Finding A Remote Job
In 2012 I found myself in an awkward position in my career. I was working at KDAB, a company of lovely, talented people with great bosses and working on (mostly) interesting projects. Sounds great, right?
The problem was the technology we consulted in (Qt) and I’d built my career becoming a bit of expert in was being used to solve problems that no longer interested me and I was convinced Qt was becoming legacy technology. I was writing mostly C++ (which I despise) and I wanted to pivot to working using Ruby (which I had experience with through Homebrew) or Objective-C (which I’d dabbled with and liked). Additionally, I wanted to keep being paid well (you can gauge average pay per-language on IT Jobs Watch), work on a product-focused company remotely from my home in Scotland for a company which was, ideally, based in San Francisco (I really liked the place). I thought it was pretty staggeringly unlikely I’d be able to meet most of those criteria but my last two jobs have met all of them.
If you’re set on a remote job (e.g. you don’t want to drag your family around) you really don’t want to be looking for companies you like and then trying to argue the case for remote working. Even if you end up working at that company if they aren’t set up for remote working you’ll have a fairly miserable experience. I found the best places to look for remote jobs were StackOverflow Careers (now sunset), GitHub Jobs (now sunset) and Hacker News “Who is hiring?” threads because they all allow you to specifically filter for companies that have said they are OK with remote jobs.
I’ve realised is that job hunting is a numbers game. There’s an absurd number of jobs available to software engineers currently and even with the criteria I had this could probably apply to hundreds if not thousands of companies. With this in mind I got my CV sorted, a template cover letter ready and contacted ~50 companies through the above jobs sites that seemed particularly interesting. These slimmed down to ~30 email conversations, ~20 Skype calls and finally ~10 in-person interviews in San Francisco for remote-friendly, product companies where I’d be writing Ruby or Objective-C. That seemed like enough to justify the expense so I booked flights and flew over. I could have probably convinced one of the companies to pay for the flights but I didn’t want to get a company with more money to pay for them only for me to work for a company that didn’t.
My in-person interviews were pretty varied; I had one company decide they didn’t want to hire a remote person and cancel the interview 19 hours before I was due to turn up (and was physically in San Francisco). This was probably a lucky escape given it’s a sign that they probably weren’t super remote friendly. Two of the interviews turned out to be more like speculative conversations and a few serendipitous encounters ended up with a couple more pre-interviews for companies I hadn’t talked to before coming out there. In the end I ended up leaving San Francisco with two confirmed offers with confirmed (decent) salaries. Hurrah!
In the end the company I ended up working for (AllTrails) was a good choice as it levelled up my Rails skills so bigger Ruby-based companies would take me more seriously. This all gets me to where I am today: at a decent, well-paid job I love working on a product I really believe in from my home in Scotland writing Ruby for a a company in San Francisco.