New job - at home

Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything here. That's because I've been busy with a new job.

The new job is doing LAMP development for a major online community site. True to form, I'm not (yet) going to name the company. That policy has served me well so far. However, I will share some details of my new position and some of the challenges I've faced with it, both expected and unexpected.

The first innovation with regard to this job is it's location - my house. Yes, it's a 100% telecommute, work-from-home position. In fact, it's a totally distributed team, so everybody on the development works from home. And while that's great, so far I've actually found it to be one of the biggest challenges with the job. The challenge isn't motivating myself to actually work, which my mother thought it would be (seriously, she was concerned about that). In fact, quite the opposite. Until recently, I've had more problems with spending too much time working.

There are a three main reasons for this. Part of it is because I was still learning our system and felt like I had to "catch up" to the rest of the team. Another part is simply schedule diversity. We communicate primarily via Skype chatrooms, so we can when people are online. And since we have developers literally from California in the west to Russia in the east, many of them work non-standard schedules, there's always somebody "on", which adds some subconscious pressure. And lastly, of course, part of it is probably emotional damage from my last job. At that (highly dysfunctional) company, we were allowed to work from home on occasion, but if we did it too often, the CEO would make needling comments to the VP of Engineering suggesting that "working form home" was a code-word for "taking the day off". So I think I've partly been stuck in the mindset of trying to prove that, "No, really, I am actually working!"

The other new feature of this position is the sheer size of the operation. And I mean that in pretty much every conceivable way - the amount of traffic, the infrastructure, the size of the code-base, the size of the development team. In fact, pretty much the only thing that isn't big (to me) is the size of the overall company. By way of comparison:

  • The largest site I'd work on was when I was at ebaumsworld.com, where we had something like 30 servers in our environment and were ranked about 1200 in the world by Alexa. The current job has nearly 100 web servers alone and is ranked in the top 150 in the world by Alexa.
  • The largest code-base I'd worked on was at my last job - a little over 200K total LOC when you include unit tests. The new job has over 500K lines of just PHP code (that's not counting CSS or JavaScript) in just the web portion of the tree.
  • The largest group I'd worked in was when I was with the county IT department - about 30 people total, about 9 of them programmers, no collaborative projects to speak of. My last two teams have been very tight 4-man operations. At the new job, we have about 30 people on the tech team, all of them programmers and all of them very good.

So, needless to say, I've been very busy figuring things out in my new position. I've been there for about three months now and I think I'm finally getting comfortable. I'm still learning the code-base, of course (nobody understands the entire thing - it's just too big), but I'm getting more confident and feel like I'm making progress. So in other words, so far, so good.

And most importantly, I'm much happier than I was at my last job. It's nice to feel like you can trust your colleagues and that the work you're doing is helpful. Amazing how increased morale boosts productivity.

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