In the first installment of my interview with Jen Haley – a Software Engineer with Hewlett Packard – we chatted about her history living in Montana and how she same to work for HP/EDS while living here, in Montana. In this installment we will find out how she transitioned to a telecommute position, and she will also share her thoughts on working remotely, including the tools she uses to effectively communicate with her team and her clients.
JM: So where are you currently living and working?
JH: I am living in Bozeman, MT and working from home as a teleworker.
JM: What drew you to Montana in the first place?
JH: I grew up in Butte, this is home but more than that, this is where I want to be. The lifestyle suits me. My family is here along with many friends.
JM: Tell me about how you came to be a “telecommuter.”
JH: 8 years ago, EDS decided that their software developers did not need to be taking up office space. In the never ending corporate pursuit of cutting costs and making the business more efficient, they closed many ‘solution centers’ that housed developers like myself. We were ‘leveraged resources’ and would be assigned to projects anywhere in the country or world, as the need and fit, arose. This was much like how we operated within the solution center walls, we simply now were to do the same job from home.
JM: Before the remote work opportunity came up, had you ever considered telecommuting as a viable work option?
JH: Yes, I did. Before it became something that my company rolled out, I was working from home because of the project I was assigned. In order to work with a team in Belgium, I would start my day very early so we could have at least a 4 hour overlap in our work day. My management allowed me to do this work from home with really no questions asked. I had always been a solid performer and had a successful record of delivery to our customers. I spent most days at home, but would venture back into the office at least once/week.
JM: You work with a fully remote team, correct? What tools/software/equipment do you use to make that kind of arrangement work?
JH: We use Microsoft Outlook and Lync for messaging and phone calls/conferences. We also have an HP virtual room when we need more functionality for sharing our desktop than what Lync provides. Most of us have web cams, but we don’t use them, we haven’t had a need and that doesn’t break anyone’s heart. Hah. We do have the option of posting a picture of ourselves with our Outlook/Lync accounts, and I choose to do that. I do think having a face to a name helps.
JM: Have you faced any major issues while telecommuting?
JH: I really haven’t had any major issues. But, there are things that can cause frustration. Communication problems, networking problems, laptop problems are all issues that you need to resolve on your own. You don’t have a Sysadmin right down the hall. HP does have online/chat type help which works most of the time. But, if you have a hardware failure, you can’t simply grab an extra PC in the equipment room. Laptops can be overnighted, but it is a setback and rarely do you have a laptop the next day.
I have had no issues integrating into teams and much of that is because its how we worked even when we were in an office. Many times, in our local Bozeman office, where we had upwards of 70 people, we had 15-20 projects happening with different clients. Most of us weren’t on the same teams, our project teammates were in other states or countries, and we were already comfortable working over the phone and using technology versus face time to get the work done. It feels exactly the same working from home.
From a personal perspective, working from home means you have to work harder to maintain relationships outside of your home. You don’t run into your friends in the hallway and make plans for lunch, hikes, ski trips, etc. And because it doesn’t happen easily, it is very easy to spend too much time at home. It’s something that takes effort.
As a teleworker, you are defined by your companies teleworker policies; a policy you likely have little control over. That said, they can change that policy at any time and have a direct impact to you. HP has currently rolled back its teleworker policy making it available to only those with ‘extraordinary circumstances’ and are having people return to offices. This will directly impact me since they closed our local office in the cost saving measures many years ago. Many other locations are the same, workers don’t have office space, so we wait to see how our situations play out with this new policy. When deciding to telework, or to take your job to a location that is a significant distance from your office, you should weigh this possibility. If your company decides to no longer support a telework policy, how will that affect you and can you handle that consequence.
While telecommuting definitely takes time and effort, I’d say Jen and her team are doing a killer job making it work for them! I loved how she mentioned both pros and cons of working remotely – especially in regards to maintaining relationships with coworkers and friends. But as with anything, if it is worth doing it will take hard work at times…and getting the chance to work and live in the beautiful state of Montana definitely seems to be worth it!
Don’t miss the conclusion of her story, where she discusses her tips for others looking to make the leap into a remote work role and will share her thoughts on what makes telecommuting a success. You can read the conclusion here.