Visas and Work Permits — 10 min
Welcome to our series Inside Remote Software Engineering jobs! This series includes a collection of interviews with members of our engineering team, who will each share their background, professional journey, and story of what it’s like to work as an engineer at Remote. The interviews showcase the diversity and expertise of our engineering team members and explore how Remote engineers shape the future of work at our company.
My name is Chung Nguyen. I have been living in Lisbon, Portugal for over two years, but I’m originally from Vietnam and grew up in northern California (US). I am a Frontend Developer on the Time and Attendance team at Remote. Our team builds and maintains the time off and time tracking features.
How did you end up working at Remote? I have a university degree in English (Literature) and worked for about 15 years in various customer support and documentation writing roles. At age 35, I quit my job and attended a coding bootcamp in San Francisco, and that’s how I became a software engineer.
With a bit of serendipity, I ended up at Remote because I had moved from the US to Portugal and my employer could only keep me onboard as a contractor. As a contractor, I was responsible for all my taxes, retirement contributions, and social security obligations. It made me look into how folks can be hired internationally as employees, and a few names popped up in this space, including Remote. What won me over was Remote’s treatise on async work culture and how engineering shipped.
What is something that you have worked on at Remote that you are proud of?
We have a quarterly hackathon in engineering where folks spend two days working on various projects (unrelated to their day-to-day jobs). A popular activity at Remote is “coffee chats”, which are 30-minute calls you can schedule with anyone at the company to get to know them better on a personal level. But with so many folks working at Remote, it’s intimidating to figure out whom to schedule a coffee chat with. (Kind of like figuring out whom to ask to review your merge requests. Oof.)
The company was interested in using something like the Donut app, which automatically pairs folks in a channel on Slack to have these casual conversations. Unfortunately, Donut requests a bit more access permissions in Slack than our security team feels comfortable with, so we were unable to move forward with it. The hackathon idea was to build our own. I was able to work with a small team of engineers, and we all learned how the Slack API worked together. Unsurprisingly, we were unable to complete the project in the two days allotted. Luckily, I had a some time available in between projects, so I took it upon myself to outline what needed to be done to get the internal matching bot up and running in our Slack. I find that any seemingly insurmountable task becomes easy to accomplish once you break it down into small items like “name the app” (It’s called, creatively enough, “CoffeeBot”). At the end of the day, we were able to deploy a NodeJs app that runs our internal CoffeeBot which matches folks randomly for chats every other week. I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment, since it leverages a tech stack I seldom use (NodeJs). But more importantly, the human connection aspect of it makes me happy in two ways: 1) when I get to jump on a coffee chat with a colleague that I may otherwise never chat with and 2) when I hear from colleagues that they had/made great fun/interesting conversations because of the match.
What brings you joy outside of work?
A short list of some things that bring me joy:
a tasty bite of dessert (pastel de nata, eclair, macaron, cake, petit chou)
my dog nestled right up next to me on the sofa
the first marks I make on a blank page in my sketchbook
seeing a houseplant sprout a new leaf or limb
basking in the sunshine with a cold beverage in hand
What do you like about working at Remote? The love for iterative improvements is part of the DNA at Remote, which jives very well with how I like to work. I truly enjoy that we work toward shipping things of value quickly, versus hemming and hawing ad nauseam without taking any risks or chances.
I also enjoy the amount of freedom that folks are given in order to get work done. When you treat people like responsible adults who are capable of doing a great job, they tend to live up to those expectations. And it’s nice to work in an environment that proffers mutual trust and understanding. This goes without saying, but probably worth confirming regardless: the people I get to work with are truly amazing. I have never worked with such an international and diverse group before, and it’s really great to learn about different folks’ cultures and backgrounds. Most importantly, I understand the company and product that we’re trying to build. And as someone who has moved abroad and has first-hand experience of the geographical biases of hiring companies (e.g., yeah, we hire remotely but no, you have to be located in XYZ country), it heartens me to work on a tenable solution to that problem. Talent is truly border-less.
What has async work done for your life?
Not too many companies that offer full-time remote work espouse an async work style, which is a shame. Async work is really the only tenable way to sustain full-time remote work with colleagues spanning many time zones. I, personally, like to work between 9 am and 17 pm (local), but when I was working remotely with another company, I had to attend a weekly meeting at 19 pm (during my beloved dinner time). The meeting was definitely not needed to be productive at all (often there was no agenda!), but still took place out of tradition, and I was too passive to decline lest I seem like less of a “team player”.
Async work is, of course, not without its challenges. For example, you need to become extremely good at working transparently (one of our core values) and you must be good at communicating asynchronously (e.g., writing out steps to test your merge requests or explaining your assumptions when building out a feature). You can’t always easily jump on a call with a specific person to clarify things in real-time. Working async has enabled me to be more present in my life. We all have things that will take us away from our keyboard: doctor’s appointments, that one hour during the day when the bank queue is short, the weather is just too nice right now to not take a walk with our dog, etc. It’s really refreshing to be able to work when I feel most motivated to do my best work. And my deliverables are what get looked at in terms of determining my performance, not how many agenda-less meetings I showed up for. I definitely feel more in control of my life now that I’m in full control of where and when I work. It’s not always easy, but it’s such a valuable “perk”.
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