Remote Work for Junior Engineers

Remote work is probably the most notable "perk" of working in the tech industry, freeing you from the pain of having to interact with coworkers if you're introverted, allowing you greater focus if your office is laid out in an open office, allowing you to pocket that nice tech salary while remaining in a low cost of living area. We've even created the term "digital nomad", which while the actual term makes you sound like a twat, working in different cities every week does have sort of a freebird feel to it.

I've done remote work before, in terms of both short-term contracting for other companies and working as "digital nomad" as well as "flexible" work-from-home arrangements, and remote work is really what you make of it. The upsides are real, waking up in a different city every week and avoiding the dreaded "how was your weekend" small-talk is certainly one of the best perks. Assuming you are trusted to do your work in a relatively hands-off matter, there were several moments where I could've moved out to rural Montana and pocketed a nice NYC tech salary.

Remote work has numerous well-documented downsides as well: failure to set proper boundaries will lead to your work life and personal life blurring into one, lack of interaction with regular coworkers makes it hard to build connections and friendships, working remotely in a team not built for remote work means you are often left out of important details, etc. While most of these can be overcome with proper planning, I do want to talk about a downside of remote work that isn't well documented: that remote work stunts your growth in terms of interacting with different ideas.

"Speak for yourself you goober," you say, "I have interacted with many people of varying stripes on the internet". Yes, that is without a doubt true. But the issue is that you are more likely than not to self select yourself into social groups online that are more aligned than not with your ideas. This isn't some "tribalism" or "human nature" or "evaluation has forced us to take on social groups" idea, it's simply that you probably do not find everything interesting, and will simply ignore things that aren't interesting to you. If you work with intellectually stimulating coworkers (big if, I know), simply by chance you'll have to come across ideas and notions that aren't interesting to you, but you'll have to deal with them anyways.

However, you might not be in a place where you're particularly interested in engaging with different notions. If you have kids, dependents, hell just other things in life that keep you busy, remote work is incredible. However, if you're a junior engineer, most companies in the industry simply aren't set up for mentorship over remote work. Junior engineers have particularly small comfort zones, and those comfort zones should be expanded before safely wrapping yourself within them.

Posted: 2018-10-18
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