This article is part of the ‘who’s in the Radius?’ series. Questionable grammar. Great stories.
Andrew Chernauskas imports work and pay into Erie on a daily basis working remotely (telecommuting) for a boutique web development firm located in Denton, Texas. More importantly, Andrew is a helluva guy to be around in the Radius community. For two years, he’s led numerous community building events for entrepreneurs and technology professionals, volunteering his time to make Erie the city he wants to live in.
Since 2005, the amount of non-self-employed telecommuters has grown by 103%. Some companies, like Buffer, have fully distributed teams. Their employees work from locations throughout the globe coming together annually for work sprints and meetups in exotic locations. Google Hangouts, Slack, and Basecamp are the glue to maintaining their interactions and operations.
We sat down with Andrew Chernauskas so that he could describe what it is like to be a rad telecommuter redefining work and cities in places like Erie.
Radius: When did you start telecommuting?
Andrew: Other than a summer job in college, all of my jobs have been remote. I’ve been a full time telecommuter for two companies and a freelancer or contractor for a handful of other different projects. I currently work at GSATi, Inc., a boutique digital agency based in Denton, Texas.
Radius: What is your current role?
Andrew: I am a senior designer and front-end developer on the ‘Open Source Team.’ We use development platforms like Drupal to build websites. These platforms are ‘open source’ meaning anyone throughout the world can utilize and contribute to the platform to build their websites, allowing me to focus on the unique aspects of my client’s projects. I’ve been using Drupal for nearly a decade.
Radius: Remote work sounds convenient? How did you land a job in Texas without leaving Erie?
Andrew: My first employer was TenTonHammer.com. Ten Ton Hammer is an online magazine for video games. The website provides news, guides, and communities for MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games. Before Facebook and social networks, websites like Ten Ton Hammer spearheaded the concept of online gaming communities that connected fans to the games’ developers.
I’ve been a fan of video games for a long time. I got started in the industry when a game company ran a contest that I won, but I never received my prize! After I reaching out to the developers to claim the prize, I ended up keeping in touch. They recognized the fan site I ran for their game and asked for help with future contests and promotions. This led to a few small projects for them and other game developers, and eventually a full time job at Ten Ton Hammer.
Radius: Who is your current employer, GSATi Inc. and how do you communicate with coworkers?
Andrew: GSATi specializes in building e-commerce platforms for direct sales companies as well as women owned organizations.
In our team, we don’t use email that much. Most of our project discussions and “water cooler” talk is done through HipChat chatroom software. We keep track of deadlines, decisions, and daily tasks using project management software called JIRA. Each task is the canonical discussion point so that everybody is on the same page.
We also have a daily 15 minute video conference using Zoom, which is similar to Google Hangouts or Skype. We used to do just audio chats, but we’ve found the video helps out. Video helps us better understand what others are thinking and keeps the discussion flowing.
Radius: What is life like as a remote worker?
Andrew: The biggest benefit of remote work is being able to choose the community you live in, allowing you to live closer to your friends and family. You can pick the city you live in and take advantage of affordable housing costs as well as the climate and region you prefer.
The second advantage is customizing your work space. Traditionally in the corporate world, you have to work your way up to get a beautiful office with a corner view. As a remote worker, I can choose a workspace like Radius. Workspace matters. At Radius, I get access to that beautiful corner view and a community of cool folks to bounce ideas off.
Having the flexibility of changing up your space, heading to the pantry, sitting on the couch, or working from a standing desk, is a huge benefit when you are trying to solve creative problems. It can help you refocus and it keeps you productive.
Radius: What are the challenges?
Andrew: You have to pace yourself. It is easy to overwork and it is easy to get distracted. A daily routine or morning ritual is critical. I’m fortunate to have a call each morning with the rest of my team, a clear to-do list of priorities, and a good cup of coffee to help me start each day.
If the company is not entirely remote, remote workers can miss out and not feel part of the team. If decisions are made without the remote team member, it is very important to communicate decision making through online tools.
Radius: Are there any tips you’d like to offer for other remote workers?
Andrew: Over communicate. Make sure to speak to your team every day. At GSATi, I’m fortunate because there is a yearly meetup where everybody flies out to the home office for a week.
Make sure you stay connected to your local community. For example, I’m interested in maintaining connections with other design oriented folks who can talk about trends in the industry and provide informal feedback on my creative work. It is nice to work with people who have expertise in similar fields.
Radius: Speaking of fellow designers, want to plug the meetup?
Andrew: Yes! I’ve just launched a survey to gauge interest in a monthly meetup for designers. So far we have had close to 20 designers take the survey. We’ll be having our first in person meet up later this month as well as starting an online forum to share designs and get feedback. Feel free to contact me via Twitter or abstractpenguin.com.
Radius: Great stuff. Thank you for your time, Andrew!
Andrew: Thanks so much, Bill!