Remote Career Development: Robbie Gallegos Of Cyberbacker On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
I’d be happy to. To overcome the initial need for equipment, prepare ahead of time. Before even interviewing for a remote job, start saving for the tools you’ll need. In addition to a computer and headset, check company websites to see if the jobs you are pursuing mention other requirements. And don’t skimp on your equipment. It’s always best to hit the ground running with exactly what you need.
Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robbie Gallegos.
Robbie Gallegos is the Vice President of the Launch Division at Cyberbacker, the leading provider of virtual assistant services. In this role, she is responsible for all event management and improving franchise awareness. Gallegos has deep expertise in event management, sales, and helps others excel while working from home.
Fostering meaningful connections between colleagues are critical for successful teamwork in a remote workplace. When building remote teams, the focus should be on creating engaging activities where all employees can participate in real-time, using products that work where they work. Establishing team and 1:1 rituals can also be an effective way to combat feelings of isolation, such as a daily team stand-up or check-ins via Slack.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
First, I should let you know that I live and work in the Philippines. After college, I took a job working in a call center. My goal was to work without manual labor, and at the call center, I only needed my brains and mouth. After six or seven years there, I started noticing a trend toward working from home. I jumped into this space early and worked for two companies remotely. Believe it or not, I followed that with one year as a full-time performer hosting stand-up in comedy bars, so you could say I have a broad experience base — seven years at a call center, three years working from home, and one year of performing. Then, I took a role at Cyberbacker. Here in the Philippines, we recruit, vet, and train top-notch virtual assistants who can handle any task not requiring licensing, certification, or a physical presence at a fraction of the cost of on-site assistants. I’m currently leading their launch division.
During my first interview with Cyberbacker, I mentioned I was hoping for an admin role, but I think I was profiled as someone who could speak eloquently in front of people. For that reason, they started me off as a Cyber Recruiter, where I talked with real estate agents about the advantages of joining my client’s company. After three months, I shifted into the role of Headbacker. In that position, I trained and coached new virtual assistants, or Cyberbackers. We call them “Cyberbackers” because we train them to have your back. They are hired by all kinds of professionals in the US to take on tasks like web design and SEO, social media management, graphic design, video editing, phone calls, accounts receivable and payable, transaction processing and coordinating, sales, and scheduling. During my third month, I was promoted to Headbacker for the cyber recruiting division. There, I led entire teams of Cyberbackers and helped some of these recruits promote to Headbacker themselves.
Around a year later, I spotted a post from the CEO, Craig Goodlife, looking for somebody to lead Cyberbacker’s upcoming launch division. There was an instant buzz around the new role — everyone was curious about this position. As it turned out, Craig wanted someone with event-hosting experience to organize virtual grand openings for Cyberbacker’s new franchises. At the time, I’d heard the company was starting to launch franchises, but I wasn’t involved in that aspect of the company.
At the interview, I was surprised when Craig told me I was the first to apply for the position. He joked by asking me whether I was more excited about the role or the possibility of being promoted. I laughed and told him honestly that my goal was to be promoted. I explained that I had a desire to continue growing in the company. Craig’s interviews are scheduled to last 15 minutes, but we talked for nearly half an hour. I took that as a good sign and was offered the position. I completed onboarding in November of 2021.
During my first two months, I dug in and learned everything I could. I felt like I was starting from the ground up. By January, Cyberbacker formally announced that the launch division was active. Seeing my name in a press release and being introduced in dozens of meetings as the leader of this new division was surreal. It’s been a fun challenge because I’m blazing a new path. The division is entirely new, and we’re charting our course as we go.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
That’s a very good question. Honestly, the best experience I’ve had at Cyberbacker is cultivating the skills needed to be an effective leader. I’ve been a sales coach and led teams at previous companies. I’ve led projects and issued commands, but my roles at Cyberbacker actually make me accountable for the future of the people I lead.
With this leadership, there are challenges. Just today, I ran into some difficulties implementing a new metric. When I hit an obstacle that makes me feel like giving up, I go back to what inspired me to take on this position in the first place. I remind myself that I signed on for this command and motivate myself to push forward.
I use that same logic with the people I am responsible to train. I coach them by bringing them back to their “why.” I ask them why they joined this team and want to work for Cyberbacker. I remind them of those initial goals and then ask if their goals are the same, or if they have changed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first mistake when I took on the launch division stemmed from the fact that I was feeling pretty proud of being accelerated into that role. When I became a VP at Cyberbacker, it was a big deal. The hierarchy goes: CEO, President, and then VP. There are currently only 9 VPs in the company. On top of that, I was the youngest VP because I was the first to be promoted directly from Headbacker. The other VPs went the route of director first.
One of my first projects was something we call the GPS, which stands for goals, priorities, and strategies. In this project, leaders map out their plan of action for the upcoming year. I was under the impression that I would follow Craig’s lead in this role. Since I envisioned myself running plans by Craig for his approval, I made the mistake of going into that GPS meeting without doing enough research. I brainstormed for a few hours and wrote down the first things that popped into my head. As I presented the plan to Craig, it felt like I was delivering an elementary book report in place of a graduate thesis. It was a newbie mistake.
I came away from that meeting mortified. I was sure Craig thought he’d chosen the wrong person. In fact, I could almost hear him saying, “I just hired somebody who wanted to be promoted but doesn’t have a clue what she should be doing.”
I know I’m not alone in those feelings. I recently read an article about how difficult it is to convince yourself that you have what it takes to be successful after a promotion. The story said most people feel they don’t have the skills they need for their new roles. In my experience, it was intimidating at first, but confidence came after a few months on the job.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In response to one of your earlier questions, I discovered the importance of always returning to your “why” as I learned to lead at Cyberbacker.
The book “Find Your Why” by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker has a wonderful quote about this. Sinek says, “If we want to feel an undying passion for our work, if we want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves, we all need to know our WHY.”
That lesson impacts every decision I make on the job and every conversation I have with my team. If you have a bold vision, you won’t inspire people to join you with tangible incentives. You’ll inspire them by giving them a purpose and sense of belonging.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
To avoid burnout, you have to love what you do. Not everyone has the luxury of choosing their job. As I mentioned before, when I first came to Cyberbacker, I asked for a position in administration but was given a role as a recruiter. It wasn’t my goal, but I looked for ways to love that job.
You may not have your dream job, but you can always find something about the work that you like. Trust your instincts to discover what you enjoy about a role and then grow in those skills. For example, I was eventually profiled for the launch division because I followed my passion for entertaining and took a year to host events in comedy clubs. My advice is to find something you love about your job and lean into it.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunities but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
I decided to transition from working in the office to working from home to avoid the daily commute. Previously, I was working in Metro Manila and lived in Cavite, a province south of Manila. I traveled for one and a half hours just to get to the office, and my trip home could be longer than two hours if I ran into rush hour. Imagine how much of their lives so many people spend sitting in their cars! When I started working remotely, I gained four hours each day to hang out with friends, spend time with family, exercise, sleep, and relax.
I also noticed a huge dip in my expenses when I started working from home. When I worked from the office, I ate lunch with coworkers and didn’t always get to choose where we ate. Sometimes, they chose restaurants I considered pricey. When you work in an office, there are extra expenses that are out of your control. Working from home, you save money on gas, food, and your wardrobe.
In spite of all that, the biggest benefit I’ve found remote work offers is more time with family. It’s a great feeling waking up each morning to join my family for breakfast after I log out from work. Not only that, but I’m home every evening for dinner with them, too.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
The first challenge remote workers run into is a need for equipment. Right off the bat, home offices need a reliable computer, a high-speed internet connection, and a nice headset. Those are the three basics to get things going. If you lack one of those, remote work will be nearly impossible. As a remote employee, you need to start with top-of-the-line equipment. If you come to the job with an outdated computer and slow wi-fi, your productivity is bound to suffer. Dependable equipment can amount to an expensive investment, but it will make or break your daily success.
The second challenge remote workers face is fatigue. If you didn’t get good sleep the night before, chances are you’ll hit a lull sometime during your shift. At home, you’re working within steps of your sofa, and if you’re tired, you’ll hear your bed calling your name.
The third challenge faced by so many remote workers is background noise. It’s tough to control distractions from family members and pets, and you don’t want to be the person shouting for everyone to quiet down all the time. The walls in my house are one layer of wood. They don’t prevent much sound from getting through.
The fourth challenge for me has been power outages. Here in the Philippines, we’re in the path of all the storms from Southeast Asia. You can’t control a force of nature like a typhoon or hurricane. The time between June through December is our rainy season, and we know to expect regular Category- 1 hurricanes. We’re used to it here, but it does interrupt my work.
The final challenge for remote workers is the constant distraction from our gadgets. If you’re working with your phone beside you, you will be strangled by social media unless you find a way to stay disciplined. In my experience working in a call center or corporate world, phones are banned in the operations area. When you work from home, you can have Netflix on your iPad and Instagram scrolling on your phone. You’re the only one keeping yourself accountable.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
Sure, I’d be happy to. To overcome the initial need for equipment, prepare ahead of time. Before even interviewing for a remote job, start saving for the tools you’ll need. In addition to a computer and headset, check company websites to see if the jobs you are pursuing mention other requirements. And don’t skimp on your equipment. It’s always best to hit the ground running with exactly what you need.
If you are feeling sleepy during work hours, find a sleep schedule that works with your shift and stick to it. I work the graveyard shift but don’t reset my sleep schedule on weekends. Instead of shifting to daytime in the Philippines, I sleep like I’m in the US. In my new role in the launch division, I host events on Saturdays and Sundays. Fortunately, I can stick to my sleeping pattern because those gigs are in the evenings. My advice is to establish a sleeping pattern that extends through the weekend.
To alleviate background noise, many people hang styrofoam egg crates along their office walls. It’s a common do-it-yourself soundproofing hack used by remote workers here in the Philippines. I’ve also set expectations with my family about the volume level I need during work hours, and they have adjusted. They even know it’s their job to quiet the dog down when I’m working.
To overcome power outages, I strongly suggest that remote workers have backups in place. An uninterruptible power supply, known as a UPS, gives you time to shut down your laptop and save your work. A UPS responds instantly to power failure but is not the same as a battery backup. The UPS battery system is designed to be a stopgap between your main power source and your backup power. It takes several minutes for your system to start drawing from your backup. The UPS responds instantly and then hands the load to your backup system when it’s ready. The battery on your UPS system can only handle a sustained load for a few minutes, so you’ll want a backup system on hand to take over. It’s best to unplug during an outage to protect your computer from power surges when electricity is restored, but we can’t always do that as remote workers, so have a surge protector ready.
Finally, if distractions from your devices are proving to be a challenge, the best advice I can offer is to turn them off during your work hours. Of course, part of your job involves communicating through email and social media, but that doesn’t mean you have to respond to every message in seconds. Establish specific times to check messages, so you’re not constantly getting off task.
Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?
If you love what you do, you won’t accept mediocrity; you will always do your best. This mentality will cause you to be noticed whether you work on-site or remotely. When you catch management’s eye, make the most of that opportunity. If you are offered a task or a promotion, take it, whether you feel ready or not.
The secret is that nobody feels prepared to advance. What’s holding you back? If you don’t feel ready, relax. You will never feel ready. When you are promoted, you’ll know the specifics of the job through onboarding and on-the-job training. Take the leap. You’ll be ready when you’re there.
Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?
If someone comes to me saying they feel ready to advance, I show them the steps that can make it happen. Next, we plan together to distribute those steps over a reasonable timeline. If they want to be promoted in six months, I show them what they need to accomplish by the end of each month. Throughout that time, I check in with them to see if they are staying on track.
If there are areas where my employees need to grow, I hope they recognize my criticism is meant for their benefit. People who are open and ready to grow listen to feedback and do what it takes to improve. Sometimes, looking at a list of everything they need to do to advance can seem overwhelming. My role as the leader is to check in on their progress. If they are not on track, I can readjust the timeline. I always try to ensure that they feel the goals are realistic. If they believe the goals are unrealistic, they won’t do what it takes to accomplish them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I have to start by saying thank you for that wonderful question! I would love to inspire people with something I learned from a previous supervisor. He said, “Comply before you complain.” In other words, get to work before you give feedback. Whenever I doubt a task will succeed, I remind myself to take action before saying anything negative.
In terms of our jobs, we’re tasked with responsibilities every day. The expectation is that we do our work regardless of how we feel. I believe we’d all be happier in our jobs and contribute so much more to our workplace cultures if we joined a “comply before you complain” movement.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can follow me and my work through my LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.
My pleasure. Thanks for allowing me to share!
Remote Career Development: Robbie Gallegos Of Cyberbacker On How To Advance and Enhance Your Career… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.