As more workers leave traditional jobs for remote work, it pays to understand what to look for in a remote-first employment arrangement. One of the Commit team members sat down with Commit engineer Prit Patel to talk about what questions workers should ask themselves before pursuing remote-first work, what skills can help people thrive in a remote position, and also how to tell that an organization is truly remote-first. See the second post here and the third post here.
On how to know it’s time to pursue remote work
Team Member: Tech workers everywhere are quitting their jobs en masse and looking for less traditional forms of work, especially software developers. Prit and I are really excited to talk about the Great Resignation and how to know whether you should join in, because we’re two people who have done it ourselves.
Prit: Last year I took a career break and it was the first long break I had taken in eight years. It was also a very difficult decision to make. At the time, being in the mindset I was in, money was frankly a very strong motivator for me.
I love learning, and at the beginning of my career that was my emphasis. As time went on, a bit of that focus shifted to finances and stability. Eventually it came to a point where I didn’t actually want or enjoy going to work anymore.
I was being paid a really high salary, but I would wake up and dread the day ahead of me. There’s this common perception that it’s irrational to take a break as a software engineer. I don’t know if this applies to other careers, but at least to the people I spoke to, it felt irrational to do because you wouldn’t be earning money during that time.
I just want to say this is perfectly normal, to go through this process and realize it is a hard decision to take a break. This break is an investment in yourself, to find out what it is that you actually want to do in life and move on from there, and potentially catapult to even higher salaries.
Team Member: Today we’re going to talk about how to decide if it’s actually time for something new, transitioning into being a remote-first start-up developer, and the skills that we think you need for it. We’re also going to talk about how to figure out if a company is actually remote-first.
Prit: So how do you know it’s time to try something new or take a break? I think one of the first things you can do is ask yourself some questions. These questions will help you give some indicators to help you decide if it’s time for a change.
Team Member: Personally, there are six key questions that I like to ask myself.
The first one is: are you currently working on things that you actually want to be working on?
Are you getting pushed down a management path, or doing something else that you don’t necessarily want? Do you keep getting assigned front end tickets, even though you really want to be a true full stack developer? Maybe you don’t even know the exact things that you want to work on. That can be your starting point: just taking some time to reflect on what you actually want to work on. How does that map to the way that you’re spending your days?
Second: are you still growing and is your company growing fast enough to give you new responsibilities?
Companies change while they grow. As the company gets bigger, is it getting more bureaucratic? Is that a good fit for you and your working style?
Another important question is, how do you feel about the amount of documentation versus meetings that you have?
Is your company evolving in a way where communication still works, even though people aren’t all in the same place?
The fourth question is, do you feel like you’re being paid fairly?
Salary bands are going up rapidly amongst our developers: we’ve seen anywhere from 20 to 30% of a salary bump for people who are not necessarily moving levels, but just changing opportunities because the market is changing. If you’re not sure what the answer is, tools like PayScale can be really helpful to actually test out what you think your worth should be based on your years of experience and the hard skills you know.
The fifth question has to do with the people you’re surrounded with. You might not care about your co-workers being your best friends, but it’s important to ask: do you get along with them? Do you still respect your co-workers and are there people who you feel like you’re learning a lot from?
Finally: are you feeling burned out? Is it taking you a longer amount of time to finish basic tasks?
These can all be really revealing questions that you don’t necessarily think about on a day-to-day basis but can be super informative as you consider whether you should quit your job.
Prit: For me it ultimately all comes down to one question: are you happy? Do you wake up dreading your workday? And is that perhaps affecting your outside life? Think about whether you’re still truly inspired by your work, and if not, it might be time for a change.
Team Member: Definitely don’t rush the decision. Take the time that you need to interrogate whether you’re happy in your current role, and then take the time to interrogate if you’re still happy as a software developer. Is it enough to pursue different projects at your current job, or is it time to pursue an even bigger change?