Tyk, which you set up in 2014, I believe.

JAMES: That’s right. It was an open-source project back in 2014 and we’ve been trading as a business since 2016. So we’re about four years old now.

ALEX: Fantastic. It seems impossible, 2016 doesn’t feel like four years ago to me.

So you’re an open source API gateway, with offices in London, Atlanta and Singapore. For the benefit of the listeners at home, and as I often ask Ben to do, pretend I’m an idiot and explain exactly what an open-source API gateway is.

JAMES: Okay, well. At a very high level… If you have booked… well, you probably won’t have booked a hotel online recently, given the current unpleasantness… but if you have done online shopping, if you’ve checked your balance on your bank or mobile app, if you’ve driven a connected car… all these things are powered by APIs.

APIs basically are computers talking to computers. So getting the latest rates from all the different hotel companies and putting them on a hotel booking site or getting your bank balance from the banking systems and putting it onto your mobile device. It’s all done by APIs.

We sell a piece of software that sits on those APIs and makes sure they’re secure. So companies know that only the right people have access to the right information and data.

ALEX: Fantastic. You’ve done that once or twice before haven’t you?

JAMES: A few times, yes.

ALEX: So the reason that we’re very happy to have you on today and very honoured to have you on today is you’ve got the experience of setting up a company from scratch, and you are, as you define it, remote by default.

I think it would be absolutely fascinating for the listeners to hear from the sort of person that perhaps might be looking at their job applications, the sort of person that employs remote workers. The challenges in setting up a company, running a remote team. And, actually your views of the freelancing and home working world in general.

And I want to dip in first to Tyk’s approach. In my extensive research, you offer unlimited paid holiday, completely flexible hours… as I said, you’re remote by default… and share options after a year, and an annual company retreat. I suspect there may be some more juicy benefits in there as well. But it sounds like a fantastic place to work, first and foremost.

JAMES: Thanks, we try to make it so. The benefits I think… it’s worth thinking about in context and why that’s there. You know, on the one hand, yes, it sounds like a fantastic place to work. But this isn’t really a marketing piece. It’s not a PR stunt. Because we are a default remote business… and for us, that means the vast majority of our team don’t work in an office.

We have 75 teammates spread across 25 countries, across six continents. So we’ve got people in Colombia, we’ve got people in Paraguay, we have people in Nigeria and Tanzania, we’ve got people in the Ukraine and Singapore… so very broadly spread geographically, time zones, different experience of working with different work cultures before joining Tyk.

What we have to do to make that work is we have to ensure that our teammates and colleagues are fully empowered to look after themselves.

We have a creed of what we call radical responsibility. In that we set the objectives, we set the guidelines and guardrails about how we engage with those objectives. But if someone wants to do it all at crazy hours at night, if someone wants to do it all while they’re travelling around the world, we don’t really care.

Part of that, to make that live, is to take away some of the bureaucracy around working. So if we know that we can’t be in an office looking over someone’s shoulder and making sure they’re working hard for seven hours a day, clocking in and clocking off, and doing timesheets… Then how do you do it?

Well, you know the idea that you put a bunch of controls around someone to force them to be productive doesn’t help. So instead, we go the other way. We take all those controls away and say, “Actually, it’s on you. You need to be productive. You need to get it done. You’re the best judge of whether you can, you know, take a few days off this week, or book a holiday, or work late, or finish early.

By making that very clear, making that very overt, saying we’re not going to measure and monitor that stuff, we find we get a team of people who really want to run-up problems and look after themselves.

So it is all part of how our team are empowered to do stuff rather than how they are actually managed… which is the more traditional approach.

ALEX: Yes. I think you know any of us who have had those office jobs… There are people who, whether it’s the nature of the design of the company or the nature of the person themselves, you’d think that is their entire role… is to stand over your shoulder and make sure that you’re working.

I suspect that puts a lot of pressure on getting recruitment right then. Is that something that you’ve found through trial and error, or?

JAMES: It is. I think it is one of the first things that we realised we needed to change our approach from… my co-founder and I had worked in more traditional organisations in the past. We wanted to do things slightly differently.

The first few hires were fairly straightforward because we had a very clear idea ourselves of who we wanted to bring into the business. You tend to hire… you tend to bring people in… to an extent in your own image or in an image that you have created. As it gets bigger, you need to be able to obviously have that codified so that others can make that work.

We developed a bunch of attributes that we know we need people to embody to actually thrive in our business. Because that radical responsibility credo is fantastic for some people and it is a nightmare for others. Not everyone thrives when all of those controls and guardrails are taken.

ALEX: Some people need a security blanket don’t they?

JAMES: Absolutely. It does no-one any good if you put the wrong person in a position that causes them stress, uncertainty, a lack of validation. All these fears that some people have. So we spent time looking at what are those attributes we are looking for.

We try to test with that early on in the recruitment process and filter out applicants who perhaps don’t demonstrate them. There are certain things we look for… we are quite clear and open about the fact we look for people who have side projects.

ALEX: Right.

JAMES: We look for people who have been freelance to some extent in the past… because those are indicators that… outside of a formulaic structure where someone has said, “you come in and are present at nine and you leave at five, and that’s your compensation”… that someone could take that on, make something happen, and look after hitting their objectives that way. So we have done things like that that we look for in profiles when they come across the desk.

ALEX: Fantastic. I think that’s really interesting. This has come up once or twice and that idea of the side project, the side hustle going on, I think it quite often used to be viewed… and I suppose this is true of the whole home working thing… it used to be viewed very much as you weren’t giving your full focus to the main task.

But I think, these days, it’s that thing of, you know, that shows a hinterland, it shows there’s something about the person, and also that if they’re willing to spend a lot of their own time working on something else, that there’s a degree of motivation and self-motivation there.

JAMES: Absolutely. And I think it’s worth flagging that, you know, the foundation of Tyk, our founding story was… it was a side project. It was something that my co-founder, you know, did on evenings and weekends as a bit of a hobby.

And then when we launched it, it was something that he and I did evenings, weekends, and just fitted in around our actual job. Until we got to a point we could turn it into a commercial proposition. And we have now gone to the extent we actually have a project called the Side Project Fund. We’ll be announcing our Spring winners, where we solicit entries from people who are running side projects.

They’re not trying to, for instance, launch the next big thing perhaps… they may be doing a small learning project on the side, maybe they’re doing something charitable, or maybe they do have a brand new, innovative piece of technology or a creative endeavour.

We commit to sorting through those, and we identify a bunch of winners who we then make a small contribution towards paying for supporting that and getting it off the ground.

We know that that’s the foundation of Tyk. There’s a degree of pay it forward. But I think also it reflects on what we think is important, which is, often some of the most powerful ideas come outside of the big structure. It’s stuff that people come up with on the side.

Our own team, when they join, are given the opportunity to have their contract adjusted to say they have a side project. So you know, we don’t own that IP. If you’ve got this idea that you want to do on the side, we’re totally open with that, we’ll add that in. Which in some companies is hard… in a lot of tech companies you join, “Anything you create while you’re on our payroll, that’s ours”.

ALEX: Yeah.

JAMES: We don’t want that because that will block out some of the most creative, forward-thinking people. So we actively encourage it.

ALEX: It’s something I’ve come across a few times and things like that… and so pitching ideas to people, and certain people have said, “Oh, you’ve got to be careful” or “I’ve got to be careful, I can’t get involved in something like that while I’m here” and it feels so… you know, I think that point, a lot of the things we talk about on the podcast and a lot of the things on HomeWorkingClub as well is… that sort of element of freedom to being a freelancer or working from home.

And that point that somebody else owns your intellectual property is increasingly… it feels very Victorian almost these days.

JAMES: It does and I think if you accept that within your organisation some people will join, will become long-term parts of the team, and might be part of the journey from the very start of that organisation all the way through to its very end. It might be that some people join and stay for a year, or two years, or three years, but what you don’t want to do is try to build a bunch of barriers to getting the best possible people in. When really, those barriers are not protecting anything for you.

I mean, the reality of a big corporate… Are they really going to alight on this side project that Sarah Jones in IT is running? Are they going to say, “Right, this is going to be our next big banking product.” I mean, it just seems as though this is almost a standard that has grown out of fear over time. And it’s doing no-one any good.

ALEX: Yeah. I actually sort of have experiences of friends where people who were working on a side hustle while they were working for them have ended up being quite significant clients for them at some point. Which is always quite a useful thing. It’s always nice to help people up the ladder, isn’t it?

JAMES: Yes. Yeah, indeed.

ALEX: You just touched briefly on… obviously, we talked about culture a little bit there… you touched briefly on having people spread all over the world in different time zones. Do you work completely asynchronously? Or do you find, you know, that you need some time where everybody’s got to be on roughly the same point of the clock?

JAMES: So, this is a work in progress for us. I would love to say that we’ve nailed it, but we haven’t. It’s still something we’re trying to improve.

My co-founder, Martin, and I, we founded the business in London. But within six months, he and his family had moved to Auckland, New Zealand. So we are as far apart as it’s possible to get time zone wise. We cross over for an hour each day, very early or very late. Sometimes both sides of the day. With that in place, plus an office in Singapore and Atlanta, it is impossible for us to have everyone online at the same time.

So one of the things we do prize, on the one hand, is asynchronous working using shared documents, using Google Docs so you can share something around, have comments and inquiries and questions. That’s our default for sharing long-form information.

From a cultural side, from building the stuff that doesn’t come through a project piece or a particular memo… the informal communication, we work hard to try and build those channels. So we do something called Tyk Cafe.

So four times a week we have an open session where you dial into a Zoom. The rule is you turn up with a hot or a cold drink and the agenda is anything that isn’t work. We get people chatting about the latest box-set on Netflix, a game that they’re into, what they’ve been doing with the kids at the weekend.

There is a real issue of being a fully remote business, that you don’t have the informal communication amongst the team. The little things that in a more corporate environment… that communication tends to happen in the five minutes at the start of a meeting, while everyone’s waiting for someone to turn up with a coffee. You know, that little bit of chit-chat that starts and the bit of chit-chat at the end, “Are we finished everything on the agenda? Good. Cool. How was the football at the weekend?”

So we actually make a meeting specifically for the start and end of it and get rid of the bit in the middle. So the bit in the middle happens asynchronously wherever possible. But we do have meetings so everyone can have that informal chat.

That’s really important, I think, for building understanding. You learn that there are all sorts of things that you perhaps aren’t aware of… even down to things like in Russia is it is not considered normal to smile while listening to someone talking. It’s a cultural barrier. It makes you look, in some ways, simple.

ALEX: I was blown away when I first heard that. Yeah, it really explains it. The kids in school, they say, “Don’t smile. You look like an idiot.” It really explains a lot of the cultural misunderstandings I think.

JAMES: And the way you communicate ideas, the way you communicate conflict, the way you raise debate and work through debate can vary massively between someone located in Central America and someone located in Singapore, for instance. So having those informal communication channels to work through that stuff and build understanding is important.

I think, whether you’re part of a fully remote team like ours or whether you’re a freelancer who’s working with an enterprise that is remote from you, finding ways to have that informal communication alongside the very specific, “Can you share that document with me?” or “Can you just send me the latest draft?” I think that’s really an important thing. Because a Project Brief is probably only about 20% of the communication that goes into the project. A lot of communication, actually, is the unsaid, the unspoken, the informal round-up.

ALEX: Do you think that’s something that’s changing rapidly in the world of freelancing?

I think perhaps there used to be an image that freelancing suited people perhaps lacking in interpersonal skills because they could sit at home and not have to be in the office and talk to people. But I suppose particularly now we’re all remote working at the moment, to a certain extent, that sort of emotional intelligence, that EQ thing… is that starting to become more a part of the freelancing skill set?

JAMES: I suspect so. I think there has always been a lazy stereotype, partly driven because…

ALEX: That’s what I’m here for.

JAMES: Well, remote working has to a great extent relied on technology to deliver it. And so the first adopters of that have been very technology-focused roles. So everyone goes, “Oh yeah, that’s the engineer who works nights at a remote” or “The person who’s doing code and checking it in remotely asynchronously”.

But now that whole enterprises have been forced to get to grips with Zoom and think about “How to communicate asynchronously?” and “How do I communicate by video?”, I think that is shifting. I think this recent situation has moved it on and accelerated it to a degree.

When I think about our organisation, we have obviously a highly technically literate team across the business. But it’s not just engineers and coders, you know, we have a large marketing team, large commercial team, ops team. And we work with a large number of external freelancers, contractors, and agencies.

Our brand consultant is a freelancer and works entirely remote. I think we see him once or twice a year in person but generally it’s over Zoom. Something that is so nuanced… communication around brand communication… the fact that that could be done remote, the fact that our PR is done remotely, the fact that it’s not just that technical and insular kind of sole producer. It’s not just a single craftsman anymore. It can be any role.

I think that is being recognised. And certainly, for us, it’s been a massive boon because we can work with the best of those people wherever they’re located. We don’t have to find someone who is within a 20-minute commute of our office.

ALEX: I suppose that goes back to the first point in terms of the skillset, and not every brand consultant would be able to work effectively in that way. Certainly not some of the ones, I’ve met.

But is that a case that, presumably, if you’re able to do that kind of work remotely and be effective remotely, then that actually sort of marks you out as… not only can you do the work and be really good at it, but you can do it without having to be 20 minutes away, which always used to be the theory.

JAMES: Absolutely.

A recent example for us is we had a requirement to do some training across the entire team… across 75 people, 25 countries, six time zones. Same training programme for everyone to be done in groups. And of course, that can’t be done in person. There’s no way we could either move our people to somewhere they could be trained or that we could fly the trainer around everywhere… I’m sure that would be a lovely job, but they’re not going on a world tour with us.

So actually, we discounted huge numbers of really competent, very good trainers because not only did they not have the experience of doing this remotely… and this was before the whole Coronavirus situation, this was end of last year, beginning of this year… but had no interest or desire to do it.

It was kind of, “Oh, no. If you can’t come to one of our training centres, or if you can’t give us a meeting room for two days in your office, then I don’t see how we can possibly train you.”

Actually, we found a training firm who said, “Well, that’s an interesting challenge because the training we’re doing is a lot about communication” and so on. But people are different. They rose to it and did a fantastic job.

The feedback from our team was they actually preferred this remote training because it’s, to an extent… in many ways it actually feels more intimate because you’re engaged, you’re on Zoom and have eye contact for an hour. You can have little breakout sessions where you can go off and talk privately and then come back into it. It worked very, very effectively.

But I think that’s a really clear indicator that… I don’t think we’re the only organisation… certainly not now but even a few months ago… who was out there going, “We’ve got people everywhere, who is able to handle that way of work?”

ALEX: That’s interesting. The idea that, is freelancing almost a skill in itself? Or an enhanced set of skills? That kind of point.

I think we’re saying… that freelancing and home working skills are more in demand. Not necessarily just the ability to work remotely, but actually having worked remotely or, as you were saying, with a side project… what that demonstrates about the way you work and how you are. Is that something that you’ve noticed?

JAMES: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, it is something we necessarily look for, but I don’t think we’re… again, I don’t think we’ll be the only ones doing it.

I was at an event fairly recently where I was speaking to someone from one of the big high street banks and they were talking about their home working policy and how it had come about. What had actually happened is that prior to 2012 nobody worked from home, it was a zero-tolerance. The thing that triggered it was the London Olympics.

The CTO of that particular bank had said, “There’s a real problem here. We’ve got this big international event. No-one’s going to be able to commute into the office. There is going to be transport chaos in London. We need to make sure that everyone has the ability to work from home for two weeks.” And they did it.

And after the two weeks were over… and actually, London was very quiet because everyone avoided it… there was that “Hang on a minute. This is a very effective way of working.” So that spurred them to enable it and roll it out across the business.

I think this recent situation will trigger the same thing in a lot of organisations. One of the things that is bound to happen is, people will be on that interview… and that interview is more likely now to happen remote, I’m sure… and they will say, “Our team spend most of their time remote. What’s your experience of working remote?”

And being able to say, “Well, you know, I’m absolutely capable of running my own diary. I’m absolutely capable of making sure that deadlines are hit. I don’t need someone to check me in and check me out.” That’s a big plus. It puts a lot of… comfort on someone hiring.

ALEX: Yeah. It’s really interesting, as you say, a lot of people are talking about… and I think we’ll get on to that in a bit more detail in a minute… that it’s just now become so obviously possible to work remotely. And I suppose that’s the point is, we’re not all suddenly just going to stay exactly where we are… offices will fill up again.

Do you think that there’s that legacy of a sort of more mixed approach to home working?

JAMES: Yeah. Certainly, in prior roles where I worked someone else, there was a blanket belief that it was not possible to work from home. Either because the security and the technology wouldn’t admit it… or actually not willing to look into how to make that happen… or the assumption that, “Oh, yeah. You’re going to “work from home”. How was the daytime TV?”.

You know, that perception now… There’s no way anyone can turn around and have that snide comment about “Oh working from home again, are we? How was the cricket?” That’s, you know, that’s not going to wash anymore. So I think that is absolutely going to be the case.

I think, frankly, a lot of organisations feel like we do. Which is: “We’re trying to build a business trying to deliver software. We’ve got certain aims and objectives we want to achieve. None of those aims and objectives are paying the mortgage of a commercial property landlord. You know, that is a cost that we don’t need. No-one’s benefiting from. It doesn’t make us a better organisation. So can we leave it behind?”

I’m pretty sure right now there are a bunch of CFO’s sat at home saying, “Oh my God, look at our rent going out each month, it’s costing a fortune” and then thinking, “You know what, when we go back, could we reverse out of this a bit? Because we could knock this off our bottom line. We could be a lot more competitive.” So I do think that a degree of scaling back and less of those kinds of big flagship properties will be the case.

ALEX: So people with a proven track record of working from home and freelancing are going to be increasingly in demand. I’ve just paraphrased that, but do you agree?

JAMES: I absolutely agree with that, yeah. I think that will cut across most industries. I think it will cut across most organisations.

ALEX: Yeah. Just touching again on that and a similar thing when you talked about people being self-motivating… we talked about the fixed cost of buildings but there’s also, I suspect… have you found that if you’ve got a team full of very self-motivated people, does that mean you spend less time man-managing or person-managing and more time doing your job?

There always used to be that thing, as you rose higher in a company, that you spend most of your time looking after people issues rather than actually doing what it was that got you there in the first place.

JAMES: Yes. Ah, yes and no. So I think that the nuance here is that you spend your time doing stuff more useful.

You’re still, as the leader of a business, you’re still fully engaged with the people. It’s the most useful thing you can do because, whatever scale you are, ensuring that your team are performing, and growing, and developing, and expanding in the right way is absolutely critical.

Rather than do that through, “Have we got the correct…?”, “What’s our attendance like?”, and “What’s our holiday burden?” and all of that stuff… actually you’re looking at “How do we develop this team?”, “How do we allow them to grow in their career?”.

By not worrying about that bureaucratic piece and simply assuming good intent from everyone who is working with you, then you can start to focus and say, “Well, I’m assuming they’re doing the right thing by us, there’s no bad behaviour going on here. What can we do to amplify that and increase and improve performance that way?”

So it’s a different relationship. It becomes closer to mentorship and further away from management. I think the big shift you see is the way that contributions are made to the business.

If you’ve got a very formulaic and very structured management approach, it’s very difficult for a lot of people in a business to actually make an impact and have their contribution heard, and make a difference through that contribution. The forum for doing that is often a meeting at which a number of people are invited at a certain place at a certain time. If you’re not on that list, really, it’s not going to move the needle.

When you move to a point of encouraging that asynchronous communication, encouraging people to have a very open and transparent input into projects, programmes, and ideas you start to see ideas, contributions, suggestions, and improvements coming in from all across the business. Where previously, perhaps, they’d have been shouted out or wouldn’t even have been in the place to have their voice heard.

So that, I think, is a real performance boost that we have compared to the competition. You know, we do hear from the best people we can find, in whatever location they are, and there isn’t a risk of their contribution being missed or not being heard.

ALEX: That’s absolutely fascinating. I love the idea of mentorship, not management. You hear a lot of talk with leadership in organisations these days and I’ve spoken to a lot of people, and you can see… it was an interesting response, that rather than spending less time on people, you’re just spending it differently. I think that’s a really interesting way of looking at it.

It can only be better if you’re not looking at timesheets and you’re worrying about whether they’re, you know, whether they’ve got a brilliant idea. That can only be a benefit.

Moving on to… we sort of touched on the current unpleasantness (as we choose to talk about it), but how do you think… we mentioned that acceleration of the Olympics for one company in particular… do you think that we’re going to find ourselves in a world where the world of work is radically altered? Or do you think it’s just going to be a few months and everyone will forget about it?

JAMES: I do think we’re already on this trajectory. I think what will become apparent is, there will be organisations who have adjusted to this and are already looking at “How does this change our business?”

So, yes. I think there will be a new normal. I think some organisations are already planning to make the best of that and perhaps come out stronger as a result. I think there will be some organisations who are still, frankly, in stasis. They’ve put stuff on hold and they’re just waiting for it to thaw, and expect to go back to how it was before.

I think the problem will be for those organisations that they will be, in many ways, outflanked by their competitors who… while they have had everything turned off and are quietly wondering “When can we get back to our meeting rooms?”, they’ll have found that their competition has gone and had a Zoom chat with someone else who is already a client who is on Zoom. And that’s already happened. By the time the office is opened up, they’ll be putting it out to let.

So I do think that the commercial pressures on organisations right now mean that some are adapting and that will drive the change. Some will fare better than others.

I think it’s the softer pieces that perhaps will make the biggest impact… I gave the example of the bank who unintentionally rolled out remote working permanently because of a big public event. But I think it’s the normalisation of the fact that you switch on the BBC now and you see people on Zoom… people that you know, you respect… and you feel that what they’re doing is completely normal.

Whereas I think if that had happened six months ago, you would have thought there was something odd here… the only people who are using these video conferences are, you know, a strange niche of the business. You know, the usual cliche “the tech team are doing their thing”. Now it’s completely normalised.

We can’t underestimate how much of a shift it is that people’s grandparents are logging on to Zoom to chat to their grandchildren.

The idea that that is happening, and yet we can’t do our business that way! That’s absolutely crazy! So there is a change at every level and business will just be one reflection of that shift.

ALEX: Fantastic. I think it’s really interesting how clearly it comes through that it’s people skills. It’s the people that make the business still.

I think there’s very much this feeling of… probably from those outside of the world of freelancing and home working… that, you know, it’s people scribbling away, doing bits and bobs here, piecework, all of that kind of thing… but that those interpersonal skills.. and, as you say, it’s perhaps a world that you’ve been more familiar with and I’ve been more familiar with.

I’ve been conducting plenty of meetings over Skype and Zoom and various other things for many, many years, and suddenly people are discovering that. And it’s not so bad! You know, it saves a bit of time in your day and people are realising that they can self-motivate and actually re-rearrange their lives a little bit better.

I think a lot of people are going to find that when the option to go back to the office comes back, they’d quite like to stay at home or they’d quite like to stay remote somewhere. I think it’s going to be an interesting time.

JAMES: I completely agree. And I think the fact that it’s top to bottom, it’s the entire organisation… those big enterprises that are doing it will realise that it is unarguable now, it’s not just a team or a particular part of the business. Yeah, so I do expect big shifts there.

ALEX: Good stuff. Well, just a brief recap.

I think we’ve covered a few areas looking at culture and communications and what it means for freelancing. The thing that shone out to me is that it is very much about those people skills.

You said you recruit and you run the company on the basis of radical responsibility, looking for people with side projects and freelance experience. And I think that’s something that people could take away, that if they’re looking to work for a company like yours, or a fully remote or remote by default company, then it’s likely that people will be looking for a track record of being able to self-motivate and having a bit of something about you, as it were.

From a management point of view, you mentioned mentorship, not management. Looking after that thing that can sometimes go missing, which is those sort of office chats, those little bits, understanding the person behind the project work. And the real importance… the sense of how important it is to be a leader in a remote company… that leadership has to be about the people, not necessarily just about the work or the bottom line… shone through massively.

It’s been absolutely fascinating to speak to you. As I say, to speak to somebody that is perhaps in the position that we quite often talk about, people applying for work and what they can do to do it… but to talk to somebody in the position of hiring remote workers and seeing what it is that you look for, it’s been absolutely brilliant.

Is there anything else that you would like to add? Or perhaps anything that you would say if someone’s looking for work at the minute? Or looking for a remote job? Anything you would recommend they do?

JAMES: I do think that if you’re freelancing, remote working, contracting… to think about the wider context of who you’re working with. Perhaps traditionally, as you say, the freelancer has been thought of as being a bit isolated, a lone Ronin on their own looking after themselves, completely separated from everyone else.

I’d say that, actually, that the best way of building that relationship with the client is to look for the informal communications around the engagement.

So whether it’s a couple of hours of freelance work on a particular project or whether it’s a five-month-long contract, the fact is you need to understand who you’re working with and build some informal communication. Even if it’s just friendly emails, or a quick five minutes on a Zoom, or a phone call.

I think that can change the perception of the relationship between someone working from home and someone working in an office or for an organisation who aren’t remote. So I would say that is absolutely a piece of guidance I would share.

ALEX: James, thank you very much indeed. James Hirst of Tyk. I found that absolutely fascinating.

Do please, if you want to get in touch, you can email Ben. He’s not on this podcast but he’s still answering the emails.

Please do, if you’ve enjoyed it, Like, subscribe, share and write a review. It does help other people find the podcast. And, of course, we’d love to hear what you think.

James, thank you once more.

JAMES: Alex, thanks for having me.

ALEX: Lovely. And thank you for listening at home. Bye-bye.

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