Thursday Aug 25, 2005


So I have a quiet sigh every time I exit the freeway, only to see one of those real cheap "work from home and make enormous sums of money" signs. In 2001 I became a full time work-from-home Sun employee, and it's not the panacea that those signs make it out to be, nor is it anything like what someone who has never done so might imagine. So here now are some interesting tidbits about it:

James Falkner's official Working from Home FAQ

Q: How can I work from home too?

First, decide if you _really_ want to work from home by reading the rest of this FAQ.

Q: OK, I really want to work from home. Now what?

Well, I really only have experience doing this with one company, so YMMV(Your Mileage May Vary). Build some confidence in your boss that you can be independent. Ask about working from home one day a week. Be available in all possible ways (Phone, IRC, IM, Cell, {insert stupid technology that someone thinks is cool for communicating that I don't know about here}). Get copious amounts of work done (which requires that your job requirements can conceivably be covered at home). Do this for a long time (6 months or so, until it is known that you always WFH(Work From Home) a certain day a week). Then, gradually do it twice in a week every so often. Rinse. Repeat. Then pop the question. Of course it doesn't hurt if you are either an excellent employee, or one that has knowledge that would be a serious bummer to lose to the corporation.

Q: What's it like working from home?

This is the question I get asked most often. To tell you the truth, it's about the same as working from an office. Sure, there are perks, but there are also drawbacks. Read on

Q: Is it difficult to make yourself get up each day and work?

Is it difficult for \*you\* to do the same? Honestly, it's the same. If you are a motivated employee, you will tend to work efficiently no matter where you are. If you are a slacker, you'll probably sleep in and work 4 hours a day, and it'll show, the same way it shows when office-bound employees spend most of their time chatting in hallways, getting coffee, anything to avoid real work. I tend to adjust my schedule to fit around the US/Pacific timezone, since the majority of my colleagues are in that timezone. So on the days that I have late meetings, I tend to start working around 10 or 11am and work until around 8pm US/Eastern. Other days I start around 8am and work until 6pm. The perk here is that I can adjust my schedule, but then again I would do the same as an office employee who has to interact with other timezones on a regular basis.

Q: Do you "get dressed for work" each day?

I try to make sure and take a shower and shave once a month. Cuts down on laundry.

Q: Isn't it a distraction to have your [Television|Refrigerator|Backyard|Car] so accessible?

It's all about motivation. Motivated employees will work. Unmotivated slackers will eat bon-bons and watch soaps while dreaming of that married w/children episode with Jim Jupiter: The Healthiest Man in Chicago episode.

Q: So what are the downsides?

Being full-time remote, you're never in your boss's office or their boss's office. They never see you at all-hands-type meetings. You never run into them in the lunch line. Therefore you have to make a concerted effort to be 'known' so that at raise/promotion time they think of poor ole you slaving away :) Also, career advancement is tougher for remote employees. That's what makes Sun such a great company to work for. As for money, it all evens out in the end. I save money on gas. I spend money on electricity and water. I save money on taxes. I miss out on important meetings where I can influence people and make a name for myself. I can make my own hours. Sometimes those hours extend to midnight or later due to timezones. In summary, it's really about whether your personality will let you work for months on end without seeing or directly interacting with any peers or boss whatsoever. You have to balance your work time with family time. You cannot 'leave work at work' since your work is at home. You have to draw barriers and respect them. Do not check email at 2am on Saturday after finally getting your child to bed. Do not take calls when you would normally be snoozing away. Find the balance young warrior.

Monday Aug 22, 2005

"If Computers Worked, I'd Be Out of a Job"

I finally got my blog account set up and this is post numero uno.. \*AFTER A WEEK OF HASSLE\* I'm live. I have no clue what I'm doing out here. Calm down. Imagine that on the internet everyone walks around in underwear. Hmm.. no, that didn't help... now I have nightmares in addition to first-time blog jitters. The title of this post is taken from a quote from rrang, a regular denizen of the "#p/g! IRC Channel" where I once frequented, back in "my college". At the time, I was about a semester away from graduation and looking for jobs (this was in 1997). I knew I didn't want to do hardware or firmware (I had had enough of it in the CS EE degree curriculum, where I spent a lot of time wiring breadboards and blowing up large capacitors and programming fancy LED displays, whoopee). I didn't want to do application software either (I had interviewed with HP and random consulting houses to do just that - blah, blah, and more blah). So that left system programming, and Sun had \*Solaris\* and it seemed like a perfect match... So after winning an offer, and accepting it, I was talking with \*rrang\* (he was administrating some Sun systems for a Canadian university at the time), and he was complaining that his stuff never worked, but if it did he'd immediately be fired. I thought it was a really funny quote because it's so true. I thought it was a great quote and illustrates how much we do \*not\* know we are capable of and also how much unnecessary and crappy complexity is built into today's computing systems. Complexity is the enemy and can lead Bad Things. We need to do a better job of teaching those electrons. As for me, I am a lowly engineer who has worked @ Sun since college, about 8 years, and have worked in a couple parts of the organization, including starting out in Solaris OS Testing, then on Solaris Install (Jumpstart, Flash, and assorted packaging technologies), and most recently the "Java Enterprise System" Install Architecture team. We are driving cost out of our products by \*simplifying\* them, and \*always\* thinking about our customer's perspectives in designing new systems that we'd like them to buy (how innovative!) We are working on some major enhancements to the user experience of owning your very own piece of Sun Software.



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