First time all remote: My first week at GitLab

First time all remote: My first week at GitLab

A good friend of mine said last week: "You really look happy, I haven't seen this in a long time."

That's true, my first week at GitLab was truly overwhelming. It is my first time starting an all remote job. It feels different, in a positive way. I had been reading everything in the handbook, including many new great articles from Darren.

Prepare for a new adventure

From a technical point of view, I had written down everything to prepare for my role.

Michael Friedrich / Tech Evangelism
Diving into my new role

From a social point of view, it felt a little different last Monday. Getting up, taking a shower, putting in my contact lenses, having coffee and breakfast was equally the same.

I did not leave my flat, I did not enter my car to pick up my friends Markus and Nicole to go to the office. (well, I entered my car going for a repair session at 07:30am instead). Roughly at 10:30 am, I then went to my desk and opened my Macbook Pro 16". There I logged into my private email address to follow the welcoming email with its instructions.

Next to getting access to my email address, Β I got my very own onboarding issue with quite a few tasks (200+) to complete in the first month. At first glance, accounts and organisation (payroll, etc.) with then to securing all the logins. I really like the strong focus on security and zero trust, all best practices shared publicly in the handbook.

I love sharing my impressions and help others to achieve their success too. I really liked it when my Twitter DMs had a question on becoming a Developer Evangelist for me.

Stay focused

After completing the first tasks, I knew that I would need to keep the browser tabs open for later. Some TODOs took longer, and I was eager to complete things in short iterations. One note from Twitter: Get a bigger screen, and also a standing desk where I can collect even more tabs ;-)

Also, I wanted to connect with everyone and therefore chimed into Slack early. Then I learned that searching all the channels and reading everything takes quite some hours. This is something on my list: Stay focused and don't let you disturb. I love the fact that asynchronous work is preferred, and no-one expects you to check your emails regularly. If you're planning to reach me via email - it is a browser tab of many 😎

Speedy meetings are not 30 minutes, but 25. Not 60, but 50. Everyone can get up, take break, get a coffee or something to drink. Also, meetings are done in time, with respect to each others time. Notes are taken live, there is no obligation with electing a protocol person. We work together making this happen, I really like this.

I also learned that it is ok to say "No, I cannot do this now.". I did not have the feeling I was treated as "newbie" on my team, I was already challenged with decisions and tasks. That being said, I feel loved and understood, and this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Then there is the thing that not everything is related to tech. Everyone at GitLab uses GitLab to achieve their daily success, and we all use it differently. Dogfooding is not only key to improve the product, it also helps to understand the features and respect each others hard work. I really liked the non-technical approach for the Git 101 primer. One may say that I know everything about Git and GitLab having created trainings - I learned something new again :)

An additional task was given to me last week: Plan my vision for Technical Evangelism at GitLab in 2020. Become the Ops in DevOps. Since you are getting to know me, I write everything down. If I can work focused, I am even faster. Brendan shared his vision transparent in public, and so did I:


Last week, a friend of mine joined me for late lunch, and on Friday we had dinner together with my German family (they adopted the Austrian ;)). We laughed so much with coming to the conclusion "Michael, you are really tired." at 10pm. Well, and we have been a little crazy on Twitter after talking a little about work ;-)

Once at home, I had a quick peek into Slack again. Previously, this would have been a no-go. Now it was supporting my team if there would be anything to prepare for an online KubeCon/Cloud native meetup. Async at its best.

I was really lazy on Saturday. But I didn't touch my Macbook. Still, I had seen that Nicolai was so kind to send a merge request to fix some typos. And I wanted to add the Yubikey to my setup, which I did on Sunday. Did I feel bad about it? No. But I know that I need to control myself to not do it.

On Sunday, I watched "The Physician" ("Der Medicus") in German, Prime Video didn't have it in English. I love the different cultures and historical views. While reading a review, they said, read the book. Since I paused with Perry Rhodan a while ago, I got myself the paperback edition from Noah Gordon. A good read for after work.

Plan ahead

I had seen a discussion about Graylog in Slack, and chimed in to help. Let's do a brainstorming session, let's pick a date. Well, then I learned that I should block times for "late lunch", "dinner" or "taking a break" since we all operate in different time zones and our calendar is the only source of truth with free slots.

Our regular meetings happen ~5pm CET. Michael greets with a coffee, Abubakar says hi from the Netherlands, Brandon cheers from Maryland (EDT) and Priyanka wishes a good morning from San Francisco (PT).

I would have never expected this being so refreshing. Right now, I am shifting my habits to a working window of 10am to 7pm, with variations. Late lunch, going shopping or working out in the afternoon and being available in the evening is super productive. Let's see about this ... I am overwhelmed by everything so sleep is a little overrated at the very moment ;)

Future plans include gardening on the balcony, and taking more rides through wonderful Franconia. Oh, and there are some LEGO models I need to build with a friend's daughter :)

All remote - things to keep in mind

At first glance, it felt like a holiday at home. No more pressure going to the office and being there at 10am the latest. No more time sheets where you fill in the hours you have been working. Freedom of self-organising the day, planning coffee chats and meetings, and starting to work. I love listening to EDM while working, so my headphones not only serve the purpose for remote calls. In case you're interested: old and new.

My productivity has gone beyond my regular levels compared to the past weeks. I am also taking a break from programming, reading issue trackers, or doing community support. Right now, I am learning my role and am writing everything down what I want to achieve in 2020 in the "Ops in DevOps" Technical Evangelism plan. It truly is a fresh start.

I will soon dive into webcasts, blog posts and joining open source projects in the monitoring/observability and DevSecOps area. In parallel, I keep working on talks and figure out which events and meetups I may attend. Corona moved us all into a more remote world now.

I need to calm down and prioritise, with a clear focus on my tasks. The good thing is that we use for our team tasks. Since our technical evangelism team is relatively young, we will soon have our own project for sharing great demos, snippets and much more.

Aside from travelling the world and work from anywhere, I'm going home to Linz, Austria during the Easter holidays. Our parent's need someone to take care of our dogs and cats, and I miss them. Did I mention that I can work from there, and let my team say hello to them?

Be part of a great culture

Everyone here at GitLab is super friendly and helpful. Abubakar joined me as my onboarding buddy, and helps me with my questions. Some of my old work habits are "too controlled", I often see myself stopping and asking, instead of a short iteration and becoming the DRI myself. One the other hand, I don't need much supervision. I have learned to search for work and TODOs on my own through my Open Source passion in the past years.

One personal note: I never felt alone in the first week. Even with my colleagues not sitting next to me, I was with them virtually. We've met Abubakar's daughter this week, a moment where you just forget about work and cheer together.

After my first company call, I scheduled my first coffee chat with Jackie. We truly share one spirit: Make release management in GitLab the best out there. It was fun to connect and we do it again, I have so many people to meet.

A special task last week was to add myself to the team page, with the help of the Web IDE. Incredible moment.

I  also admire the fact that my experience in the monitoring/observability area is put into stronger focus. At first glance, I was preparing for CI/CD and Cloud Native, with my confidence gap of not knowing everything. Still, I love challenges and will continue to research and learn. With becoming the "Ops in DevOps" on our team, I will support Brendan being the "Dev in DevOps". Or just to say: I love my team and I will do everything needed to achieve our success together ❀️

Thanks for reading. I'll continue my story on #allremote and #techevangelism at GitLab next week!