This article is part of The Rise of Remote Work Newsletter covering the latest stories and insights from remote work leaders, experts, and advocates around the world. Hit ‘subscribe’ to get notified and share your thoughts in the comments below!
As part of the newest edition of the Rise of Remote Work Newsletter interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Westgarth, Chief Operating Officer @ Deel.
About Dan Westgarth
Born in the UK, Dan Westgarth’s bedroom entrepreneurship as a kid quickly transitioned into a career in tech. A fintech enthusiast by day and outdoorsman by the weekend, Deel’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) manages Business, Operations, FinTech, and Compliance to help better serve remote businesses and workers worldwide. Before joining Deel, Dan was the General Manager at Revolut, where he helped launch and build the team across North America. He also designed Paxos Brokerage and formed an investment syndicate. When he’s not making early-stage angel investments in exciting tech companies, you can probably find him running—usually to a nearby beach.
To kick off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your ‘backstory’ about how you started working remotely?
I’ve always been a natural entrepreneur — since the age of 10, I was the kid selling candy bars in school. As I grew up, I got involved in a number of other small kinds of ‘bedroom businesses’ as a teenager. I drove my mum crazy when I basically turned the spare room in our house into an electronic repair shop! When I went off to school, I realized that I needed to work and scale something more meaningful. I decided to go into technology and joined a tech company as a young ambitious analyst. But, I was always really interested in travel as it was always a part of me when growing up. The previous company I worked for was focused on exchanging currencies and providing financial services to people that wanted to travel — so I always had this as part of my DNA. Then I was given the opportunity to join Deel, a fast-moving, globally distributed team on a mission to create a new world of work, which was complementary to my skillset and motivations in life.
Could you explain what ‘A Day In The Life Of’ looks like for you?
I feel like building a successful business is a little bit like making a movie. If you look at a movie production, it’s typically done on a fixed and short time schedule — there typically is a deadline when they want it to get into cinemas, and there are various preceding dates that represent different stages in that process. So, I view my job as a movie: it requires a lot of sacrifices, commitment, working long hours, but also making sure to hire and retain good people. I think it’s not only the front office people (the “actors”) but also the back-office people who are doing the behind-the-scenes stuff (the “special effects”) who are crucial.
What lessons or ‘key take-aways’ have you learned since working remotely?
I think the key takeaway is respecting others. In the office environment, it’s easy to draw the line of when the day stops and starts; whereas with remote work people work in different timezones which makes it harder to draw a line and set boundaries. Therefore, I think you must respect people even more in order to thrive in a remote environment. I think we’ve done a great job of ingraining that in the culture of Deel — someone in Singapore can work very effectively with someone in Colombia. This is something I’m really grateful for.
Can you tell us more about Deel. What do you do and how do you help businesses in regards to remote work?
We help businesses hire anyone, anywhere. Typically, if you want to hire someone for your business or company it requires a legal presence in the country where that person is based. With Deel, we break down the borders through our solutions that can deliver on that promise to hire anyone, anywhere. Now, a company based in London can hire someone in Turkey, or a company based in Brazil can hire someone in South Korea for example. I think that’s truly amazing as it opens up the hiring market for both businesses and workers globally.
Sounds amazing! So what does working remotely look like within Deel?
It looks like a lot of fun! I can go to any city in the world on a trip or vacation and I have a friend to hang out with — I really love that. I also love the diversity we have, it’s such an international team with nearly 300 team members across 45 different countries. I think that’s really amazing and unlike any other company that I’ve heard of.
“It’s crazy to work with people that you actually never met face-to-face but feel so closely attached to. We definitely preserve that culture regardless of being remote.” — Beliz, Partnerships Manager @ Deel
Awesome. What are some of the biggest benefits that you or your team have experienced while working as a globally distributed team?
The key benefit is flexibility, and I think that closely relates to the point I made earlier about respecting others. I’m able to walk my dog any time of the day, attend a family event, and travel to any location around the world whenever I like. I believe that respect coupled with flexibility is really powerful; it can change the way you live your life. Especially in more junior positions, where a lot of juniors feel the obligation to sit at their desk until 8 – 10pm, just to get facetime with senior management. I’m very proud to work in a culture where people work *really* hard, but don’t do unnecessary political tactics — and remote work is really a catalyst for that. I believe that we’ve built something really special at Deel where people are working really hard while also being really happy with what they’re doing.
And what, do you think, are some of the biggest challenges that you or your team have experienced while working as a globally distributed team?
We haven’t had too many challenges, to be honest. The company is growing really well — I think it’s important that we’ve done a great job at hiring people who can gel with our culture very quickly who have a similar outlook on life and similar motivations. This is one of the key challenges I’ve seen other companies that have adopted the remote model struggle with; culture clash and respecting each other’s boundaries.
Also, it can be dangerous when micromanagement is prolific, as it is much harder to micro-manage in a remote environment, so you really need to trust and empower your team to look after their own schedules and can control their own independence and destiny.
“It can be dangerous when micromanagement is prolific […] you need to trust and empower your team to look after their own schedules and can control their own independence and destiny.” — Dan Westgarth, Deel
Many organizations have adopted remote work since the pandemic. In your opinion, what’s the #1 reason that companies still hesitate to adopt remote work in their team or organization?
I think there are two key things. Firstly, a lot of companies are in denial of the real estate costs they’ve got on the book — I think it’s really hard to step away from that. Secondly, a lot of business leaders want everyone in the office building within the sights of the senior management team as they feel like this is needed in order to maintain control of the success of the organization. These two things are probably the biggest blockers for a number of companies hesitating to adopt a remote model.
What is your #1 tip for companies looking to hiring remotely?
Be open-minded about the countries in which you can hire and the quality of talent you can find. I have been overwhelmed at how good remote talent has been in some countries that I had only heard ever about in a geography lesson during high school but haven’t heard about in recent years! We have found amazing talent from less well-traveled and less well-known countries — of course, I highly recommend checking out Deel to make growing remote and international teams effortless.
Thank you for sharing your insights, Dan!
Want to learn how to onboard employees and contractors within minutes and pay them in 150+ countries? Watch the video below or book a free demo and receive 3 months free for contractors and 20% off for full-time employees!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MANDY FRANSZ
Mandy Fransz (30) is an Online Business Consultant, LinkedIn Expert, Remote Work Advocate, and founder of Make the Leap Digital. In 2019, Mandy was nominated one of the most inspiring and ambitious women entrepreneurs in The Netherlands and she has been featured in top (inter)national media incl. Thrive Global, LINDA, & AD. Follow her on LinkedIn or Instagram or join the Remote Workers on LI community (+70K members).