A big part of why I wanted to create this part of the blog was to separate technical talk with just rambling and thoughts. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a place for photo essays, or a place for personal experiences, or a place where I just put my experiences; I figured they were all collections of thoughts, so this is what it’ll be for now.
2016 as a year was very eventful. I started a remote job working as a developer for a New Zealand based energy services company. I’d been looking around at jobs where I felt like I would be solving interesting problems, as well as being in an environment where I thought I would be able to learn the most. As an aside, I’ve been reading Creativity Inc a book about Edwin Catmull’s journey with Pixar and also as a prominent computer graphics expert. The book talks about creating an environment where smart people are encouraged to become smarter, and to collaborate with each other. I realize that’s what I enjoyed the most about being in school, being surrounded by people who were just as eager to learn and to share with each other.
It took me awhile to realize that this kind of environment is one that I always try to seek out, because it’s the kind that I am able to thrive in. Although I am able to work alone, I am definitely not as productive as I have come to learn in 2016. The job I took would be working remotely from wherever I wanted, as long as I made the hours work to overlap with the New Zealand timezone. This kind of work would be completely new to me, and I figured “why not”. It seemed like an interesting experience, and even though it might be challenging, I knew that I had the self discipline to make it work. What I didn’t anticipate is how much I missed working with other people, or just being around people who I can throw ideas off it. In this modern age of communication, it’s easy to write an electronic message and wait for somebody to respond. This works well, but after 10 months of working that way, I’m ready to work in an office with coworkers that I can see, at least have the option to see.
The reality is that once you start working, work kind of becomes what you spend most of your hours doing. This always pops up in my head whenever I look out the window and see the snow capped mountains, or the sunshine and blue skies. I always try to make it a priority that I get outside everyday, even if it’s for a small amount of time. All this is part of creating a schedule that I stick by, since as a remote worker it is very easy to be effective if your working hours aren’t structured. I would always set myself a loose outline for the day, something like:
- breakfast coffee, go for a walk
- catch up call (if needed)
- work on ticket
- go for a run
- standup with NZ
- work on ticket
Of course all this is loosely set, but having a general outline makes it easier to form a habit of it all, and then it helps with the whole process of working at home. I find it really really helpful to take breaks often, the middle of the day break that splits a working day into two is helpful, especially if you’re waking up early.
Not looking at any differences in money, here’s a list I’ve made of pros and cons: Pros 1. Flexible hours, if you need to be somewhere else you can be. You can go for runs/walks during the day 2. Flexible working location, I usually made an effort to work from a different place every Friday, usually coffee shops but sometimes I tethered and worked from a park or the beach 3. You can choose your own work. Of course this is quite variable, since sometimes you have to take on work just to pay the bills 4. No need to deal with management.
Cons 1. Face to face interactions, sometimes water cooler talk leads to great ideas. Whiteboarding is more difficult. 2. Taxes. 3. Harder to learn on your own sometimes.
Those are the ones I can think of right now, but I’m sure there are more.
I don’t think that I made solo travel a priority in 2016. What I realized during my solo trip to Southeast Asia in 2013 is that although it is super fun to travel solo and to connect with like minded people, the connections you make are harder to reinforce. What I’m saying is as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been trying to search for more meaningful relationships, spending time to be more selective about where I go and why. With that in mind, the large quantity of trips I made were to the United States last year, where I visited Seattle many times but also went down to the California Bay Area a handful of times as well.
There was the in person interview at Solarcity in San Mateo, where I also spent the weekend in San Francisco, crashing at my friend’s place. Then there was a bachelor party in Hawaii, with the wedding in California. There was the time I flew to NYC because my friend had an interview, so his hotel room was compensated. Since I was already over there, I also went up to Montreal to visit some other friends, including a friend that I had never met before but had known for awhile from the internet.
As I’m writing all these out, it’s so easy to just list them all, compartmentalized as “places I went in 2016” but really I went to these places to see friends that I’ve known, and to create memories. Every single trip had it’s memorable moments, moments that make me look back and smile because they were great. But of course they would, I had that intention in mind when I went, and I made it so.
The only trip that I didn’t have any real purpose in mind, was when I booked a flight to Guatemala because the flights were really cheap. The single most memorable thing from that trip was probably the trek up Volcan Acatenango. It consisted of a hike during the day up to around 800m below the summit, where we set up camp and then the next morning we hiked up to the top to watch the sunrise. But it was really the company of hikers that I enjoyed, where we each shared stories as we hiked up together, and for some this was probably the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. I made it an effort of mine to not just go there to see the tourist attractions, but to try and see how the locals lived.
As I’m writing this, there are only 10 days left before I leave Vancouver and head to New Zealand on a working holiday visa. Before I get there I’ll make a stop in Seoul to visit a friend, and a layover in Shanghai to hang out with a friend I haven’t seen in awhile. So 2017 should have many new adventures and experiences.