Interview with Kristjan – A digital nomad and our Head of Community

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Incorporate's Head of Community - Kristjan

Life as a Digital Nomad – From Estonia to Brazil. How to Make It Happen?

Our digital nomad Kristjan Rappu shares his exciting and international story. Kristjan is our Head of Community and has been travelling around the world for the past five years of his life. The journey has taken him from Estonia to Denmark, Spain, and finally Brazil, where he’s currently situated.

Kristjan also shared experience on how to make remote work a success and what is assumes from both employees and employers. Keep on reading and you will get some good tips on how to be efficient while working remotely. Kristjan also gives suggestions for people who dream of becoming a digital nomad, but haven’t taken up the challenge yet.

Tell us a bit about your background – where have you studied, worked, and how did you find Incorporate?

Going way back, already from my early days of education, I started learning English in preschool and watching English cartoons – as if I knew that it would play a huge role in my adult life. After finishing high school, I took a break from studying and worked at different jobs from a go-kart centre to being a chef in a restaurant. I joke that this was my chance to offer customers a journey on a plate, when my own hadn’t begun yet.

After working at the Estonian Defence Forces for a while, I started thinking about my education and career very seriously. That took me to Denmark, where I obtained my first degree in higher education in Commerce, and International Sales and Marketing Management as a top-up. During my studies there, I took part-time jobs, and passed two internships. The last one was at a Spanish company and I finished it over the internet in Brazil, last March. That was the point when I started looking for a job in an Estonian company and found Incorporate.

Your position in Incorporate is Head of Community. Please explain what exactly you do in your daily job.

Actually, I wear many hats and deal with various tasks during my day. My main responsibilities are communication, interacting with customers and affiliates and supporting them with different content. My previous experience of working with customers directly really pays off. A great learning curve has been producing really detail-oriented legal articles to our Learning Centre. I took some subjects on law during my studies in Denmark, but I really like this in-depth approach that working at Incorporate has introduced me.

You have quite a unique form of work – you live in Brazil, but work for an Estonian company. How do you make that possible?

What actually helped me a lot was that I was affected by the pandemic and had to adjust. Last March, I decided to come to Brazil while I was still on an internship in Spain. My company gave a green light to remote work. So, I was already acquainted with this style of work before joining Incorporate. For starters, an important question to consider is whether the legal framework supports the lifestyle of a digital nomad. For me, it fits perfectly, since both legal environments endorse it. Estonian law allows a foreign resident to work for a local company, I do my taxes in Brazil, and that’s it.

Coming to more operational topics, different time zones are definitely a challenge in daily work, but it’s all doable if the team supports each other and is flexible. I just need to start my day early in local time. Actually, working over distance has far more complex issues. I as an employee want to be successful, and this requires high self-motivation. It’s pretty common for people like me to experience the impostor syndrome, which means feeling like our accomplishments, the amount or quality of work is not good enough.

People might also feel lonely and left out, since they are not a part of the office’s social circle anymore. This requires working on your personality, motivation, and discipline a lot. What helps me clear my head is the time I spend with my family and the fact that I try to make progress every single day.

During the pandemic, everybody has had to get used to remote working. As a digital nomad, what advice would you give to people working remotely, and for employers?

I have some practical tips for remote workers: have a steady schedule and create a routine, don’t mix personal life with professional, and take responsibility for your work. Probably the most substantial, though, is to be honest and straightforward in communication and make sure your point comes across. I believe open communication to be the foundation of remote work.

Employers must have trust in their people, yet again, this should be earned, not come for free. Being proactive from employees’ side will help a lot in gaining this trust. Regarding Incorporate, I can say that the trust is 100% there, with no micromanagement. We have strong leaders who trust their team of experts and are open and candid in communication. Another aspect from the employer’s side is not to lose the human touch. Be there for your people, show interest in how they’re doing, what’s happening in their personal life.

This is the backbone of building stronger relationships. As the times change, so do we, and we have to take up new ways of working.  Innovation is everywhere – it has to be in the working culture, too.

What would you say to people who are thinking of taking up the challenge of becoming a digital nomad? What’s important, where to begin?

Right now, the smartest thing to do is to stay put, hold your horses and not travel. Wait for the pandemic to end. If you want to become a digital nomad, a great way to start is by looking for a remote job. Find an employer who would hire you as a remote worker, and when the pandemic is over, discuss the possibilities to travel around and do your job from whichever corner of the world.

If you have chosen this way, it really helps if you know languages. Try to learn at least the basics of the local language. Don’t be afraid to communicate or ask for help – you might be surprised how friendly and chatty the locals are if you step out of your comfort zone. For example, I speak three languages daily – Estonian, English, and Portuguese. In fact, I started learning Portuguese based on my knowledge in Spanish. What made my learning process easier was listening to music, podcasts, or reading books – I surrounded myself with the language environment. I also suggest making friends with people who speak that language and not to be afraid of making mistakes – learn from them. It’s the only way to achieve confidence.

As a digital nomad, you must also respect the traditions of the country you work in. It’s not appropriate to act the same everywhere as you do in your home country. When you are humble and respectful, you will earn trust and be accepted faster.

How does Incorporate ensure your involvement and support your development considering your way of work?

I would say that trust is the most substantial aspect in keeping good employer-employee relations, the mood up and the stress level down. As a sales and marketing student, I’ve learned a bit about law, but not anything in-depth. I have improved my knowledge in the legal side remarkably, so Incorporate has taught me a lot. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn more about law and to my employer for being so patient with me.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t be too dependent on your company, when it comes to your personal growth. External factors have much influence and you must be flexible, see where life takes you. Being pragmatic is important – you can have a vision, but it’s not worth much when you’re not ready to compromise and adjust it.

What are your future goals? How do you think your way of work will endorse these?

Currently, my main goals in life are related to my family. I probably want to move back to Estonia some day and make sure my son gets a proper education. In 3-4 years perspective, I’d like to continue my studies and obtain an MBA. I’m open to possibilities, I haven’t decided on the field of studies just yet.

This is the exciting life of our Head of Community, Kristjan, who is living in Brazil. Stay tuned for next stories, introducing our great team members who make sure our customers get the best possible advice, guidance, and support for running their businesses.

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