I just got done reading Brent Ozar's post about why folks don't get the telecommuting job they want. It's a good read and Brent makes a lot of sense in what he has to say. But that's not surprising as Brent is usually thinking about these things when the rest of us are sleeping or watching Simpsons reruns. But as I finished reading it, I got to thinking about why I haven't gone looking for a telecommuting job. Here is why I like coming into an office each workday.
I love interacting virtually. But interacting with folks in person is always more enjoyable. I've gota a great group of co-workers around me. I enjoy being around them. This includes both DBAs and developers, as well as the typically basement dwelling system administrators. Many of them share my geekiness. That means they like talking about the same sort of the stuff, they have similar senses of humor, and there's a connection there. I love my kids, but my twelve year-old just doesn't understand why being a red shirt on an away team jaunt with Kirk is a bad thing.
I don't throw this in lightly because it's an easy one to get ribbed on. ("Oh, you're just saying that because he might read your blog.") My manager has been in the trenches. He has done IT support in exotic places (working on VAXes in the middle of the Saudi desert, for instance). He tinkers with technology because he enjoys technology. So he's like my co-workers with respect to the geekiness. But unlike my co-workers, who are around my age, he's a little bit older, he's done a bit more, and he's lived life a bit longer. And that means just about every time I interact with him, I come away having learned something. Some of it is IT-related. Some of it is around soft skills. And some of it is about dealing with life. Being in the office means ready availability where I can walk into his office and close the door. When we lost the twins last year, this sort of contact was invaluable in helping me deal with the situation.
The Kids and Me Wanting to Dive In
I love my kids, but we homeschool. I love the fact that we homeschool. My wife's an awesome teacher. She meets her mom's approval as a teacher, and her mom is a long time public school teacher with very high standards. Case in point, she has been introduced with great enthusiasm by her mom as "My daughter, the teacher!" But I love to teach. And when they start hitting history, or math, or science, then I want to dive in and help out. While my wife does a great job of teaching, I hate sitting on the sidelines. Being at home means I'm always tempted to be distracted. If I were to telecommute, I would need a space where I could shut the door and tune everything out. That's not possible with my current digs.
Design Meetings and Architecture Discussions
I love these. I love getting around a whiteboard and pulling things apart and putting pieces together. My background as a developer means I can understand that side of things in these discussions. Since I was formerly the systems architect (infrastructure architect) and security architect, I understand those pieces well, too. And I'm back as a DBA. So seeing the big picture, the whole system, the interconnected web of systems, man, that's exciting. And while that can be done remotely, it's more fun to do in person. It's great when folks start building upon one another. And you see and feel that enthusiasm. Not only do I work with great co-workers, I have some really smart co-workers in all segments of IT and business. Being around them is more than just fun, it's also motivating.
Would I Consider Telecommuting?
Of course! There are days when I need to work from home. I'm not feeling 100% or the kids aren't, or there are doctor's appointments (with my 5 year-old daughter, this is still a very, very common thing, unfortunately). And there are times, especially when the kids are done with schoolwork and are back in the back throwing shells and dropping bananas on each other, that I can really hit that zone. It's a little harder than at work because work is constantly a buzz with things going on. So I can see obvious benefits for it. But I also remember the experience of a friend of mine who, it seemed, had a dream telecommuting job. He was a network architect managing networks world-wide. He was at home with just him and his dog. Perfect setup with respect to his environmentals. Excellent remoting capabilities and team collaboration tools. And at first he loved it. But as the months progressed, he told us he was missing the daily contact with other folks. Sure, he was interacting with them virtually, but he missed dropping by someone's cube and sharing a quick joke, going out to lunch with a coworker, and the things like that. So he looked for and found another position. The new one wasn't a telecommuting position. He's much happier now. So I keep in mind my friend's experiences before I think the grass would be greener if I was in a 100% or even a mostly telecommute situation.