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Christina Gorton
Christina Gorton

Posted on • Updated on

Thriving as a Remote Developer When Your Team is Not Remote-first

There can be a lot of disadvantages to being one of the only remote workers on a team. My first 2 jobs as a developer have been on non-distributed teams. I am going to share some of the things I have learned that have helped me survive and thrive as a remote developer in a company that is not remote first.

Speak Up

To be a good remote developer you have to be willing to speak up. 
As someone who was used to talking to toddlers all day and somewhat of an introvert this was hard for me at first.

When a company isn’t used to having a fully remote team, meetings often look like this:

One computer everyone on the team crowds around

  • One computer mic for everyone to talk into.
Co-workers who stand far away from mic and can’t be heard by remote devs.

  • Co-workers who have side conversations while the meeting is happening.
  • Remote workers who haven’t heard half of the meeting. They are now staring blankly at their screens missing important information.

So what can you do in this situation? 
I found I had to be willing to speak up. I had to be that annoying kid in class that is always raising their hand and asking if the teacher can repeat the question.

Hermione Hand Raise

If I didn’t, I would end up being the kid in class that gets an F on their project because they didn’t understand the task. 

Speak out

An example of when I have found speaking out to be helpful.

Co-workers change a task and don’t put it in Jira, Trello, etc.

This is unfortunate because sometimes you don’t even realize it until you have already completed the task. It would be easy to get upset in this situation. But a part of working with a team, whether you are remote or not, is learning how to communicate in a way that helps everyone get their work done.

When this has happened to me I usually send out an email reminding co-workers to update the Jira takes (what we currently us at work) to reflect the latest changes to a project.
polite reminder
Most people aren’t keeping you out of the loop on purpose. Something you realize as a remote dev on a team that is not fully distributed is it is easy for your coworkers to forget you aren’t around and apart of the office conversations. 

Speak out when these things happen so you don’t get lost at work. Sometimes you will get upset. Sometimes it will be your fault you didn’t understand a task. A little grace for everyone is definitely a healthy thing to bring to your team. 

Listen well

“Sometimes it will be your fault you didn’t understand a task.”
When I am in a meeting online I have to try to avoid distractions. I’m a mom to 4 little ones. I work at home. Those kids ultimately want me when I am on a meeting. It never fails. 
If the kids aren’t distracting me I still have to use self-control. I can't pop open several other tabs with things I would rather be doing. I have no over-site while working at home. It would be easy to spend a whole meeting on Twitter or some other site. 

But ultimately that is going to lead to me losing out on the information I need to complete my tasks for the week. 
If you are working remotely and you do get distracted you will need to own up and ask questions. 

Ask questions

guy asks questions

Asking questions was painful for me at first. In my first job I felt like I was drowning with the information I got and I was never sure if I was doing something right. I didn't want to waste my co-workers time by asking for help. At some point I realized I was wasting their time by not asking for help. So I sucked up my pride and started asking questions. I talk more about what senior developers think about their co-workers asking questions here: 

The Developer Question


I have learned that being a good communicator is probably the most important aspect of my job. I have had to communicate my needs as a remote developer. I have had to not only speak up but listen well to be able to thrive in this working environment. And I have had to learn how to ask good questions that help me and my co-workers get our task done without wasting everyone's time.

Top comments (7)

coffeecraftcode profile image
Christina Gorton

Best of luck! Learning to ask good questions can be the hardest park of a remote job. This post really helped me when I first started working remotely

shauunhimseelf profile image
Shaun McWhinnie

PREACH. Particularly the 8-10 team members standing 5 feet from a mic in an echo-y office. I spent a month shout 'COME CLOSER I CANT HEAR YOU' until the message stuck.

coffeecraftcode profile image
Christina Gorton

😂😭 Yep, I've been there. I still seem to have to do this at least once a month because the company I am currently working with brings on new contractors constantly.

shauunhimseelf profile image
Shaun McWhinnie

Our contractors are mostly remote and speaking English as a second language, but because they're at a desk with a headset, I can hear them far better than my own domestic team

lauragift21 profile image
Gift Egwuenu

Really insightful. Thanks for sharing!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Nice post, good luck continuing to navigate this!

coffeecraftcode profile image
Christina Gorton

Thanks 🙂