How to be a shitty customer 101

I’ve been interwebbing for a long time. I’ve had many roles over the years and some of them involved interaction with these quixotic things we call “customers” but I’ve only recently been involved in a role where those “customers” are not internal. My current role periodically exposes me to the unwashed masses of humanity that claw at my door moaning for relief from their busted gear. It didn’t take long to realize there are fairly easily identifiable categories of customers.

We all have disabilities. My particular disability is that I can’t see the colour grey. That means every customer looks like one of these to me:

  • The victim
  • The Passive-Aggressive
  • The psychopath
  • The guy who probably isn’t getting along to well
  • The normal human being

The victim

Crying stickman signifying a victimYou can easily identify the victim. The initial request for helps starts with blame. It begins with phrases like “Your service has broken my thing” or “I am loosing lots of money because of your service” or “YOU ASSHOLE I AM GOING TO SUE YOU”. You know, that type of thing.

I get that we’re selling a technical product and many people are not technical in nature. I can run the shit out of a Linux box, but I have almost no clue how my car works. I understand the frustration, but I’m also not a victim. When my car guy tells me the slarginator needs replacing I don’t fly off the handle and start screaming that he’s costing me $1000 a day because of his incompetence with slarginators. I am not restraining myself because I’m a great guy, I just honestly know that it’s not his fault. I don’t know how the victims of this world end up wandering through life feeling like things are being “done” to them but I can assure you that when you ask someone for help, yelling at them about your broken-ass slarginator ain’t the way to get that thing fixed.

The passive-aggressive

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Remote work: the last meritocracy

The general idea of remote work is that you do the same job you would do in the office, but you don’t have to actually go to the office. This removes all the problems with people and politics of the office. That’s viewed as a huge benefit, but the reality is that many people only keep their jobs because of the people and politics of the office. Remote work strips all that away and leaves you standing naked in a meritocracy where only your skills matter.

I’ve worked remotely for 7 out of the last 9 years. For 4 years I was a remote contractor left to my own devices. I spent 2 years working as a remote worker for a non-remote company and I’ve spent the last year-ish working as a remote worker for a remote company. While sitting at home looks the same in all cases, each of those situations were very different from each other.

Here’s what I have learned from each of those situations:

Remote work as a contractor

StressedUnless you want to spend a lot of time chasing business, chasing cheques, and schmoozing on the phone, you’re screwed. The vast majority of remote “employers” are really just guys with ideas that want the cheapest possible labour to see if their idea has legs. They’re not invested in the idea of building a remote workforce for any reason other than they see it as the cheapest way to get going. They’ll work the shit out of you to see if you’re good “startup material” (which really means “I have no money because nobody but me believes in my idea”) and discard you when you’re so exhausted you trip. If they have no backers, be wary. Don’t know if they have backers? Google it; Angels and VCs love to talk about who they’re backing.

I spent about 25% of my time actually working and the rest of the time doing these tasks in no particular order:

  • Trying to find new work.
  • Trying to get paid for completed work.
  • Trying to figure out the best way to acquire gear and services (from a tax perspective).
  • Learning how to do my taxes properly.
  • Mourning the loss of my skill set because I was not using it.

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