Remote work helps me see the world, contribute more to our products and lets me enjoy life to the fullest. From the stereotypical Thai Beach office to escaping open space, it’s a clear benefit for my employer and me.
But what gets me most excited about remote work is the environmental impact. If people don’t have to move to big cities, they can stay in their home towns, close to friends and family. Outside of metropolis, it is possible to consume locally grown food, eradicating the need for transport and packaging of perishables. With a smaller density, the housing can be cheaper, and living conditions improve considerably. People working remotely from areas like Kentucky, Idaho or Ukraine can spend their fat tech salaries locally, raising the living standards for the entire community, providing new jobs and example for future generations. According to WWF, the commuters in the USA alone are generating 1786 metric tonnes of CO2. That is 26% of all US emissions that remote work can help curb.
But of course – there is an element of hypocrisy in that grand vision of remote work saving the environment.
I fly a few times a year to meet my coworkers in person, and air travel is a contributor to greenhouse emissions.
Haunted by this fact, I decided to count how much harm did I do. I added up my flights for each year:
2016: 4.4 tonnes
2017: 8.11 tonnes
2018: 5.51 tonnes
That makes a total of 18.02metric tonnes of CO2 emitted due to me flying over the past three years. I do not feel happy about this, but I found a way to ease the impact of lugging my ass all over the world.
CarbonFootprint.com lets you contribute to carbon offsetting projects around the globe. Their air travel calculator will help you figure out how much harm did you do while getting these Instagram photos:
I decided to fund tree planting in Kenya since it will both plant trees and provide work for the local community. I happily shelled out 280 EUR to buy the land, plant trees and help them grow. The trees should consume 20 tonnes of CO2 caused by my air travel, helping me sleep better.
Carbon emissions due to flying is a downside of working for a globally distributed company, but I still can do something about it.
I also believe that long-term remote work can be the answer to the climate crisis we are experiencing right now.
For the past 3 years, my fiancée kept on telling me how amazing South Africa is. We’ve had an amazing road trip in western Canada together, spent a month jumping into Yucatan cenotes, and worked from the beaches of Thailand like proper remote employees, so I felt a little bit insulted. While we were enjoying these amazing places, she extolled the virtues of a city that has both the ocean and mountains, and teased me with waterfalls, wineyardsand the perfect steak.
Fortunately, the opportunity has come to say “I call”.
Maria’s team had to gather in April for some on-site R&R in Cape Town. This is a traditional practice for remote employees. Since you see your coworkers only on Slack or Zoom calls – its good to remind yourself that these are real human beings that like to eat and have fun. And that was the plan for that trip – I would sit tight and work from fabulous Cape Town coffee shops and Maria would eat, drink and have fun with her coworkers.
Afterwards, we would go for a 6-day road trip.
We picked an 800 km long route on the coast, west of Cape Town. Known as the “Garden Route”, it is home to multiple national parks and charming coastal cities. This is where Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and nature decides to show us the good stuff.
Addo Main Camp is located close to a waterhole, which you can observe from an underground hide. And… oh boy! That came in handy when a Lion (I had no intention of seeing a lion, but he showed up regardless) killed a Kudu antelope right next to the hide. We could all see him resting for a while before he dragged the prey away from our prying eyes.
I managed to record a video before he vanished:
The park itself is a DIY safari. You take your car and drive around, spotting different animals and enjoying life. Safari was #128 on my personal bucketlist and I can proudly cross it off having seen:
Wild Pig AKA Pumba
Dung beetle. Lots of them! The biggest challenge in the park was not to crush them when they were crossing the road. I guess this is how elephants feel about us humans.
And the aforementioned Lion
2 ⛰ Storms River Mouth / Tsitsikamma
My sneaky fiancée lured me to this country promising waterfalls. I am kind of a Waterfall afficionado junkie, so visiting Storms River was a must.
Unfortunately, on the day both the weather turned bad and I started having ankle problems, so we gave up on waterfall hike (3-4 hrs) :(. We will have to do it another time.
3 🌊 Nature’s Valley
Even though you can sleep in the park itself (Storms River has cottages), we spent 2 nights in the nearby town called Nature’s Valley. The Otter Trail connects it to Storms River and apparently we are the only 2 people in the world that have not heard about The Otter Trail. Everything in Nature’s Valley is named after an Otter, and I mean EVERYTHING. We stayed at a placed called Kamma Otter and I counted at least 5 other B&Bs named after an Otter (and this city has only 50 houses). If you see how many times I used the word “Otter” in the last paragraph, you’ll start to get a feel of Nature’s Valley.
Believe it or not, an Otter-based naming scheme is not the only charming thing about the lovely town. It is located between the lagoon and the ocean, has 1 restaurant, 1 shop and a very tight-knit community of bird lovers.
I think they throw you out if you don’t love birds.
4 🥪 Knysna
Do you see the white building just on the edge of the left “head”? This is Easthead Cafe. We had breakfast there. You should too.
5 🚀 Map of Africa paragliding spot
On the way back to Cape Town, we decided to check out the spot called “Map of Africa”. It’s a piece of land shaped like an African continent, surrounded by river.
My fiancée had dreamt of paragliding for few years now (this trip is all about the stuff she wants to do, isn’t it?). Every time we noticed people in the air, she would point them out and make sure I knew she is up for it 🙂
And there they were, running from the cliff and soaring in the air!
So how does this work?
You drive to the “Map of Africa” viewpoint, expecting to see something vaguely resembling African continent,
A random guy walks up to you, offering to strap you onto a contraption that puts you a hundred meters in the air. No reservation was necessary,
Naturally, you say yes to the random dude,
You pay 800 ZAR per person,
This is a tandem flight so you are actually tied to an instructor who hopefully knows what he is doing,
You run awkwardly a few steps,
You start soaring like a sack of potatoes,
You fly for about 15-20 minutes having the best time ever,
If the instructor catches a wind current, you land where you started, with smooth grass and sheep to soften your fall. If not, he will drop you in the ocean land on the beach and they’ll pick you up in a car.
6 🌉 Kaaimans Bridge
While paragliding, you can get a glimpse of this decommissioned railway bridge. If you are not paragliding, you can stop at “The Dolphins Viewpoint” to have a look:
7 🐐 The Oude Post
This is a gas station and a sandwich shop. Which has Mini Goats, a turtle and the most delicious sandwiches imaginable. They serve traditional Roosterkoeken – a sandwich/pastry that is baked on the barbecue during traditional Braai.
Braai is to South Africa what Barbecue is to Texas. A human right.
8 🐳 Hermanus
Our trip had an end right on the airport, where we would return the car. But since we had extra few hours, we stopped in Hermanus.
Hermanus is a coastal city that is famous for one thing: Whales.
The season is from July till November, so a whale watching trip in April was a bit of a gamble, but it paid of tremendously! A whale was doing whale things in the bay and standing on Gearings Point, we could see the back and tail popping up from the water here and there.
I tried to take drone photos, but birds attacked my drone, so I had to count on the return-to-home feature.
Here are all these spots – and more on the map:
I have to admit that now I understand why my fiancée wanted to share immense beauty of South Africa with me. I will definitely come back here. I the meantime – you can check out Job’s post with much better photos. Or subscribe to my newsletter!
YES. You can swim with Seals (not the Navy kind) in Cape Town, South Africa. These gracious creatures are very playful, and they don’t hesitate to swim up close, say Hi or maybe do a high five (fin).
A Bit of Backstory:
In April 2019, my Fiancee (who also works remotely) had to go for a business trip to Cape Town. Since we all work in different places, our company flies the whole team to one place for a week, so we can get together and dose up on some in-person interaction. Since 3 of Maria’s teammates live in Cape Town, I was hoping that someday she would have to go there and finally they decided to do so. Being shameless opportunists that we are, we jumped at the chance to spend some time in South Africa. Nature is fantastic here, people friendly and ocean cold. Real cold. Maria was spending days with her coworkers, and I was working from the city’s amazing coffee shops and researching what could we do after her business was over. During that research, I stumbled upon a Casey Neistat’s video where he went swimming with sharks seals.
This is the best stuff ever!
I know, right? Who does not want to swim with sea dogs?!
Since famous bloggers think alike, I went with the same company Casey did – the Animal Ocean. They run an environmentally conscious operation, and they make sure the seals are fairly treated and allowed to unionize.
So here is roughly what happpens:
You book your trip like 5 days in advance. They sell out fast
You arrive on time to Houts Bay. We were scheduled at 11:30
Park your car there, they are looking after it
Sign paperwork, check out amazing shark socks
You squeeze into wetsuit, you get a vest and one-piece suit with vest
You put on wetsuit again since you confused the sides. ZIPPER AT THE FRONT!!
You can rent a gopro if that’s your jam
Leave all other stuff at their shop
You go to the bay in a SealMobile!
Ride in a speedboat to Duniker island
Now you get gloves and masks
You play with seals which is the best experience of your entire life
After about 1 hour, you are so cold that you really want to go back on the boat (and life)
They pour hot water inside your suit to make you less cold
They give you hot chocolate – guess why .
Speedboat and sealmobile back to the shop!
You wear a cute seal hoodie while you get warm. Also probably a shower.
Want to know more about the seals?
These particular seals are known as “Cape Fur” seals. They hang out in Duniker island in Houts bay because:
Island is not connected to the land, so humans are not bothering them too much
There is plenty of food. They like Mantis Shrimp
They ocean has good temperature
Sharks (pretty common predator in South Africa) stay away from Houts Bay.
Remote Work is awesome. It is no doubt, the future of employment and for a good reason:
It can solve environmental problems
It opens up the access to suitable jobs for the people outside of a bigger city
It’s just better for the human soul to avoid the trenches of office buildings all day, every day.
But it has downsides as well.
Ryan Hoover from Product Hunt has recently asked about Remote work problems and loneliness came up #1
It gets… lonely.
In my previous corporate life, I was working in an Open Space at Samsung Poland. The company was voted 3rd best employer five years in a row, and the office had everything that a millennial fresh-out-of-college developer could want. We had fresh fruit, great coffee, slick building with state of the art technology, beautiful view from the window…
In some ways, the modern office is a bit of an extension of college life. The scenery changes a bit, but you hop on from the student life to corporate existence without skipping a beat.
Most tasks in the corporate world are not that urgent or even necessary to perform, so we defer to our primal instincts: keeping up the relationships.
In our past, this served us exceptionally well. In case of a cheetah attack, people helped you if they liked you, so making them like you was vital.
The chance of a surprise cheetah attack in a Samsung office is very slim. There are Cheetos aplenty though. But our biology did not adapt. Keeping thriving relationships is not only the default, but it is also proven to be healthy both emotionally AND physically.
The gains people derived from face-to-face socializing endured even years later. The findings were published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
But in this brave new world of Remote work, there is no office and no colleagues to socialize with.
There is no daily chit-chat by the coffee machine, no banter on the Open Space and no scooter race in the hallway. That may be the best for productivity, but the silence is deafening at times. Sure, we have Slack and memes and calls and all sorts of social glue that lets us keep sane, but we are a human and we need other humans.
While working from home, YOU are responsible for your socializing. Your employer will not supply you with a kindergarten full of bored peers to play with.
You have to bring your own friends.
🏖 👨💻 How to deal with loneliness in remote work.
Me and my fiancee have developed a set of tactics to deal with the loneliness of remote work. These improved our lives considerably, but we are still on the lookout for new ones.
🥳 Party time.
I have a confession to make. I have a rolling calendar reminder to organize a party for my friends every two months. There is no birthday or another occasion, just a party. I would say, I have a 50% success rate, so in reality, the said bacchanalia gets thrown every four months, but it’s still a great way to remind your acquaintances of your existence.
Committing to a cycle has several benefits:
1 – Lower emotional stakes.
Have you experienced a little bit of shame before reaching out to a friend you did not talk to for a while? Do you sometimes worry they will laugh at you when you finally DO reach out? I have this nagging feeling sometimes. But guess what. They probably feel the same, and you are just two proud dummies not talking to each other.
Reach out. It’s not a big deal. Only one party out of 10s you are going to organize.
2 – More significant chance you finally get to see some people
We’re all adults. Well you are, I’m just pretending. We have lots of responsibilities, and not everyone will be able to make it to your party. By the 4th time you invite someone, they may be able to make it. Go ahead, keep asking this childhood friend. Maybe she will come.
3 – You will get comfortable with this.
You will not stress about having enough chairs (people can stand for 4 hours, nothing will happen to them). Your place will not have to be squeaky clean. The situation will be normal for you. You will develop a party-prep routine. I can throw the party in 2 hours, provided there are no dead bodies to hide lying in my living room.
Here is my tried and tested, patented Artpi Party Prep Scenario ™️.
🍅 Dried tomato hummus
🍠 Sweet Potato chili-sprinkled fries with garlic sauce
Reminder ensures I will remember about everyone. I do ignore them some of the time, but I still see value in refreshing the fact of someone’s existence. It’s nice to stop and remember that I have the person X in my life.
Being a part of the community
This societal problem is widespread and touches not only remote workers. You probably don’t feel this in an Open Space, but humans have a deep longing for long-lasting connections with people around them. We evolved in tribes and later settled into villages. Everything was communal.
Getting benefits of community without going insane require some planning. Currently, we are
Now, I’m only half joking. My fiancee and I are in the process of a fabulous adventure that is organizing a wedding. And we are inviting A LOT of family members. Some of which I have never heard of before. I don’t even think it’s possible to be related to so many people, but so be it.
The surprising part is that I enjoy getting to know them, giving them invites and nurturing those relationships. I can see myself in the son of a distant relative, and it’s very fulfilling and gives me a sense of belonging. If you told me five years ago that inviting 150+ people for an ultra expensive party would be in my future, I would laugh in your face.
But here I am, you can laugh at me.
The point is that these tested rituals served some purpose in the past. Weddings, Funerals, Equinox parties, Easters and Christmases – all of them were kind of a glue that holds people together in the face of loneliness.
Remote work is changing this balance, and we need to find new rituals and again take extra care to nurture a connection to people around us. New technology can help but let’s not forget about the tried-and-tested approach.
Call your mom once in a while. Yes, ON THE PHONE LIKE A CAVEMAN (cavewomen have probably already figured that out).
You have to be deliberate about reaching out to your friends and making time for them. They are busy too and nobody will organize this for you.
In February I found myself in Zurich. You know, the go-to destination for cheap travel.
One of the advantages of remote work is that I don’t need to take time off to enjoy another part of the world. I can work somewhere and just take in the local culture, food and experience the change of scenery. I can pick a cheap flight at an unpopular hour and have a regular workday without skipping a beat.
My Fiancee was in Costa Rica at this time, so I decided to visit my friends in Switzerland. Not that I needed an excuse – Switzerland is a gorgeous country that has the things I love the most: mountains, forests, lakes, and waterfalls.
But since we spent last winter in Thailand and India, my main focus was to get a chance to practice my amazing snowboarding skills.
By amazing I mean perfectly average.
During the weekend I would ski, and on the workdays, I would roam around the city, have a nice walk and work from their home, maybe a coffee shop. Or a fondue parlor, since what you really need on your keyboard is not crumbs nor spilled coffee, but melted cheese.
OH MY GOD, THERE IS SO MUCH CHEESE HERE.
🧀 Ok, enough about cheese.
There are plenty of ski areas nearby, so we decided on the closest one.
Flumserberg is the easiest one to get to. The train from Zurich HB takes 1 hour to get there, and the lift starts 20 meters from the train station. Swiss locals come into the train wearing their ski boots and with the gear on. It is perfect for a 1-day or a weekend trip.
It is also gorgeous. The city of Unterterzen is by the lake, surrounded by almost vertical walls of Fjord-like peaks
We came here with a 7am train, arriving at 8am and returned on Sunday at 5pm and were at Zurich HB at 6PM.
💳 Ski Passes
Swiss rail runs a special promo that gives you:
10% reduction on the 1-, 2- or 6-day ski pass for the entire Flumserberg region.
Free baggage transport for the outward and return journeys worth CHF 12 each.
15% reduction at Intersport Rent.
You cannot purchase it online though. You have to use a machine at the station. Here are the details
I paid 156,80 for a 2-day ski pass and transport to Flumserberg and back. Once you arrive in Flums, you have to exchange the coupon from SBB into the actual ski pass at the counter.
🏨 Juhui Flumserberg:
Theoretically, on these 2-day tickets, we could have gone back to our place in Zurich on Saturday evening and return Sunday morning. But since Switzerland is such a cheap country, we decided to live like kings and splurge on accommodation. Which means that we got the cheapest option available on Booking and we stayed overnight. And what a fantastic decision it was! We got to sleep in a 120-year old wooden hotel.
Don’t get me wrong, restrooms were not in the room, and it was very cramped, but we passed out almost immediately anyway. We got sheets, towels and a big breakfast with fantastic views. We were happy. We paid 149 CHF (including beers) for 2 people in a 4-person room. I would be very surprised if in 4 people would indeed fit there comfortably. But it was 74 CHF after splitting between 2 people.
I had my Snowboard boots with me, but I had to rent the Snowboard and a helmet. The passes from SBB should have given us a 15% discount on Intersport rental. But because of a misunderstanding with our friends, we rented in a place just by the gondola. I paid 101 CHF for a helmet and a snowboard for 2 days. My friend paid 65 for skis + boots etc., for 1 day.
I have Star Alliance Gold status, which entitles me to a piece of free luggage on all star alliance flights except „light” tariffs on Lufthansa and Swiss. But I found a cheap ticket on LOT (PL national airline, Star Alliance), also in the „light” pricing. But because of my Star Alliance status – I got luggage for my snowboard shoes and drone for free. Zurich is a peculiar place. It is a place of employment many expats, and they want to fly home for the weekend. Which means that if you come here FOR the weekend, you pay less. I arrived Saturday morning and flew back Sunday. I paid about 55 CHF for all of that.
If you want to read some tips on how to get to Star Alliance Gold cheaper and faster – do sign up! 👇
So there you have it. I paid 331 CHF for the whole trip. If you want to include the flight to Zurich, that is an additional 55 CHF. So for 380 CHF, you can enjoy a weekend of skiing in Swiss Alps. But then again, if you want it to be cheaper, then you probably should not choose Switzerland. 🙂
And here is Michał who organized all of this. Thanks Michał!
Fortunately, Thailand has more to offer than those menacing sandy beaches and annoying gentle waves.
It has some great diving. In fact, the diving is so great that we practiced in 2C ( 35.6 F ) water in Poland just to finish our scuba certifications before coming here. This is a story for another post, but I will mention this while I have a chance: DO NOT DIVE IN 2C ( 35.6 F ) WATER.
For our Thai diving, we were interested in Ko Tao. This is a whole island famous for quick & cheap diving certifications located on the bay side of peninsula. But it turns out, that the best diving spots are on the Andaman sea! Places like:
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang
Famous Ko Phi Phi featured in the movie “The Beach” (with that title it’s rightly a Thriller if you ask me)
And Richelieu Rock
Richelieu Rock is considered a #8 best diving spot in the world. It is a vertical limestone pinnacle just barely touching the surface. It looks very unassuming, but under the water… It’s a magnificent experience.
He also brought our attention to the debate regarding the naming.
Richelieu Rock was discovered by Jacques Cousteau – a relentless oceanographer. Some say that the purple reefs reminded him of the colors of Cardinal Richelieu’s robes. Matt says that the name comes from General Richeliu, a Danish officer who became an admiral of Royal Thai Navy.
Regardless of etymology, Richelieu Rock is worth a visit. Khao Lak is a good home base, but Phuket has ships coming to Richelieu Rock as well.
Thailand is not only Bangkok, beaches and booze. It’s Barracudas as well.
It is out of this world!
One of the things you have to know about me is, that I fit right in with the whole `Tim Ferriss fanclub` type of crowd. It is not religious in any way, I just like the content he exposes me to and I enjoy tips, tricks and `weird shit from the world of esoteric he digs up`, as he himself puts it so eloquently. Some of my friends don’t share this enthusiasm, but it’s beside the point 🙂
Tim Ferriss in the 4-hour workweek introduced me to this idea of “Geo-arbitrage”. Basically, he says: for Americans it is extremely easy to travel, because the money they make in US can go a long way in other, cheaper spots on the map, so it would be a good idea to become a remote employee, travel the world, all while living a good life abroad.
Awesome! Work that allows you to travel AND save compared to your usual expenses? Where do I sign up? Except, there’s one problem with that: I live in Poland. The only place that our salaries let you live on a decent level is Romania. And cheaper parts of Poland.
Nevertheless, I tried to make this happen. With one of my friends I started an e-marketing agency (Netivo) which I helped run while studying in Sweden. Turns out it’s pretty hard to travel, run a business and make enough money in Poland to live decently in Sweden (that plan is an example of reverse geoarbitrage and is generally a challenge stupid idea). But in that line of business I had to work A LOT with WordPress and became quite fascinated with it to be honest. I decided to become kind of an “WordPress” expert since.
I was quite happy, but in 2015 I started to crave greater things in life. I felt that world is moving forward, all these startups are sprouting all over and people get to change the world. In Silicon Valley, or even in Western Europe people could be proud of the stuff they build, all while working with the newest technologies or programming paradygms. In Poland, it felt like an “IT Callcenter”. We are good, reliable and cheap, but we were not on the bleeding edge of the innovation razor.
Then, I stumbled upon Automattic job offer.
Work with amazing engineers from all over the world and be a part of Silicon Valley;
Instead of reading articles about what ‘cool kids’ do, I could have an opportunity to join them!
I could travel quite a bit, or even live wherever I wanted! Automattic is a distributed company (or, as we put it: location-agnostic) which lets you see the world without taking a day of vacation (which you have unlimited amount);
Because of the whole remoteness, I could be in Poland whenever I wanted to, without skipping work. This is important to me, because I have very old grandparents and sometimes they really need help;
I was very excited with the product – I loved WordPress!
Tim Ferriss’s site is hosted with this company! (along with Time.com, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the Guardian, but I find Ferriss more influential 🙂 ),
It was never about money, but geo-arbitrage is finally working in my favor;
Overall, this really looked like my “Dream Job”. I became determined to get it and to do it right.
Well, you probably got pretty annoyed by the long lead-in. But this is my blog, my rules and I can write here whatever I want :).
But here comes the meaty part:
I was determined to do it right, so I dug up everything I could on Automattic and their hiring process:
At this point I knew they must be getting a lot of resumes, so I decided to make mine one-page and make every word count. I reviewed it over and over, asked friends to review it and obsessed about it a lot.
Since I did my reading right, I threw in some “nice touches” about my core competence constituting off-the-charts-sandwich making ability and one of my hobbies being barbecue. All true. Putting that in a resume felt good.
After sending that resume I waited. And waited. And waited some more, all while questioning myself.
Did they get it?
Did they read it?
Did they reject me?
WHO PUTS SANDWICHES AS A COMPETENCE?! Why did I do that?!
After 1,5 months I needed to do something constructive. So I booked a ticket to “WordCamp Europe” in Seville, where I was sure I’ll find an Automattician. That was the extent of my plan.
I actually met a bunch of them and they turned out to be very cool people. I even “pinged” them to get my resume reviewed and got back home.
Just after WordCamp Europe, a lot of Automatticians went to React Europe where they ran a coding competition for the attendees. They made a mistake of tweeting the URL, so I promptly joined in.
As you can see, I came in second, after “Moarhaus”, who (despite me trying really hard) had a huge advantage over me.
I have no idea who he is. I only have a vague notion as to where his soul may reside.
Actual Hiring Process
Artur, can you please get to the point? This story is becoming longer and more convoluted that “Pirates of the Caribbean IV” plot and we didn’t get to the hiring process description yet!
I hear ya, but to be honest, Pirates of the Caribbean IV plot is just /dev/random…
First, I was invited to a text-based Skype chat. It lasted about an hour and was quite fun. It was way less technical than I expected.
2. ‘Simple’ coding challenge
The instructions were very open – ended, without any deadline and only with vague description of problems to solve. I assume my drive and ability to self-direct my work were also tested.
I later learned that it was designed to take 6-8 hours of my time.
I devoted about 35 to that project making sure it was perfect.
I may have taken it too far.
3. Chat + Challenge feedback
It took 40 minutes.
I am in for a trial! Wohoo!
Turns out, that the best way to see how an employee would perform is to well, employ them.
This is how trial works. I was working on my trial project, communicating with other coworkers just how I would If I was already working there.
You can do trial “after hours”, keeping your previous job. I decided to throw everything at it and take no chances. For me, it felt more risky to approach this opportunity tired, after hours of my usual work than to quit my safe spot at a huge company. I quit my previous position at Samsung and decided to do the trial full time.
I got paid 25$/hr, which was way more than I was actually making before.
The project was similarly open-ended as the previous one, just much, much bigger. I had to research proper technologies, communicate my progress and design my tasks.
The trial took me ~1,5 months.
5. Matt chat
The final stage of the process is a chat with CEO, Matt Mullenweg. It is a unusual opportunity, as he is a “celebrity” in IT world and frequents the Forbes and other such magazines.
The chat itself also isn’t a mere formality – mine lasted 4-5 hours and I felt that Matt wanted to know me at a personal level. He seems to take this hiring thing very seriously. It is great!
Because of his schedule, sometimes you have to wait quite a bit until he finds time. He caught me in a movie theater, but fortunately I had a good excuse to postpone the chat.
I was watching “The Martian”. It was pretty neat.
I started my job 2 days after that. It was my 30th birthday.
Most awesome gift ever!
GM is a yearly event where all employes meet in person. Because our company is completely distributed, we don’t see each other face-to-face. During this one week a year, we get to shake hands, do some awesome activities, party, geek out, eat together, hug, have a meal, have a walk, eat together, try Polish vodka I brought from home and eat some more.
Naturally, being a relentless badger as I am, during my trial I tracked down other Polish Automatticians and pumped them for information when the Grand Meetup may be.
Knowing the date, I tried to expedite my hiring process so I can “make it” to this years GM. 9 days after my “Matt chat” I was on a plane to Salt Lake City to meet the rest of my new coworkers.
It was a whirlwind!
My team is bunch of the coolest, funniest, most awesome people around!
Sign up if you want to know more about getting hired in a remote company 👇
You get to work with really awesome people,
The product you work on has 100 000 000 (yep, that’s MILIONZ!) users. The stuff you do matters,
You work from wherever you want. Seriously,
You want WHENever you feel like it. If you have flow, you can work 12 hours, and the next day – you don’t have to do much. It’s up to you (at the beginning, it was hard to me to understand it),
No distractions, meetings and corporate b***t to slow you down,
You can spend time with your kid when you need to, walk your dog, set you laundry,
You get unlimited vacation,
They fly you to awesome places to meet your cool coworkers,
Friends all over the globe,
A lot of other stuff, listed on benefits page 🙂
And that’s me, Cognitive Engineer, Artur Piszek. One of the cool kids.
Who would have thought.
Let me tell you about quite typical situation in my life.
I’m sitting at a bar with my friends. A few people I’ve just met overheard me telling some travel story and they want to know more about remote work. So I start to explain the reality of it – that our company has no office, we talk over internet and so on.
They nod along for a while, and after about a minute or two I hear something like:
🙀 But I couldn’t work from home!
I DO understand why they say that – and they are right!
Working from home makes one… different.
It’s good to stay in touch with other people. Have you ever been sick for 2 weeks and then you just became sick of… being sick?
There comes a time when you would do just about anything to leave your apartment. The perspective of spending every day like this is scary indeed.
🐦 Stages of working from home
Believe me, I can relate. The only difference is that I have a crow sitting in my window. Her name is Kraaatherina.
But I do have some good news!
Remote work does not (necessarily) mean work from home.
One of the benefits of remote work is that you can choose a place within walking distance from your home.
You don’t waste so much time commuting to the office,
You are not limited to companies hiring in your area,
You can work for the company of your dreams without having to move.
These are fantastic benefits that can change your life. But if you don’t feel like it, you can ditch the office – there are plenty of options to choose from.
☕️ Working from a Coffeeshop
I’m sure you have stumbled upon a romantic, greatly overused photo of a wooden table and a MacBook perched on top. And a cappuccino (of course).
I’m aware this looks like a hipster’s wet dream. When working remotely, you have to get used to the fact that your life resembles a promotional photoshoot. Working from exotic places, whipping out your MacBook at a cafe…
The struggle is real.
So how does it look in practice? How do you get work done from a coffee shop?
I usually pick a chain one. Unfortunately, my favourite cafe in the neighbourhood is taken over by moms with their kids. It may be surprising for you, but this constitutes a sub-optimal work environment.
In Poland I opt for Caffé Nero – they have the best sandwiches. But while traveling, there is always a Starbucks. And a Starbucks on the corner of every Starbucks.
At a chain coffeeshop, I don’t feel self-conscious when I’m sitting and sipping one cup of coffee for 3 hours,
They usually have a long, wooden table where I can secure enough space for my laptop. Romantic, round tables are probably useful when discussing poetry and charging tourists ridiculous prices, but not for real work,
You know what to expect. I appreciate some variety in my life, but when I have a stressful task to accomplish – the unexpected factors, high noise level or limited bathroom access can make us feel a little uncomfortable.
However while travelling, I do look for “pearls”. When my fiancée and I worked from Paris, we were heartbroken by the fact that all those Parisian cafés are incredibly uncomfortable. But you do (have a chance to) stumble upon some interesting decor. Rainforest Cafe (an USA chain) imitates, well, a rainforest with fake gorillas and all. In Lviv, there is an amazing “Apteka Mikolash” where the inventor of a gaslamp used to spend his days.
Usually I get to a cafe around 9:30-10:00 and leave before lunch. Sitting there for about 3 hours, I pick “less popular” times so I don’t block the table during breakfast and lunch time which is an avalanche of hungry mob.
I like to eat breakfast at the cafe, to leave more money – in the end it’s a business, not a charity. Unfortunately, healthy options are sparse. If you want to limit caffeine consumption at the same time – it’s even trickier. Most non-caffeine options are pretty sugary. By the way, I highly recommend ginger tea in Starbucks. It’s great for those cold mornings.
When I walk into a place, I’m like a special-ops commando. But instead of assessing exits and possible murder weapons, I do check for power outlets. I carry a 3-meter extension cord with me (write me if you want to know more), so it’s less of an issue nowadays. If I happen to secure comfortable-looking table close to power outlet, I need to mark it by my sweatshirt. Searching for a proper work spot carrying a sandwich and a coffee is a real challenge.
As I mentioned – I like those long communal tables, even if I have to share them. I don’t mind company, but I really value desk space.
So I start to work.
Headphones are key, but from my experience cafe is not the most noisy environment. Other patrons tend to scroll their facebook feeds, chat in small groups, read book or work like me.
Do you want to know how to make sure you can secure a power outlet, which headphones will ensure blissful focus and what cafe is best to work from? Sign up now! 👇
Cowork is an office space you share with other companies / freelancers. You can get a whole room, but a desk in a an open space is much more common. You can get your own dedicated spot or a “hot desk” – where you just sit at the spare desk.
This arrangement is the closest to traditional office and has some benefits:
Every day you see the same faces. You meet folks during coffee breaks, you can chat about football, startups or challenges of your projects. You will have the opportunity to network – or even find friends.
If you’re a freelancer, it makes it so much easier to find business partners or clients. The startup that is producing a video game 3 desks away may trust you with their marketing campaign if your off-handed advice will pan out.
Coworking spots tend to have their unique communities. In my WeWork we get breakfast for the whole community every Monday. We can get to know one another while aggressively fighting for the last spoon of tomato hummus. Nothing brings people closer than food and a brawl.
These are the most beautiful offices you have ever seen. Coworking spots are evaluated the same way as potential spouses are – totally superficially. The nicer looking one always wins. Fortunately, its less paperwork to get out of coworking deal than a marriage (usually). WeWork puts a lot of effort into design.
Every cowork puts coffee, scanner and a printer as a benefit. Those perks may be less important for you – but you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
You get a physical address to put on official business documents. In Poland, that’s a legal requirement and not every landlord lets you do that in a rented apartment.
If you buy crap interesting items on AliExpress or do a lot of online shopping – you will have someone to sign for all those packages. This is important if you tend to wander around the world like me.
Price usually hovers around $250-$350 for a desk, but that depends on the location.
But there are tradeoffs
As I mentioned – coworking spaces have a lot in common with regular offices. With all the up and downsides.
In coworking spaces there are companies dealing with various things – for example sales or accounting – and make a lot of phone calls.
Fortunately, in my WeWork there are dedicated phone booths. This is a gamechanger. Loud phone calls are the reason why I left my previous cowork. The noise made it impossible to focus.
I generally have 2 complaints against coworking spaces:
It is surprisingly louder than a coffee shop.
If you travel a lot, it may not be feasible. The per-day passes are around $20, so monthly memberships are much cheaper. But if you plan to sightsee and enjoy the city, coworking spot may not be the best option.
When you were in college – did you happen to swing by the library to finish some project or focus? Why should it be any different now that you have your amazing remote career?
I am a fan of libraries myself.
Me, while smoking a pipe
This is the only place that ensures quiet working conditions. You don’t even need your headphones!
There is no shortage of outlets and desks.
Sometimes the interiors are phenomenal. All over Europe, libraries are the most spectacular buildings as they were founded and frequented by rich & famous. Now you have to be rich and famous to keep that tradition. It’ll be easy because – as you already know – libraries are free.
Now, that’s a pro territory.
Museums are a very picturesque environments/ interiors. You get to work from a very impressive/intriguing/stimulating location, get some culture and learn interesting stuff during the breaks. The potential is big, but you have to do your research.
A few hints how to find a museum and which ones to avoid:
Science, naval and war museums tend to have more seating options,
Unfortunately they tend to have more screaming children,
Your best bet are very unpopular museums,
Power will be an issue in all of them. Bring extension cord or a powerbank,
Usually the best chance of a table and power is the museum cafe,
It will be loud,
Some museums have libraries!
Working in the open air is like having a beer in the forest. But with a laptop and continuous quest for better wifi/lte signal. And without the beer.
By far this is my favourite mode. I love spending time in nature, watching trees and waterfalls. My remote work arrangement lets me commit new code in a Canadian National Park, conduct a video call with the Loire Valley castle backdrop and test new product version from the beach in Thailand.
WiFi is widespread nowadays, but it’s good to always have a 3G option with you. “Hotspot” option in your smartphone is usually enough.
US and Canada have a lot of picnic tables in parks. They are probably meant to be used as a place to have lunch, but they are also a great spot to whip out the laptop and pretend you are working while secretly checking your Instagram likes.
Artur, you promised that I don’t have to work from home!
I won’t lie anymore. I worked in all of those places, but pretty often I end up in my… home office.
We recently bought an apartment and I enjoy my place a lot. I can see birds from the balcony (I need to keep tabs on Kraatherina). I love being able to cook fresh vegetables, going to the gym or the swimming pool without carrying all my belongings and a laptop with me.
If you want to know how to arrange an awesome Home Office, do sign up!
Remote job allows you to work not anywhere, but… everywhere!
In a traditional job you have to sit in one place. Moreover, you have no say on the matter. It’s only natural that while moving to a remote setup, you are searching a replacement.
But… is it good for you to sit in the same position for 8 hours trying to focus? Won’t your mind appreciate a little bit of change? Won’t it feel energized in new surroundings?
In the morning you can work from home. Let everybody else stuck in traffic jams,
Once crowds are gone you can get your morning coffee and enjoy the coffee shop,
Around lunch time it might be a good idea to work from a restaurant? From my experience, Mondays are always empty and nobody will mind the laptop,
Maybe… Don’t you feel like a library is a good idea today?
Or maybe it’s better to hit the cowork early in the morning, go to the gym when everybody else is still in the office and finish work at home?
You get to choose. It’s worth it!
The best benefit of remote work is that the workplace has to fit you. Not the other way around.
Chuck was few years into his career. He was sitting at a desk for most of the day, doing menial and repeatable tasks, filling out Excel spreadsheets and agonizing over “ASAP” PowerPoint presentations that nobody really paid attention to during meetings that were absolutely unnecessary.
But the absolute majority of his day was consumed by Facebook. Be it boredom or burnout, he compulsively checked his stream. And to add salt to the injury, pretty often he would stumble into a story how those fresh-out-of-college programmer-people got an obscene salary, office restaurant, laundry, assistant or something as ridiculous as an office with michelin star-train chefs for YOUR DOG. No, seriously.
Call to adventure
Chuck said to himself: I wanna be a programmer! I have plenty of friends in the industry and I will ask them what to do.