I just sent off an e-mail about some of the challenges and surprises that I’ve hit as a Remote-Working Geek and it occurred to me that not only have I not blogged as of late (I suck, what can I say–but I have a list of like 10 things I need to blog about), but that the contents of my e-mail were downright blog-worthy. Here it is, minor edits notwithstanding:
So… I’m not sure what your background is, but I came from 10+ years of in-corporate-office worker-ville. And there’s some things that I didn’t expect to be challenging that turned out to be, and there’s things that I didn’t even think of that have surprised me. And there’s things that you’d expect to be challenging that are. =:)
I live in MA, currently, so there’s a timezone difference of 3 hours with my team in CA. If you’re used to a routine of getting up and to work by 9, and being home by 6-ish every day, it throws things way off when there are times you need to talk to someone before you can go further with something and you can’t get a conversation going until 9 at night, EST. And that happens lots.
It’s also definitely a bummer when you know that if you were in-office with your team, you could easily walk into their cube/office and have a half-hour conversation that would get things all squared away and get you being productive again. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted trying to construct e-mails (or IM conversations) to people that communicate clearly. It’s just maddening wasting 5 hours trying to get something resolved when if you were in-office, you’d have it nailed in a half hour.
After 10+ years of working in an office, there’s structure and physical demarcations that exist that keep your work life at work and your home life at home. Take driving or traveling to/from an office building away and it’s really hard to feel good about when you start work, when you end, and having time to transition between the two. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s something that I never even thought of. So I find myself feeling much more stressed out about work than I ever did working in an office. And my “work mind” doesn’t shut off when I walk downstairs. I find myself thinking far more about work than I ever did working in-office. I’ve reasoned that I should drive around the neighborhood or something before I start work and when the clock says it’s time to quit, but the hacker side of my brain insists that I could get so much more work done if I didn’t do that. =:)
Another thing I never thought of… the importance of physical and visual feedback from your managers and peers. In an office setting, you get constant feedback through conversations, meetings, facial expressions, body language, etc., that help you gauge how you’re doing as an employee. You get little attaboy’s, etc., and it’s pretty easy to know what other people are thinking of you without even having to explicitly ask. That’s another one I never really thought about. Working at home, there’s none of that. You can only picture in your mind what the people are doing when you’re talking on a phone call. I’ve been in plenty of phone conferences, being one of the in-office folks, and I know what goes on when the guy on the other end of the line can’t see you. =:) It’s much more difficult to feel good about yourself as an employee when you don’t have that feedback.
Probably as a means of compensating for some of the above, I find myself feeling guilty for putting in the same hours that I would be putting in if I were physically in-office. I find myself putting in crazy-long hours some days, feeling like I need to leave no doubt about my being a good worker. And the frustrating thing is again that there’s no feedback loop that helps you feel good about your status as an employee, even having done that.
I also find myself completely unmotivated to do any Open Source work as of late, owing mostly to the above, which is a frustrating side effect that I hope will even out over time.
So… heh… Most of what I’ve described is a function of my personality (over the top type-A), my personal climate (married with 3 teenage children), my age and previous work experience, etc., etc. I don’t know enough fellow remote worker geeks to poll as to whether what I’ve described is common or if I’m just nuts. And maybe none of what I’ve said would apply to you. =:)
However (in big, bold, flashing neon letters), I have absolutely no doubts that I made the right move in coming to work for VMware. I absolutely LOVE the company, LOVE the technology, LOVE my team, LOVE the work I’m doing, and LOVE being able to work from home and see my wife and kiddos more. I have never seen a more friendly place to work nor a more brilliant set of people than my team at VMware. I love Linux (especially on the desktop) and I am truly excited to be finally able to get paid to write software that allows Linux on the desktop to continue to grow market share. And I mean that with absolute sincerity. I’m a KDE hacker by heart and I am thrilled about getting to learn C/C++ better than I’ve had a chance to before as part of my day-time job. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere other than where I am right now. And I’ve honestly never been happier about what I do for a living than right now–and that feels _really_ good. =:)
So… is there anyone else out there in Remote-Working Geekland that identifies with my thoughts here?