Dear friends, this has been one weird year, oh yes it has. At the beginning of the year I was working for ownCloud, Inc. Then that abruptly went belly-up (see Nextcloud Is Just An Ordinary Dirty Deal), which in the ordinary course of events would not be such a big deal because I stopped believing in job security eons ago. The horrid part of it was scrambling to replace my health insurance. You don’t get COBRA when your company disappears off the face of the Earth. Someday America will be like civilized countries and provide universal health care, but until that miraculous day we’re stuck in a system that was designed by psychopaths on bad shrooms.
So I drifted along for a few months, taking on some freelance jobs (thank you Rikki and Libby!), and did some contract work for ownCloud, GmBH. Then a funny thing happened.
An online friend, who, like most of my friends, I have never met in person, asked me if I was interested in working for the SUSE documentation team. Well hell yes says I. I’ve been trying off and on for a few years to get hired by SUSE because they’re a good company with great people, and as long as I have to grub for a paycheck I would rather work with great people. So after a few weeks of discussion and various fol-de-rol I became an official SUSE employee on November 1, 2016. Oh sorry, I should say 1 November 2016, because my team is in Nuremberg, and I am the lone US employee.
I got to attend SUSECON 2016 the week of November 7 in Washington, DC, and met several members of my new team, spent a lot of time with my new bosses (hi Markus and Roland!), met old SUSE acquaintances, and made new ones. The technical sessions were great as usual, and of course parties and swag. Not much time for sightseeing, alas, but we did have an evening visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which is absolutely fabulous. SUSE is happy to send me to events, so I expect I’ll be traveling a bit.
I’m used to working on global teams separated by time zones, so I know the drill. I’m the outlier, so I’m fine with starting work at 6am so I have a few hours of overlap with my team, and having the occasional meeting at 11pm. I’m working remotely from home so I am responsible for my own system administration, and I have to work a little harder to stay informed, and to build relationships with my team. In my ideal world I would have a local office to visit once or twice per week. Maybe someday, as SUSE grows.
I think the logistical disadvantages are outweighed by several positive factors. I’m in the US, so I can extend SUSE’s reach at events like LinuxFest Northwest. SUSE has a Seattle office, which is a reasonable drive from here. I bring a different perspective, and know a whole different set of people. I think businesses are hurting themselves when they insist on hiring only local people; why deny the benefits of a global talent pool?
Some managers worry about remote employees goofing off. People who work in offices can goof off just as easily. Hire the right people and you don’t have to worry about slackers. I don’t waste time in a commute, and I can work when I’m a little bit sick, in contrast to having to stay home from an office to avoid spreading contagion.
The onboarding process has been a bit bumpy. Tons of paperwork, OMG the paperwork. Then learning SUSE’s systems and the doc team’s toolset, and learning where everything is and who to talk to. Fortunately the doc team has a formal mentoring system for new hires, which has speeded things up a lot. I think I presented extra challenges from being the lone US employee on a German team, but Markus is very good at moving mountains, so here we are.
I’m looking forward to satisfying work, good comrades, and fun.