Do you feel left out? Make the best of it!

I have read a blog post about feeling left out on the Aha!’s blog and a lot of old memories came into my mind that I have to write out.

My background

About 4 years ago I was working with a centralized team and nobody was prepared to that. Not them or I. After I went through on almost all of the cases in that post I have changed a lot. And after that, I was able to turn these disadvantages into benefits. That is what this post about.

Centralized decisions

Feeling left out

The team was working together in the same open space for years. And suddenly I came into the picture. My experience is the same as in the referenced post: usually, they just simply forgot me at all. They haven’t even thought about me. Actually, nobody cared about the lonely man far away.

Feeling of left out
Feeling of left out

Sometimes they even forgot to tell the decisions after they made. So not only I couldn’t participate but had less amount of information than the others.

Work more than ever

That situation was very frustrating during the first several months. After this struggle, I made the following decision: Fuck that!. I cannot really force others to take care of me or count me as a person. But I can improve myself. I can solve the most amount of ticket, answer on the largest portion of live issues and get the deeper knowledge on the part of the system that I work on. 

Work hard
If they ignore you, you get extra time to get things done

After several months of hard work, their attitude started to change. Actually, I think, I become a person who hard to ignore. And believe me, if a team needs some help, they do everything that needs to get that.

And get the results

My hard work got a great result: At the end of the year, I had to take care on one of the new hires (who was working in the same place as the others) and I had to do some ‘technology lead’ like role in a big project (in that time I was the only remote worker on the team).

Delayed responses

When you work in the same place as the others and you have a question, you have a lot of information: first of all, you just see if your teammate is at his desk or not. Secondly, it is a way harder to not to answer you. If you write a message, there is no guarantee that you’ll get an answer at all.

That is also a topic that you cannot change. I cannot jump into my car at every single question, drive 2 hours and ask the person directly – usually, I have to wait. To solve that problem, I had two strategies:

More tasks – gain benefit on the wait time:

I always keep more than one todo item on my list. And prepare the case when somebody doesn’t answer. You cannot just sit at your desk and get blocked because you are not the top priority on some others job. But you can work on one of the other tasks or learn something new that makes you smarter.

Don’t let you left out – action plan to reach out people

I have collected as many private phone numbers as it possible. And also made an agreement with one person in the team: if I cannot reach somebody and it is really urgent, I can call him directly and he speaks with the person to please answer me. In that way, I had an emergency method.

Forgotten timezones

That is the only point that I was lucky with. We were living the same timezone so there was no question about that.

My current team is an opponent with that one. Now we have to work together with the other team and we have 9 hours of time zone differences. That basically means, there is no common time window for us and we are facing a lot of challenges.

I could lie if I would tell that I know the best answer – I think that is something that we still need to work on but we are improving day by day.

Technical disrespect

I couldn’t call that technical but simply disrespect. There is nothing more frustrating than being part of a meeting and missing the main information just because the others are using whiteboard just because it is comfortable for them.

I have to tell, in that case, I have only a small amount of patience. After I ask a team several times to please not do that because in that case, there is no reason to me to be involved in the meeting, I just say goodbye and ask a meeting memo. After that, I can work on the next important thing and wait for the meeting memo.

In the case if the topic is urgent, I’m sure, there will be some solution. In the worst case, I can ask the team to read the whole whiteboard to me. Or they can take a picture for me in every five minutes to get updated but these are not solutions.

I think maybe the best solution is just asking to be the presenter and do the job that nobody wants. And drawing the diagrams online (prefer to use a company wiki just to keep the information searchable).

Final thoughts

Working remotely with a centralized team is really hard and needs a lot of patience and I bet every single person who had to try that, lost his calm blood at some point.

My closing thought is that: yes, it is really hard when you feel left out, but there is your choice how you will respond to that. You can sad or you can make the best of the situation – It depends only on you!

 

Blog content changes

First meeting with programming – The hate

I am a Hungarian software developer born in 1984. Commodore 64 was the first computer that I met with. In the third class of elementary school, we had to learn the Basic language of that old machine. That was the point when I have decided: there is no way I will ever work with computers. My feeling of the computer was simple: pure hate.

Second meeting with programming – What is this?

The second time when I met with programming was at the high school. We got a new teacher who wasn’t a teacher at all. He just held the computer programming classes because the school had only a few teachers for informatics and their knowledge was too far from programming.

That was the first time when someone special showed us the code editor. Someone who lived the same life that I lived later: he was a university student who learned computer science and he has a totally different point of view than the old-school teachers.

Love

After several months, I was sure: I will be a programmer.

Nowadays

Now, I work for a relatively large, multinational company. They have hired me as a database developer and during the years, I have gained some knowledge about .Net technologies and now, we are switching to Java stack.

New blog content

From now, I going to write not only about my feelings but about my challenges too. Now I am a professional developer and I think, I must write out some of the interesting problems that I face with.

Closing toughs

Until that point, I wrote only about my personal feelings and people related toughs. From now, there will be new, technical contents too and I hope my content will help other engineers.

 

What remote working means?

People often ask me about my job. I work for a relatively big company with a small team, and I work in a different city than the others.  So basically, I work remotely.

Expectations

Almost every single person who I have talked about that have a picture of me working as a machine: someone sends me the task and the input, and I send back the solution. That is the way how a human can work remotely.

They think it is impossible to involve me in the life of the team and I will miss a lot of important information just because I am not there: I do not hear them because my desk is several hundred kilometres away from the others.

The other expectation is the worst: they think you just sleep all day and get your salary for nothing. You have plenty of time because you do not go to work so you do not work at all.

When you work home, you do nothing but sleep in the bed.

Reality

That expectation is both true and false.

Yes, there is a chance to miss something, but no, everything depends on the mindset of the team.

In fact you work as hard as the others. Just sit on an other place

We have to work as a team and has to develop our culture to work together. I must to anything that needs to get well informed and my team has to do not forget me. and we have to have a great software and hardware toolset in our hand to make our days comfortable.

Hardware toolset

  • We have to use our web cameras, there is no question about it. Just hearing is not enough, it is important to see the person who you talk with.
  • Buy a good conference microphone. For me, Jabra was a good choice to talk with a small team.

Software toolset

  • A good chat program. Currently, we use Slack.
  • A good meeting software. For smallest meetings, we use JoinMe, for largest ones, GoToMeeting.
  • Calendar and email tool like Office365. It is important to share our calendars to see when we are available for each other.

Conclusion

Remote working does not mean you are separated from the world and work in a small room and never see the sunshine.

Remote working means you are available online and you and your team must accept the fact that you have to do a lot of things online that a regular, in-place team can handle in-person.

Remote working means you are a part of the team, not the expectation that the others have to handle different ways. That is all about the discipline and the team mindset.