Women’s Day Interview Exclusive ft. Sherry Lee, Brand Manager of KXE Design: Woman in Leadership, Remote Collaboration, and Working-Life Balance
Sherry, Ling-Xuan Lee is a global citizen, born and raised in Taiwan. Up to this day, she has been to more than 25 countries and 4 continents. Her curiosity to wander off and explore the world by the time she graduated from college, led her to Great Britain, where she continued her master’s degree at Birmingham City University where she took Fashion Accessory Design study. As a professional, Sherry has been working for companies in 4 different countries for the last 8 years including Australia, France, and the most recent one in Germany. Sherry has always been on the move, both physically and holistically to step up her career. In this interview, we have gathered many informative insights about her journey as a woman in leadership, remote collaboration, and cross-cultural teamwork. We hope every professional, not only women, who would like to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle can benefit from her insight.
Building Professional Life Overseas
After graduating from Birmingham City University, Sherry was very firm on her aim to start building her professional life outside Taiwan. Australia was the first country that Sherry explored after returning from the UK. She then went off to Europe once again, where she had the opportunity to work in Paris, France. Although Sherry was on a working holiday visa at that time, she was very keen on finding an opportunity that could build up her professional experience. As she finally landed her first job in Paris at OCUS, where she started in a sales position and soon progressed to a key account manager. She was managing global clients in around 10 different countries. That being said, time management was a vital skill that Sherry needed to quickly grasp. That’s where she started to get more associated and familiar with remote collaboration in different time zones. “It was really a challenge. But I was glad to have the opportunity to expand my professional skill set.” Sherry now gracefully admits.
Currently, Sherry is working for a German e-commerce team which she always refers to as a Blackforrest company. After two years of gaining professional experience in Paris, Sherry decided to explore other parts of the continent when new opportunities arose–that’s when she joined KXE Design as brand manager and relocated to Germany. Ever since day one, the company has been providing the option to work remotely while keeping teammembers connected through establishing rutines and virtual communication. In spite of the distance and time difference, Sherry has been able to stay close enough to all of the business stakeholders to make critical decisions and keep projects running smoothly.
Kicking Off Digital Nomad Lifestyle
European countries are not very strange with the concept of unsupervised or loosely supervised work even before the pandemic. The workplace culture tends to be more individualistic, than most Asian countries, where Sherry originally came from. When the pandemic first hit, most companies shifted to remote working and collaboration almost with no challenge. Since Sherry has the experience managing clients from various countries in different time zones, she can confidently transition into a virtual workplace almost seamlessly.
During her time at KXE Design, she has always been on the move. When this interview was conducted, she was in Croatia and planning to stay there for three months before returning to Germany. Sherry shared that one of the biggest benefits (or some would consider this as a challenge) would be keeping your schedule flexible. Although the line of personal and professional time might seem blurry when working from home, Sherry’s tip on keeping everything in balance solely lies in good time management.
Working Culture Shock
Having been working in 4 different countries along with the international teams, Sherry always keeps her mind open to embrace the diversity. When asked how to deal with working culture shocks, she suggested looking at things from different perspective and “get comfortable with the sense of unfamiliarity.”.
Another working culture shock that she can significantly see is the differences in the respect that European companies have towards the employees’ days off. As a person who can get easily consumed by work, Sherry has benefited very much from this law because it allows her to force herself to unplug from work and recharge. The fact that companies are aware of the employee’s rights during days off gives Sherry peace of mind knowing that she can fully rest without having to constantly worry if she might have missed something related to work.
Although being accommodating with flexible scheduling is important, as a team, any meetings or video calls appointments need to be scheduled beforehand to allow teammates to properly allocate the time on their schedule. Of course, some exceptions can be made when the needs are urgent. It’s important to understand that you are less likely to be able to keep your working hours strictly around a nine-to-five working schedule as your teammates and clients are coming from different time zones. For some, including colleagues here at Slasify, it’s challenging because if not tracked properly, it could affect your entire schedule.
However, that wasn’t the case for Sherry. She enjoyed the flexibility that remote collaboration offered. She shared some small tips on how she managed her professional schedule without jeopardizing her personal time. Most of the time, Sherry prioritized her calendar for the existing meeting schedules, then she would adjust the rest depending on the circumstances. Planning ahead is very vital in keeping her schedule in line. If she is going to communicate with clients, business partners, and teammates who are based in Asia, she will need to move her schedule up as she is expected to wrap up the work until later in the evening. And vice versa.
Sherry emphasizes that working remotely is completely different from collaborating remotely. Aside from utilizing the right tools to facilitate remote collaborations, self-management is surprisingly the most important contributing factor in a good remote collaboration. “You have to be very self-discipline to organize yourself. Set up a small actionable plan every day to help you hit the target.” Sherry explained. Simply put, good self-management is important to keep the flow within the team to achieve the bigger goal of the company.
The same goes for remote hiring. As Sherry mentioned the importance of self-discipline in remote working, when hiring one, she expected the candidate to at least have that. “You can tell straight away from the interview if the candidate fits into the remote working environment.” Everything about the candidate during the interview and the take-home assignment can really give away the impression if this is the right candidate or not. “Candidate has to be quite agile and can act quickly. Oftentimes you are unsupervised when working remotely. So you should be able to take full ownership and responsibility for what you are doing. Self-motivated is another important factor and luckily it can be identified straight away during the interview from how they present themselves and ask questions. If the candidate needs to be pushed all the time, probably he or she is not the best fit for remote working”
When handing out take-home assignments, Sherry mentioned that she is expecting the candidate to exceed the expectations. “It means they are doing something extra. Then you know it’s a good fit. It means they will make the extra mile for what they do. From the get-go, they have demonstrated how they have the willingness to deliver their best even without any supervision.”
Another thing that Sherry appreciates for being in a global remote collaboration team is that she has the opportunity to learn first-hand from talents around the world. “I’ve been very lucky to be able to work with this amazing team of really talented people, they really inspired me in many ways,” Sherry precisely said.
Women in Professional Setting
Lastly, we have some insights into Sherry’s professional experience as a woman. When asked about how she feels to be a woman in leadership, Sherry chooses to reflect upon herself to answer. “I personally barely count the fact of being a woman will attribute disadvantage to my professional life. Most of the time, I look into myself and assess what I am still missing and can be improved. I look up to both my male and female colleagues and identify what are their positive traits and skills that can inspire me to be at their level. In general, I’m consistently working to improve myself to be a better leader and professional.”
Sherry genuinely doesn’t think that gender attribute is a deciding factor to make an inferior and superior professional. Males and female colleagues should operate to complement each other even in the workplace to create a strong team. “At the beginning of the pandemic, some of my female colleagues who are also mothers were juggling between tending to their kids and finishing their assignments. And not once did any of them miss the deadlines. It shows that we can see this in a positive light and see it as an advantage that these moms are multitaskers.”
Sherry closed her sharing with a note to all women professionals out there. “I think if anything, my notes to all of the women professionals out there is to be more assertive. If you feel like you are not provided with the resources and facilities that you need or deserve, don’t be afraid to ask.”
About KXE Design
KXE Design is a German company specialized in home kitchen appliances. KXE Design has been developing high-quality, elegant stainless steel and ceramic kitchenware since 2018. Currently KXE Design has two brands available in the market namely Waldwerk and Steinzeit.
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