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21st Century Work Life and leading remote teams

Brought to you by Virtual not Distant, the 21st Century Work Life podcast looks at leading remote teams, online collaboration and working in distributed organisations.

Join Pilar Orti, guests & co-hosts as they shine the spotlight on the most relevant themes and news relevant to the modern knowledge worker.

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Nov 29, 2018

Today Pilar interviews her colleague and co-host Maya, who is wearing her ‘non – Virtual Not Distant hat’, and speaking in her role as CEO of BlockSparks OÜ. This business has some unique 21st Century Work-Life aspects, which we felt it was time to discuss.

06.30 21st Century Work-Life: Maya Middlemiss, CEO of BlockSparks ÖU – “your creative communications partner for the blockchain world”

Apart from Maya’s passion for remote working and location independence, she’s really excited about blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. Earlier this year she was ready to formalise her status of freelancing with a small group of trusted associates by forming a limited company - but despite being a Brit living in her adopted home of Spain for a decade, she decided to constitute the company in the small Eastern European country of Estonia.

Estonia offers a unique e-residency programme specifically aimed at location-independent entrepreneurialism, and an entirely digital identity. And once Maya had set herself up as an e-resident of Estonia, it was easy – with the help of business service specialists LeapIn, to set up BlockSparks as an Estonian limited company.  Later in the year she did visit Estonia to open a proper business bank account, but she ran the business for several months without visiting her new e-domicile. She wrote a blog post about the experience, and the rationale behind this decision

An Estonian location based on digital identity was a great fit with the BlockSparks business activity of providing marketing communications services for blockchain and cryptocurrency startups.  So of course we had to get Maya to briefly define and describe how blockchain works – though she only had a few minutes, and if you want to understand in greater depth you can check out her own podcast, The Crypto Confidence Show, to dig into the details.

We did touch briefly on some non-currency application for blockchain, for example for storing academic records – imagine being able to prove that the person you were hiring actually had the qualifications they stated they had, because the record was embedded permanently in a publicly-accessible, tamper-evident distributed ledger? This is just one example of the innovative projects being tackled using blockchain technology, that Maya is so excited to be writing about.

You can find out more at and follow them on Twitter at @BlockSparks

 42.52 Oh no, my team’s gone remote!  And we’re going to spend all of our time in online meetings!

Working away from the office isn’t the peaceful isolated place it used to be, with the array of communications tools at our fingertips. So there’s a real danger we can end up in endless meetings and video conferences, instead of doing the work.

If we’re clear about when we are around to talk and interrupt each other versus when we’re engaged in deep concentrated work, we can communicate as we go along – saving our meetings for important strategic matters and decision-making. And if we use our collaboration tools appropriately, we can make our work visible and shared whilst we’re doing it, instead of having to report on it in our face-time.

Even when we have our meetings, we do need to be able to question whether we all need to be 100% attentive, all of the time. If we trust each other and our motivations and roles, we can connect and attend when it’s needed and relevant to the work – rather than trying to replicate the way we work in the colocated space at all times. 

50.29 Tool: Remarkable tablet

Pilar is in love with her new tablet, which combines the free-flow creativity of handwriting with being able to store and search that digitally afterwards. It has an e-Ink screen (like the kindle), making a change from looking at backlit screens, and she uses for editing and note-taking, as well as brainstorming and note taking. It also lets you draw beautifully.

Recent software updates include optical character recognition, which has provided the only ‘missing link’ in the creative workflow, and made her fall even more deeply in love with it. Maya wonders whether it software would be able to read her own writing though, when frequently she herself can’t… How interesting that the range of preferred tools continues to diverge and offer something for everyone.

 See you next time, and do keep in touch with us at!