Working Remote

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One of my coworkers will be moving and switching to working remotely. He asked me to share my thoughts about working remote and it turns out I have a lot. Hopefully, they are worth sharing.

I’ve been remote for 4 years now as an employee, and also worked remotely for about 7 years while as an independent consultant. The consulting was more solo work and less teamwork and was much more isolating, but it did help me form some boundaries around working from home. At this point, I hope never to work in an office again. Here’s what I think are the keys to being happy working from home:

Boundaries

  • Have a separate office space. This way you “go to work” by walking through a door, and you “come home” later. That’s not to say that you can’t “leave work” to do something at home for 5-10 minutes or a few hours (which I definitely do), just that you want to make sure you’re not mixing home and work because work will eventually start intruding on home life.
  • Keep “regular hours” and don’t worry about being unavailable when you’re not “at work”. I generally try to work from 7:30-3:30 or 4 (depending on school drop-offs) every day. There will still be some flexibility, but again the worry is that work will start to creep into home life if you don’t.
  • Consider adding some “commute time” to your day. When you work in an office, you have some time on your commute where you transition from home to work and back again. It can sometimes be difficult to make that same transition over just a dozen steps. I just need a few deep breaths, but I’ve heard of people walking around their house or around the block.

Communication

  • Ask yourself if you’re using the right communication tool. Don’t just rely on chat for all communication. Chat is a great communication tool, but you lose tone of voice and body language. If you’re in a long complicated chat, pick up the phone or consider a screen share or video chat.
  • Get comfortable with your video camera and encourage your coworkers to do the same. Try to have at least few video chats a week with your people from your team. Being able to see someone’s face rather than them just being a disembodied voice helps create connections.
  • Buy a decent USB camera and put it at the top of your main monitor. Then when a video chat starts put the video screen centered right below the camera. Otherwise, you’re sharing the side of your head or an up-the-nose shot (thanks for putting the camera at the bottom of the screen Dell). Remember that “eye contact” is made by looking at the camera, not at people’s eyes.

Socializing

  • Embrace on-site trips. A few days face to face with your co-workers goes a long way towards building the relationships needed to work effectively while remote.
  • Figure out how to get your socialization outside of work. You’re not going to have as many informal chats in the kitchen and you’re not going to go out to lunch with coworkers. You need to find a way to fill this gap or it will slowly wear you down.

Enjoy

  • Take full advantage of being remote. Take a walk or a nap mid-day, spend a bit of time with the kids when they get home from school, start cooking dinner in the middle of the afternoon. Take a conference call on the couch or out on the patio.

These are the things that I feel have made working remotely work well for me. Others may find something here completely unimportant to them or may see something I completely missed, but it’s a place to start.

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Networking Online

in Random

Which online social network is the best when looking for a new job? If you had asked me 2 weeks ago I would have told you it was LinkedIn, but it turns out LinkedIn is a distant second.

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Simple Deploy to Azure from Command Line

in Azure DevOps

I’m currently working on moving our product from AWS to Azure and as part of the planning for that move, one of the problems I needed to solve was deployment. Our current deployments are handled by an automated build on Bamboo, but Bamboo doesn’t have a “Deploy to Azure” task. I needed to do the deploy from the command line (CMD or Powershell), and I wanted to avoid including publish profiles in the projects.

The first part, running from the command line was easy to find through with a Google search. You can just tell MSBuild to publish to Azure

msbuild MyWeb\MyWeb.csproj /t:TransformWebConfig;Publish /p:TargetProfile=ProdMyWebApp /p:Configuration=AzDev

But the catch is that you can’t do it without a publish profile as part of your project or at least I wasn’t able to make it work.

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Azure SQL vs AWS RDS Performance and Cost

in Azure AWS Sql

I’ve been doing a series of blog posts comparing Azure and AWS services that I’ve used in production. This post is before production usage, but I’ve been researching and experimenting in preparation for proposing moving our databases to Azure and wanted to share my results so far.

Before I could propose this move I needed to understand the cost differences. To do that I needed to know which level of Azure SQL was equivalent to our m1.medium instance at AWS.

tl;dr

An AzureSQL Standard Tier S3 database performs is about 7% faster than a SQL Server SE 2008 R2 database running on an m1.medium instance of AWS RDS. Price comparison are hard because AWS RDS has a sea of options to choose from, but if you meet the requirements for SQL Server Web licensing then pricing is similar.

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Azure Blobs vs AWS S3

in Azure AWS

Part of my ongoing series comparing AWS and Azure for the services where I’ve used both in production. In this post I’ll be looking at the differences between Azure Blob Storage and Amazon S3 for storing and retrieving files.

tl;dr

  • Azure’s logical structure allows you to manage multiple containers at the same time.
  • AWS allows default documents and with that you can host a static site for pennies per month in S3.
  • Azure Blob can integrate Azure Search to allow searching the content of some documents
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