Distributed Discussions episode 4: Remote evolution and international hiring with Tilly Firth

We chat with Tilly Firth from Impala

Distributed Discussions episode 4: Remote evolution and international hiring with Tilly Firth

In this episode, host Ali Greene chats with Tilly Firth, Head of People and Talent at Impala. Tilly focuses on how to foster an incredible work environment and culture.  

Tilly Firth and Ali Greene

Tilly describes Impala as an infrastructure API for hotels. Her role is to manage culture, onboard people, socials, community—everything around that and everything in between, as well as everything on the talent and hiring side.  

Show summary

  • How Tilly handles time zones
  • Impala’s asynchronous program
  • When and why Impala decided to operate as a remote business
  • Hybrid Model and Remote-First cultures
  • A day in the ‘office’ at Impala – being intentional and explicit
  • Tilly’s People Operations
  • Impala’s International Hiring Plans and Processes
  • Why Tilly got Oyster to solve administrative or compliance-related challenges

Listen to the full episode


Getting Started from London and Australia

Ali: Welcome to Distributed Discussions. I’m excited to introduce today Tilly, the Head of People and Talent at Impala. In her role, she focuses on how to foster an incredible work environment and culture, something everybody needs a little bit of insight into in 2021. Hi, Tilly. How are you doing today?

Tilly: Hey, Ali. I am very well, thanks. Really great to be on here. Super excited.

Ali: I’m very excited to talk to you as well. I was hoping you could kick us off by telling us a little bit more around Impala, what it is, and what you do for them.

Tilly: Impala is, in very short, an infrastructure API for hotels. It does get a lot more complex, but if I take you into that, I think we’ll be here forever. We’re an API travel tech company. My role within Impala is obviously Head of People and Talent as you said. I lead on all things on the internal people op side. Things like managing culture, onboarding people, socials, community, everything around that and everything in between, as well as everything on the talent and hiring side alongside fantastic teammates within each of those teams as well.

Ali: I’m really interested in talking today because especially a company that deals with travel-contingent technology, obviously, businesses have shifted quite a lot in the past year. As I was reading more about Impala for our conversation, I noticed that there was an intention to always be remote-first even though you have a London office.

We’re definitely going to talk a little bit more about what that means from a cultural perspective and how you’ve helped influence that. I’m curious where you are dialing in from today. How did remote work play a role in where you’re living or working from especially this past year?

Tilly: I’m actually in the Cotswolds at the moment, south-central, southwest England. Moved out of London a few months ago because of the pandemic. My husband and I realized that it’s probably going to be a bit nicer to spend a few months in the countryside. We moved out of London, but to go in a bit more to what we’ve done throughout the pandemic in terms of where we’ve moved to.

Actually, my parents now live in Australia. Early 2019, in March, February, we were a bit like, oh, London might be for a couple of months not great with this new coronavirus that’s coming about. We actually went to Australia and stayed six months, which is really amazing. Super unique to be able to do and just work from there fully functioning.

Ali: It’s amazing that you were able to go and see family as well. How is the time zone transition working close to the hub of the business to then going so far into future time zones? How did you handle that transition, and what did you learn about remote work through that?

Tilly: I personally, loads of time for deep work. It meant that you get everything done in the morning in terms of responding to people and just go hours to get into stuff. I didn’t struggle with it very much. There were evening calls, of course, and managing a few people in the team. I had to catch up with them and make sure they weren’t feeling like they were being left out. That was pretty big to me as well.

Based on that is why we’ve recently introduced this Async initiative at Impala, which is actually replicating all the benefits that I saw when I was working fully asynchronously basically in Australia. We’re enabling that a bit more across the team who are in the same time zone, really enabling that flexibility and that ownership of your time and time for deep work. It certainly, actually, had a big influence on how we’re doing things now that we’re back at home.

Ali: I love one of the things that this year has brought about is challenging the status quo. One of those things for many companies—even if they had experience working with co-located teams, distributed offices, or even remote work—is there was still a meeting and synchronous-heavy work environment.

Asynchronous Communication at Impala

Ali: Could you tell us a little bit more about what the asynchronous program looks like at Impala? What were the major challenges that people faced adapting to this new way of communicating? What benefits have you seen?

Tilly: Sorry, what was the first bit?

Ali: Tell us more about this program that you started with that focuses on asynchronous communication.

Tilly: We only released that earlier this quarter, so earlier in January or February. Really off the back of actually seeing that everyone was struggling with integrating work and life. Coming back from Australia, it was about six months ago from when we introduced this. It was always something that I wanted to do, but we were like, we’ll do it when we’re a bit more set up, when we’re a bit bigger when the structures are going to be better in place and we’re not building a product at the same time.

Off the back of seeing how people are coping or rather were struggling to cope, we were like, why not introduce this now sooner than later? Really allow people to own their time, own their flexibility, and manage. For example, if you’ve got kids at home, manage your life more around that and work when it suits you more. We always had flexible core hours, but we decided to go a step further there.

Ali: For me, you see such a benefit of asynchronous work for people with different obligations in their life, whether they’re parents or caring for the elderly. Hearing you talk about your experience in Australia makes me laugh because I always joke that I’m solidly an afternoon person. I’ll wake up quite early, but I don’t get that kick of energy to focus on work until late into the afternoon.

It’s interesting living in Europe and while I could work at any hour—and I work with people in Europe, in the U.S., it doesn’t matter—I still hone in on that afternoon time for heads-down work. I know how asynchronous work has helped me be able to slowly wake up, enjoy the sunshine in the morning, and live that slow Spanish lifestyle, then start working when the motivation kicks.

Tilly: Totally. We’ve seen a lot of people actually who are suddenly being like, oh, thank God, I’m a night person. I enjoy working at midnight. I was like, okay, cool. As long as you’re working, great. Then some people who get up at 6:00 AM and really enjoy finishing at 3:00 PM or whenever that may be. For me, I’m all about the no alarms, wake up late morning kind of thing.

Ali: Nice. The no alarm movement has begun.

Tilly: Yes.

Impala’s Remote Journey

Ali: Let’s take a little bit of a step back and walk me through more about the Impala remote journey. When and why did Impala decide truly to operate as a remote business?

Tilly: Even before I joined, which was 2 ½ years ago when Impala was 11 people, Impala was a remote company. I went from a fully-colocated, very traditional job to this remote job before it was cool, I guess. My work friends were like, oh, working from home, yeah right. They couldn’t really get their heads around it. I was a little onboard. I thought it was so amazing, a really cool, new thing, and a cool, new company. It was actually why I wanted to join Impala in the first place or one of the reasons.

Ben and Charlie—two of the founders—decided to be remote immediately. They knew that there were great people across Europe that they wanted to be able to have on their team. They also didn’t want someone to not be able to join just because they couldn’t live in London or wouldn’t want to live in London. Ben and Charlie just wanted to be able to travel around Europe, live in Berlin, or live wherever they want. It was supernatural, very much aligned with their personalities.

Since I’ve started, we’ve actually experimented with almost all spectrums of remote work. We’re obviously fully remote when I joined. Once we reached about 15 people or something—this was a year later or something, we didn’t go too much for a while—we decided to try out a colocated basis in London. We got this lovely office around Old Street. Literally, three days in, we were like, no way are we doing a fully-colocated thing, right?

Everyone was so used to having that ownership and full autonomy, et cetera. Having a fully-colocated environment was really just taking a lot of that away. Everyone loved the remote lifestyle, so we very much pivoted from having a colocated full-time thing. We moved onto having a hybrid thing, which is trending at the moment. Everyone in COVID is very much out looking forward to being able to do that.

How that worked for us was anyone could work remotely at home any day of the week, but anyone who is not an engineer basically was based in London. There were two days of the week where it was compulsory to be in the office. I know we’re flexible hours around being in the office, but we wanted to pull out the real benefits that we wanted to get from being in the office like spontaneous ideation, collaboration time, et cetera. Really concentrate on that but also allow for that flexibility you can extended trips away from London.

That really works and people really enjoy that because it was that community side as well. Obviously, with COVID, that changed quite quickly. Now, we are going to be doing hybrid but not compulsory. We’ll have a London office, it’ll be a lot smaller. People can hop in and hop out when they want, but there are no requirements.

Ali: That’s a really fascinating history. If we could go back to the decision to get that original office, what was the motivation behind that initial experiment with trying to move from remote to colocated?

Tilly: I should add that we were five people at the time. It was everyone who wasn’t in engineering who happens to be based in London at the time. It just so happened that there were five of us at the time. It just ended up that we’d been just meeting up and co-working from different places together naturally, and we found a lot of benefit from that. We were like, oh, it’s actually nice to be able to see each other and stuff.

We thought that since there are only five of us, it’s a good time to try out this full-colocation thing. Again, we thought there are possibilities for ideation, cooperation, and everything. It could benefit there, and we quickly realized that they don’t outweigh the benefits of having that flexibility with remote working.

Exploring Hybrid

Ali: Interesting. Those are the same benefits that you described in a hybrid environment when you were operating in a way where people were encouraged to come in at least twice a week for that time of free brainstorming, ideation, spontaneous conversations.

This is a question a lot of other companies and people ops people will be interested in navigating if remote is going to be right for them in the future. How did you structure people’s days or the expectations around what a day in the office would look like versus a day not in the office so that you could encourage people to actually talk to each other and have that spontaneity instead of just working at their desk in this office space?

Tilly: Really just being intentional and explicit was the trick for us. We named the days where people are in the office like collaboration days—really prefacing that we’re there to work together. We planned meetings with each other on these collaboration days. Really intentionality. Because we’ve always been a remote-culture, remote-first environment, we had a lot of resources and tools in place ready to support people on their working from home side. Just telling you that people have always had a bit of support on how to work best remotely, healthy habits working remotely, and everything as well.

Even to the intentionality and being an explicit point, there were people who’d never worked from home before and were used to being in an office or only went into the office. We actually were like, you have to try out a week of working from home because you flex the muscles. You build out the muscles for being able to work really well from home. Genuinely, 100% of people who did have to do that when it was their first time working from home just absolutely love it and were the biggest converts at the end.

Ali: That’s great to hear. I think there’s all this fear and anxiety around switching up your behaviors and doing something that seems non-obvious, kind of under that realm of if it’s not broken, why fix it? There’s this idea of if we go into the office and we work well there, why would we change it up?

I love what you said about remote work—it’s a skill you have to learn. Over time, we’re going to see this remote work acumen be a huge part of leadership and development moving forward. Encouraging employees to try that is really cool. What other ways do you support a remote-first mentality at Impala?

On being “Remote-First”

Tilly: Actually, one of the biggest issues with remote working and certainly asynchronous working that we’ve recently added on top is actually making sure people don’t overwork. We’ve never worried about anyone slacking off or not doing their work. Literally, we are intentional about making sure people switch off.

Some really good tips for remote working are really thinking about that as one of the biggest issues because obviously, that impacts well-being, morale, general motivation, and burnout levels. We talk quite a lot about switching off, avoiding burnout, how to do it, how to recognize it in others as well, and how to have that conversation.

Ali: Are there any examples that you think are particularly surprising or that are quite common with the people that work in Impala and how they actually are able to walk away from their computer at the end of their workday? What works well for people?

Tilly: This is a good question. It’s something I’ve recently tried to explore a bit, opened up the conversation with the team, and had some really good suggestions from people. A couple of people mentioned that they book in time to call a friend, maybe a different friend at certain times each day. Some people sign up for an online PT session. They’ve got that pressure to switch off, get ready, and everything turns off.

For me, I’m quite boring. I just set alarms on my phone because I find it so easy to just suddenly realize it’s 8:00 PM and I’ve exerted work for so many more hours than I thought. There were some really great ones, but generally—especially once we’re out of COVID—making plans meeting up with people. I actually like working in co-working offices is really good as well because you get kicked out at 5:30 PM.

Ali: It’ll be really interesting for people that have only experienced remote work during the pandemic to have the world open up to them again and learn. I’m a huge coffee shop worker, so I’m one of those people that love going to coffee shops.

I also love, where I’m living, how many local coffee shops there are. They’re not chains, so I’m very aware of the fact that they’re a small business and I don’t want to overstay my welcome. It’s like, go there, work hard, drink a lot of coffee, and then get out so the next person can enjoy my table. That’s been my track, just trying to be a good worker and a good customer at the same time.

Tilly: Totally. It’s funny, there are so many people that have never experienced full remote working—the full benefits of it which are literally popping to a coffee shop.

Ali: Go for a walk.

Tilly: Go for a nice walk.

On non-pandemic Remote Work

Ali: Is there anything that you think the newcomers are going to be really surprised by when the world opens up and they experience remote work the way that you and I have before the pandemic?

Tilly: For me, one of the most amazing things about remote-working is I’ve worked in some amazing places across the world. It allows for this whole degree of life flexibility that you would never have before. I’ve worked from Positano with a view of the whole Amalfi Coast in front of me. I’ve worked from Australia. I’ve worked from the New York City skyline.

It’s just something else. Remote-working is not all being huddled in your pajamas on the same sofa.

Ali: That was a challenge for me when the quarantine first went into place around Europe last year. I was living in a studio apartment and similar to you, I was like, oh, yeah, I’m so used to just working from New York, South Africa, this coffee shop, or that co-working space. I was like, okay, I can go from this sofa to the kitchen table to back to the sofa but laying the other way. I can’t imagine people that have only had this experience, and I can’t wait for them to experience remote as we know it.

Tilly: 100%.

Tilly’s role in People Operations and more on Impala’s culture

Ali: I want to dive in a little bit more to your role in people operations. Part of when I think of people ops and think of creating in culture is creating expectations. I know that’s a boring way sometimes to describe culture, but for remote, making sure people do know what to expect from their colleagues, what they should expect from the culture, and the workplace itself can be incredibly important.

How have you supported the Impala team in setting the expectations in terms of communication, collaboration, working hours which we just discussed a little bit? How do they let people know if they’re turning off for the day? Anything you could share more about there?

Tilly: This is certainly an issue and something we’ve really seen around […] again with the Async edition that we’ve added. It’s a big thing because we’re all in Europe, but eventually, when we’re hiring globally, this is something that is not just an Async buzzword. It’s what’s really going to be true.

With the flexible working hours, for example, we’ve had to be really clear on expectations especially around internal response times. There’s confusion with the Async working, which is getting your head around the mindset that it’s okay to be away for any reason. You don’t have to be on all the time. Getting your head around that is quite tricky.

In line with that, internal response times are a habit to get used to to not have to reply immediately, especially because we use Slack which is really fast-paced and immediate. We have tried to be really explicit about that. But beyond that, we’ve even ruled out a no-Slack morning trial. The purpose of that is just—as a short-term thing—to habit build to make sure people normalize the fact that it’s okay to not have to be on Slack immediately.

In terms of work hours, we don’t actually have 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM work hours. It’s certainly difficult. Almost the biggest issue for me at the moment is how to manage people’s expectations. We’ve removed the parameters for which they know what’s okay and what’s not okay to clock off. Full-time workloads are the expectation, and it’s at the manager level that we deal with setting these expectations and allowing time for reflection on how that’s gone or talking about what’s been missed or something. Does that answer the question? I’m not sure it did.

Ali: Yeah. I really like the idea of trialing things culturally as a way to teach behaviors, not just to do them for the sake of culture-building. What was really interesting to me about what you said is trialing out no-Slack mornings not to make sure that forever, you have to do that as a company, but to let people start learning that it’s okay to be proactive in saying, I’m having a no-Slack morning.

That’s really a different way to think about culture because oftentimes, companies will say, we’re going to do this activity, it’s part of our culture, we’re doing it forever. Whereas the way you describe it, it’s like, we’re going to do this activity as a way for people to learn how to operate as part of the team.

Tilly: Yeah. Very much what […]. Something else we’ve also done is found on Slack that people are like, if someone doesn’t know I’m away, they’re going to be expecting a response. Even when you talk, you can say that’s not true as many times as you want, but it’s still difficult to really understand and live that, so we’ve introduced a little Slack icon to show when you’re away and to be like it’s completely okay. This person might not reply for 12 hours if they have the Slack emoji.

Set expectations around that and give a bit of support for how to actually work around when something’s urgent and that person is asynchronous or not online at that time.

Ali: What are some ways that you handle urgent matters? How would you even define what is urgent in your line of work?

Tilly: It’s something that we’ve intentionally actually not defined what is urgent on a company level. That’s because it almost sets an additional rule that people need to worry about as you know which level of urgency it fits into. It’s the best judgment thing. A lot of remote working and asynchronous working is about best judgment. Sometimes, you’ll have to work at 8:00 PM or something if something is super urgent, but that’s not normal and that’s not what’s expected.

Ali: I love the idea too of putting the responsibility back on an individual. You are an adult, you’re highly-skilled that’s why you’re working at a company like Impala. You can use your own judgment to make decisions from time to time. I love the power shift of remote work bringing it back to each employee rather than the company just mandating things down to their people around things like urgency or importance and stuff like that.

Tilly: Yeah, definitely. If they’re not sure if it’s urgent or not, just ask your manager and they’ll be able to help you as long as people are aware. Don’t feel like there’s a barrier to being able to ask that. I think that’s a good environment.

Ali: Awesome. I want to go back to something you said a little while ago where you were using asynchronous not as a buzzword but as a true way of operating in the future. What especially stuck out to me when you made that comment was right now, you have a lot of employees only within Europe and European time zones, but what will happen when we grow internationally I believe is more or less what you said.

International Hiring at Impala

Ali: I’d love to dig in a little bit more around your hiring plans if you have made a decision of trying to hire internationally and what that looks like right now at Impala?

Tilly: We’ve always hired in Europe and the next step for us now is hiring globally across the whole world. We made the decision recently that we’ll reactively hire globally. If someone applies, we’ll take them on board, but there’s a lot that we want to still do around being able to do that properly if that makes sense. I haven’t phrased that very well.

It’s something that we certainly planned. But unlike expanding from you hire in London to we hire across Europe, which is all in the same time zone, hiring globally comes with a lot of additional overhead to consider. We’re working that out from the backend and everything before we jump right in.

It’s something that we really want to do now especially as the team’s growing. The team’s growing but also the product’s growing. We’ve got a more global product. I think it would be super exciting. It’s like a whole pool of fantastic people that can join our team from this. I’m really, really excited.

Ali: That’s awesome. What are some of the challenges that are top of mind that you’re trying to solve with hiring internationally? You’ve mentioned time zones. That’s one that lots of people and lots of companies can relate to. What else are you thinking about when you’re considering being ready to make this transition?

Tilly: Thinking about culture and by that I mean for this person, how good is it going to be for them to be the first person in the U.S., in South Africa, or anywhere, […] India? It’s always going to be a bit chicken and egg. There is always going to be a first-person that we’d hire in that country, but making really sure that that person knows what they’re getting into as well. It’s going to be a mutual fit for them. They’re not going to feel left out. Making sure that we’ve got the structures to support them outside of Europe.

It’s easy to get there, but there are certain tweaks and explicit considerations around that fact.

Ali: Right now, what is your hiring process? How do you ensure candidates will be successful?

Tilly: We have a first stage, an online screening form. It’s three or four questions, which really relate to the role, general mindset around problem-solving within the context of what they’d be working on within the role. That helps us screen for written coms and clarity, which is obviously really important as a remote and async-first company.

We actually also do that for an added level of inclusivity. I almost see this reinforced systemic inequality. We reinforce them. CVs alone can just reinforce that concept of people that are better, more lucky almost backgrounds so they get the better roles if we’re just relying on CVs. We use this online screening form as an additional data point for us to map.

Additionally, to the inclusivity point, it’s easy to be like, I know all the good companies in Europe and all the good unis in Europe, for example, but we obviously don’t know all the great companies in India, Australia, or anywhere outside of Europe. It adds that additional level so we can see beyond just the CV.

Ali: That’ll be important as you continue to hire internationally—how are you making decisions without leaning on these more traditional benchmarks of past success.

Tilly: Totally.

Ali: Are there any ways that you’re thinking right now that you want to make changes to your hiring process as you open it up internationally, or additional things that you’ll likely have to screen for to ensure candidates will be successful? You mentioned what happens with the first person in the U.S. Are there any qualities or competencies that you think these new joiners will need to be successful?

Tilly: That’s a really good question. We’ve toyed about the idea of adding an async-ability, remote-ability component to the hiring process. We’ve boiled that down to okay, what are we actually screening for? Is this person autonomous? Do they have good […] comms? Are they happy to take a project and lead it without needing that hand-holding almost? We were like, is it worse or non-inclusive to add too much more around async-ability or remote-ability? Does that just mean that we’d hire people who’ve done it before as opposed to people who would be very good at doing it?

We’ll certainly do more and assess more in the first interviews and technical interviews around autonomy, but I don’t imagine we’ll really change the process too much to take that into account. Certainly, things on the frontend, recruiters on board to source people more globally with a more global context in different talent hotspots are something that we would need to do. That’s a really interesting challenge.

Ali: I think so too. It’s fascinating to me just the different ways that people are used to searching for jobs based on their location. You think of a tool like LinkedIn, and for certain countries, it’s such an obvious choice of where to show your professional self. In other countries, it’s not used at all. Learning how people look for jobs, how they showcase their talents is going to be a problem that recruiters need to solve moving forward. I’m curious to see how that world unfolds in the next six months, a year, two years.

Tilly: That’s actually really interesting. Is that a whole other realm to tap into?

Ali: It’s like the more people get confident with remote work, the more people ops people get confident with remote work, the more questions there are in some ways as well.

I’m curious, for you, on this brink of the next stage of Impala, you’ve seen all of these different iterations of the culture already—from the office to hybrids of full-distributed around Europe to soon distributed around the world. What are the questions that are top of mind for you that you think people ops people should be asking each other?

Tilly: The biggest thing is as a people ops person or working in the people department, how are we going to be explicit about company culture as we get more remote? You can design a culture that’s really meaningful and based on genuine experience that people really care about, which makes it easy to sustain a positive remote culture.

We’ve had people join recently who say that our culture and community is so much stronger and actually tangible as a fully-remote team than they’ve experienced in fully co-located teams. That’s because we spent six months thinking about how to really make that true and how to make sure that our values and our culture are felt. That would be the first thing for me—how are we going to make that true?

I also think a lot of people mistake hiring locally and allowing working from home with remote and distributed working. I think they’re very different. I’ve seen and I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have seen this full […] almost, which on jobs it says fully remote, et cetera, but it actually means you have to be based in London. For people thinking about moving to a more remote basis, I’d be thinking about, okay, what’s our plan for actually allowing people to be hired in Europe or within XYZ time zone?

Impala and Oyster

Ali: I know one of the challenges—and this is how you and I got introduced—is sometimes, I feel like companies are putting these limitations on, we have to hire in the UK, but it’s okay if it’s remote because they don’t know how to actually tangibly hire people in other ways. I’ll let you know, the goal of Oysters is to make that process easier for people. Could you share a little bit more about how you got in touch with Oyster and what administrative or compliance-related challenges that you’re seeing being solved?

Tilly: Oh my God, the challenges. It was like a minefield. It was having to employ people as contractors meaning they didn’t get the same access to the benefit source of contractual terms. Payroll companies for each individual from different countries across Europe. Making people set up Estonian visas is super random. Even setting up French micro-enterprise companies, which is as expensive and confusing as it sounds.

I had to keep on top of all of that. I had to deal with different legal and accounting issues for each country and have a different contact reach. It was a bit of a nightmare, and it did stop us from being able to fully just be like, okay, we can hire anywhere. We always had a preference for the UK logistically, not formally, but I’d be like, okay, thank God I don’t have to deal with another legal or accounting person.

With Oyster, that’s what you guys do. It’s changed so much for us. It’s made it really, really big. I’m not surprised that people in the past would be reticent to hire across Europe. With Oyster, that was actually super easy. It’s just like hiring a person.

Ali: That’s awesome to hear. How did Impala and Oyster first get connected? I actually don’t know the details behind that.

Tilly: I actually spoke to Tony at the very early stages because he knew that we were dealing with this issue. Tony knows Ben quite well and knew that we were struggling with this thing. I spoke to Tony that I really loved the mission, which was genuinely to connect and help people get employed across the world, and integrate that with a lot of various different areas of the employee lifecycle.

We’d looked into a few others in the past. To me, it all seemed as much of a minefield around an understanding of what was really happening. That’s actually how we found Oyster.

Ali: Awesome. I can relate to the challenges that you’re facing in the past life. I also led a people ops team. I remember as the company grew and just more and more people are getting hired, I was like, okay, we have this many people in this country, what does that mean? How do we continue to make sure everybody does feel very connected to each other?

I appreciate you sharing these challenges because I know I’ve been there and I know a lot of our listeners have been there. One thing that I think will continue to be true as there are solutions to make hiring logistically easier is that it frees up your time, my time, and other people ops people’s time to think about.

I love the word that you’ve used—intentional—because that’s a word that I use a lot too. How do you build a culture to be intentionally inclusive? Let’s focus on that and the experience and not so much on the headaches of contracts, payments, and things like that. I’ve been there. I can relate.

Tilly: There are random things you’d never even think would be an issue like the number of holidays per something in different countries. I swear they do it on purpose.

Ali: I like looking at all of the different countries. Who gets the most holidays? It’s always been interesting for me because I’m from the U.S. where we historically don’t have a lot of holidays. Now, I live in Spain where there are tons of days where randomly, shops are closed so you aren’t allowed to go to the gym because it’s a holiday. I’ve always loved looking at that list and be like, how do I want my life to be?

Tilly: Yeah. Love that.

Pearls of Wisdom

Ali: Very cool. Well, thank you so much for sharing all this information. We have one last segment that is a fun, little game I’d love to play with you. But before we jump into that, I’m curious. To sum things up, if you could look back at yourself a year ago, what are the top one or two things you wish you knew to help build and continue to grow a solid remote strategy within a growing company?

Tilly: A year ago, I’d tell myself to take COVID more seriously. A year ago, I think nurturing psychological safety is something that’s really come up as a topic to really think about and consider more than normal. It’s something we’ve actually always thought about in Impala and always tracked as a KPI within the people team. I will tell myself to think more about that and think more because employee well-being is so important. We’ve all seen […] right now.

Ali: Even more important today, I would say, than a year ago, so that’s great to hear.

All right, for our last segment, this is one thing I’ve said at every podcast so far. In season two, it’s coming where I need a little fun music for this part of it, but it’s called Pearls of Wisdom. Basically, the way this game works is it’s a rapid-fire. I’m going to say something and don’t overthink it. Just the first thing that comes to your mind as a fun way to end the podcast today. Does that sound good?

Tilly: That sounds fab. Let’s do it.

Ali: Awesome. What is your favorite remote work tool?

Tilly: Boring but Slack. It’s where our community is. That’s where ideas are happening. Yeah, I’d say Slack.

Ali: What is the tool you find most challenging to work with?

Tilly: Oh, that’s a good one. Oh no, I’m overthinking it. I think Loom for me. I love the concept of Loom, but personally, I’m like, I’ll listen to that later at the end of the day and I always forget.

Ali: That’s interesting. Different people have different preferred ways of hearing or reading communications, so having everything available rather than nothing available.

How do you like to take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Tilly: My favorite way and the only way at the moment is going for a lovely walk around the countryside. Usually though, going to a nice cafe, working from a cafe, or literally getting a nice lunch, and switching off.

Ali: Sounds good. I can’t wait until I have professionally made coffee rather than whatever I made in this cup.

What is your biggest personal challenge when it comes to working remotely?

Tilly: I would just say I miss having an office available. At the moment, we have COVID. I think it’s good to have some office, whether that’s a co-located office or whether that’s just an office that you go to. Go work by yourself instead of with other people.

Ali: Great. When you can work again with other people, who is someone real or fake, living or dead that you would love to co-work with?

Tilly: I’m so bad at these questions. It’s like the thing where you just forget everyone that’s ever existed. Okay. Maybe Amy Edmondson who really championed psychological safety. I’d love to see her in practice, live what she talks a lot about, and talk to her about how to do that really well remotely.

Ali: That’s awesome. Then you can come back and share everything that you learned with me because I want to know too.

Last but not least, what is your favorite piece of advice that you have ever gotten?

Tilly: I got advised about 2 ½ years ago to get a job that really just makes me happy and I can do what I wanted to and not just be tied into some kind of death trap. That’s what actually got me into Impala. That was a great piece of advice for me.

Ali: I love that. Do what you love, do it with intentionality, and make sure that you take time to shut off.

Tilly: Yes, definitely.

Ali: Very cool. Tilly, thank you so much for joining us today. This was a great conversation. Where can people follow up with you if they want to learn more about Impala or if they have questions about people operations?

Tilly: You can send me an email. I’m always available on email, so tilly@impala.travel. There’s also a bunch of content and information on our blog which is impala.travel/blog. I’m also on LinkedIn.

Ali: Awesome. Thanks so much. I just noticed Impala recently posted their culture deck, so for all of our listeners wanting to really dive in deep to the topics that Tilly and I talked about today, feel free to go onto their blog and take a look there.

Thanks everybody for joining this episode of Distributed Discussions. Stay tuned for more of season one coming soon. Bye.

Tilly: Thanks, Ali.

Resources Shared

Tilly Firth on LinkedIn

Impala Hospitality Software on LinkedIn

Impala Travel

Tilly Firth’s Email

Impala’s Blog



Amy Edmondson

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