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Claudia Reynders

Product Manager on the hunt for her next remote gig.

Product Manager

Ghent, Belgium

Hunting

What are you working on and where are you located?

Currently I’m on the lookout for a new job and at the meanwhile I’m sitting back at home in Ghent (located in tiny Belgium). These past couple of months I focused on my part-time studies in interaction design and getting my web development skills back to date. I used to work as a front-end developer before I became a product manager (this was my last job). After a while working as a product manager, I realised that I missed the part to write code and really build something, more than I imagined I would, so it seemed like a logical step. You can checkout my portfolio at mangamaui.com if you like.

How did you end up working remotely?

A couple of years ago I got a job offer from an acquaintance. I had just returned from spending some time in London and decided for myself that I wanted to travel more in the future. So when he told me that a big part of the team was spread out over different continents and that they were a big supporter of working remote. It got me thinking of all the possibilities like working and traveling and also not having to commute every day sounded really attractive, so I decided to accept the job offer.

What are the largest challenges you've encountered in remote work?

One is definitely working with a big timezone difference! Last year I went to visit the Canadian West Coast, which has an 9 hour timezone difference from the team I was working with. I had to stay up late or get up at night to do meetings, since they couldn’t always be rescheduled. During that time I was working half-time and half- time on vacation, so that’s why it was so challenging. I didn’t stay there long enough to find the best work rhythm.

Another big challenge was learning when to quit for the day. When working from home you might lose track of time and become a bit of a workaholic. So sometimes I had to tell myself when to go relax and do other things.

Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever worked from?

So far Vancouver Island in Canada, because of the challenges with the timezone difference and also just because it really is a beautiful place. I hope to go back soon and discover more of the island. For once I could work from a hotel suite with a small terrace. So that definitely was a plus if you’re having to deal with difficult hours.

But there was also an interesting day that turned out a bit different from what I expected. This was when I was couch surfing at my best friends place in London. To help her out with the move, I stayed over for a bit more than a week. During the days we both had to work, but her new apartment didn’t have any internet yet.

Which was a bit troublesome since I had a day full of meetings planned. So she called around to find me a quiet place to work. That’s how I ended up working in the room she used to rent before. I improvised a standing desk with the furniture there and only had to deal with her former roommate every hour or so. Since she liked to talk a LOT, hehe. I guess it was interesting because if you go visit friends for all sorts of occasions and have work in the meantime, you never now where you might end up. As long as there’s some decent wifi and some comfortable seating you can work there.

What time zone do you keep?

GMT+1

What gear or tools do you use on a day to day basis that makes working remotely easier?

I always have a macbook with me and a Bose headset, if you have to do a lot of conference calls a decent headset is a must! So a pair of headphones that don't start hurting your ears after a couple of ours are worth the investment.

Also the battery of your laptop, the longer it lasts the better. Because being stuck somewhere without a charger is the worst.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about going remote or just starting out?

If you are new to remote work I want to stress out that communication and finding your social life balance are very important parts of remote life. If you were used to working in an office full with people before and don't have any hobbies that keep your social balance in check, it might be a good idea to start one. Otherwise it can get very lonely.

Also don't limit your communication to text/slack, as a product manager I really believed that doing video calls brought more unity and understanding to the teams I worked with.

There’s probably a lot more I could tell but I think the article that I wrote on remote work covers most parts (How flexible and remote work changed my life)

What’s next for you? (Location, remote vs office, etc.):

Next up, I definitely want a new remote job! For me the best part of working remotely is the freedom to work from anywhere. I love to combine working remote with traveling to various places and visiting friends that live abroad. I cannot imagine being stuck in an office anymore or losing so much time over a daily commute. So back to remote and travel more!

How does your current cost of living compare with other places you’ve lived?

Cost of living in Ghent is not the worst, but certainly also not the cheapest place in Belgium if I compare the rental prices of apartments. But it certainly is a lot cheaper than living in big cities like London.

A regular cup of coffee is priced somewhere between 2.60 and 3.20 (euros). Unless you go grab some barista coffee ofc :)


You can find Claudia on her personal site at Mangamaui.com, on Twitter @Mangamaui, Instagram @mangamaui, or on LinkedIn.