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Corine Tan, Co-Founder of Kona

In this accomplished peeps conversation, we connected with Corine Tan, the Co-Founder of Kona, a remote team app empowering managers to lead with empathy. At Kona, their aim is to encourage quick check-ins that lead empathetic conversations and keep tabs on employee wellness and satisfaction. Within Corine's role, she handles all the Sales, Marketing, and Growth efforts for the company.

What does a 'typical' workday look like for you?

On a typical workday, I like to keep all my meetings before noon and save afternoons for heads-down work. If I'm writing a blog post or working on some strategy and planning efforts, I usually like to save that for later in the day where I have a little bit more time to think. Having all my meetings at the beginning of the day helps me get all my collaboration out of the way so I can be more asynchronous at the end of my day.

Describe the layout and feel of your personal workspace.

I’m actually really happy with my workspace right now. It’s newly set up as of this past Tuesday. My office is finally in its own room and so I can close the door and work when I need to.

I have a standing desk with a large dual monitor LG display, which I’m in love with. I also have a keyboard lower than the desk and a trackpad that is separate as well, which has helped save my wrists from carpal tunnel. I am very passionate about aesthetic backgrounds so my entire wall has a set-in bookshelf. I keep my favorite leadership books displayed and organized by color.

Would you describe your work style as being orderly or more chaotic and why?

I would describe my work style as a mix between the two. Because there are so many different tasks that need attention as a founder, I need to be really flexible. I try to organize my thoughts and prioritize my tasks for the day, but often something might get in the way or I might need to jump on something that's a little bit higher priority. In those moments, my inner chaotic self really helps with that.

What's one habit or ritual you need to start and finish your day?

I need to jot my tasks in a little productivity planner (a brilliant idea from executive coach Robyn Ward.) It’s this little planner that allows you to write down your tasks for the day and guides the Pomodoro Technique for each of those tasks. I also take some time at the beginning of the day to do some gratitude journaling and meditation.

At the end of my day, I need to cook or schedule something with a friend so I have a hard stop on work. It's really easy for me to lose myself in this office space, so having that end-of-day activity really helps separate work from life.

How does your team use asynchronous communication to stay in the loop while working remotely?

We’re still a small team so we tend towards more synchronous work. We still sync a lot with Tandem for internal communication and Zoom for external calls. These little shoulder tap moments allow us to function and communicate a lot faster than we would waiting on asynchronous replies.

Our afternoons tend to get more asynchronous to allow for more deep work. In those moments, we rely heavily on Slack and Notion to document as much as we can. We will definitely move towards an asynchronous model as our organization matures and expands across timezones, but right now our team is so small enough to allow for sync work.

How do you limit distractions while working from home...or do you?

I try to limit distractions by having my work inside a different room than my bedroom. However, life happens. That's why we're doing this people-first startup in the first place. We want to welcome the personal life that creeps into your work.

I limit distractions by putting in AirPods and communicating my “quiet hours” between 8 am and 5 pm, but I also think that sometimes distractions are very much needed. Taking breaks to call my mom or talk with a friend are very helpful. In an in-person office, you’d be having all those social interactions and breaks anyways, so I don’t really see them as an unwelcome distraction.

Is there one particular podcast or Youtube channel that you can't stop listening to or watching?

I'm a huge True Crime junkie and so I definitely listen to podcasts. I love the “Last Podcast on the Left” for True Crime, “The Daily” for news, and “Pop Culture Happy Hour” for entertainment reviews.

I use YouTube to empty my brain though I do enjoy the occasional Ted Talk. I've been watching Cut even though some of their videos are really weird. I really love Vanity Fair’s videos and anything from Kurzgesagt.

If you could be doing anything else than what you're doing, what would it be?

If I could be doing anything else, I'd be writing novels. I went to UCLA for English and I've always wanted to write stories so that's definitely in my long-term life plan. Right now, I really want to make an impact on the world and I could not ask for anything better than Kona. I think once I've lived a little, I'd love to be a writing Professor and teach writing at the university level and write novels for a living.

I'm currently working on a historical fiction novel about my great-great-grandfather that’s set in Oakland Chinatown. I’m definitely not putting the writing career on pause, though Kona certainly takes priority right now.