I recently moved from Maryland to Florida. That was one of several big changes that took place in 2019 for us. I lived in Maryland for most of my life, including all of my adult working years. I’ve had a pretty awesome career so far, working for exciting companies like Bill Me Later (acq’d by PayPal), PayPal (twice), Millennial Media (IPO), and Blispay (acq’d by Alliance Data). I’ve been on teams that have built several products from scratch and through acquisitions and public listings. I’ve experienced a lot in the first ten years of my career. I’m thankful for being fortunate enough to spend my time on work that I’ve enjoyed (for the most part) with great coworkers, many of whom I can call close friends today.
I officially joined the ‘remote workforce’ with our move to Florida. Working remotely has been a significant change from my prior experience, even though I’ve always worked with teammates who weren’t colocated (like Dustin – 👋 bud).
An advantage of growing older is that you become more comfortable with who you are. It’s quite liberating. I’ve always found self-awareness to be essential so I took Personality Type tests back in college, and twice since then.
Guess what? They don’t change. When I was younger, I wished I could change some of them, but now I’m just comfortable with the fact that you are who you are. Fortunately, I’ve learned that my strengths and personality type are really well situated for remote product management.
Below are the results of my Strengths Test and Personality Type tests.
My signature themes:
You love to solve problems. Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter yet another breakdown, you can be energized by it. You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution. You may prefer practical problems or conceptual ones or personal ones. You may seek out specific kinds of problems that you have met many times before and that you are confident you can fix. Or you may feel the greatest push when faced with complex and unfamiliar problems. Your exact preferences are determined by your other themes and experiences. But what is certain is that you enjoy bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factor(s), eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory. Intuitively, you know that without your intervention, this thing—this machine, this technique, this person, this company—might have ceased to function. You fixed it, resuscitated it, rekindled its vitality. Phrasing it the way you might, you saved it.
“When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.
Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others. Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you. You are not frightened by confrontation; rather, you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. Whereas others may avoid facing up to life’s unpleasantness, you feel compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. You need things to be clear between people and challenge them to be clear-eyed and honest. You push them to take risks. You may even intimidate them. And while some may resent this, labeling you opinionated, they often willingly hand you the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stance and ask them to move in a certain direction. Therefore, people will be drawn to you. You have presence. You have Command.
Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion. Your good name depends on it. If for some reason you cannot deliver, you automatically start to look for ways to make it up to the other person. Apologies are not enough. Excuses and rationalizations are totally unacceptable. You will not quite be able to live with yourself until you have made restitution. This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable. When assigning new responsibilities, people will look to you first because they know it will get done. When people come to you for help—and they soon will—you must be selective. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should.
You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.
There are many places to test this, but the output below is from typefinder.com.
It’s liberating and helpful to learn why you feel or behave the way you do in certain situations, as well as to optimize to your strengths & put yourself in situations where you can thrive.
It turns out that my type and strengths lend themselves to remote product management well. For example, my Responsibility and Activator strength themes drive me to be self-motivated and take ownership of tasks with a bias for action. The Command theme leads me to take charge and persevere through challenges. Other themes and traits like Intellection and Introspective explain why I need quiet and space; I love to think and crave mental activity, but I need the space to do it.
Introversion. I’m naturally introverted. I love contemplating ideas and exploring new subjects. I’m super reflective. But I need distance and privacy sometimes. I need some solitude here and there to let my mind focus.
I spent years thinking I wanted to be the person who would go to a social event and know everyone’s names by the end, leaving with a slew of new connections and meetings to follow up with. But that’s not me. Big social events are exhausting. I hate them. Many colleagues may be surprised to hear this. I’d hope so actually because I’ve exerted a lot of energy pretending to be that person. I’ve prided myself on being that teammate who is in the office every single day, during holidays, early in the day, late in the evening, for years. And actively online during all other times. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of my value to employers has been wrapped up in that. I was the same with sports growing up. To be clear, these people are needed. But it’s exhausting.
As I grow and life priorities change, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to exert the bulk of my energy socializing at the water cooler or going to meetings that aren’t really necessary just because I’m there, or talking to every single person I cross paths with on a daily basis. Product management is a HIGHLY collaborative role, but that often gets confused with needing to be the center of everyone’s lives; coworkers go-to shoulder without being their actual manger. And while I enjoy this aspect of the job, I think it’s wrong that people can just ‘steal’ your time without notice or without asking during all hours of the day just because they see you physically there. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll gladly be your friend and I’m happy to talk and listen. But I want to be asked if I’m free so that I don’t have to do all of my work that night or during the weekend instead. I’ve been there. I’ve done 24 hour days, nights, weekends, etc. I was a seed-stage startup generalist product manager. I love hunkering down and working during chaotic times when required. But I don’t enjoy doing it when it’s not valuable or necessary; when it could be avoided.
My personality type requires thinking, calm surroundings, quiet & some solitude. This is why I used to have to do most of my best work during nights and weekends. It wasn’t possible to do it during the days while in the office.
And that’s why I’m excited about being remote. It’s not about being able to travel or work somewhere with a view. I like being in my home office with my 2nd monitor. It’s about wanting to see how far I can push myself and my work. How deeply I can think. How well I can produce, now that I can exert my daily energy on my work instead of all of the exhausting interruptions that take place in a big, open office setting like I worked in for the bulk of my career so far.
Product management isn’t the easiest role to do remotely, but it’s not an easy role to begin with. It has only been a few months, but I’m enjoying it. I’m still available to my teammates (as they know), but I find that I don’t get pulled into nearly as many distractions that don’t require me as I used to when in the office.
Focus on you and play to your strengths.
If you’d like to read more about the changes that have taken place in 2019 for me, my family, and my previous startup, then check out this post.
By the way, spending more time with the pup is an added perk.