12 May 2023

Combining remote work and travel: the journey from support specialist to product owner

At Exness, we recognize the significance of remote work in maintaining a happy and productive team. With employees from different parts of the world, we have maintained a diverse, culturally rich, innovative, and productive environment. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Daria Prozorova, the Product Owner of the Public Web team, who has been an accomplished remote worker for several years. She shared her journey from a support specialist to a leader in Public Web, how she balances travel with work, and some helpful tips for those transitioning to remote work.

I've been with Exness for a third of my life and I can honestly say that I've found a great workplace. While I haven't worked at other companies, I have no desire to explore what's happening elsewhere."

Daria Prozorova Product Owner

I am the Product Owner of the Public Web team, which is a part of the Technology department. Our team is responsible for developing and improving 15 websites, including exness.com, exness-careers.com, and many others. As a Product Owner, my role is to bridge the gap between the business and technology teams. I work extensively with requests from stakeholders, analyze existing websites, and propose improvements based on quantitative and qualitative data.

Working on websites involves communication with many people, which can sometimes be challenging to coordinate. It requires constant negotiations, finding a balance, and making compromises. For example, to get a full picture, we often conduct surveys and communicate with various internal customers, including the Customer Support team, who have the best understanding of our clients. 

Essentially, I act as a translator between the business and technology teams, helping them to understand each other's language and priorities."

What our team does

An excellent example of our work is the recent launch of our new career website, exness-careers.com. The Talent Acquisition team requested a new version that would be easy to update quickly, unlike previous versions that required extensive time and effort. One of the challenges was the lack of a clear stakeholder, which complicated the process.

To overcome this, we engaged in a series of conversations, moved from a general concept to a brief, and created a product vision that everyone approved. As the Product Owner, I facilitated the process by dealing with technical limitations, asking questions, and ensuring centralized communication to keep all team members aware of the project's progress and ensure a smooth workflow. After the client approved our work, we began development, which took 5 months, resulting in a modern website that every team member can easily manage.

From university to knowledge management

During a Chinese language lecture at university, our teacher mentioned that the company her husband worked for was seeking people fluent in Russian, English, and Chinese to work in customer support. There were only about 30-40 people in the company back then. As a linguistics and translation student, I applied along with some classmates and was hired by Exness at the age of 22. Initially, I thought this would only be a temporary job, but as it turned out, it was the start of a long and fulfilling career. 

Fun fact: April 1 marked exactly 10 years since I started working at the company."

As a customer support specialist, I interacted with customers in chats, over the phone, and via email in 3 languages. We built our organizational processes from the ground up, and after a year, I recognized the need for a more efficient way to exchange knowledge. Together with colleagues, we started creating an internal knowledge base accessible only within our network to organize our knowledge. As the company grew and expanded to Cyprus, I became the deputy head of the customer support department and continued to develop and refine our internal knowledge base.

Career shifts 

The company later opened an office in another country and invited me to work there as a knowledge manager. Since then, I have taken an interesting and winding path that has led me to where I am today. After 2 years as a knowledge manager, I moved to the Marketing department as a copywriter. A year later, I became a website manager, and as the workload grew, I had to assemble my own team. This team eventually became Public Web, which I currently lead.

At first glance, this career path may seem surprising, but in hindsight, I realized that each step naturally led to the next. As a knowledge manager, I collaborated with the Internal Training team of the Customer Support department to create a Help Center for our clients. By moving a portion of our extensive knowledge base into the public domain, I developed the strategy, analyzed customer chats and calls, created a list of required content and languages for translation, and received support from the technical team to create a user-friendly website. And it led me to form my first team of 5 people dedicated to content production.

Sometimes, I wrote the materials myself, which I enjoyed immensely. So, when I heard about the formation of a new marketing department, I joined as a copywriter. Although my primary responsibility was writing texts for clients and advertising, I also helped with website management. Through close collaboration with the development team, my previous experience became instrumental in my eventual position as website manager. As the workload increased and I acquired subordinates, I gradually became the Product Owner of the Public Web team.

I am sharing my career story with other colleagues at our 2022 YEAP New Year's Event

My fuel for constant growth

  1. My main driver is understanding that what I do actually helps people. All of my career shifts were somehow connected to this desire. In customer support, I enjoyed answering customers' questions and making them feel calm and satisfied. Creating an internal knowledge base was motivated by the desire to help other employees get all the necessary information. Now, a separate team of 15 people works on this resource, which means it turned out to be a popular solution. The same goes for the Help Center—I wanted to help our customers find answers to their questions without contacting customer support and at the same time relieve the team from answering frequently asked questions. Now, working on 15 websites, I am motivated by the opportunity to help even more people: our employees, current and future clients, as well as our future colleagues. In my universe, I help people by improving websites.

  2. Support from managers. All 8 managers I worked with over the course of 10 years gave me freedom and showed loyalty. This was very motivating and made me move forward, justifying their expectations, which were not always voiced, but I understood that they were counting on me. And this gave me the incentive to develop.

  3. Support from the company. From the very beginning, there was training and professional development. I was sent to necessary training sessions, and my ideas were always discussed. And in general, everything important related to the product and development was approved by the company. It showed flexibility, trust, and a willingness to experiment. The company helped me with moves between offices in different countries when I shifted from one position to another. And when I wanted to switch to remote work, the company supported me. Here, the quality of work is valued, not attachment to the office or the number of hours spent on the laptop.

Exness is my first employer. I have been with it for a third of my life and I can honestly say that I have found a great workplace. While I haven't worked at other companies, I have no desire to explore what's happening elsewhere."

It seems that I was able to use the toolkit that the company provided me with correctly. I feel mutual loyalty between us—and this is what continues to motivate both me and the company.

Fully remote

Over the past decade, I have frequently worked remotely and as of November 2021, I have fully transitioned to remote work. I enjoy traveling, particularly to Malaysia, where I lived for 4 years. It feels like my second home as I have many friends there, and I am familiar with the culture and infrastructure. I've also visited Turkey and the Emirates, but I've spent most of my time in Asia. In addition to Malaysia, I've stayed in Thailand and Indonesia, and visited many other countries across Asia. Asia fascinates me, from how the countries preserve their cultures to the diversity in everything. I also love the fact that I can wear summer clothes year-round.

This type of work provides me with flexibility and a sense of freedom and control over my life, including where I am, who I'm with, what I'm eating, what clothes I'm wearing, and how I organize my time. I have always found it challenging to work in an office, as I do not feel as productive there. Currently, I am working in my kitchen at the dining table, and I am content with this setup.

Another example of my remote workplace—this one in Bali in 2022

However, this lifestyle has its downsides. At times, I feel like I am missing out on important meetings, events, and socializing that happen in an office. Additionally, constantly moving from country to country makes it difficult to build long-term relationships with new friends, only to have to say goodbye indefinitely. That's why I am considering taking a break from traveling soon and figuring out where I want to temporarily settle to recreate the feeling of being at home.

How to make remote work

When I first started working remotely, I found it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. I could wake up, open my laptop, and work until 23:00, which took a toll on my physical and mental health. However, over time, I developed 5 rules for myself that help me take care of myself and stay productive.

  1. Organize your work schedule. I structure my workday based on the time zone I'm in. Since I usually communicate with colleagues from the Cyprus office, I try to find common time slots. For example, when I'm in Asia, which is where I've spent most of my time so far, the time difference with Cyprus is +5 hours. Therefore, I dedicate the first half of my day to personal activities, such as exploring the city or exercising, and routine work tasks. And after lunch until 20:00–21:00, I mostly have meetings and discussions.

  2. Plan ahead. Planning is crucial to maintaining productivity. While I have a rough plan for the next few months, I focus specifically on one week at a time. I make lists and aim to complete everything I've planned. This ensures a gradual progress towards my goals and helps me avoid cognitive overload.

  3. Foster team interaction. During weekly meetings, I make an effort to build a rapport with my colleagues as if we've known each other for a long time. Most of them I only know online, but I hope that one day we'll all meet in person in Cyprus. We also carefully plan our work and monitor task completion to ensure that time zones and work schedules don't hinder our productivity.

  4. Create a comfortable workspace. Having a designated workspace where I can focus and shut out distractions is essential for my productivity and well-being.

  5. Maintain balance. I typically work 8–9 hours a day, but that doesn't mean I'm at my laptop for the entire duration. While some calls and meetings are tied to specific times, I balance the rest of my tasks with breaks. I go for a walk and clear my mind to return to work with renewed energy. This is a major advantage of remote work, which makes it the ideal work mode for me.

If you want to try traveling while working

There are many nuances to this lifestyle and work, and I think that it is very individual and depends on each person, their responsibilities, and the places they choose. However, I find these 2 pieces of advice to be the most universal and useful, which I myself follow.

  1. Manage your expectations. This lifestyle is not suitable for everyone, and this should be taken into account. It may seem that by working remotely, you can go to any place that seems like paradise and everything will be perfect there. However, we bring ourselves and our circumstances to every place we go, so it's hard to predict in advance how everything will work out. Therefore, it's better not to have too many expectations.

  2. Give it a try. I find it useful to set aside 6 months and travel to different countries, try different types of housing, communities, and cultures. And if something really appeals to you, you can return there for a longer period and explore opportunities for legal long-term stay. If you don't like anything, you'll still have the opportunity to see the world and gain an amazing experience. And if something really grabs your attention, you can find another place in the world that you can call home.

How career shifts influenced my skill set

  1. One skill that has accompanied me for 10 years is the ability to understand clients' and customers' problems and offer them solutions. Everything I have done has been related to this, whether it was communicating with clients in a chat, writing articles for the Help Center that really helped users, or developing new websites that would solve problems for both colleagues and clients.

  2. My set of hard skills has constantly expanded. I learned how to structure articles so that they answer potential customer questions. When I moved on to managing websites, I had to learn about markup and basic HTML, understand what "deploy" mean, and what programming language our website was written in. I immersed myself and learned about the work of different specialists on our team: developers, QA engineers, business analysts, and related teams that helped us technically. Now I can describe the entire website development process in a large company. Given that I am a linguist-translator by education, this is a significant development of my hard skill set.

  3. My soft skills have also improved. It is now much easier for me to say "no" to colleagues, while justifying the reasons and offering alternatives. My public speaking has improved, in part thanks to the demo days where my colleagues and I would talk once a month about the results of our team. Over time, I became more confident, and I noticed that others also began to hold me in higher regard. It is easier for me to work with questions. I used to think I had to know and understand everything from the first second. But in reality, no one expected anything like that from me. Now, if I don't understand something, I calmly ask to explain it to me because we are all a team interested in finding real solutions to important tasks, not in unrealistic expectations from ourselves and others.

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