Felix Oliha

Essays

The Return

 

I worked at Treehouse as a remote motion designer for a short period, but I was fortunate enough to learn a few things about myself.

 

I will begin by saying Treehouse is a great company with an incredible mission, but the Tech/Start-up world is a cold, petulant toddler with fleeting desires. This aloof nature often leads to sudden and drastic change within the industry.

So, I made the choice to leave due to some unforeseen circumstances. I now work at Wier/Stewart, the same company I worked with prior to Treehouse.

I took some time to reflect on my experiences in the form of 4 takeaways.

 

Takeaway #1:

Working remotely ain’t easy (for some).

This was a very powerful realization. The transition from a standard creative work environment to seemingly boundless freedoms came with hard hitting truths.

Working remotely offers untouchable opportunities; which I will miss without question. The ability to pack up the dogs and travel at will, for as long as you wish, as far away as you would like was incredible. As fleeting as it was, I will be forever grateful for my life’s “untethered season” and the sites it allowed me to see with my wife.

So what was the problem? Well, I still had to get my work done!

I often found it difficult to fully command my time and produce at a consistently high level. There were legitimately too many distractions for me to process and overcome. Over my short tenure, with super concentrated efforts, I pushed myself toward a more focused regimen. I used tools like Self Control (this is incredibly helpful if you have procrastination and distraction struggles like me) to forcibly limit my access to super distracting internet crapI pushed myself to finish large swaths of motion work before going out into the world. So on and so forth.

There is a big caveat here though, I do not feel I was given enough time to fully transition. I know the lifestyle would have become easier to manage, but I doubt it would have ever felt like a natural evolution for my career; which leads me to my next take away…

 

Takeaway #2:

My energy and excitement is largely fed by my environment.

Before taking this position, I knew I work well in a loud, active, controlled-chaos type of environment. The energy people emit into a space has a huge effect on me.

What I did not know is this environment pushes me to work better. I thrive amongst people, better yet, I thrive amongst crazy people (good crazy). I am not sure if my conditioning for this environment will ultimately be detrimental, but I know it works for now. There is a certain tangible energy when a team is within close quarters, be it positive or negative, but when the dynamic is right, you can damn near do anything.

Aside from my wife (she also works remotely) who is very focused on her own tasks, within her own world, I had only myself to feed the beast. I found it trying at times to bounce ideas off of my coworkers through Slack or in a Google Hangout. For me, there was an apparent disconnect, but one I could not immediately solve. The “silo effect” is a very real and difficult problem to address within the remote world, but this does not detract from the incredible systems Treehouse put in place to make the remote team feel one with the company.

 

Takeaway #3:

An effective and well connected remote team is possible.

In spite of my personal shortcomings and struggles as a remote worker, Treehouse had a very strong foundation for their remote team-members. Communication was everything, as it should be in any work environment, but they actively pushed consistent contact. Out of the many touch points and products used like Slack and Google hangouts, one method stood out as particularly beneficial: 1-on-1's.

1-on-1’s were weekly 1 hour meetings with your assigned manager. Outside of a few talking points (how are you gelling with your colleagues, do you have any questions or concerns, etc.) the meetings were very loose, allowing casual conversation.

They were scheduled for every week, on the same day, at the same time, a crucial bit of detail to its success. The consistency made it very difficult to miss and allowed new team-members, like myself, to get to know the individuals guiding the team and establish very “open door” relationship — a difficult thing to do when there is no door to be open.

Consistent and persistent face-to-face time makes all the difference.

 

Takeaway #4:

I will miss working with my wife.

I’m going to gush for just a minute because this will likely be my most difficult challenge during my transition back to office life.

My wife and I had the incredibly rare fortune of both being remote at the same time. Whenever we told people of our situation, the immediate reaction from 90% of these folks was something like, “Wow, I don’t think I could ever work with my wife/husband”.

Say what now? This will never make sense to me.

Alyssa and I work incredibly well together. We pride ourselves on being teammates in general and this easily transitioned into the remote life. She did her thing while I did mine. We talked to each other during the day, had moments of complete silence when the work required particular focus. We respected each other during work hours because it was simply our job to do so — our livelihood was at stake.

Outside of the work aspect; we were able to take long road trips together. Visit family with ease. As most of you understand, all trips took an incredible amount of effort and forethought before this opportunity.

Maybe we are just lucky to have our dynamic. I don’t know, but I will miss being with her all the time.

I have been saying the following statement to myself since deciding to leave Treehouse and retuning to Wier/Stewart; it is a mantra of sorts —

A move back is not a move backward.

This is an active choice and I believe it with all my being. The return is a new opportunity. I am not the same as I was however many months ago and it would be a shame if I were.

I’m ready and I suggest you prepare yourselves for the incredible work W/S is about to drop on you. Now, lets do the damn thing.

Thanks for reading. ✌️

 
Felix Oliha