Settling in to Fog Creek from 2780 Miles Away
As I approach my two month anniversary at Fog Creek I have been thinking about being a remote worker. I worked remotely with TIBCO for close to 11 years, but I was really more like someone that hid in their office for weeks only to emerge on a semi-regular basis. I would generally travel to Palo Alto and meet with folks every two to six weeks. I used that time to talk to others about plans and designs. In fact, I used to say that ever minute I spent at a desk in Palo Alto was a waste of money because I could set at a desk at home. But in between my trips neither I, nor the team, did a lot to build a strong communication channel.
Because Fog Creek is smaller and farther away I am trying to save money by reducing travelling. The company was already integrating group chat rooms, google hangouts and other techniques for meeting over the net when I started, but I haven't totally integrated new ways of communicating. I have the old fashioned attitude that I need to travel to talk to people.
While chatting with one of the other developers about hallway testing I realized something.
When you are a remote worker
The internet is your hallway
I don't have to travel to talk to people. I should use video chat, group chat, chat rooms, and perhaps most importantly desktop sharing to shorten the distance between my office and my team's. Successful group work is about communication. I need to make time and prioritize inviting others to share my desktop or spend time in a google hangout to discuss my status, design ideas and double check my assumptions. Sharing my desktop can also allow me to have others test my work before it goes public.
The technology isn't really the point of this post. The main point is having the right attitude. This is where I need to do some work. I need to change my attitude, and re-program my brain. Instead of thinking about white boarding and knocking on a door to "bug" people, I need to think about desktop sharing and video chats.
The good news for me, is that I have learned a way to improve my work as a remote worker. The bad news for my co-workers is that I will probably be bugging them a lot more, and I suspect they will be seeing my poorly lit, washed out face on their video screens more often. Sorry folks.