A remote assignment with on-site visits – the golden mean

The global pandemic opened unexpected doors for Karolin Gjöthlén, an Mpya Digital consultant working as a fullstack developer for a London-based e-commerce company.

For the last year, I have been working on an assignment with a UK-based online pharmacy company. Due to the pandemic, I have been operating remotely from Sweden, which has meant a new set of challenges – but also new opportunities.

For many, the pandemic has made work much harder. I feel especially lucky that, for me and for our consultancy, it has actually opened doors.

It has made companies all around the world realize that they can engage staff from anywhere.

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“I love the freedom of being
a fullstack developer, as I can make
contributions all across the business.”

Bringing a new perspective

Pharmacies, of course, have a crucial role to play during a public health crisis. They can be a lifeline for people who need to get their medication quickly and easily. In Sweden, online pharmacies are well established, but in the UK, most people still get their prescriptions from high street shops.

For a small, dynamic UK-based business like ours, it has demonstrated the benefits of bringing in people from different backgrounds to be part of the team. I was hired as a fullstack developer, but I am also a native Swede. I have used online pharmacies for years, which meant I could bring those customer insights into the work that we do together.

For a small, dynamic UK-based business like ours, it has demonstrated the benefits of bringing in people from different backgrounds to be part of the team.

The role of a consultant can be so much more than the technology itself. We are all humans, after all! As well as technical knowledge and expertise, consultants can also bring their personalities and different cultural experiences to help the cause.

Covering all the bases

I love the freedom of being a fullstack developer. I can make contributions all across the business, from the front-end design of the website, to the workflow for the packers in the warehouse. I also love working in fast-paced environments where there is no time to worry about things. You make mistakes, but you learn from them and carry on. This assignment has really allowed my creativity to thrive.

But working remotely has also brought its problems.

I am a very social person. I’m used to asking a lot of questions, and learning about my new company by talking to my colleagues every day. That is a lot harder when you are hundreds of miles away.

For example, it’s easy to design an operational workflow in a diagram, but if you’ve never seen the layout of the warehouse, it can be very difficult to nail down the specifics. Visualization is critical to work like ours. You have to be able to picture everything in your mind before you can build a workflow.

Meeting the team… at last!

Finally, after almost a year of remote working, I was able to travel to the UK and spent a week with the team. Even seeing the warehouse once was enough to bring that missing visual element to the technical, theoretical work I’d been doing for so long. It made everything so much crisper in my mind.

It’s easy to design an operational workflow in a diagram, but if you’ve never seen the layout of the warehouse, it can be very difficult to nail down the specifics.

And, of course, as well as solving the operational issues, I was able to spend time with my colleagues! We have always had great team spirit and camaraderie, but meeting everyone in the flesh has given me a new energy and made our collaboration even stronger.

This assignment has made me realize the importance of balance in the role of a consultant. If I was in the office every day, I might lose some of the freshness and objectivity I have been able to bring to this project.

But, equally, it wasn’t until I got to meet everyone in person that I was able to finally feel I was truly part of the team.

– Karolin Gjöthlén, an IT consultant