Welcome to our new series on the blog, where we sit down with individual team members and discuss their challenges, triumphs, and adventures. For our first interview, we’re speaking with Michael Corrigan, Mokriya’s Head of Growth, about how he combines travel and work.

Long before Mike joined Mokriya, he was already looking for a way out of the standard work/life balance found in the traditional 9–5 office life. Mike wanted to travel more, something that was hard to do if you worked in sales. So he quit his job at a large San Francisco startup and took off for South America with a passport and a backpack. After fourteen months exploring the continent, Mike returned to the Bay Area with a new mission: find a way to travel and work at the same time.

Then, not quite three years ago, Mokriya found Mike and brought him on as the new Head of Growth. As a remote company, our team works a bit differently than more traditional setups. Our employees are each trusted to manage their own time and work from wherever they choose. As long as the work itself is of high quality, what does it matter where or when the employee made it happen?

These days Mike keeps a base apartment in Colombia, but travels a significant portion of the year. Since joining the Mokriya team, he’s been to 58 countries in about three years. That covers five continents. “I’m still missing Africa and Antarctica,” he says.

I caught up with Mike over video chat to discuss his work/life balance, his strategies for high productivity on the road, and how the team fosters a sense of unity despite being spread out all over the world.

What kind of adventures have you had since joining Mokriya?

I learned how to scuba dive and just went to the Great Barrier Reef last week to go scuba diving. I went on a hot air balloon ride in Turkey a few months ago. I got in a nasty motorcycle accident in Nicaragua last year. I was on these tiny islands off the coast of Nicaragua and wiped out on a motorcycle. I was pretty bad, I had to have surgery and I was in a wheelchair.  But yeah, this job has allowed me to go out and do really cool things in the world. I’m a huge, huge traveler. For people who are big travelers, Mokriya is an especially great company to work for.  

I have rode camels in Dubai. Raced Lamborghinis and Porches in France. Road tripped all over Eastern Europe. Explored SE Asia to find the most delicious food in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. I love traveling the world and getting to know new people and new cultures. To me, that makes life so much more interesting, exciting and fulfilling. I am so grateful that Mokriya has allowed me to live this amazing lifestyle

 

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Tell me about your typical day? How do you structure your work week?

No day is really the same. In sales, you are juggling a lot of different tasks at different times. It can be very stressful, but very exciting at the same time. From prospecting, to finding new people who want to listen to the Mokriya story, giving our sales pitch on phone calls, trying to land deals with new clients and making sure current clients are happy. There is really no ‘typical’ day or week. That keeps things quite interesting.

Since I travel a lot, I am constantly juggling time zones. Depending where I am in the world, I may be taking in the sights of a new country during the day, and doing emails or calls at 2am. I make sure that my travel and hobbies do not interfere with my work. For me, travel is a great way to help relieve some stress of the job but I never allow it to get in the way of being productive.

Do you keep a to do list at all?

I do. I have a massive to do list whiteboard. It’s very satisfying, writing something on there and crossing it off.

Do you use any other productivity tools?

The CRM that we use, salesforceIQ, has tasks and to do lists and automatic followups. That’s the major one that I find helpful. I used to be into trying out all the different productivity tools — There’s a million of them. But I found that, for me, the whiteboard is best. It’s old-school, but just physically writing it down works for me.

What was the biggest challenge about coming onboard to the Mokriya team?

I don’t have a technical background and Mokriya does fairly technical work, so there was definitely a learning curve that came with that. But I had a kind of breakthrough about a year and a half ago. I was in Japan — I’d traveled to Japan because I wanted to see a sumo wrestling competition, it had been a dream of mine. Now that I was working at a company that let me work from anywhere, I could just go to Japan at any time. So one day I just bought a ticket and left. While I was there, I had an important call with a fairly high-ranking, technical guy from a large tech company and he was firing all these questions at me. A year before, it would have been like he was speaking Greek to me. But, on this call I was able to answer all his technical questions. Not only that, I was sitting in a super cool, traditional Japanese guesthouse in Tokyo. He had no idea I was not sitting in an office in San Francisco. Here I was, eating sushi and going to sumo competitions in the morning and answering these questions at night. That was a cool moment.

How has this remote work style affected your personal life?

It’s really funny, I’ve had more success at Mokriya than at prior companies I’ve worked for. These were great companies, doing interesting work, profitable companies. But they micromanaged you big time. You know, they noticed if you took an extra five minutes for lunch, that kind of thing. I actually find the freedom that I have here makes me work harder. I might end up working more hours, to be honest. Because sometimes I’ll find myself at home, late at night, working. I’ve found that the freedom and the trust level just makes me feel more valued as an employee and makes me want to work harder. 

I have found that the flexibility of working at Mokriya has allowed me to focus on family/friends and other personal pursuits at a level I have not experienced before. Not being restricted to sitting at a desk in an office every day is an amazing feeling.

How do you fend off procrastination?

I think the stress of a mounting list on my whiteboard keeps me working. I wish I had a really good trick for beating procrastination but it’s just about making the time. Sometimes I’ll set my alarm to wake up extra early. I can be a morning person sometimes if I put my mind to it, so I’ll just wake up really early and shut everything else out. I open only one tab on my browser and only focus on that one thing.

How does the company stay in touch and feel connected despite being a global team?

That is a tricky one. We do have some cool team outings. Last year, we went to a Tesla dealership and drove the cars. But we don’t do those forced team-building exercises. And I think for the most part, the personality types on the team don’t need a lot of that. You know, engineers don’t tend to be overly extroverted. And even me, a sales guy, I’m not necessarily extroverted either so we don’t need to see each other all the time. But we stay in contact and meet up when we can.

What advice would you give to someone new to working on a remote team?

I would say that if you are not somebody who is intrinsically motivated, working remotely will be very hard for you. You have to be very independent, you have to be motivated, and you have to let the results speak for themselves. A lot of the time in an office I feel like success is more about face time and attending meetings without purpose. The truth is you can have a really good work/life balance if you work remotely, but you have to produce the results. As long as you’re producing results you can have a great career. I can’t believe how great I have it. I pinch myself every day, I feel so fortunate. I hope I can have this kind of quality of life for the rest of my career. I don’t want it to ever end. 

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About Tricina Elliker

Tricina Elliker is a regular contributing writer to Mokriya, based in Portland, Oregon. She's been writing about science and tech since 2008 and received her MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University in 2013.