How to land a remote job

14 août 2016

I have had the occasion to write in the past about my experience as a remote software engineer. Recently a developer asked me whether I had a few tricks to land a remote job in France, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my ideas as a blog post instead. Without further ado, here are my 5 strategies for landing a remote job in the tech industry:

1/ Ask your current employer

The first strategy is pretty simple. You want a remote job? Ask your employer nicely whether it is possible to become a remote worker. This is how I  got mine. Obviously the odds of your employer to accept your request are not in your favor, but you can improve them by making sure that your request makes sense. What do I mean by that? Well, first of all you need to be able to formulate precisely the reasons why you need to become remote. The reasons can vary from the necessity to relocate somewhere else to needing more flexibility to accommodate a chosen lifestyle. Whatever your reasons are make sure that you articulate them clearly. Secondly, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your team to make sure they are comfortable with the idea of having a remote teammate as it will impact them directly.

2/ Become a freelancer

Another obvious possibility is to become a freelancer. In fact of all the strategies this one is the one that has the best chances to succeed.

3/ Browse specialized job boards

There are plenty job boards that specialize in advertising remote jobs, for example https://weworkremotely.com/. I will let you Google the other job boards in your favorite language and in your favorite area.

4/ Keep an eye on Stack Overflow

If you use Stack Overflow you will sometimes come across a job ad with a remote tag, for example:

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 7.52.27 PM

 

The nice thing about these ads is that they are targeted according to your favorite languages and stack (here Android for me).

5/ Work for open source

Or for a company that supports one or many open source projects thereof.

Note also that the more proficient you are in your job, higher are the chances for you to find a remote job. This is true because if you are great then your current or future employer will likely accept to let you work remotely for fear of losing you. Same applies for contributing to your community which could help you land a job in open source. What’s the conclusion to this? Being remote is most of the time the result of having a good professional reputation as well as having an opportunity presents itself to you.

Finally, please ensure that this is really what you want to do before considering a remote position. I invite you to read again this blog post and do your research on this topic. Don’t just hear the voice of those who love working remotely or those who benefit directly or indirectly from advertising this lifestyle.  Keep in mind that working remotely is definitely not for everyone. So do yourself a favor and ask yourself a few questions: Am I capable of enduring this lifestyle? How would I feel without checking in to an office everyday? How would I feel if I didn’t have any social interactions at work? On that note, if you think that a coworking space will solve all the issues you can think of, then you are likely wrong :)  Coworking spaces do solve some issues but you will still feel a bit isolated because you will be surrounded by people working on completely different things and you won’t see the same ones everyday.

So the best way, like anything in life really, is to experience with the idea a little before diving into it completely. May be try for a few days and see how it works for you and your team? You can also talk to current or past remote workers and hear their opinions on this topic.

So I am going to close this blog post by telling you that I am indeed open to discuss my own remote experience if you wish  :)

Fifty shades of remote working

30 août 2015

This is a blog post that I wanted to write down for a long time now but never found the time to do it. This post is about my experience as a, time and location, remote worker (I live in Paris, most engineers work in San Francisco). For most people, working remotely sounds awesome. The reality is unfortunately more nuanced than that.  Sure, the ability to define when, where and how you want to work is definitely a plus. But you  also have to be disciplined enough to focus on accomplishing your goals and cope with the disadvantages of not being in the same location as your team.  This post is all about describing these nuances to the best of my ability.

First let’s start with why working remotely is awesome.

All of the above is true, but we should not occult the dark side of working remotely:

  • Most of the times, you will feel a disconnection with what’s happening in the company or within your team, especially if you don’t pay a visit to the office regularly.
  • You will miss an important aspect of work which is socializing with your co-workers.
  • Meetings will be painful. The challenges include seeing what is written on the board, getting your voice heard in a timely manner and other technical difficulties that can complicate  even the simplest meeting. You will certainly enjoy this funny video that describes what conference call may look like.
  • Hard to make your presence felt by others. Hard to drive a point across. Very few of your co-workers will know who you are or what you do in the company. Which sucks because anyone wants his work to be recognized to feel satisfied.
  • Feeling the impostor syndrome. This is something that I found to be common among remote workers. Scott Hanselman, who is a full time remote worker at Microsoft describes it all  very well in this post:
All this said, it’s REALLY hard to be remote. I propose that most remote workers work at least as hard, if not more so, than their local counterparts. This is fueled in no small part by guilt and fear. We DO feel guilty working at home. We assume you all think we’re just hanging out without pants on. We assume you think we’re just at the mall tweeting. We fear that you think we aren’t putting in a solid 40 hours (or 50, or 60). Because of this, we tend to work late, we work after the kids are down, and we work weekends. We may take an afternoon off to see a kid’s play, but then the guilt will send us right back in to make up the time. In my anecdotal experience, remote workers are more likely to feel they are « taking time from the company » and pay it back more than others. You might poo-poo the guilt, but ask around to your remote brethren. It’s there, they just don’t talk about it.
  • Consequently to not being on-site you will probably feel a lack of engagement and motivation at times.
Advices to keep your sanity while working remotely (based on my own experience this is particularly adapter when timezone difference is involved):
  • First, discipline is key. If you don’t have it you will suffer. Discipline to wake up on normal hours. Discipline to not be dragged into home related distractions. Discipline to take a shower everyday and to wear regular clothes that you would wear at work (instead of pajamas). But also discipline to call it a day after the work is done. In other terms you have to draw a line between home and work to make sure that you mind doesn’t stay at work all the time.
  • Set up a dedicated work environment. Make sure the space meets the ergonomic requirements. This is what my home office looks like. Notice the separation between the office and the rest of the living room. It also has some nice ergonomic features which I will write about in another post.
home_office
 
  • Before sleeping. Make sure that your next day is properly planned. Don’t improvise. Never improvise. You should plan when you will wake up, when you will start working, the different breaks you will take (like if you want to exercise or do a post-lunch walk) and try to come up with a reasonable work-life balance based on the goals that you want to accomplish and the meetings that you will have during the day.
  • Have an on-site buddy. Someone who will represent you at standup or meetings that you can’t attend to. Use him/her as a channel to communicate with the team on what you need from others and what others might need from you.
  • Communicate a lot. Send your status report everyday. Make sure you have regular 1-1s with your manager to communicate about how things are going and whether anything is blocking you as a remote worker.
  • Travel as often as possible to your office. Seriously. If you are in the same city: once a week. Same state: once every two weeks. Different states/countries (but same continent): once a month. Different continents: once a quarter. This is super important to stay engaged with the rest of the team and the company mission. Loosing engagement and motivation is the worst thing that can happen to you as a remote worker as well as to your employer.
  • If you feel cabin fever, go to a co-working space or to your local library. Anywhere with a good WiFi and reasonable noise level is fine.
  • Make sure your IT sets up the right equipments and tools for meetings and all form of communication. At Lookout we use: HipChat for live chat, Zoom for meetings, and Atlasssian Confluence and Questions for sharing knowledge company wide.
  • Set up a clear escalation path for urgent tasks.  Whether it’s PagerDuty or dedicated inbox. Make it clear that after your day is over, the only reason for you to come back to work will be if anything urgent  comes up. And define clearly what urgent means (it means it can’t wait until your tomorrow morning).
  • Related to previous note, know when to stop working. For me it’s between 6 and 8pm. After having sent my status report and attended any relevant meeting scheduled during this reasonable time slot. As soon as you call it a day, don’t check your emails anymore unless you get notified about something urgent through the emergency channels (see previous point).
Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on my own experience and I am not claiming that they will work on everybody. Having said that, after discussing with many remote workers I can tell that most of us enjoy and suffer from the same things. Finally, if you live in the Paris area and work remotely in the tech industry, please leave a comment below or reach out to me privately, I really would like to get to know more people working under the same conditions to share tips and why not meet regularly to work together.

Unlink your reading

14 décembre 2014

The web is packed with  information and the more curious we are the more we spend time consuming this information. This is not a bad thing of course, but sometimes this can interfere with our productivity even if we try to control it. You start reading an interesting blog post that you accidentally found on your favorite social network, but this post is filled with links, a LOT of links. Before you know it you have 10 tabs open and now you have to catch up on reading these 10 articles which themselves link to other interesting ones. That’s how you can waste a full day, by just reading stuff instead of making stuff.

I have been thinking about this recently and I think the key to gain control over the time that we spend reading stuff on the internet is to ignore those links.

In this spirit, I have quickly put together a Chrome Extension that removes the links from a webpage after it loads. I called it: Unlink and you can download it here!

Not sure if there is already an easier way to accomplish that or if an extension already exists for that, I have done some research with a couple of keywords but nothing really came out. Also, I have never written a Chrome Extension before so this was the perfect occasion to try my hand at it.

My first use of Unlink is going to be for reading what a typical day for a pampered Google engineer looks like. You can either do the same thing or you can also drop a comment below :)

Solving the Eclipse hanging issue

7 mars 2014

This is an issue that I encounter very often when programming with ADT on Eclipse.

In short, there seems to be a couple tasks that are waiting for another task to complete which is blocked. It doesn’t matter how many times you restart Eclipse or restart your computer, Eclipse will still be in this situation, preventing any work to happen.

After doing some research on Stack Overflow, I figured there were 2 effective solutions to this problem and 1 other solution that is less optimal:

Launch Eclipse with the clean flag

eclipse -clean

This is what should be tried first. After running this command, Eclipse will open in a special cleaning mode which should cancel all those hanging tasks.

Create a new workspace

Another way to solve this problem is to recreate your workspace from scratch.

Delete the .metadata folder in your workspace

Finally, and this is the less preferable solution, you could remove the .metadata folder all together in your workspace (note: this is a hidden folder).

Keeping this as a memo to my self in case I encounter this again, as well as to help anyone facing the same problem.

Taking the time

21 janvier 2014

Recently I moved from Paris to San Francisco, where I work for Lookout, and one of the first challenges that I had to face on my arrival was to find a place to live. If you don’t know it yet, finding a place in the Bay Area (and in San Francisco in particular) is very difficult due to the sky high rents, so instead of looking to rent a place downtown, I decided to widen my research a little bit to either the East Bay or the Peninsula.

The East Bay presents a couple advantages like being substantially cheaper than any other region in the Bay Area and a fast commute to San Francisco thanks the BART connection, but it also suffers from insecurity (specially in Oakland) and downtown Berkeley has too much of a campus feeling to it. So I knew rapidly that the Peninsula would be more appropriate for me, and the first place that I visited there was Menlo Park. As my first impression of the city was good and as the apartment itself was well located and also had a lot of space, I decided to call Menlo Park home.

Of course, during that period, a lot of people were asking me whether I found a place yet and when they knew that I decided to live in Menlo Park, their reaction was always the same and could be summarized as: What the hell are you going to do in Menlo Park, it’s very far from San Francisco and you’ll spend most of your time commuting! My response? I don’t care since I will be seated.

Exactly. Everyday, I spent nearly 2h in the train and I enjoy every second of it as it allows me to take my time. Taking the time, is the simplest thing that we can’t seem to be able to do anymore in this ultra-connected world. Nowadays we are so connected to everything that we are always busy doing a lot of things even when we don’t want to. It’s like we are living in constant interruption and being constantly interrupted prevents you from feeling the pleasure of enjoying one activity at a time.

So thanks to my new commute, I can now take my time to:

– Read. I am not talking about reading my Twitter feed or unrelated blog posts, but about quality reading.

– Close my eyes and relax. Yes just that, I just try to focus on my breathing and listen to the environment that surrounds me.

– Reflect on the course of my life. It is very important to take a step back from your everyday life and think about what’s going well, what’s not going so well and what actions you can take to improve it.

Finally, I found that Menlo Park is a great place where you could not only enjoy the nature but also have  all the commodities close enough and that’s just the icing on the cake.

How about you? Do you have the occasion to unplug from everything during your day or do you live in constant interruption?

The 10 commandments for happiness and success

7 septembre 2013

Life is too short to be wasted, we all know that. Yet, most people live a default life, forcing themselves to think they are happy even though they are not. Why? Because, we let the society dictates how our lives should be lived and what success and happiness should be like. Things like money and prestige are given too much importance to the detriment of focusing on what is really essential to us: living a life in line with our inner values, accomplishing valuable things.

If I had to give an advice to anyone starting a life (my future child for example), these are the 10 commandments I would strongly encourage him/her to follow:

1/ Don’t compare yourself to others.

From the day we enter school, we are stimulated by the spirit of competition through grading, forgetting that the primary purpose of education is to learn. Parents want their children to be the first, or to be better than X because they want to be proud when meeting X parents at the school door. So we grow up with this mentality of wanting to be better  than others, instead of wanting to become a better version of ourselves.

2/ Only surround yourself with brilliant and positive people.

Negative and mediocre people are everywhere and their influence on you can be devastating. You might be a positive person, but if you let yourself listen to pessimism all the time, you might end up the same one day. Thus, the best way to avoid any negativity get to you, is to eliminate these gloomy people from your life. Of course, if you care about them, then you owe it to yourself to transmit your positive attitude to them.

3/ Don’t be afraid to fail, failure is the best thing that could happen to you.

In the eyes of  society, failing is the worst thing that could happen to you. Personal fact: I failed once, very hard. It could have had disastrous effects on my life, but instead, it made me much much stronger, not just twice as strong but in proportions you cannot start to imagine. The truth is that failure builds character, it makes you think about what went wrong and what you can change in your life to never ever be in that situation again. It is so easy to content yourself in a status quo, when things seem to be going well for you . Failure challenges that. If planes are as safe as they are today, it is because they have failed in many situations in the past. Similarly, if you look at all the great men and women in history, you will find that they have all encountered a severe failure at some point in their life. So don’t be afraid to try things and fail.

4/ Find your vocation and have pleasure doing it.

Everyday, I hear stories about people studying or working in a field they have no interest in at all. Most of the time, it is the result of the pressure exercised by their parents to choose a path that they thought was prestigious in the eyes of society. They wanted to be able to say: My daughter is a Doctor or My son is a lawyer. On a more general note, we are living in a world where appearances are all that matter, so we keep doing things we don’t like to be able to appear more successful in the eyes of our friends and family. Does it make us happy? I doubt it. When somebody asks you what do you do for a living, their intention is always implicitly or even explicitly to figure out whether you are doing something prestigious or not. How about just asking this very simple question: « Do you like doing what you do?« . This is the only thing that matters, because the only way to achieve something substantial in life, is through real passion.

5/ Be careful when listening to people.

Pretty much, similar to the previous point. People like to give advices based on their own experience, but their own experience will likely be different than yours, so don’t always listen to them and follow your own instinct instead.

6/ Be generous, share when you can.

There are many proven researches that demonstrate a direct correlation between generosity and happiness. The basic idea is that by helping others we are shifting our focus off of ourselves which makes us less vulnerable to our critical inner voice, by seeing the positive impact of our actions on someone else. This is a good article to read on the subject.

7/ Stay healthy, eat healthily, exercise and balance your life.

This is a no-brainer. It is in your best interest to stay healthy, in order to be able to accomplish more of your goals in the best possible conditions. Although, there are certain things we can’t control in life, it is obvious that we can avoid plenty of diseases by keeping good eating habits and by exercising regularly.

8/ Don’t be afraid to disappoint anyone.

Because if they love you, they won’t be. Some people are more fragile than others and tend to go through mental breakdown when facing adversity or any kind of pressure. Sometimes this is due to the fear of disappointing someone they care about in case of failure. Failure is good as stated above, and someone who cares about you will never blame you for trying. Similarly, don’t be afraid to disappoint your parents by choosing your own path.

9/ Don’t watch TV and don’t follow the media too much.

Their job is to frighten you, that’s how they make money. Besides, their second job is to manipulate you and distract you from real problems. If you don’t know them already, the 10 media manipulation strategy by Noam Chomsky is always a good read.

10/ Have strong values and stick to them, no matter what.

These are the values that will make you happy in life and be successful. Society values money and  social status. Let’s change those rules and let’s teach our children new values based on happiness.

Share this post if you agree. Debate if you disagree.

Programming, the myth and reality

16 juin 2013

Most of us have watched a hacker movie, at least once.  I have personally watched a fair amount of those: War game, Takedown,  Hackers, Swordfish, The social network, Pirates of the Silicon Valley to name a few.

These movies are so exciting to watch, even for the general public who doesn’t give a pineapple about computers. Of course, excitement easily comes from fiction rather than reality. So, not only are these movies all fictional (some of them less  than others though) but to some extent they all include a good dose of spurious stereotypes. The most recurring one, is that programmers or hackers spend most of their time ragingly hitting on their keyboard,  like if writing code was a second nature to them and everything is supposed to flow quickly and then the magic happens…

The truth is that if you randomly walk in a cubicle of any tech company, you will more likely see people starring cluelessly at their screens scratching their heads rather than typing on their keyboards.  If you want to see it from your own eyes, there is an excellent documentary that I wholeheartedly recommend you to watch, it’s called: Code Rush.  In this documentary, a team of journalists followed the Netscape Communications on their adventure to release the source code of their navigator, best known as Mozilla.

It was released under the Creative Common licence so you can watch it for free from the Internet Archive.  Do it,  I’ll wait.

Two things about the documentary:

To picture the amount of pressure that was floating around, you can read Jamie Zawinsky‘s diary. Or, if you don’t have time, here are some interesting excerpts:

Marc wants me to be done with the Unix client in time for SGI to ship it along with Irix 5.3. That means that it has to be rock solid in, like, less than two months. I’ve got so little of the code written that I don’t even have a sense yet of whether that’s even remotely possible; it’s all over the floor. We’ve got bits and pieces, but I don’t see the big picture. It’d be really easy to let him bully me into agreeing, but I don’t want to miss; the stakes are too high this time, too many people are watching us for us to be able to screw up at all…

I slept at work again last night; two and a half hours curled up in a quilt underneath my desk, from 11am to 1:30pm or so.

I just got home; the last time I was asleep was, let’s see, 39 hours ago.

I’ve had a sore throat and a cough for about a week now, but I haven’t done anything about it, because I don’t have time.

My hands have been really been hurting lately; I hope all this typing hasn’t finally blown out my wrists. If I can’t type, my life is over. My right hand especially is flaking out — the last knuckle of the middle two fingers ache, as if they’re badly bruised.

We’re doomed. We’ve finally announced a public beta to the net, and there are loads of bugs, and they’re hard bugs, sucky, hardware-dependent ones. Some of our private beta testers crash at startup on some SunOS 4.1.3 systems, and I’ve got what seems like an identical system here and it doesn’t crash. And scrolling text doesn’t work with the OpenWindows X server, though it works fine elsewhere. And the cache is still fucked. We’re doomed. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Doomed doomed doomed doomed doomed. I’m tempted to just stay home tomorrow. I’m so fucking burnt. Existence is suffering.

I’ve spent most of the day so stressed out that my skull is rattling from the pressure of my teeth grinding together. I feel like I have finally exceeded my stress limits and am about blow a gasket. But I can’t go home, because if I do, the world will end, right? I’m trying to work, but every few minutes I have to stop typing and make fists so tightly that my whole body shakes.

I’ve just noticed that there’s still purple ink on the inside of my right wrist spelling the word VOID: the hand-stamp from a concert that I went to last week. I left work, went to the show, and came back to work immediately afterwards. I’ve been here since.

You get the idea.

But what is more interesting is that if you dig enough into the Internet Archive, you will find some uncut video footage.  They are goldmine because you will be able to watch some discussions between the documentary crew and the engineers.  The most interesting one (to the point of this article) shows an engineer by the name of Don Milton, debugging the Mac version of Netscape. It’s funny to see how he was absolutely clueless about why that bug was happening.

He wasn’t even sure about the context in which that bug could be reproduced and thus couldn’t even start thinking about the solution. You can see him starring at his screen for a couple of minutes, touching his nose and you can constantly read the expression on his face saying: I have no idea what’s going on here…

So if the idea of spending countless hours solving challenging problems is not appealing to you, and  if you are more interested into impressing your girl friend with some crazy typing skills, then the HackerTyper has got your back. Joke aside,  I guess the purpose of this article is to encourage the right people to join the IT industry (I am looking at you, ladies!) by encouraging you to focus on what Software Engineering is really like (solving problems) rather than believing in the typical/common nerds stereotypes broadly instrumentalized  in the film industry.

I did it

3 mars 2013

Yes, I have actually crossed the finish line of the half-marathon of Paris, despite my knee injury. I am so happy and proud of myself and I’d like to take the occasion to thank again all of you who donated to VML and who supported my participation in the race at the same time. I talked at the end of the race to some families affected by lysosomal diseases and they were extremely relieved by all the donations raised by runners like me. Proud of you, guys!

Finishing this race was quite an achievement to me and I would like to take the time to relate that story properly somewhere during this week as I don’t want to forget this moment!

So stay tuned!

My first bib

2 mars 2013

Ladies and gentlemans, we made it, we raised 350 euros for the charity Vaincre Les Maladies Lysosomales. Thanks to you and other donators supporting other runners this charity has raised a total of 17 000 euros. This is an incredible achievement for them as they are not used to be put under spotlight given that lysosomal diseases are very rare and less popular than other diseases like cancers.

So first, I would like to thank each one of you who donated to  VML-ASSO and making it possible for me to get this bib:

semi-marathon paris dossard

This is a green bib, which means that my goal is to run the distance in 2 hours.  To be honest, it was very optimistic of me to think that I could run this distance in 2 hours, I just hope to finish the race.

Which brings me to the last point of this article, less than two months ago I started feeling some pain in my right knee and as a result I had to reduce my training volume drastically. If it wasn’t for your support It would have been easier for me to just let this go. So thank you again!

Finally, if you want to follow me throughout the run you can go on this site and search for my bib number: 43984.

Running in the snow

20 janvier 2013

This morning I wake up to this:

I had mixed feelings, on one hand I found the view beautiful but on the other hand I thought that I’d miss my traditional weekly long run session. After a breakfast (watching Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah), I started thinking about whether or not I should do that run. I started searching on Twitter for the hashtag #courir (french word for running) and found lot of not so motivating tweet about people heading back to bed after seeing all that snow falling. Then I remembered that I had a half-marathon to run in no less than 41 days and figured I should give a try to running in the snow (yeah,call me noob if you want, I have never done that before).

How it went?

(tracked with a Garmin FR 360 – Review coming soon)

Wonderfully! First of all, it wasn’t possible to slip on the ground as the snow was still very solid at that time. Also, as you can see I was running at a very very slow pace (avg 65% of my maximum heat rate). Of course it was mostly voluntary as I planned to do a long slow distance run. But obviously, there was additional friction.

Other than that I found the following advantages to running in the snow:

And finally, you will benefice from stunning views during your workout:

The above pictures were taken in The Bois de Boulogne (west side of Paris), you can notice the frozen lac on the last picture. Here is also a small sequence from my workout:

Anyways, I now feel that nothing (not even snow) can get in the way of my half-marathon preparation, I am really committed to run it under 1h50 (which is quite challenging given my current level).

As a final note, I would like to thank each one of you who already donated to the charity I am supporting (a charity that fights against Lysosomal Storage Disease) which covers many rare genetic diseases), it really means a lot to me and it gives me the courage to step outside,whatever the climatic conditions are!

For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, the only way for me to run the half-marathon of Paris is to collect some amount of money for a charity. This page explains it all! If  you are willing to donate to the charity, remember that if you live in France you can deduce 60% of that donation off your taxes. Otherwise, you can read more about Lysosomal Diseases and understand why it’s important to donate even the smallest amount to the charity.