Why Being a Remote Worker Makes Me a Better Parent
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Scott Morris, Skillcrush
All Skillcrush employees spend a few hours each month helping our customer support team answer emails. It's a great way to learn more about our students and about the kinds of challenges facing people breaking into tech. I've noticed there's always a common thread in the questions I answer—people want to be happier and more fulfilled with the work they're doing. It sounds simple enough, but during the time I've worked for Skillcrush I've noticed there's something unique about tech jobs, particularly those offering remote or flexible work arrangements, when it comes to defining and achieving happiness.
When people describe their dream job, they tend to mention better pay, work that's creatively or intellectually engaging, and a job that lets them integrate their personal and professional lives. These first two things can be found in plenty of professions, but the third is elusive, particularly if you're on the 9-5 grind. Workers, both young and old, are seeking out flexibility in all aspects of their lives, and speaking from personal experience, the rewards are valuable in ways that you might not expect. Beyond making it easier to run errands or schedule dentist appointments, a flexible job that lets you build your work life around your personal life ultimately makes you better at both. Sure, it's hard to hit all three points on the "perfect job" triangle, and it's easy to settle for two out of three, but with industries like tech offering more and more opportunities for flexible work, why should settling be the norm?
In my past work experiences, "personal" was almost a dirty word— indicative of frivolous drama that was strongly discouraged from seeping into the office. But employees are people, and it's totally logical that a healthy personal life is an essential part of a successful professional one. What makes a healthy personal life, though? Part of happiness is having time to take care of yourself, and the space to cultivate relationships with friends, partners, or families, but there's another component of personal life that's often overlooked, one that—in my own life—remote work helps make possible.
Seven years ago my oldest daughter started school. At the time I was five years into my life as a stay-at-home parent and school was a big transition for us. My wife and I had both had a lot of negative experiences during our own school years, and we wanted to be supportive advocates for our daughter whenever possible—the problem was, we just weren't sure how to build that lifestyle. Since I was at home, I was able to answer the call when our Kindergarten teacher asked for classroom volunteers, and this ended up being our entry point into the world of parent volunteering. For the first three years of our oldest daughter's schooling I volunteered at least a couple times a week in her classroom, and I did the same thing when my youngest went enrolled a few years later. Parent volunteering wasn't something I had any background in or ever expected to be doing, but my role evolved naturally, and before long I found myself developing lasting relationships with both of my kids' cohorts. I helped with art projects, facilitated reading groups, chaperoned field trips, and pretended to know how to do addition and subtraction. And sometimes—my most favorite times—I'd just end up sitting around with a group of kids, talking about their days, their lives, their families, and who they were as people.
When the school day was over and I was home with my own kids, I was able to keep them occupied while my wife helped with school fundraising, email communication, and event planning through the Parent Teacher Organization. My being home gave us the flexibility to make this work, and as the years went by, we realized we'd added a whole new dimension to our personal lives—we were active members of a community where we made an appreciable difference in other people's lives, while they did the same in ours. Community is now a hugely positive aspect of my personal life that I didn't know was missing until I embraced it.
During my first year of Kindergarten volunteering, a girl in my daughter's class started calling me "Bob the Builder," a nickname that spread throughout the classroom and persisted over the next few years. Today, walking across campus, I'll still encounter 7th graders from that Kindergarten class calling out to me, "Hey Bob!", which might seem like a small thing, but for me it's a reminder of how those few hours a week I spent volunteering, formed lasting bonds in my community. I don't think it's a coincidence that a lot of the depression and anxiety I was prone to before having school-aged kids has melted away in the years since. Being plugged into a larger community and feeling like I was helping others in a direct way has played a big part in making me a healthier and more complete person.
However, it can't be understated how fortunate I was being able to participate at the school—my wife's career made enough money to let me stay home with our kids and we were both on board with supporting one another to make it happen. I remember one day in a classroom when a normally chipper boy looked like he'd lost his dog. I asked him what was wrong, and he said he was mad that his mom wasn't there to volunteer. I knew that his mom was a concerned and active parent, but the simple fact of the matter was she had a job that didn't allow her to get into the classroom easily during the day. And that's exactly what gave me pause as our kids got older and I started thinking about going back to work. In every scenario I played out in my mind I saw myself having to give up volunteering. If I was going to start working outside the house it would have to be during the school day while my kids were gone, meaning I'd have to walk away from a part of my personal life that had become so important to me.
Still, with our kids on the cusp of their teen years and new expenses like college looming in the distance, our family needed to start generating extra income, so it seemed like I'd have to make a painful choice. Fortunately I discovered the "neither/nor" option of remote work, and that choice never had to happen. I now work remotely part-time, I'm able to generate the missing source of income we'd been looking for, and I can do it all without upsetting the personal life I'd established before returning to paid work. It was a solution that couldn't have come at a better time, too—right after I started working for Skillcrush my wife took a new management job with a longer commute, which meant our family's need for flexibility was at an all time high. Being able to work from home—in-between my other personal priorities—was really the only way I was able to return to work successfully, while picking up the slack at home and sticking to my volunteer commitments.
I'm thankful for this luxury that remote work made possible, but really, it shouldn't be a luxury. Having the room to participate in our communities through volunteering and service projects (and benefitting from the personal growth that comes with them) shouldn't be the domain of a lucky few—it should be embedded in the fabric of all our work lives. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that, by leading the way with remote work and alternative work schedules, industries like tech aren't just offering a small convenience to their employees by letting them commute from their bedroom to their living room. They're actually opening the door for a radical reframing of what it means to work and how our work relates to the rest of our lives.
If you put it under a microscope, you start to see that the conventional Monday through Friday, 9-5 office—with its rigid distinction between personal and professional—is a relic of extreme gendering, where males were assumed to be their family's breadwinner while women attended to domestic tasks. In that model, flexibility wasn't so much a non issue as it was non negotiable since roles were so strictly enforced. But as we grow past gender caricatures, as family models continue to expand and change, and as individuals take on the roles they're best suited for, the need and desire for each of us to wear many hats increases. Remote work then is the clear path for climbing out of the limited "Honey, I'm home" model of a previous century, and into a new paradigm where we can all live our lives in the fullest, most befitting way.
And part of that fullness is community participation. Now especially—in light of our national climate and the alienation and isolation that lurks around every corner—there seems to be a desire to get involved in causes and institutions that can directly help others, where the results of our efforts are tangible and where we can be reminded of the ways in which we are all connected. Whether that's through volunteering at a school, participating in a community garden, being a local Big Brother or Sister, or any other opportunity that speaks to you—the chances to reach out and engage are all around us, but for people with rigid work schedules it's just so much harder to get involved.
Remote jobs give people the freedom to fit a few hours here or there into their daily schedule, making it possible to incorporate community involvement into the natural rhythm of the week. But that doesn't mean remote workers aren't also committed to their paid work. Working remotely isn't working less and it's not working easier, it's just working smarter. It's realizing that the artificial constraints of a physical office aren't just unnecessary, they're also inhibiting. And that we can be productive, successful professionals while living fulfilling personal lives. That in fact, each of these roles directly supports the other.
Chainalysis’s Ashley Vaughan on Why She Finds Cybersecurity So Meaningful, and How More Women Can Find Their Niche in the Industry
How much money do criminals control today, and where is it?
These are some of the many questions that Ashley Vaughan, Senior Solutions Architect at blockchain data platform Chainalysis, spends her days working to answer.
“You learn more about a situation or problem by following the money than from any other resource or piece of information,” she explains. “Money doesn't lie. People can lie in text messages or other means, but the path of the money leads you to what you're trying to accomplish.”
Though Ashley always knew she wanted to work with computers, she found her way into roles in cybersecurity, and then specifically blockchain security, through networking and exposure — not by setting out to do so.
We sat down to talk about her career journey, as well as what advice she has for other women looking to make their mark in these burgeoning fields.
Resilience and Curiosity
Ashley doesn’t often give up, and credits some of that attitude to an obsession with soccer as a kid.
“Playing sports makes you a more resilient person, I think. You learn failure and risk, which are very applicable to my job and my career path,” she says.
That resiliency was a good thing, notes Ashley, because as a young girl, she wasn’t always encouraged to pursue what she was most interested in: math and science. A teacher early on had told her that she wasn’t good at math, and Ashley believed that narrative until high school.
“We really shouldn’t put those ideas in children’s minds, because it affects them for much longer than you might think,” she says of the experience. “But I’m the kind of person that when someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it even more, and do it better.”
Finding out in advanced high school math classes that she actually was good at math turned into choosing a computer engineering major when she got to college.
Graduating during a recession in 2010 meant Ashley didn’t have the job market of her dreams, but after working in IT, she networked her way into a role in the cybersecurity department of a prominent DC law firm.
“They were getting hit left and right from social engineering and phishing attempts,” says Ashley. “Due to the sensitive nature of the work they dealt with, I was exposed to the darker realities of the digital era, and I began to see a new side to the world—one of real significance to national security.”
Specializing in Cybersecurity — and Finding a Home in the Private Sector
Inspired by what she was working on at the law firm, Ashley pursued a master’s in cybersecurity with a focus on counterterrorism.
“I wanted to help protect our country,” she explains. “I have a lot of family members who are former military, so that was a natural step for me.”
That led to her taking a contract role specializing in offensive security at a government agency that frequently worked with Chainalysis. After working with Chainalysis folks onsite, she was sold and started pursuing a position with the company.
“I wanted to help make sense of blockchain data for a bigger purpose, like assisting in the continued threat of ransomware activity against American interests,” she explains.
Although she credits her public sector work with providing a solid foundation in blockchain security, the private sector turned out to be a better fit for her.
“What I love about Chainalysis is that my colleagues are really happy people, and I’ve always felt welcome and not scared to ask questions,” says Ashley. “In past jobs, where I was one of five women in a group of 150, I felt a lot of pressure. I didn’t ever want to make a mistake. I felt as if I had to be a chameleon to match the social environment of my male counterparts.”
Blockchains are all about democratizing data, and Ashley likes working with a team of people of all backgrounds to help support that mission. At Chainalysis, Ashley works with internal product and engineering to show customers how Chainalysis data can help them use complex blockchain solutions to solve data problems — and catch bad guys.
“Sometimes we’re following a bad actor who’s tied to child sex trafficking. Being part of a coordinated operation to put a stop to things like that is really fulfilling,” she says.
3 Tips for Women Who Want to Find Their Place in Cybersecurity
For a long time, reflects Ashley, she just wanted to come into work, do her job, and feel supported, without feeling like she didn’t fit in or was representing her entire gender. Fortunately, she found what she wanted — and she hopes other women will find that, too. They can start their search by:
- Knowing they’re not alone in having tough experiences. “Everyone has different definitions for how you’re supposed to act or supposed to handle your emotions as a woman at work, and it’s exhausting. It’s like, ‘This is just me.’ I can’t repeat enough how tiring that is,” she says.
- Prioritizing self-directed learning. Although Ashley completed a master’s in cybersecurity, she emphasizes that there are many other routes into the industry, including self-study. Whether you get involved in programs like Girls Who Code or do self-paced learning through platforms like Udemy or Coursera, the important thing is that you pursue independent learning about topics that interest you, she says.
- Creating and maintaining relationships. “Really talking to people is almost a lost art,” says Ashley. “Getting together with someone who has the same sort of mindset and leveraging their knowledge, and making sure you keep in touch with people who help further your career, is a good move. Most of the places I got to professionally were based on my human connections.”
Nowadays at Chainalysis, Ashley is no longer one of five women in the office, and is excited to start paying it forward so that more people with backgrounds like hers can pursue their own professional success.
“We tend to feel more comfortable talking to people who might have our same gender or educational background, and being open and vulnerable with them,” she says. “Being a visible role model is really important to me.”
Check out Chainalysis’ open roles here!
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
💎 “What are you passionate about?” In an interview, you may have to answer this and other personal questions. Watch the video to the end to succeed in your job interview at Ribbon.
📼If asked “what are you passionate about?” in an interview you need to show how your passion can make you a good candidate for a job position. Ryan Key, Talent Partner at Ribbon, shares some tips and tricks for you to stand out!
📼Answering what are you passionate about in an interview is not the only thing you need to know how to do to succeed. You should try to make sure that you express your experience in a way that shows your interest in Ribbon’s mission. Also, prove that you did your research and demonstrate to the recruiter that you understand exactly how your role affects Ribbon’s purposes. Don’t forget to share some ideas on how you intend to fulfill the company’s mission!
📼 You are asked what are you passionate about in an interview, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask as well. You should feel empowered to ask any question you want during your interview process. It may be helpful to save certain questions for certain people. If you're in an interview with your potential manager, you should take that time to ask about their assessment metrics for the role and their management style. If you're speaking with a potential peer, this would be a great time to ask about their experience during training and to learn a little more about the team and culture.
What Are You Passionate About? Show In Your Interview That You Are Aligned With Ribbon's Values
The mission at Ribbon is to make homeownership achievable for everyone, especially communities traditionally left out of the homeownership story. One way Ribbon addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is through its support of employee resource groups. Remember to show that your passion is aligned with these core values!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Ribbon? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Ryan Key
If you are interested in a career at Ribbon, you can connect with Ryan Key on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Ribbon
Ribbon is a first-of-its-kind real estate technology company transforming the real estate transaction by delivering certainty, transparency, and joy to the home buying process. Consumers and realtors deserve a better experience, and they have designed an open platform that welcomes everyone in the ecosystem to participate.
💎 Partnerships in remote environments is one of the most important aspects to construct in a company. Watch the video to the end to get good tips on how to do it successfully.
📼Wondering how to create partnerships in remote environments? Play this video to get three top tips that will help you to achieve it. You'll hear from Olga Shvets, HR Business Partner, and Viktoriia Litvinchuk, People Team Operations at Unstoppable Domains, who will explain the essentials of this process.
📼How to build partnerships in remote environments? Tip #1: Communicate Effectively. Communication is the key to enabling your remote team to be successful. Choose the channel that works best. For this, chat with your employees and see what they use to communicate, that's how you find the best solution. Also, make sure your team is on board with your internal tools and they know what, how, and where they need to use them.
📼A requisite for building partnerships in remote environments is Tip #2: Show appreciation. Appreciation is shown through your actions. Let your employees know that you value everything they do for the company. Create a special gratitude channel where everyone can share their appreciation for their colleagues for some contribution. Celebrate some wins, promotions, and everything that is important for the company. If you appreciate the employees, employees do the same for the company.
Create Partnerships In Remote Environments Using Trust - Tip #3: Give Honest Feedback
Use engagement surveys! They are a quick and effective way to receive honest feedback from your team and you can see what's working well and what needs to be improved. Your main priority is to create spaces where managers and employees can share honest, relevant feedback.
📨 Are you interested in joining Unstoppable Domains? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Olga Shvets
If you are interested in a career at Unstoppable Domains, you can connect with Olga on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Unstoppable Domains
Unstoppable Domains is bringing user-controlled identity to 3 billion+ internet users by issuing domain names on the blockchain. These domains allow users to replace cryptocurrency addresses with human-readable names, host decentralized websites, and much more.
By selling these domains direct to consumers for a one-time fee, the company is making a product that will change cryptocurrency and shape the future of the decentralized web by providing users control over their identity and data.