October 27, 2008

Remote working mom seeks sanity

A lot of people have asked me how I’ve adjusted to working remotely from Munich. Professionally I make it work by being available during the overlap hours, which is after 8PM here. From a family perspective I make it work by picking my kids up at 3 and spending the afternoon with them until it’s time for bed. But personally, I have to say that working from home in a different time zone isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Sure, you can lounge around in PJs until noon and work without interruptions but it’s a lonely business. I’m pathetically grateful when I see one of my colleagues working late on Skype or when I get an email message during my normal working hours. And sometimes I worry that I’ll wind up doing some geeky chair dance on my web cam and posting it to YouTube.

But I can’t complain. After all, I married a German. There was always that chance we’d live in Germany.

Let me take you on a quick tour of a typical day:

Sometime between 4-6 AM one of our daughters climbs into bed with us and it's a crap shoot whether more sleeping is to be had after that. If everyone isn't already awake by 7 the cat starts meowing, which gets the household into motion. Ralf makes coffee (that’s his job since I watch the kids every afternoon while he works) and at some point we remember that the kids need to be at school before 8:30 - this somehow catches us off guard every morning - and the rush to make breakfast, pack lunches and get everyone dressed (warmly) ensues. Once the kids are out of the house I sit in front of my computer with a second cup of coffee and peruse my email, wincing (we’re in the middles of system testing our latest release so emails usually involve more work than a 2-liner) and, I'm afraid, muttering to myself.

At some point I either drive to the gym or blow it off and get dressed. Or, if it’s Monday, I go shopping at Tengelmann’s, an experience that has merited it's own posting. Then I get to work in earnest, either writing detailed design documents or testing or preparing presentations for various events and customer meetings or researching the state of the talent management market. Although I’m a Human Capital Management generalist, I feel a special affinity for compensation because it: 1) involves math; and 2) it isn't as hard as payroll, benefits and general ledger.

At 2:30 I shut down my computer and pick up the kids. Then we play a bit in the playground outside our house and do various things of that kind until it’s time for dinner, a half hour of TV, a story and bed. Then I start my calls. . .

Sometimes I have a call before the kids go to bed and that gets really interesting. If one were to eavesdrop on various conversations it might sound something like this:

‘. . . Well, sure, but that’s just a me, too story. The real differentiator is. . . no, darling, not until after dinner. . .sorry, the real differentiator is the combination of Core HR and best of breed talent management modules like Compensation. Exactly. Stop hitting your sister! No, not you, sorry. What? Right, OK, so the point isn’t that it’s talent management, the point is that it’s Core. Drop it! What? No, not you, sorry.'

‘. . . I think that as long as we’re consistently behind two weeks on the overall release cycle it’s unrealistic to try to stop development in Drop 8. I mean. . . yes, Little Baboo, that’s very good, go play now, go play. . . Sorry. What? No, I don’t think the problem is necessarily the designs, although we could definitely use a catch up release. No, I don’t think using Confluence would. . . Bubi, mommy’s on the phone, not right now, OK, sweetie?. . . sorry. I don’t think using Confluence to write FDDs would help that much, Word is still the way friendlier documentation tool. PMs are backlogged enough without moving to a tool that wasn’t designed for functional users to do this type of work. No! No knives! No, not you, sorry. What I’m saying is that. . . '

‘. . . They’ll have to set up two sets of rules? That’s crazy. Lisa’s OK with it? Well. . . I guess she oughta know. But why? I mean, why two? But that's totally the same thing. Uh huh. I see. Sort of. Are you sure Lisa wants it? What about. . . ? Len-Len, you can go potty by yourself. No, not you, sorry. Yes you can, sweet pumpkin. . .’ ' ‘Y’know. I think I need to get off now. I’m really sorry. Let’s hook up later or tomorrow. Rightsorrybye!’

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