Lisa Shea Mundt is a senior marketing proposal specialist with AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI) She is part of a shift in the proposal industry that has paved the way for more remote work.
RNP: How long have you been a remote professional?
I’ve been working for KSI for 2 years as a Proposal Consultant. For me, remote work is more about the job—a result of working as a consultant—rather than of me choosing to work remotely. KSI has clients all over the world and we help them write all kinds of proposals. More often than not, I work remotely because of the nature of my job and the locations of my clients.
RNP: How do you like working remotely?
I love it. There has been a definite shift in the proposal industry over the last five years – when I first started, it used to be that you had to be with your teammates in the same room for weeks on end. Everything would be on the whiteboard and the document would even be taped up on the walls. Then came greater availability of all these content management systems – SharePoint, Privia, Box, Google Docs—and it’s changed how proposals are created.
RNP: What do you see as the biggest benefits of remote work?
Given what I do, I think it just makes more sense to work remotely. At its core, proposal development is really about the creation of a written document, and I view writing as a solitary activity. Working from home means I am away from the water cooler chat and other office distractions. For me, I think remote work can be more efficient and it’s unfortunate that it gets a bad rap. Just because you are visible in an office or a “war room” doesn’t mean you are actively working. Just because you can see someone doesn’t mean they are getting 8 hours of consecutive work done in a day.
Millennials are known for jumping around—in jobs, conversations, and especially in their thought processes. Some other generations find this dizzying. I am not a linear worker…that’s just not how my brain works. I will never accomplish a task by starting at point “A” and working through to point “Z”. I’ll jump back and forth and side to side. That’s how I learn and it’s how I think. For example, just because younger workers are on their phones or looking at a social site doesn’t mean they’re wasting time, it means they are taking a break. Your brain can only stay on a singular track for so long. When you work at home, there is always a way to take a productive mental break. Then you get right back to it.
RNP: I must be a Millennial that was born too early then, since I have work like that as well, lol.
RNP: What’s your background?
I have a BA and an MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communications from James Madison University, so I was naturally drawn to government contracting and the proposal space. When I started out, I worked at small businesses where I felt limited as you tend to be more micromanaged in restricted spaces. I worked for one boss who asked me to cc: them on every single email. This level of literal oversight was exhausting for me.
That’s why I took some time to find a place where I was treated like a trusted professional. I found myself in the consulting space; it allowed me to get exposure to more diverse people without the confines of a traditional office. I meet people from different states, countries, and cultures. There is more interesting subject matter to write to and a wider variety of work to do. I like that.
RNP: When I started remote work, I was told to prepare for the loneliness – but I’ve found with all the social connection today, it’s the exact opposite; my device is my console to the world.
With remote work, you are beyond limits – how can you be lonely with the technology and the platforms we have today? I really love LinkedIn right now— you can connect, share articles for professional development, and stay in constant contact. The whole notion of connecting has changed. There are so many ways we can get involved with people even if we don’t see them every day.
RNP: Any other benefits to remote work that stand out for you?
Let’s not forget about being able to wear sweats during work hours. It’s a big thing not having to put on structured pants sometimes (laughing). And not having to commute. For many people, the most stressful part of the day is their commute to a designated location that does nothing to stimulate creativity or positivity. There’s the wasted time, road rage, and needless stress. Your home is a place where you have a mortgage or you pay rent. If you commute to an office every day you pay all this money for something you almost never see. It doesn’t make sense to me. Sometimes home is where I get my best thinking done. Meal prep doesn’t have to be something I obsess over. Everything I need is right there. Working at home means less distraction for me—I can’t tell you how much of my day flies by with people dropping by my corporate office. I’m a social person and I’m interested in what’s happening around me so having to focus can be tough. That lack of distraction is an element of remote work all workers can benefit from.
RNP: What do you see as a challenge?
Accountability….it’d be one thing to just be accountable for your own stuff, but you also have to motivate other people and keep them responsible. It’s hard because if people don’t return deliverables, then you have to track them down and get them to respond to you. This is particularly difficult when you haven’t met in person, so all you are to them is a voice floating in the ether. You also have to be tied to your phone at all time to keep on top of everything.
RNP: Are these particular tools that help you in your work?
SharePoint implemented a co-authorship feature, which is huge as a proposal writer – it helps with one of the biggest problems in proposal management – version control. Before coauthoring remote proposal writing was like having way too many cooks all in different kitchens, and then we’d have to mix all these outcomes together into a proposal Frankenstein. Now everyone can be cooking the same thing at the same time.
RNP: Are there particular traits that lead to more success when working remotely?
Be pushier than the “average Joe”. You have to be comfortable reaching out constantly to ping people, remind them about things, and stress deadlines. I’ll send a calendar invite saying “don’t forget about what you owe me” just to stay visible. You have to advocate for yourself so you don’t get lost in the white noise. You can’t be shy. Nothing gets done remotely without you explicitly asking for what you need.
RNP: What is your best practice tip for building trusted relationships over distance?
I have new people reporting to me on short term proposal projects all the time, so the bonding process has to happen immediately. This means for every new interaction with a new client or team member you have to immediately give as much as you get. On a tight timeline, you may think you don’t have time for social things, but you have to make time for it. You have to ask about them and their lives. You also can’t go dark on anyone–you don’t have the luxury of being MIA. This means you have to be upfront about your schedule and be on time for all deadlines and scheduled calls. No one should be wondering where you are and what you are doing. You have to be visible from a distance and be as transparent as possible.
RNP: Any advice for new remote work professionals?
Lots of people are going to try to tell them what is “acceptable” in a job. They will tell you the old way (that of the traditional 9-5) is the only way, and if you aren’t following the status quo then it must be wrong. But the way people are working is changing, and getting things done efficiently is more important than hours spent. It’s quality over quantity at its finest. So don’t fall into their mold. Do what works for you.
RNP: Any final thoughts? What was your biggest “ah-ha” moment as a remote work professional?
My biggest Ah ha moment…I keep thinking back to when I first started working – I heard some of my colleagues refer to working from home as “such BS”. I felt icky about that – I knew I had the work ethic, I could meet my deadlines without direct oversight, and doing a good job was my priority regardless of where I worked. I guess some people are just stuck in their ways. The way I work is not only okay, it’s the way of the future– and that’s the moral of the story!