I just had my last lab today, probably for a long time. I’ve been on and off again about finishing my degree in CS for 14 years, and I’m finally buckling down to finish the work. Part of this work was the second lab in the physics series, the heat and optics lab. I enjoyed it more than I anticipated I would, and now that it’s over, I’m a little put out.(more…)
Like many in the tech industry, I’ve had the following conversation:
Me: Hey boss, I want to work from home. Here’s how I can do all aspects of my job remotely.
Boss: No way, letting employees work from home would be disastrous for the company.
Me: Yeah, ok. Thanks anyways.
If that conversation sounds a little familiar, it’s because you’ve either tried to ask to go remote in the past, or you’ve been the boss in this scenario, unwilling to even try. Hey, who’s going to blame your boss for sticking to tried and true? I know I’ve worked for my share of bosses left over from the Reaganomics era. If you’re like me and early on got a taste of working for a non-traditional company, then you know there is more to life than wearing a cheap suit to a 9-5. The truth is, at least for the last 5 years, we’ve been able to work remotely all along.
Software development was already very web based. Download the repo from source control, make changes, consult the myriad of help sites, and push your changes. Make a pull request so your boss can review your changes online. Test out deployment by pushing to testing and staging servers. Update your scrum tasks, take another one… you get the idea. Software developers already used a setup ideal for remote work prior to 2020, in fact, prior to 2010! So you can imagine the frustration of being denied the permission to work from home, when in fact, the nature of our work made it perfect for that.
Tools like Slack, Jira, Trello, and video conferencing have been not-so-quietly laying the foundation for remote work over the last decade. Each one has it’s own part to play, and just through combining a few cherry-picked vendors, you can have a remote work ecosystem in place in hours! I say it in jest, but it’s really true. We’ve been ready for remote work since Slack, really. With built in file sharing, voice/video conferencing, and all manner of communicating via text, you can run a lot off just one program. It seems that we, the workers, have been artificially held back over the last two to three years. In reality, companies and managers were mostly likely too scared to try going about work a new way. Fear of failure significantly curtails progress, and how the workforce does their work is no exception.
I haven’t even touched on the benefits of remote work.
- Improved mental health
- Fewer commutes, saving time, gas, and the environment
- It’s greener, as you’re not paying to heat/cool and office
- Not paying for an office space saves money
- The ability to attend meetings in casual clothes that would otherwise have been in business attire
- The ability to work for a dream company that’s in another city
That’s just to name a few. I myself have benefited from the last item on that list – I’m lucky enough to have landed a Tech Lead role at a New York company, something that I never dreamed would have happened. It’s a better work/life balance. It makes employees happy, which in turn makes them better workers, which in turn will make managers happy.
So now we’re there. It’s a shame that it took a pandemic for us to realize it. I have to say, there were some stumbles while feeling this new realm out. I wasn’t too hipped on losing out on the office benefits (espresso, snacks, team lunches, frosty beverage Friday) that made office work bearable. As soon as I readjusted my head, however, I began to realize that I get to make the coffee that I like, not the grounds that are at the office. Just on the gas savings alone, I could take myself out to a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner. I missed my teammates dearly, though I have to admit it was easier to work without all the hubbub in the office. Ultimately, I think remote work will stick around. It might even gain traction. All I know is that I don’t think I’ll ever work for a company that requires on-site presence again unless they are willing to pay through the nose.
 I know I’ve worked for some bosses that were just cold leftovers from the Reaganomics era. They’re not leaders, they’re bosses. They say do something, you shut up and do it. They don’t listen to suggestions, they don’t accept any different ways of doing things.
<hot-take>They’re sad excuses for humans, as good humans possess ingenuity, and are open to trying new things.
 If you’re someone that brings their dog to work and it barks more than once a day, screw you. Your coworkers that are trying to concentrate on their work are probably thinking the same thing. Also, like me, your coworkers with allergies are probably thinking something a little less polite than “screw”. As a society, we’re good about respecting food/latex allergy boundaries. Those of us with dog/cat allergies get treated like lepers when we don’t pet whatever domesticated critter.
Inspired by Elizabeth Irgens’s note, here’s a brief stroll down memory lane where I’ll touch on previous jobs.
My first real job was working as a retail clerk for Best Buy. This was in the days before their current CEO (2020) revamped their approach to pricing and customer service. As a checkout clerk, we were held to conversion metrics such as selling a certain number of protection plans, and getting customers to sign up for terrible credit cards.
I learned that it’s not as hard to upsell people if you instill a little doubt about the quality of the product they’re buying. In all reality, most people didn’t need the protection plans, or the protection plans that were sold didn’t offer the coverage we were told to imply.
The Internship (absolutely nothing like the movie)
My second job was during Sophomore year of college, and it was one of the best ever. F5 Networks offers technical internships, and I was lucky enough to land one.
I learned a lot of what I know about working with bash, building and maintaining server racks, and web development. I also learned a bit about office politics, and that internships don’t always lead to job placement in a company. That was a rough lesson to learn.
Shortly after my internship was over, I started working for a medium sized business in stores/receiving, later to switch to shipping. Here I learned what a hard day’s work really was, how to stand for 10 hours on end working through freezing temperatures.
My takeaway was that I’m not really cut out of blue collar labor on the regular. I’m an office man, through and through.
The Money People
I worked for a time as a database/server admin + general IT guy for a small financial advising firm. It was a stuffy business, both the clients and my fellow coworkers were mostly super conservative religious types. In fact, my boss even tried to get me to join a church so I could get free health insurance through them.
I didn’t, and I learned a powerful lesson. These guys paid me $10 / hour in 2014 for skills that took me a long time to hone. Just because a door is open, doesn’t mean you walk through it – and if you do and the room isn’t to your liking, walk back through that door.
The Medical Field
After a struggle of conscience and will, I decided that I needed to dip my toes in the medical field to see if it was right for me. I became a CNA and worked in an assistive living facility. It was all pretty hands off, save getting to help with med pass.
I highly enjoyed my time at this job, and I learned compassion for those struck by degenerative disease. I also feel pity for all people in nursing homes / assistive living whose highlight of the day is to go down to the dining room an hour early to just sit and wait for a mediocre dinner.
The Addiction Recovery Center
Much like my work as a CNA, working to help addicts through their recovery process was a very pivotal point in my life. It taught me compassion and understanding for those suffering from addiction, and changed my perspective in a huge way.
Triad Behavioral Health
Once I completed web development certs, I started to work for an e-learning company. This was my baptism by fire for Laravel, and I was really able to flex my PHP skills. I also learned how to work with people who were remote.
I would have stayed with this company longer, but they shut our department down.
The Dev Shop
Almost immediately after I left TBH, I started working for a development firm in Spokane. They were on the small size, 12 employees in total, with about 7 full time developers. I learned about networking, and how to work remotely with other companies on a daily basis. Ultimately, I found that I wasn’t happy jumping from project to project, being unable to take long term ownership of any products/projects, and having to kiss ass to rude customers.