Episode 3

The One Where We Discuss Managing Remote Teams With Gisele Navarro

Published on: 22nd June, 2021

This week we speak to Gisele Navarro, CEO at Content Marketing Agency NeoMam, about working remotely and managing remote teams.

Where to find Gisele:

Website: https://neomam.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giselenavarro/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ichbinGisele


Episode Sponsor

Massive shout out to NOVOS for sponsoring the full second season of WTSPodcast.

NOVOS, the London-based eCommerce SEO agency, has won multiple awards for their SEO campaigns including Best Global SEO Agency of The Year 2 years running. Trusted by over 150 global eCommerce brands including the likes of Bloom & Wild, Patch and Thread, NOVOS provides technical eCommerce SEO expertise with a creative edge by specialising across platforms like Shopify & Magento. They have been named as one of 2021's best workplaces in the UK and with a diverse, gender-balanced team are a culture-first agency.

Where to find Novos:

Website - https://thisisnovos.com/

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/thisisnovos

Twitter - https://twitter.com/thisisnovos

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/thisisnovos/


Episode Transcript:

Sarah: Hello and a very warm welcome to the Women in Tech SEO podcast. I’m Sarah McDowell, SEO Content Executive at Holland and Barrett., content executive at Holland and Barrett and I will be your host for today. We have Gisele Navarro joining us today to talk about remote work in a subject that I think we can all relate to right now. Gisele is the CEO of NeoMam, a creative studio on a mission to produce content that people want to share with a background in link building and leading a fully remote and multi-cultural team of specialists from her home in Derbyshire.

Gisele, a very warm welcome to the show.

Gisele: Thank you for having me, Sarah. I'm happy to be here.


This season is sponsored by NOVOS. NOVOS, the London-based eCommerce SEO agency, has won multiple awards for their SEO campaigns including Best Global SEO Agency of The Year 2 years running. Trusted by over 150 global eCommerce brands including the likes of Bloom & Wild, Patch and Thread, NOVOS provides technical eCommerce SEO expertise with a creative edge by specialising across platforms like Shopify & Magento. They have been named as one of 2021's best workplaces in the UK and with a diverse, gender-balanced team are a culture-first agency. Check them out on thisisnovos.com or follow on Linkedin @thisisnovos


Sarah: Thank you very much for agreeing to spend your afternoon with me. How are we doing? How's your Wednesday been?

Gisele: I mean, it's almost coming to an end now. So the future looks bright.

It's been good. I've been quite busy this week, so I'm a bit more tired than you should. But I hope I can tell you where I go on the podcast. And yeah, it's been, it's been good. How was your Wednesday?

Sarah: I mean, I've no meaning to brag, but I have had today off. So I'm feeling quite Zen. Like I fell asleep earlier, listening to a podcast in the sunshine. So that's the kind of day that I've had.

Sarah: Can you give our wonderful listeners a brief overview of yourself, what you do and how you got into this world of SEO?

Gisele: Yes. So I lead the team at NeoMam. So basically my day today, it's just working with everybody who helped us in the creation and the promotion of the content that we make for our clients.

And so my background is in link-building. So I started in SEO back in 2009. And I think by 2000, and by the end of 2010, it was quite clear to me that link-building was my thing, and I really liked it. So I ended up being a CEO because I used to work in sales and I was actually quite depressed and I felt that I needed to change something.

I was too young to feel the way I was feeling. I felt at the time. So I just quit my job and went online to see what I could do from home. And I've, I've always had a blog since I was a kid, so I kind of knew things or the CEO. So I did put myself out there as a freelancer. And I started, you know, getting paid, I don't know, 50 cents an hour too.

To write meta descriptions and things like that. And over time, I started getting closer and closer to some agencies and just the rest is history radio. From there. I kind of got into SEO seriously, not just because it was the one thing I could do from home, but also because I really found it interesting and challenging.

And in terms of Neo mom, I joined the umum seven years ago as the head of outreach. And I just grew from there to lead the operations. And now as the CEO of the company. So no pressure for me now, but it's, it's been a, it's been a ride. One that I enjoy, which is the important thing, I guess. 

Sarah: Thank you for sharing that story and for being very honest there. I would like to move on to a quick quick fire round of questions.

[Quick Fire Questions]

Sarah: So first things first, what would you say empowers you to be the brilliant woman you are today?

Gisele: That's a good question to me. It has to be just looking half, like how far I've come and just seeing every time I look back. I feel stronger for the fixes I've made to overcome the things that I've learned.

You know, the people that I got to work with, everybody I've met in my life, the decisions I've made that would go there were way bad. I think all of that, I don't let the past or mistakes I've made become a place I don't want to go to in my mind. Like to use that as a reason to, you know, to keep going and to feel strong. 

Sarah: What one bit of advice would you give women starting out in the industry.

Gisele: Don’t burn yourself out. Don't just feel like you have to. Whether you are just starting or because you're a woman. Because I think we don't make that mistake sometimes when we're new at something that we just want to give it all out.

And sometimes actually taking a step back and resting is. Equally as important for you to learn your brain needs it. So, you know, I know that you're super eager to learn and to just get into it. And, but give yourself time to rest. 

Sarah: Then before delving into today's topic about working remotely and managing remote teams you've been CEO of Neo mom for nearly a year now.

Firstly, congrats for getting that role. That's amazing. So I mean, There's so many questions I could ask you here. But I think I'm going to keep it quite simple and go with what it's been like taking over leadership of the agency from the founder. So how have you found CEO life?

Gisele: I guess I thought at the beginning that it would be one thing and now I can say it's another. So I guess it was a little bit of a ride, but particularly because it all happened during, you know, the whole pandemic situation. So I think I have a plan set for the next 10 years for the agency and the things that we would do and suddenly became quite clear now. I needed to be in the moment more and not so much in the future.

So being more aware of the team of how they were, how they were handling the situation. In their, in their countries, you know, everybody is leaving something quite different because everybody has different lockdowns, they're all in different countries. So being that to support the team I think I knew I was going to have to do that, but I didn't feel that I didn't really think it was going to be such an important part of the role.

And it became. No, the key of my role is just coming calls with my team and being there with them. Hmm. And so, and that was also quite different from the way in which the founder, oh, their previous CEO used to run the company. Maybe because I, I don't know how they can do more than fish, maybe. I don't know.

But I really got very close with everybody. And Every decision I made throughout the year of new things, we were going to try or decide to say no to business or I don't know, to let go of clients or anything that I didn't see really came from. Responding to what I felt the team needed. And I think that really shifted what I thought, you know, as a CEO, you're going to be setting the pace and everyone is going to be following you and all that.

And then I think there is a lot of that. Definitely, but there is also. A lot of looking into, you know, the dynamics of everybody, how are they working? What do they need? And what's working well for people. How can we get more of that? What is not working? How can we fix that? How can we get rid of that? And those big pictures.

Team decisions, I think, because everybody's doing their work, they today, they can't make those decisions. Sometimes they can't even see the problems because they're inside of them. So I'm just there to try to help them see.

Sarah: So it's like a bird's eye view. Is that what you're sort of talking about that like, cause you know, cause I get that because when you're like stuck in your, in something, because you're so involved and engaged I suppose it's hard to take a step back and like yeah. Look at it more holistically.

Gisele: Yes, that's right. And I think I've been trying as well to create some spaces for people to have time to fake whether it is that it is five minutes before a meeting with me when I send them some questions about, okay. How to think about, you know, what is something that you're working on?

That you're not enjoying right now. You know, what is it that, every time it comes to you, you're happy about, and suddenly they are. I think helping everybody rethink the way that they look at their work and they can see how powerful that is as a business. So I didn't think I was going to end up doing that.

You know, I took the role. So, but it's been great. And I think it did change a lot of my perception of, of what I would fit in.

Sarah: So I decided to reach out. And I asked the following questions. On Twitter, I asked the question: when we returned to the new normal, what would you prefer out of the following work from home returns?

And blended a bit of both. Now my research is based, cause it's always good to sort of what's the word light to substantiate your research and your data, 130 votes. I didn't think it was that bad on a Friday evening. Do you know what I

Gisele: Like solid. I wasn't expecting so many actually, right. When I woke up on Saturday, I was like, wow, that's really Wednesday.

Sarah: So, I mean, I'll share the results. So 46.9% said work from home. 4.6% said returned to the office and 48.5% said blended. So a bit of both there. So I mean, are you surprised by any of those sorts of stats or is that something that you would have sort of expected to.

Gisele: Yeah, I think I would have I think, I mean, obviously since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been arguing, whether what's better, right? Like now, now that you got remote, you see how good the office is or the other way around. Right. And I can imagine that if you had been working in an office for a long time, and then from one day to the next, you had to start working from home and the process.

That you were working in, was not ready for it. If there were no systems in place, if you know this, the board wasn't there because leadership also didn't know how to handle the situation. And they would also perhaps focus on other things. It wasn't the word just how you did your job, but also how to keep afloat as a business or whatever.

I imagine working from home for a lot of people. Horrible. So I wasn't, I guess when I, so 5% of people say, I want to go back to the office, I was like, yeah, I get it. Like I get it that you would want to, because I imagine it's not being great. And at the same time, I think there's a lot of emphasis right now about hybrid, about hybrid workplace.

I particularly know that, you know, the look that was kind of lifted kind of people actually want it to be, so show them one thing too. To not be just at home working, but at the same time do want to be at home working. So I I, yeah, I saw the results and I thought, yeah, this makes absolute sense.

Do I agree with a hybrid workplace?I guess it depends. There's a lot of things I think have to be considered.

Sarah: That’s so interesting because personally, I think that, because I obviously got involved in the poll and I selected a blended bit of both because there's times where I like working from home. Because I've seen, it gives you flexibility also.

I feel like I'm the most productive as well, but then so there's been like a couple of times where I've been back into the office. And yeah, like, and I've enjoyed that because it's something like, yes, you put productivity probably isn't as high because you've got all the conversations going on around you.

And like, it's hard to keep concentration and stuff, but at the same time I get why some people like to be in the office and be surrounded by people. So, yeah, I get, but then I also knew that not everyone works the same. And I always say, like, I wasn't surprised that there was a wow. The results were pretty much the same for work from home and blended a bit of both.

Isn't it? Like no one wants to go back to the office full time. Did they?

Gisele: Nobody wants to go to the Yankees full time. That's basically the headline of this, of these fall. But I think to myself, the reason why I say hybrid. I think as a leader or a manager or a business owner, there has to be clarity around when and why we are going to be in an office or at home?

So these ideas are like, oh, the office is that you come, if you want to, and if you don't want to, you don't come. I think in the long-term could be problematic because either there will be a situation where. There's people who always come to the office and there are people who never come to the office and it becomes a, you know, you could have communication breakdowns, you can have you know, different processes that are naturally born.

So if you are already in the office, you, the things in a way, but then if you aren't at home, you know, you find a way around the fact that perhaps this information is nowhere for you to see because people talk about it in your office, but you are at home. And at the same time, I think there is a potential of having, you know, an ask versus them situation from a group dynamic perspective.

So I think it's quite important that it's, that there, the teams are involved in the decisions as to, like you were saying, okay, when they see it, that you feel more productive at home, what type of tasks do you like doing that? How, how can we plan it so that. You get to do those things at home, that you feel better at, and what type of, for, what do you like to be at the office?

Is it a specific meeting that you'd like to have at the office? Is it specific, you know, tasks that you work on that it's better for you to be in an office because X Y set, because you don't want to be at home because you need materials that you have here because whatever. But I think it's important that instead of putting it on there, employees decide what they want to do.

That is actually the organization that thinks about it. And that builds a system that allows for people to be in and out of the office and still connected the same way and still collaborating. Yeah. In the, in the same, in the same way, not creating different dynamics of, okay, if you are from home, you know, you're going to miss out on certain things.

Or if you're at the office, you know, you don't have to do these extra steps anyway, because you're at the office now, even though perhaps there's somebody from home that will need you to do those extra steps, because it will have no visibility. If you don't do that, you know, So I think that's something that has to be thought about

Sarah: When we're talking about managing remote teams, how do you build trust in culture?

Gisele: Yeah, so I guess, I mean, it will depend on the company, right? So what the culture is for that one specific company, obviously, obviously, if you, as a leader, if you don't set the tone for your culture, then. Be born regardless. So if you say, oh, we have no picture. That's just silly. It's like, well, your team alone working together because that's what we do as people when we're in groups.

So suddenly we will have all social norms and, you know, the things that we all agree with and the things that we don't agree with. So as a leader, you're not setting the tone for that. Your team will. And then, so then you will have a culture that you might not like in your own company. So. What happens when you're working remotely?

Is that if up to this point, your culture was, oh, we have fun. You know, we are, we are social and we, oh, culture is the team activities. We do, you know, we go to the bar on a Friday or we have drinks or. Seventy-one of those things are gone and, and you might feel like you're, it's hard to be a culture. The reality is that those things are not culture.

Those things are activities. And perhaps that they had their lining thing that connects all of you is not the fact that on a Friday you will have a drink, you know, and it, I think it takes a little bit more thinking. When you don't have the physical office for you to decide, okay, who, who are we as a team?

Who are we, you know, who are we as a company? What are the things that we have in common ? For the good or the bad, you know, they connect us. What are the values that we all share? And when you are, when you're working remotely, if, if your values are clear and if your, you know, your processes that you have built.

And then communications, the way we should communicate, if those, all of those things, can become tools for you to strengthen your values on a regular basis. So, you know, just to give you an example, our number one value is to be open and honest, and we are already open and honest. So we are as a team, you know, in our content, in our blog posts.

And the conversations that we have in the industry like me right now with you, I'm just, I'm telling you what comes directly from my brain without filtering to make it look nicer and be like that. And I think as a team, we put things in place. So for example, every Friday we all receive as. Pull where we are asked to rate the week from one to five, one being I hate today, then five being.

I love that. And then just sharing, you know, something that we really enjoyed and something that we found challenging. That is a key tool for our open and honest value. Yes. Because everybody, I think the first time that you actually go in and you put on that and you say something challenging, that was really terrible.

And somebody else from the team gets in touch and says, Hey, I read about these. How are you? How can I help or whatever you realize that actually being open and honest it's okay. It's good. Right. It's rewarding. It builds trust. And so it is a very specific case because it's just, you know, it's just a value that allows us to build trust.

But it's a little step that we took along the way. Make it, so these values are alive every single week, even if you've been all week, not having to have a tough conversation and an open and honest, you know, putting on the table, this is not working for me on a Friday. You're going to have to, because you're going to get an email that it's going to ask you what China wants this week or how this week was for you.

And that is your everybody's open and honest in that one moment. And I think it gives that vibe. Relevant than happening all the time in Asia to all the other times when we are at operatus with each other. And so I think that's the type of stuff that you can do. I mean, you should do those things as well.

When you have enough things to keep your values alive, other than just put them on a poster or paint them on the wall. And I think remotely, it takes everything. It's more intentional. 

Sarah: How about training then? Are there any sort of challenges or advantages when it comes to training remotely?

Gisele: I think obviously I think this is one of the key things that I've seen discussions around and I'd been pulled into discussions about, you know, oh, you can't hire junior team members because you can't train juniors.

They have to be in. Yeah, they have to shadow. They have to be there with seniors and the way I go around and I, we have higher than training many juniors. I actually have two juniors in training right now. So we have found a way around it, which is, you know, very well documented onboarding. Normally I will, I go as far as to schedule their first, depending on whether they have worked remotely before.

One week, two weeks or a month. So I scheduled the whole thing so that they start feeding into a routine. And so they don't come from, I have no, I don't know what I'm doing until 70. I'm working on my own and nobody's here to tell me anything they actually know exactly. Particularly for the first two. Okay, what's going to happen.

Who should I talk to? What am I going to be reading? And what task am I going to be working on? I always try for people to start working within the first week. So I don't do it for a week off, you know, meet the team, comment on the call, show another call and read another post. Read that other guy. I plan it so that the first day is definitely a full-on reading and setting up your computer and getting all the tools ready and everything.

And then from now on, from the second day onwards, it's always, you know, you read something in the morning and you do a task in the afternoon connected to what you read. And then the next morning you're going to have a call with somebody about what you just did. So. It's a constant, you read something you're so bad at and then you go and you apply it and then you get feedback on it.

And then you start and read another thing. And within two weeks, I try to get juniors to be working side by side with the seniors. So if it's, for example, from a point of promotion out, right. They will chair a campaign. So you have a senior being a lead in a campaign and then junior and be a support.

So that means, you know, this, you know, we set the strategy that junior gets to see how the strategy is set. They share, they work within the same spreadsheet when you're, when they're building their contact lists. So then even though they had different paths, the junior is constantly looking to what the senior is doing to inform what they are going to do.

You know, the senior is going to write the speeches and then the juniors are going to write the follow up pitches and they work together to build so that they are actually swallowing each other better than if it's the junior. What you'd just be sitting by the side of the senior as a senior, it's just working.

So I think that's the way in which I would recommend if, if anybody, you know, is going to be continuing to be remote and it's going to be training people from scratch. Just think about the training and just think about the pieces and how you can pair, how could you initially, you know, give them the information and get, yeah.

Working on a specific task right away so that they are not just absorbing a lot of information that they didn't, they don't know what to do with it. So constantly absorbing and applying and solving and planning. And then how can you pair them up on small tasks? So that they can work together with a senior, whether it is, if it's a writer, you know, they can write and then the seniors are editing them.

So then they can, they work together in the same document. It's important that they get to work together. I think that's when they really do learn from each other and it even happens for, for a senior, you know, they suddenly would get asked questions that you should in their day to day. They don't get asked because they're just doing their job and they're surrounded by seniors.

For them to be working with a junior, it refreshes their view or their job. So if anything, like having juniors around this freebie is really good. So yeah, that's what I would say.

Sarah: And we probably got time for one last question. Okay. So what about when it comes to PDPs or so does that differ when working remotely, I imagine it does. But again, how, and what are some sort of advantages and disadvantages?

Gisele: Well, again, I think it depends on how you do them, like what the approach is, but they use your PDP approach that I know of. Different places I worked in are, you know, there's documents on what you go and you fill in your view of what, how you lead and then your manager comes and they fit in their view.

And then you have a conversation and there's some goals set, and then you go on and do the next BDP. When you find out if you've done a good job or not. And then again, you know, it comes the next month or two months or whichever, you know, how regularly you do that. I think working remotely. This is the same.

If you're working remotely, feedback has to be immediate. You can't let things too, or, you know, assume that you can't assume anything. Really. You need to be clear and transparent because you are not, you know, you don't have, you're not reading body language. You're not, you're not seeing or being able to oversee what somebody is doing.

You really have to clarify. So if somebody is, you know, if that mistake is made by you, you need to go in right away and find out, you know, what happened. But not from a point of, you know, oh, you made a mistake, you see the person it's, it's more around, oh, you know, I notice this happened here, you know, could you walk me through what you did and then use every single opportunity as a, as a feedback.

Opportunity instead of, you know, saving everything for a meeting that you're going to have at some point where you're going to round up a list of things, mainly because when you're working remotely, you are building as much as the company, as an organization, we have to give processes to people. You are going to build your own processes.

You're going to build their own routines. And you're going to build your own way of doing things because you are unknown. So the more that actually you're receiving feedback on a regular basis, They're better for you instead of me allowing you to be in the routine that you really got stuck in and then coming, you know, once a month or once every three months to tell you all the things that are wrong, there's going to be really hard for you to change because how the teams work.

So I think what's important is that ongoing feedback. And then if you do, I, my personal way of doing it, I do have one to ones with people and. My one to ones are all around. What's working and what's not working. So, you know, what's working well for you. What's not working. And I do the same on my end.

So what I see is working well and what I see is not working. So we are focused on something specific instead of going through every, okay, let me just score you on a scale of zero to five, how good are you at, you know, effective communication fives? Like, wow. I mean, I think when you are remote, all of that bureaucracy can be lost and it can just become something that it just seems ancient.

Really. It's like an old fashioned way of actually telling you what you need from me, because I'm at home. It's like a very private situation where you're working, but you're in your house, you know? So I think you're more open to, you're more open to feedback. There is more opportunity to have private conversations that are truly private because you're at home, you know, so actually using those conversations to go cut to the chase, you know, what's working well, what's not working well.

And then having some next steps. Being able to follow up with regular feedback and not just, oh, let me just pop it into the document so I can talk about it on the next PDP two months from now. I think that type of, or of that type of feedback loop. I don't see it working well for remote work, but that's again, obviously as with everything else I've said, that's my opinion.

Sarah: Yes. And it all comes from like the experiences that you've had and  and yeah. Wonderful. Right. Well thank you very much for sharing your knowledge on today's subject.

Sarah: Are you ready for a bit of fun?


Sarah: Right. If people were to carry on the conversation with you, how can they do that?

Gisele: I mean, Twitter is a good place and LinkedIn. So on Twitter, I’m @ichbinGisele and if not LinkedIn though I don’t check it often but I always get back to those who message me in a couple of days. 

Sarah: I would just like to say thank you for listening to the Women in Tech SEO podcast.

We are available on all your podcasts and platforms. If you want to find out more about the podcast sponsoring opportunities or how to apply to be a speaker visit www.womenintechseo.com/podcast. And you can also find the podcast on Twitter. We are @techseowomenpod. To find out more about the brilliant Women in Tech SEO community and if you don't know much about it and you're not involved, I really urge you to check it out. And you can do that by visiting womenintechseo.com. It’s an awesome community to be involved with. 

There's nothing left for us to say but goodbye until next time.



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About the Podcast

The Women in Tech SEO Podcast (WTSPodcast) is THE podcast for all things SEO. Each week we invite brilliant women in the industry to join us and delve into specific topics so that we can learn from their stories, knowledge, and experience.

WTSPodcast is part of Women in Tech SEO - a support network aimed for women in the Technical SEO field, to discuss, share and learn from one another. The aim is to empower each other in a positive, inspiring, and beneficial way, and to help build our network and accelerate our careers.

Your hosts are Areej AbuAli (founder of Women in Tech SEO & SEO Consultant) and Sarah McDowell (Podcaster & SEO Content Executive at Holland & Barrett).

Website: https://www.womenintechseo.com/podcast/
Twitter: @techseowomenpod

About your hosts

Sarah McDowell

Profile picture for Sarah McDowell
Self-confessed SEO geek, which is why I spend my spare time co-hosting a podcast all about the bloomin' topic. I've been working in SEO since 2012. I am currently working as an SEO Content Specialist at Holland & Barrett. Yes, I could probably hook you up with some vitamins and supplements, if you ask nicely...

Areej AbuAli

Profile picture for Areej AbuAli
Areej is an SEO Consultant with over 8 years experience who focuses on all things technical and on-site. She is the founder of the Women in Tech SEO community and has spoken in industry events such as MozCon, SMX and BrightonSEO.