Everything that my team did to be a “remote first” company, because of me
It has been more than one and a half year that I’m working remotely, which comprises the major part of my career. In this post, I would like to share with you some points that work out and others that I still have problem with.
Every time that I tell someone that I work remotely, they say that I’m lucky and explain how they would not be able to work like this. Maybe because they won’t focus or because they will miss having those coffee breaks and talk about any random stuff with co-workers.
Contrary to what everybody might think, you won’t spent the whole day in your bed or in your couch, at most in your pajamas — but that’s all. If you behave like this, you aren’t working, you are doing something else.
Some days I go to a coffee shop or I meet some friends that also work remotely, but mostly it’s because I always work from my bedroom and it gets boring sometimes.
Today I work as Systems Analyst at Bionexo and I’m the first person that work remote 100% of the time — so far the only one. In order to improve the distance between me and other employees, we had to review and change the way we work.
We are an Agile company, so daily meetings is part of our routine. We started using Geekbot (a slack bot) which everyday at 3pm asked us what we did, what we’ll do and if there’s any problem.
However, during a Retro meeting, we discussed that this looks more like a report than a daily, since we weren’t having a real feedback from our teammates about how we could help each other. After that, we went back to doing it the way it was before and our Scrum Master calls at Google Hangouts who is remote. It’s working fine and that is how we’ve been having our meetings.
This practice along with pull request review, is what most allows me to learn during work, in addition to sharing knowledge about business rules, helps me a lot to evolve as professional (specially because I know that my team has a high skill level). When you are in office, it’s as easy as pulling a chair and sitting beside your pair, but not so much when you are more than 2000 km away.
I started to pair coding in an EC2 instance, and we would share a Tmux session, running the server and everything else using Docker and coding using Vim. Unfortunately, those tools are not so easy to use and Vim users are more likely to use it with their own configuration (shortcuts, plugins etcs), so use everything from terminal may not work with everyone. I use Linux, so we can’t use Screenhero.
It may sound obvious — or expected — , but sharing screen using Google Hangouts is really what works with my teammates most of the time.
When everyone is on the same office, you have synchronous communication, everything is right on time, you know when your teammate is at the office and if you want to talk about a feature or a bug, you can just walk to a desk near you. When you are remote, everything works different. It’s a little harder to know your co-worker’s routine, since you won’t know if they really are working at that time — since people may be online but they might be at the bus — and you will miss some important discussions. Takes some time until asynchronous communication starts to work.
This is still my biggest problem as remote worker, since unfortunately it’s quite common that I hit a wall on a task and I need someone else to help me but I might have to wait for hours before getting an answer. We talk about this problem in one of ours Retro meetings, so I’m glad that the team started to pay attention to this issue so we can keep it from happening.
Bionexo already uses Slack as a centralized communication channel and that made things easier for me.
To me, working remotely means that I can’t move because I’m still on college, and I want to work at the amazing companies that I’ve been with. Also means that I have more flexibility about traveling and even working from college. I feel free and comfortable to go out for a run when I just can’t keep focused — you may feel the same if your company allows you to do that, but I think it's easier when you are remote.
There’s a difference between remote friendly and remote first. The first one it’s just a company that says “we are hiring remote employees” while the second one it’s a company that change as many as possible the way that everything work trying to make the team work their best even if the team isn’t side by side. I’m glad to be working on the second one :)
What about you? Do you currently work remotely or do you want to work like this? Are there any problems that you currently face or had to face? If you had to, how does it feel like?