Kevin Stewart was in Jamaica, but his team at Adobe was in a different climate. They were feeling the heat of the next big release. “It was hard for me to relax,” says Kevin, “While I did not have my laptop, I was able to track work with the Pivotal Tracker app on my iPhone while lying on the beach.”
Hurricane season killed Kevin’s earlier trip before he could go. “Imagine telling your wife and kid who are getting dressed, bags all packed that vacation is cancelled (couldn’t get another flight for days),” says Kevin, “I was NOT in a good mood!” It wasn’t great timing, but that’s when Kevin could reschedule. The team noticed Kevin’s stress and waved him off to the islands. “As they kept seeing comments from me, they yelled back ‘Stop commenting on our stories and get off the damn phone. You’re in Jamaica‘.”
“In my defense, I believe I was just exploring the viability of an Adobe Jamaica office,” Kevin says.
Strong team trust finally pried the iPhone from Kevin’s hands, and he relaxed. “The important thing was the fact that I trusted my guys,” says Kevin, “If I couldn’t leave work for a week without things going to crap, then I’ve failed in my job. I don’t like to fail.”
Kevin is an engineering manager at Adobe. His team is building the web presence and API for Adobe Creative Cloud. They’re co-located in the Adobe Seattle office, but they all have the flexibility to telecommute as needed. “I don’t care if you’re in the office or not, so long as the work gets done well,” Kevin says.
Kevin’s flexible work attitude accommodates family life well. Many team members have young children, including Kevin, and when sick days, school closings, or just “their day” to be with the kids comes up, he doesn’t want people to feel like they have to ask for permission to work from home. “That’s infantilizing. I expect people to be professionals and, well, adults,” says Kevin, “They should know how to manage their time and get things done. I’m not their mother or a babysitter.”
Even if his team just needs a change of scenery, that’s okay too. People will take a couple of weeks off to travel and bring their laptops in case emergencies come up. “I appreciate that level of accountability and show my appreciation by not contacting them and letting them relax,” says Kevin, “If I ever call someone who is taking time off, you can believe it is Armageddon!”
Kevin’s team started using Git to collaborate on code because one of their developers had a long commute from Vashon Island. “We immediately got addicted and refuse to go back to Perforce,” says Kevin, “This year I got approval for us to get Github Enterprise. Nirvana!” The entire team uses Mac for development. The go-to text editor used to be TextMate, but most of the team has moved to Sublime Text 2. “Everyone has their own set of must-haves. I live in Apple Mail as a manager, unfortunately,” says Kevin, “If I have to do a presentation and I’m not collaborating with anyone, I use Keynote. Otherwise, I painfully use Powerpoint.”
For communication, it’s Campfire, either with Flint, or Fluid to keep the site on the desktop. “These days, even if we’re all in the office together, we are more likely to be communicating in Campfire,” says Kevin, “Who needs to be social? We may be one of the few ‘distributed co-located’ teams.”
Telework is not universally accepted at Adobe – partially due to acquisitions and differences in what people are used to doing. “Lately, due to the nature of my project I collaborate with many people in San Francisco. As that office came from our acquisition of Macromedia, I’ve learned the culture there leans heavily towards “face time”. Hopping a plane every month or so to spend a few days pays for itself in terms of easing communication and building relationships,” Kevin says.
Kevin’s Pro tip: Watch “Up In the Air” with George Clooney to get some tips on how to more efficiently navigate airport security lines.
Also, I am a HUGE fan of my Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack. I bought one after reading Rands’ post on bags and have yet to regret the purchase. I also bought the Snake Charmer bag to manage cables and power cords. Buy both.
But Kevin and his team have embraced telework, and he only plans for remote working to increase. “Overall, there is no real impact to people not being in the office,” says Kevin, “I see commit messages so I know what’s being worked on and when people are talking in Campfire nothing is lost. Chat rooms are the new offices.”
For more from Kevin, stop by his blog.