Interview with Tiffany Pham: Staying Connected Even When You're Staying at Home
As many teams across the world work from home, perhaps at this point settling into the reality that things could be this way for a while, we wanted to get some expert insight on how to stay connected, and even expand your network, during the time of COVID. To do so, we checked in with Audible for Business mentor Tiffany Pham, Founder & CEO of Mogul, author of You Are a Mogul, and host of our original workshop on Building Trust to Build a Network. Read more on how she and her team are approaching connecting and networking below.
Q: As you mention in your workshop, networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s also about maintaining and building upon current relationships. Without the office as a way to engage with colleagues, it might be difficult for some to keep in touch. Do you have any advice for how to maintain relationships with coworkers/your team while distant?
A: Especially in our new normal, maintaining relationships within an organization takes intention.
I’ll use my company, Mogul, as an example. Mogul is a fully distributed workforce, so we trained our managers to make conscious efforts to make sure our day-to-day communication doesn't get misinterpreted and that we are taking time before meetings to connect with our team and to make sure they know they are supported. Everything happening in the world right now impacts people's stress levels and emotional anxiety, so we make sure we are leading with empathy and always being kind. We provide our team with the flexibility to work a schedule that fits into their lives and makes them feel most productive since we aren't tied to a physical location.
We also created a Culture Committee, who meet bi-weekly, so we can proactively find fun ways for everyone to engage and get to know one another. Maintaining relationships within an organization inside and outside of the workday is crucial, especially for a diverse team focused on organizational growth. For example, as a direct response to COVID-19, we implemented Summer Friday Wellness Checks, a company-wide set block of time where we do theme activities focused on mental wellness. The main objective of Wellness Friday's is to start the wind-down period to encourage a relaxing weekend.
We also set up time in the calendar for what we affectionately call a "Donut," a 15-minute one-on-one Zoom call with someone from the company before the workday begins. We chat, get to know each other, and have a coffee - or a donut.
Interacting with colleagues as friends also play a significant role in the overall success of a company. Even though we all can't meet in person, virtual movie nights, and happy hours, or trivia are all just fun ways to continue to connect and get to know each other.
Q: Networking can also encompass mentorship – either being a mentor or being a mentee. With so much professional interaction being digital right now, how are you personally thinking about mentorship? And do you have any advice for people currently seeking mentor/mentee relationships?
A: Because of our current global climate, I believe this may be the perfect time to find a mentor. We used to be limited by trying to find a mentor who we could be in the same room with, but now there’s never been a better time to be ambitious and to do digital outreach. If you don't have someone's email, try sending them a message on professional or social channels. Let them know you admire their work, share with them why, and offer to provide services based on your skillset.
The best thing to do is to offer them value, even if it's just a one-off project you do for free. Get your foot in the door and over-deliver on any task, no matter how small. Unfortunately, meeting someone in-person for a coffee is now probably unlikely for the time being, so offer to schedule a brief Zoom call. It takes much less time out of your day and is much safer to just have a quick call than to leave the office. So when you get a brief meeting, thank them for their time, learn as much from them as you can and maybe the conversation will end in an authentic mentor/mentee relationship.
Q: With the knowledge that in-person work/industry events may not happen for some time, what are 1-2 ways to stay engaged (and perhaps even meet new people!) amidst our current constraints?
A: I feel we have fewer constraints than before from an events perspective. No longer do we have to buy airline tickets and take a long weekend to attend a conference. We are in an unprecedented time in the positive sense that we all have so many opportunities to learn and meet new people from all over the world. So many amazing events are happening virtually now, sometimes in the same week. Many professionals have families, and now it's easier to fit multiple events into your schedule without leaving your home.
We all have the opportunity to follow what piques our interests and continuously be learning something new, and it's now easier to prioritize. You might attend an event that you weren't sure would provide any value and end up teaching you more than you could've asked. And now it's more important than ever for platforms and communities who put on events to strive to provide as much value as possible for their attendees to stand out from the crowd.
On Mogul, we host multiple virtual events, happy hours, and webinars month for professionals across major industries, and we facilitate a conversation that encourages interaction.
Q: In your workshop, you discuss some practical, tangible ways to keep track of networking efforts (i.e. keeping a spreadsheet to track contact with your current network). This advice still works well whether we’re in a pandemic or not, but due to current circumstances, are you using any tools on top of what’s suggested in the workshop? Any other tips for people who want to start organizing their networking efforts?
A: My top tip for organizing your network is to focus on building authentic, meaningful connections with like-minded people. Networking is for finding like-minded people who can help each other grow and reach their goals. If you have that mindset as you start making connections, keeping track of your network will look like keeping in touch with your friends.
I’m very fortunate to have met many people from around the world that started as a business collaboration whom I now call my friends. I will leave myself reminders to check-in and stay connected. If I see someone in my network who just got promoted or launched something new for their business, I’ll write to them, congratulate them and ask how they are doing or what new projects they’re working on. When I have a few minutes of downtime, which is few and far between, I’ll log on to Mogul and engage with the discussions from our users who are also in my network.
These small, honest communications are a great way to organize a network even if we don’t get to see each other for a while.