Archive for July, 2013

Working From Home – #WFH

At age 52, the Great Recession forced my hand into a job change. I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I had a job I used to enjoy a great deal and I ended up in one that like even better. I don’t take that for granted.

A big part of what made Xerox tolerable post Ursula Burns being anointed as CEO was the human interactions. While the Sr. Execs demonstrated daily that they could care less about the employees, at least I had my local peeps. They were smart, funny, and a true pleasure to work with. There was never a shortage of people I could learn from and I valued that a great deal. My hope is, after 18 years that perhaps I may have imparted some words of wisdom on a few souls myself.

The outsourcing movement changed everything. The trendy thing for Vice Presidents to do was to use the words “Software” and “India” in the same sentence as if that was the magic bullet that would catch everyone’s attention. With about 10 years to go, instead of looking to finish my career at the place I was most comfortable I found myself not just disgruntled. It was much deeper than that. I was insulted. Pissed off. I felt genuine contempt the Sr. Management team on a daily basis and found other things to do when they came calling to spread their message. Every time they opened their stupid mouths, morale went down the toilet. When I was managing a team of Tools Engineers, it was impossible for me to get on board and act like a part of the management ‘team’. Instead, I was right there with the employees thinking – you guys are flaming idiots that have no idea what you’re talking about. I worked a couple of years there beyond what was healthy for me. I didn’t want to have regrets by making a major career move ‘in haste’, but in the end, the way I felt about it I was either going to have to leave myself or I knew I’d eventually say something that would get me fired. I simply — couldn’t stand it anymore.

Coming to terms with leaving after 18 years was hard. Having recently gone through a divorce after 27+ years, I would say the experience is somewhat similar. Humans don’t deal with uncertainty very well and I’m no exception. I like to know where my next paycheck is coming from.

But after you make that break, it sets you free and that felt good.

My job search was much shorter than I expected. I applied at my wife’s company and didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I figured my resume was buried under the pile, especially in this economy. Most companies still weren’t hiring but Cambia, being front and center in the Affordable Health Care Act, was hiring like crazy. One day my wife Donna asked if I had heard anything about my resume submittal. “Nope”. Oddly enough, about an hour later I got a call and it turned out that position was a pretty good fit for me.

One of the features of the new job was that everyone in my group worked from home. As a team we are spread out over Oregon and Washington with my manager living in Bellingham. I’d see him about 3-4 times a year, maybe. This was a new concept to me and I wasn’t sure how well I’d do with working from home.

It’s been just a tad over a year and I can tell you, I LOVE working from home. I didn’t have much of a commute in the first place but now it’s zero, zilch, nada.

I can be 2x productive from home — at least. The simple reason? Interruptions. Nobody can come over and camp outside my cube.

Working from home I can get into deep thought. This was more rare when I had to go into the office. There are some programming tasks that require deep, uninterrupted thought. Figuring out how to deal with a complex data structure is one. When I was on-site, I could get half way through the thought process and then get interrupted and have to start over. The ramp up time is significant and sometimes a barrier to getting back into it.

I’ve learned so much technically over the past year because I’ve had the type of environment that supports deep thought and productivity.

Another aspect of acquiring more technical knowledge over the past year is likely that I’ve had to go and figure some things out for myself. I didn’t have anyone to lean on. It’s sort of sink or swim. I find that I’ve gotten better at using my available resources in looking things up myself.

One of the things that makes working from home and also being a part of a team possible is a tool from Microsoft called Lync. With Lync, your teammates are never far away. One might think that working from home would present challenges in terms of being distracted by other things taking place at home, but I’ve found that not to be the case. With Lync, you’re really on kind of a short leash. The expectations are that if someone needs to talk to you and it’s working hours, you’ll respond to an IM fairly quickly. This both good and bad. There ARE interruptions, just less so and you never have that guy who camps out at your cube and doesn’t know when to leave. You’re just as much in control of the conversation as the next guy.

I set up shop in an office that used to be one of my children’s bedrooms. If I get hungry or thirsty I don’t need to find a vending machine I just go down to the fridge and pick out what I want. There’s a nice bathroom across the hall and I have to say, don’t underestimate the benefit of having your own private bathroom. The cans at Xerox were sub-standard. ‘Nough said.

I now put about 4k miles on my truck every year. Mostly it just sits there which is fine with me with gas at $3.79 a gallon.

Put this one in the category of ‘highly recommend’

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