Mike Waggoner, is one of the first guests at Outsite San Diego - not to mention a very cool guy. He’s also a great example of the growing number of remote workers who are in-fact based in one place but spend much of their time on the road (or in the air). We sat down with him at the Outsite Encinitas house to chat about his remote lifestyle, and also shared a few tips about how to stay productive and accountable while traveling from place to place. Mike is based in Los Angeles — the Silverlake neighborhood pretty close to downtown, and has been there for about four years. After working as a freelance data analyst for years in Northwest, Mike moved to LA.
After a year of freelancing in LA, Mike was recruited for a position at Disney, where he has been for the last three years.
Outsite: What do you do at Disney?
Mike: My title is the Senior Solutions Architect and it's on the technology side for corporate and we build websites, but also business systems that sometimes are internally facing. So we do track inventory, across parks - things you would never see as a guest.
It's really cool work, they're really big systems and sometimes old, and hard to pull apart when we're trying to improve them. we just built something for the ride engineering group so they can better manage the ride projects.
Outsite: So does Disney have a remote policy, or how's that work?
Mike: We're lucky, right now Disney is very much in favor of encouraging flexible work setups for people. It’s a bit general about what that means. So it could be flexible hours, it could be flexible location, it could be none of the above because that job is not appropriate for remote work. But on a case-by-case basis, they want to to facilitate workers to work from where they work best. Outsite: And since you're doing mostly online, technical work — those teams are more able to be remote. Mike:
Everyday, we are working with people in other cities. Either coworkers that are in other departments or people that are working with us to build things that might not be the same city. This means lots of video conferencing.
I spend fifty percent of my time on the phone, and that's actually a problem that I've still yet to figure out entirely with spaces like this, and coworking spaces. Because it's great to sit here and work with folks when we're working on stuff locally, but if everyone's on the phone it can be kind of awkward. And noisy, and -
Outsite: Did you see that invention, it's this thing -
Mike: I thought it was just a joke.
Outsite: No, it’s real. You put it on your phone if you're in close proximity it muffles your voice or makes it sound like Darth Vader.
Mike: Oh, that's so ridiculous.
Outsite: I don't think that's the solution, but with remote work it's maybe slowly going to move away from phone stuff and more to chat and then also just adding less meetings.
Mike: Even if you only have one meeting in a week, and it's an important one and your coworking space is doing like cleaning that day. So there's different challenges when you're remote, just like when you're at home. Kids, family — remote work at home is also a challenge.
Outsite: How long have you been doing the remote work thing?
Mike: I got lucky with this role because I got recruited into it and it turned out to be flexible, funny story actually. But previous to getting this job, I was remote full time pretty much for years doing freelancing and website work for small businesses. With that work I was living in Seattle, and supplemented my freelance with catering and ski instructing. Six months before I moved down here, or nine months before I moved down here I was just traveling around the west and on the east coast just working for a week in different places.
Outsite: Right, not one specific place.
Mike: And actually I wasn't paying rent, so I put all my stuff in storage, I took my car and did that whole long road trip, working on the road type thing. Then when I got this job, I thought “How am I going to handle being in one place the whole time?” Luckily it turned out that it's pretty remote friendly and they were planning to renovate the office anyways. It was going to be closed for two months while they did the renovation. They gave us the dates and our boss told us we're going to go full time remote for that time. So immediately it was like this is an opportunity. We scheduled a trip to go to Lisbon, work from a place like this for a whole month and travelled a bit there.
Outsite: Do you travel domestically or internationally?
Mike: Time zones matter for me now, so that is a limiting factor. I actually incorrectly wrote off New Zealand, I would look again at New Zealand. I was like that's too many time zones, but it turns out that it's a day plus three, so you could work Sunday to Thursday and actually be pretty close to Pacific Time. The time zone issue in Libson wasn't so bad. It was like I would start work in the early afternoon and work until like one am. And turned out it's kind of a late night city, so it was still fine, I could still get a bite to eat at one in the morning.
Outsite: Right, so you need to be on the phone basically at the same time as your office.
Mike: Yep, nine to five. I don't have to be like heads down that whole time, but I am expected to be available for those hours.
Outsite: Do you have advice for people who are transitioning into remote work or how to manage a nine to five job kind of on the go?
Mike: Ask questions ahead of time. Over-planning is key. I've been caught enough times and I just try not to get caught anymore where I'm looking for power, or my cell phone runs out of batteries and I carry at least two phones and at least two backup internet connections at all times. So, if the internet and phone goes out at the coworking space then I'm still ok. Also, think through the timing. You have to treat it much more like you're at home and it's routine and you're just waiting up and take a shower, and had your breakfast going to work. Which can be hard depending on what the culture is at the space you're staying. In a hotel, traditional hotel the hours are usually a little bit weird. I've had to book two nights just to have one workday. I call coworking spaces and talk to them, and them is it going to be okay if I'm on the phone half the time, or things like that.
Outsite: Could you talk a bit about how you were one of the first people in San Diego?
Mike: I hadn't yet found a place in San Diego that worked well to stay at work. So I was still coming back bouncing around, we tried a bunch of AirBnBs and different neighborhoods. I was down here looking for a place outside of downtown to stay for a couple nights. Then Outsite popped up on AirBnB and I learned that they had this whole business model behind it, and had a house in Santa Cruz. I was thrilled about that. It’s much nicer than working out of a hotel. I have this space, the community. I really appreciate the international community here. It's a little bit like traveling without moving (laughs). Outsite: Is surfing part of your remote work lifestyle?Mike:
I love being in the ocean and I've been surfing for five years. I'm terrible at it still, but it's so much fun. So yeah, I can surf in the morning and I be back at my desk at 9am with very little effort. It's unbeatable, this location is just ridiculous.
Outsite: Did you find that having a community like Outsite makes it easier to do remote work?
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. That's getting easier and I'm really happy about that. Even as recently as 2006, like ten years ago, I was in Berlin trying to work remotely. It was so much harder, you know. The remote internet and the expectation of being able to sit in a public place with a laptop was just night and day compared to where we are now. There's more resources available and there's more people doing it.