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Anika Lehde sees promise in the ‘future of work,’ loves bus rides and needs 2 hours of fun daily – GeekWire


Anika Lehde of Yesler and Projectline (left) with reporter Eula Scott Bynoe of KUOW’s Battle Tactics for your Feminist Workplace podcast. (Yesler and Projectline Photo)

Anika Lehde loves to ride the bus, and she doesn’t care who knows it.

Lehde commutes between home in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood and the city’s downtown Pioneer Square where she’s the co-owner of both Yelser, one of the world’s largest independent B2B digital marketing agencies, and Projectline, a firm that connects workers with marketing skills to enterprise tech organizations for temporary roles.

While the city bus is a source of derision for many, Lehde sings its praises. The bus ride gives her a chance decompress and she enjoys the chance to interact with people she might not otherwise.

“You get to experience things outside of your bubble,” Lehde said.

She’s also not shy about the fact that while she works hard, she likes to have fun. Like two-hours-a-day minimum fun. There were times in her career when Lehde was working longer hours. Now she’s shifted her focus.

“We should all be working smarter — not harder,” she said. “Our life is painfully, obviously short.”

Lehde’s mindfulness of building a life that fits her needs carries over to one of her main professional passions right now: the future of work.

“#FutureOfWork will mean a more interesting, efficient, humane and flexible world for everyone,” Lehde mused on her LinkedIn page. 

Part of her concern is making sure that the gig economy can benefit workers and businesses, which are both served by Projectline. She wants companies to get access to the talent they need when they need it, and for workers to enjoy the perks of gig employment. She doesn’t want the arrangement to simply be a cost savings for businesses because freelancers don’t require healthcare coverage and other benefits.

“We want the people in our teams to really benefit from what it means to be part of that world in [terms of] choice, control, flexibility and being able to work remotely,” she said.

Anika Lehde emcees a talk by Food Empowerment Project founder Lauren Ornelas hosted at El Centro de la Raza. (Anika Lehde Photo)

Lehde said the favorite part of her job — which includes research, administration, shepherding leadership initiatives, training and tracking fiscal and cultural health — is supporting her companies’ community partners. Projectline just announced a collaboration with SM Diversity, a Seattle startup with services to support inclusive, diverse workplaces. Their other partners are Work of Honor, the Pacific NW Diversity Council, Future for Us and Latina’s in Seattle.

We caught up with Lehde for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

Current location:  Seattle’s Smith Tower in Pioneer Square

Computer types: Lenovo ThinkPad 220x, Dell Latitude Ultrabook 

Mobile devices: iPhone XS, Microsoft Surface Pro 

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Where to start? Apps: Joe Coffee (local startup where you can order from indie shops); Buffer for social; Calm for mindfulness; Projectline app for jobs, of course; 15Five for continuous feedback; Basecamp for volunteering; MS Teams for internal collaboration; LinkedIn Learning for development; Marco Polo for staying in touch with my friends; and if it isn’t too geeky, the app I am using right now is the Ultimate Master System Trainer for, well, memorizing numbers by converting them to sounds and then pictures.  

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Like most folks, I work at home some of the time and our office some of the time. Our HQ offices are in the historic Smith Tower in Pioneer Square, which is a completely enchanting building. If you haven’t been to the cocktail bar and observation deck at the top, you are missing out on a special piece of Seattle. My partners and I sit in the northwest corner of the 4th floor. Nobody has offices, not even the owners, CFO or VPs.

My desk is a little messy with a few plants, a rock that says “humility” and always piles of books, reports and magazines that I am reading. This space works for me because I like being in the hustle and bustle. I don’t get distracted easily, so being in an open office is no big deal. At home my office is upstairs in our 1922 mini cedar Tudor on Beacon Hill. I work at a large cork desk but only use one screen. I’ve got scraps, photos and art on the wall above my head and dog beds all around for our three very weird pooches. This space works for me because I’m near the neighborhood bar Oak.  

Anika Lehde admits to having a slightly messy desk. (Yesler and Projectline Photo)

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? What works for me is trying to do something fun every single day. This is really motivating for me. I can get up early and work hard for many hours as long as I know at the end there is going to be something interesting and fun. It doesn’t have to be a party every night, but a good dinner and maybe some great TV (watch “Sex Education”!), visiting friends, meeting up for local comedy, going to an event where I’ll learn something new, First Thursday art walk, etc. I never work all day and night and then go to bed directly. I need at least two hours of fun, usually a lot more.

I also highly recommend having something important to pull you away from work, which for many can be family. For me it’s volunteering in a way where I have important obligations that must be met. I’m super passionate about vegan food justice, farm worker justice, food access and other related issues so I volunteer for Food Empowerment Project. I also use short bursts of guided meditation every day, for just 10 minutes.   

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? LinkedIn, hands down. Like many, I left Facebook a while back. I still use Twitter every day, but what I appreciate about LinkedIn is that I am constantly learning and thinking about issues that impact the world and business both, and how the two intersect. I use it to connect to like-minded professionals by searching for terms that are important to me, finding them in bios of others, and then seeing if it makes sense to be connected or even meet up to learn from each other. I also post a lot about what I think needs to happen to ensure the future of work is a place where everyone can participate, not just the lucky few who invest in AI or have specific tech or leadership skills. I want to help shape the future so that work is more flexible and humane, not more exploitative.

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 2,043. This may seem absurd, but I only check email 2-to-3 times each day, and I mostly focus on emails from people that I need to be working with only via email. I use search a lot to find the conversations that I need. If someone wants to send me a cold email, they will not likely reach me. For different relationships I use other tools like MS Teams chat, Basecamp, Slack, LinkedIn messaging, Twitter, SMS, etc.  

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 24 

Projectline leadership team dinner facilitated by Nourish. (Projectline Photo)

How do you run meetings? I’m pretty old school in that I need an agenda with potential outcomes, or a topic with potential outcomes. Every meeting I am in feels like the world is in slow motion, so I need to know that there is a payoff for the slow nature of meetings. My favorite meetings are 100 percent remote via video. I think they actually drive higher engagement in our business. It is also interesting to see where people are working.

Even if half of us are in the office, and the other half are remote, we have the meeting 100 percent remote instead of some in a room and some not. It levels the playing field and creates an equal experience for everyone to participate. We once did a murder mystery party 100 percent remote with more than 35 people in attendance from all across the U.S. and Singapore.  

Everyday work uniform? I only wear dresses, most of which are stretchy with pockets and comfy like pajamas. I get most of my clothing secondhand to reduce waste and impact on our planet. I never wear any shoe with a high heel. In the winter I wear leggings.   

How do you make time for family? This is related to how I balance work and life. My partner and I spend a little time together every day. My chosen family lives down the street, so we are together once or twice a week. My mother lives a little north; she has MS so she has a caregiver with her every day. That is one of my motivations to work hard, so I can afford to give her anything she needs.   

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? I love taking the bus. This is the perfect transition from work to home and home to work for me. I also take it when I’m going out to have fun or go to meetings across town. I find it extremely relaxing to not be in control, to not have to worry about traffic or parking, to view the city from a little off the ground. I also use a guided meditation app (Calm), which is important to me. And lastly, I am a voracious podcast consumer. Technically podcast and the meditation apps are plugged in, but they are still very relaxing for me.   

What are you listening to? I mainly listen to music while in the shower and getting ready. This morning I listened to the first part of Pat Benatar’s 1980 album “Crimes of Passion,” the Raincoats’ cover of “Lola” and some Mel Torme.   

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? I read the Harvard Business Review management tip of the day, National Association of Corporate Directors Daily newsletter and Staffing Industry Analysts daily. Other than that, I get links to a wide variety of sources via LinkedIn, including many stories on GeekWire, of course.

I mostly listen to podcasts. My favorite right now is Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace (KUOW); I’m a huge fan of KUOW reporters Eula Scott Bynoe and Jeannie Yandel. I also listen to Future Fluency, The Allusionist (super fan), 10% Happier, The Moth, Make Me Smart, 99% Invisible, Unladylike, The Nod, Hidden Brain, The Future of Work Podcast, Recruiting Future, Food Psych, Back Story, Ear Hustle, Managing the Future of Work (HBS), Women in Business and Technology (Microsoft), Women at Work (HBR), People Analytics (PA) and the Future of Work, Nonprofits are Messy, Science Vs, Back Talk, Brown Vegan Podcast and Revisionist History.  

Anika Lehde (left) at work in Seattle’s historic Smith Tower with Ashley Marquez, Projectline’s head of marketing. (Projectline Photo)

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? Fiction, I’m reading “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. Non-fiction, I just finished “Shrill” by Lindy West and am about halfway through “The Cow with Ear Tag #1389″ by Kathryn Gillespie (local author, super great). I’m also reading the comic collection “Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever,” a slash fiction comic imagining Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig as lovers who live next door to Hall and Oats, who are stoner Satanists. It is very whimsical (thank you Fantagraphics).  

Night owl or early riser? I’m both, which I hear is going to be the death of me. I hate going to bed. I’ll do anything I can to stay up, even if my eyes can’t stay open. But no matter how late I stay up, I’m awake between 6 and 6:30 a.m. I do my best thinking and doing in the morning. I also like to spend at least an hour each morning doing something for me before work. I read, water or harvest our veggie garden, spend time with the dogs. My very favorite morning habit is listening to a 30-minute Great Courses Plus lecture. This morning I listened to a lecture on how human memory works (which is why I was using the Ultimate Master System Trainer app right before answering these questions).  

Where do you get your best ideas? Everywhere and from everyone. I really love reading, listening, learning and trying to synthesize new ideas from very different places. Our leadership team is also a source of creative fodder — they are such an incredible group of humans. My problem is turning off the idea machine. I only mention a small percentage of the ideas that I have for our business to my team because otherwise I would drive them quite insane. Sometimes I just experiment with my ideas on my own, and only if I think they will really be useful, do I share with anyone else.   

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I’m genuinely impressed with people who don’t need to have too much fun. The more sober, content and disciplined. People who can work, clean, exercise, cook, eat, then go to bed. I just don’t have enough intrinsic motivation for that. I’m only productive about nine of my waking 17 hours. But I’ve made a real commitment to enjoying my life, so I think it will be hard to emulate those folks.    

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