DEV Community


Posted on

#The Long Read ...The Comfort Level of Remote Work Should Be the Goal

When it comes to remote work, it's a topic that commands a flood of interaction. There are countless articles and even more conversations. It has seemingly become a market unto itself as well as being marketed. Everybody wants to 'work from home'(in corporate lingo). It is 2020 and people are still stuck in traffic and hustling to their workplaces on subway systems around the world. I've literally been in both situations, daydreaming of a 'better life' while being bumped by somebody standing 2cm from me on a packed subway. Also, I've wanted to rip the steering wheel from my car in the middle of traffic as I'm wondering why every day a certain portion of the road I traveled came to sudden stop like clock work 5 days a week at the exact same time. 'If only I could work from home' I would think to myself, 'that would solve ALL of my problems'.

As the saying goes 'it's about the journey not the destination', ohhh how true that statement can be.

So let's backtrack:

Alt Text

In 2008 I had the opportunity to travel to Heidelberg, Germany to visit family stationed in the military and while we were coming out a McDonald's(true story) I was speaking about some of my life plans with my cousin; frustrated with my day to day, I wanted to do 'more'. I had an idea for events aka 'throwing parties', I also wanted to blog. I wasn't going to quit my job, I was just bored. I wanted to do more and to have fun doing it which in my mind was starting a business(I know, starting a business for fun, follow along with me). My cousin was supportive, giving me advice, saying that I made the right decision to take the trip that international connections were important(hindsight what if I had packed up and moved to Germany hmmmm ).

Fast forward a few months and through a lot of Myspace hustling(gotta think in time machine terms) I jumped on an opportunity to write for an online magazine based in London, excited was an understatement.

Alt Text

To make it even better, the magazine was doing a whole series on the D.C. hip hop and soul music scene(this journey didn't start out tech based, it was music based) which was basically my backyard living in the Baltimore/D.C. metro area. Of course the only logical conclusion is to think 'it's a sign!' it's all aligning. Through contacts I had/still have I whipped up some articles for the series and got published. I wrote a few more articles for other online publications and eventually in 2011 started my own outlet.

Now we jump to January 2012:

Alt Text

While working a very demanding full job I had managed to create a whole other life for myself(all be it unpaid). I couldn't even call it part time, the digital aspect of my life had become integrated into my every day, I had contacts, people(many of whom I hadn't met in person and some I still haven't) who had become friends and mentors, I was answering emails through my blog specific gmail account on my phone, engaging in conversations and researching for more content while also managing my day to day, this wasn't a 'moonlighting' situation, it was a total life integration.

At the beginning of 2012, I wanted to 'take things up a notch', so viewing an opportunity and pulling from my trip to Germany I reached out to a DJ friend of mine on twitter with an idea to create an event in Germany with his friend who is Grammy award winning producer 9th Wonder. My friend agreed immediately and we began the process of making the event happen and 6 months later we had everything finalized and the two date DJ tour were sell out shows in Cologne and Stuttgart. Through that process I didn't meet nor actually see anyone, it was done through email and phone conversations. Later in 2012 I did meet 9th Wonder in a shoe store at a mall in Atlanta while attending a music festival which was cool because I got treated like a celebrity because he was truly gracious for making that happen for him.

This is a tech focused platform so where does the tech aspect come into the play, well we can insert that part in 2012 as well.

Alt Text

My career shift(I say shift because I view my whole career as until the day I retire) in tech happened because of the blog that I started, I was using WordPress and viewing source code to pull youtube and vimeo videos from other websites. I started to get comfortable clicking the source code and saying 'aha!' ok copy and paste but I also started to get frustrated with not being able to create the website that I wanted, all I had were templates. When it came to finding 'the right' look for my website I had educated myself on front end design, googling to see what the latest features were, what was 'en vogue' and what was not? Although the frustration of being stagnant in my own ability led me to learning how to code.

I first started with CS 50 from Harvard University through Edx.
There was an abundance of 'what I should do' but not exactly where to start. I was finishing up my MBA through a remote program at the University of Maryland Global Campus and the idea of going BACK to school wasn't really appealing. I have a good friend of mine who studied Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon(and also an excellent hip hop DJ), she told me that I could learn on my own, there was enough online to make my goals a reality. I'll be honest I wasn't sure about the process, the fog of finishing a Master's while working full time, all that had developed with my blog was a bit much, oh! going through the home buying process along the way, learning to code was there but definitely on the back burner. Besides, I figured Social Media could be my way 'in'.

I had become comfortable with social media marketing(or so I thought) and I saw that what developed organically was becoming real jobs with pay checks and benefits. My mindset changed in 2014 when I attended a day conference at the now defunct Livingsocial on an invite from my friend in who went to Carnegie Mellon. I saw how expansive Software Engineering could be and that I was really selling myself short just sticking to social media. I have a degree Biology and an MBA but I felt that Software Engineers were 'smarter' than me, there was something different in their background and that once I inched my way into tech(whatever it looked like) I could then slowly work my way into being a Software Engineer, for whatever the reason that logic went completely out the window that day at Livingsocial.

In the process of learning to code which I truly began in 2015, I realized that if I'm going to just work on a computer why did I need to commute into an office everyday(sure maybe sometimes)? I was working in biotech as a laboratory tech so going into work had to happen, that made sense but driving or catching the subway to an office just to sit at computer!? That felt honestly a bit silly to me. I transitioned into a Project Manager and it really started to click, my entire workload was managing projects remotely, I was either emailing or calling clients, even my lab work, it was for clients that I had never met in person. I knew the life in tech I wanted, I wanted to work remotely but I became passionate about it, one day I thought and thought all the way back to the beginning of my journey and realized I had been working remotely for years! That I was still working remotely, even if my company didn't see it that way nor most of the people working there. I realized that it wasn't just a dream but it was a comfort level, I was literally fluent in working remotely, communicating and functioning. Whether email, phone call, slack, twitter, linkedin and don't get me started on the first time I used Zoom and the control screen option! I was like THIS is ALL we need!

Working remotely is still viewed as a perk, so many people tout 'I get to work from on Friday's or whatever day'. People are literally clamoring to 'work from home'(full remote work is still very a tech aspect). It feels a bit like we're in the 1950's or 1960's and there is a Disney film or some educational film 'A vision of the future'.

Alt Text

There's a guy in a gray suit talking about 'In the year 2020, you will all be able to work from home' and then the film transitions to a wife cooking her husband breakfast and he goes into the home office and starts typing away, while she's vacuuming in the background.

Remote Work is still the destination but being comfortable with remote work should be the goal. As it stands now people are working remotely every day and I'm not sure they realize it which sadly can create for choppy communication and ineffective workflow. I think the more comfortable people are with remote work the more they will demand it in their own lives where possible, not just feeling like they need to exhale when they're not in the office on Monday or Friday and truly understanding how we've been working this way for a while and that the future happened at least a decade ago.

Top comments (0)