Prior to becoming a BizDev at Buffer, Rodolphe Dutel had sailed Atlantic ocean and created an online art-sharing project 'Oh I Like Art.' These days he's keeping himself busy coming up with new content for his curated newsletter Remotive, aimed at freelancers and digital nomads. We talked with Rodolphe about sailing, Buffer's values and the future of remote work.
Where are you based these days?
I'm currently on a train, en-route for a university located in North Sydney - I've been lucky to experience different frequency of travels, and I'm trying to travel 50% of my time in 2015 by spending every second month on the road while keeping my "basecamp" in Paris, France!
Are all Buffer employees travelers and digital nomads?
Buffer is a distributed team, we're all very happy to have the opportunity to decide how and where we want to work, some of us are full-on nomads, others decide to spend more time with their family in a single location, and many more are "in between" :) We've listed the tools we use in this blog post written by Kevan.
How does your typical work day look like?
I guess it's not the easiest to describe. I spend my time helping with business development, interacting with our larger users and customers, as well as doing customer research with my teammates Tom & Patrik :) We largely use asynchronous communication methods and are happy to juggle with timezones :)
Two years ago you sailed the Atlantic in 23 days while still Buffering for your Oh I Love Art project during this trip. What did your typical day involve?
Yes, it was loads of fun! I've used Buffer to auto-distribute content while I had my full attention on sailing (it's a 24/7 commitment). I was part of crew of 4 manning the boat through 4 hours shifts (4 hours "on," then 4 hours of rest). At this stage, I was only sailing and couldn't work on any other projects. The experience is very immersive and we have little to no connectivity during those longer trips. I gathered more thoughts in this blog post.
Apart from a boat, what was the most extravagant place you’ve ever worked from?
It's been great to try many different setups, working from planes always amazes me! Another one was working from a treehouse, somewhere in the Amazon forest (on the Colombian side)!
When did you realize that online content is something you would like to make living of?
I've always loved trying to share my thoughts, much inspired by how the Buffer team has done it. Also, engaging in many "offline" adventures helped me find more to write about, such as self-improvement, innovation and creativity. I've had fun experimenting with several side projects throughout the last few years - Remotive.io being the latest one. Today it feels more like a great opportunity to learn than a source of income :)
Remotive is a curated newsletter for people interested in all things related to remote work. What are your plans with this project?
Remotive started as a simple blogpost about remote working, and grew to a 5,000+ subscribers weekly newsletter in 3 months. Adding Remotive Jobs in January, and then a blog in February help us creating a go-to platform for anyone interested in remote working. We're very much learning as we go, and hopefully we'll keep helping the remote community through content and resources to the best of our abilities.
How do you see the future of remote work? What are your views on the whole digital nomadic culture?
Remote working is a shift in the way we work, expecting 40 million people to work from home in 2019 in the US alone. It offers more flexibility to both the employee and employer, allowing people to engage in fulfilling work that suits their lifestyle and aspirations.
Digital nomads are a vocal and exotic part of the remote work shift. It certainly has a great future ahead, they are "the tip of the iceberg." I share the nomadic culture myself, and I sense that remote workers will engage in nomadic phases at different points of their professional careers.
What I feel is important to remember, is that remote working is more than traveling in nice locations - for instance, many Buffer team members benefit from remote working by settling down in a town they love and by spending more time with their family.
Is there any new project you wish to start at some point in the future?
I quite enjoy this video by Joel & Leo, suggesting that we can only focus on 3 things at a time in order to do them well. I've spent a lot of time experimenting with many projects - today, I'm trying to be mindful to be giving everyone a good experience and I'm striving to balance my time and energy to execute the projects I'm already involved in - Buffer, Remotive and my current lifestyle (nomading) :)
There will be future chapters and adventures, for now I'm very happy with the current setup!
Looking at your blog and professional background, personal development seems to be one of your favorite topics. What were the biggest life lessons you learnt and how did they push you forward?
Everyone has a different journey: For me, I resigned from my job a few years ago and spent a year picking up new skills and engaging in new experiences - that was a great way to learn more about myself.
The single biggest learning for me is to realize that we all think and act while operating under a set of assumptions about ourselves and about others. Realizing that we all make assumptions helps broaden the mind and practice empathy - then questioning assumptions feels like the start of personal development :)
Part of your company culture is that the whole Buffer team goes on regular retreats. Can you tell us more about them?
We all work remotely, so we get together twice a year. We were in Sydney recently, and some of us - including myself - decided to stick around for a bit longer. We did cool things, such as sailing in the Sydney bay and heading out to the zoo all together!
One of your company values says that everyone in Buffer should always choose positivity and happiness, whether it’s towards colleagues or clients and never even complain. Was it hard for you to identify with this mindset once you joined Buffer?
Great question - Leo just posted about this, and updated the wording of our values to reflect "aspiration" vs "action" - it's great to find yourself in a supportive environment striving for positivity and self development! I really felt connected to the values from the get go, it's also interesting to keep improving at all time through personal improvements.
Same with transparency, focus on self improvement and listening. Reading these parts of your company values makes Buffer pretty much a dream company but such practices aren’t widespread among companies yet. How did it feel getting used to this?
Buffer is certainly a different company, it starts with the people and shows through our values (those values came in when Buffer had 7 people in the team). Once your values are set, you start attracting likeminded people willing to work towards the same direction, reinforcing the culture even further. It really feels like those values are not "the only right values," they only are the values that the Buffer crew feels the most connected with :)
Has working at Buffer changed you in any way?
The team has been amazing and very supportive, really assisting in anything related to personal development (relocated anywhere, personal improvement, side projects, picking up new skills...) It has been a very cool and positive experience for me so far!
Last question about Buffer - do you have any personal advice for those who would like to get onboard?
It would feel great to get a bit more familiar with Buffer values, in order to sense how you feel about it all - also could be cool to have a look at the check list we've put together for applicants to the Happiness Hero position, it really helps understanding how Buffer operates from the inside - the Open Blog is great too!
Since 2011 you’ve been teaching students efficiency methods at IESEG. If you had to pick one method that everyone should learn, what would it be?
It's been such a great opportunity to get to share some of the learnings I had with many different groups of business school students coming from all around the world. The material I share has changed a lot over the years, by now I feel that the one and only thing I wish to pass along is the realization that we all make assumptions - and that we should all learn to question our assumptions frequently.
Do you surf? :) Can you mention your most favorite surfing experience?
I do surf - I'm not great at it, still love it :) Best surfing experiences was when I lived in Australia. We used to wake up crazy early in the morning to see sunrise on the water and get a good session in!