Our team in Wilmington, on the southern part of North Carolina’s coastline, got together for a meetup. Although we work remotely day-to-day, occasional meetups give our virtual reception teams a chance to connect, learn, and have fun.
This time, the meetup involved a delicious lunch, painting at Painting With a Twist, and a little trash cleanup in Hugh MacRae Park. AnswerConnect’s CEO, Natalie, and Operations Manager, Jewel, were on hand to join in the fun.
Wilmington is sometimes known as Little Hollywood or Wilmywood because of the many television shows and movies that have filmed there. Danielle, one of our customer experience associates, has been an onset hairstylist for such productions as Iron Man 3, Sleepy Hollow, and Dawson’s Creek.
“I like being crew,” she says. “Some people dream to be actors, but once you get in there, you know where people stand. The crew goes before any actor. We all work as a team, and get better benefits.”
Though she’s used to seeing celebrities around town, Danielle ran into another kind of star at the Meetup—our software architect, Madhavan, who leads the teams who create many of the tools she uses in her work as a virtual receptionist.
At first, she didn’t realize who she was chatting with. “I thought he was an agent just like myself,” she says. Later, when he was introduced to the group, “I thought, I’ve been talking your head off the entire time! Why didn’t you say anything? He was so down to earth and awesome.”
Danielle says she enjoyed talking with Madhavan about Anywhere Works, a remote working and communications platform we’re currently testing in-house. Having previously worked as a software tester, she is used to a little friction with developers. “We’re hated by programmers,” she says. “I can break anything.”
This time, though, they got along great. “To see his excitement about his baby, I was starstruck. Over the years, I don’t get starstruck like that,” she says.
Besides working remotely to help AnswerConnect’s live answering service clients stay in touch with their customers, Danielle runs her own mobile business on the side.
Dee’s Boutique 2 U is a traveling hair salon. She helps the disabled, elderly, and bedridden look their best by bringing a full range of services to them. With her flexible schedule as a virtual receptionist at AnswerConnect, she can keep her small business running at the same time, though she notes this kind of work isn’t nearly as lucrative as the onset styling she did for movie and television stars in the past.
The plus side is that, whether she’s on the phones or doing hair, “I get to help gourds of people,” Danielle says. “To be able to hear that thank you so much, you helped me out. It’s nice to be that person on the other end. I like being Wonder Woman.”
Remote Working Means No Drama
When Catalina heard there would be a meetup near her in Wilmington, she jumped at the chance to meet some coworkers face to face. Of course, she’s already pretty familiar with one of our other team members—her husband Ramarti.
The couple, both virtual receptionists for AnswerConnect, usually balances their schedules so just one of them is working at a time. The other watches their three kids. For the meetup, they enlisted the help of Catalina’s mother-in-law to provide childcare. “This was the golden opportunity to join in the fun,” Catalina says.
Catalina says she enjoyed painting with the rest of the team at Painting With a Twist. It was good to have an activity, she says, “so we didn’t have that stage fright. Everybody had the same time, materials, and instruction, yet everybody had a different result. All nice, and similar, but with differences. I guess that applies to life as well.”
Remote working, Catalina says, appeals to her because “I’m a self-starter. If you tell me what you expect from me, I can go ahead and get that done. You have to be disciplined.” She also appreciates the lack of coworker drama. “I’m always shocked to find how much drama happens in offices. Why, I don’t know. It’s been very liberating not to have to worry about that.”
Catalina’s only regret about the meetup is that it didn’t last longer. “I wish we would have had more time together, in a perfect world,” she says. “Just when the party was getting good, it was time to go.”
Walt, one of AnswerConnect’s client account managers, has lived in Wilmington since 2012, when he retired from his career as a technical project manager in the Duke University Health System.
Why did Walt seek out a remote job in retirement? “I can’t stand doing nothing,” he explains, “plus this helps play for golf tee times.” With about 150 golf courses between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, he says, the region is “golf Nirvana.”
Like Danielle, Walt appreciated the opportunity to talk to Madhavan about our software development. As a user of the platforms we build, he had some thoughts on what features should be included. Ultimately, Walt’s job as a manager for AnswerConnect’s answering service client accounts is “all about problem solving,” he says. “That’s all people care about.”
Walt took note of the presence of company leaders like Natalie and Jewel at the meetup. “Having Natalie there was amazing. She blended in with everybody. By the time people realized who she was, they were very relaxed. I can tell you working for different companies, you don’t get that kind of relationship. Natalie and Jewel made everyone very, very comfortable. You don’t see that often, if ever.”
Besides having a chance to connect with software developers and company leadership, a remote team meetup gives associates time to connect with one another. “It helps people have a better connection with the company,” Walt says. “There’s a lot going on in chat rooms, but it helps to have a face with that.”
Meetup Mission Accomplished
Our Wilmington answering service team returned to their home offices to get back to work. As they do, the connections they formed at the meetup will only make remote collaboration better.
Are you part of a remote team? Has your team gotten together for a meetup in person? Tell us about your experience in the comments.