This week I will have been working for Mozilla for about a full year! It has gone by pretty quickly, but I wanted to share my experience working there as a remote employee.
What I have been up to
I've been keeping a log of the things that I've been working on at Mozilla –and it's quite a lot of stuff. I have a diverse background, since in the past I've developed games, mobile applications, websites (front-end and back-end) so quite a bit has leaked into what I've done in the last twelve months:
- Articles at the Mozilla Hacks blog, some of them turned out very popular, like "CSS coding techniques" or "A few HTML tips".
- A lot of talks around the world, mainly about HTML5 game development and CSS.
- A lot of coding too, some of it alone some of it with other people. The code I had more fun with was when I was working with Sole to add some MediaRecorder API demos to her collection.
Note that I had a lot of impostor syndrome when I started this job! Specially because I'm not a native speaker and my role requires a lot of technical writing and public speaking. But people do understand me when I speak, and my articles are doing great, so I'm happy about it.
I still think I'm a much better speaker when I'm giving a talk in Spanish, but the feedback I get on my talks in English is good, so I don't sweat about this.
Some of you have asked me how do I deal with travelling so much. Travelling is… complicated. On one hand, most of the travelling is usually focused in some parts of the year. For instance, I've had a pretty calm summer, but in spring I was mostly travelling week on, week off.
Jet-lag is pretty hard and it feels like a big hangover –only without the prior drinking. But I know that my productivity the days after a travel is going to be lower than usual, and plan accordingly.
It's tough, but I rather focus on the positive things. For instance, before starting this role, I didn't travel. Well, I did, to see the family, but that was all about it. Now I'm used to travel alone and actually fulfilled one of my dreams: going on vacation to Japan. I've also learned to pack like a pro and travel light! For instance, when I went to Japan for two weeks, my suitcase weighted 8.4 kg at the airline desk's scale.
I've also got to meet in person people I admired, and people I didn't know I admired until I met them. So I'm very grateful for that.
I work from my home in Barcelona as a remote worker. I've got a lot of questions about this topic, so I'll try to cover the basics here.
Even though Mozilla doesn't have a physical office in Spain, they do have a branch here. That means that I'm not self-employed or a contractor, but a regular employee and subject to labor laws in Spain –which helps a lot!
A lot of Mozilla staff works remotely and we do have a remote culture in the company. Most of my team works remotely too. We hold weekly meetings via videoconference and communicate regularly by e-mail (the important stuff) and by IRC (urgent or non-important things).
The biggest challenge for me isn't not being in a physical office with them, but timezones. Half of Mozilla works in California, and that's an 8-hour gap with Europe. We also have offices in Asia, and that's another 8-hout gap with them. I know that some people who work in Europe for a company in San Francisco shift their schedule so they work on Pacific Time hours… but I'm a morning person.
So what do I do to have meetings where most people are in the US but I'm in Europe? Well… It's complicated. First, I try to have these meetings happening at 16PM CET, which is 9AM at the other side, but it's not always possible. I also try to have these meetings towards the beginning of the week, since I tend to go out and socialize near the weekend. And of course, I don't work at non-reasonable hours, so I don't do midnight meetings or things like that –most folks are sensible enough to realise that it's not OK to work at those hours and are happy to accommodate for a different time.
Home office setup
Regarding equipment, some words of advise: do get office-quality, ergonomic furniture for working from home! I tried to use the furniture I had already at home, but months later I found out the hard way that I needed something better to avoid further injuries. Your chair and desk are more important than your computer! A slow computer will lower your productivity –a bad furniture setup will prevent you from coding at all!
So now I have an ergonomic chair and a stand-up/sitting desk. And no injuries in my hands and arms, which is great.
My laptop is a 12-inch Macbook, which I picked because it was the lightest model and it's very convenient for travelling –and for working 1 hour or so from a café so I don't feel trapped at home.
And yes, sometimes I do feel trapped at home. That's why I force myself to go out everyday to have a walk. Sometimes I go to have lunch outside, or to have breakfast and bring my laptop with me and work while having a cortado or a sandwich. If I didn't travel so much, I would probably join a gym or some classes to further force myself to go out.
About finding remote gigs…
… I truly don't know, this is my first job! All Mozilla job positions are open and you can see them at the Mozilla Careers website. Some of them require you to be in a particular office, some of them –like mine!– don't.
After applying, I got a call from HR and then started the interview process. I don't remember how many technical interviews I did, although they were quite a bunch.
I don't know how this works in other companies, so I can't really guide you here.
Nobody asked me about this, but I think it's very important to know which skills you need to possess –or develop– for successfully working remotely. This is what have helped me the most:
- Being autonomous: I don't have someone telling me each morning what I should work on!
- Time management: if you want to work normal, reasonable hours, you need to be able to manage your time effectively. Every week I set some goals to accomplish and make sure I hit them –unless something totally unexpected happens–, and it truly helps to give me an idea on whether I should relax a little or work a bit harder during the week. I also stick to the same working schedule every day unless I have a meeting at an odd hour.
- Separation of private and work life: this is super tricky while travelling, but I stick to this while at home. The flat I'm renting is an open space, so I don't have a room I can use as office, but I don't mix my personal accounts, numbers, users, etc. of work-related things with my personal stuff.
- Communication skills, in writing! Most of my important communications happen in writing, so this is really important.
- English language, for obvious reasons.
And that's all! This has been one of the best years of my career, and I'm really happy to work at Mozilla. I've felt welcome since the first day and my team is great! Thanks, everyone :)