How did I start working remotely in a startup
The experience and opinion of a 17 years old boy working remotely as a developer for a startup.
On 18th June 2015 I went to Lisbon to attend the Landing Festival — a tech jobs event organised by Landing.jobs. I was 15. And now you ask: what was a 15-year-old boy doing in a job fair? So, I was there as a journalist for Pplware. Though that’s not the piece of information that matters, I have to thank a lot to them because they were my ground floor.
In that same day, there was someone who saw me and asked me if I was Henrique Dias and wrote for Pplware. I got really confused. Seriously! Where the heck would someone know me? I told him “Yes, I am.” and he told me we would talk again that evening.
And so it was! Some time afterwards he found me and I asked his name. I didn’t understand. I asked him again. Once more, I didn’t understand. I pretended to understand because I didn’t want to seem stupid (I’ve never told him this 😂 but it is not a secret anymore). We talked a bit about some ideas, about what I did, about what he did. He’s two years older, so he was 17 years old in that time. I enjoyed the conversation.
After arriving home I thought it would have been better to seem stupid and know his name than having really been stupid and not knowing his name. So, I went to the Facebook Landing.festival group and searched his face among hundreds and hundreds of members it had. And then I found him: Malik Piarali! I sent him a friendship request on Facebook and he accepted.
Since then, we exchanged words sometimes on Facebook or even by phone call. Eventually, he started giving me hints about ideas he was getting until he told me about Upframe last year. Upframe is a pre-acceleration programme for students and recent graduates and is incubated at Startup Lisboa.
The whole journey I’ve been having has helped me learning some things:
- Don’t be shy
- Be positive
- Doubt about what you’re told and think
- Be careful choosing your friends
- Be creative and follow your ideas
- Learn from mistakes
- Be grateful
- Develop yourself
- Work in team
- Try to see everything from different points of view
Now, I’m going to keep telling my story so you can see where and when I learned those things.
Today, Malik’s 20 and I’m 17. My role at Upframe is Full Stack Developer with a friend of mine, Fábio Ferreira, who is 16. We’re the youngest people in the team and the only ones who don’t relatively live near the office. At first, it seemed a bit intimidating to work with older people. We’re about twelve people and ten of them are older than me. Though they’re not that old! But that’s no barrier anymore. Why would it be? Shyness, go away! This was probably one of the first things that made me realize that one mustn’t be shy if you want to go ahead with your ideas.
Last November was the month of Web Summit! Malik somehow managed to get us tickets and he invited us to go there. We went! It was astonishing to be in Lisbon once more but this time accompanied by two excellent people.
I stayed three days in Lisbon. I have to thank a lot to Malik and to my parents, because they were crucial when they let me go and bring me there. I visited the Upframe office for the first time, went to a world-wide famous summit about technology, met one more member of the team, Pedro Andrade — which is the CMO at Craft Wallet. They build really cool wallets and no, I wasn’t asked to advertise them. I just use one and think it’s worth to mention them! Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet Henrique Fialho, who’s the co-founder and COO of Upframe, because he was a bit sick.
That’s not all: we went to Microsoft, we visited Uniplaces, I traveled by subway and Uber for the first time, I went to Starbucks for the first time and so much more. We all had a lot of fun, but we learned a lot too. It was astonishing for me, incredibly awesome. I’m really grateful for those days — and that was the second thing I learned: be grateful for what you’ve.
With all of this and with all of the people I met, I learned that we should try hard and follow our dreams. Nothing can be done without work. Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them. Also, be careful when choosing your friends. Your friendships matter as much as your own sanity.
Now, I think it’s a really good time to tell you a bit of background information about me: I was born and have been living my 17 years in a really small hamlet. Imagine a land with more or less the double of the area of Lisbon city but with about 800 inhabitants — 190 square kilometers with 800 people. A lot, hum? Those inhabitants aren’t even centralized. It doesn’t seem really comfortable, doesn’t it? But that’s where I live.
I live in Santana da Serra. The population is really old. Imagine a place where there are only three people with 17 years old. On the other hand, Lisbon is the capital, with a lot — I put a lot of emphasis on that word — more people. As you may imagine, it will be a lot different when I move into Lisbon. Probably even a bit scary at first, or not. It will be huge. We’ll see.
Be positive. Work for what you want to reach. Aim for more.
As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t live near Lisbon, neither do Fábio. So, sometimes it can be a bit challenging for us to keep up with everything that’s going on. Since we are developers and have our roles really well defined — we are mainly in charge of the website and other digital stuff — , we wouldn't necessarily need to know everything that’s happening and have been decided.
We could just be told what we needed to do, and we would do it. But doing that would be a bit boring: only building the website without knowing anything else would be like trying to cook a meal with your eyes closed. We could just keep our eyes on Asana or Slack and wait for tasks to appear, or try to be evolved the most we can to give our feedback and help as it’s possible.
It’s essential for everyone that’s part of a team to know at least the major decisions about the startup and the route it is taking. Right now, we can’t go to meetings, we can’t work in loco and we don’t even know most of the team in person! In the beginning, I thought that could be a bit frightening, but it isn’t anymore. That’s no barrier: everything is working well. Communicating with each other is essential to make everything work flawlessly.
“Was it worth doing? Everything’s worth doing
If the soul of the doer isn’t small.” — Fernando Pessoa
Giving you an example of what I’m talking about: every meeting gets written down on Dropbox Paper (one of ours main tools). Then, in the most of the times, we schedule a call so the ones who couldn’t be present in the meeting keep up with what’s happening around. We’re always asked our feedback about what we’re told, about what was decided and that contributes a lot, in my opinion, for a healthy team.
Learn how to work, hear different opinions, understand, give your feedback.
The whole team, even the ones who entered last, have learned a lot since then. I think that since everyone is young, we’re mostly learning by doing, which can be great, and dangerous at the same time. I can’t talk for the rest of the team, but for me it has been incredible to work with more people, even if only remotely.
It’s great because you can learn how other people work, how other people think, how to work with more people, how to get organised, how to deal with diverse kinds of issues, earn experience and so on. Since a lot can change really fast, we need to be able to deal with fast changes: adapt ourselves. I think this is a way that allows everyone to improve themselves. It’s always worth the risk, right?
This whole experience has improved me a lot, in many ways: from the fact that I’m more grateful and happier, to the point where I can be a less shy and think more about what I’m told.
Working is essential, learning from mistakes too. If you ever have the opportunity to work for a Startup whose idea attracts you, do it! Don’t look back. It’s a whole different way of working.
I want to thank to everyone who’s been involved, to everyone who helped me growing, and specially to Malik for giving us this opportunity.
I’m going to Lisbon next academic year — hopefully! — and I’m looking forward to see the team a lot more and learn even more!