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ALISON MICHALK

CEO, Quiip

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Alison is the CEO + Founder of Quiip, an incredibly progressive business who have successfully partnered with Australia’s leading organisations for social media and online community success for over 10 years.

What sort of flexible work practices have you undertaken in your career?

Before starting my own company I struggled as a working parent, pregnant, with a toddler at home and a long commute to Sydney. I was fortunate to negotiate leaving work earlier and working on the train ride home, but it remained an exhausting period of my life where I questioned the “co-located” work model.

Radical flexibility was built into Quiip from day one. We let our staff tell us when and how they want to work, aligning that with our client and business demands. We trust them completely. This also means we let those who need structure have that structure, and those who work more fluidly, do so.

I currently tend to wake early and tackle my inbox before my sons wake up, and then try to wind up by the time school finishes so I can enjoy family time and my local beach [Avoca on the Central Coast, NSW].

What are the biggest barriers or challenges you have overcome in advancing your career so far ?

When I first started in online community management I could see the potential but it’s still an oft understood skillset and industry. The only solution was to start my own community management and moderation business and work with companies who appreciated its value.

On a personal level, separating and becoming a single parent five years ago was a challenge and required creative solutions to keep my family life and career in a happy & healthy place. A constant work in progress! However I had a three week old baby when I launched Quiip and he is now ten.

You have been a long standing advocate for gender diversity and been a strong and vocal voice of reason for many in a number of debates and topics related to leadership quotas based on gender. Do you think the current economic and social climate will fast track or further delay progress in gender equality in the workplace ?

Unfortunately there is already a lot of evidence showing that women have been unfairly impacted by the pandemic.

Women have been the hardest hit by job losses triggered by the pandemic shutdown; and female-dominated professions such as childcare and tertiary education have been left off government compensation payments. Not only that but women working from home have taken on more unpaid labour such as homeschooling than their male partners.

I do think that there will be more opportunities for all people to balance their lives better if remote work becomes an embedded norm and we move past the crisis pandemic phase. Ideally this translates to a better division of labour in the home, creating more opportunities for women especially on an executive level.

What are the most successful things you have implemented in your business to increase flexible work and access the best talent ?

We use asynchronous tools like Facebook Workplace instead of endless meetings and communicate our availability on a weekly basis. The way we schedule social media management shifts and the way we communicate is all built around flexibility.

As an entirely remote team, we didn’t take traditional work methods and apply them to an online work environment, for flexibility to be successful it really needs to be embedded in every aspect of the business.

Our recruitment policies have always been friendly for introverts and neurodiverse folk, because we fully embrace the research that more diverse teams are more successful.

A lot of our people find the flexibility a great way to manage other side hustles in their life and that encourages loyalty, as well as great candidates approaching us because they’ve heard good things.

Your one tip to senior managers on managing a remote team ?

You need to trust your people and give them autonomy over their work and how they manage their day. If you don’t feel that you can do that, then they may be the wrong person for the role.

Remember you are managing people, not presence! This style of leadership doesn’t support micromanagers, and it’s likely that you that needs to adapt your style not your team.

What advice would you give to any women considering leaving the corporate world for entrepreneurial interest right now ?

Don’t waste energy doubting yourself. Get out there and try. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll be out of your comfort zone, but you’ll be learning every step of the way. The corporate world will still be there waiting.

But if you’re leaving due to a lack of flexibility, try to ruthlessly advocate for it before you leave and see if you can make change. At least the company will realise they’re losing talent due to their inability to cater to diverse needs of the workforce. Or tell them to get Puffling onboard!

Give your crystal ball a polish for us. Is this really the beginning of the changes the world has desperately needed on so many fronts despite such harsh realities ? Could your share your top 2 or 3 predictions for what the new future may hold.

Many companies have pivoted to online working without really thinking about how they can maintain clear communication channels and workplace culture. Their existing tools may not be the right ones. Companies will need to focus on building employee communities in an online space, something many are yet to tackle.

I think flexible work arrangements and job-sharing will get the attention they deserves, especially as people flee the capitals, have smaller mortgages in regional areas and seek non 50+ hour roles. Remote work is definitely here to stay and we’ll see most companies adopt a hybrid working environment for employees.

Alison shared her insights with Puffling’s Lija Wilson.

Australian based talent platform by connecting senior level female talent who want flex with progressive employers who are leading the way in the future of work

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