My Top Tips on Remote Working

Alberto Cortés, Senseye Backend Software Engineer, Madrid, Spain

Hi. Could you say a little about yourself and your background?

alcortes-claustro

I am Alberto Cortés and I’m a telecoms engineer - it uses both computer science and electrical engineering. I live in Madrid where I’ve lived my whole life. 

I have a PhD in telematics engineering, which is about network communications. I started my career after my university education as a teacher at the university. I was teaching for 12 years. Then the crisis hit in 2008, but we were OK because universities in Spain are publicly funded. But five years later the money ran out. They said to me, ‘Next year we will not be able to give you a contract’. In that year I learnt coding - obviously I knew coding because I was teaching it, but I learnt the real practical aspects.

Why did you decide to join Senseye?

I started working for a start-up in Spain, where it was all remote working because the people working there were almost all foreigners. I thought, “Wow, this is interesting. This is the future.”

I then started looking for other jobs in coding offering remote working only. I got a couple of offers - one from Senseye. I chose Senseye because of their remote working capabilities but also because of the Go language they use (I trained as an expert in Go).

What is your role at Senseye?

I work at Senseye as a Backend Engineer since 2017. My job is to code programmes for the company that help them solve customer problems linked to machine condition monitoring and maintenance practices that our solution Senseye PdM supports. My role is mainly to understand and structure the data coming from different machines, to get it clean and in the right form for the machine-learning to do its magic automatically.

I work with about 10 or so other Backend Engineers who break-down into squads of two  or three working on a specific business problem. We work in six- or seven-week sprints or cycles to develop our solution, and we present it in a video call with slides at the end of each cycle.

Then we form a new squad for a new problem, which is great to mix our skills and vary the challenges to overcome as a team. We meet online once every three or four days for about 15 minutes. You could call it Scrum working, as other software engineers might say.

I’ve been a couple of times to the headquarters offices in Southampton to get to see and know some of my colleagues I work with.

What does remote working mean to you in terms of your work and life?

Remote working is very unusual in Spain. It’s a little more common in Computer Science - but probably less than 5% of people in computing work remotely and probably less than 1% of people in total are remote working.

A typical day for me is starting work at 8am Spanish time, which is 7am UK time. My girlfriend works in an office close by and at 12pm I cook food for both of us. That takes quite a long time - half an hour or more - not like lunch in the UK!

We have food, then have half an hour sobremesa - the time spent relaxing and chatting after a meal. It literally means “over the table” and it’s important in Spain.

My girlfriend walks back to the office and I go with her - it’s about 10 minutes. Then about 2pm I start working again till 1800. So much then happens in Spain in the evening. It’s still common for Spanish people to go out for dinner at about 11pm and go home about 1am but we’re slowly adapting to more European schedules.

I have tried going to the climbing gym in mid-morning but it doesn’t work so well because when my girlfriend is in the flat I don’t want to be working, so I now align my schedule with hers.

What are your top tips for successful remote working?

I’m really familiar with remote working and I am very productive. It gives me lots more time, and it works very well for me. The cost of living in Spain is lower and I have a better quality of life than my friends in the US. And for the company they can recruit from all over the world - which is a huge benefit for them too.

But  you need to be careful when working from home because it means you carry on pushing, and initially I didn’t know when to stop. If you do so, you can burn very quickly. So having physical barriers is very important. My boss was constantly reminding me to stop working - he knew what would happen if I kept going. I now do strict time boxing.  Here are my top three tips that I have learnt with time:

  1. Having a small office at home. I can close the door when I’m working and when I finish, which is very important. I work from home, but when I’m working I’m not “at home”.
  2. Having a schedule and repeating the same thing every day. That helps a lot. You need boundaries for time and space.
  3. Make my work friends personal friends and re-tune that way.
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Learn more about why Senseye supports remote working for its employees: "Five Reasons We Support Remote Working at Senseye".