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A Day in the Life of an Extrovert Working From Home – Meet Brenda from Shield GEO

It’s always been important to us that Shield is a place where people feel happy to work. Not just because they enjoy what they do, but how they do it too. Allowing for flexibility in hours, location and set working times gives our employees agency over how they structure their days. We know not everyone is productive in the mornings, and that there are a huge number of other priorities in people’s lives – work shouldn’t take away from that.

Each month we profile one of our employees to showcase the unique ways they utilise remote and flexible work in their life. This month, we’re profiling Brenda Limon, one of our Customer Success Managers. Brenda lives in Minnesota with her husband and two sons (her daughter ‘Little B’ lives away at college).

Meet Brenda

Brenda is no stranger to working remotely. As one of the first cohorts to experience virtual learning through Tecnológico de Monterrey, she was acquainted early on to the remote experience. Her learning years transitioned smoothly into remote work as she took on an associate professor role with her university while completing her MBA.

These skills became extremely valuable as she took on various remote roles before landing the Account Manager position with ShieldGEO in 2017.

“I don’t see another way of working anymore,” she says. “When you try something good, it’s very tough to go back.”

Brenda joined ShieldGEO after moving to the US with her family. She needed to work for someone willing to sponsor her visa and was hopeful she could continue working remotely.

“My big concerns were – I’m an ex-pat now in the US,” she says. “I have my family, and I can’t travel, I don’t have my extended family and friends to help me out here. I wanted to give it my all, but I needed to make sure that I could work from home and that there were flexible hours.”

During the week she’s able to be available for her sons in the mornings and afternoons when they come home from school, knowing she can make up time in the evenings or even check emails while she’s watching them at Tae Kwan Do.

While this has helped balance the demands of parenting with a full workload, something Brenda was looking for, it was still initially tricky for her to take full advantage of the flexibility.

“To be honest I’m a bit of a workaholic because of my sense of urgency,” she says. “I want to do everything right now, but I’ve been working on that slowly but steadily to give the true value of urgency to each task and prioritise correctly,” she says.

Coming from a background where a strong work ethic meant being available at any time, it took some time to allow herself to set proper boundaries around her family time, and fully switch off.

“I was like, ‘I will make it happen’, and I tried to delegate my home responsibilities to make it work and it didn’t take me anywhere — I was just adding stress to my life,” she says.  

Having supportive management checking in with her helped.  

Tim [Burgess, one of our cofounders] brought this up to me at one point, saying, ‘it’s ok to be there for your family — this is why we have flexible work!’” she says.

“And Duncan [Macintosh, our other cofounder] mentioned something to me that really helped [too], he said, ‘we’re not discovering the cure for cancer!”

Now, she tends to push herself to finish by 4 pm on Friday’s to spend some extra time with her boys in the afternoon as well as always taking a lunch break with her husband.

“And on the weekends, we always go out!” she says. “I work from home. I don’t want to stay here – I need to get out.”

Living in Minnesota means there are lots of parks and lakes to discover.

“We love driving and just discovering little towns,” Brenda says. “Sometimes we look at the map and just say let’s go and see what’s there.”

Though challenging at first, creating a schedule that balances work and home during the week has been hugely beneficial to Brenda. Though, it’s the ability to be agile during unexpected circumstances that she cites as the most helpful during this stage of parenthood.

“Paolo just started at kindergarten but before that was daycare and with that – at least once a month you’d get a call to come and get your son for some reason,” she says.  

“So the fact that I can go ahead with no issues at all, without the pressure of someone counting your hours is invaluable.”

A day in the life of Brenda

6:00 I wake up and have a mini good morning chat with my husband who leaves home to go to the gym at that time.
6:15 Go in the kitchen to get a HUGE pot of coffee ready. While I’m waiting for the coffee, I give myself 10 mins to look at social platforms. 
6:30 Wake up my boys (Mateo, 8, and Pablo, 5) to get in the shower and help them sort out their beds and take out their clothes. Some days I take 10 minutes here to answer work emails that I know are more urgent because of time difference.
7:00 I cook breakfast for the boys and get lunch boxes ready. This includes food for Manolo (our dog)
7:30 I get in the shower while the boys finish their breakfast and brush their teeth.
8:00 Double check that lunches, books and folders, running shoes (or snow boots) are in school backpacks.
8:20Everyone (including Manolo) gets in the car. We’ll usually have 2 trips back to the house because someone has forgotten something (usually me – the phone).  
9:00 Arrive home, get myself a second coffee and some quick brekkie. I start working at 9:00 and usually I have calls from 9 to 12:30 pm.
12:30 I cook lunch for my husband and I – he comes home every day to have lunch with me. Normally I cook on the weekends and some nights to re-heat quickly during the week.
1:00 Work and calls with clients.
3:00  Off to pick up the boys from school
3:30 Prepare a little snack for the boys
3:45 Work work work work 🎵 🎵
6:00 Get boys ready to go Tae Kwon Do (3 days a week) – Normally I take my laptop to their class to answer the last emails of the day. On other days, I do a quick grocery run and if possible, go for quick a gym session. I have a monthly dinner with friends and the odd birthday dinner (usually on a Thursday).  This is the time where we take out Manolo for quick walk (15 mins) or we play with him to keep him active.
7:30 Back home to cook dinner, get the kids showered again and put them to bed. 
8:00 Cook for the next day, clean the kitchen/house, and get some laundry done.
9:00 Sometimes I give a final check to emails, especially for those that come from APAC region. To speed-up feedback for me to action the next day
9:30 I get ready for bed
10:00 I read a minimum 30 minutes, but usually an hour, before falling asleep.

On the weekends we usually like to explore the city and find new restaurants, parks, or visit amenities in nearby cities and towns. We’ve been lucky that our daughter comes home from college once a month, definitely a most joyous weekend as I get to hang out with “my bestie”.

The challenges of working remotely

Despite the obvious benefits, working remotely is not always smooth sailing. For Brenda, her initial experience was somewhat challenging as Shield’s first employee in the US.

“I had tonnes of times where I was like, ‘what is happening? I need help, whose there?’ I had to wait for the other side of the world to wake up, or they were already finishing,” she says.

“I don’t mind being alone, working from home with no interaction – when it’s time to work I like to work. But in those early days, processes were not automated, it was very manual, so there was room for frustrations, for delays, for bottlenecks.”

Unfortunately, these experiences are relatively common in remote companies without established policies and centralised information. We were not immune to this in the beginning. When a company is still small or mostly operating out of the same or similar time zones established systems and culture, don’t seem as necessary. It’s generally easy to communicate, to have a common understanding, and to ask someone when you need help. As companies grow and expand, so do the needs for policy, established guidelines and a recognisable culture.

 “The culture was not there yet, [when I came on board]” Brenda says.  

“But now it is.”

It’s become a huge priority to us as we have grown to make our policies and collective practices more intentional and focussed.

“Everyone, not just Tim and Duncan, but the whole team, has developed a consciousness of the way we communicate now,” Brenda says. “We have an awareness of ‘we can wait for them, or they can wait for us’ [concerning team members in outlying time zones].”  

Brenda still remembers the introduction of Slack as our way of team communication.

“Every new step has been a game-changer,” she says. “It’s getting better all the time.”

A significant difference that Brenda is thankful for is the group chat and weekly social calls. Though all of her team live in Europe, having other people to talk to throughout the day has really helped her feel more connected.

As quite a social person, and in response to living away from her family, Brenda has become intentional about reaching out to teammates. Always saying good morning in the group chat and sharing little pick-me-ups throughout the week.

“We never know the impact that a little message can have for someone. A smile, a hello or something,” she says. “So I want to always make a conscious effort to make sure everyone feels a part of it to feel like they belong and have someone to talk to.”

And it’s not just for her teammates. It helps her too.

“Sometimes, I feel more connected to some of you via Skype than some of my friends here in Minnesota,” she says.  

“There can be closeness in remoteness!”

– Bree Caggiati, January 2020

Want to know more about Brenda? Visit her profile on Our Team page!

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