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Into remote software development

rwoodnz profile image Richard Wood ・3 min read

It's almost a year since I decided to remain in Europe and I left one of the best jobs I ever had, as a software developer at PartsTrader Markets in New Zealand. If you live in Wellington or want to move there and are a software developer then check them out.

I've always hated corporate culture (aka 'preferred a high level of autonomy') and one of the drivers for me to get back into software development was the opportunity to work in the flatter structure of agile teams or go remote working.

So then the shift from a great agile environment to working from home/coffee shops may seem a big jump on the surface, but behind the scenes both deliver to me a feeling that you can get on with the work intensely and so long as you are delivering progress at the end of the day then it's a good feeling all round.

That's a pun by the way, because as a remote contractor I literally do tend to deliver code at the end of the day. I find that's best for communication, ensuring that you are on the right track and keeping your code on track with others.

The first few months looking for work were hard. I had three years full stack experience in C# and JS but what you really need is about five and JS frameworks are what is in demand.

In Europe also companies got burned with outsourcing and are very careful about remote workers. In the UK especially the term usually just means you can work somewhere else in the UK and they want you to come to the office regularly.

So I've had more luck from New Zealand and the US and the time difference can actually be a positive.

My first contract I did 40 hours a week for a US startup and it went for five months. It was originally going to be an Elm contract but it turned to Javascript. I learned React and GraphQL along the way and gained a lot of confidence in what I could solve on my own.

Unfortunately that work dried up and I needed to get back out looking. Since then I've picked up a Javascript contract from New Zealand and an Elm contract from the US. As I've gone along I've adjusted my rates but keeping them very reasonable as I regard myself as very much still learning the remote ropes. I've found having two part time contracts is also good.

I've seen companies trying to do the full agile team work virtually. I'm yet to be convinced that the structures that work in an office are appropriate or necessary remotely. If you want to work remotely you probably don't want to wake up at 3am to attend stand-ups and retros. Perhaps at some point I'll get some experience with one of those firms and see first hand.

In the meantime my focus is on balancing learning with earning. If I can see I will need particular knowledge then I make sure I have reading to do and tutorials where it is a bigger challenge. Part of getting back into blogging for me is to improve the learning I do by writing tech blog posts, which I've started under the banner ElmUpdate - https://dev.to/elmupdate

On top of that is avoiding isolation. Getting more engaged with the online community and getting to conferences - but making sure they are the right relevant ones. There's a lot of fluff being presented at tech conferences these days so it can be better to go to the workshops even if it is a big cost.

Final thought is around hours. 8 hour days in an office is fine. However, when you work remotely with no distractions that is an intense day. The cliche that 8 hours in an office is really 6 at best comes to mind.

I find software development addictive so doing 8 or 10 hours is not uncommon and I don't think that will change. However by that point you are suffering from a certain type of stress, not thinking straight, and you are probably not going to make the most of the evening non-work time as you will be mentally recovering.

Better to break up the day. Start with some learning, take a decent lunch break, do a blog post. Then you can do some quality coding - build your self-worth and reputation and not your sleep deprivation.

That's me for today. Until next time...

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Richard Wood

@rwoodnz

Remote developer working in Elm and JS for clients globally.

Discussion

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I am also a remote dev too. I am very like your article.