My Croud Story

Croud is a unique network of digital experts around the globe. My story below appeared in:

CROUDIE STORIES: MEET OUR DIGITAL EXPERTS ACROSS THE GLOBE >>>

As a happy Croudie, My Croud Story is below:

Rayna Tzvetkova

I am a location independent marketing and digital communications professional, who loves working and traveling. Previously I worked on a full-time basis for ING, DDB, Groupama, and others, however, in the last few years, remote work opportunities have really fascinated me so I took the leap and became a freelancer. Whilst working on remote projects for SDSD, Cargill, and others, I discovered the Croud Network and immediately joined. I am very happy to be part of one of the most diverse and advanced crowdsourced platforms available.

‘Since 2008 I’ve kept a personal blog for topics that inspire me. I deeply believe that people are more productive when they are happier at work.’

The Challenges of Remote Working

Freelancing has its challenges.  As the old joke goes: “I like being my own boss, however, I don’t like being my own employee”. But joking aside, the best thing about my job is having the freedom to set my own hours and to have the opportunity to work on diverse projects with leading brands – from contributing to communication initiatives for a Virgin Trains Travelling UK Campaign or working with bloggers for Festival 6. No two projects are alike. I love the variety and the fact that I can work from anywhere in the world, all I need is a reliable internet connection and I’m ready to work. The things that I find to be most rewarding is that I constantly meet and collaborate with people from all over the world. Getting to know different cultures and attitudes can be very inspiring.

For me the difference between working full time and freelance, it’s not so much in the work, but more the way of life. Working remotely is very motivating and works well for highly organised people with excellent time management skills, who are oriented towards completing tasks on time and to a high standard.

For digital nomads, there’s often no distinction between work and leisure. Working hours sometimes over exceed those that are required in an office, and different time zones present another challenge altogether.

Working with both colleagues and clients in different time zones means having to find a convenient time for the team get together, especially if there’s a particular issue that needs to be discussed amongst individuals that may be scattered across different parts of the world. So a colleague in Singapore, let’s say, might be just about having dinner, where a colleague somewhere else is just waking up, but that is the beauty of it.

Getting into The Digital World

My career in the digital world started with managing the website of ING in Bulgaria back in 2000, Google was only two years old back then. Over the years, things in the digital world have rapidly developed, so one has to constantly stay up to date. In 2008 I started writing a personal blog, which is where my passion for WordPress comes from.

I had read an interesting article about the company and remote working, so was desperate to find out more.  

In the middle of June this year, Automattic, the company behind the WordPress platform and a bunch of other businesses, decided to shut down its office in San Francisco. Most of the company’s employees – over 500 people scattered across more than 50 countries around the world, have been working full-time for a long time – from their homes, cafes or wherever they choose.

In 2013 I set up a website where I uploaded six books, all of which are now in print, so after sorting out copyright issues with the publisher, the general public are now able to read them online – “The Road to the Temple” and “In Spirit and in Truth” by Priest Alexander Lashkov (the website is only in Bulgarian). I worked on the project on a pro bono basis and from this also contributed to Wikipedia with information about the author.

I’m extremely passionate about personal development and continued learning. Quality learning has never been easier and more accessible. The online learning destination – edX –  whose mission is to increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere, was founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012. That is where I got certified in Analytical Problem Solving and Design Thinking. And via the Hubspot Academy, I got Inbound Marketing Certified.

I can’t agree more with Dr. Seuss, who says: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Working for Croud

I first heard about Croud’s remote opportunities through a digital nomad Croudie from Australia – Vivienne Egan – a content specialist, journalist and social entrepreneur, and I applied. I was so happy when I successfully passed all the exams. Working for Croud is fantastic!

Now I work very closely with my in-house Croud colleague – Qudsia Shakeel – and frankly, it doesn’t feel like we are not physically together. Our Mondays would start with genuine interest “How was your weekend?” and Fridays with a “Happy Friday” – both full-time and freelancer employees seem to love Fridays! I can call or write Qudsia any time on any work-related issue I have. She has always been the most supportive person, making me feel like a key part of the Croud team.  

Croud Control

When you join the Croudie Network, a profile is created for you in the Croud Control platform, from where you have access to the Croud Academy section, the dashboard of your tasks, Croud’s payment center, etc. So at any given moment in time, you know how much work you’ve completed, how much you earned, and updates on what’s next. And every spare minute you have, you can benefit from Croud Academy courses. Fascinating isn’t it 🙂

The Future

What I have learned is that nothing is forever, so neither is full-time nor freelance – it all depends on one’s priorities at every given moment in time. I stay open to opportunities and love this old song from the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and Doris Day’s performance.

But I definitely look forward to meeting other Croudies either in a face-to-face get-together, which Croud organizes or through live webinars. I love mobility, flexibility, and innovation in everything!

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Digital Nomads – to be or not to be?

My interview below for Justine Toms Smiling’s Blog appeared on 1 October 2017  – the original in Bulgarian here >>>

Digital nomads – that is a topic more and more people are talking about in Bulgaria, as well. In the future, many more people will work from where they choose. We discussed the topic recently with Rayna in my other blog (here in English, here in Bulgarian) and with Taneto (here in Bulgarian). But as the topic concerns not only people interested in digital communications, I’m taking it to a wider audience here.

How did you transform from a corporate person into a digital nomad?

Being a digital nomad is a state of mind, as work stops being that physical space you go to in order to get your job done. Working and living in different places has a long tradition with writers and artists. The American writer Ernest Hemingway worked in Spain and France, and the French artist Paul Gauguin painted in Polynesia.

With the boom of technology in our daily lives and the development of various means of communication, the world is becoming more and more accessible and attractive for remote work arrangements. Thanks to reliable Internet connections, smartphones, tablets, video conferencing, etc. – it’s increasingly accepted that you don’t have to be in the office to get your job done. More and more people choose to work, travelling, getting to know different cultures and networking worldwide.

After a long career with corporate structures – I love what I do, at some point I had the opportunity to work on a full-time basis partly from an office and partly remotely. And I loved the remote part – you still interact with your colleagues and have to do the same things you normally do from the office but without losing 2 hours per day in traffic.

In a number of surveys, I come across, several key findings are quite indicative:

  • Happiness at work –  remote workers scored 8.10, compared to all workers’ score of 7.42.
  • “How valued do you feel at work?” – remote workers scored 7.75, compared to all workers’ 6.69.
  • According to the survey, 91% of remote workers believe they “get more work done when working remotely,” compared to only 9% who feel they don’t. (Above data comes from TINYpulse.)

According to another survey of Leadership IQ in 2016 of 3,500 employees – 24% of office workers loved their work. The number of remote workers who reported satisfaction from their work was 45%. Remote work is best suited to highly organized and self-disciplined people. For those who are curious to know whether their personality is suited to working remotely or in an office – they may check this quiz.

Rayna Tzvetkova – work gets done even in the summer sun

You know many digital nomads – tell us about them.

I know some and get to know more and more. And I am happy to know them all, as I constantly learn new things from them. The first true digital nomads I met were Matthias Zeitler and Uwe Allgäuer, whom I got to know during a Coworking Camp in Turkey in 2016. Since the beginning of 2017 they are running Coworking Bansko (http://coworkingbansko.com/) – a coworking space in one of the prime ski resorts in Bulgaria. Through them, I hear constantly of new digital nomad adventures (Digital Nomad Train, Digital Nomads Sailing the Atlantic, etc.) The most fascinating thing about the digital nomads I know is their love for experiencing new things and their versatile personalities. For example, Uwe whom I mentioned above goes to work with an electric skateboard in Bansko – that is quite an attraction and on top, he moves pretty fast (short video here). The third key figure in Coworking Bansko is Irina Pandeva, who in her spare time is dedicated to her vocation – painting, so if you visit Bansko, drop at the Art Gallery there.

From left to right: Irina Pandeva, Matthias Zeitler, Uwe Allgäuer

Other fascinating digital nomads I know, to name a few – Asia Lindsay from Toptal, whom I met through “How Remote Work Helps Women”; Antti Halla – a mind map ninja from Finland, who is passionate about programming and building software prototypes for thinking and learning (his book on Amazon on the topic) – I loved reading it; Vivienne Egan a content specialist, journalist and social entrepreneur from Sydney.  And many others – all with a different background, all a pleasure to know and stay in contact with.

Many people are sceptical that one is productive when working remotely. What is your response?

An article in the Forbes Magazine I came across earlier this year was dealing with the issue “ Are Remote Workers More Productive Than In-Office Workers?” Workplace globally is changing to reflect these capabilities; as more jobs become tied to computers, therefore, working from home is a rapidly growing trend. The co-founders of the Chinese travel website CTrip allowed some of their workers to work remotely on a regular basis, and compared their productivity to their office-bound counterparts. With all other factors being equal, the remote workers ended up making 13.5% more calls than their comparable office workers, which is the equivalent of almost a full extra day’s worth of work in a given week. I personally feel more productive when working remotely.

Which are the businesses that have no fixed offices and their employees are fully on the go?

Checking websites for digital nomads, I have the feeling more and more companies are offering remote opportunities. The ones, among my favourite, that are fully remote, are:

  • Automattic – “We care about the work you produce, not the hours you put in. “
  • Ghost – “Our headquarters is the internet. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, we have an office near you.”
  • Doist – “We are designers, engineers, and communicators united by a common goal, not a common location.”
  • Rocana – “Our employees live and work where they want and manage the right work/life balance for themselves. As a result, some of the most amazing and talented professionals choose to work here.”
  • Toptal – “No offices, no useless meetings, no mandatory hours. You’re recognized for what you do, not your time in a chair.”

Does this happen in Bulgaria?

I don’t know of many companies in Bulgaria (except a few international ones) that are open to remote work arrangements. But hopefully, all this will change.

What do you wish for?

I wish more business in Bulgaria open up to the vast opportunities remote work arrangements offer.

According to a Global Workplace Analytics study, a typical business saves about $11,000 per person, per year by leveraging remote work policies, and if those with compatible jobs work from home just half the time, there would be a national savings of $700 billion per year. May one day, we have such data about Bulgaria. I wish everyone finds the work arrangements that suits best one’s personality – be it from an office or remotely.

______________

Rayna Tzvetkova is a marketing and digital communications professional. She has worked for USAID, ING, DDB, Groupama, and remotely for SDSD, Cargill, Advent Group, Croud. Since 2008 she has been keeping a personal blog on topics that inspire her – books, travel, people.  She loves working and travelling and deeply believes that people are more productive when they are happier at work. Rayna recently started an HR innovation category on her blog. In her view the recruitment market needs disrupting, allowing for flexible work arrangements.

 

 

Digital Nomads’ Life

My interview below appeared on 3 August 2017 on Justine Toms’ Blog  – the original in Bulgarian here >>>

Digital Nomads – what is your definition of this new phenomenon? Do you consider yourself one?

Digital Nomads are people who use telecommunication technologies to make their living and they lead a nomadic way of life. They usually work remotely – from home, from cafes, public libraries or co-working spaces, and they can be anywhere in the world provided there is a reliable internet connection. Thus, they perform the tasks traditionally carried out in an office.

This way of working is quite popular in the US, Australia and some European countries. In Bulgaria, in my opinion, it is still gaining popularity, mainly among IT specialists, content makers and digital marketers, but almost every job that is done on a computer in an office can be carried out remotely. There is no doubt that remote work arrangements are on the rise.

A recent Toptal survey of 1,000+ global leaders and executives found out that over half of the respondents expect an increase in remote work. By contrast, only five percent expect the amount of remote work to decline. Beyond the empirical data provided in the study, there are clear reasons why the volume of flexible work arrangements will continue to grow.

On the one hand, the new communication technologies make it easier to collaborate globally in real-time. On the other hand, the growth of online recruitment platforms allows for finding talent regardless of where they are in the world and provides an effective mechanism for their temporary recruitment. These networks allow employers to hire a specific set of skills without incurring costs related to administrative issues, visa problems, and so on.

Together, these trends offer redistribution of knowledge and skills within the framework of the talent economy. The combination of advances in collaborative technologies and platforms that match relevant skills to business needs create better connectivity and provide more choice for both employers and employees.

Yes, I consider myself a digital nomad and I’m trying to promote this way of life and work. I want to emphasize that the difference is not in the way of work, but rather in the way of life. Being a digital nomad is very motivating for highly organized people, oriented towards completing tasks on time and up to a standard. For digital nomads, there is often no distinction between work and leisure. Working hours sometimes may well exceed those required in an office. And let us not forget the challenges that the different time zones often pose before them.

Just before Christmas (2016), I took part in a Co-working Camp – a temporary co-working space for collaboration, which was attended by entrepreneurs, freelancers, and digital nomads from all over the world. These people had decided that they wanted “to get work done in the winter sun” for several weeks. I met very interesting people from different countries out there. The organizers have been running a successful co-working space – Coworking Bansko since the beginning of 2017.

Is there any culture among the business in Bulgaria to be flexible when assigning remote or part-time work?
Business in Bulgaria in this regard – hiring people remotely, in my opinion, is still quite conservative. It does not take into account the differences that different people are motivated by. For example, some are more productive in the morning, other in the evening. If the tasks for the day / week / month and the deadlines for their implementation are clear, the mechanisms for implementing the working process would not be a problem.

Why is there fear or is it rather a strong conservatism?
Most managers continue to prefer their employees to work in an office rather than being physically far away from their colleagues. However, it is obvious that remote work, carried out by agile talents, is already very popular in upscale functions and industries. In the middle of June this year, Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress platform and a bunch of other businesses, decided to shut down its office in San Francisco. Most of the company’s employees – over 500 people scattered in more than 50 countries around the world, have been working full-time for a long time – from their homes, cafes or where they choose from.

Which are the most suitable jobs for freelance and remote work?
The share of people with remote work arrangements is growing in professions such as IT, marketing, project management, human resources management, etc. Where the vital thing is what and how you do, the place from which you do it gets irrelevant. Some people are more organized in the office, others are more productive when they choose where and when to work – some are early birds, others – night owls. Flexible work arrangements are owlsome 😉 for night owls.

There are already several co-working places in Bulgaria. Are they used by Bulgarians or mainly by foreigners?
Yes, their number is constantly growing. I know Bulgarians working in co-working spaces, as well as many foreigners. The community in Bansko, for example, does not stop surprising me with more and more new people from near and far away countries.

How does it feel working in a co-working space? What are the benefits?
It’s great! Internet connections are fast and reliable. People are different and if you need advice, there is always someone to turn to. And no one is a boss or a subordinate there. Everyone is focused on their tasks. Very often people have fun together in their spare time. This mini site I made as a volunteer during the Co-working Camp in sunny Antalya will give you an idea of how it feels working remotely.

Co-working Camp, Side, Turkey, 2016

And here is a short video.

About the author

Rayna Tzvetkova is a marketing and digital communications professional. She has worked for ING, DDB, Groupama, and as a digital nomad for SDSD, Cargill, and Croud. Since 2008 she has been keeping a personal blog on topics that inspire her – books, travel, people.  She loves working and travelling and deeply believes that people are more productive when they are happier at work. Rayna recently started an HR innovation category on her blog. In her view the recruitment market needs disrupting, allowing for flexible work arrangements.

The interview in Bulgarian can be found here >>>

In search of pink pine cones on Vitosha mountain

Nature is simply amazing in terms of colours, shapes and fragrances.

Vitosha mountain – 19 km long by 17 km wide – is the oldest nature park in the Balkans. It is a volcanic mountain massif, on the outskirts of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. As one of the symbols of Sofia it is excellent for sports such as hiking, alpinism, skiing or just walking in any season. Vitosha has the outlines of an enormous dome. The mountain emerged as a result of volcanic activity and has been subsequently shaped by the slow folding of the granite rock layers and a series of gradual uplifts of the area. The highest point of the mountain Cherni vrah is 2290 m and is one of 10 peaks of Vitosha over 2000 m in height.

The name Vitosha comes from the two-peaked, twin ridge mountain, which rises above the Sofia field and has acquired its present shape in stages over many millennia.

So one Sunday morning recently, inspired by several pink cones pictures, we started looking for such cones ourselves.

We drove up to Aleko and from there we walked to Fizkulturnik hut.

Aleko is the principal tourist sports centre on Vitosha, offering accommodation at Aleko Chalet (1820 m) and few hotels. There are several chairlifts, surface lifts and ski runs, cafeterias and restaurants, and ski and snowboard schools. The site is accessible by a 6.27 km gondola lift from Sofia’s suburb of Simeonovo, and by road from the suburb of Dragalevtsi. Aleko is also the starting point of a number of tourist tracks.

So from there we took the road to Fizkulturnik hut. My personal FitBit device reported 7 km from Aleko to Fizkulturnik hut. Being a not very active tourist, I confirm that in addition to the incredible views, the itinerary is not difficult at all and it is easily walked within an hour and a half. Fizkulturnik hut is located next to Golyam Kupen peak. There you can relax and admire the breathtaking viewя that opens to Vitosha Mountain below and above, Rila to  the south and Plana Mountain to the East. This is a great scenic route that I would recommend to everyone.

And on the way there, we did come across pink cones. The name “cone” derives from the fact that the shape in some species resembles a geometric cone. The individual plates of a cone are known as scales.

The male cone (microstrobilus or pollen cone) is structurally similar across all conifers, differing only in small ways (mostly in scale arrangement) from species to species. Extending out from a central axis are microsporophylls (modified leaves). The pink cones are usually referred-to as immature male or pollen cones. Whatever they are called, they are a real delight to the eyes on amountain walk.

Our day in 60 seconds 🙂 The music background I used in the video is from the song “You are beautiful, my forest”, a lyrical poem by Bulgarian author Lyuben Karavelov. It was written when the author was in emigration and reflects the nostalgia of the author to native nature. The composer Georgi Goranov wrote the music to the lyrics. The elegy is perceived as an unofficial anthem of the town of Koprivshtitsa and of the National Council of Bulgarian Folk Art.

Some Treasures of West Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a piece of paradise not much known to the world. The country is situated in south-eastern Europe, bordering Romania to the north, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. It has a relatively small size, but a great variety of topographical features – plains, plateaus, hills, mountains, basins, gorges, and deep river valleys.

East or west – there is a lot to see and experience both in terms of nature, natural wonders and customs in Bulgaria. In this post I will dwell on a few spots in west Bulgaria that are very dear to my heart on the way to Tran (Bulgarian: Трън, meaning “thorn”) – a small town in Tran Municipality, Pernik Province, western Bulgaria. It is 27 kilometres from the town Breznik and 15 km from the border with Serbia. The town was first mentioned in 1451 as Tran.

Driving along the picturesque road in western Bulgaria from Sofia through the town of Breznik on the way to the town of Tran (in the vicinity of the region from where the Thorn Water comes) one passes by a village called Paramun (coincidentally as pronounced by some people it sounds very similar to Paramount). Paramun (Bulgarian: Парамун) is a village in Tran Municipality, Pernik Province. It is located in western Bulgaria, 66 km from the capital city of Sofia and 14 km from the town of Tran, near the Serbian border. There is a peak nearby (on the photo taken en passant) which coincidentally very much reminds of the peak one sees on Paramount Pictures. It might be just my associative thinking. However, the scenery is spectacular.  But as I have this bee in my bonnet on the visual similarity of the Paramun peak with the peak on Paramount pictures, I come back to this region time and again for picnics & more photos. At this link (in Bulgarian) I came across an interesting discussion on the subject of Paramun and Paramount.

Driving further west one arrives in the small town of Tran. Annually, in the beginning of June, Tran hosts a folk festival of Bulgarian dances and songs. This year we experienced some unforgettable moments. Here is just a glimpse:

An impressive gorge, located some 3 km from the town of Tran on the river Erma, offers great views from the eco path & bridges going right through it. A picnic by the river, the pebbles of which have a rubin-like red colour, makes a great day out in nature. Tran is some 80 kilometers away from Sofia. One distinctive feature of the town is the specific Tran dialect of the Bulgarian language spoken in Tran, which is part of the Transitional dialect group.

 

In Tran up on the hill, a place worth visiting, is the small centuries-old rock temple of St. Petka, probably dating back to the 10th century. A hospitable local woman takes us around and tells most interesting stories about it. Saint Petka of the Balkans was an ascetic female saint of the 10th century. She was born in the town of Epivates (close to today’s Istanbul) on the shore of the Sea of Marmara; her parents were wealthy landowners. The legend says that when she was a child, Petka heard in a church the Lord’s words: “Whoever wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8, 34). These words would determine her to give her rich clothes away to the poor and flee to Constantinople. Her parents, who did not approve of her decision to follow an ascetic, religious life, looked for her in various cities. Petka fled to Chalcedon, and afterward lived at the church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Heraclea Pontica. She lived an austere life, experiencing visions of the Virgin Mary. Her voyages took her at one point to Tran where she is believed to have found shelter in this cave. She died at the age of 27. Now the small temple attracts numerous pilgrims. There is a place in the rock where her step is imprinted – now a place where one can pray with faith and it is believed wishes are granted.

And further west to the Sebian border there is the peaceful small village called Nasalevtsi, where one comes across an awesome 600+ centuries-old oak tree. The village of Nasalevtsi is some 10 kms away from the town Tran. In 2016 the oak tree was nominated as Tree of the Year 2017. The European Tree of the Year contest originated in 2011. It was inspired by the popular Tree of the Year contest, which has been organised in the Czech Republic by the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation for many years. The purpose of the European Tree of the Year is to highlight the significance of old trees in the natural and cultural heritage that deserves our care and protection. Unlike other contests, the European Tree of the Year doesn’t focus on beauty, size or age but rather on the tree’s story and its connection to people. Every year dozens or rather hundreds of thousands of people participate in the contest. The number of countries participating has increased from 5 to 16 and Bulgaria is among them.

Under the magnificent shade of the oak tree is the Church “Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos”. The church is one-nave, the dimensions are 7.95×16 m, the walls are massive, with a thickness of 1 m. The apse is in the shape of a Pentecost. It is covered with a double-sided roof, formed on the inside as a cylindrical vault. The apse has a separate conical cover. The church is further strengthened with metal straps. There are two entrances – from the south and from the west. Above the west entrance there are six-leaf rosettes, and above them, there is a niche. The church has its special celebration on 8th of September each year with a procession, going round the clock counterclockwise.

And up the slope of the hill at the top where the rock can be seen (known by the local people as Щърби камик [The Clipped Stone] passes the border between Bulgaria and Serbia.

One of those little-known, but peaceful & most relaxing nature spots in Bulgaria. A lot to see, enjoy and experience around.