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Ask HN: How do you move up in professional status as a remote worker?
54 points by ccajas on Oct 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 24 comments
How do you move into senior positions, and then lead positions as a remote developer? Is it even possible? As a remote software engineer I have low visibility and do not work with a team of on-site developers so I feel stuck in a holding pattern. Not to mention half the time my roles are temp roles. How do I cement myself as a bigger team player while staying remote, and gradually take on more leadership?

You change jobs. That's it. Even though you might think it's a simple approach, no, it's not. It takes guts. And on the positive side, you also get a chance to show off, demonstrate your true abilities.

It's a gig economy. Mobility is one of the features. You can spend your life proving your "worthiness" at one company when other will see it right away.

It's very difficult unless the entire company is remote. It's a very simple human bias. We feel greater connection and trust with people physically present, which naturally makes remote workers less likely to seem like a good choice for a promotion or leadership role. If it's something you really want you need to explicitly start working for it. Talk to management, explain your career goals, determine what it is they are looking for in a higher level position, and then become it. Make it obvious that you can do that job and keep revisiting the issue.

Even if you do this you may find that they still just prefer promote someone on site. It happened to me after 2 years with a small startup. It wasn't personal; they just preferred someone who could be there for social outings, in-person standups with other managers, and other obligations at the office. You have to be ready for that outcome and plan your career accordingly.

I work for remote for 4 years now, one in employment and three as a freelancer.

I have the feeling most of business stuff is gut feeling and story telling.

People aren't interested in what you can do for them, but in what they think you can do for them.

The will gladly promote someone over you just because they sit in the same office or at the same floor as them. Often it's enough that they both believe in the next hype or both play tennis.

What I have learned in the last years, is, you need to create visibility. Put yourself out there. Create articles, podcasts, videos, whatever. The more people get a feeling for "you" in it, the better.

When I didn't write articles, people would simply ignore me, mostly because they didn't know I existed.

When I started blogging, people one day contacted me for collaboration, but only like 5 or so.

When I did a podcast, people suddendly took me as a human being they could potentially like. I didn't tell them new stuff, I wrote about it for years, so I don't think they considered my skills. A voice simply made me more approachable. Suddenly more important people wanted to contact me.

What I want to say is, put yourself out there, try to make youself seen as someone skillful others can relate to. It certainly helped me.

> When I did a podcast

Have you tried video? I wonder if being able to see as well as hear you makes a difference.

Yes, and it works even better.

Disclaimer: I'm a white dude in my mid thirties, so I'm obviously biased.

As a person leading a remote first company.

I believe that it is first depends on the company and leadership culture.

If they look at you as an "outside" help, they will less trust you with important roles and responsibilities.

I have two suggestions:

1. From my experience even a week on site can make a huge difference. Is it a possibility for you to reach to the office?

2. Try to understand more about the bigger picture /context and do the extra step of bringing areas you feel strong vs other team members. It will show the leadership that you are able to lead.

Hi, I work for a small-medium business and while the whole business isn't remote first, but the particular project I'm on is. Should I plan my Skype meetings more carefully, and rehearse some important things to say? Right now I'm a contractor and the first step that I want to achieve is becoming a full-time worker. They only have me on for 100 hours or so, no retainer. I'm still at the first third of those 100 hours.

I understand. IMHO, it's a different situation than a remote worker that want to lead and take more responsibilities.

It is more similar to an hourly worker that want to move to a full time role.

I think you should do two things:

1. Share with your direct contact that you see your future in the company and want to have a full time remote position with the company. Being clear/communicative is very important.

2. Give them more value in the first 100 hours than they paid for. It will show a higher margin on value for cost for you. Something that will be harder to check later on when you're a full time employee. Try to understand what did they want to gain from the bank of 100 hours, and over achieve it.

Work on something alone, and become the subject matter expert. Then petition for a helper, and build a team that did not previously exist.

If you don’t get assigned to an area where you can do this, look around and spot the subject you are going to master and the team you are going to build and petition a manager to get you to solve that new problem for the company.

(15 years in the last 20 remote)

Fully remote worker (from another country) on a leadership position here.

Hard work and exceptional availability and communication skills. I was the guy who would work weekends, be the first the show up online etc. Never procrastinate. Keep track of other people's work and make your efforts in moving things forward crystal clear to your boss. Deliver.

People are not going to bet on a remote worker for displaying exceptional commitment or leadership skills. You have to actively display them yourself, but not in a pushy manner. Just be the absolute most useful and reliable person you can be. Soon enough you'll have enough responsibilities and involvement in projects that a leadership role will emerge naturally.

> I was the guy who would work weekends

Even in this context this doesn’t seem a good idea; it might as well lead to burnout or similar.

Another way to look at that you can choose to work weekends until you don't have to. I've certainly done that in the past. I don't know if I recommend it, as even if you don't burn out, it's not much of a life unless you love the work.

Yeah, I didn't say work hard on weekends, but rather, work smarter, take 2-3 hours to review things, advance things etc. Of course if you're the guy who can "save the demo" by working 18h straight on a weekend it helps too.

And of course, never work for free. Even those extra weekend hours, make sure you get paid for them. This is a huge part on getting and maintaining respect from your employer.

Working weekends is basically giving your employer part of your work for free.

Would you accept a temporary pay deduction to demonstrate company loyalty?

For some this might work out well. For others, not so much. In any case I think that this needlessly puts the employer in a position of power.

I’d search for other, safer and healthier ways of proving your worth to the company.

This is my game plan. I freelance my rates have been edging up.. started at $30/hr now at $50. Hoping to get them to $90 by next year.

I'm in the same boat sort my game plan is:

1. Schedule bots to post on reddit in all the forhire subreddits w/ alternating message templates. This gets me new leads and sometimes people find me from stuff I posted a few months ago.

2. Write 2-3 blog posts per week on medium, w/ a blurb about who I am and how to hire me. These should be VERY technical and thorough. Some of these posts have made me a could hundred $$ just from media partner program so it's definitely not wasted time.

3. Write a book. This is something I'm wanting to do when I get the time, haven't yet. Something targeting your target market (for me that's just SaaS entrepreneurs, so I might do a book on building and scaling a SaaS business eventually.)

4. Keep your resume and public github active and maintained. The better your online presence the more likely you are to get hired.

5. Eventually word of mouth should be your #1 source of new gigs if freelancing, so build the warm market as you can.

I also feel stuck quite often, and I don't always meet my goals for self-marketing. But I have seen things grow a bit, and am hoping it continues. I think the key is just consistency.

Some other things be sure to post to all the HN who's hiring/looking-for-work/freelancer-seeking-freelancer.

If you want a remote gig there are plenty out there, and if you can land one with a big company like gitlab then name recognition could lift you up.

Also places like toptal can get you decent pay but I'm reluctant to go through their lengthy on-boarding so haven't tested them myself.

You can't. A remote software developer in a primarily geo located site is doomed to fail. Source: personal experience.

With all due respect, the fact that you have doesn't remotly imply that any remote developer is doomed to fail.

If you have enough experience, try to change teams or companies and apply for a more senior role. Try bringing this concern up in your next 1:1, see what your manage thinks about it - he or she is probably well positioned to give you a game-plan.

You might get some answers here but for your company the main way is to talk to the boss who makes the decisions about who does what and ask them for the job, or if not what you have to do to achieve that. I'd think spending some face-time in the office to know the team would be a requirement.

Definitiely much harder as a remote worker. Perhaps try a remote-first firm instead?

You have to take accountability for your own path. Choose to evolve your role, and if there is resistance, find someone to work with who you're more compatible with.

Work for a remote first company, make your desire for leadership opportunities known during the interview process, and follow up on that goal in 1 on 1s.

its impossible - remote workers are seen as outside contractors. you're hired to do a specific job/ task not run the business

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