Introduction:

Hey, I'm Jim Kalbach, the Chief Evangelist at MURAL. I'm an author, speaker, and instructor on design, customer experience, collaboration, and strategy. In 2020, I cofounded the JTBD Toolkit, a comprehensive online resource on the topic of jobs to be done.

Current Gig?

I’m the Chief Evangelist at MURAL, a leading online whiteboard.

Current Computer, Mobile, etc.

I use an MS Surface Pro laptop and Android.

Where can we follow you on the Internet?

LinkedIn, Twitter

Describe how you work in 10 words or less?

I’m very focused despite a lot of context switching.

Tell us a little bit about your background & how did you get started with remote work?

In 2003 I started a job while based in Germany working for a London-based company from my home office.  It also meant a lot of phone calls since it was really before the widespread video conferencing era. It was a US-based company, so the company was used to conference calls, but I was the first remote person on the team.

Being effective and showing outcomes in my work was challenging, but I figured it out. In 2013 I went to work for Citrix, the makers of GoToMeeting. I was still in Germany, and the team in California nine time zones away. So not only was I working in a hyper-remote team, but I was also working for a remote collaboration solution provider. That got my interest in remote work in general, and I was exposed to the more profound challenges of remote work through our work with customers.

In 2015 I joined MURAL. I was able to carry over some of what I learned at Citrix, their principles of remote collaboration, and core issues that people faced. But MURAL was different because we were in a new category of solutions: visual collaboration online. I was remote at first and then built our customer success and support teams, all remote, spanning nine time zones and three continents. It was here that I was a manager of remote teams for the first time.

What job responsibilities do you have?

At the end of 2020, I switched roles from Head of Customer Experience to Chief Evangelist. My job now is to deepen our thought leadership in our core themes and strengthen relationships with our customers and communities. It’s a very outward-facing role that puts me in contact with a range of people daily. I give presentations and webinars, do some writing, and speak with analysts, among many other things.

Take us through your typical weekday?

Like many others, I start by checking messages and prioritizing work. There’s usually a lot of projects and events going on that keep me on my toes. So I’ll get the urgent things done, like preparing presentations for later that day or setting up tomorrow’s workshop. We suggest following a laid-out work from home schedule to increase productivity and efficiency.

I have much fewer administrative duties in my new role, so that gives me time to read, think, and write. I still work with colleagues worldwide, and collaboration starts early and ends late on many days. It’s not uncommon to have an evening presentation or an early morning demo and the like.

What’s your workspace setup like?

I have a laptop for one screen and an external monitor right behind it but raised a little. I’m hard-wired into the internet, so I don’t have to deal with wifi issues. I have a good podcast mic on an overhead boom, with two Elgato lights on either side of my desk for filming and presenting.

I’ve been using a green screen with OBS to film as well. That works really with a MURAL canvas “behind” me on the video. I also have an MS Surface Studio on a hightop table on wheels that an I bring into view of my webcam to demo that to customers. Overall, it’s a comfortable set-up with lots of screens and options for light and sound.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

I’ve been using my mobile Android phone for Zoom calls recently. Paired with airpods, it’s an excellent way to be mobile. I also use bluetooth in my car to take calls while driving using a hands-free mic.

How do you keep track of what you need to prioritize?

Because I’m doing so many live events right now, my calendar prioritizes my work. Otherwise, I have a few big writing projects that occupy my time. So I’ll prioritize things based on imminent deadlines and the available time I have.

We recommend following a daily routine and maintaining a to-do list while working remotely. Turn the productivity ship around by following simple tips.

How do you recharge or take a break?

Because I work at home, I sometimes have to remind myself to leave the house. So there have been days when I don’t step outside. So weather permitting, I take bike rides to one of the two large parks near my house. I try to do that daily after work and before dinner. That makes a nice break.

What are you reading currently? What do you recommend?

I'm currently reading a lot for work--trying to brush up on various remote work and company culture topics. What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz is good. I also like Rituals for Virtual Meetings by Kursat Ozenc and Glenn Fajardo. I’m also reading some books on jazz, like Gunther Schuller’s Early Jazz. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction.

What qualities would you recommend are a must-have for a person seeking a remote job?

Self-motivation to work, passion, and a collaborative spirit. Go over our guide to see how companies hire remote employees and learn essential qualities a remote worker must have.

Advice for someone who is looking to switch to a remote job?

To be an effective remote employee, your company has to give a lot of trusts initially. But you have to earn that and do the best work you can, even if your manager isn’t near you.

What, according to you are the pros and cons of remote work?

Focus time is a clear pro. That goes along with flexibility and control over your day without a long commute. But it can be hard to connect with colleagues and be creative. It is essential to take care of your mental health while working remotely


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