Plenty has been said about remote working, but what about when you do it while traveling to some of the most remote locations in the world?
Remote working is becoming increasingly prevalent as more can be done with a laptop and a decent Wi-Fi connection—especially as a software developer. This culture has been embraced by Progress for quite some time. Our team has people who work from home once or twice a week, as well as team members who live full-time around the world, bringing a time zone element into play.
After joining Progress last year, the Kinvey team grew in size and stature with the addition of more global colleagues while new time zones, language and cultural considerations were also added. So just to keep things interesting, I decided to embark on a year-long trip around the world and live in a different city every month.
I have now been on the move for the past nine months, going from Europe to Asia and from there to Australia. This has offered me a variety of experiences, and the benefits and challenges that come with that.
What are some of the benefits of living in a different part of the world every month? From a personal perspective, it affords me the opportunity to have different experiences in my free time that would not be possible otherwise. Instead of planning an entire vacation to go to Cambodia and see Angkor Wat, I just made a trip over the weekend while I was living in Phnom Penh. More interestingly, it has given me a deeper view into how different people in different cultures live, with an ability to compare and contrast them rather quickly as I jump from one set of norms to another.
As I move across varied cultural norms, I see common patterns of human interaction emerging. For example, wherever I have visited, I have seen and been a part of groups of people sitting around a common table and sharing a drink, whether that drink is coffee, tea, beer, wine or even rakia, while also sharing stories about family or discussing the topics of the day.
On a professional level, another benefit of working while moving is meeting colleagues from all over the world, since Progress has a global workforce. During my time in Belgrade, Serbia, I made my way over to our engineering team’s office in Sofia, Bulgaria. On another visit to see family and work in Gurgaon, India, I connected with a colleague that I had worked with extensively but never met in person. I also met people in the company that I do not directly work with, but are part of the overall Progress team, as I did in Melbourne, Australia. These fantastic experiences were made possible by having the ability to develop on the move.
There are challenges that go along with these benefits, of course. On a personal level, it changes the way I work. Moving around frequently has meant getting used to inconsistent work environments while trying to find ways of adding consistency to my day-to-day work experience. In addition, communicating with my colleagues and team has become more challenging, especially as I move across various time zones. I have had to be more proactive about gathering information and staying up-to-date. These challenges require constant effort to find better ways and tools to bridge these gaps.
So far, my key takeaway from this experience is a greater empathy as I experience different cultures. I find this greater sense of empathy is also beneficial as a software developer, as I get to understand how people all over the world interact with technology. This brings up another commonality among all the different cultures I have seen so far—from a technological perspective, almost everyone I have seen interacts with the world around them through their phone. As I travel, I am also increasingly reliant on my phone for information, communication and transactions.
Smartphones are by far the most common way by which I have seen people interact with the world around them, myself included. From keeping up with time zones and transportation schedules to tracking ticket prices for the next destination and communicating with team members, my phone and apps are a large part of what makes this experience possible. Communication apps like WhatsApp and Slack have been indispensable for staying connected with work and home, with yet more apps like Uber, Car:Go, PassApp and GoJek helping with transportation and delivery.
Social media apps like Instagram help to keep family and friends back home connected to my experience (when I remember to post), and travel recommendation apps like TripAdvisor help me share my experience with other travelers. None of this is new, but it has become far more important to me since I started living my life on the move.
Through this journey, the value of Kinvey has become more apparent to me than ever. Quality app user experiences enhance my ability to travel and work on the move, and more importantly, bad mobile app experiences cause unexpected difficulties as I quickly move from place to place and in-and-out of decent network connectivity.
Since network connectivity can be spotty or inconsistent in various places, mobile apps that utilize information cached on the device make for a far smoother experience. Oftentimes, I do not need updated information, just access to information that I previously looked up. I appreciate the role that Kinvey’s serverless technology plays in building a rich mobile experience, which is ever more valuable to me as I move through the world.
As I continue my travels into South America, I look forward to adding to my adventures and experiences. I hope to continue to increase my understanding of myself and my work habits, as well as the world around me, as I get better at mobile development on the move.
Vinay Gahlawat is a Software Engineer at Progress, focused on mobile SDK development for the Kinvey BaaS. He is now putting the "mobile" in mobile SDK development as he travels the world while working, experiencing both the digital nomad lifestyle and the different cultures of the world. You can follow his traveling-while-working adventures via @vinaygahlawat on Instagram.
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