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Being a remote worker has never been easier in Marquette. Here on our blog, we’ve covered topics like Where to Work Remotely in Marquette, Why Marquette is a Perfect Workcation Destination…we’ve even discussed some of the best parks & campgrounds that have Wifi for those looking for a more remote, remote working environment. The dramatic shift to work-from-home over recent years has made a noticeable impact on our communities, whether we see it or not, and Marquette has made a noticeable effort to accommodate the challenges that come along with this incredible new era of work in any way it can. Our aim here today is to not only better familiarize you with the very people who’ve made Marquette a haven for their remote work but to also give you a very candid overview of how they’ve been adjusting to this lifestyle. From entrepreneurs to photographers & attorneys, there’s a wonderful, growing community of purely digital workers & nomads actively embracing the feasibility of working in Marquette. All that’s left to do… is introduce you. So…
Let’s Meet a Few of Marquette’s Remote Workers
Tieka Knight – Graphic Designer, Blogger, Lighthouse Lover
A graphic designer for a small strategic communication firm based out of Grand Rapids, Tieka’s job, like many others on this list, went fully remote in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Taking advantage of the opportunity to work from anywhere she wanted, she quickly traveled northwards, setting herself up in one of Marquette’s Airbnb’s for what would eventually turn into a permanent relocation. “[I was] ready to go back, but after a month here, it just wasn’t enough time. I just kept extending and extending, I can’t leave at this point” Tieka said during our chat, “… there’s literally no cons to being in Marquette… I absolutely love it here. So many cool things to do. Little mini-adventures like Presque Isle…[and] also breweries, live music, art, culture and great places to eat… Yoopers are very welcoming and kind and I’ve never had a problem making friends. [There are] so many opportunities here to connect with people”.
Apart from her full-time job, Tieka also runs a successful online personal style & travel blog, something she’s been working hard to build over the last 12 years. As a remote worker, she’s been able to find some exciting new directions for the content she produces, “a lot of readers got excited about Michigan, so then it spawned the Michigan fast-travel side of it”, she said before diving into the origins of the blog, “I started before Instagram existed. The blog [came first], then Twitter…it started primarily as a fashion blog, [I was] part of these online fashion communities, [there were] lots of women doing that back then, it was fun. [That’s when] I wanted to amp up my content, I started taking photos in front of waterfalls & lighthouses, instead of just an outfit photo…[It’s a] side hustle, [I’ve] never considered it a full-time career, but it’s also nice to have. I can say no to things. I’ve worked with Pure Michigan, Visit Escanaba…I can say yes to the fun stuff, and no to things I don’t want to do”.
Before parting ways, we made sure to ask Tieka about what it’s been like to be away from Grand Rapids, and how she still maintains connections there. She had this to say, “the only thing I miss, in a sense, is the culture of the company. I’ve worked at Williams Group for 11 years, so I grew up with them. [It was my] first job out of college, it’s my family in a sense. I miss being around the people every day, the culture, the happy hours and the holiday parties. We’ll do that again in non-covid times”, Tieka said with certainty, “we’re only 25 people, but we still do Zoom happy hours, holiday celebrations, daily trivia, contests…we find ways to connect in a virtual setting which really helps…as much as I miss the people, we connect very meaningfully in a virtual way”. To find out more about Tieka, or if you’d like to read up on her latest style adventure, be sure to check out her Instagram, or her website.
Samantha Christian – Professional Writer, Freelancer, Dog Mom
“It’s kind of taken on a life of its own”, Samantha had to say about her freelance writing career. Her background is in digital marketing for manufacturing and tech companies but says that she spent the majority of her time in the marketing realm. She continued, “I originally started my business 2 years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina…I decided to branch out on my own and do my own freelance writing… I lived there for 7-8 years”. Samantha’s husband was born and raised in Marquette and was eventually the reason why the couple relocated from Charlotte. “We met on Mackinac Island”, she recalled, “I’m originally from New Jersey, I’d never been this far north before. We met, and moved to Philadelphia while I finished school…together we decided to move down south, we wanted a backyard for our dog”. Just a few years later, there was a sudden opportunity for her husband to move back to Marquette, “if I had not been working remotely [at the time], there would have been no way we could have done this”.
Thanks to the nature of her remote position, Samantha is able to maintain a global client base, “the best part about working remotely is that it doesn’t matter where I am or where my clients are…I’ve had a few coffee dates with a few clients, but nothing that demands travel at this point”. First taking her career fully remote back in October of 2019, she had only a few months of preparation before the rest of the world succumbed to the pandemic. “I was trying to figure out what I was doing, then March came, and suddenly everyone was trying to figure out what they were doing”. Samantha went on to say that it took an incredible amount of dedication to get herself into her home office to get work done during that time, saying that it was “eye-opening for myself”. Since then, she’s been presented with various opportunities to go back to full-time, in-person positions, but she’s “never been tempted to [pursue them]”. “I’ve got a good situation. I know what’s required of me every day”.
Speaking from her own experiences, as well as how she’s seen her own industry change over the years, she sees working from home as “a permanent shift” for the world. “I think technology is only going to get better. I think without COVID-19, it wouldn’t be as quick of reality, but these massive organizations are seeing how independent their people can be. They don’t need office spaces for them to get their jobs done”, she continued, just before delivering one of the strongest points that you’ll find in this entire article, “I think companies that don’t get on board with [remote work], are going to miss out on a lot of the talent that’s out there. I think it’ll take on a different shape in the future”. While quick to acknowledge the pro’s to remote work, Samantha is also highly attuned to the faults that can exist in this new digital age as well, saying that “working remotely can be a little lonely sometimes”, and that even though she sets her own hours, she “tends to overwork, which can be difficult”. She also made sure to express the need for more coworking spaces “everywhere, right now” to help balance out these shortcomings.
One of the key benefits to her remote working situation, however (and this is something we’ve similarly seen from a number of the remote workers we’ve spoken with for this article), is having time to work on herself. “Working for myself has been the most rewarding thing – even if I spend 10-11 hours on a computer, at least 2-3 of those is a lot of personal & professional development. I think about how many hours I’ve sat at a desk from 9-5, without having anything to do, and remember how much time I spent on social media. Now, I’m figuring out what’s next”. Adding even more to the flexible nature of her work, Samantha stated, “even if I want to run out to get groceries at 2 pm on a Tuesday, I can. I recently watched a football game and was outlining a project I have coming up this week at the same time. [Remote work] helps me rearrange my time, as opposed to having a dedicated chunk of it. The work-life balance is there, it’s just way different than I ever pictured it would be.
Summarizing her past experiences in Charlotte, Samantha commented on how the entrepreneur community there was compared to that of Marquette, “it was fairly decent, I had a good network there, but something felt just a little too big for that city. There were hoops to jump through…if you wanted to work with different entities, there were steps to do that…I feel like the midwest is a lot nicer…people are a lot nicer, there’s just a lot of collaboration happening, not a lot of competing…I see a lot of potential in [Marquette’s] future”. Samantha finished our chat by recalling some of her peer’s experiences with remote work as well, “I have a lot of friends, there’s total autonomy in their schedules. I have this one friend who sleeps in, works until 11 pm or midnight, and that really works for her. It’s really interesting to see how we can be better workers just by having that freedom”. To find out more about Samantha and her impressive portfolio of work, be sure to check out her website.
Ian Altobello – Entrepreneur, Digital Marketer, Fresh Air Fanatic
Founder of The Boreal Collective, a fully remote creative marketing business, Ian Altobello saw an opportunity to help support artists & creatives early on in 2020. “Nobody knew how long [the pandemic] was gonna last. I knew so many people who were let go – especially creative people. I wanted to have some sort of situation where I could collaborate with friends, clients could continue to communicate their message, and friends can still make money. I really wanted to have that togetherness”. Originally from the Ishpeming area, Ian lived in Nashville, Tennessee for roughly half a year following his graduation from NMU in 2019. During his time there, he worked within the music industry as a social media marketing expert. Although he values the time he spent in Nashville, he ultimately realized it wasn’t a good fit. “[There’s] a high turnover, it’s so demanding. Most people last about 6 months to a year in the music industry just because you’re pushed to your limits with your creativity. Most people just get abused and drained out. That’s when I decided to make my move back to [Upper Michigan]. I had an amazing opportunity in Nashville…I had good experiences…but there was a lot of negative things, a lot of control. Whether it’s the nature, or the stillness or the peacefulness up here [in Marquette], that’s all the inspiration I needed to start the Collective”.
We thoroughly enjoyed our sit-down with Ian, not only is his love of creativity a potent one, but also his passions for the outdoors and the Marquette area itself. As a local business owner, he sees the long-term benefits that could come to Marquette from the ongoing transition to remote work: “I think there’s going to be a lot of businesses that realize that the space they’re taking up isn’t space they should be taking up. Around [Marquette] you’ve got all these brick and mortar locations – bars, restaurants…but the next one might be a law office or some standard agency that really doesn’t need an office space anymore…they don’t need a brick and mortar to advertise and grow their business. Save those locations for new restaurants, distilleries, shops…I think it all comes full circle…I think [traditionally], corporations have way too much control. I think people can be self-governing and don’t need to be watched by a manager. Humans like to have control, and giving that up is always uncomfortable…but once they give it up and realize they’re able to let go of certain things, it’s really going to have a great effect on our local economy”.
Speaking more on The Boreal Collective and how he chooses to approach his business, Ian had this to say: “not enough people think ‘people over profit’ and that’s a huge problem. I’m trying to fix that slowly but surely…and it’s working”. Ian went on to describe his friends & fellow artists as “prized horses roaming free”, which we found both a humorous and enticing analogy. “It’s not easy to have your own creative business, not everybody is made for it…but we need someone to bring these ‘horses’ together”, Ian added. As a result of his efforts, The Boreal Collective today is made up of some truly unique & inspiring individuals who, according to Ian, “are able to provide a really custom, boutique approach to our client’s creative needs”. “We want the right people and we want to pay them really well”, he went on, “I’ve also been a victim of being compensated poorly, and there’s no need for that, especially when we’re producing work that provides real results”. Make sure you’re following The Boreal Collective on Instagram to connect, or to be one of the first to see their exciting upcoming projects.
Justin Tanner – AV Engineer, Weekend Warrior
“I lived [in Chicago] for 20 years, I’ve seen some crazy stuff”, Justin said during our recent video chat, “[we] didn’t want to raise our children in Chicago. Marquette is beautiful, Lake Superior…the schools, the safety – Chicago is just the wild west sometimes”. Justin joined the AV (audiovisual) team at Malko Communication Services 2 years ago as an Audio Visual Programmer & Project Engineer. The Chicago-based company has been in operation since 1926, specializing in wireless communications installation. New to the Marquette area just this year, Justin & his partner Kristin are both thrilled about their decision to move away from the Windy City. “The cost of living is a part of it too”, he continued, “to buy the house that we bought here in Marquette…it would have cost half a million in Chicago. The land alone would cost a quarter-million dollars”.
“My background is in studying system design and audio engineering at Columbia College in Chicago. From there, I jumped around to other jobs, I got into audiovisual in residential systems, then moved over to commercial systems. I taught myself – I saw a need for programming when I was doing residential stuff, so I started learning that about 5 or 6 years ago. At Malko, I’m a project manager, project engineer & project programmer…I wear multiple hats”, Justin had to say about his education and current work experience, “…right now it’s nuts, we just have a ton of projects in the pipeline”. Justin’s able to do roughly 95% of his job completely remote in Marquette, occasionally dipping back into Chicago for a week or so at a time for certain projects. He credits his current workload and overall success with the ability to do his job remotely; “so far it’s really been beneficial when we’ve been working remotely. Because of the tech in the last 15 years, we can really be in more than one place. I can be in more job sites virtually, versus traveling to a single job site to take care of an issue. We’re moving away from the analog world, and getting more into the digital. The [older generation] are used to people being on-site, interacting with customers, but sometimes it’s not all that efficient. In Marquette, I can be logged into multiple systems all at once”.
Justin talked about his recent work on the Walter Athletic Center located in Northwestern University, calling it a “huge, multi-million dollar system”. He further drove his point, by saying “I can log in remotely [to the athletic center] and fix their issue in half a day, rather than traveling & sending out a service truck. It saves time and money for the client. The best service you can give the customer [in this industry] is if they don’t see you…if I can fix a problem – provide a solution that isn’t seen – and just send an email that says “it’s fixed”…it’s the best white glove solution in my opinion”.
Working in an industry that’s clearly at an advantage when wireless, you may be surprised to learn that Justin’s current role wasn’t always so remote; “officially, I went remote 7, 8 months ago”, he had to say. Once Kristin secured her job in Marquette, Justin was able to approach his boss with a long list of all the potential remote work that he believed could be done in his position. “It was two pages long…I said, ‘I would love to work something out to continue to be an active member in the team’…I put the ball in their court…they told me, ‘we can make it work’”. Justin’s typical day starts at 7 in the morning – well before the rest of his office is up and running – “I start before them, and work almost 10-12 hours a day. I enjoy it…the fact that I can do laundry, rake leaves or take a quick 10 minute break…the work life balance is just a lot better…with remote work, I usually find that I work a lot longer, but I’m happier…it’s been great, I love it”.
Karina Johnson – Artist, Professional Ballerina, Teacher
“I started ballet classes when I was 4”, Karina Johnson recalled about her early history with the arts, “I decided I wanted to do it professionally. I went and got a degree in Ballet at the University of Utah. I auditioned and danced with a company in Utah right after I graduated…then in Aspen, Colorado…and San Francisco. Eventually, I found myself in Sacramento and met my husband there”. Now a successful abstract painter in Marquette, Karina continues to sustain her passion for dance as a ballet teacher at Northern Michigan University in their Theater & Dance program. “We decided there were other, bigger things”, Karina had to say about her shift away from her professional dancing career, “we were tired and went down a different path…it was difficult to keep going”. The demands a dancing career can have on any person’s body are all too famous, but for Karina, stepping away from the scene also meant that there was an opportunity for her to try something new. “I thought, ‘what am I going to do to keep some sort of artistic expression in my life?’ My husband’s mother sent me some paints and old canvases, and I realized…‘wow! I really love this! I want to keep doing this, so how do I get paid to do this?’ I just started following in her footsteps”. Karina’s mother-in-law, also an artist in the area, was a massive inspiration and help to Karina early on in her painting career. “She started showing me the ropes and different art shows…[she] does the art show circuit in the midwest and has a really good experience with it…I started slowly doing 1 show here and there. It was crazy when I sold my first piece”, Karina had to say, “it really took off from there”.
“I paint large abstract paintings”, she had to say about her current portfolio, “I travel to different art shows to show and sell my work, instead of being stuck in 1 gallery where I get to meet a certain number of people. It feels – to me – better to be able to live wherever I want and travel and take my work with me to further reach different people and clients”. Karina and her family are originally from Orange County, California, so we shared a good laugh with her when she recounted how many times her relatives have come to visit her in Marquette; “once, and it was the winter time”, she joked, saying she wasn’t entirely sure when they would be back. “My husband grew up outside of Chicago”, Karina noted about her partner’s attachments to the midwest, “his father is an NMU alumni…so they have ties up here, everyone’s kind of migrated up here”. Remembering their time in Sacramento, Karina made sure to mention that her and her husband had “always talked about moving to the midwest when we started a family. The small town feel was something we always talk about too, plus we loved the outdoors. The best of all of those things is what Marquette was to us. The small town community feel, being able to get out…it makes it easier with a child. We were used to waiting 2-3 hours in traffic to get to our trailhead for skiing and bike riding, it was exhausting. Having the accessibility [here] was really important to us”.
As a new mother, the remote nature of Karina’s career is profoundly important to her. “For me, being able to work in my space during my time as a new mom is HUGE. I don’t know how women do it”, she continued while pressing the importance of having accessible & affordable child care for new parents everywhere, “having a new baby and having to go to work everyday – a lot of people can’t afford to work and go forward with their career and pay for child care from ages 0-5. It’s impossible…I’m glad that we’re all realizing a little bit more that we can work remotely, and people can be productive, and we don’t have to micromanage and nobody needs to look over your shoulder…I hope that [remote work] stays a thing…as a woman, and a new mom and being a remote worker – just having that ability for any new mom is HUGE”. While an obvious advocate for remote work & a proper work-life balance, we still wanted to make sure we asked Karina about how she thinks people, in a general sense, are adapting to the remote work lifestyle. “I think people will miss the personal contact that you can have with certain things”, Karina made sure to point out, “but I hope that we can go remote and then still be able to have that [personal connection]”.
One of the signature benefits of remote work, as we’re sure you’re all well aware by now, is that you can travel & work from almost anywhere. This was something Karina was quick to wield while she was searching for ways to stay inspired in her creative field. “I think I find a lot of inspiration living in a place and then traveling to show my work. I get to see a lot of people and communities and we’re on the road quite a bit. It helps – in my mind – to further my inspiration and process instead of getting stuck and being in one place all the time”. “Wausau was our first big trip”, she said about her return to the scene following the shutdown in Michigan this year, “it seems not that exciting, but it was so exciting! We were able to get out, meet new people…and people are so excited to get out right now and to have that personal connection…I met some really nice people, and we ate some really good food”.
Finally reflecting on her time spent so far in Marquette, Karina made sure to communicate to us how nice it was to not live in a big city. “I’ve already done that”, she shrugged, “for my work, I had always wanted to break into the midwest market. It’s really good. I thought California was ‘IT’ – lots of money and celebrities – but actually, it’s not as good in my opinion. It feels like the midwestern families and communities appreciate the art more…Geographically, [Marquette] is pretty isolated, but it has a really good way to get to bigger towns…It feels like it has both of those worlds. I think there’s such an importance to me for work-life balance. Being able to escape and have my studio in a nice big open space, being able to get outside if I need to take a break and feel inspired again and allowing weekends for going and doing shows…it has a nice flow to it…I can produce more work and be more creative”. To stay up to speed on Karina’s amazing work, and where you might see it on display, make sure to follow her on Instagram @kjocreative.
Scott Wanhala – Digital Product Manager, Dog Dad, NMU Alumnus
“I’ve found what jives with me and makes me happy, is being active. That’s why I moved back to Marquette”, Scott had to say during our talk. A digital product manager, Scott Wanhala works fully remote for Matter Supply Co. based out of Portland, Oregon. “Matter Supply is a digital design development company. We build apps and websites”, he said, adding that it’s “a remote only company”. He went on to say that Matter Supply has an ingrained respect for a proper work-life balance throughout its company, regularly encouraging its herd of digital team members to pursue more than just their work. With deep, century-long cultural & family ties to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Scott embodies a natural, immovable appreciation for the outdoors that’s harmonious with his company’s modern values. “Marquette – from like all the seasons – literally any outside activity imaginable is out here; kayaking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking…it’s all available right out the door in Marquette”. “I’ve been working in the athletic and outdoor industry in digital for the last 12 years…and working remote for the last 5”, Scott went on, “Marquette has a great, high quality of life…[it’s] a great place to be out my door and surf, mountain bike, trail run…anything out of my door is within –not even– driving distance. It’s super convenient”.
Chiefly crediting his ‘quality of life’ ideals for his move back to Marquette in June of this year, as well as his love for ‘small town living’, Scott believes Marquette itself stands apart from anywhere else he’s ever lived, saying “the city of Marquette is really vibrant. People care about this place, and they love it. From DIY craft makers to life long residents…it’s a culturally rich place – history-wise, with the arts, music & U.P. culture – I would profoundly say that Marquette has more culture than the majority of cities in the country. With its Scandinavian heritage, U.P. sled dog races, ski jumping, hunting, biking, fishing and recreation…there’s a lot of culture and the community just adds to it all. You forget how small [Marquette] is because it’s so culturally rich”.
Commenting more on his attachments to the U.P. in general, Scott noted that himself, as well as his parents and his grandparents all attended Northern Michigan University. “I’m Finnish, most of my family is from the U.P. region. I have deep embodied roots. My family migrated here from Finland to start a family in the Keweenaw Peninsula”, he had to say. “I didn’t have a definite roadmap or career path”, Scott mentioned about his time following his own graduation from NMU, “I had an idea of what I wanted to do, so I experimented and figured it out”. The “American know-how”, he called it. “I tried a couple of industries and roles, failed a couple of times, succeeded a couple of times…mid-way through my career I just knew I wanted to have a healthy work-life balance, and be in control of my destiny…so I sought out digital work specifically. I wanted to be able to live and do what I wanted”.
Using Marquette as a fresh backdrop for his career, Scott made sure to share his thoughts on the broader shift to remote work over recent years. “My [industry] has always been a hybrid model – for about 20+ years. Right now – due to Covid – it’s a testing grounds for us and for global businesses, and it’s giving the average worker the access to live wherever [they] want…it’s pretty cool that companies are making that change. 2021 is a year where the power is going back to the worker”, Scott observed, adding that employees are more capable than ever of deciding what they need to be successful in their careers. Mentioning things like maternal & parental leave, in addition to the option to just work remote, Scott finished his thoughts by saying “if your company doesn’t support [what you want], there’s a slough of other companies that will”.
Having at one time worked in-office for Nike years ago, Scott compared his experiences with that hybrid model of work to his current fully remote role, noting that “I did 2 days a week in [the Nike] office. I miss the spontaneous elbow bumping and just shooting the breeze with co-workers at lunch and around campus. What happens too, though, through random encounters, you kind of come up with new ideas and new thoughts…you’re building raw, human bonds…and that’s one of the reasons why I moved back to a small town. Having my family, the community and that community richness is something I otherwise wouldn’t have had in an out-of-office environment”. Scott also had some interesting thoughts about how remote workers may be negatively impacting their communities, adding “remote workers can be detrimental to a community if they don’t have the cultural values that match the town or the community that they live in. The community might not agree with how [the remote worker] does things…we are all human and migrate around earth, but respecting and learning the cultural values of the community you live in is part of being a part of it. Embrace it and support your neighbors and pals”.
A fascinating final point, we’re sure you’ll all agree, and one that we’ll likely continue to ponder long after our conversation with Mr. Wanhala. With Scott, as well as with any of our featured community members in this article, we encourage you to share your own thoughts on remote work and if it’s changed the way you’re living your own life here in Marquette. But before you do that, let’s continue to get to know the rest of our incredible featured community members! Next up, is-
Kim Aisthorpe – Photographer, Business Owner, Consultant
Fully taking advantage of her remote working lifestyle, our connection with Kim fittingly took place virtually during a recent trip she took downstate. Splitting her time between Marquette and Iron River, Kim works full time as a Content Creator & Marketing Consultant for various beauty & wellness businesses, “I have clients in Marquette that I work remotely for…but I also have clients that aren’t in the area”, she had to say, “one of my Marquette clients, a medical spa, about 90% of that work is remote. I shoot for their social media & website, but I’m nearby for any events & on-site shoots, otherwise I’m fully remote”. Something we found both interesting and resourceful about one of her clients, is that if they need an extra hand managing any of their day-to-day administrative work, Kim’s able to step in and help out in a remote capacity, “[I have] a phone at home, [it’s] tethered to the spa in case they need extra hands”.
Kim’s also the founder of Studio South, a “space to create”, as she calls it. “It’s a communal content creation studio. [It was] built out of love for the creative community, and out of a need to have a space downtown that’s really accessible…people are able to go in and use it for small events, businesses shoot videos, quite a few people are shooting brand content and most recently, [there’s been] holiday product shoots & mini family sessions. It’s a space that you can make your own, without the need of an initial investment. There’s backdrops and equipment, it’s all included in the booking fee…it’s a blank canvas when you walk in”. As founder, she maintains a small footprint within the day-to-day operations at Studio South, but she’s managed to find a unique virtual formula that works best for the business, as well as her personal needs. “I go in and clean once a week. I check on anything that needs restocking, like backdrops…other than that, it’s fully remote. Booking & payments are all handled online [through] email and Instagram. People get a personalized key code (for entry)…and I have a person in town with a key in case of emergencies”.
Kim hasn’t always been a remote worker, however, she took some time during our virtual chat to reflect on some of her past experiences with her previous employers: “I used to work in-house in Marquette. I loved the company, but I would get my work done before that 8 hour [work day] was up…I was constantly like ‘I can do this from home, I can get so much more done [from home]’. At the time they weren’t open to it. My current clients that I have now, one has never had a marketing department. They asked me to be in-house, but I was able to show them the potential behind a fully remote marketing department. Now they save money, [and] we’re able to pinpoint and strategize – instead of a whole team punching a clock just because that’s the norm”.
With Kim’s experiences both in-house & with remote work, she believes that the remote work formula doesn’t just benefit employees, but employers as well, “remote work is forcing [companies] to think forwards, which helps to get them ahead with their marketing goals”. Kim talked about one of her current clients, saying that “[we’ve] heavily increased their product sales, because we were talking about it 2 whole months before they normally would have”, adding “I liked being at the old company, but it didn’t serve my ultimate goals, and it was a really hard concept for them to grasp”. You can connect with Kim via her personal Instagram account, but she’d also be happy to help you take care of any of your content creation needs by visiting Studio South.
Brandy Thomas – Professional Copywriter, Editor, Nightowl
Originally from Springfield, Illinois, Brandy Thomas is a freelance copywriter & editor currently working remote in Marquette. “I edit books, articles, dissertations…I fix spelling and grammar…check references…but I do substantive editing, so I fix stories”, Brandy summarized during our brief connection. “As a professional, it’s always been remote [work], I kind of started in video and audio production [early on]…but I always did a lot of copywriting and editing and people always asked me, ‘hey can you look at this story I wrote?’ After a while I realized I could make a career out of this…I also do audiobook narration and audio editing. So it all ties together. I’m telling stories in one way or another”. Brandy and her husband, a geologist, first moved to Marquette in August of 2014, making Marquette their most recent move in a long string of relocations over the years. “We lived in Arizona twice, in Washington just 10 miles south of Canada, and Tennessee”, she noted, “we’ve moved around a whole lot…that’s what spurred me to find more remote stuff…I wanted to find something that didn’t mean I’d have to start over [after each move]”. Brandy also mentioned that her daughter, who was 2 years old at the time she and her husband moved to Marquette from Tucson, Arizona, was also a significant factor in trying to make her work more remote. “People in Tucson were always like ‘can we just [meet] in person?’ – it didn’t work really well for my life at the time…I couldn’t always drop everything for an interview”. Turning her attention towards Marquette for a few moments, Brandy made sure to emphasize the strength of the communities throughout Marquette, and how “everyone is willing to work together. There’s a huge artist community that you don’t realize is here. There are so many artists and musicians [here]…more than anywhere I’ve ever lived. People are willing to help and network with each other. There’s something about Marquette and the U.P. in general…there’s a real sense of community”.
“The first year or so was aspirational”, Brandy mentioned about the time she first started working for herself, “three or four years ago, though, it really transformed. A lot of people got a lot more comfortable doing things online”. An obvious advocate for remote work herself, Brandy sees the future of the modern workforce in certain industries as “being more permanent…I think there’s going to be a lot more hybrid stuff”. One of her fears for the remote workers in the future, however, – and we think she raises an intriguing point – is that there’s potential for larger companies to make mass majorities of their workforce remote (freelance, independently contracted or otherwise), and create scenarios where they no longer have to pay health insurance or benefits to their workers. “So many people – as contract workers – you could be hamstrung and tied to a company, but receive none of the benefits. You’re on your own, but putting in just as many hours as someone who’s working the normal 9-5 but in the office”. All that being said, Brandy does believe that remote work is here to stay. “I think it’s going to be a lot more prevalent in the future. I think a lot of people who would have been against it – it’s really shown those people that it can actually work given the right circumstances”. For Brandy, she reflects on her own experiences as a parent when she considers the greater impact remote work can have on families, “I think there’s a lot of really good things. The cost of child care can be ridiculous, but remote work provides that flexibility with work and things”.
When we asked Brandy about her recent experiences with work from home over the last year or so, she made sure to say “I occasionally miss interacting with my clients. Sometimes people are more clear with what they want when you can see their reactions vs. something over an email. Even with zoom there’s still a weird disconnect…especially for first-time novelists and people submitting first time stories…they can get a better sense of how to take my suggestions…with some people, though, it’s so much easier to deal with them over email”. Brandy primary works from her home office, but made sure to comment on how Marquette has adapted to the shifting remote work landscape, “I think the past 2 years have had a bigger impact [on remote work] than Marquette has just by itself…but there’s Campfire Coffee and there are spaces to use that aren’t tied to the university or the library…Marquette has a lot more going on in terms of spaces and places where you can go that are nice for remote working, it provides a nice balance”.
Calla Ketchens – Attorney, Upper Peninsula Enthusiast
“I’m a contract document review attorney”, Calla summarized during our chat, “I work through a contracting agency [in New York City] and I’ve been doing that for 2 years now…I started just before the pandemic”. With family connections here in Marquette, Calla tries to return to the area at least once a year, however, she’s recently made her annual visit a bit more permanent than usual. “I moved here in September…I was between leases [in New York], I thought it’ll save me some money and I like the area…and I like fall up here so I thought it was a good time to go”. “I was based out of New Jersey, but lived in New York”, Calla recalled about her time in the big city, “we were still going [into the office]…so I had to commute into New Jersey. I did that for a few weeks…but finally they were like ‘you can come pick up your laptop”.
We’ve heard from a number of different people working in all sorts of different professions so far in this article – all in some way experiencing increased flexibility with their work schedules. Calla, however, offers up a different perspective through her work as an attorney: “for me, remote work is limited in my hours. I have to work regular office hours…since I’ve been there for a couple of years, I have some flexibility for when I start and end my day, but [my company] is all over the US, so people are at different coasts and things like that”. “With the nature of this work”, she continued, “the clients will sometimes get in documents kind of last minute, so they don’t let us front-load hours. We could get a bunch of documents on Friday, so we need to make sure someone’s working. Everything’s very time-sensitive because of litigation deadlines and things like that”. Finding the opportunity for some work-related humor, Calla chuckled to herself while adding: “I’m still limited to 40 hours a week because I’m a contractor…but the law field is ‘do as many hours as you physically can and we’ll figure it out’”.
While describing her educational history for us, we learned quickly that Calla enjoys being well-traveled. “My family is from Marquette…I got my undergrad from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee in 2011. I spent some time working abroad, then went to law school in 2014. Got my license in New York in 2018. After that, I went to NYC for my Master of Laws, which is a 2-year long program. Technically, I graduated in 2020 but there wasn’t a graduation ceremony” (because of the New York City shutdown). “For me”, she added, “I got my LLM (Master of Laws) because I wanted a safety net in New York…that was in Banking Corporate and Securities Law…it was a good program, expensive, but it got me into New York City”.
Speaking on how her industry has been adapting to the new remote work environment, Calla said the hours she works “are pretty much the industry standard”, adding “I wish [my hours] could be more flexible, but I kind of like that I have a set schedule, it creates a nice schedule for me during the week. So I know on Friday at 5pm, I’m done. I pack up my laptop and put it away. For me, it’s good to have that rigidity in a way”. Curious about how she predicts remote work will affect her industry going forwards, we made sure to ask Calla about whether or not she thought the current shift would be a permanent one for her. “I hope it stays”, she said, “I will say that the legal field has always been very stubborn. They want things to get done a certain way…and I think a lot of the older partners really want people to be in the office. I think there’s (hopefully) going to be a lot of pushback from the younger generations of attorneys…even in the legal field we’re seeing some shifts…what I’ve heard is that I think they’re gonna make the flexibility more permanent. I’m kind of hoping that it stays the same until I get into a full-time position [at the company]…I don’t feel like I need to be in an office at the moment, but if my role changes maybe I’ll feel different”.
With that, we wanted to thank and congratulate all of our new friends here for making Marquette their haven for remote work. Whether they’re deeply connected to our northern peninsula, or even if they’re some of our newest, emboldened transplants…our communities are better off with each and every one of them around. Make sure to keep checking in on our blog for future articles on the feasibility of remote work, and let us know in the comments down below how you’d like to see Marquette continue to adapt to the growing work from home environment.