Julia Evans

Working remote, 3 months in

I’ve been working remotely for Stripe for 3 months now.

I decided to do this because I interviewed at this place, and the people were thoughtful and friendly and interesting and knew things that I did not know! But they were all in San Francisco, and I didn’t want to move there at all. They convinced me that if I worked remote it might not be a disaster.

I was still pretty scared about working remote, though! So far it’s been hard, but I’m learning how to do it better. I’m somewhat extroverted, so it’s possible for me to go a bit stir-crazy sitting alone by myself all day.

I live on the east coast. The people I work with are mostly in San Francisco, three time zones away. So when I start work it’s usually around 6am in SF.

Let’s start with some things I have trouble with:

Hard things

  • Timezones are hard. If I start working at 8, there aren’t many people I can talk to BECAUSE IT’S 5AM. (however: it’s a really good time to focus! And I can be a wizard and finish tasks before everyone wakes up in the morning!)
  • I don’t know how to meet new people without visiting the physical office. A lot of people are just names on IRC to me. I do not know of any upside to this, or how to fix it.
  • I’m worried about the winter.
  • I didn’t realize how much I depended on synchronous communication (talking face-to-face!) to do things until it was taken away from me. This is thankfully getting easier.
  • It seems pretty difficult for me to know very much about the office culture.
  • I find building consensus about technical decisions hard to do remotely. (see: depending on synchronous communication)
  • A/V is hard. I often don’t try to participate in talks because I don’t expect the experience to be good.

Good things:

  • I get to work with people who I like and live where I want to live. And I’m learning a lot. This is why I decided to do this in the first place =)
  • I can work in my backyard in the sun.
  • I have more flexibility about when and where to work. I appreciate this more than I thought I would.
  • Thinking about working remote as “a cool possibility with some ups and downs” instead of “this enemy that means I HAVE TO SEE LESS PEOPLE OH NO” helps me be happy instead of grumpy.
  • My happiness seems to be proportional to the amount of time I spend talking to people. This is something I can measure and optimize!
  • I’m getting better at asynchronous communication.
  • If I ask someone to do something when I finish work, they’ll be working for 3 hours after me! It might be already done when I start the next day.
  • 2 people on my team are remote! (colin and avi). This is a huge deal. If I were the only one it would probably be a disaster and I would be way more sad. As far as I can tell Avi’s been working remote approximately forever and he has a lot of good things to say.
  • I like that Stripe actually changes things to accommodate remotes (for instance: the all-hands meeting switched times so that it’s not at 7:30pm on Friday on the east coast)
  • Basically all of the discussion on my team happens over IRC/email. This means that there is a lot of IRC to keep up with. This is harder than I expected.

Strategies

  • I changed my work computer’s clock to be the time in San Francisco. This helps more than I expected.
  • I made a short URL (http://go/julia) that links to a Google Hangout with me
  • Deciding to be happy this summer. There is no reason to be sad in the summer.
  • Talking to other people who work remote sometimes and learning about things they do!

That’s all! Maybe there will be further updates.