I’ve been a full-time remote worker since 2010. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought big changes to things involving face-to-face contact – like going to an office for work. Since this sea change has gotten more engineers (and employers) to think about remote work, I thought I’d share some tips on how to find and keep remote gigs. This was written with junior-level engineers in mind, and is more about full-time employment than freelancing.
(Hint: it’s about your team.) A couple weeks ago I accidentally replaced our live, production database with a 17-hour old snapshot. This is an always-on application with users around the globe, so the mistake was likely to have blown away some new user-entered data. I didn’t realize what I had done for an hour or so (I thought I had targeted a test database server, not production). When it hit me, I had already left work.
Non-engineers want to know: what happens when a big bug is found in your software, and the bug is causing real users real problems, and you’re the one who wrote the code? Engineers do sometimes write bad code, and sometimes it makes it into production, it’s true. But shipping production software involves a lot more than writing code. It goes beyond that one engineer. That engineer is not the only person who saw or ran that code.
When we were growing our team of Python devs at CMG, I was involved in a lot of interviews. I really enjoyed it, meeting and hiring interesting and talented engineers. I’m not a big fan of quizzing people on technical minutiae in interviews. I do think that asking some questions about technical likes and dislikes can be very illuminating though. For example, “What’s your favorite standard library module?” (Best answer in my book here is itertools or functools, but anything that shows they have hands-on appreciation for the depth of the standard library is good.
I’ve been working as a remote software developer for over five years now. I gather that some outfits do this better than others. In case they’re useful/inspirational for anyone else, I want to highlight the key things that have made this workable for so long. The key idea: Treat your remote workers as first-class, full-fledged members of the team. Have a chat server which everyone is connected to whenever they are working.