We sat down with Jason to find out more about him. And asked him: what makes him tick, what are his goals, what’s his advice for other developers and to reveal his super power. Here are his answers.
What do you do (for work, life and play)?
I’m a software developer at Panda Strike. We’re a consultancy, working in a number of different fields, with clients ranging from Disney to Weedmaps. I’m currently working on a couple of IoT (Internet of Things) projects, one for a company that does smartgrid energy software, where we have smart thermostats that let an electric utility reduce demand on the grid during peak times, and another for a company that makes street signs that a construction company or the Department of Transportation can change messages on remotely.
I’m also a writer with a focus on speculative fiction. I have one short story produced by the Pseudopod horror podcast and two other stories that I’m currently shopping around. Over the last three or so years, I’ve been focused on writing (and rewriting) a horror novel called Mad Maddie, which I hope to start pitching to agents and editors some time this summer.
Outside of that, I do all the regular stuff that brings people to Summit County: hiking, trailrunning, snowboarding, snowshoeing, anything to get me outside on a sunny day.
What’s your vision/goal for this year?
My main goal for this year is to wrap up the editing phase on my novel and start the process of finding an agent. It’s a ridiculously long process, so I have no delusions of actually publishing this year, just getting the ball rolling.
Why did you move to Summit?
I spent about five years trying to convince my employer to let me telecommute, but they would never agree to it. Then one day, the company moved the office to downtown Denver, and my pleasant 10-minute commute turned into 45 minutes of stop-and-go traffic. As much as I liked my job and my team, I decided life was too short for a bad commute, and I started looking for a new job with the main goal of working remotely. After talking to an old friend at Panda Strike, I ended up landing a job there last summer, and with nothing tying me to a specific location, my wife and I decided to move where we’ve always wanted to live: the mountains.
What gets you motivated (for work or for a life goal)?
I’m a pretty goal-oriented person, so I’ve found that I’m most likely to get things done if I focus on the short-term, and set concrete, attainable goals. With work, that means focusing on one feature at a time. With writing, one scene at a time.
What’s your biggest challenge?
The flip-side of my answer to the “motivation” question: If I focus too much on the end-goal instead of short-term goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To feel like I’m not making any real progress. Some part of me has to always be focused on the end-goal to make sure the short-term goals are complimentary, so it involves a little self-deception: knowing what the final product is, but defining success in smaller buckets.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Working on cool stuff. Lately that’s meant working on IoT projects, which have a particularly cool real-world element that most software projects don’t. There is something very satisfying about running some code you just wrote and seeing the temperature change on a thermostat, or the message get updated on a traffic sign.
What’s your “WHY” in life or for work?
I love learning new things. With work, that might mean learning a new technology, figuring out a new algorithm, or solving some new problem. With writing, it might be figuring out some new character, how someone thinks, how they react to certain situations, etc.
How do you manage setbacks or obstacles?
I think the main reason I got into software development in the first place was because I loved problem-solving. Obstacles are just something to figure out, and it’s usually what makes my job fun. Pretty much every day, I run into something I have literally no idea how to do, and breaking that problem down, figuring it out, learning something new, that’s what keeps me going.
What’s your secret sauce, secret weapon or superhero power?
I’m not sure this qualifies as a secret sauce, and is possibly even an anti-power, but I try really hard to balance work and life. I’ve worked 50+ hour jobs, and I’ve found that I generally get less done in a 10-hour work day than in an 8-hour work day due to fatigue and dissatisfaction. Again, this is starting to sound like an anti-power, but I think it’s pretty true for most people. And if I make sure I schedule time to write, to jog or hike, read a book, watch TV, and so on, then when I’m at work, I’m focused and I can plow through whatever is thrown my way.
What’s your advice to other tech workers/remote workers?
Find a community. I think one of the biggest challenges in remote work is isolation. A coworking space like Elevate is a great way to recreate the good parts of working in an office (like water-cooler chats) without the bad parts (unnecessary meetings, etc).
But for a remote team, I think it’s also important to create community across the team. At Panda Strike, we try to get the team together in a Google Hangout once a week (“Panda Time!”) to chat about anything other than work. It lets us put faces to names and get to know each other a little more. It goes a long way toward making the group feel like a team.