Employee Spotlight: Alex Brightmore
WherE have you travelled to so far?
We have covered 21 countries so far, starting by driving down through central Europe in the height of summer, before heading up to the top of Norway and back down to Greece. That’s almost 20,000 miles, and we have many months left.
Alex Brightmore, Head of Cloud, Expert Thinking
What was the driving force behind the move to becoming a part time digital nomad?
My partner and I wanted to travel together and do that in a self-sufficient way. We had actually planned to stop work for the year and use our savings, but fortunately there was a path for me to work some days a week, keep advancing my career and see the world at the same time. The sticking point for me was always putting things on hold. I truly love what I do, and to just keep up I’d have needed to spend a portion of the week reading, researching and keeping my skills sharp. Why not continue work in that case, just in a different capacity.
How has adopting a digital nomad lifestyle positively impacted your work?
I have headspace to think. The daily stresses when travelling in the way we are, tend to be quite unique. For example, something breaks on the truck and we need to fix it, which is a very different thing to the stress of commuting daily. I’ve been able to develop technical strategy, design and build innovative products and think my way through problems in a deeper way than I could before (both directly at work and in our industry more widely) while hiking or mountain biking on my off days. I am also far more relaxed, which is in part due to having to relax into letting each day come as it does. I have the time to be able to think differently, to plan and pre empt as opposed to having to react to situations. All of that has impacted my work very positively.
What challenges have you encountered whilst travelling and working abroad, and how have you overcome them?
I thought the main challenge would be connectivity, but it just hasn’t been. Using starlink in 20 of the 21 countries so far has meant we have faster internet than most people in the UK – literally anywhere. I’m yet to miss a day due to travel or connectivity issues. Our main challenges are bad weather as this affects the solar pannels, and for me, keeping routine. There are times where we are running low on battery for example in the Truck, and have to drive through the evening to a new wild camp spot. Another challenge can at times be working asynchronously in a senior leadership position. Whatever way you cut it, that comes with responsibilities, expectations and deliverables. There are days when I’m not working and may not be able to join all calls, or support in every eventuality. Fortunately, the team have a strong direction and really are exceptional, so we can trust each other to move in the right direction.
In which ways has working remotely has enhanced your professional life?
I am more focused, but on different things. I can think about longer term strategies, where the industry will be going over the next 18 months and problem solving rather than the day to day of project work. My background has been leading engagements prior to this trip, while trying to do as much possible in the rest of the hours of the day to move Expert Thinking forward. I realise now I wasn’t doing either to the absolute best of my ability. Now, even on 2 days a week (plus a load of sneaky Slack catch ups and messaging throughout the week) we are really striving forward with technical strategy and innovation. That is obviously not all down to me, but being able to lead in a clear direction has been a great benefit for me personally.
Photo credit: Alex Brightmore
Can you share any strategies for staying productive and efficient when working as a digital nomad?
Get Starlink, its superb and has revolutionised the way in which we can work. Have a comfortable table or desk (I have one I can put up inside), have a routine for your work days like taking a walk before you start and keep your boundaries. There is no point in going to see the world if work ends up bleeding over into your travel days, or weekends. For me, although I do keep track of what is going on with the team throughout the week, I have learned to switch off from it and change my thinking.
Finally embrace that you aren’t going to switch over immediately, it took me about 3 months to ease into my new role and a new way of life.
What life lessons have you taken away from this experience?
If you want to do something in life, make it happen and go and do it. Yes, I am fortunate to have a passion in the work I do and it be possible to work remotely in the industry I work in – but don’t discount the hard work, cost and sacrifice it took me to get here. If you want to travel, there will always be a reason not to, perhaps many. We have wanted to take this trip since 2018 but I was worried about my career and how I would get back into it and progress – but unless you go for it and take the leap, that time may pass by.
What advice would you offer to someone considering the life of a digital nomad?
Embrace it. I am taking things to an extreme with the sheer distance covered and number of things we fit within a week while travelling, but even if it’s closer to home, embrace what different cultures and people have to offer, allow yourself the flexibility (especially mentally) to adapt and change, because it will take time. If you just make a location change and not how you approach work then you won’t get the most out of it. For the first three months I’d say, I struggled to find my place having been so heavily involved with customer work. But once relaxed into the journey, possibilities become clearer and everything just sort of fits into place.
How have Expert Thinking supported you in this journey and what would you say to them?
Thank you for being open to this happening, generally being incredibly supportive and understanding. There is always time for an open conversation and always has been. There is huge diversity in terms of the people that work at Expert Thinking and their way of thinking.
Ben is the person I go to for a change in direction or strategy. John has always been a great mentor and the person to speak with if you have had a bad day or for life advice. James is the person to go to if you need clarity on something or if I need him to act on my behalf.