25 Nov.

Reflections on working (really) remotely

For most of Paradyne’s (almost) 5 year history we have been a work from home based business.

Recently this has been put to the test by my temporary move overseas with my family, and I wanted to share some thoughts and learnings.

In my blog post before leaving Australia I called out that as long as I had Internet connectivity – I was “in the office”. The reality of that is that quality Internet is a key factor – not just any connectivity.

Over the course of the first week in Seattle I found that an ageing cable modem in my apartment and connection issues at several Regus offices made working quite challenging. I often had to resort to Internet tethering from my phone (I have a local SIM with a sizeable data plan), or use my Surface as the access device while my mobile phone was used to make Lync calls.

After resolving the issue with the cable modem I have been able to enjoy high quality audio/video conferencing sessions – so much that I sat in for a half-day education event with our team in Melbourne via a dedicated Surface with video.

The next challenge to overcome was isolation and team interactivity. While I am over here with my family it was still somewhat challenging that I could not simply jump in a car and meet up with any of my team members, partners or customers (the former being the most common). Working Australian days and times has helped a great deal, but still didn’t overcome it completely.

While here in Seattle I was fortunate enough to spend a week at the MVP Summit in Redmond and connect with many friends and colleagues which helped break up the worked-based physical solitude. Not long after that a variety of folks from Microsoft Australia coincidentally were in Redmond for meetings – again allowing for face to face physical interaction.

We’ve been here for almost 6 weeks now and will be heading to Vancouver the day after Thanksgiving. We’ll be spending 4 weeks there, some of which will be leave.

What I take from this experience is that while the technology is more than capable for doing whatever I required to get my work done and interact with my team – for an outgoing personality like myself the remote nature can be quite challenging.

Many studies have been done on teleworking / remote working and the psychological effects, however to experience it first hand is quite different.

Do not get me wrong – I do not regret this experience. On a personal note it has allowed me to spend more daytime hours with my family than previously possible due to the fact my work day starts at 1:30pm locally. On a professional note being this close to Redmond for an extended period has allowed far greater and richer interactions than my usual short stays. It’s just been “interesting” to live and breathe it.

Until next time!

 9 Nov.

My first week with the Microsoft Band

It’s been over a week now since I started wearing my Microsoft Band and I can say I’m still in love with the device.

While there are several things that frustrate me, there are several things that still amaze me and I find to be of great benefit. I’m also in love with the potential of what this device can do, and am still thankful I happened to be in Seattle when it was launched.

I’ve previously written about some of the pros and cons of the device, as you can read about here and here.

After a week what have I learnt & enjoyed?

  • Charge the device every day (the best time I find is during/around a shower as you can’t wear it anyway)
  • Getting text notifications on my wrist is far less intrusive than checking my phone, and as such is a big bonus
  • Keep your VIP list small (only my wife is on mine) for emails
  • Do NOT enable the notification centre to display on your Microsoft Band, unless you’ve tweaked it so that very little shows up – otherwise you will buzzed every few minutes
  • Deal with the fact that the notifications are not truly bi-directional – I’m sure this will be fixed in the future
  • Paying at Starbucks using only your wrist is very handy
  • You can customise your call & text message replies separate to that of a Windows Phone (I’ve gone so far as to have one which says I’ve seen the message on my Microsoft Band but am not in a position to respond). My good friend and fellow Office 365 MVP Sean McNeill has taken this a step further by adding some humour about having fallen and can’t get to his phone to respond.
  • Having Cortana on your wrist is AMAZING!!!

As I’ve been at the Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond for the past week I haven’t had the chance to really test out the fitness capabilities of it. Now that I’m back in Seattle and on a more normal schedule I’ll certainly be trying it out this week – so watch for updates.

It’s also been interesting paying for items at Starbucks (we don’t have any of them back in Australia) as each person who has seen me do it has remarked with commons like “wow, that’s cool” or “that’s amazing” which is great to hear.

Something I do want to address is wearability. I’ve seen other blog posts and reviews saying the device is big and clunky. If you look at most men’s watches these days most likely they are wearing something bigger and clunkier. After a week of wear I barely notice that I’m wearing it. It feels as present on my wrist as wearing a watch or Fitbit would.

Having the screen on the underside of my wrist has been slightly noticeable while typing, however normally I use an ergonomic keyboard with raised wrists so I probably wouldn’t notice if that was the case.

I do find the very adjustable strap on the Microsoft Band to be of great benefit. It allows me to make minute adjustments to the tightness of the Band throughout the day based on the thickness of my wrist (due to water retention, temperature, etc.). This is definitely a benefit over my Fitbit Flex.

So my synopsis after a week of use? This device has amazing capabilities. It is very usable and advantageous in its current form. Yes it could do with a lot of improvement, but for a version 1 device and solution it is quite adequate. And as I said earlier – having Cortana on your wrist is AMAZING!!!