A revolving debate lies in whether or not a business is cut out to be remote, or remain office-based. However, sometimes it takes a bit of thinking outside the box to break away from the norms, as proven by this episode. We also explore the idea of robots integrating with remote work in the near future.
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A big thank you to our post-production wizard, Vanesa Monroy
[A moderately paced, trip hop song that is best described as chill and cruising. Synth and techno drums are the primary instruments in this track. This is our podcast background music, it starts playing at the very beginning]
Andres: 00:00 Hi, I'm Andrés.
Josephine: 00:00 And I'm Josephine. Welcome to the Remoter Podcast.
Andres: 00:07 Follow us in season one of this journey as we cover anything and everything you need to know in order to successfully build and scale a remote first team.As someone who's been working remotely for over a decade, our CEO, Alexander Torrenegra shares his personal experiences, lessons learned and advice for those of you who are curious and interested in exploring the future of work.
Josephine: 00:29 This podcast is brought to you by Torre, the end to end recruitment solution for Remoters. Get our free AI powered sourcing and processing tools, or let Torre recruit on your behalf at Torre dot co, that's T O R R E. Dot. C O.
[Music stops playing]
Andres: 00:52 On this episode we go into Shark Tank Colombia.
Josephine: 00:54 Shark Tank Colombia?...
Andres: 00:58 Yeah. So do you know about Shark Tank? Yeah, you do.
Josephine: 01:01 Yeah, I know we have Dragon's Den here in Canada.
Andres: 01:04 Dragon's Den? Oh, that's where it came from.
Josephine: 01:08 Yeah, I think so. I think like the actual origins was like, it came from somewhere in Japan. It came from somewhere way before, that we have never like watched this show or this version and then a North American company adapted it or something.
Andres: 01:23 For Canada.
Josephine: 01:25 Yes.
Andres: 01:25 Okay. Interesting. Well in in, in Shark Tank Colombia, Alex is actually an investor, one of the ones that sits and judges, it's something he likes to do. Anyways. so he, he actually invested in a company that blends remote work with physical deliveries. We'll hear more about that on this podcast.
Erik: 01:49 So Alex, you talked so much about how good remote first companies are. Are there times, however, when it just doesn't work?
Alex: 01:57 Definitely there are many times when it doesn't work.
Erik: 01:59 Okay.
Alex: 02:00 May be many jobs out there where you need some kind of physical interaction for the job to be delivered, whether physical interaction with your users, your customers, your clients or sometimes physical interaction between the members of the team.
Erik: 02:17 Okay.
Alex: 02:17 Hardware companies for example, when the team that is actually developing the hardware, it's very common and potentially required for them to be working out of the same office space. With that in mind, sometimes the software for that hardware, the teams are in other offices and that means that maybe the members of those teams can be, can be remote. In fact, the rest of the company could be remote while maybe the hardware team has to be in house and of course obviously if for example you are sitting at a restaurant, only as you have a fully automated restaurant, which there are some really good ones in Japan and my favourite ones and my daughter's favorite in Japan is a robotized sushi place, but unless you have something like that, chances are that you cannot go remote.
Erik: 02:58 But the robots do help, huh?
Alex: 03:00 Definitely. I mean there is a company I actually invested on in the first season of Shark Tank Colombia- I'm one of the investors in Shark Tank Colombia. It's a company called KiwiCampus. Now, if you live in Berkeley here in California or you have passed by, you may have seen what they do. They have little robots that deliver food, so you could open the app, you'll request food. Then, what they do is they actually send these tiny robot on the sidewalk to the store. The store people, they put the food inside of the robot and then the robot drives around several blocks until it reaches your pce. You get a notification, you click on the app and then the robot opens a compartment and then you get your food out.
Erik: 03:39 Wow.
Alex: 03:39 Really cool stuff. The robots are really nice and getting nicer by, by the day, but of course you might find, well those robots, how do they drive around? Right? You need AI, machine learning, computer vision. I mean it's not very different from what other companies are trying to do to create self driving cars. But they are hacking their way into, maybe we'll have to check whether we can share this. I don't know if this is something, but they're hacking their way into doing this by having remote drivers as backups.
Erik: 04:12 Oh wow.
Alex: 04:13 So what happens is most of the driving in the sidewalks is performed by artificial intelligence. You can determine what's around you and then you make the decision whether you can continue driving. But then at some times when it becomes really difficult to know what you have to do as the robot. For example, a person picks the robot and runs away with it, or a person kicked the robot, or maybe the robot wants to cross a street and there is a traffic jam and there are cars in the crosswalk or something like that. Sure. So what that happens when the robot gets stuck, it opens up a communication channel with a person somewhere in Latin America that has something like a X-Box controller that starts driving the thing, making the decision in terms of where the robot should go, places the robot on a safe place, and then releases control back to the, to the robot. So what that means is that here in the U.S., there are people in Colombia delivering food.
Erik: 05:07 Oh wow.
Alex: 05:08 And that actually helps a lot. That has helped them, that has helped them drive down the cost of deliveries by 75% in the Berkeley area. So it's definitely a competitive advantage for them.
Erik: 05:20 Wow, it sounds like the, the Mars mission almost with a remote Rover, same technology I guess.
Alex: 05:25 I think it's more fun for the driver. I mean, because for mars, you have to really prepare ahead of time where the robot is going to go, and there is a latency of 20 minutes or so for the communication to get there and come back, while in here, the drivers get a latency of less than a second. So they really get to explore the unknown areas of Berkeley, robots I guess.
Erik: 05:49 Well, it's fun.
Andres: 05:49 The KiwiCampus people actually have gotten pretty famous in Berkeley. I happened to know that whenever they go to parties, you know, that thing Felipe and their team they're actually Colombians as well. Some of them. And something that I find interesting about the, the concept of mixing field operations with remote work is that it will enable not only the costs to be driven down significantly, but for better integration between machines and humans. Because now you need to deploy a task force of humans to help robots accomplish tasks, but rather you can have a remote, you know, team, wherever they are in their homes or wherever they are, and helping robots accomplish their tasks. So how do you feel about the future of that, you know, about the future of integrating robots with remote workers?
Alex: 06:38 I do believe that the future of humankind, we are going to be integrated with computers or computers are going to be integrated with us. I mean it's going to be very difficult to differentiate who is integrating with whom. It's on the stage. And when it comes to machine learning, to artificial intelligence that most people are initially training those algorithms. Most of the collaboration that is happening, it's people teaching AI or machine learning what decisions they should be making. Okay. Which means they're training the people that are going to be replacing them.
Andres: 07:09 They're training the machines that will be...
Alex: 07:11 Exactly, people are training the machines that are going to be replacing them. So most of those drivers eventually might not be required because the robots are going to have seen so many instances of what the drivers do that they learn only mentally they can do it themselves, in most instances. But in many instances at least. However, I do believe in the power of human augmentation with technology. I don't know if it's going to be robots. I think that most human augmentation is going to happen primarily just by technology implanted in your body and your brain somehow.
Erik: 07:44 But people like the robots, I mean, they're not afraid of them. It's not like the robots will kill us all. Or...
Andres: 07:49 People in Berkeley love Kiwi.
Alex: 07:53 They love them. Halloween, like one of the most popular costumes in Berkeley is the Kiwi robot. People dress as Kiwi robots. So actually there was a fire in one of those robots caught fire and because of a battery issue and many Berkeley students held a vigil.
Erik: 08:10 Oh wow.
Andres: 08:11 In honor of the robot.
Alex: 08:14 In honor of the Kiwi robot.
Erik: 08:14 Light candles and march on the street. Oh, robot has died now.
Andres: 08:19 Not kidding. Like there's pictures of that.
Alex: 08:23 You see the national news and they picked up the news about the robot getting on fire and people crying because of it.
Erik: 08:32 What a way to go.
Andres: 08:33 We might be doing that a little bit philosophical here, but I'd like to, I'd like to hear your thoughts on what's going to happen. So we talked a lot about you know, robots replacing humans in AI, replacing a lot of human brain power and work. How do you see remote work being involved in that transition in which AI and machines and robots are going to replace many of the jobs we have nowadays? What is the role of remote work within that context?
Alex: 08:58 So general work has two components. You have algorithmic work and that is you do something that follows a set of rules and you have heuristic work and that is, you have to come up with new things that have not been created before. And in general it's easier for robots and for machine learning and for AI to automate rules-based work. So that's why we have, driving is a rules-based, it is difficult, but it's a rules-based challenge, or serving food in a restaurant is also usually a rules-based work. So a lot of that work, I believe is going to end up being heavily automated. It happens that most of that work is also location-specific, meaning you have physical interaction with a machine or with people or with goods or with products. And that means that most of the work that we as humans, we are going to be doing in the future, is going to be likely heuristic more than algorithmic and heuristic work, most of it, not necessarily all of it, it can be delivered in a digital way, which means that it's remote friendly. So my feeling is that a few decades down the line, while still, most jobs are going to be location-based, most of the value of work, you can measure this probably based on peril, but most of the value of peril is going to be paid globally or to remote workers because even though they might be less, their salaries are going to be significantly higher than location-based algorithm work.
Erik: 10:32 It's interesting to me because you know, back in the Midwest, we had great factories that developed post-war era, to a large extent, they were training humans to be more machine-like, you know, on the assembly line. And so now we're saying, no, no, no, let's, let's have robots do that. And the humans can be anywhere, I guess that, yeah.
Alex: 10:51 Yeah. I mean in many, many factories, the monitoring of the factory, it doesn't even happen in the factory. It happens outside of the factory via webcams and such.
Erik: 10:59 And for big manufacturing companies, they're global. Everything's being made all around the world at the same time. So they have to be remote at some point.
Alex: 11:09 Yeah. I mean as companies grow, they, and they are having multiple offices and people working from multiple locations and people collaborating from different parts of the world. They tend to develop a culture that is remote anyway and that's a painful transition for many companies. I think that companies that are remote, they have that advantage from the get go because they have a culture that is likely going to scale easier for whenever they become a hundred person company, a hundred people company, a thousand people company, ten thousand, than a company that goes from office-based to scaling to multiple offices.
Erik: 11:47 So having the right culture from the start just encourages the scale up. You, you don't run into the problems.
Alex: 11:52 I don't know if it encourages but makes it easier I believe.
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Andres: 12:02 And the reason why it makes it easier, it's because from day zero you're thinking about how to document and how to communicate this issues throughout your company. So there is no big or important decision that is made on a walk to the cafe or a decision making process that happens on a secluded meeting room within a given office. So this opens up the, the opportunity to structure all your community, all your communications and decision making processes online and so that it can be accessed by anyone anywhere. And so as you expand into new countries, new territories, new offices, it's easier for you to bring those people into the conversation, into the decision making process and into the documentation of whatever it is that you do.
Josephine: 12:49 I honestly have never heard of a KiwiCampus or in the, for example, KiwiCampus before this episode of I actually think it's really smart what they're doing and they're showing other companies out there that it is possible to have a mix, sort of like a remote operations, but also an on the ground operations for what they have to do. And I also can't believe that they had a vigil for one of the robots that died or whatever you guys said. I cannot believe they did that on campus.
Andres: 13:21 Well, you know how college students can be.
Josephine: 13:23 Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And for our listeners out there we're wondering, have you ever stumbled upon any unconventional remote jobs? You heard of anything weird lately that you never thought would be possible? Let us know your thoughts on social media. We'd love to hear it.
Andres: 13:41 I have to make the plug. And if you want to hire for weird remote jobs or non weird remote jobs, let me know. Let, let's try Torre dot C O for that. That's T O R R E dot C O. Yeah.
Josephine: 13:53 Thank you for listening to our sixth episode. Join us next week. As we will be talking about...
Andres: 14:02 How do you manage your remote team? Well that's cool. How do you manage your remote team?
Josephine: 14:05 That's a good topic and we'll find out next week.
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Andres: 14:10 Thank you so much for tuning in. A few last words, if you enjoyed that episode, please...
Josephine: 14:14 Follow us on social media at Remoter Project and let us know what you think about the latest episode.
Andres: 14:21 We'd love for you to join us as we continue building the remoter library on our website, remoter.Com. That's R E M O T E R.com.
Josephine: 14:30 If you want even more resources, sign up for our free Founding and Growing remotely online course. You can find out on our website or check the description for links. Don't forget to follow and subscribe to us on Spotify, Apple podcasts, SoundCloud, wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Andres: 14:46 And remember, we're here to make work fulfilling. So I'd like to ask you what court rule you play in shaping the future of work?