If you want to start working as a remote developer, there are two must-to-have condition you have to have. One is your mindset, and the other is your team’s mindset. You will fail if one of these requirements are missing.
When I have started to work remotely I have not succeeded for the first time. Actually, it was a fail. I was an employee of the company that creates software that allows users to work from anywhere in the world but our team was not prepared to do that at all.
I was the first person in the history of the company who was allowed to work from home. And I had to figure out how to do my daily job between the new circumstances. I have decided to work as hard as it possible just to prove that was a good decision to make the exception with me.
In the other hand, I made a big mistake. I have calculated only with myself but not with my team. Actually, I could do anything that I want if my team acts like ’We do not care for you at all’. We should spend time on investigating the hardware and software requirements to involve me in the team’s life.
My team had about 8 members, they are all worked in the same open space. I was the exception who were 200 kilometers far away. They were never told me but it is clear to me: they did not want to work with a remote person at all. There were nothing personal in this. Maybe I was the pain in the ass for them and they couldn’t handle the extra effort.
For example, they involved me in the meeting only if there were no other choice. And nobody told me the important information or nobody sends me a memo about the decisions. They just ignored me and I had to collect a lot of information on my own.
When we had a meeting, we had only a telephone. They turned on the speaker but nobody cared about me. Usually, I have heard only one or two people and there were a lot of background noise. I asked them plenty of times to be closer to the microphone but nobody cared about it. When I asked, they did it for two minutes and forgot it immediately.
Later, we had a great meeting software, JoinMe. I thought it will be a huge step forward because everybody can use his own mic and we can share a screen with us. I thought great, that will be the breakthrough. And I have failed again. I have forgotten the most important part that is not the software but the people.
They used to do a meeting in a separated meeting room. Always. And there is no exception. So they have figured out how it will go: They brought one notebook into the room, put it on a desk and started the JoinMe software. After I have joined the meeting, nobody took care of me. The didn’t share a screen and they still used only the whiteboard on the wall and I saw nothing. If you use JoinMe, it is not enough just to connect the meeting. You have to join with audio too. 8 times from 10, they just forgot to join with audio. That meant they didn’t hear me, and I didn’t hear them. Sometimes at the end of the meeting I got an excuse ’Sorry man, we have forgotten about you’.
Please do not misunderstand me, they were not a team of bad people and they did not want to harm me – They were just a group of people who have worked with an in-place team during their whole life. Working with somebody who is not in the room was a too hard job for them.
New project – new team
After about 18 months of suffering, I had a chance to choose between a lot of projects at the company. I knew that is my chance to change my life. I wanted to search a team that is able to handle me. Private talking with managers was a new field for me but I could finish my research with success: I have found a team who works in-place but their management is in another office. That means they have to have a culture about handling a remote person because both of the project manager and the technical leader worked a far distance from the team.
When we had to choose, I did not hesitate at all. I said goodbye to my formal team and started to work with the new one and everything changed. I have found everything is possible if the team has a proper mindset and everybody accepts that you are not in the same room.
Suddenly I have realized there are people who do not have to ask to do a JoinMe meeting – this is natural for them. There was no question about using the proper microphones, sharing the screen and the knowledge. Every time when I miss an important meeting, somebody calls me and tells the information that I missed. I see meeting memos and I we have flows to do the code reviews remotely.
A whole team can change
And what happened to my formal team? Life can bring changes and you can never figure out what will happen. Now they have a remote team member but everything has changed. The remote guy is my friend so I could talk with him and I see, a whole team can change. They have no issue with a remote developer at all. Maybe it took one additional year but they have developed their self: they are able to and willing to work with a teammate who works remotely.