Hopeful Remoteful

Hello, I’m a remote Web Developer living in beautiful Southeast Alaska. Here is my story of how and why I went remote.

History

I was single, I had dreams.

11 years ago I graduated college with a degree in Design. At the time, I lived in a small Northeast Texas town with my awesome parents. I was single, I had dreams.

My first real job in the field was for a company 75 miles away. The retail store already had a good web presence and needed someone to spend a few weeks optimizing a couple thousand product photos to put on their site. Just out of college, I felt like $15 an hour was a dream come true. Although the position was supposed to be temporary, I had to do something to hold on to it. After two weeks of optimizing photos of boots and hats, I finally completed the project. The following Monday I showed back up to work and started finding other things to do. Deep down I was hoping to show them I wanted a job. In hindsight, I was probably a little too studious or even arrogant but they decided to hire me and I ended up working there for 3 years.

We were married, we had dreams of a family.

During that time I married my lovely wife, Shannon. We were married, we had dreams of a family. After 3 years of driving an hour and a half (one way) I got pretty sick and tired of commuting to work. The traffic, the weather, the time away from my wife and friends. My employer didn’t believe in working remotely so it became difficult. I also didn’t quite fit in with the culture of the office nor had the camaraderie I desired from peers of my age or like-passions.

My next position was at a web agency 45 minutes away. This is where my career really took shape and I began to grow as a developer and as a person. I worked on things I could get behind (for the most part) and had colleagues with my same passions and interests.

At the time, my wife became pregnant with our first son, Garrison, and the desire to be with them more started to resurface.

I was told by my employer that after a year of employment we would review and consider me working remotely one day a week. A year went by and when I asked about it, his answer was basically “I’m sorry but we’ve grown a lot since we hired you and if you work remote then others will want to too”. I think this was during a time where remote work was looked upon as this highly privileged elite concept for the best of us and not for mere commoners. Although the news wasn’t good, my wife and I prayed about it and felt like I needed to stay there and be patient.

I felt like I was missing out on their childhood.

Around the 5 year mark at the agency, my wife delivered our second born son, Caedmon. At this time I was really feeling the need to work from home. By the time I’d wake up, drive to work, work, and come back home, it would be close to 11 hours of the day. When I arrived at home I’d have dinner with the family, give the kids baths, and then put them to bed. I felt like I was missing out on their childhood.

I decided to start looking for a full-time remote job and found a place that sounded promising. After a few weeks of going back and forth with the company, they offered me a job. Same salary as my existing job but with the extra benefit of working from home. When I went to my employer (who became a dear friend of mine) to tell him I was considering to leave, he fought hard for me, gave me a good raise and answered my dream of working remote full-time.

It was amazing how liberating it felt not having to drive every day to work. To be able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family. We spent our savings on renovating our garage into a nice office space. I was happy, my family was happy, and my employer was happy. Everyone was happy. It turns out I got much more accomplished when working in isolation than being distracted at the office.

If you can get your work done, you can work from the moon.

After 2 years of working remotely we proceeded to move to Southeast Alaska; which is a story for another time. When I asked my boss about what he thought about me working from Alaska he replied “If you can get your work done, you can work from the moon”.

I worked for the agency 1 more year, 8 in total, and moved on to the company I work for now, Musicbed, where I work remotely from Alaska.

Crazy times we’re living in folks!

At my current job we have 3 full-time remote employees on the engineering team (myself included) and 6 full-time employees who work 2 days a week in office and 3 days remote.

The positives of working remote

  1. I’m with my family constantly.
  2. My time is flexible.
  3. I can eat at home.
  4. I can sleep in a bit.
  5. I can go on runs, workout, and do errands during breaks.
  6. I can focus.
  7. No one is hovering over my shoulder.
  8. I feel inspired by my surroundings. I live in a beautiful place.
  9. I get more accomplished.
  10. I can work in my underwear.

The negatives of working remote

  1. I’m with my family constantly (Mostly good, but sometimes bad haha).
  2. I find myself working more than 40 hours a week on occasions because I love my craft and it’s hard to put the hat down.
  3. I miss the camaraderie, inside jokes, office culture, and overall interaction with people.
  4. Impromptu meetings in the office can be difficult to involve remote employees.
  5. Timezones can be frustrating. We have a guy in London, I work in Alaska, another works in Seattle, and the office is in Fort Worth. That’s 4 timezones to manage!

Tips for working remote

If you’re seriously considering working remote, remember that it’s a privilege but also remember it’s not uncommon either. Our arena has changed substantially over the past 10 years and remote is on the rise. I mention all of that because you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your current employer to work a few days remotely if you feel it will be beneficial for everybody.

Here are a few tips to be a successful remote employee:

  1. Be trustworthy — This is most important because you no longer have someone looking over your shoulder. They trust you enough to allow you to work from the moon, make sure you prove them right.
  2. Be present — My rule of thumb is that I should be more available being remote than I would be if I were in the office. This means I keep Slack on all the time, check my e-mail frequently (even after hours) and try to start early enough for there to be a decent overlap with the people in the office.
  3. Be motivated — Find what motivates you and work hard because of that.
  4. Serve — Help as much as possible. Be friendly, support, facilitate, be a team player from afar.
  5. Over communicate — Make sure your communication is clear and often as possible. Not being in person can lead to all types of breakdowns if you’re not diligent. If you use something like Slack, then let everyone know you’re ready to start working in the morning (A simple ‘good morning’). Let them know when you’ll be away in advance if possible and when you return. E-mails, comments, task descriptions should be as detailed and thorough as possible.
  6. Visit — If your company has a physical location nearby then visit often. If there is not a physical location or you just work in a galaxy far far away like I do then find ways to interact with your fellow co-workers and cultivate those relationships. I visit our main office in Fort Worth, Texas once or twice a year. I also work from coffeeshops and other places to get more interaction. I think it’s healthy to have some social interaction even if it’s with people outside your office.
  7. Get your stuff done — Work extra hard, prove you’re a valuable employee. The thought of not having you on the team should be scary.

Summary

Working remote offers many pros and several cons. In the end, time with my family far out weighs the cons. If you dream of working remote, make sure you consider some of the negative aspects and prepare to be disciplined and work hard. If you’re trying to figure out how to ask your employer, I suggest you show yourself trustworthy and be diligent before starting a discussion.

Thanks for reading,
Andrew Del Prete