New Contract & Working Remotely

This week I have started a new contract and this one is very different from previous gigs I have been on, because I am working from the office that we’ve been renting for the past two years – full-time! Woo hoo! It is about time and my commute is neglible because the office is just a smidgeon over a mile from the front-door of our house. I am here at about 8:30am and now have the chance to go to the gym (re-joined recently) first thing or cycle in, take a leisurely walk. Though in recent weeks I have cheated by taking the car, it’s cold, come on! Anyway this whole thing is a step towards a better work-life balance – I hope! It is scheduled to run until May 15th this year, so let’s see if extensions are forthcoming. If not then there are others that can follow on from this. I would love to work with clients further afield too, opening up the travel possibilities.

How did I get this role?

Most of the contracts I take, come in through agencies, I get paid a day rate and they take their cut. Admittedly LinkedIn is playing a bigger role for me now and as you become more established as a contractor/freelancer, it gets easier to source work. I started looking last Tuesday and by Friday, I was signing the contract but I did go for 3 different roles in the process. The remote role appealed a lot because I wanted it! I got it! Two telephone interviews and the process was done.

What is Remote working exactly?

In most cases we get up early, catch a train, drive for an hour or so (each way) and join a team who are all located in the same office. We all log on to client machines that are hooked up to an internal network, with the equipment we use mostly provided by the employing company. You can see, hear everyone around you, offices can be noisy places which for some people, especially if you are an introvert coder, can be a total nightmare. I am not entirely one of those people. In any case I am not alone, as my office is between two other companies who I chat with when given the chance. However I can shut my door, sit down, put some headphones on and focus.

Remote work is utterly different and this is the first time I have truly got involved with it. So perhaps I should journalise it?

I have my own office, my own equipment and in my case it is separate to our house, it is located in a gorgeous old Victorian building that was renovated a decade ago and now houses multiple small businesses. I chose this option because working from home is hard, at least it is for me and you end up never leaving the house. Here I don’t have that problem. I lock the door at the end of the day and go home! Some people are happy to stick at home or some even go out to cafes or co-working spaces that are more lively, more public. If you have a laptop these days, you can easily do that too. It is good to have options and for businesses (some at least) to be more visionary.

I am working with a team of 3 other developers, one of whom is the CEO for the business. We are outsourced by a third-party company who are developing a suite of web and mobile apps for a large American client. So it is truly global. We are all spread over the country and we collaborate using online tools. Slack being one of the main tools that we use. Our code is committed to BitBucket and we run Continuous Integration/Deployment. We can see what other team members have been working on and we can see the outcome when we hit a URL in the browser. So the client has measurable results the whole way.

I can remember reading the book “Remote: Office not required” by David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Ruby-on-Rails) and Jason Fried (founder of Basecamp) and it opened my mind to the possibilities. I also think of Buffer who are very similar, in that their team are spread far and wide, from London to Melbourne via San Francisco.

Why not? The Internet surely makes this all possible – it does – but there are pitfalls, some say it is hard to tell whether their team are working effectively, reliably, efficiently and doing their core hours. You perhaps have to be twice as disciplined to make it work and you can run into the trap of working 24/7. I have been there, sitting watching a film and writing some code at the same time. Luckily my Wife gets it because for me this is a hobby that pays the bills. This week I have done something I don’t normally do, I leave my laptop in the office, so that we can watch the films and be socialable with other humans!

Back on WordPress?

I have been creating some other websites recently, you may wish to take a look if you’ve not yet seen them.

https://nicklewis.photo

https://www.headforcode.com

I am going to carry on with them all but will start writing here again, I have missed the community that I started to establish with this WordPress site. However I will be experimenting with turning WordPress into a “Headless CMS” at some point this year…. watch this space as they say!

 

Merry Christmas!

Seasons greetings from myself, my wife Tina and the rest of our family.

Next year I will be changing the way that I publish content online. I will move away from keeping all of my eggs in one basket where the blog is concerned and developing a series of smaller sites. The idea being that each one will be focussed on individual points of interest – Photography on one site, drones on another, music perhaps on another, technology and coding. I will be designing each site to look different but they will all be using a similar stack of technology to run them with.

This will tie in heavily with my professional work as a web developer and designer of web experiences. All of which will be shared across social media, so people won’t miss out on my scribblings, pictures and so on. I think that way I will reach a much wider audience than I do here.

So please bear with me whilst I bring this all together – I am working on it now.

So dear friend, what are you doing for Christmas? Please share 🙂

In any case, thanks for being who you are, keep blogging no matter how you go about it 😉

Drumming

Welcome home Tim (brother), Penny (sister-in-law) and Izzie (beautiful little bundle of fun aka our baby niece)

Tim Lewis

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Its been a hectic few months as the family have relocated back to London and the UK after a fabulous two and a bit years away on the wonderful Maltese islands. We left as two people and returned as a family of three, bringing with us our beautiful little baby girl. A gift from those remarkable rocky islands in the sea. Since returning everything has gone nuts with work and being home again, seeing old friends and family. Now I am involved on a big project filming some of the best and most interesting drummers. So a collection of drum kits will appear here from time to time. This belongs to the charming and sweet Drummie Zeb of Aswad.

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No posts this week?

Wrong! This is a post so there!

Joking aside, it’s been a busy week compared to last and we’ve just been knuckling down to building our events site for the local area. The local council have taken a keen interest in it too and have been telling us of the family events taking place for Christmas. Lots of classic quirky British stuff, Christmas light switch-ons, Daleks, local pop-stars and Panto Dames. So my apprentice Dan has been busy creating flyers for the events. I think he is now tired of snowmen and Santa. 

We visited one of our clients the other night for an end of year meeting and lasagne. I recommend this combination and all meetings should be conducted this way. Bentley Copse is an activity centre for the outdoors up in the Surrey Hills. It was taken over by a new team about 3 years ago and they are very ambitious. The exciting thing is, it’s paying off and there has been an upturn in their turnover meaning, old buildings can be upgraded and new activities introduced. What’s more the website we built for them is working very well. 

Tina and I left their training center to walk back to our car, in total, absolute darkness, the site is in the middle of a big woodland near Shere. It was slightly spooky and so silent. I could happily live there!

Yesterday I filmed an office team for Tinas colleagues. Our friend Gill acting as presenter, providing a video tour. I was quite proud of my video and would happily do more of that. I used my DJI Osmo for this and edited the video in Adobe Premiere back at my office. I took delivery of a new monitor this week and it’s perfect for video work. 

Today I’m taking time off and plan to get out of town into the countryside somewhere for some decent fresh air.

Kalami awakens

In today’s post, I share another photo from our recent trip to Corfu and this one was taken from where we were staying up on the hillside overlooking the village of Kalami down below.

Kalami was home to the Durrell family and if you cast your eye from left to right, you will see the three yachts moored up in the bay and to the right of them a cluster of buildings down by the water’s edge. One of these buildings is the famous “White House” and was home to the Author and playwright, Lawrence Durrell. It was the time when he invited the rest of his family to come and live with him that inspired the famous novel, “My Family and other Animals” written by his youngest brother Gerald Durrell. It was during the 1930’s that the story was set and if you have read the book, you must visit Kalami. It has grown, for it is said that in Lawrence’s time there, his house was the only one and now there is a procession of small tavernas and holiday homes. It has maintained most of it’s Corfiot charm though.

The White House is now a very good restaurant and there are a suite of apartments there that you can rent on a bed and breakfast basis. The village is adorned with many reminders of the Durrells and indeed people do travel from far and wide just for this connection alone. You will see lots of little animals here and there including rabbits, foxes, otters. Not real ones, just little statuettes of the creatures, some are wearing little jackets and hats, slightly Walt Disney if you ask me and rather overdone.

I can remember the first time we entered the village, after an interesting drive down windy roads and plenty of sudden braking to avoid the local drivers running us into oblivion. Parking was tricky down there too and I grounded the car on a big hump which made a horrible grating noise. I was half expecting the exhaust to fall off. In fact that morning, our first since arriving the previous day we bundled into the car to realise we had a puncture. A farmer appeared from nowhere with his hand outstretched. He was friendly and gestured towards my Dad and I who were sweating over the spare tyre and jack. He helped us repair it and the following day he had fixed the damaged tyre for us. The people there are like that. Nothing is a trouble. Happy to help and very friendly.

I digress….

Back to Kalami – We did something that I can remember seeing the Durrells doing in the recent TV series, the original film and the book. That was to sit on a rickety table right down by the water’s edge and have a coffee. We later returned to have a full meal and I can highly recommend the restaurant there. It is a bit expensive but that may be due to it’s location and that it has a captive audience of people making their pilgrimage there in honour of the Durrells.

The featured photo today was taken fairly early in the morning, as the light was at it’s best. Kalami is on the North Eastern side of the island, so you don’t get to see the sunsets there but if you are an early riser, you sure get to see some fantastic dawn light.

I made use of a 0.6ND grad in this shot and mounted the camera on a Gorillapod that in turn was mounted on a glass panel. The pool area behind the villa is surrounded by glass panels for safety and they also look great because they don’t interrupt the view as much as a fence would!

I shall be back with more photos from Greece next week, have a lovely weekend everyone!

The Church at Kassiopi

Today let’s share some photos from my recent archives and I am going to begin with some Corfiot shots! We fell in love with Corfu, having never been before and were instantly gripped by it’s charm and character. We stayed in Kalami and we would hop in our hire car to take a 10 minute drive down to Kassiopi. I will share more photos of Kassiopi because we really love the little coastal resort. Now I am not normally a fan of these kinds of place but Kassiopi was a really nice place with a good blend of tourism, cuisine and history. Parts of the town are delapidated around the edges, clear signs could be seen of the effects of the economic crash that we all know about. However it had a positive vibe despite the problems of recent failures.

The Churches on Corfu all seem to bear the flags of Greece and Albania (the two-headed eagle) and many of them are not open to the public when compared to countries such as Italy. I suspect this to be due to the Orthodox nature of the religion.

4 day week?

We are forever seeking the finest balance between work and life but what do you do when work is your life? Well perhaps that is the problem? In some cases people (myself included) do stuff for a living that they are passionate about and some people aren’t so lucky and end up lumbered with a job they don’t really ike – either way, being able to push back and say, I need time to take a breather from all of this, is not always easy.

In my case I have been working on a contract based project for 18 months and now that I have walked away from that, I truly realise how much it was stressing me out and that I had lost all control of my creative side. I had become some kind of robot at times, just getting up each day to work on something that I never really saw the benefit of for myself nor anyone else. It had it’s plus sides because I did learn a lot and I did meet some great people, many of whom I shall keep in touch with. Oh and the money was good. Yes, money, we all need that don’t we. Don’t you just love Capitalism?! (Digression alert!)

So now I find myself thinking, “4-day weeks, can I do this? Will I lose money? Will I lose momentum?”

Well for starters momentum is a rythmic pulse of life and work. You can’t find a perfect momentum without focussing on the space in-between. Think of music, if there were no breathing spaces between each note or phrase, the “rest” as it is known, it would become a cacophonic blur. Ok some modern music is THAT but my point is, you need to find those quiet times to pause, reflect and take your next step. You need be in control of your pace of life before you find momentum.

Each alternate week I am taking a Wednesday off and the following week, the Friday. Repeat.

My inttention is to spend these “off days” doing things that aren’t desk based, I switch the computer off for most of the day, emails (unless urgent) can wait till the following working day. I can allow myself time merely to think about work, the plans we have for the future, the projects we are developing. I will permit myself to making notes on Evernote or Trello but that will be it. I hope that I can recharge my batteries this way and find a new momentum once more.

So what am I going to do on these days, starting with today?

  • Take long walks out in the Hampshire/Surrey countryside
  • Do some photography
  • Catch up with other people
  • Gardening – always things to do there
  • Fly the drone and capture some new footage
  • Cycling
  • Gym – not a member of any at the moment
  • Learn to cook
  • Many other things

I will let you know how this goes.

P.S. Can I keep up the daily blog entries? Let’s see, I will certainly aim to write them during the week and take weekends off 😉

Have a lovely day!

 

Farnborough Guide: Southwood woodland walk

Our local council have been setting up a number of local trails on land that had either been used by the Army or just not used at all for various reasons. I shall introduce you to some of these over time, as I am gathering photos of the local area for a combined web and mobile app project that I am developing. This project is called “Farnborough Guide” and I shall reveal more of it as time progresses. Anyway, let’s have a look at some photos I took first thing this morning whilst out doing some research.

I had taken walks here in the past but hadn’t noticed until today these fabulous signs and their stands. Local councils, love them or loathe them, do put the effort in when given the chance and gather together local talent who create masterpieces like this.

I also love the fact that it is educational, informative and eye catching all in one go. We are growing more and more concerned nowadays that people are disconnected from nature and the great outdoors or so the media would lead us to believe. I do agree that there is some element of truth in this, so anything like this is more than welcome in my book.

The last photo is of what they have named the “Stag beetle stumpery” and that brought a smile to my face. I know some people hate stag beetles, find them scary but they are as important to our ecology as any other creature on this earth. So helping them is a very important thing indeed! Once again it helps teach people about their plight and helps raise awareness of wildlife that is becoming scarce for a number of reasons.

So going back quickly to what I shall be using these photos for.

We are using a service called Cloudinary that you can use in conjunction with Amazon’s S3 servers and what they call “buckets”. So these images (taken on my iPhone) will be uploaded to these servers and Cloudinary allows you to create numerous different versions of your original images, caches them and delivers them across a fast CDN. I like this because I can generate thumbnails, cropped images, compressed versions (for speed) and use them across both the website and app we are developing.

New start: Out with the old, in with the new

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I have been working for a company called Premium Credit for about 18 months as a contractor and with that now behind me, I start a new week in a different location and I am back in my very own office that I rent in North Camp, Farnborough. This means that I am no longer having to get up at 5am in the morning to commute out of Hampshire, across half of Surrey, stuck in traffic to start at just after 7am…… no more of that and instead, I now have the option of walking, cycling or driving no more than a mile from home!

So here is a little photo of my new working environment or rather I should say “rekindled” at least. I did have multiple monitors crammed on to this desk for my Windows laptop and Mac systems. I have split them up now and it is a lot less messy.

I have an interesting week ahead of me because it is very much a case of catching up on months worth of loose ends and catching up with our apprentice Dan who is just coming back from holiday today. We are a small digital consultancy with a broad range of interests, web, photography and social media amongst many others. We are planning to go out and say hello to local businesses to drum up project work across the area.

So the intention is to spend the next two months freelancing from this lovely local office and see where it leads us in early January. I shall also write about how I am going to attempt to work a 4 day week and offer some insights into how I approach freelancing in the web industry. I am also going to have time to catch up on presenting more of my photography here on the blog, I know some of you have been waiting on this! Will I post daily, I shall try to, as I am going to treat this more as a journal.

 

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