“What is it you do, exactly?”

I get this question all the time. The question comes with a “look” (picture narrowed eyelids, a confused knot in the eyebrows and a suspicious head tilt.)

I’m a product marketing manager. More broadly, I’m in marketing.

Whenever I end up in a conversation where the topic of what I do for a living comes up, this is how it goes about 90% of the time.

Person: Oh, Hilary, so where do you work?

Me: I work in marketing for tech companies based in the United States. I work from home.

Person: So, what do you do exactly? (This is where I get the “look”)

The thing about this conversation, is that it doesn’t happen with people who also work in startups and technology. It only happens with office workers in more traditional corporate settings.

And it happens with office workers in cities of all sizes, not just my small East Coast city.

Every time I get the question, I can’t help but feel it ooze with condescension.

When I first started getting this question, I used to explain what marketing was. I’d literally say, “Oh you know, trying to get people to want to buy the software from the company I work for with online campaigns, etc…”

But they don’t want to know what marketing is (duh, Hilary, people know what marketing is).

They want to know what someone could possibly be doing in a not-uncommon role in an uncommon setting, like remote work.

Sometimes, people ask me about the companies I work for. Sometimes, they just steer the conversation back to something else.

But most often, they ask the next question remote workers really hate.

Person: How do you even work from home? I could never do that. I just wouldn’t do anything at all and get fired.

The reason why remote workers don’t like this question is that it diminishes the work we do. It assumes that because we work from home, we don’t actually want to work.

I even work from home because I want to keep my job, lifestyle and income – thank you very much!

I’m aware enough to know that people aren’t trying to be rude. They just don’t get it.

You can’t get it unless you’re a remote worker with a rigorous, focused routine. Working from home can be distracting, but only if you let yourself be distracted.

In fact, remote workers are statistically more productive than in-office employees. A survey reported that among those who worked remotely, both part-time and full-time, 77% stated they were more productive when working remotely; and 30% stated that they accomplished more in less time than when they were in an office setting. Remote workers also work more days a year than office employees.

forbes.com

I found office work to be distracting.

Walking to conference rooms for meeting (even booking rooms takes extra time). Coworkers having non-work conversations. Heated arguments down the hallway. The din of busy city traffic outside my window. People tapping me on the shoulder, asking for time to talk about projects or act as a second pair of eyes.

I’m more productive when I work from home.

I work from home because of the opportunities it affords me to do more challenging, valuable work.

So, yes. I do even work from home. And what exactly do I do? That’s a story for another day.