Category Archives: Remote

Working remotely.

Working from home

The past few days have given me additional perspective on my life as a remote worker.

I’ve been acquainting myself with a new codebase: in Javascript, which means I have very little ability to explore, trace, poke at a live instance, etc. when compared to my usual tools. I also didn’t have the advantage of constantly badgering the guy two desks down, which is the typical substitute for understanding!

This, and a curious inability to concentrate, left me quite frustrated yesterday; I had to simply force myself to keep battering my mind against every possible approach until I had gathered enough understanding to make some progress. I’m usually quite imperturbable, but the early days prior to understanding can really rock the boat.

That inability to concentrate is the spark that caused this post. In an office environment, I would have wandered around, perhaps having short conversations with teammates that might have unlocked a door in my work. I also wouldn’t have felt bad about not making measurable progress: being visible and interaction with others is a reasonable substitute, but a remote worker doesn’t have that option. At home, I found myself constantly snapped out of the early stages of The Zone by minor distractions, and I had no outlet for my frustration.

With some consideration I conclude that I would be no more productive or able to concentrate in an office — open-plan is hardly the dictionary definition of monastic seclusion — but I would feel less negative about failure. Commiseration is a powerful thing.

On the other hand, I do get to step out my front door and go vole hunting with my dog, enjoying the beautiful sky and the rolling fields. I don’t think that I would trade this for an office job — even in an office as awesome as Mozilla’s.

First day

I’m pleased to announce that today is my first day at Mozilla Corporation. It’s both disorienting and exhilarating to be so surrounded by a whirl of smart people doing novel work on so many fronts; I look forward to getting more of a handle on things, and starting to get traction.

This, I’m sure, will lead to yet more posts here… more positive ones, I hope!

Squeaky doors

I work (remotely) with a senior development manager. His office door squeaks.

I know that he’s been in that office for several years, yet every time we have a video conference — multiple times each week — I’m greeted by a series of loud creaks as each physical participant enters the room.

I’m pretty sure he no longer notices the squeaky office door; perhaps it’s even a charming, reassuring quirk of his environment. Maybe he jokes “oh yes, you get used to it”, or “haha, one day I’ll bring in some oil”.

I notice the squeaky door. In fact, I’m a little surprised that anyone could ignore it for so long.

The squeaky door is, of course, a parable about bad tools or environments. (It’s also absolutely real: if I wasn’t a thousand miles away, I would have oiled that door a long time ago!)

When I moved into my shared office as a new PhD student, many years ago, the door squeaked. When I went to get coffee it would squeak. Running down the hall for a printout? Squeak, squeak. The very next day I brought in a small bottle of oil, and two minutes later the door was swinging silently.

It pays dividends to spend a little time working on removing the frictions we encounter every day: from oiling hinges, to moving furniture, all the way to switching build tools or deciding to work remotely. (I’d call a frustrating commute a big friction!)