Interview: Rodney Cullen

Rodney Cullen1. What do you do for a living, and where do you work?

I worked very hard on a client project for 4 years and saved up enough to allow me to travel for the last 2 years. I have done a lot of pro-bono based work with startups and social enterprises as well as my own projects on the side, but was not dependant on them for income.

You can find me in twitter at @rodcul, Linkedin and my blog.

2. Do you work by yourself or in a team?

Right now by myself, but I have worked on things in the past with other teams and am in the process of setting up a new one.

3. If you work on a team: How many people work at your company? How many of you work remotely? / Where do you work from (where is the team based)?

Right now we’ve agreed that it makes sense to be in the same location here in London. I believe it’s SUPER important to build those relationships in person that will allow you to work remotely later on. We have the goal of 4 day work weeks and ensuring we are ultimately location agnostic. We should be able to deliver value wherever we’re working from.

4. Why did you decide to start working remotely?

For the experiences and opportunities we are able to explore. It just makes more sense these days.

5. How do you keep connected with the team? Do you meet somewhere frequently? If this is the case, where and how often?

Right now we’re just starting up so we try to meet up most days. In the past we’ve relied heavily on e-mail for asynchronous communication, slack for anything that requires and immediate answer and google hangouts for group weekly meetings.

6. Which are the biggest benefits and advantages that you have found by working remotely?

Feeling more energised & inspired. Getting exposed to new people, cultures, perspectives. Expanding my horizons and seeing how people go about solving similar problems differently around the world.

7. What are the biggest challenges you face working remotely and how do you overcome them?

Feeling connected with the team, lack of instant communication, time zone differences. Previously we overcame this by being very disciplined with our daily catchups  and weekly meetings (part of Agile software methodology).

Also it can be harder to remain focused with so many exciting/interesting things going on around you! Make sure to find a quiet place with good connectivity. Although coffee shops are great, I find visiting local co-working locations is a great way to do that (most of them offer day passes, or sometimes you can even get in for free if you say you’re interested in testing their space).

Also clearly communicate to those people you’re travelling with that you need some quiet time to focus and get on with some work. I found the Pomodoro technique a huge help. Set a goal of 6-10 pomodoros/day (harder than it sounds!).

8. Do you think that you have lost something by working remotely?

Of course, life is always about trade-offs, right? Sure, it was harder to brainstorm ideas with the team, have impromptu conversations, and enjoy cross-pollination of ideas but I gained more focus, increased productivity in certain instances fewer distractions on top of all the amazing life experiences I’ve enjoyed!

9. If you work with external clients: Which are the benefits and disadvantages for them to work with someone remotely? Have they ever told you something about it?

Benefits was increased focus and productivity for sure. We would have a call, plan out the next batch of work then crack on with the new backlog of tasks. This is especially interesting when you are on different timezones and you can turn around work overnight, getting feedback the next day and then working on the next batch overnight.

As long as you are all clear on communication channels and are disciplined around replying to messages and showing up for scheduled calls/hangouts impact is far less than most people imagine, and as I’ve mentioned there are some great tradeoffs. I found cycling between remote/on-site works really well.

10. What’s the working philosophy and environment you look to have?

Work with clients that understand the value I’m delivering, or work on my own projects that generate their own revenue stream to completely eliminate any friction being remote could be.

Have good communication guidelines. Have conversations with the client/rest of the team. Constantly look for ways to improve. Some great tips here in the book “Remote: Office Not Required” by the guys from Basecamp.

11. Which places, cities, countries have you work from since becoming a remoter? Which has been your favorite one?

London, Santa Monica, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Israel, Japan, Sydney, New Zealand, Panama…

Santa Monica by far. There’s a great tech startup scene and some really cool co-working spaces. I would ride in on my longboard in the morning then hit the beach in the afternoon and watch the sunset. Bliss.

12. Which type of place do you work from in particular? Coworking spaces? Coffee shops? Somewhere else? Why and which are your favorite ones?

I try and mix it up. As long as I can pop on my BOSE noise cancelling headphones (expensive but worth it!), minimize interruption and have good internet connectivity I try and experience as many locations as possible, that’s kind of the whole point, no?

13. Can you describe a typical work day in your life?

Right now there’s no such thing, although I’m working hard to bring more routine into my life. Generally I’ll try and get up around 7.30 am and treat myself to a good, healthy breakfast (ideally with friends) and try and get a good healthy, joyous start to the day. After all what’s the point of owning your time if you then have to rush to be at your desk by a certain time?

14. How do you manage work-life balance?

Be selective about what you work on, make sure it generates enough income so that you can maintain a healthy balance. Using the pomodoro system I will try and have a walk around, stretch or even a quick meditation between each 25 min chunk of work. Yoga, exercise in general and meditation also help me be more creative and focused when I’m actually working.

15. How being a digital nomad has changed you?

It’s made me be more appreciative of the little things. A coffee with a friend, home cooked healthy breakfast. Having the freedom to participate in events or trips. Watching everyone scuttle off to work for the daily grind for 40-100 hour weeks just does not appeal to me.

16. What do you do to avoid distractions when working?

I tell myself that all these things I enjoy will potentially disappear and I’ll have to go back to grinding it out if I don’t focus. This generally works pretty well.

 

17. What would you say to companies that don’t believe in hiring people working remotely?

How can you be so sure that the best possible person for this job lives in a 50 km radius from here? If you’re unable to incorporate remote workers into your team, you need to revisit your tools and processes.

18. Which tools do you use that facilitate your life as a remoter?

North Face Surge II backpack with:

  • Macbook 15” retina with 16 GB ram
  • BOSE QC15 headphones
  • Passport
  • Laptop
  • Credit Card

https://nomadlist.com/ is a favourite site for finding my next location, and a great community over on slack (https://hashtagnomads.com/) to connect with people before arriving somewhere or get any questions resolved by people that are already in a certain area.

19. Which places would you like to visit next -enjoy and work from- in your remoter journey?

Chiang Mai seems like the ideal place to really focus, and it’s cheap!

20. What advice would you share with people looking to start working remotely?

Just do it. Worst case scenario you’ll pack up your current apartment/house. It’s a useful exercise to get rid of a bunch of stuff you own and don’t need. Figure out what’s important to you. Have some amazing life experiences. Your current job (or something similar) will ALWAYS be there waiting for you.

 

 

 

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