Introducing Run by Rosie, a new agency model Learn More

Rosie in the news

Authority Magazine – Navigating the Remote Workforce: Hope-Elizabeth Sonam of We Are Rosie On Strategies for Growing a Geographically Dispersed Organization

by | Oct 20, 2023

Navigating the Remote Workforce: Hope-Elizabeth Sonam of We Are Rosie On Strategies for Growing a Geographically Dispersed Organization

Originally posted on Authority Magazine on October 17, 2023



An increasing number of organizations are tapping into the global talent market and building semi or fully-remote workforces distributed far and wide. While harnessing diverse talent can be a boon for innovation, this operational model is not without its challenges. In this series we ask seasoned HR and operations professionals and leaders about what it takes to run a geographically dispersed organization. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Hope-Elizabeth Sonam, Head of Community at We Are Rosie.

Hope-Elizabeth Sonam is Head of Community at marketing tech company We Are Rosie, where she leads the team responsible for building a diverse and engaged community of marketing talent. She joined the company in 2021 and was soon promoted to oversee Talent Experience and Supply efforts as well as leading the matchmaking team in the implementation of new technology platforms to scale growth. Prior to We Are Rosie, Hope was the Director of Recruiting at Capital Financial Group, Director of Business Development at SnapShot Interactive, and VP of Talent Solutions for Turknett Leadership Group. Hope is passionate about infusing the We Are Rosie community with opportunity and diversity, and championing the freedom to work in untraditional ways.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we drive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Sure thing! I feel like the poster child for nonlinear careers and have only recently come to make sense of how I’ve gotten to where I am today, so I’m happy to share. After graduating from a women’s college with a psychology degree, I hit the road fronting a band and was a singer/songwriter for my first five years out of school. I moved to Nashville (from my native hometown of Atlanta) in pursuit of a publishing deal. As I chased my dream, I secured a part-time job as an office manager in a data center to pay the bills, and I quickly realized that getting a steady paycheck has its advantages. After releasing my last solo project (which has been taken off of Spotify and iTunes so don’t even try to find it), I got my first full-time job at the age of 27 doing marketing for a tech company.

At this point, I was tired of working incredibly hard but not having anything to show for it, so I gave myself the challenge to make a six-figure salary in two years. I became a recruiter in Financial Services and then did sales for a marketing agency. Once I hit my arbitrary six-figure goal within two years, I realized I was no more fulfilled than I was as a musician. So I knew I had some things to figure out.

I hired a coach and ultimately signed up for training to become one myself. I was on a mission to find work that was meaningful, that felt good to me as a whole human, and that also was highly valued monetarily. During this reset, I moved back to Atlanta where I took a few roles that weren’t a great fit and that fueled my frustrations with corporate America. That led me to leaning on consulting, freelancing and coaching while we endured the worst of the pandemic.

While on a Facebook group for Marketing and Communications Women in Atlanta, I stumbled across We Are Rosie. I signed up for the platform with the hope that I could find a gig or two with a larger client and 24 hours later I had an email from the Head of Talent asking me if I’d consider working with them internally. My first thought was “no,” but I took the call to learn more. I ended up coming on board for 20–30 hours per week to work with our Executive Rosies (consultants), converting to an FTE before the end of the year. I went on to lead the talent team for two years and recently moved into the position of Head of Community. A lot had to come together for me to find a home where I could flourish and thrive and I attribute most all of it to finally aligning my values with the organization and its leadership, and of course, divine right timing.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can’t believe I’m sharing this in writing, but it still makes me laugh and definitely falls in the ‘teachable moment’ category. When I was working as a recruiter at a financial services company, I had a manager who was an incredibly conservative guy. He brought his viewpoints to work and to his management style, and it was challenging for someone with more progressive views and values like me to thrive or even feel good enough under his leadership.

We were at an in-person networking event and I received a meme from a friend that I thought was hysterical. It was a picture of an elephant talking to a naked man on a beach and the dialogue bubble coming from the elephant was “how do you breathe through that little thing?” Enough said.

I immediately sent it to my work-mom in the office who was also at the event, knowing she would think it was as funny as I did. I kept networking and I couldn’t figure out why my boss was being so coy with me. Towards the end, he finally showed me his phone and said, “did you know you sent this to me?” with a big smile on his face. I was MORTIFIED. I sent this super inappropriate meme to my super conservative boss and there he was, face-to-face with me, cracking up and blushing.

This taught me that even the people that we have all sized up and all figured out in our minds are also whole humans that are fully capable of surprising us. Sometimes we get stuck in our narratives about people, and we don’t give them a chance to be any other version of themselves. My former boss and I might not share the same values, but we do share a sense of humor and that is a perfect tool for bonding, especially when you don’t see eye to eye on other things.

P.S.: the whole office found this story super entertaining and I didn’t get fired. Win win.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

As cheesy as it may sound, I literally and figuratively would not be here without my mother. She not only birthed me, but she has been an active participant and sounding board through it all with me: every twist, every turn, new idea, dream, bad idea, and poor decision. She has had my back and done an incredible job at helping me focus on the gifts in the journey, not the destination.

There have been times where I’ve needed support because I didn’t know what I was doing or what the next right move was. In those moments, my mom has been a voice of encouragement to help me get in touch with my gut and intuition. She always offers suggestions, not answers, resources, not quick fixes. She knows me well enough to know the outcome has to be my idea or I’m not going to stick with it. She helps me view all things, even the evolution of my career, through the lens of my spiritual journey which I care deeply about. And she reminds me to expect miracles and never settle.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m not sure it’s a quote, but it is a belief. I believe that every decision in life comes down to a choice between two things: love or fear. Whenever I have to make a decision, if I take time to get still and tune in with my gut, it’s clear to me which choice is more loving and which one is more fear-based. My goal is to choose love every time, no matter who I let down in the process. In my experience, this belief has been as true in business as it has been in my personal life and I wish that our western culture did a better job of integrating higher truths and teachings into our professional worlds. The lessons, themes and patterns aren’t so separate once you really break it down.

Thinking back on your own career, what would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that it’s okay not to have a dream job because it’s kind of weird to dream about work.

I’d explain to my younger self that work is a slice of life, not the whole pie.

I’d encourage my younger self to get really clear on her core values and how she wants work to feel and function in her life. Then I’d tell her to marry that with what she’s naturally good at versus trying to figure out what job title is right for her when she has minimal experience.

And lastly, I’d tell her that she gets to be multiple things in her life, so it’s pointless to try and figure out what one job or career she wants! Try things on! Have integrity all along the way, make it fun, and follow the next “yes” on the journey!

Let’s now move to the central part of our interview. What are your “Top Five Strategies for Growing a Geographically Dispersed Organization”?

1.Fostering your internal community: Building a strong internal community and fostering a culture that’s inclusive and values-driven is foundational for a geographically dispersed organization. This not only creates a sense of belonging and psychological safety but also drives higher workplace commitment.

Example: At We Are Rosie, we prioritize internal community through various initiatives. As simple as it sounds, one of our most successful practices is the use of our “question of the day” channel on Slack. These interactions transcend work-related topics, allowing team members to know each other on a personal level. This week we all bonded over what we’re buying for Prime Day on Amazon which definitely allows you to see a different side of your coworkers! We also emphasize shared values like transparency and vulnerability through our casual conversations and channels, which make everyone feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. This has significantly boosted our remote team’s morale, productivity, and overall sense of belonging as part of a larger community.

2. Over-communicate: In a dispersed organization, over-communication is the tax we pay for getting to work where and how we want. Frequent and clear communication ensures everyone is on the same page, contributing to a culture of collaboration and minimizing misunderstandings.

Example: In our company, we use a combination of communication channels, from video conferences and email to instant messaging tools. We also use transparent and visual project tracking tools, so everyone can easily and visually follow progress. Over-communication, especially through different mediums, ensures that every team member, regardless of location, has access to the same information, fostering collaboration and alignment across people and teams to keep us connected.

3. Just When You Think You’ve Done Enough to Support Inclusion, Do More: Inclusion should be an ongoing commitment, not just a one-time effort. Continually add to your inclusivity initiatives to ensure everyone feels valued, respected, seen and included. Don’t skimp on this one.

Example: We celebrate and acknowledge holidays that most US based companies (or at least the ones I’ve worked for) don’t. We also encourage and provide space for employees to share things from their cultures with the team at large. Jewish cooking class? Yes please. Education on neurodivergent populations and how best to work with them? Absolutely. Our team loves to learn and who better to learn from than the people you’re in the trenches with every day.

4. Focus on the Whole Human, Not Just the Part of the Human Doing the Work: Recognizing and addressing the holistic well-being of our team is essential. This means understanding that their emotional and psychological well-being as well as their physical health directly impacts their performance.

Example: Our team identifies as 48% BIPOC, 93% female, 7% male and our exec team is 83% female. We are made up of mothers, fathers, caretakers of aging parents, singles, folks dealing with significant health diagnoses, the list goes on. We all have a different set of life circumstances and our people leads do their best to honor and consider the individual in terms of the hats they wear and burdens they carry outside of work. Our organization provides resources and support at scale for the team, but what I’m talking about here is being seen by your manager or leader holistically. I personally went through a scary health issue related to my vision earlier this year and the fact that I had a leader, colleagues and a leadership team who put my health over and above any work-related expectations spoke volumes in the fact that my organization cares about me deeply as a human–not just as someone here to do a job.

5. Make Sure Your Corporate Values Align to Support a Geographically Dispersed Organization and Hire Talent with the Same Values: I’m a big believer that values alignment is crucial in all parts of life, but especially in a dispersed organization. It ensures that everyone is working toward a common goal and supports your culture of collaboration, collective care and belonging.

Example: Our values are directly aligned with characteristics that ensure an engaged and successful remote workforce. Our values are as follows: “We are in the business of entrepreneurship”, “We use common sense”, “We pursue growth”, “We are inclusive”, “We speak plainly”, “We trust you”, “We really care”. By prioritizing values fit over culture fit in our hiring and selection processes, we’ve successfully built a diverse and united team around one mission. This approach has strengthened our organization’s ability to thrive in a geographically dispersed setting, as every team member shares a common set of values and beliefs and accepts being held accountable to them.

Tell us a bit about your workforce, where are your people based?

Our core team is based in all four time zones across the US and our community is global (even though we are limited in how we can serve our non-US members right now). Hopefully we’ll be able to do more for them as we grow!

Why did you decide on a remote model, how has it benefitted your organization?

I don’t think it was ever really a choice for us to do it any other way. Our mission relies on meeting talented people where they are, in all seasons of life, and especially those from marginalized or underrepresented communities, and creating access to opportunity for them through remote work. As advocates for the future of work, we practice what we preach with our core team being fully remote. This has benefited our organization by allowing us to hire talent from all fifty states, finding the best person for the role or project without limiting ourselves to a specific geography. It has helped us to hire more diverse talent, because let’s face it, when you hire in one geographical area, you are limited to the demographic makeup of that area. And it has helped us to be more inclusive because remote work is a lever of inclusion for distributed teams.

What are the main challenges of operating a remote workforce and what strategies do you use to overcome them?

Communication, communication, communication! As mentioned previously, we like to say that we pay an over-communication tax for the right to be fully remote. But we gladly pay it for the freedoms and flexibility that comes with the right to work where and how we want.

We leverage multiple strategies and tools to overcome this challenge, but it all boils down to being intentional on the work-related items and the whole-human front. It’s our job as leaders of remote workforces to create space (AKA allot time) and facilitate conversation supporting play, fun, bonding, belonging and innovation outside of our regularly scheduled work programming.

Which tools do you utilize to help run a remote company?

We leverage Google Meet, email, Click Up and Slack to stay connected virtually. Most of our strategies for connection are implemented on Slack as that’s where the day to day “buzz” is built, but we’re also not afraid to hop on an old fashion phone call to flesh something out while maybe taking a break or walking the dog (at least that’s my style).

What strategies do you use to find, attract, and hire remote talent?

Our marketing team does a fantastic job with organic, paid and PR efforts to really get the We Are Rosie story out into the world and share the “why” behind our mission. It is not as difficult to find and attract talent that wants to work in a remote capacity once they realize it’s a part of our DNA. Recently, it’s been more difficult to find employers that are willing to hire fully remote talent, given all the recent buzz about returning to office for many enterprise companies, but we continue to evangelize the many benefits of embracing remote talent.

Our best clients, and those that we think are set up the best to succeed during these times, are those that take a “yes and” approach to hiring. Yes to onsite AND yes to remote AND yes to those that need and want to work in a hybrid capacity. If you want to hire the best people, you have to give the best people what they want. What we hear from our community is that 9 out of 10 of them want to work in a fully remote or hybrid capacity, and many are so passionate about it that it is more important than compensation in their decision to accept a particular opportunity.

What are your 3 main tips for leaders who want to build a geographically dispersed workforce?

1. Prioritize Inclusivity and Values Alignment:

  • Foster an inclusive culture where every team member, regardless of their location, feels like they belong and are a valued member of the organization.
  • Align your corporate values with the requirements of a geographically dispersed workforce. Ensure that your values promote collaboration and inclusion.
  • During the hiring process, assess candidates not only for their skills but also for their alignment with your organization’s core values. This ensures that new hires are aligned to the community you’re building from the beginning.

2. Over-communicate and Provide Continuous Feedback:

  • Embrace over-communication as a core practice to keep everyone informed and aligned. Use a combination of communication channels to ensure clarity and transparency as different team members require and prefer different methods of communication.
  • Conduct regular feedback sessions to understand the needs and concerns of your remote team members. Make adjustments based on their input to improve collaboration, work processes, and overall well-being.
  • Implement a mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication to accommodate various time zones and preferences.

3. Support Holistic Well-Being:

  • Recognize that employees’ emotional and psychological well-being as well as physical health directly impacts their performance. Allocate time, resources and support for these things in a way that your team members feel encouraged and supported to embrace them.
  • Offer flexibility in work hours to accommodate different time zones, promoting work-life balance and reducing burnout.
  • Create a culture where team members are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, openly discussing their experiences and challenges both professionally and personally. This approach strengthens the sense of community and fosters a higher level of workplace commitment.

We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.

I’d love to have a private lunch with Sara Blakely. She lives here in Atlanta so I don’t think it would be that hard to pull off, but I’d like to talk to her about her manifestation mindset and the role that it continues to play in her career, her love for Wayne Dyer, and how she started her family in her late thirties. She is definitely an inspiration.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Connect with me on LinkedIn! I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!