I have been working at SugarCRM for almost 5 years now. I started as a remote engineer for Sugar and continue to live and work in North Carolina. When given the opportunity to work for such a great company as a remote engineer I jumped at the chance and have learned few things along the way. In this series of posts I will try to examine what it means to be a remote engineer, how a company can successfully manage such an undertaking, how to manage other remote engineers.
When I started at SugarCRM there were not any other remote engineers. We had other teams with “remotees”. Some in premium services, some in support, but none in engineering. We didn’t have that many engineers to begin with at that time, so having a remote person would have been unlikely. I started by working on the Office plugins. I had some experience in that field and was excited to work at Sugar and see how to integrate Outlook, Word, and Excel with SugarCRM. Because of the nature of the work it somewhat lent itself to being remote. No-one else at the company worked on the plugins so it wasn’t like I had someone to work with. But I quickly became a core part of the team and started contributing on the core php code. You would have thought that it would have been an issue for co-workers or managers, but given the culture at SugarCRM it was fairly seemless. I mean sure there were some late nights given the timezone difference on top of us trying to get new features out the door but everyone was very understanding. This leads me to my first point as a remote engineer:
Find your work-life balance
Given the three hour timezone difference between SugarCRM HQ (Cupertino, CA) and where I live in North Carolina you will be having lunch when everyone in HQ gets into work, and you be winding down your day when everyone is coming back from lunch in CA. It is easy to leave your computer on, bring it to dinner with you, come back to work after dinner, run back and forth into your office while giving the kids a bath to check for new issues.
No doubt you will have to do this sometimes if you are trying to get a release out of the door or looking to resolve an issue. That is understandable and somewhat expected. I am not talking about those instances, I am talking about everyday life. When everything is going as planned. You have to find someway to walk away from your work knowing you put in a hard day and it can sit until tomorrow. I have to be honest I have not been too successful myself. I always have IM running and email syncing. I am running back and forth between bath and dinner. I do check in after I put my son to bed. But that is my fault. People will understand and know you have been working hard and getting your stuff done. Go enjoy yourself, your friends, your family. Work will be there, at least until your email syncs again in 2 mins, 1:59, 1:58….