Challenges of working remotely (HRL pt1)
While growing up my mum used to say "Be careful what you wish for, cause you might get it". When moving back to Nigeria I had a dream of what I wanted Blueport to be, I wanted... still want Blueport to be like a lab for software (imagine Google in the VERY early days, experimenting with Gmail and Google news). I want to create 3 to 4 products and manage this with a team of about 5 to 6 friends. Everyone lives where they want to, anywhere in the world and just get work done. So think sipping margaritas on the beaches of Greece and typing away on your laptop and a couple months later you go skiing in Switzerland after working 6 hours and pushing a release. When I tell people this they usually reply with a "mmhmm" and they smile at me like with pity... you know like I was dropped on my head as a baby. It is possible I was dropped on my head, who knows? The people that know won't confess so it will remain a mystery. Anyway, I am digressing from what I am trying to say here.
So far parts of my dream have materialized. I work 100% with only remote teams, sometimes I work with friends on some projects and I get to travel a decent amount to various countries, but as my mum said, be careful what you wish for because when you get what you want, it usually comes with its own set of issues that you could not imagine. so here are a few things I did not imagine (Not a complete list):
- Working with a remote team is not easy. In my previous post where I said communication is a major key, it has never been so evident as to when I am working remotely. No one gets what I am trying to say unless I explicitly say it. If I do not make time to communicate something it will never get communicated. There is no chance for Chris to walk across my desk and I say "Oh hey, I have been meaning to ask....". If it is not planned and said out loud, it does not happen.
- Sipping margaritas on the beaches of Greece and working on your laptop does not work the same as you would imagine. There are realities that you collide with like, dealing with the internet services in whatever country, the logistics of having a power source close to your laptop on a beach, working tipsy is not that fun, the distractions on the beach 😍. I can go on and on with this one, but I think you get it. No work is getting done.
- Changing locations frequently sucks. Just as you are finding rhythm and routine in a place you have to leave, find a new cafe to work, make new friends, have a new phone number you cannot remember.
- Clients cannot reach you, they don't know where you are, what time zone you are in and it continually sounds like you are on vacation when they hear the names of the locations you are in while they are working... doesn't sound right to them.
- On a project where you have multiple team members working on it, comprehending the status of a project may take longer than expected to reconcile multiple moving parts.
This is not a rant post or a complaint about how life sucks. This is an introduction to a series I will like to document here, one that will evolve over time. I am dedicated to the remote life, I am gonna make it work or die trying. At least that's how I feel for now. So I am determined to hack it till it works for me. I am starting a series called Hacking Remote Life (HRL) I will from time to time share what I am doing to combat some of the issues mentioned above and I am open to feedback and ideas that anyone who runs into these posts has of tackling these issues too.I have had a head start, reading books like Remote and following some of my favourite companies like Basecamp and Wildbit, but every company is different and some situations have to be figured out on a case by case basis. Basically, it's my journey of creating a remote company and documenting what I am learning from it. This will not be every week, just when I feel I have something to share.
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