How tall are you? A story by our CEO

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman

2022.02.28

2 min read

how-tall-are-you-ice-breaker

Working remotely is a really cool concept. You can take people from all over the world, who otherwise would never cross paths, team them up, and create something great. But there are, inevitably, a few things that get lost across the virtual medium. Read this story from our CEO, Antonia Hellman.

What a time to be alive.

You don’t have to think too hard about it to recognize that we’re very lucky to be living at this point in history, where we have the ability to work from anywhere with anyone. Imagine telling our great, great grandparents about that.

The Toucan team is and always has been distributed. At one point, we were working across 8 different time zones. We’ve been doing it for long enough that we know how to take advantage of the time differences to be more productive. We’ve also been able to test our product’s ability to foster meaningful connections on ourselves as we built it.

So, how tall do you think I am?

Something that our founding team realized abruptly after working with each other for about 3 months is that we didn’t know how tall everyone was. A few of us knew each other from pre-pandemic days (for instance, I am pretty well acquainted with my brother’s height), but most of us had never met in person. So that prompted a question in one of our daily meetings: not “how tall are you?”, rather, “how tall do you think I am?”

This made for an entertaining little exercise because almost everyone was wrong. And before getting any sort of confirmation, each guesser had to explain the reasoning behind their guess. It’s really interesting how one’s personality factors into people’s inferences about their height. Having confidence, being assertive, and extroversion are typically associated with being tall. (That isn’t to say that all tall people are extra confident and all short people are timid. I know that to be absolutely false.) So if you tend to behave that way on video calls, chances are, people will assume that you’re taller than you might actually be.

Size does matter… but it shouldn’t.

Interestingly, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine a while back, who is 6’6 (1.98m). He was telling me about how working remotely has really impacted the way that he interacts with others. He always knew he was tall, he just didn’t realize how his being tall affects other people’s behavior towards and around him. He also told me that he felt like, without his height being so apparent, an oddly and surprisingly important piece of his identity is missing when he meets people virtually.

Keep asking questions - especially the silly ones!

As we move towards socializing virtually more and more, it is fascinating how we can make friends and form relationships without knowing pieces of information about each other that used to be a given. And despite the silliness of the “how tall do you think I am” exercise, it teaches important lessons. The first is that we can be “close” without having physically been in the same space. And the second is that no one is defined by any one trait - visible or not.

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About author

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman is co-founder and CEO of Toucan.

She is a recent graduate of Stanford University, having studied political science and economics.

She enjoys long walks to explore new cities, listening to audiobooks on 1.2x speed, a cup of hot water, and re-watching mediocre movies.

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