Josh Roley / HomeCoders.com
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Jonathan Well I think I say on every episode that we just keep ticking them away. This is episode 12. Hard to believe. It feels like a milestone. There's 12 months in a year, but we're releasing every two weeks, so that doesn't work out. We'll end on episode 26.
Jonathan To end out the year, if my math is correct. It's exciting to be back. Our guest today, Josh Roley, of homecoders.com is well-versed in the remote work and helping people connect with that. It's my pleasure to welcome Josh to the podcast. Starting off, why don't you give us an overview of where you currently live. We were chatting about your internet connection before we started recording here and what homecoders.com does and how it started.
Josh Absolutely, yeah. It's great to be here guys. I currently live in rural North Carolina, about 45 minutes west of Winston-Salem. We've been here about six months and loved it. We were from Michigan before that. It was a very enjoyable winter down here. Yeah, I started HomeCoders in the spring of 2013, so it's right about the four year mark. HomeCoders is a recruiting firm that specializes in remote software positions. I essentially work as a recruiting partner with various clients. Mainly they are small to medium sized companies that are growing, but they're not large enough to have their own recruiting team in-house, so I partner with them. It's been a lot of fun.
Jonathan So Josh, how many people do you have that you've currently placed and how many different companies are you working with?
Josh Yes, well I have about 20 clients right now. Many of them are not hiring regularly, so I try to work it out in a way where I'm still able to handle that load. Typically, kind of a goal for a year is about 20 placements. That's typically my target. That can be either full-time direct placements or contract-to-hire placements.
Ari Josh, what's your why? We ask this of a lot of people. Why for you is remote work such a good thing?
Josh I am very passionate about remote work. For me, it's about the family. We are a homeschooling family and we have have seven children. My wife and I, early on in our marriage just kind of caught a vision for that. I had started to work from home a couple days a week at my previous company. We just saw that as what we wanted. HomeCoders was kind of a vision for us to be able to live that out as a family. Also, the desire was to help others do the same thing. That's my why. I just love having a presence here in the home and being close to the family.
Jonathan That's excellent. Congratulations on seven kids. I think we can scratch the question if you get lonely at home.
Josh That's true. We have a lot of fun.
Jonathan What's your work office environment like they're at home? How does that kind of play out with your family?
Josh It was very important before we made the move, was to find a house that had a good home office set-up. That's really a priority, to have a door and be able to have a separate work area. I've got a nice sized office. I've started to use a standing desk which has been really helpful. I kind of switch back and forth sitting at the desk, standing up. I've got a whiteboard on the wall. It's just a really comfortable set-up.
Jonathan Are you down in a basement or kind of on a main level? Do you have windows?
Josh Yes. I'm on the main level. I have a window. In our house in Michigan I had two windows and it was great because it was on the second story. I was able to see the yard and see where the children would play. It was just kind of a beautiful view.
Jonathan Excellent and your internet connection, like I said we were talking about this before we started recording here. You, I think, have the fastest internet connection of anyone we've had on the show so far.
Josh Yeah, it's amazing. It's a hundred Mbps fiber connection here in rural North Carolina which is pretty amazing.
Jonathan We've joked many times, but that is not the same rural as rural Wisconsin here. Not anywhere close to 100 Mbps, up or down. It makes a difference.
Ari How do you deal with distractions? You said you have a big family. That was covered. I know that can be a distraction. Kids coming and going. You have a, I don't know, maybe you have some pets. I don't think we brought up whether or not you do. How do you deal with those distractions coming and going when you want to get work in, or need to get work in, for that matter. How do you avoid them? Is it a closed door policy? Does that work? Do you have times that work better to avoid the distractions? What distractions are there? You said kids, pets. What kind of big distractions do you have in your day?
Josh Family is obviously a potential distraction, although I choose to see them as a blessing. We have had to set up some protocols. I basically try to stick to a nine to five schedule. I don't always stick to that because I sometimes have early morning calls or evening calls if a candidate needs that. That's kind of the work schedule. Then, they just know to be very careful with the door and to knock if needed. Or, my wife just texts me if she really needs something urgent. Something else that has been really helpful for me is having some white noise. I used to use a fan, but then I ended up getting an air purifier. It's quite loud. It just kind of drowns out any of the ambient noise from the homeschooling down the hall. That I think has been a big help for me to stay focused.
Jonathan Definitely all those little things help. The organized schedule, the way to shut out noise from the rest of the house, those are all good, helpful tips there.
Josh There are times when our little 20 month old will wander in with a big smile on her face, her arms wide open for her daddy. I just can't see that as a distraction. It's just [INAUDIBLE 00:07:55] too amazing and wonderful. You can't put a price tag on it.
Ari Both Jonathan and I are parents. Jonathan with his wife expecting as well, I think we can all appreciate that moment as something special. Do you have a way from blocking out those kids from coming in? Is a closed door generally a rule for them?
Josh It is, yeah. If I have a call scheduled, I typically will go and lock the door too, just in case. They are all trained pretty well to not barge in.
Jonathan Did you learn that technique of locking the door before or after the international BBC interview?
Josh Before, but that was hilarious.
Jonathan So you've avoided that situation so far?
Josh So far, but I did when I saw that, I brought the whole family into my office and we watched it together and got a good laugh out of it.
Jonathan I was grateful. I mean, you work from home, you've got small kids. Sometimes clothes don't follow them and so they come wandering in stark naked. I was grateful for that guy's sake that his kids were clothed. So switching a little bit here, rather than talking specifically about your work environment, because it sounds fairly standard from a remote perspective. We are privileged to have a recruiter with us today. I want to talk about recruiting and remote work and kind of pick your brain about that. For someone that is looking to work remote, what do you see as the most important skill or trait on their resume?
Josh I know this is kind of an obvious answer, but prior experience with remote work is a real plus. Some of that is just simply for yourself too, to just know if you're wired that way and if you will enjoy working remote. That is something that employers are looking for, someone that has been able to demonstrate experience with that, even if it's just a couple days a week or one day a week, just knowing that you're able to be productive that way. I think another trait that is so crucial is self-control. Just to have self-control and to be disciplined and to be productive and not be easily distracted. I know there's different philosophies out there about self-control, but I personally believe it is something that can be developed. If you just know about yourself that you aren't able to do that, you may not be successful working from home.
Jonathan I think that's very true. In regards to self-control, when you're in an office environment, there are times where it's easy to be more social and things like that. I noticed when I started working from home, I had less opportunity to be social with co-workers and things like that, so it was like, "I need to keep working. I'm on the clock." For me, work went from a 40 hour a week, or 40 to 45 hours a week to 40 hours a week and that was an intense 40 hours a week. It's been incredibly rewarding being able to stay focused and hunker down like that.
Ari Sure, I definitely hear that from a lot of people that go into the remote work world that they find themselves working even more than 40 hours a week, a lot more, because they just go heads down. There's nobody around to socialize and they just zone in hardcore. So, continuing on the recruiting track, is there a specific type of opportunity that you'd recommend for someone who's looking for their first remote job?
Josh I think it would really depend on the person and kind of where they are in their career. Most of the companies I work with are looking for senior level developers. If someone is a senior developer, I think there will be a lot of opportunities for them, even if they don't have remote experience there would be ways to develop that and just test to see if they're able to do that. For someone who is just getting started it's a lot more challenging to find those opportunities. I actually have a lot of those conversations with people. I generally actually recommend that they would go and work in an office for a few years, just because there is an ability to just much more rapidly grow and develop your skills when you're working right next to people, especially to be mentored. That's just generally what I recommend.
Jonathan That was kind of my experience. I had a number of years in the corporate world working in the traditional way, prior to jumping remote. I feel that that foundation was really a solid foundation for being successful remote, because you understand the office culture and professional culture and how to conduct yourself. That transfers over to remote where it's even more important because you have to be so intentional about your communication and your productivity and your focus. It was kind of a boot camp. I think it also made me appreciate remote work that much more. On days where it's rough working from home and I'm like, "Oh, this is frustrating, but I could be in a cube right now." That keeps that attitude in check real quick.
Ari You know, I think I've seen similar kind of feeling also from in terms of experience with the job listings that I've seen for remote work. A lot of the listings in the remote work job boards and so on, they do seem to always be for more higher level in terms of development or any other kind of work. They do expect _[INAUDIBLE 00:14:25]_experience. I think that Jonathan and I touched on this in a previous episode when we were talking about, you're looking for that remote job, or was that...I don't remember what episode number that was. We discussed that, the whole idea of having that experience and being able to show it somehow online, whether as a developer at GitHub or whatever it might be.
Jonathan I think one aspect of it too is, as you progress forward in your career and become more and more senior level, in some ways that market is a lot more competitive. In the developer space, specifically, there's a high demand for senior level experience developers. There's less of them concentrated in one particular area. You're going to have to go much wider and further for them. So, Josh, the clients that you work with, when they're looking to do a placement, are they traditionally all in an office setting and they're augmenting their team with a remote person or is it more part of their culture? Are they themselves remote? Do they understand remote when they come to you or are you helping to educate them in how to make remote successful?
Josh It's been both. My ideal client is one who has fully embraced remote work and it's a remote-first culture. There are some clients that are, part of the team is co-located and part of the team is remote. I've had other situations where I've actually helped coach clients in how to structure their way of working to be more remote friendly. I've seen that work as well. Yeah, my ideal client, it would be one that's a remote-first culture.
Jonathan For the people that you end up placing, when you find them, are you primarily placing people that have worked remote before or do you find someone that's really skilled on a particular area and say, "Hey, this is remote opportunity, let's see how this would fit." How does that kind of break down for you?
Josh It's both. Ideally, the candidates that I would be talking to have worked remotely before. It just seems like the network I'm building is of developers and designers are people that want to work remotely. That's their desire, is to find a remote position. Some of them have done that in the past, some of them haven't. I typically am primarily looking for a skill set and culture match for the company. Then we can, if they haven't worked remotely before, we can talk through that. They may not be at the top of the list of candidates, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we wouldn't pursue that opportunity together.
Ari That sounds good. So, continuing on this path, everybody working whether in an office or remote, has different softwares, different systems, different strategies for enhancing productivity. We'll often find that while some of these cross over between the remote work and the commuter job, some of them are particularly useful in that environment where you're sitting there all alone in your home office or dining room table or wherever you might be. Do you have any particular systems, strategies, softwares, and so on that you recommend for people that are going into remote work or are already in remote work?
Josh I generally don't. I can recommend a lot of the tools that are very popular that many companies are using. The clients kind of have their own set of tools that they use. I don't generally recommend anything specific.
Ari Okay. You find that tools and systems that people have tend to cross over pretty well from whatever commuter jobs they have into the remote work world?
Josh Not necessarily. A lot of it is just changing your mindset. I mean, tools are a big part of it, but some of it is kind of like, what I recommend for a company that's been co-located and they're trying to break into remote work is to start with the senior leadership and literally have them work remotely themselves. When they're kind of eating their own dog food or they're kind of experiencing the pain, that somebody who's working remotely experiences, they will identify the pain points and fix them. If they don't make that a priority. If the leadership says, "Hey, hire me the best talent," but they're not willing to change some of the tools and some of the practices and just the culture to make it successful, it's probably going to fail. That's something I recommend is just have everybody work from home at least one day a week for a period of time and identify those things that are difficult. If they're spending a lot of time in front of the white board. They're not doing a great job of detailing the things that were discussed in that room, then they have to think about the people that are remote and what do they need to know to be successful. Otherwise, if you're the only remote person in the company, you can feel pretty isolated and you're not going to keep that talent.
Jonathan What type of businesses are you working with? Are they businesses that are very tech focused? Is tech just a requirement for the business that they do and they're bringing in...where do they fall in that spectrum?
Josh Most of my clients are either agencies, you know, consultancies or Saas companies. I have not worked with too many companies that are just a general business with an IT department hiring developers. I do have a few clients like that, but primarily working with agencies and Saas companies.
Jonathan Okay. So, since you started HomeCoders a number of years ago, what trends have you seen play out with remote work? How has that kind of shifted and where do you see it going moving forward?
Josh Yeah, that's interesting. I was kind of reflecting on that at our four year anniversary. When I started HomeCoders, I had seen the trend. I had been working, my previous company, we were building software teams in India. I had been doing that for a long time. I had been kind of following the remote work trend for almost 15 years now. I saw it. I saw where it was going and I remember back when I started HomeCoders, I knew that Jason Fried and DHH were going to be releasing their book, Remote, that fall. I really, I thought that was going to be a real inflection point. Actually about the same time that I was starting HomeCoders, the whole Yahoo with Marissa Mayer kind of cancelling the telecommuting policy for Yahoo. That was just happening. It was kind of erupting on the internet about is telecommuting dead? I saw past that. It didn't worry me at all. I thought people were going to wake up eventually and see this trend come through. I think we have seen that. I think, and I'm only really focusing on the tech industry, so I don't really know a lot about remote work outside of that, but obviously, the biggest trend in remote work is just simply the lack of talent. People are trying to attack that from all kinds of different angles to find talent. I think that's the biggest driving force of remote work is just the fact that companies are needing to find a way to attract that talent. That's one way to do so.
Jonathan I think too, you talk about the economy over the past number of years and there's opinions everywhere. I think even when there are harder economic times, there are greater opportunities that come along with that. I think one of the things that I have started seeing with remote work is that companies are getting more specific for a particular skill set. They're getting more selective in their hiring. I think that makes remote work more attractive to them too, because they have a much larger talent pool. I'm curious to see how this plays out over the coming years. I mean, at the time of this recording, IBM is kind of making a huge splash in the remote work with pulling everyone back into their offices. That's another large, large entity that's heading the other direction. That's what they see they need to do to be successful going forward. I wish them the best. I'm also glad I don't work for them right now.
Ari Kind of continuing on the trend idea a bit here, how do you see remote work specifically impacting families?
Josh I think I touched on it earlier a little bit, but just that really is my passion and why I get so excited about it. As I think about where we are in history, I see this as just an amazing opportunity for families to be reunited for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. Back in the Industrial Revolution, Dad went away to the factory and then after World War II, Mom went away as well. The family just went in different directions. Now, I think, in our culture we're just seeing a breakdown of the family. I think there's all kinds of negative fruit playing out in society from that. I see remote work creating opportunity for families to have a successful career and to see the home as the economic center for the family again. I'm particularly passionate about fatherhood because the average dad in the US only spends 7.3 hours a week with his kids. In my opinion, that's really sad. I think there's all kinds of statistics out there about the damage of fatherlessness. I know there's so many different factors behind it. One out of three children in the US is being raised without their father in the home. That just has societal impact. It's huge. It's something that I'm excited about the potential of families being reunited because 7.3 hours a week just, you know. You can talk about having quality time, but my belief is that quality time comes from quantity time. If you want to have a relationship with someone, you need to have time to build that relationship. I think that's so critical. Maybe I'm giving a long answer, but there's an article, maybe you can put in the show notes, that I remember reading on LinkedIn a few years ago. The title was, Is Your Kid Worth a Hundred Million Dollars? It was just an excellent article. He talked about how he talked to a lot of his friends in Silicon Valley. He did not have one friend that they'd be willing to sell a child for a hundred million dollars, but his point was...
Jonathan That's encouraging.
Josh No kidding, isn't it? But the thing is, his point was that you can say that your child is worth more than one hundred million dollars to you, but how do your day to day actions demonstrate that? If everything else in your life, if your career is more important than them, are your choices demonstrating that value that you say you place on your kids? I just think that's excellent. I want to make them a priority, make that relationship with them a priority. I love to see other people do that as well.
Jonathan That's excellent. Josh, thank you so much for coming on the show here. If people want to connect with you, I'm assuming homecoders.com is the best place to reach out.
Josh That would be great. Yep. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Excellent. Well, in this next portion of the show, called What's the Buzz? Ari and I discuss happenings and news and tips and tricks. Ari, do you want to kick us off?
Ari Sure, so there's a website out there, flexjobs.com, which is not the tip here, actually. It just happens to be a great website that focuses on the whole idea of remote work, hence the name of being flexible in the job. They published, just towards the end of March, an article called, Top 15 States With the Most Telecommuting Jobs. It's interesting, it's actually not, per se, work from home or work remote, it's a telecommuting idea, which means maybe you do have to be near the office and go in occasionally. As we kind of discussed today, actually, sometimes that's a good way to get a feel for remote work without actually going fully remote. They have a listing of different states and the companies in those states that are suggested for this telecommuting type of work.
Jonathan That's excellent. Looking at this article here, California is the top state.
Jonathan They have lots of traffic, so I think that goes hand in hand. What's interesting about this list is that these are some pretty big name companies, such as Dell and Volkswagen, Toyota, Wells Fargo, Xerox. These are not small jobs. These are really career focused jobs.
Ari Definitely all these companies on this list are major companies. They all, according to them, have telecommuting opportunities. I haven't taken the time to actually go through and check up on what's available in the different companies, but they're definitely out there. Actually, it's interesting, you say California's first. It's also interesting to note, the three companies that they put next to California here, none of the three ring a bell, at least to me as any of the major Silicon Valley companies which people usually associate with California.
Ari Yeah, that is true. I don't see Facebook on the list here, that's for sure.
Jonathan Excellent. We'll include the link to that in the show notes. I think one thing worth noting too is I believe FlexJobs, if you want to look at specific jobs with them, they are a subscription based service. I have not used them. I can't vouch one way or another, but definitely a resource to check out. So my pick for the week is a little tool called Cloud App. It's extremely useful when working remote because it allows you to quickly take a screen capture of a portion of your screen. I use this multiple times a day when I'm working. If you're working through a problem or you want to share a snippet or a picture of whatever it is that you're working on with someone else via Slack or Chat, that type of thing. You can quickly just snap a portion of the screen and it creates a link automatically, adds it to your quickboard, uploads it for you. Then you can paste that link to your colleague and they can see the picture that you did. It works with screenshots. It works with files. It's a slick little app. I believe it's cross-platform too. It's MAC-OS and Windows. We'll put a link to that in the show notes.
Ari Yes it is cross-platform. I can say that because right now I'm on my Windows computer and I'm pretty sure this laptop has it installed. Yes, I do like to install that app on every computer that I do set up. It's very useful.
Jonathan There's a free version of it and a paid version. The free version is actually very useful. It's not highly crippled like some free versions are. Something worth checking out.
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