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Remote Life at WonderProxy: the Part-Timer

Allison Moore Jan 04, 2017 Culture

I've worked for WonderProxy for six years: initially, Paul hired me to sort out WonderProxy's books. It was the early days, and processes and systems and such were not well-established, and he needed someone to dig in and sort things out. I enjoyed admin work and was saving up for grad school, so it was a good fit.

These days, my WonderWork consists of payroll, filling out government documents, dealing with customers who pay by EFTs rather than credit cards or PayPal, reconciling our accounts, and writing server descriptions. I also do some technical writing, edit this blog, and contribute to information architecture discussions. Unlike Caroline, who wrote about her experience working remotely for WonderProxy a few weeks ago, I work part-time for WonderProxy: I have a full-time job writing documentation for MongoDB which fills my regular "working hours". My WonderProxy work takes place irregularly on evenings and weekends.

As part of our series on working remotely at WonderProxy, I'm pleased to share my perspective as a part-timer whose hours fluctuate wildly within a month. Since I get to choose when and where I work, those are really the questions that are worth looking at.

Scheduling

At my dayjob, I keep "regular" working hours - 8:30ish to 5ish Monday to Friday. I don't tend to check my email in the evenings, unless I'm expecting something that I really want to see, and I rarely check my email on weekends or on holiday. My WonderProxy work is much less regular and keeps me more tethered to my devices. From a scheduling perspective, the beginning of the month is pretty busy: I need to reconcile the previous month's accounts, arrange mid-month payroll, send our payroll deductions to the Canada Revenue Agency and Revenue Quebec, and invoice some customers that require manual processing. Stuff that needs to happen on a specific day (whether the first of the month is a Sunday or a Tuesday) needs to happen on the first of the month, so I need to plan to do some work that day. I'm pleased that we continue to build systems to automate me out of some of those responsibilities, but I do rarely travel without my laptop and I check my WonderProxy email pretty frequently (outside of my day job work day).

So, much as I get to choose my hours, the stuff that needs to happen on the first of the month needs to happen on the first of the month (or we get emails from our customers asking where their bills are) and the stuff that needs to be done by the fifteenth (payroll deductions) needs to be done by the fifteenth or we get a nasty fine from the CRA. I put reminders in my calendar and in Slack to ensure deadlines are met and that I plan the time to do stuff that needs doing on a specific day. If I'm on vacation, I make sure that someone else is around to handle anything that has to be done on a specific day (or - more likely - I pull out my laptop for 20 minutes and take care of it).

As a person who enjoys scheduling, lists, and structure, I've tried on occasion to schedule regular WonderWorking hours -- every Thursday evening and a few hours on Saturday mornings, for example, but it's never stuck. I can leave some of my responsibilities for three days and then address them, sure, but most of the important stuff needs to be done within a 24-hour period, and it doesn't always fall on a Thursday. Early on, all of this was more of a challenge: our processes were very manual and required a lot of remembering to do stuff without tooling to help the remembering. Today, our processes are ever more automated (so I rarely have to talk to customers about their renewals), our banking arrangements are more expensive but easier to work with (so no one has to go to the bank to pay bills), and Slack/Trello/FrontApp help keep me aware of what needs doing when.

The nature of my responsibilities, combined with the fact that I work part-time outside of regular business hours, means that it's unlikely I'll get to designate specific working hours and have it be effective… and that's just something I've accepted.

Geography

I am lucky to have a highly enjoyable (if currently depressingly disarrayed) office setup whence I do the majority of my MongoDB work. I like my desk height, I like my chair (though it's fifteen years old and due for a refresh), my monitor and laptop stands are arranged just right, and my keyboard and mouse are exactly the models I want. I even have a huge array of pens and markers, essential for anyone who enjoys organizing and colour-coding. It's highly satisfactory… and I almost never do WonderProxy work from it.

When I chat with non-techy friends about working remotely, they all tend to talk about how they get nothing done on the occasional days they work from home: they end up cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer, playing with the cat, reorganizing the storage closet, doing laundry, etc. I like to point out that they probably don't have a designated work space, don't think of "going to work" as "walking over to my desk in that other room"… maybe they didn't bother to get dressed since they were just going to hang out at home, so why not luxuriate in pyjamas all day. I also point out that if they worked from home every day, they'd need to sort out their productivity or they'd stop having jobs. I get up around 7am, shower, get dressed ("dressed" can mean "fresh yoga pants" when you work from home, so long as you don't wear them to bed), have breakfast, and trod over to my desk with a cup of tea by 8:30 or so. When I didn't work from home, my routine was the same, but I spent a half hour getting to work, so I got there around 9am instead.

I like to keep my desk as a place that I do MongoDB work on weekdays. It's important for my dayjob productivity to have a designated working space… so I generally don't sit there for WonderProxy work, lest it dilute the "this is where you do dayjob" work mentality, I guess? So for WonderWork, I often find myself sitting on the couch in front of the TV or sitting at the kitchen table. I generally don't need a lot of screen real estate, so not having an extra monitor is fine, and I don't generally spend several hours at a time doing WonderProxy stuff, so it's not onerous to use a laptop keyboard. I also do a lot of WonderProxy work from Starbucks on weekend mornings - Paul and I often head over for 'a morning hack', where he works on fun WonderProxy projects, and I reconcile our accounts or update spreadsheets or whatever. Before I started writing about this, I hadn't realized that I almost never do WonderProxy work from my desk. It was a surprising revelation, and digging into the "why" has been really interesting.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of talk about "side hustles" in the tech world these days. I'm grateful that my side hustle has just stuck around from when I was a recent undergrad saving up for grad school with a bunch of free time on my hands and a love of data entry, rather than a key means of paying my rent. At some point, WonderProxy will grow big enough that they'll need someone to do some of my job full time, and that'll be interesting. For the moment, though, figuring out how to fit a remote part-time gig in with my remote dayjob is kind of fun, and it's driven me to develop personal scheduling and prioritization processes that make me better at managing both my personal and professional lives.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how the other WonderFolks view remote work in future posts, and looking forward to seeing what I can learn from them to further improve my routines.

Allison Moore

Self-declared blog Editor-in-Chief. Technical writer. Information architect. Person who fills out forms, pays employees, and does the bookkeeping.