How Plex’s Greta Schlender built her career while traveling the world
Plus 5 tips for thriving in a remote role
Greta Schlender started exploring the world before she could walk.
“I have been traveling since before I was born,” she says with a smile. “My parents moved to Hong Kong shortly after finding out I was on the way, so that is where they had me. My mom is from Nicaragua, so we grew up traveling to Central America, but then my dad’s work took us back to Asia. Tokyo, specifically, where I did 3rd and 4th grade. You could say I caught the travel bug early.”
From the cobblestone streets of Lisbon to the sandy beaches of Bali, Greta is fulfilling her wanderlust aspirations — without sacrificing her career. Over the past seven-plus years, she’s grown from a marketing manager to partnership and biz dev manager to program manager at Plex, a media streaming company, and learned a thing or two about remote work along the way.
“I think I am pretty well known at the company for being a ‘where in the world is Carmen Sandiego’,” she says, laughing. “But knowing that I can move cities or take a trip without having to sacrifice my job is hugely liberating.”
We sat down with Greta to hear how she built her career while traveling the world, along with her top tips for how you can thrive in a remote role.
Journey to Plex
After traveling with her family throughout her childhood and early 20s, Greta embarked on the first of her independent “Eat, Pray, Love” trips, as she calls them, at 26, upon being laid off from a PR manager role at a massive tech company. She took some time off to travel, from South and Central America to Southeast Asia and Europe, picking up freelance writing gigs to finance her plane ticket problem.
In 2015, Greta heard from a former colleague who had joined Plex. “He offered me a spot on his marketing team,” she says, emphasizing how she immediately knew it was a match. “From the jump, the people I met here became some of my favorite colleagues — and people — ever. I am still friends with folks who have come and gone.”
To further sweeten the deal, Greta didn’t have to renounce her nomadic lifestyle in order to advance professionally. She recalls how Plex supported her decision to travel for a few months with a group of around 50 professionals through a program called Remote Year.
“It was such an amazing experience to be able to live and work while spending time in new places in a very new and unique way,” Greta recalls. “It enhanced my work life because I got a first-hand look at how people value work-life balance in other cultures, while also seeing how other work cultures vary from the US.”
This global mindset helps Greta collaborate and build relationships with her Plex colleagues, who hail from and work all over the world. She says, “I made it a mission to see fellow employees in every place I could, from South Africa and Spain to Texas and Hawaii. It’s pretty awesome.”
Setting boundaries & building connections
While she’s an advocate for remote work, Greta also recognizes its challenges.
“During the pandemic, being stuck inside and not being able to go anywhere to get a change of scenery after committing to a fully remote lifestyle at the end of 2019 was very trying on my mental health,” she says. Greta quickly realized the importance of getting outside, taking breaks, and setting boundaries. This includes logging off for an exercise break whenever possible.
She also believes that carving out time to catch up with colleagues virtually, or even better, seeing them in person is the best antidote for isolation.
“Plex’s Culture team plans fun events and activities that we can participate in virtually or asynchronously to connect folks from different teams, and we also have Coffee Talks that anyone can join,” Greta explains.
Her favorite connection activity? Plexcon. “The entire company is whisked away to some amazing place to have an in-person all hands, team meetings, and a whole host of activities like scavenger hunts and hot air balloon rides. It is an awesome time to talk to colleagues in person, bond over challenges, and get some work done.”
5 tips for thriving in a remote role
When we ask Greta to name her favorite travel destination, she laughs and says, “Oh boy, this one is way too hard! There have been so many, for so many different reasons.” She eventually settles on three locations: Cape Town and Lisbon for the strong digital nomad cultures and Bali for the beautiful scenery.
Personally, we’re just inches away from packing our bags and buying one-way tickets to one of these destinations. If you’re feeling equally inspired, Greta leaves you with these five tips to help you thrive remotely in your role:
- Keep things personal. Greta recommends developing a personal rapport with your colleagues, despite the distance. “We are all human, but we can forget that when talking to a screen all day,” she says.
- Get outside and take breaks. “Burnout is no good for anyone. You have to make sure to take time for yourself and your health, mental and physical, to be your best self at work and in life,” Greta says.
- Create a workspace. While this may seem counterintuitive for someone traveling, Greta believes it’s important to stay consistent in certain parts of work. “It does not have to be a physical space per se, but have your setup (keyboard, portable monitor, notebook and pen — whatever!) so that you have everything you need to separate your workspace from your personal space. It’s far too easy to blur the lines if you don’t have this separation,” she says.
- Work in a foreign place. Greta stresses that this doesn’t have to be abroad, but simply somewhere different from your everyday work life. She believes this helps us to appreciate our home space and even find inspiration for our work.
- Enjoy it! Greta wraps up by saying, “We are so fortunate to get to live and work this way. It’s important to appreciate the good and be grateful for the flexibility it affords. Figure out what works for you to feel connected and productive, and strive for balance.”