The Cheeky Monkey Media Blog

A few words from the apes, monkeys, and various primates that make up the Cheeky Monkey Super Squad.

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When I was presented with the task of writing my first blog for Cheeky Monkey, the first thought that came to my mind (after the initial ‘crawl under a rock’ impulse) was to write about one of my encounters trying to wrestle with the tiny Drupal demons that lift their heads every now and then. A problem-solution tutorial, I thought!

However, a casual discussion with my PM, Justin, opened my eyes to something much more interesting.  He asked me “Shabana, why don’t you write about your experiences as a remote employee”?  Hmm…  After a bit of pondering, it seemed like the perfect way to start my blog diaries for Cheeky Monkey Media.  So here goes…

I am Shabana Navas. The first cross-continental remote employee at Cheeky Monkey.  I am not just on another continent, I work from the other side of the planet!  Thirteen and a half hours separate CMM and me.  When the guys start their work in the morning in Canada, I am in my pajamas getting ready to go to sleep here in India.  As different as we are and as difficult as the separation might seem, I think the monkeys would agree that we’ve managed to make things work smoothly.

The regimen for maintaining a good remote relationship is simple: be ready to be flexible and always plan ahead.  I don’t think I need to go too in-depth about the advantages of working remotely.  But more than anything, working remotely has given me more freedom and allowed me to spend more time with my family, especially my two daughters, who constantly need me for just about everything!  I can choose my hours and I can determine where I want to work, which is awesome.  Also, an added advantage is that I can feel good about doing my part for the environment by not contributing CO2 emissions on my day to and from work.

My day starts off with getting the kids ready and dropping them off at school and getting back home by 9:00 am.  After having a short breakfast, I start my work day.  A few minutes of checking emails and catching up with the day’s news, then it’s off to my Jira tickets, which I ensure are all ready to go during the previous day’s meeting with my PMs.

A couple of hours later, I take a short break to reboot myself, and then it’s back to work again at 1:30 pm.  From then onwards, I work away, with usually minimal interruptions which allow me to wind up most of my Jira tickets for the day. I typically finish up my work day at 5:30 pm then go back to my ‘other’ job, being Supermom to my kids.

So you ask, where does the flexibility and comprising part come in?  Well, before the end of the day, while everyone’s asleep, (which is the time when I’m the most focused), I catch up with my team in Canada. This includes reading all the informative and at most times, hilarious Skype messages the monkey’s post (including the bathroom jokes!), going through our Scrum meetings, discussing with my PMs the day’s tickets and what tasks need to be done the following day, fixing any immediate bugs, etc.  Then a little bit of TV before sleep and I call it a day!

As a remoter, the greatest advantage for me is that I can be home for everything and still be effective in my work.  Sure, I miss not being able to play Fooseball with my Canadian co-workers, (I seriously would have been a force to be reckoned with!), or conversing one on one with the guys next to the water-cooler (do developers actually do that?), but I honestly believe if we plan things correctly, it won’t hold us back.  Also, I’ve just been lucky to have an awesome team at CMM who’s been really supportive and understanding.  Kudos to you guys!!

In essence, if you’re an employee or PM looking for a developer, a remote relationship can be a successful option if you apply the right ingredients.  My top points for a successful remote relationship:

  • A capable laptop
  • A good and stable Internet connection
  • A good issue tracking software like Jira
  • A good time logging system like Harvest
  • A stress-free environment to work from (whether it’s the local coffee shop or your home)
  • A nice support group (whether it’s family or coworkers)
  • The ability to be flexible and understanding of your employer’s needs
  • Finally and most importantly, commitment (both ways) towards making the remote relationship work!