Andrew Powell / Hudson Bay Company

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Disclaimer: This transcript is provided as a courtesy for accompanying the associated episode it represents. The content of the transcript may provide errors or incorrect statements from the recorded episode. Portions of the episode such as opening or closing comments may be excluded for brevity.


Jonathan Well, Ari, we have made it to episode ten. I feel like this is a major milestone.

Ari Yeah, we hit those double digits. I can’t believe it.

Jonathan That’s right. So, it’s all uphill from here, right.

Ari Oh, yeah.

Jonathan So, this episode is also a lot of fun for me, as I am actually recording in my home office, which I have completed and moved into a day ago, as of the time of this recording. It’s great to be down in the basement. It’s a lot quieter, though I did get in trouble by my wife today for playing my music too loud.

Ari [Laughs] That’s what headphones are for.

Jonathan I got a text message. I had to switch to the headphones, but I was excited to have my speakers hooked up again.

Ari I hear that.

Jonathan She texted me and said that I was a little loud, so.

Ari I guess you didn’t soundproof enough.

Jonathan I guess not, and I was hoping to be able to play my music at a respectable level, but I was told otherwise by the boss. Other than that, and I think you are working, well, you went to work today, but you are fighting the blizzard of the east coast.

Ari Yes, we experienced a minor blizzard, which had a good chunk of ice mixed in, at least in my area. Made some treacherous driving conditions. I did make it into that office I had to go to, but only because I wanted to, strangely enough.

Jonathan I can understand that. There’s something about the adventure of having to fight to get to work.

Ari Yes. I was actually given the option of staying home, but of course I was only given that option after I was in the office. But, you know, it doesn’t help there. You know, when you enjoy the work you do, though, sometimes even going into an office sometimes is not so bad.

Jonathan Yeah.

Ari Writing some scripts, trying to debug them, figure out how they work, make them do what I want them to do. I’m enjoying it, so it doesn’t matter to me where I do it. With the work I do, on a closed network, I can’t do it from home.

Jonathan Yep. That would make a difference.

Ari So

Jonathan For sure, but the focus of this podcast is remote work, so let’s get on with the show. It’s my pleasure to welcome Andrew Powell to the podcast. I worked with Andrew all the way back in 2010. That’s when I first met him. We first started working together, he was contracting for a consulting firm I had co-founded, and ultimately he came and joined full-time as a remote employee. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, and Andrew has continued to work remote. So, welcome Andrew.

Andrew Thanks for having me.

Jonathan Yeah, so starting off, give us an overview of your most recent career endeavors and what you do on a daily basis.

Andrew Right now I work for Hudson Bay Company. That is a result of their acquisition of the Gilt Group last year. I, right now, am the lone front end/full stack/node guy on that team that is very simply called the data team. We are the lone team within the organization that touches all of the banners or subsidiaries, Saks off 5th, Lord & Taylor, HBC, Gilts, they’re all considered banners. So, we handle all of the data that the company runs off of, basically. All the predictive analytics, all the purchasing stuff. I don’t handle data, hands [INAUDIBLE 00:04:24] like that. There’s much smarter people who do that than I. What I am in charge of is all the client side stuff that surrounds that data. Collecting that data, making sure we’re getting it from the client to the endpoints it needs to be. Now that I’m saying it out loud, it doesn’t sound as in-depth as it actually is. I’ll give you a quick example. There’s a marketing firm that manages what they call tags, which are tracking pixels, if you’re old school. This company manages a myriad of tags that are then farmed out to other marketing companies, so on and so forth. It’s this massive tree and they are happy to be a cornerstone of a lot of marketing initiatives and happen to be a very good source of revenue to the company. When that was put in my lap to take a look at and audit, I thought it was an absolute mess. We have spent many moons revamping this thing, refactoring all the code that runs off of, refactoring all the code that sends information to this thing and as a result it was a wild success and our revenue numbers went up and we were able to drive more data off of it. It all ties into the front end of the site, of the various sites that are running. We rolled our own Google analytics replacement. That’s been very successful. It’s all the client-side work around data and that kind of thing.

Jonathan So, for some of our non-technical listeners, are you doing a lot of JavaScript development? That may be something they’ve heard of.

Andrew Primarily JavaScript development. For those folks, when we speak of the client, we’re talking about the browser, primarily. The browser on your phone, on your laptop, on your desktop.

Jonathan Okay, excellent. When you and I first started working a number of years ago, that was your background. You were in web development, so this is kind of carried forward then.

Andrew Yeah, it really has. When I had jumped on board with you folks, I was still doing full stack development on ASP.NET stack. I had just gotten better with front end work and I was getting to the point where I could switch to it full time. That’s when we connected.

Ari Alright, so Andrew, can you talk about your career transition that you went through. I believe it was in 2010. You left an office job, or as we call it often here, a commuter job and went ahead and went into that remote role.

Andrew Sure. I’ll step back a couple of years prior to that. We’ll just say I was a career college man. I was in school for the better part of a decade and ended up taking a job with the first company I did web development for. I really had no expectations of what a career was supposed to look like. I went straight from school, where I was doing coed 3am to an office gig that I had to report in at 9am to. I bounced from that company after a few years to another company in Detroit. My commute was anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on what this main expressway, what the traffic ended up looking like. It was absolutely brutal. That was the expectation. That was the norm. I was lucky enough to get involved with the jQuery community and I connected immediately with the folks that were running jQuery UI. At the time, that was still a relatively new project and it had just switched from maintainers or owners, or what have you. I started working with those folks and I got really heavily involved with them and I was able to translate that into my day to day work. I got into contributing the core of that project and got into the old jQuery [INAUDIBLE 00:08:57] mailing list.

Jonathan That was like the dark ages.

Andrew That was a long time ago. It was really there that I started finding out that there were these people that were working from home, doing this. That’s what blew my mind. I’m like, wait a second, you work out of your house. You can write this code and everything just works. That was the first word or notion that that was possible. From there, Jonathan and his old partner posted a little help wanted. They wanted some low hours contract work done, and I was with the woman at the time, I thought I was going to end up with. I was looking for any extra income that I could get my hands on. You know, they happened to be some really fun projects and they were way better than the stuff that I was doing for the company at the time. As soon as they had said that they were going to turn it into, they were going to expand and hire some more folks, I immediately raised my hand. I was like, “Yeah, I want in.”

Jonathan Yeah, during this time, we’ve had other guests on the show where it’s been kind of an unintentional transition into remote work. I think that’s kind of part of this story too. The jQuery community was kind of hopping in 2008, 2009, around there. Like I said, we’d hired you as a contractor and the work that you were doing was great. So, when we had a full-time role open up, it was kind of a no-brainer really. We know how this guy works. He does quality work. It had been remote work that we were doing, which nowadays it seems a little bit more like, “Oh, it’s remote work.” Back around that timeframe I don’t think there was this conscious, “Oh, we’re working remote,” it’s just, “Oh, we’re just doing what needs to get done.” You mentioned a little bit that being on the jQuery project and being part of that community, which adding a little bit of backstory for our listeners if they’re not in the web-development space. jQuery is a JavaScript library. It’s open source which means that people from all over the world can contribute to it and develop on it. It’s fairly popular. It’s on over half of the websites on the internet. So, that’s the technical community. Andrew did you think when you saw these other developers working from home, that like, “That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to become intentional about heading in that direction.” or was it just kind of a novelty thing of like, “Huh, that’s really curious.”?

Andrew My initial reaction was what sorcery is this? How do you not have to drive, right?

Jonathan Yeah.

Andrew I mean, I’m sure at that point I had heard about the occasional person doing that, but I don’t think I’d ever seen folks in masse that were able to pull that off. That’s really what I got exposed to. When you guys offered me that position and I didn’t have to go to an office, everyone I knew thought I was full of it. I think to this day there’s people that don’t understand that I work at a pants optional job. At the time it was so unique, even my parents, who at that point had faith in my career choice, they still didn’t understand it. My dad thought it was great, but he didn’t get it. As soon as the opportunity was there, like I said, I jumped all over that.

Jonathan I will admit that there still is a bit of that stigma when people find out that you work from home. They look at you kind of sideways like, “So do you really work or are you just one of those “self-employed” people?”

Ari Right, and there’s also the general assumption that, “Oh, you work from home, you must have so much free time?”

Andrew Right.

Jonathan Oh my goodness, yeah

Andrew Well, I will say that…and my lovely better half will confirm that there are days where you can shift your work around creatively to open up lots of time when you need it. I think that’s one of the main misconceptions that comes into play. If I’m having a rough morning or I have things that need to get done that are more convenient to get done in the first half of the day, a lot of the times I’ll just let everybody know. I work with some very good managers that [INAUDIBLE 00:14:11] understand remote work and a lot of times, I’ll just shift that work to the evening. Right now, I don’t have any children, I just have a couple of dogs. That’s an available tactic for me. I think the ultimate flex time does fuel some of that misconception.

Ari Andrew, you started out your adventure getting into remote work, you were in Detroit. Somehow along the way, you made a transition and moved down to Tampa and got yourself a boat. What happened there?

Andrew [Laughs] It was a rough winter, a couple years ago. I had a really rough winter. It was the first year of the polar vortex. For the folks in the north that already know what that is, for the rest of the folks around the country, there is basically a bubble of very cold air that made its way much further south that year and just kind of hovered over the Midwest. Michigan is technically Midwest. We were on the outskirts of that bubble and it was just a terrible year for weather. I was sick all winter long, had been trying to get to Florida in the years past and it never panned out. I happen to love this state and I chose to plan out a trip. I wanted to move here. I didn’t know really anybody. I had relatives scattered around the state, but I’d been to Tampa and I liked it so I went on a couple of forums, city data, and some other stuff. I looked up what people recommended as the best places to live in the Tampa-Tampa Bay area. Using that I put together a six week trip, using Airbnb. I packed up my jeep, took the dog with me. I spent a week at a time in different parts of the Tampa Bay area. I met some phenomenal people. I was here for about a week and just knew that this was where I wanted to be. I ended up extending my trip another three weeks after that. The whole time, this ties into the remote thing because the entire time while I was doing this, I was able to continue working.

Jonathan We’ve talked to digital nomads in the past, but really you did your own workation.

Andrew Pretty much.

Jonathan There wasn’t hesitation like, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to have to get six weeks off from work to go do this.” You kind of really test-fit the culture of Tampa. You just brought your dog, job with you.

Andrew Exactly, I was able to find the exact neighborhood where I felt I fit best. I mentioned to other people before that, I think I could have settled in any of the areas, but it’s been a number of years. I think we’re four years after I moved and knowing what I know now about the area, that experience was so key because I picked the right spot. I think I was able to do that because I was actually fortunate enough to live in one neighborhood for an entire week. You know, you spend a day or two in a particular part of town, you don’t really get a feel for it.

Jonathan Yeah.

Andrew But if you stay a week or more, a couple of areas I actually doubled back and spent another week in, because I enjoyed them so much.

Jonathan So, transitioning topics a little bit here, what’s your schedule like for work? We’ve talked about this a little bit before, but how does that kind of play out for you?

Andrew So, officially, prior to acquisition by HBC, Gilt’s starting time was ten a.m. They’re east coast, I’m east coast, so eastern time. It worked out really well. I never really have had an end time, just because some days I’ll get done at four. I’ll have an intense day and get done at four and I’ll be a day ahead, so I’ll just [INAUDIBLE 00:18:15]. Other days I’ll end up working until eight or nine. Those are all by choice. So, post-acquisition, I believe HBC has a much different schedule for their employees. They are a very old-school corporate company. That culture in their tech department, or what they call digitals is changing. It’s evolving and I think that schedule is starting to dissipate somewhat. I do have folks that hit me up much earlier than ten a.m. now. To add a layer of complexity into that, we have an Irish office. There is a Gilt office in Dublin. They are five hours ahead of us.

Jonathan Oh man.

Andrew Yeah. So, my rule is moves from, pretty much a ten to six type of gig, to somewhat of an on-call, a very loosely on-call role. I had no issue with it. Nobody expects me to do anything, but if somebody hits me up after or before hours, as a courtesy I always try to take care of them. It’s really not unusual to have messages waiting for me from the folks in Ireland that were sent at five or six a.m. my time.

Jonathan I was going to say, I was doing my math here. If it’s eight a.m. in Ireland and they’re five hours ahead, that would make it three a.m. at your time.

Andrew Yeah, I mean, when they start, sometimes I’m just getting home from the bar, you know.

Jonathan Right, man. That’s definitely a challenge. In kind of summary, you go with a very fluid schedule and just kind of work as it comes in. Make sure that you also get time for you and all other stuff you have to get done.

Andrew Yeah, the work-life balance is something that I still maintain is paramount. I’ve had a lot of support in that with the management over the years. When I was interviewed, and this is something that I actually picked up at the company I worked with you at, the whole work-life balance thing is really important, but on top of that, the number one thing that I really think that remote employees need to bring to the table is availability. That’s not to say that somebody can interrupt your dinner, or expect you to jump out of the shower or something, but being available, at least in part, to communicate frequently is really, really key. What that does, like I said, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stop what you’re doing and take care of somebody, but if you’re able to communicate, that gives people reassurance that you’re there. It gives them reassurance in terms of when you can step back to the computer, you’re going to take care of them. You’re going to help these folks out. I do have a really, really flexible schedule and there are a lot of people to accommodate, but that availability is really key in all that.

Ari So Andrew, you talked a bit about that communication need of different locations, different offices, some people that are in that office and in different time zones and stuff. When you deal with that communication situation, what types of communication tools do you use? Also, do you find that your communication is real time and synchronous, or more asynchronous, that they send you a message, you message them back and so on?

Andrew You know, I’ve been in the industry for a while and remote for shoot, eight years now. The different tools that have gone in and out of popularity. I’ve used IRC in the past, Skype. I’ve used this tool, I don’t even know if they’re around anymore called Hall. Another one is HipChat, that Gilt used for a number of years. We just recently transitioned to Slack. Email is also a primary tool. Most of the stuff that I get from the folks in Ireland that’s way before our normal start time is through email. I always make sure that’s one of the first things I do in the morning, is I give that stuff priority and go through it. Also, everybody at work has my phone number. If anybody ever needs to hit me up in an emergency, they all know they can do it, but that very, very rarely happens.

Jonathan Yeah. So, how do you fight distractions as they come in and interrupt your schedule?

Andrew You know, a lot of people tell me, “Oh, I could never work from home because I’d be watching movies all day,” or “I’d never get anything done because I’d get taken away from the work too often.” I never understood that, because I embrace the distraction. I think it’s actually key to maintaining sanity, working at home. The distraction is part of every day. If you work in an open office, there’s even more distraction in the office than there is at home. For me, I have movies or Netflix or something running in the background constantly. There’s always something I can turn to to take my attention away, just for a few seconds. I have the dogs that are roaming around. There’s always noise going on outside. I live right behind some train tracks and there’s a train that goes through three times a day. For me, distraction is constant, but I think it’s all in how you embrace that. I try not to work more than two hours at a time. For me, that prevents burnout. It also allows me to take that time, to feed the distractions, grab a snack, watch part of a Badlands episode, play with the dogs, remember to take the dogs out for fear of what might happen otherwise. It’s all those kinds of things that I don’t want to fight the distraction. I want to embrace them. I want to make sure that I’m allowing my brain to switch gears, but at the same time making sure that I’m focused for a couple of hours at a time, to let me be actually productive.

Jonathan Yeah, and I think one of the things that I kind of came to, shortly after I started working from home, because it was around the time that our daughter was just a few months old, was realizing that one of the skills that I needed to improve on was the ability to jump in and out of work. I’ve been reading the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s an excellent book that talks about the productivity in going deep in work. My initial thought for it was, “Oh man, I’m never going to be able to do deep work. I work from home. Too many other things, the dogs have to be let out.” all that type of thing. But, really, it is possible that you can adapt and learn to where your concentration focuses again. You can jump in and out and address all these different things.

Andrew Yeah, I totally agree. It’s a skill you have to develop. I think it’s key in managing your time, as well. If you are inefficient at picking a task back up then you’re going to lose time and that’s going to eventually affect your time management for the day, then [INAUDIBLE 00:25:59] out into the week and the month, and…

Jonathan Yeah, it kind of snowballs from there.

Andrew Yeah, exactly. I mean, just to elaborate real quick, another technique that I use is that I make sure I schedule errands throughout the day, every day. If it’s either going to the grocery store or if I happen to go by my complex mailbox, I live in a small townhome complex. We have a common mailbox. If I happen to see there’s a little note there or a flag that I have a parcel or a package, I’ll just leave it there. I’ll leave it there for another two days, and I’ll make sure that’s one of the things I do two days from now. I’ll go down to the mailbox. For me, it’s key. It keeps my mind fresh. It keeps me from burning out. It’s also another tactic to break up the day.

Jonathan That’s a great tip.

Ari That’s a great way to break that up, if you never leave the house otherwise, it’s a great way to find a reason to. Speaking of time and working and figuring out ways to avoid burnout and being productive, is there a particular time of day or night, given your semi-flexible schedule that you find that you’re most productive and maybe you focus on the work during those hours?

Andrew Yes. When I’m not hungry.

Ari That is key.

Andrew I mean, seriously, I want to eat food. I love to cook. That’s also one of the things I do to break the day up. If I want food or I want to cook, I’m not getting work done. I can’t focus as well. I do a lot of work very in the morning. I don’t know if Jon remembers, but I used to be kind of a walking zombie too early in the morning. I hit my stride at about eleven a.m., so that’s when I say I’m fully conscious. If I sit down to work, if I happen to get up at eight one morning and I start working. I’ll get in the zone and crank out a bunch of stuff before eleven a.m. It’s that and it’s usually after eight or nine p.m. Right around then is when I can really focus, as well. Then, aside from that it’s just throughout the day. It usually is immediately preceding an Andrew feeding time.

Jonathan What’s your favorite meal to cook?

Andrew Oh man, you’re killing me.

Jonathan Getting personal here.

Andrew Yeah, this low carb thing, nine months ago…what I’ve been cooking is relatively boring. I will say scallops are one of my absolute favorite things to make. If you screw them up, then you need to eat the ones you screwed up and then you get to try again. If you do them right the first time, it’s like seafood butter.

Jonathan I have to say, being in Wisconsin, we don’t have exactly the coastal access for fresh seafood. We do have some seafood, but it’s just not the same.

Ari You’ve got plenty of fish, I’m sure. You’ve got three lakes.

Jonathan Yeah, we do have fish. That is true, but it’s your smaller pan fish. Well, I should say we have walleye and Muskie too, but those are not panfish, unless you have a ginormous pan. Andrew, how many people do you collaborate with, and is everyone remote? Is it a hybrid or a mix or are you the only one that’s remote? How does that play out?

Andrew When I started at Gilt’s, I think it will be four years in May. When I started there, I was one of a dozen remote workers. That doesn’t include offshore contractors. We had many more of those at the time. Right around the HBC acquisition, I think we had all of four left. Then, with going under HBC, they don’t really have a policy of supporting remote workers. It’s more of a traditional corporate environment. Remote employees are still somewhat of a novelty, a new concept. With some more supportive management, my team has actually hired two new remote employees. I think there’s a general shift. We’ve been trying to hire some more traditional roles that are in New York. When that wasn’t going as fast as some folks had liked, I suggested hiring remote employees because Tampa happens to be an excellent tech town. It’s a smaller town, but there’s still a lot of tech going on here. There’s a lot of folks who are looking for work still. I suggested it as an option and it was immediately shot down. I’m not sure that the company as a whole is as remote friendly as we would like, but there definitely is some friendly management that likes the idea and is actively pursuing it, if the candidate fits a role.

Ari That’s great. So, moving along though, you said you started out doing some jQuery, and that’s what got you into the world. You were involved in some online communities for that. At this point, what do you do, now that you’re remote, what do you do for continuing personal development, and also, your bigger skill sets beyond just that jQuery we did talk about, did you gain those skills and that experience, all those other things in traditional settings and apply them to remote or did you learn some new skills to be remote?

Andrew I initially wanted nothing to do with jobs with development and customer facing development. I think I’m far enough removed from that first job, I can say this publically now.

Jonathan Uh-oh.

Andrew I was writing a platform application with C# in college. I had been competing directly with a company in Detroit. I was taking sales from them at the time. I was a competitor. Mind you, this was something I was writing when I got back from the pub in college at 2 a.m.

Jonathan That’s when some of the best code is written though.

Ari That’s how Facebook came into being.

Andrew So, it’s amazing what beer can fuel. They took note of it and they offered me a job. I drove back down to Detroit and met with them. They wanted me to do web development. At the time, I knew enough regularity old-school asp to hurt myself, you know. I had only learned that out of necessity, because I needed a web presence for stuff. When I sat down with them, I basically BS’d them in an interview and convinced them that I knew ASP.NET, because I knew C#. They gave me the job to stop me, to keep me from writing [INAUDIBLE 00:33:42]

Ari So, it was hush money, basically.

Andrew It was a hush job, yeah. That’s where I really picked up the web development stuff. I went right into the fire on it. I took to it. I only learned the front end stuff because it was a necessity, because the stuff there at the time was so bad. I wanted it to be better. That kind of was the spark to the insatiable, “I must know more, I must do this better,” the kind of mantra that I picked up from there. There’s a Ruby all start right now, his name is Nick Quaranto, he’s a great guy. I believe he is now in Germany or something. At the time, he was an intern at this company and he was trying to push jQuery when jQuery wasn’t big. He’s the one who got it introduced to that company. As an intern, I will give him credit where credit is due. He’s the one who got me to take a look at that stuff and that kind of spiraled. Going into my next position, I wanted more of a front end focus and I was able to expand on that whole mantra of, “I must know more, this must be better.” That’s when I got involved with jQuery. Like when I got a project scale. From there, all of the new stuff I’ve picked up has been out of self necessity. I wanted to know how something worked or I wanted to replicate something cool that I saw. It was never something where I had a company mandate that said we want to do this new innovative thing. When you work with a consultancy, it’s very difficult to convince them that doing something in a riskier way, or something that’s brand new that’s risky is worthwhile. The company I worked at with you, Jonathan, that was always pushed. If you have a new idea, let’s use it.

Jonathan That was one of the things that was a lot of fun during that time because of the wide variety of project work that we were doing. I mean, sometimes a client would come to us and say, “You have to use this technology,” and it was one that we hadn’t used before. It was a newer and upcoming thing, “Oh sure, we’ll jump into that.” That was one aspect that was great, is you’re really getting a broad sampling in a consultancy, multi-project type environment.

Andrew Agreed. It’s unique for a consultancy too. Yeah, but more so to the question, the skills that I’ve picked up really have been, I don’t know how to say it with the right verbiage, it’s not necessarily self-taught because we have great tools like Stack Overflow and everything else, you know CodePen and jsFiddle before that. They were all my own individual motivation to look into the different technologies and the different skill sets I picked up. A great example of that is when I interviewed at Gilt in 2013, the very last interview, the gatekeeper to the job, I had asked them if they were interested in Node at all, Node.js, because I had been very curious about it and I wanted to do more with it. I was told at the time that Node would never be a thing at Gilt.

Jonathan That’s a no.

Andrew That’s a big no, buddy. There was fierce resistance to it at the time, but fast forward two years after that and another guy and myself sat down and wrote the Node framework, which has evolved in other people’s hands since then, but that framework is now responsible for two-thirds of Gilt’s website.

Jonathan Whoa. So you could say it’s making money for them now.

Andrew Oh yeah, yeah. It is. The folks that that framework had been put in their hands have done great things with it since then. Again, more to the point, a lot of the new stuff that I picked up and a lot of the skills that I picked up have come out of personal curiosity and wanting to see what can be done versus being just a remote thing or being like a traditional company thing. It’s all been in my wheelhouse here.

Jonathan So what do you see your long-term career path being?

Andrew Interesting question, because this just recently came up. I was exploring other opportunities about six months ago, because I wasn’t sure that HBC was going to be the right spot for me. I interviewed with around 30 different companies, all remote positions. I could speak for hours about the different experiences with these folks, but it really showed me that I don’t know what the senior engineer role has to offer. After you’ve been doing it for like 10 or 15 years, you really have to dig deep to try and find something that’s unique. That really got me thinking about what my career path is, because I just turned 38, I’m staring down the barrel of 40 and I’m about to approach old man status. It’s blowing my mind. I’m like, do I want to be a developer for the next 20 years? Again, I have some excellent management, some excellent leads ahead of me at HBC right now. We talked about this the other week and there is a role that is kind of newly accepted in the last couple of years, at least as far as I’ve heard it. The step above senior now is called principal. You’re a principal developer. What a principal developer basically is, in Gilt and HBC’s terms, is somebody who is a thought leader. I’m loathe to use that term, because I think it’s abused. Within the confines of the company, within your niche in the community, you do all that you can to contribute to the community, to the open source community, whatever that may be for you. You do speaking when you’re able, if that’s your thing. You publish when you can. You really drive, you work on a daily basis to drive the technology, existing and new technology at the company, forward in a direction where it is not presently. In addition to that, part of the role is really being, not necessarily support, but really being a technology advocate and supporter within other teams. The key there is apparently people can always come to you if they have a question, because you’ll have an intelligent or supportive answer. You’ll have an idea of where to go. I guess you could say idea man is part of it. Then, you take up initiatives as a lead of initiatives to really drive those through and finish those. That principal developer role is something that I’m taking a look at. That’s an option. That is parallel to what you might call the management track, where a management track at the same level might be a team lead, where you have ten or so, maybe a dozen folks that you lead through initiatives on a regular basis. For me, I would love to end up…ideally I would love to try to get into a CTO role at some point in the future. I don’t know if that’s something I would be prepared for now. I don’t know what additional skills I need to develop in order to be in that spot, but I’ve identified that as something I want to work towards and a CTO role in terms of being that technology leader, not necessarily a people manager.

Ari You know, you did take advantage, you mentioned earlier, how you took advantage of working remote and took that workation. You traveled around Tampa and ended up in Tampa. Do you travel much now, maybe just as a digital nomad or perhaps does your job require you because you do have offices in various locations, are you required to travel to those?

Andrew We do. Our primary office is in New York. When I first started at Gilt, I was in New York once a quarter, which is not bad. New York is a fine town. Now I’m in New York about twice a year, and that isn’t so much a requirement, as a you should probably do this so people don’t forget who you are.

Jonathan That’s a good strategy.

Ari That’s always important.

Jonathan You’ve got to make sure that they keep paying you and someone doesn’t go through and just clean up payroll once like, “Who’s this guy?”

Andrew Face time is really important no matter how long you’ve been working remote. For most people, face time is required. There’s a difference between jumping on Skype or Slack and having a video call and being able to see somebody’s face and read their reactions and stuff. That’s wonderful and I’m glad that we live in that day and age, but being in the office and slapping somebody on the back or being able to laugh with them there in the moment. You see body language and you’re really able to interact with somebody physically, that’s important for anybody that’s remote. Twice a year, I would like it if it were more, but twice a year seems to be working out pretty well. In terms of the digital nomad thing, I haven’t so much since I moved down to Florida. I think it’s because it’s still pretty new and I’m so happy here. I got a good buddy in Dallas. I go to Dallas for anything, pretty much whenever I want. I just take the laptop with me. It’s no harm, no foul. As far as they’re concerned, you’re still on, you’re still working and everybody can meet with you, just as they always do. I did go back to Michigan two years ago to clear out all my stuff out of a house I still had up there. I was able to work while I was up there. We recently went to Georgia over Christmastime. The company wasn’t technically off, even though nobody was doing much, but I took my laptop with me there and I answered a few emails while I was up there. You can do that. You have that freedom. I go down to visit my folks every once in a while and I’ll work from there if I stay the night. That freedom still exists. It’s something I do occasionally.

Ari So Andrew, if people want to connect with you online, what’s a good place for them to connect with you?

Andrew Well, it really depends what they’re looking for.

Ari That’s a great question. Let’s pick Twitter. Twitter is fairly universal.

Andrew Yeah, yeah, Twitter. My handle on there is shellscape, S-H-E-L-L-S-C-A-P-E. That goes way back to the early days when I first got started with programming in general. That goes back to ‘99, when I was involved in the Windows alt Chelsea. We could do a whole other podcast.

Jonathan We should do a retrospective episode on remote working in the nineties, what it would be like.

Andrew That would be dial up speed and crazy tones. Yeah, that’s my primary contact for anything that’s revolving around development, tech, and all that stuff.

Ari Excellent. We’ll put in for links in the show notes.

Andrew My other social media accounts are just my shenanigans. They in no way link to work at all.

Jonathan Excellent. Well Andrew, thanks so much for joining us today and for this conversation. Really appreciated it.

Andrew Yeah, no worries, it’s been great.

Jonathan So, this next section of the show is called What’s the Buzz? where we talk about news and tips and things of interest to those of you working remote. Ari, why don’t you kick us off?

Ari Sure. Well, today I’ve got another website called It’s not a service that I’ve actually had the opportunity to try myself yet, but the basic way it works is that it’s a bot that calls into your conference calls or any phone calls you have at all, conference calls or otherwise, and listens in, records them, and then the service will transcribe all of that for you so you can have an extended long conference call and then be able to search that later, word for word. It happens to be, like I said, I haven’t had an opportunity to try it yet, but one way that they keep confidentiality, which of course might be a big concern for some people, somebody listening to your whole conference call, is their editing team, who does the transcription is distributed.

Jonathan So like, they distribute portions of the call?

Ari Well, they’re distributed in terms of remote work and they’re distributed in the sense that their editors never hear more than approximately 15 seconds or so of your call.

Jonathan Whoa, that’s actually very interesting.

Ari What they do, is they actually transcribe it automatically with some speech-to-text software and then they go ahead and have editors review it, so they get that human eye to go ahead and say, “Well that doesn’t make any sense. He didn’t say that.” We all know, we’ve tried some text-to-speech when we’re on the go with our cell phones and texting and weird things come out.

Jonathan Oh, yes. It’s still an area of improvement. My favorite one was, it was a Saturday and we have horses that are at a barn and I had talked into my cell phone and said, “I’m on my way to the barn.” Except it came out as, “I’m on my way to the bar.” It was like, noon on a Saturday. My wife texted back and she goes, “Well, you have fun with that now.” So, I ended up at the barn, not at the bar. I guess I had permission to go to the bar.

Ari I would have gone.

Jonathan Yeah. So, my What’s the Buzz? this week is the standing desk. I have gotten to use this in practice. I purchased their do-it-yourself kit, so it’s just the frame portion of it. You build your own desktop, but it’s a powered standing desk. It has a memory function so you basically hit a button and the desk will go from whatever height you want all the way up to standing height, which for me at six foot five is fairly tall. It works out great and it’s very economical and affordable compared to other standing desks. All combined, the standing desk that I built cost me about $500, including all the wood for the top, compared to some other models that are out there where things can go north of $1500 pretty quick. This was solid quality. I highly recommend it. We’ll put links to them in the show notes. Also, a link to an Instagram photo of my desk and what it looks like.

Ari Quite a beauty. You did a fine job with it.

Jonathan Thank you. Thank you. It’s been in the works for a number of years, as I’ve built my first desk for home about eight years ago and have been mentally chewing on how to improve it and what I’d want it to look like. When I had the opportunity to build this one, I went all out. My goal is for it to last me at least ten years.

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