Thursday, February 12, 2015

OPW at home

I probably should be writing about what I'm working on, but I thought I would take a moment to write about something else. I've elected to work from home during the OPW, and the structure is starting to prove more challenging. When the internship first began, staying at home offered so many wonderful advantages, including a fridge (sometimes) full of lunch options, unlimited cups of tea, bumping beats at the sound level of my choice, my trusty German wire-haired pointer at my side (okay, he actually sleeps all day on the bed, but he comes and checks up on me), and easy access to the local park when I need a break from programming or my dog needs a break from sleeping. I also have a nice setup. In my "office," I have the choice of my sit-down or standup desk situated so they are free from distraction. I'm still enjoying all those perks, but honestly, at times I'm a bit lonely. I wish I had MORE positive distractions. If you think about working in an office, even highly productive people take the time to chat with their co-workers about professional and non-professional topics. Most teams have some form of mandatory meetings which provide a forum to speak about your ideas. After doing a quick search, many tips for the remote worker encompass practices that maintain those ties to the office, such as tuning in remotely to meetings and conferences. The outreach program is a bit of an enigma. You don't have a base office. So how do you stay connected?

Full disclosure, I haven't figured it out yet, but I have a few tips of my own. IRC. It doesn't have to be the OPW channel, just anyplace where you can spend a few minutes chatting about the weather with someone. The second thing that I think is even more important is to connect with your local community. Salt Lake City has a lot of tech meet ups and it's pretty easy to find a hack night a couple times per month. People are always curious about what you're up to and usually get pretty excited about the project. I find that I can feed off of their enthusiasm and use it to renew my motivation. Another event I stumbled into last week, and couldn't have come at a better time. I committed to being a part of a Technology and Teens bootcamp that was funded by numFocus. It was a full day devoted to teaching local high school girls the basics of Python and exposing them to career options involving programming. About 50 girls showed up to the event eager to learn. I loved it when you could see something clicked for them. In addition to the girls, there were about 10 or so teacher assistants, all women who either had their PhDs or are going to finish them shortly. It was inspiring, and perhaps a little intimidating, to be surrounded by so many accomplished women. Perhaps the biggest improvement to my connectivity was the sense that I was disseminating what I was currently learning to others. You can't get much more full circle than that.

I'd be interested in learning how others are reaching out to stay connected. Please comment if you have any good tips.