An Interview With Jason Hartman
Invest in the best people. No need to take shortcuts here. At Galactic Fed, we recruit the top talent around the world for each role, and then we invest in them, making sure they have access to the best training and support. Invest in your people, and you invest in a great future, not just immediate returns.
As part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zach Boyette and Irina Papuc, Co-Founders & Managing Partners of Galactic Fed, a multinational, fully-remote marketing agency with employees all around the world. Previously they worked at places like worked at Google and Toptal, where they eventually met and founded Galactic Fed.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
We met at 1B+ dollars fully distributed startup Toptal, first as remote colleagues for months and eventually meeting at an offsite in Florida. Irina had bleached her hair completely white in protest of some political movement, and Zach was sunburnt from his recent summer months train-hopping around Europe.
In between team water gun fights, jet ski rides, and whiteboard growth sessions, we bonded over a rebellious attitude towards the marketing world, the idea that the industry was due for a redesign, and a desire to do things a little (or a lot) different. Oh, and sci-fi books. We also shared an obsession with location independence: why live anywhere, when you could live everywhere? Zach was in the middle of his 12-month, 12-country worldwide sprint with Remote Year, while Irina and her partner were bouncing between Malaysia, London, Chicago, and other assorted skylines. Zach and Irina realized that you could run successful marketing teams anywhere in the world and had put it to the test-taking work calls from mountaintops in Iceland, Mexican beaches, Moroccan riads, and Vietnamese street cafes, and thus, Galactic Fed was born.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Galactic Fed is challenging the 9–5 office job’s status quo and proving that large, fully remote companies can be successful. We believe great work can be done anywhere: our employees live across six continents in 10+ different time zones. We have implemented a slew of unconventional management tactics, including a strong emphasis on written communication (with nearly zero internal phonecalls). We’ve also quantified almost every aspect of employee workflow, building systems that reward numerical impact — not office politics.
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?
Zach: Well, the first encounter I had with Google Ads was working a high school job at a pizza place in Chattanooga, TN. I was the pizza slave in the back of the kitchen, shoving pizzas into an oven, but not allowed to eat any of them. I got to chatting with the owner, and he said he was trying “The AdWords,” and asked if I could take a look. So I ended up running his Google AdWords account for that summer and probably did a terrible job. Just bidding on broad match keywords like “pizza,” I had no idea what I was doing. But I thought it was the coolest platform ever, and it opened my eyes up to the power of digital marketing
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Irina: Gosh, there are too many to list here. But, taking a more sentimental approach, I want to say that my biggest mentor remains my grandmother. She not only raised me in my earliest years but her down to earth, good-natured wisdom, and compassion for others remain some of the essential life lessons that I carry with me to the present day.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Irina: This question is bordering on the philosophical, haha. When a disruptor comes along, there are certain instances that apparently “modernize” some aspect of our daily lives, only to leave us feeling nostalgic for the way things were before, that we could not return to, as the flow of technology sweeps us up towards the next big thing. Dare I say the smartphone? I am giving away my age, perhaps, when I say that I’m glad I grew up before this significant disruption when long summer days climbing trees and getting dirty outside was still the norm among kids.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Irina: 1. Don’t do it alone. Having Zach as my co-founder, and Tom as a founding member of the team, as been incredibly important. We are never alone in this often mysterious journey that is starting and growing a business. In times of trouble, we can lean on each other for support, and in times of success, we can celebrate together!
2. Invest in the best people. No need to take shortcuts here. At Galactic Fed, we recruit the top talent around the world for each role, and then we invest in them, making sure they have access to the best training and support. Invest in your people, and you invest in a great future, not just immediate returns.
3. Get legal, and tax issues correct the first time. Whether you’re a tiny startup or a big enterprise brand, legal and tax issues never go away! Get them set up correctly from day one, and spare yourself the headache of fixing this later.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We recently submitted our papers to receive our 501(c)(3) for the new, non-profit arm of Galactic Fed, called Galactic Good. The mission of Galactic Good is to work with partner agencies and freelancers to provide nonprofits with pro bono marketing services at scale. More to come on this exciting new venture soon.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Irina: I recently finished Alison Weir’s biography of Elizabeth I, “The Life of Elizabeth I,” and as a female leader, I particularly found her story incredibly inspiring. If there ever was a poster child for “disruptor” in history, Elizabeth I takes the cake. It’s a brilliantly researched and fascinating book chronicling her incredible life and unrelenting personality, as well as the nearly insurmountable adversity she faced as England’s only second female sovereign.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Irina: “Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” — George Bernard Shaw. This is a great quote riddled with deep meaning. Perception is everything! It’s important to recognize this in yourself and understand that the world does smile with you when you smile.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Zach: Lately, Irina and I have been inspired by the growing concerns around climate change, specifically the “climate change migration” that we’re already seeing early signs of in the US and other parts of the world. In the coming years, we would love to get in front of this issue and launch a non-profit or similar to help people geographically displaced by the effects of climate change patterns.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!