1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Chris, and I’m currently building Hyperinbox, a unified inbox app that lets you receive all of your notifications from your tools.
Before building something of my own, I worked for big companies – IBM and Walmart. I worked on various projects. I once assessed a $50 billion distribution company’s warehousing operations. I built decks for strategy projects and research. I managed a bicycle assembly operations project that was responsible for more than 800 stores for Walmart. Lots of fun and great experience, but it always lacked a true ownership which I have today as I’m building something of my own.
I’m a 1.5-generation Korean American, meaning I was born and raised in the U.S. and spent many years in Korea growing up. I spent most of my life in the greater Chicago area and I currently live in West Loop in Chicago. I’m an Illinois alumnus, studied business and information systems while I was there.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I think every motivation I have for remote working comes down to having freedom. It’s the ultimate value one can get. It unlocks any doors. It enables you to do more. My search for building something of my own started with my thirst for freedom. It was natural for my company and I to go remote.
One of our company’s core values is “freedom.” The freedom to live anywhere. The freedom to work anywhere. The freedom to choose your own hours. The freedom to operate. Remote work enables us to achieve freedom!
We also wanted to prove that Silicon Valley isn’t a geographic thing. We wanted to prove that you can be anywhere in the world and still build a successful startup.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
First initial months were about being flexible and forming the right way to collaborate. I stayed flexible so I can accommodate my coworkers’ way of working and also share how I do things. I learned a lot about my coworkers’ “work style” and I adjusted some of my ways of working so collectively we became efficient.
We started working together as a team in 2019. I’d say we had a good start since we learned how to work remotely from the best. We took Basecamp’s Remote book as a starting playbook and added and edited some of our custom stuff in there.
It sure takes time to build trust in your team. Trust, accountability, and effective collaboration don’t just happen on day 1. We knew we needed to try many different ways to make “our” remote work sustainable. And we think we got it at this point!
4. How did you find remote working roles?
We didn’t. Maybe that’s why we built a fully remote startup in the first place 😉
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
I’ll start with the good side. Working remotely lets me have enough time to think. Before starting Hyperinbox, I worked at IBM and Walmart. I rarely had the time to think because I was busy being in an office (for IBM, I traveled to client sites). Remote working lets you choose your own work hours, so you can make some room for you to think deeply. I usually carve out Friday mornings to spend time reading and thinking.
But as with anything in life, every choice is a trade-off. And being remote has trade-offs too. And one of them is learning to communicate effectively.
In an office, I’d argue that you can get away with being a terrible communicator. You’re still able to read each other’s mood, gestures, facial expressions, and the “air” people are breathing, so it’s not all up to you to figure out how to best convey your ideas.
In a remote setting, since we’re all geographically separated and we have a 14-hour time zone difference, this isn’t a luxury we have. So it requires you to learn how to communicate well asynchronously. Is your point clear? Are you conveying your ideas in a structured manner so that your teammates fully understand what you’re talking about? You’ve got to be a strong communicator (often a skilled writer) to make remote work productive.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
It might be a “shameless plug,” but Hyperinbox is a tool that we use internally every day. With it, we’re able to minimize the amount of context switching between apps and quickly go through all of the updates, syncs, and messages I’m responsible for.
We also love using Asana because it’s asynchronous by default. Unlike other project management tools, Asana also has an inbox where you can use it as a “one-stop-shop” for all notifications within Asana. Hyperinbox was actually born out of this: we loved Asana’s inbox so much that we wanted to use it for other tools like Figma, Gitlab, Slack, etc.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic days, our team would meet in person for a few weeks at least twice a year. We’d rent a house so we could work, eat, and sleep under one roof.
In 2019, we traveled to Seoul and San Francisco. In 2020, we went back to San Francisco until the city shut down in March.
It’s a bit ironic that the most exciting experience is in-person gatherings. But it’s the most exciting because we usually wouldn’t meet in person and work remotely. If you’re not remote, then the default is to meet in-person. Office workers, would you say meeting your coworker in person is the most exciting experience? Probably not. My point is, even a mundane event like meeting your coworker in person becomes so much more enjoyable, and you’d want to savor the experience as much as possible because we’re all remote.
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Accountability and trust are vital to making remote work sustainable. Make sure you’re not missing any update, comment, or notification by oversight. We all have those misses at some point, but it becomes a trust issue if they are repeated.
Make sure people can trust you for your tasks and rely on you to be communicative.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
I became a founder in 2019. And I never looked back ever since. This is the type of work I want to make my career out of. I love building something that people want. I’m continually learning new things, and I also have a front-row seat observing how the world is changing.
I have no idea how my career would turn out. But I know that it will be based on building and investing in businesses as a founder, investor, or early member of other startups.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
We’re now seeing the side effects of moving too quickly to remote work. If you have worked remotely before the pandemic, you’d know that it requires a fundamentally different approach than the traditional office-based type of work. So people who are new to remote work experience burnout, fatigue from constant Zoom meetings, and distractions from haphazard real-time messages and notifications from all over your tool stack.
This is a real problem, and there are many startups, including us, tackling this head-on. Five, ten years later, we will look back and say, “Gosh, how did we ever work remotely back then?”
11. Where can we follow you on?
Follow our team blog at Hyperinbox! We occasionally write about remote work and building startups.