LIve Blog Testbash Germany: Rebooting Your Career and Your Life by Ciprian Bale

Home strait now (straight? strate? No idea. It’s Friday). We’re starting with Ciprian who is going to give us a reboot in 8 chapters. The problem he was facing was that he was unhappy with his job. He was browsing the internet for a snowboard for the only two days he could go snowboarding that winter. He realised he could do more with his life. He couldn’t stop working, but he could change things. He didn’t have to be chained to a desk for example. He googled remote testing jobs, and two weeks later quit his job.

Ciprian has been using his time since he quit to travel while working. He’s showing a picture of him having a meeting in Venice, one of him working on a beach in Croatia between scuba diving lessons, daily standup on a yacht, hiking Mont Blanc while working too. He works from anywhere. He’s a freelancer who works with a company that connects the top 3% of freelancers with top companies.

The next chapter is about the pros and cons of remote work. We’re starting with a short video, I’ll give the gist if I can: Apparently, smart companies recognise that the need to attract the best talent, and they need to find ways of doing that. As a freelancer, you can work according to your own rhythm. The lady in the video says that there are many different ways to reach the goal of working. Many companies lack the imagination to change things. For employees, it can increase their accountability and feelings of trust to be working remotely. Change is slow though, so we’re more likely to see incremental adjustments.

Ok, the video is over. Those were some of the pros of remote work. You can work from anywhere, have flexible working hours, you don’t have to commute, have a better work life balance, can travel more, increase diversity and have the best talent from everywhere.

He’s also listing cons. There is a lack of human interaction (this extrovert would just die!), it’s harder to get help, there’s more paperwork, it’s harder to distinguish between work and life, you can end up with weird hours if you’re in a different time zone, and you can get distracted.

Time for another video. It’s a BBC interview with someone working from home who got distracted by his kids coming into the room while he was on air. I can’t type I’m laughing so hard. The other parent coming in crawling to rescue him…

Hoo, anyhow.

We’re on chapter 4 – when to start and how to choose a remote job (did I mention this was in chapters?!). Ciprian is giving us guiding questions. Like “am I experienced enough to be independent in my day to day tasks?”. If not, then, based on the fact it’s harder to get help – you might want to wait. When it comes to “how”, you can consider full/part time or hourly and also whether you want short or long term projects. A good start is with an hourly, short term project.

Chapter 5 now – what to expect when transitioning to a freelancing life. Ciprian says his most remembered feeling was being scared! While waiting to start the remote job, he had a lot of time to reflect, and he was scared! There are several stages of being scared. The first one is that you only take web or phone interviews. The next one is that you don’t have a building that feels like an office space you belong to. The fear peaks when you sign the virtual contract. When you finally start working, you realise that the job is real – but you may feel lonely. Once you get your first paycheck, you’ll probably relax!

Diving deeper into virtual contracts – it’s nice to have a real contract in your hands. Knowing that you’re protected by laws. A virtual contract will never be touchable, and it might come from the other side of the world. It’s just not the same as a stamped, legal document – something you’ve learned to trust. Ciprian assures us that virtual contracts are real. Yes, read them! And consult with a lawyer if you need to, but his experience is that they are real. He learned this by feeling the most anxious about his virtual contract.

Chapter 6 is about managing remote work and being productive. You will need an office – even if it’s a portable one! Ciprian has a mac and a display and his phone. That’s his office. He does recommend investing in a mac book so you can do iOS projects for example. It’s important to have a room in your home that can be your office. Apps are useful to him: Zoom, Slack and Speedtest. Speedtest I would not have thought of, but it makes sense to check WiFi! Ciprian also recommends hiring a good accountant. Your accountant should be remote friendly too – Ciprian only meets his once per year face to face.

Now we’re on chapter 7, building strong relationships. Ciprian has a story about this. They were about to release an app, and there were nerves about the release time. The CEO dropped into the slack channel, asking why they missed a bug on a login page. Ciprian’s answer annoyed the CEO, who then left the conversation. This all got very stressful, with fear and threats of being fired (my comment: doesn’t sound like a great work climate with safety!). The team rallied round Ciprian, which eventually saved the day. Those kinds of relationships are important.

To build those relationships, you need to be trustworthy and reliable in your work. Your work is your signature. You also need to spend time to get to know each other. Every two weeks on a Friday, they have a 30 minute video call to talk about everything else outside work. Icebreaker questions can be used to get the conversation going. Finally, you should meet in person as often as you can. At least one week a year is his recommendation.

The final chapter is questions. I gave up trying to live blog the questions last year, my fingers and brain need the rest!