Digital Nomad and Leader: Insight & Tips from InDebted's Jai Miller
For InDebted’s Jai Miller, the digital nomad lifestyle was once just a dream.
“When I worked in an office environment, I always thought it would be incredible to work remotely from new amazing locations whilst exploring them on weekends,” she recalls. “I never thought it was going to be a possibility for me.”
However, over the past two years, Jai has traveled to and worked from exotic places far and wide. “Traveling is a fundamental part of who I am,” she shares. “It brings me a sense of wonderment, happiness, and great fulfillment.” It’s also allowed her to connect with family, such as meeting her younger brother for the first time whilst abroad.
Currently, Jai fuels her love of travel by leading her team remotely as Head of Projects at InDebted. She has also recently become InDebted’s Digital Nomad Ambassador, helping her colleagues explore opportunities to work and travel. We sat down with her to learn more about her life as a digital nomad and leader.
The Key to Effective Leadership is Self-reflection
Jai originally started her career in nursing, but after some years, realized that she had a different calling. She was introduced to a job in finance and collections through a friend, and from that moment she found her true passion in project management.
“What appealed to me about project management was the high degree of problem-solving and critical thinking,” she explains. “There’s constant change, a fast pace and you need a bias for action, and I'm very drawn to that.”
Leadership is naturally a big part of project management and a skill that Jai works to continuously improve on. According to her, it requires being observant and frequent self-reflection.
“There's always the opportunity for growth,” she points out. “You’re persistently reflecting and setting aside time each week to ask yourself questions such as: How am I effectively supporting people? What are the needs of my team? What has happened in the past week that could have been handled more effectively? What areas do we need to level up in? How can we deliver a bigger impact to meet objectives?”
Jai was intentional in developing her leadership skills, so when she started her digital nomad lifestyle, she had already established best practices to lead her team from afar.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle with InDebted
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when many businesses were debating between working from home or the office, InDebted paid attention to the needs and preferences of their employees.
InDebted is a digital collection company specializing in ‘intelligent debt collection.’ A type of debt collection that uses machine learning and behavioral analytics to personalize the collections experience for every individual. It is emotionally and digitally intelligent, and intuitive to the needs of every person, everywhere.
“I feel really fortunate to be working at InDebted. The company has always been at the forefront of positive change by being progressive and forward-thinking,” she says. “After the pandemic started, we still had the office open for over a year, however, most people chose to work from home every day. InDebted then surveyed its team and determined an overwhelming preference to go fully remote. We closed the office in July 2021 and introduced a remote working stipend globally to enable our team to work fully remote.”
Without the requirement to work from an office, Jai did not hesitate to take full advantage of this unique opportunity and set off to work remotely from Hawaii, Alaska, and various locations around the Caribbean.
“I’ve worked as a digital nomad in Hawaii twice and it’s definitely my favorite,” she notes. “The weather and beaches are great, the food is amazing, and there are wonderful places to explore. Also, the time zone is convenient as I have team members based in both Australia and the US.”
Having overlapping time zones has been helpful when it comes to planning out her days.
“I would get up early in the morning and spend the first two hours of my day exploring and going for a swim. Then I'd get back to my desk and still be able to plan my day before people in other time zones logged on. Working remotely across varying time zones doesn't mean you have to follow everyone else’s schedule and work at inconvenient times. It’s about having the tools and capabilities in place to work asynchronously while making the most of that valuable overlap of business hours and finding a schedule that suits you and the people you work with.”
In addition to supporting people with the flexibility to choose their own working hours, InDebted also has a four-day work week, which enables employees to dedicate their time and energy to work across four standard working days, while being paid a full-time salary.
How to Lead from Abroad
Scheduling, communication, and planning ways of working asynchronously are important aspects when working with international teams.
“It’s about letting people know when you’re available to support them, for example, setting a Slack status and updating your timezone,” she recommends.
Jai further suggests figuring out the overlapping business hours before you go to a new country and keeping that time clear in your calendar to be available for meetings.
Yet overlapping times can be hard to find, and Jai mentions that it's important to make the best use of your working hours since you don’t have access to everyone at all times of the day.
“I lead two project management teams, and supporting them and keeping them engaged is an ongoing priority,” she highlights. “We have regular team-building activities, and we ensure that everyone has opportunities to learn and develop their skills.”
What to Consider Before Becoming a Digital Nomad
For many people like Jai, traveling is more than just an interest, it’s a way of life. For those that want to take their remote work on the road, Jai offers the following advice:
- Have the proper equipment. “Taking a backup portable charger seems simple, but is underrated,” she points out. “Having a high-powered backup charger will allow you to power your larger electronics and help you to work on long train and plane rides, as well as cover you for any tropical regions with a high chance of long-lasting blackouts”
- Stay in accommodations with a stable wifi connection. “The wifi challenges have been in the big hotels,” Jai says. She prefers to stay in Air BnBs where she can be closer to a router. As reliable as that method is, it’s still important to have a backup wifi connection. “Don't just rely on one option. Have an unlimited data local SIM in your phone that can be used to hotspot from. Also, do your research to know the best telecom providers outside of metro cities.”
- Create a defined work schedule. Save traveling between destinations and exploring for the weekends or for your planned days off. Although it can be tempting to go on a mid-week adventure, there are often unexpected delays and interruptions which may then impact your scheduled working times. “That’s not to say you can’t do fun activities during the week, but staying put to focus on work during the week will limit interruption to work or scheduled meetings.”