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I'm a digital nomad in Big Tech who got promoted to senior management in 2 years. Traveling constantly hasn't held me back.

Cornelia Holzbauer   

I'm a digital nomad in Big Tech who got promoted to senior management in 2 years. Traveling constantly hasn't held me back.
  • Andre Maxwell got a remote job as a solutions architect at Okta in March 2022.
  • He picked up his laptop in Dallas and continued life as a digital nomad traveling to 16 countries.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Andre Maxwell, a digital nomad who works at cloud security company Okta. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I was in Tulum, Mexico, when I joined Okta in March 2022 as a solutions architect. I had already been a digital nomad for almost a year, working as a cybersecurity engineer at a smaller tech company.

Many companies were still primarily remote first, and my role at Okta was remote. I applied and went through the interview process online. When I got the job, I picked up my computer in Dallas. That's where my permanent address and stuff were — the latter in a storage unit. I continued traveling from there.

Since then, I have visited 16 countries, including Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Finland, Austria, and more. I change locations every few weeks to months. Mine is a unique lifestyle, but I believe in work-life balance.

The logistics of working remotely while traveling

I work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday, no matter where I am. I adjusted my sleep schedule to adhere to my company's work schedule when I started traveling. I start working at 5 p.m. local time from Dubai or 10 p.m. from Japan. I normally get into the new rhythm within a few days.

Finding good internet is always my top priority — I plan ahead before I travel to a new location. I've worked from places that generally don't have the most reliable infrastructure. When I was in Tulum, they often have power outages due to inclement weather. I mapped the locations, such as hotels, with backup generators to make sure I never lost internet or power while staying there.

The cost of living in sunny, coastal places in the US, like California, is much higher than in many countries I travel to. The lower living cost combined with my American salary offsets my traveling expenses.

Traveling means I can live my best life in the sun

I never travel to places where I would have to start working in the morning. As a night owl, I prefer to have the day to myself and to work at night.

For example, working on Central Time from Barcelona works for me since I start at 3 or 4 p.m. If I'm an emotional dump and not feeling good, I can take the day to myself because of the time difference. I wake up, sit in my thoughts, do something that makes me happy, and mentally recover before I start the workday.

I chase summer. I cannot stand being cold. In the morning, I go for a walk. I will get breakfast and go to the gym.

Many of my travels are inspired by food. I'm a foodie at heart. Discovering new restaurants and cafés in a coastal city, near the water with the sun shining on me — it makes the sacrifices of the digital nomad life all worth it.

For most people, not seeing their family, adjusting sleep schedules, and living out of a suitcase would be unbearable. But I am living my dream life, and those sacrifices don't feel as big. I talk to my family often. Seeing new places, chasing the sun, and making new experiences are more important than a sense of routine in a familiar environment.

How I got promoted while working remotely

I was promoted to senior management in January. I am in my late 20s. While I am relatively young for this position compared to what some would say is "industry average," I've got 10 years of experience. Having this depth of knowledge helped me succeed in my new role.

I applied for the promotion and went through the application process. I don't know if I was up against competition, but I got promoted because I'm known for good work. Being known for stellar work makes it easier to go up within the ranks of any organization. My work-life balance contributes to my performance.

Being a digital nomad has never been a problem at work. I perform well, and that's what matters to my company. I never let anything happening in my personal life affect my work life. My career is something I take a lot of pride in. I still want to excel. And I think that helped me get to the position I am in now.

I wanted to go into management to focus on streamlining business processes — how my team operates, the best way to engage with our customers, and providing them with the best possible quality. The people I manage are also remote, and we all work independently so an office environment wouldn't benefit our workflow.

I don't have FOMO about working in an office

I'm not concerned about returning to an office because I've been customer-facing my entire career. If your role mainly depends on you and your ability to perform, then I think it's much easier to go the digital nomad route. People who work as part of a tight team have less flexibility and might benefit from face time.

I might have enjoyed the community aspect at an office and happy hours, but I've never experienced it, so I don't feel worse off without it.

I meet new people all the time traveling. More than I'd meet if I were working in the same office every day, so I don't feel I'm missing out on any of the personal aspects of the office.

An employee's value also depends on their happiness

A healthy work-life balance produces better work results. Leaving work and being in a new area you love simulates the brain differently. I work better because my travels make me happy.

I love my job. Every new environment I enter, every new city or country restarts my happiness. A psychologically healthy person is more valuable to a company.

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