Hi, I'm Michael. I'm a dad, work remote, developer now working as a designer, love full stack JavaScript + side projects. AMA!

Michael Lee 🍕 on April 18, 2018

I've been making websites since the days of GeoCities, with rotating chrome gifs and clobbering together JavaScript bits I found online. Now, I'm ... [Read Full]
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Got any funny stories about being a WFH (work from home) dad developer? Also general wisdom for an eventual parent who plans to WFH while taking care of his kids would be greatly appreciated. 🙏

 

Nice that you spelt out WFH ;) As far as funny stories go, we all know about the BBC dad where his kids walked in on him. Those happen quite often during stand ups. It was embarrassing at first, but then I embraced it. Being a dad and having my kiddos burst in the door to tell me they need a hug or drew something for me has often been the highlight of my day.

WFH has been a blessing since working in tech, all you really need is a laptop with decent battery life and a phone plan with tethering and you're good to go. I've had stand ups while shopping at Costco, have worked out of my minivan while being on road trips and been able to do things with my family and say that I was there for so many awesome memories.

As far as wisdom goes, just let work and life ebb and flow through out the day. The more I tried to set a hard line between the two, the more it stressed me out and the more it stressed out my family. It's all just life and if you can make it work, it really is an awesome thing.

I also recommend taking notes. Because as a parent, I'm lucky if I even remember what I ate for breakfast. My current setup is creating a new markdown file in a Dropbox folder and writing notes and reminders in it throughout the day. This allows me to regroup when I have to step away and remember and share with my team when I sync with them during daily stand ups. I also used Git Standup when I was on engineering teams making daily git commits.

WFH as a parent isn't for everyone, but if the company you work for or if you're a freelancer and can make it happen, it is quite rewarding. It's not easy filtering out crying babies in the background and having to step away so many times during the day while they are young, but if you're like me and hated the fact you were missing so many of your kids' firsts, you'll gladly make it work.

 

Sometimes the kids intentionally join stand up. Today my youngest joined. Mom was vacuuming the other room and she didn't like it, she's 1. She has the unofficial title of webdev trainee

Awesome :) What's even more fun is when other devs have kids as well and everyone joins in on the fun!

 

As far as wisdom goes, just let work and life ebb and flow through out the day. The more I tried to set a hard line between the two, the more it stressed me out and the more it stressed out my family. It's all just life and if you can make it work, it really is an awesome thing.

This is interesting, it runs counter to just about every WFH article I have read. How do you keep yourself from working too many hours or losing focus on your tasks? I love hearing differing perspectives!

Ha!

Working too many hours isn't a problem. Our family is pretty routine so I work within the constraints. Meaning I work normal business hours. But if I need to step away, I do and just make it up in the evening. The wife and kids will keep me in check to make sure I eat and get off work on time.

As for the focus part, as mentioned above:

I also recommend taking notes. Because as a parent, I'm lucky if I even remember what I ate for breakfast. My current setup is creating a new markdown file in a Dropbox folder and writing notes and reminders in it throughout the day. This allows me to regroup when I have to step away and remember and share with my team when I sync with them during daily stand ups. I also used Git Standup when I was on engineering teams making daily git commits.

 

No problem Andy! Can't wait to hear some of your stories in the future :)

 

It sounds like you do a lot of freelance/contract work, any advice for getting started and finding clients?

 

Not really actually. I've found, if you have one good client, that could be all you need as long as the finances and the terms work out.

I'm an introvert so I don't do a lot of aggressive networking. Really the best thing that's worked for me is to tap into your current network. During my normal meet up with friends, I would just mention in passing oh I'm looking for work.

By doing this, what I've found is you're able to tap into your friend's network. It doesn't always work out this way, but I've had some good luck. In that in mentioning it to a friend, they'll either find work that they need to get done in time or they'll be able to refer you to someone else in their network.

Obviously this isn't a good workflow if you're looking for steady work, but I've been fortunate to find a steady stream of work.

Don't be afraid to share this with friends you don't think will be a resource for you. The key is to simply cast a wider net. I've had friends not in the tech industry make really good connections that led to work.

Hope this helps Evan!

 

Thanks so much for the reply! That definitely helps, it's nice to hear that the "tap your current network" advice can actually work.

 

What has the developer -> designer transition been like? Was it a role change within the same company or taken as a new job?

 

Really good question Jess!

So the role change was a new job. During my last job hunt, I was feeling a little burnt out being on engineering teams. I still applied for engineering jobs but also explored different career paths. To be honest, becoming a designer wasn't really on the radar. I had always dabbled in design while doing dev work but never really took it on as a title.

My boss, whom I befriended many years ago on Twitter (hint, hint, befriend folks you meet online IRL, you never know what could blossom from it) wanted to see if I would join the company as a designer. I was hesitant at first, but what drew me to the position was the ability to see the other side of product development.

I had always seen things from the perspective of the engineering side to products but there's a whole different world from the design side. It's been a good change for me. I'm not a full fledged product designer but I'm a interaction designer. So I'm a designer that also codes.

I'm currently working on a design system and it's been pretty neat. I create and help build out UI components and systems in Figma (our design software of choice) and then I can guide the front end engineers with how it should get built out in code. I also hop in and help tweak the CSS and work on the interactions on screen, something that's hard to capture in a mockup.

Being a coding designer, I'm able to help folks on both sides of the product development spectrum. I'm able to contribute to mockups, think through user journeys, anticipate what design-development hand off should look like and give insight into what sort of design and interaction is possible.

I'm still learning a ton. Learning the wide range of tools available to designers was one of the big things for me. Especially thinking in terms of modular components. I had always thought of code in a modular sense but translating that into design was a little bit of a learning curve.

Receiving regular feedback is also something that is welcoming but I admit it's been a while since I've had regular feedback sessions so it was a bit of an adjustment.

Being a designer has also given me a huge respect for design teams and hugely advocate for design-led product development. I can see how being design-led, it defers a lot of the decision making that a developer encounters in coding up a solution to the designer or product manager. I've also gained an appreciation for systems and patterns used in UI and it has greatly influenced the way I write code now. Things like the 8-point grid. Or that UI/UX shouldn't be about pixel perfection but it's having a single source of truth that both design and development can build from.

 

How do I keep stumbling across your presence online? I'm at Ben's talk about this site at RailsConf, and saw your AMA at the top right of the home page.

Also, are you still working in the same city? I WFH about 50% now with my 1.5 kids, would be cool to meet up and catch up sometime soon.

 

Hahaha must be a small world. Hope you enjoyed your time at RailsConf Tyler! Ben's talk was definitely something I was interested in.

Yup, still in the same city, but currently overseas because of family issues. I'll be back in June so let's catch up then. Until then, guess we'll have to keep bumping into each other online.

 

Why is Mongo so popular in JS land, is it because of the JSON storage or is it more happenstance?

 

Not sure for the rest of JS land, but for me, I was attracted to it because SQL didn't exactly click in my mind the first few times I tried picking it up. Mongo's document like structure just made a lot of sense. JSON like structure in and structure out. I also found Mongo's operations to be easier to pick up than learning queries in SQL. I believe these sort of things are more appealing to a JavaScript developer since it maps well to things they already are familiar with such as objects and navigating key:value pairs using dot notations and whatnot.

 
 

Was mainly me learning HTML and feeling like a web master because I found a bunch of rotating chrome letter gifs that spelt out my name. Other than that I think I might've had a marquee that said welcome to my site! Need to try seeing if it was ever indexed with Wayback Machine or I guess I can try to recreate it with NeoCities.

 

I'm very sad that I can't find my first Geocities site on Wayback 😕

☚ī¸ would've been awesome to see it!

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