How Remote Is Remote? More Argentino Than Human (Part 2)

Author, Jeffry Hesse

Working Remotely - Part 02

This is a two part series on how Jeffry Hesse tested the boundaries of working remotely. Read Part 1 here.

UPDATE: Since originally publishing these articles, our Agile Gaucho Jeffry was interviewed by Lisette Sutherland in more detail about working remotely for Sonatype. The interview spans the subjects of work-life balance, how we self organize at Sonatype, and some of the techniques he uses for working remotely. Head on over to Collaboration Superpowers to listen to the Podcast or watch the entire interview.

By Jeffry Hesse

Picking up from my last post, I was in dire straights with very poor internet connectivity, faced with fight or quite literally a flight. Building on my title, the Argentines continue to fight through many adversities; military dictatorships, a struggling economy, and a number of other challenges. Taking a note from their rich culture I decided to keep fighting, and I decided a change of venue was due.

Fui A Rosario, Argentina

One of the great perks of being in Argentina was that I could travel around and see friends quite easily, such as my friend Mati. Mati had worked with me at National Geographic and is a great friend of mine. I went to Rosario to see him, eat great food, kayak on El Rio Piraná, and to selfishly borrow the use of his much better router.

The good news is I could get my SIP phone to completely function with his router and on top of that I could also use WiFi to screenshare. ¡Todo bien! The bad news was my grandmother was convinced that the river was full of piranhas. ¡El bummer! This week I didn’t receive any negative feedback from Jason, which meant I was seemless at that point to my knowledge. We broke down quite a few of Brian Fox’s high level Nexus ideas into Epics, and I felt just as effective from Rosario, Argentina as I had from anywhere, and in fact more effective than Alaska. Mati and I ended up leaving Rosario and went back to Córdoba to enjoy a holiday weekend.

Return To Córdoba, Argentina

Working Remotely - Part 02

* Working from a meeting room at Loop Coworking in Córdoba, Argentina

After a long President’s Day weekend, I moved into a new apartment. I had learnt enough Spanish to ask for the fastest internet. Unfortunately the apartment company made a mistake and thought I’d be ok with 6mbps download and .5mbps upload. I went to work at a coworking spot for a few days while the apartment company said they would work out the internet situation. Working from the coworking spot was great. My SIP phone still didn’t work 100% but the internet at this place was great. If you ever find yourself in Córdoba, Argentina and you need fantastic internet, go check out Loop Coworking. There’s a pool, free coffee, awesome Argentino professionals, and the price per day isn’t bad at all.

After a few days working at Loop, I felt totally effective. I ended up getting a new apartment with internet that wasn’t overall the best, and I still had some jitter on my calls. I knew that I was flying to Florida that weekend to attend a course with Mark Kilby called “Coaching Beyond The Team (CBTT)”, and I made a note to pick up supplies such as the Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter.

When I went to Florida I told Mark and Mike Hansen (my boss), “Hey guys, I’ve been in South America the past month”. Jaws dropped, but the main reason was they hadn’t noticed anything different. Mission accomplished, thus far.

Return To South America

After a fun week in Florida paired with the flu and the amazing CBTT course with Esther Derby, Don Gray, and a ton of great Agile Coaches, I flew back to South America. I spent the next week on vacation trekking around Torres Del Paine in South Chile, which was awesome! The flexibility of being remote means I was able to get to a VERY remote location on the planet and know that I’d be able to start working much quicker. And I did!

 

I got back to Córdoba, got a brand new apartment and also got an upgrade to THE FASTEST INTERNET IN ALL OF ARGENTINA. 30mbps down and 3mbps up! This was the moment I’d been waiting for! The fast internet combined with being hardwired to the router appeared to cause all my latency to disappear. Jitter was gone, and I could screenshare and do whatever I wanted.

What is even better to me is that I’m currently typing this article from my apartment in Córdoba, and I’m about to jump on a meeting with a good portion of our team. This last weekend I spent in Mendoza, Argentina and I was privileged to the finest Malbec in the world. The past three weeks have been amazing, and in total the past two months have been incredible. The amount of flexibility and opportunity I’ve had is incredible, but what all have I learned?

PROS

  • The Nexus Team is spread across a wild time zone spread, which you can see in this article. Being in Argentina put me in such a place where I could wake up at 11 AM (10 AM once DST kicked in) ART and still make early EST meetings, or wake up at earlier times and engage with the European/UK team
  • While being here, the team and I instituted a number of experiments, most of which have been successful. I felt MORE effective while here. That’s hard to quantify but I am super engaged and I feel fully charged. The experiments are listed below and link to examples where possible
  • On that note I co-wrote two blog posts with the Nexus team and got those published on TheNEXUS
  • I participated in the Sonatype Engineering Webinar directly from Córdoba. Watch it here!
  • We as a team have released a few different versions of Nexus, including a relatively new Milestone build for Nexus 3
  • Work-life balance is AMAZING. Argentines don’t eat dinner until around 10-11 PM, meaning that I can work late if needed but still catch dinner with all my friends here.
  • When finding out about working from here, each person on the Sonatype team either said “WOW THAT’S AWESOME” or that they hadn’t noticed any difference. After seeing the Engineering Webinar where I made my location publicly known, Jason Dillon asked me “So did you move to Argentina or something?”. To me that is the ultimate success story, as Jason is my ultimate feedback loop on effectiveness
  • I completely missed the crazy winter in the North East. This is definitely a pro even if I do like cold weather. My phone would tell me constantly that there was weather alert in DC, to which I went “HA-HA”
  • My Spanish has gotten MUCH better. It’s not perfect yet, and being I’ve been learning Cordobés it is likely I will confuse many Spanish speakers for the rest of my life. Maybe this is a con?
  • I shot around 25 rolls of medium format and 35mm film, which I still need to develop. Some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken (current theory) are on those rolls

CONS

  • If you don’t know what you are doing with internet access here, you can end up in interesting situations. I’m personally hoping this article sheds some light for others who may be interested in working remotely from Argentina on where they can go and what to look for. Discovering all of this was difficult for me.
  • Knowing Spanish is great, and also knowing that Argentina has their own distinct accent is even better. I don’t really know either, but I’m learning. Study up on it a bit, even if you know Spanish already.
  • One interesting con, which wasn’t too bad was I’d booked my flight down here before finding out that I was going to “Coaching Beyond The Team”. I obviously didn’t want to miss this and paid out of pocket for a loooooong flight to Florida. However, I also sort of viewed this as a pro but only because I got a ton of frequent flyer miles
  • I didn’t end up using the wireless repeater. If every router has the admin locked, it’s sort of impossible to set it up correctly. Wasted luggage
  • My SIP phone went from pseudo useful to completely useless depending on what network I was on. This made it highly questionable luggage
  • I ordered nachos from a very nice restaurant. What I got was Nacho Cheese Doritos and Cheesewhiz. To say that Argentina doesn’t have Mexican style food is an understatement. I realize this is my error, but I sorely miss the flavor of Mexico and many other countries food that is common in America

Would I Do This Again?

In a heartbeat. In addition to feeling super effective, being in South America has been amazing! Working with the Nexus team from here has also been incredible. The flexibility of working at Sonatype is something I couldn’t quite imagine anywhere else and like I said, was a huge factor in choosing to work here. Another factor that keeps me engaged is that our engineering team is hard at work and we all put in the effort despite where we are geographically. We make it work!

Being a part of a team that is constantly pushing forward is an incredible feeling. If you haven’t tried that yet, you should. Building on our quick momentum, I also work with people who trust me such as Mike and Mark. The trust to get the job done helps me personally push forward. I know I have liberty to try interesting approaches to old problems, including relocating myself if necessary. If you haven’t felt trusted yet, you should.

To Argentina: Chau, nos vemos! To America: I can’t wait to eat a burrito.

Author, Jeffry Hesse

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A total Scrum Bag, working to remind others that it’s more important to Be Agile than to just Do Agile. I spend my time coaching and mentoring, helping others to find the answers they already know and giving advice when asked. When not figuring out just the right amount of process to succeed, I can be found in the remote stretches of the Earth observing the beauty of nature.
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