One Month of a Remote Internship: Lessons and Observations

This is a cross-post from my article on The Practical Dev.

I have been a remote intern for dev.to for about a month now. I am really enjoying myself; teammates are great, work is challenging, and the atmosphere is really relaxed and enjoyable.

These next few paragraphs are particular to who I am and how I work and not a reflection on the company.

Dealing with “Off Days”

For the past week I have been struggling to get the proper amount of sleep. I have sleep apnea, and while I have lost a considerable amount of weight, I still need a machine to sleep.

I currently don’t have the proper equipment as sometimes your mask’s velcro can become less sticky and they need to ship you a new one, which I am waiting for. This presents a problem for me as I really need it to not wake up a million times a night as I stop breathing. This means that when I wake up in the morning, I am just about dead, and unable to think.

I usually just fake it through the day, watching Rails or JavaScript tutorials and pecking away at the feature I am working on. It is difficult, and I sometimes find myself needing a break.

Dev.to is flexible enough that I can take a break whenever I need to. This doesn’t really reduce the anxiety I feel that I may not be pushing features fast enough.

Solution

I should be getting my equipment tomorrow which means I will finally be able to think and be 10x more productive. Additionally, I need to communicate better with the team and let them know where my head’s at.

Learning When to Quit

I have a hard time, especially when in that flow state, of not quitting work. I can go for hours at a time, especially if I am close to finishing a feature or working on a bug. This isn’t a great way to behave, especially as a remote. Blurring the lines between work and home can be hazardous, and knowing when to quit is crucial to not burning out.

I found that I was wanting to work until 9, 10pm when I really should have been unwinding. And early on, Mac reminded me to slow down and not burn myself out. This is not a good way to start any job or internship.

Solution

I found an app called Freedom that allows me to not only put a block on social and news sites, but allows me to block desktop apps from a certain time to another. If I am feeling particularly feisty and in the flow state, I put a block on VS Code from 7pm till 8am. I also put a block on places like Udemy and Treehouse though I may cut myself some slack.

Pain

Programmers know back pain more than any other type of knowledge worker. We sit and stare at a screen for 8 or more hours daily. This can lead to all types of problems, not just for your back but your overall health.

Coming in I already had a bad lower back. The team was nice and got me a lumbar cushion which helped at first. Adjusting it is hit or miss, and now my back is getting bad again.

I have a Slackbot reminder to stand up that I sometimes heed and sometimes ignore. Regardless, standing is crucial as well as getting enough exercise.

Solution

The internship here at dev.to allows me to be able to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do financially. This means I can buy a bus pass now, and get around. I have a gym membership, a couple of them, actually. Now I can finally utilize them. I plan on hitting the gym again, and doing things like Jefferson Curls or bent-legged good mornings and deadlifts to strengthen my back. I used to lift a lot of heavy weights– that’s how I lost the amount of weight I lost a couple years ago. So it only fits that I continue on that path to get stronger and become pain free.

Introversion

I am a shameless introvert. I am also shy. I find being remote a benefit in this regard. But there are times when I need to reach out and talk to the team, to interact with them outside of just work stuff, and I find that extremely difficult to do.

I did it one day! I felt so proud of myself. But with the sleep issue and the feature I am working on taking longer than my first and the shame that comes with that, I haven’t really been communicating with the team. Jess, Andy and Mac have been great in this regard. Coming out of my shell is a bit hard. I am rather serious and reserved around new people. Once I get to know someone, then things begin to loosen up.

Solution

Just talk. As difficult as that is, it is a must. I need to communicate with the team. I need to be social. I am trying. This is a thing I need to overcome, either with a therapist or someone else as social anxiety is a thing for me (it’s even worse IRL). We all have to do what is difficult to actually do great things. So tomorrow, I plan on jumping in the conversations and letting myself be known.

Conclusion

This past month has been seriously enjoyable and I couldn’t ask for a better team to learn with. I need to keep up my end of the bargain. Here’s to another two months!