How to work from home more effectively

Some companies allow employees to work from home. Working from home is based on trust. The employer trusts employees that they are still working while not in office and still proactively move projects forward no matter what. Below are just some random thoughts on how to improve the way you could work from home.

Let your team know you’re remote

Tell your manager beforehand or/and put it in a relevant Slack channel that you will be remote.

Mention times that you might not be available and set into your Slack or messenger when you’ll be back at your desk. Be clear about the times of the day you are (not) available. Don’t forget to take leave for your unavailable hours.

Use video chat

You will mostly be in touch with your colleagues through text messaging but don’t underestimate the power of video to convey your meaning. Only use video when you have exhausted other ways of communication. Also use the power of screen sharing.

Attend stand-ups and meetings

Attend your scheduled meetings and stand-ups. Let people know what you are doing. Keep in the loop.

Let people know what you will be working on that day through Slack or other means. Someone from you team might benefit from that.

Don’t forget to go on mute if you’re not talking.

Pay attention to your writing

When you are working remotely, what you write is what you mean. People actually judge you by your style of writing. Before hitting Enter proofread your sentence. Is it correct in terms of grammar and spelling?

In Slack you can actually go back and edit but an email sent, is gone. In Jira, Confluence and Slack use proper text formatting syntax or Markup. Do not just copy-paste text into these systems. This is more important when you paste code or scripts. If you are careless about your writing I assume you are careless about the work you’re producing.

See: Slack formattingJira formattingConfluence formatting

Your system

Make sure you have a proper desk, chair, and monitor at home. Your have already tested your VPN access, have a reliable Internet and most importantly a quality headset.

Using a headset is better than your laptop’s mic/speaker and will not generate echo.

If a system is not accessible remotely speak up. Raise an IT ticket or tell someone about it.

Focus

Focus might be a big issue when working in office and it could be one of the reasons you might want to WFH, to have less distractions. Perhaps you want to focus on something particular like a delivery or a document.

But at the same time you might have other distractions at home such as family, Facebook, phone, TV and your bed.

Unlike when you’re in the office when you’re at home nobody is seeing you hence there might be a tendency to slack off. You can work in slots of 1 hour work and have a break.

Don’t forget to standup every 30 min and stretch. See Pomodoro Technique.

Accountability

You’re expected to perform your tasks regardless of where you are. If you have a good manager he or she will not care where you are as long as you finish your tasks. Being accountable for what is expected from you is also called integrity. It is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. Be proactive and finish your tasks and follow them up. Do not assume your job is done and it’s now with someone else. If it relates to you, follow it up till end. You do not need someone to babysit you.

Working from home is not a replacement for carers leave. If your children are sick or have 20 guests or you need to mow your lawn then do not call it working from home. Just take the day off or take carer’s leave.

Further Reading

Social contracts for agile teams

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Huawei Watch 2 vs Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

In the past few months I moved from Huawei Watch 2 4G to Samsung Gear S3 Frontier.

Huawei

Huawei is a well designed and tough looking Android Wear watch. I don’t have anything against the design of the watch. It is well made, lightweight and packed with sensors. It also has a 4G version that accepts sim cards. The default strap is nice and grips very well.

The only issue I have with the watch is Android Wear operating system itself! It was slow and lagging. Not responsive. I have seen the lag in almost all of Android Wear watches. This is an inherent issue with Android Wear.

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

On the other hand Tizen on Samsung Gear S3 Frontier was snappy. I have had it for a week now and haven’t noticed any lag or delay in response.

This is a bigger watch and heavier. Being bigger is a positive point for me as I’m getting old and struggle with small fonts! I especially like the rotating bezel as it gives a great tool to move around instead of pressing a tiny button or swipe screen. I find the bezel a game changer in the design of smart watches and a huge plus point for Frontier.

Looking forward to the next version in 2018 and I hope they keep the bezel.

2017, The Year of Certificates

I obtained 5 certificates and cleared 6 exams in 2017, AWS solution architect, developer and SysOps in associate level, Scrum Master and TOGAF (part 1 and 2).

It has been quite an achievement personally, taking into account a full time job and family with two little monsters.

I have written already about AWS exams but for TOGAF I studied about 3-4 months, 5 hours a week roughly. It’s a very dry subject and requires a lot of memorisation. I might write about pros and cons of TOGAF as a framework in general later but I would suggest everyone who calls themselves an architect in the IT world take this certificate. A Udemy course on the subject was also helpful.

With any certificates you have to memorise a lot to pass the exam; it’s not just about knowing or understanding the subject. This is the part I have problems with and the reason behind not having any certificates after working in IT for many years! This year I thought I will give it a try for a change!

In order to pass a certification exam and truly understand a subject you have to find the right balance between memorising concepts and learning them by heart. This is very important otherwise you get certified and never understand the subject matter in detail. Your certification will just become a worthless piece of paper.

togaf9-certified

Bitcoin 101

I am sure you have used your credit cards for online shopping, you enter the card number and click submit. Some of you might even have a Paypal account in which you use your email to make a payment. Your Paypal account is again linked to your credit card or bank account.

There is still a centralised governance which is the bank. Every transaction goes through the banks. There is a central “ledger”. We “trust” the credit card company to keep the transaction and our details safe.

In 2008 an article was published by someone called Satoshi Nakamoto and Bitcoin was born. He/she/they proposed a relatively new system of currency and implemented that into a software system and then we heard nothing from them after 2010. They just vanished.

Bitcoin is a digital, de-centralised currency. What does that mean?

Well it’s digital so there is no physical money involved, and it’s de-centralised which means no bank or governing body controls it and it’s managed by those who use it. Nobody owns the Bitcoin network much like no one owns the Internet.

Instead of a bank recording transactions in a centralised ledger, all Bitcoin users keep the same copy of the same ledger; as a result it would be extremely hard to mess with the system because everyone has to be in sync.

This public ledger contains every transaction ever processed in the system and every user has a copy of that. It’s an example of triple entry bookkeeping system.

But how Bitcoin is generated?

Unlike real money that is usually backed by gold, Bitcoin is backed by supply and demand and is created using a process called “mining”. This is an analogy to gold mining in which you do work and get rewarded with gold.

Mining is the process of spending “computing power” to process transactions, secure the network, and keep everyone in the system synchronized together. Bitcoin mining provides a reward  in exchange for useful services required to operate a secure payment network. Anybody can become a Bitcoin miner by installing the correct software version.

So what’s Bitcoin good for? The following are some of the benefits of Bitcoin:

  • Cheaper to transfer money as it goes directly to another person
  • It can work across the globe. Not tied to a government or country
  • No currency conversion
  • Not affected by currency fluctuations
  • It has been designed to have a limited number of bitcoins (maximum 21 million) so there will be no inflation

From a user perspective, Bitcoin is nothing more than a mobile app that provides a personal Bitcoin wallet and allows a user to send and receive bitcoins with them. This is how Bitcoin works for most users.

There are different ways to obtain bitcoin:

  • Mining
  • Sell products and accept Bitcoin
  • Buy Bitcoin directly from Ebay

But Bitcoin is not without problems. Let’s look at some of its problems:

  • Degree of acceptance – Many people are still unaware of Bitcoin. The number of businesses using Bitcoin are very small compared to what it could be
  • Volatility – The total value of bitcoin vacillates a lot. The price went from zero in 2010 to 5600 USD few days ago
  • Still new and under development
  • Some have profited from being involved early – unfair advantage
  • It is legal at least in Australia as long as you declare your profit to ATO but it’s a perfect tool for criminals since it doesn’t need to be tied to a person.  But it has been used in criminal activities as much as credit cards have been used

Some people say bitcoin is the 21st century version of gold without storage costs. Some people call it a fad, hype or even fraud.

Bitcoin is a big deal in computer world and in ecommerce; everyone is jumping into it and it’s growing. But will it ever become a major payment network? If we could get bitcoin to work or something like it, if we could trust a digital currency, it has a lot of potentials to transform our economy for better.

In the meantime I urge you to try it for yourself.  Go ahead and install the bitcoin app, create your wallet or watch some Youtube videos about it. You can even buy some bitcoin from Ebay and see how it works.

It’s going to be fun!

Why Do We Work?

When I was around 6 or 7 years old I wanted to become a pilot. Some kids want to become doctors, firefighter or…

Are we programming our kids from early ages that they have to work? Or it’s something intrinsic to human psyche?

Scientists have tracked bartering to 40,000 years ago; that is making direct deals between two parties of desirable objects. Those days people only worked to stay safe, feed themselves, survive or to have companionship. The concept of currency and money came a bit later around 2000 BC.

But why do we work? Why we have to work? And a better question might be, are we working for the right reasons?

Most of us work for money. Working for money has a bit of negative connotation to it but does it matter?!

Many people work for money to live comfortably. In the modern civilisation we have progressed to higher needs; we no longer only work to feed ourselves or to have a shelter but to live comfortably. Although there are still many people in Africa and other places dying of hunger but we try to ignore them unfortunately.

Many people work for money because they are forced to work in order to pay back their debts. We live in a debt based system. Humans are the only species that pay to live on the earth! When we are born we do not get a share of land by default. We have to buy it from the governments for some reason.

Many people work for money in order to increase their social status. It gives them identity. We pay ridiculous amounts of money to universities in order to have them stamp us with a seal of approval for work. Housewives may find it difficult to confirm their value in the society, no matter how much their work is appreciated within the family.

Many people work for money to gain freedom. My wife has gone back to workforce after caring for our kids for 4 years and she is happier than ever. She has financial freedom, and more socially engaged.

But sometimes work becomes the dominant force in our lives; it’s not a shortage of income that shackles us, but a shortage of time.

Apart from money is there a better reason to be working? Is money the core of why we do it? Is there a reason to be working other than money?

Fulfilment is a combination of accomplishment and purpose. Once we met our basic needs we move on to more exclusive psychological needs.

We might work to become an expert in a subject, discover our talents. It gives us pride.

We might work to do what we love and enjoy. Some people lose themselves in their work. Artists and scientists for example.

But according to a massive report published in 2013 by Gallup, more than 50% of american workers are dis-engaged or suffer from work related physical and psychological illnesses, so sometimes work is a shackle and a burden.

We might work to create a positive impact, to make other people’s lives better or make them happy or serve people.

We might believe in spiritual views of work. Embracing the notion that each of us is unique, precious, and possess something different and here to do something special.

So there are other reasons except money that might wake us up in the morning.

What about the future? What is the future of work? Will technology enable us to work from home or remotely all the time? What will happen to our social side then? Will robots take most of our jobs in 20 year as predicted by experts?

What do we do then?

For now just remember that we are here to live not to work.

First City2Surf

I always loved running. My little 5 year old Kian also loves running. I think we get a great sense of self satisfaction when we run!

Three years ago I was preparing for 14k City2surf. Although a bit overweight at around 93 kg but I was able to finish 7k.

June 2nd 2014 was my first day at a new job. I was starting at Cubic Transportation Systems as a senior developer.  On the way to work I had a little bike accident and torn a ligament on right knee. There is nothing worst that could possibly happen on your first day at work!

The whole dream of running was gone up in the smoke. I had to undergo a surgery and go through physio, etc…

Early 2017, three years after the accident I decided to give it a try again. Went on a diet, lost around 10 kg and managed to run my first City2surf in 1 hour 25 minutes with pace 6:09. I had to stop for a toilet break and lost a good 2-3 minutes but overall not a bad result for a person like me who was suffering from laziness and some extra baggage since I remember!

I have been on numerous diets, tried many methods but was never able to lose any weight. I was carrying extra weight since maybe 2004 after uni graduation!

Having a goal such as this race was the only motivation/stimulation that could force me eat less and healthy. I track my diet through MyfitnessPal and running through Runkeeper.

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The treat after the race!

Next target: half-marathon!

AWS Certifications

Last December (12/16) I decided to give AWS a try. I didn’t have much experience with cloud already. In search of a good training course I found aCloudGuru which was also really cheap. Their training courses have a reasonably good coverage and depth for the exam topics.

I was able to knock out 3 associate exams from 0 knowledge to a good pass mark in less than 7 months. I had dedicated about 3-6 hours weekly to practice and study. It also depends on your background and IT experience. Being a developer with many years of experience I was already familiar with almost all the concepts and had a good foundation.

If you really want to learn and not just pass the exam, then you need to go through the training courses, read relevant whitepapers, study FAQs, go through bits of the online manuals and do some hands on development and practices.

The best way to gain more experience if you are not working with AWS on your day job like me is to define personal projects for yourself or get some side projects as a freelancer.AWS_Certified_Logo_SAA_1176x600_Color