WFH Log 001: Square One

Probably I can count myself as one of the most obstinate and hard-headed persons on this planet and it has taken me to many places, good and bad. This month, though, it made a turn for the worse. So I had to rein myself in and go back to square one, to ground zero of everything that I have planned for 2015. Virtually, everything I worked on was wiped out and I needed a fresh drawing board to whip up everything again.

The problem was not that it was wrong or unproductive. It was actually TOO productive and jam-packed. My schedule was lined up in a way that there was no room for Providence or tiny surprises that life hands over on an intermittent basis. This was a time of quickly and objectively refining the flaws of my initial design for my life plans, and that meant taking out certain items that are not in the topmost quadrant of my priority list.

Taking out the items off my list was hard; I had to revisit each commitment one by one and see which had to stay or go given my current circumstances. It was a painful but liberating exercise. I had to make a really defining and life-changing decision. I felt relief because this time around, I was really able to finally voice out my deepest desires about how I want to do work in this world. I really wanted to create, and I needed a lifestyle that gives enough room for creating things. Most of what I had taken in the past involved consuming things as part of the work, part of the bigger plan. I wanted to design things in short but intense bursts, reflective of my personality as  human being. And as time runs out on this life, I realize that I had to make the necessary changes to accommodate this kind of lifestyle. It’s time. For years, I had been trying this setup. I tried it around four or five times previously but I lacked the steam to sustain it. But this time, it’s different and the benefits far outweigh the risks.

So I am logging it here. This is Day 1 of Square One. And I am looking forward to more exciting things. That painful experiences we do not expect are in reality, unforeseen delays, glitches, or obstructions that are meant to steer us closer to what we are meant to become in life. I just trust this season because I have seen firsthand how certain things align together. It was not completely a hopeless scenario; rather, I see something unfolding in the midst of the debris of my self-created chaos.

I think my old desires have ripened and I need not resist them any further. It’s really time to make the change.

And the change begins today.

 

Asynchronous Remote Collaboration Tools

For years, the internet has been quite the mecca of online workers. These days, I find myself working with people I have not met personally. I can also work with friends deployed to different places because it’s easy to talk to them. There are now designs in project management web tools that allow for asynchronous or remote collaboration.

I must say that after generously wading in the vast spectrum of free online tools, I have my top seven tools for this year and these are the following, in no particular order:

1. Skype

This is the popular choice for virtual meetings and digital “interviews” for overseas clients. It’s easy, it’s free, and it allows for group chats, video calling and everything else you need to talk to someone. You can also monitor log in and log out hours via Skype chat availability. I used Skype so much since 2012 and I think that it will continue to be relevant in the future.

2. Slack / Flowdock

I lumped together two awesome but similar web applications. Because Flowdock has a fee and user limit, I opted to use Slack for my ventures.

It’s practically awesome in putting together people you hardly see but want to talk to regularly. Channels on the left side bar designate topics like project ventures, meetup schedules, skill upgrades or trainings, and many others. This is where we upload files and share resources (shown on the right side). This is where I find new things and this is where I share new knowledge, if I have any.

Screenshot of a Slack Chat Window

Screenshot of a Slack Chat Window for Data Science Channel

For example, I have around 15-20 minutes available this morning to discuss about a certain topic. I can leave a thread message in the web application and when my partner or co-collaborators have free time in the middle of their busy schedules, they get to check what I posted and pitch in their comments. It’s now possible to work on a single project and not be working on it at the same time. The ability to thread messages in a context-based manner allows me to go back to old conversations easily. Everyone just has to be mindful about deadlines but it’s pretty much spot on in helping the team work even if they are not working at the same hours daily.

3. Trello

Simplicity in project management through an addicting card-based interface is Trellos strongest suit. I put all my cards in the To Do pile, update them in the Doing pile when I have time to work on them, and happily mark them all in the Done pile. Install it on Android or iOs and you’ll be quite addicted to moving things around. 😀

Trello Basic Board

Trello Basic Board

4. Bitrix24

In complex projects with hierarchy and a vast scope, I sometimes find that Trello and Slack’s interface is too simple and unable to capture everything in a nice manner. This is where I tend to use the free account of Bitrix24. They have plans for large user cases but usually it’s free for a team of 10 people. It’s quite cumbersome at first; it’s not as user-friendly as the others but once you set it up, it’s powerful and it can save you so much time in delegating tasks or balancing work loads. This is ideal for supervisors who want to efficiently manage people and tasks. When I used this last year, I already eliminated the need for calling out for staff meetings with my team because we have already marked out their tasks for the next three years using this interface. It’s ultra cool and I have to thank a French businessman for introducing this to me.

 

5. Google Drive

I was about to consider Dropbox but there were so many security issues with it. Google Drive is seamlessly integrated with email and allows me to continuously collaborate with people on documents like Excel, Word, and flowchart making. It’s really handy when sharing files larger that 25 MB (the usual file size limit for email attachments).

6. Git Version Control via Github or Bitbucket

This is really God’s gift to man, coding wise. It’s like Dropbox for coding projects, if I may allow myself to be simplistic about it. Very powerful and versatile, I delight in using git and committing changes as needed for my web development projects. I don’t break my code with harrowing consequences because of the branching feature. Github published the code publicly. It’s good for advanced devs. I like Bitbucket more because it allows me to hide my code and share it only with a few people. And the branches are so cute and colorful when I have done so much work like this in one of my old projects:

Git Commit Branching!

Git Commit Branching!

7. Team Viewer

Sometimes discussing online is difficult when troubleshooting an error. Team Viewer allows another person to control my computer virtually and make changes if I am hitting a dead end, and vice versa. This requires a bit of a security compromise because you will have to allow another computer from the outside world to enter your firewall and make changes to your computer. A similar application was installed on my smartphone recently and I used it to access my laptop from my smartphone remotely. It was successful and fascinating. In theory, I can work with my laptop even if I do not physically bring it when I am out and about.

The BFF Boss Conundrum

Will you work for your BFF? If you ask me this a year ago, I’d say “Go for it! Why not?!”

I used to take no qualms in establishing friendships with bosses. However, recent events changed my perspective on setting boundaries at work. I had to learn certain things the hard way.

Here is a tricky real life situation. I was good friends with my boss at a project I took. I was really excited to take on the work with the assumption that the work load will be made lighter in the company of such familiar faces. I believed that the rapport I had with the boss of the endeavor will only spur us to do our best in the project.

Sad to say, the whole partnership ended up in a very painful falling out. Here is the biggest problem that besets overly intimate boss and subordinate relations: you cannot extricate job-related impacts out of the person’s life crisis.

I write this because I often write about my experiences at work and this is one of the biggest and hardest lessons I had to learn this year: never be too close to your boss.

Avoid working for a bosom friend unless you are sure that the friendship is worth the risk.

In my particular experience, a personal and life shattering crisis besest my boss at work. It came to the point where she was just coming to work as a shell of her former competent self. She no longer had the energy to spearhead the project whose deadlines continued to pile up. As a friend, I wanted to take on all the work on her behalf. As a co-worker, I was reeling from the difficulty of doing a job meant to be done by two people.

And here was the clincher: you will be cruel or a heartless bitch for calling her out. Because she is under such a bad situation, you will feel uncomfortable discussing the elephant in the room. The only option I felt at the time was to leave because I could not handle the unexpected crisis that steamrolled work operations. It was as if we were at the mercy of a personal crisis and I just chanced upon the bad timing of it all.

My love for her as friend eventually dissipated because of mounting disruptions at work. And even as she railroaded the team with the non-delivery, she refused to let go of the job because it was her way of earning money. iven the situation, it was hard to recommend her to other opportunities professionally.

I felt horrible for her but my compassion eventually wore off. Eventually I had to rescue the other subordinates from the mood swings and the horrible non-delivery of promised tasks. She started randomly raising her voice at people in the room and refused to seek psychological help even when it was clear that she needed to process her issues.

The irony was that I kind of had to choose between keeping my friend and keeping the deadlines on the job. I hataed her all the more for putting me in a position like that.

And after I made my choice, the very people I rescued at work ended up betraying me a month later.

Ironically, I was clear about personal and professional boundaries when I took over handling the project. And a month later, I was ofrced to let go of the project because of the blatant disregard for these boundaries.

Nobody won in this whole mess; everyone emerged as a casualty of not having simple boundaries established among the members of the team.

It was really awful to be put in such a situation. Nobody ever deserves to be in the crosshair of a painfully awkward professional and personal intersection such as this. And it is ten times much worse if the work is for a good cause and all the beneficiaries of the endeavor are suffering just because of personal differences.

It was a very humbling experience. It is one of the most painful lessons I had to learn this year and even when it is really difficult, I am thankful that it happened. At least, I will not forget it too easily or embark in another venture that will put me in a similar situation. I also realized my tendencies and what particular situations pushed me to my limits.

Apart from licking wounds and cutting losses, moving on involves acknowledging the lesson behind the painful experience. And may this blog post serve as a warning to people who are planning to make BFFs with their bosses. While some exceptional cases are commendable, it is not something I can really recommend based on my experience. I no longer want hard life lessons to be wasted. People tend to repeat other people’s mistakes because nobody bothered to write about it.

Hopefuly, this piece will warn a person who is about to commit this same mistake; posibly, a random stranger is in a similar situation and chanced upon this tiny digital space. My verdict: it is not worth your time, find other meaninful ventures that do not implicate you in a situation of choosing between losing a friend and losing your excellence in your job.

End of Year Musings

2014 is less than 30 days away from closing. Some people usually post a year-end thing on December 31. I decided to do this today, December 9.

2014 was a year of SURVIVAL for me.

I survived…

the pains of planning a wedding without events management experience,

the largest backlogs that came from the most negligent boss I have ever met in my 11 years of working,

the most painful and disrespectful attacks from people I have lavished care and attention to,

the worst of office politics,

the most pervasive aftereffects stemming from inefficiencies,

the most deplorable circumstances in a professional undertaking,

and the worst of falling outs among such long-time friends.

In return, have I gained anything? Apart from crying myself senseless at night and working like a demon during the day, I really lost a lot of things this year. Some, I had to lose as a casualty. The others, I had to voluntarily lose for the greater good, for certain pursuits that demand more than just the average intensity of effort.

I just hope that 2015 will be kinder to me.

(Or maybe an asteroid will hit earth and 2015 will outdo 2014 in terms of amount of shit thrown my way.)

But apart from Force Majeure, there were so many storms in 2014. The only rainbow was that I married this amazing man who is now my husband.

The second rainbow was that I managed to get to know myself better as a person because of the immensely difficult situations I had to encounter and surmount.

I hope there are more rainbows in 2015.

 

 

 

Bucket List Overhaul

The biggest fallacy ever written is that people often stay the same. People have this very pliable capacity to change, expand/degenerate into another version of themselves. When a person is made aware of the potential within him, it awakens a new set of possibilities.

So I promised my mom to make a Facebook account after getting married so she can check on me. In and of itself, it’s good to stay connected to people. For a few months, I went back on people’s radar. But I got exhausted with it. It was fun catching up with people but it was so exhausting. I missed my cave so I turned it off again. And then I resorted to my 2013 things. I used to be so addicted to social media. Now, I mainly use it as a conduit of information where I can get updates on topics of interest. My nerdiness seems to have gone full circle this year.

Work demands that I travel. It’s a quiet middle of the night in this completely unfamiliar place. I took a job that showcases the risky things that I do not like. Some people pay to travel, hike, and get new experiences like this for leisure. In my job, jetsetting is a way of life. So it’s an ironic choice of work for someone who would always prefer reading books in bed and attending art exhibits. I do like the intellectual kick that comes from new discoveries so I still somehow appreciate the things given by my choice of work.

My recent channel of creativity is androidography so I began playing with pictures taken from a fairly decent , cheap, and run of the mill smartphone. I will probably post some of my finds as soon as I figure out how to optimize and manage all my writing outlets.

Things got so intense last month for me so I kind of tapered my passion down to manageable and non-life threatening levels. At this stage, I have some radar when I am working at an unhealthy intensity. I was approaching that red zone three weeks ago so I am slowing down to regroup my resources and reclaim my sanity. My new hobbies seem to be helping me out but I still have a paperback in hand as a go-to, a form of literary escapism that has filled my childhood days with happy reading memories.

It’s December and I am still looking for my 2013 goals to see how I fared in my now-defunct 43 things account. I am really looking forward to 2014; it will be my first time to officially share my life goals with another person and I am excited with the synergy of this new dynamic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dimple of Writing in a Day’s Work

The only certain things in life are death and taxes.

I once read that somewhere. I forgot where. These days, I’d be lucky to write a few words for myself; often, I have to peruse through numerous technical words. Sometimes, I feel like my soul died in exchange for something tangible and worthy. Sometimes, I feel like I am an ambitious madman with dreams bigger than my whole self. I have a galaxy of goals and I have my meager resources to toy with. Just this tiny head full of ideas and some basic means of carrying things out.

After four years of being an engineer, I finally gained some footing in optimizing my life. It meant a great deal of sacrifices, sacrifices that a lot of people are not willing to make. I must have been a masochist for signing up for the difficult and heavy things. But I cannot see myself doing otherwise.

I endured paycuts and paychecks that do not go on time, intellectual pursuits hampered by inefficiencies, and dreams crushed by the simple reality that life is unfair.

I have already dealt with the fact that life is unfair, that bimbos with slightly used brains can have infinitely more resources to waste, that being smart does not necessarily make you materially well off, that I was born digging my way up and not having a solid footing to begin my life with. I look at it all in the business-like eye of someone who has been desensitized considerably with all the pain this has accumulated in me all these years.

I look at it with gratitude, but a bittersweet type of gratitude that appreciates how I can see all these things and remain standing, and writing this all down for digital safekeeping. Like a survivor.

I am using a pocket of today’s time to write this down because I know that in a few minutes, I will once again be drowned by the tides of this path I have chosen for myself. It’s difficult but for as long as I think that what I am doing is worth my while, I will stay in this course.

Voluntary Blackhole

Writing has become what I have dreaded it will become as I get older: an activity that will fight for its survival in my life. It’s hard to keep writing these days; I am beset with a host of responsibilities that involve sinking into a vortex of new knowledge. And this new knowledge demands the entirety of my focus, my time, my attention, my devotion.

I sorely miss the old me, well, at least the old writing me who gets to post here and there in this intermittently updated blog. But these days, I’d be lucky to make a sentence for leisure. I still write a great deal during weekdays but it’s for technical and business correspondence purposes. I cannot even remember the last time I wrote an emotional article or chronicle of my life. It’s really mostly work now and responsibilities that come with being an adult.

But I do know that no matter how many activities I line up, I will always go back to my roots, that same thing I have done since I was seven years old. And all these awesome and intensive things sadly eating up my free time now are just means to enrich what I can convey to the world through words. It just so happened that there are necessary sacrifices at this phase of life that compel me to park my pen a bit and open my horizons of professional skills to accommodate new things.

I will always love writing and I strongly believe that up to the very end of my life’s journey, writing will always fight to emerge on the top of my full plate.

Here’s a tiny moment in my weekend in an attempt to keep letting her stay afloat amidst my other priorities. I will continue to write. The old me is still there somewhere albeit buried in a handful of new and challenging responsibilities.