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A couple people have asked me what I'm doing when Michael is out teaching. I'm still working full time as a requirements analyst for the most awesome software company ever. I already liked my job, my company and co-workers. But the company is letting me telecommute from India for three months, and that is utterly awesome.  And they read this blog too. (Hello over there!)

Most of my online time the past couple weeks has been mostly reserved for work tasks. I was finishing some sample reports for our clients to critique, and coming up with questions for my colleagues to ask for me "by proxy". The customers finally reviewed them and they poked relatively few holes in the reports, and I'm revising them this week.  I did as much work as possible locally using OpenOffice.org, but had to finish them in Word (via remote desktop) just to squeeze all the data onto the pages.

I'm also going through innumerable flowcharts. Months ago, I put the requirements documentation into "functional requirements", flow-charts describing the more minor business logic of the application. We expected a few of the minor details would change, which is why I had held off on double-checking the flowcharts until now. But the developers are finally getting around to coding those parts now, and it's time to get 'er done. I'm using Borland DefineIT, which is slow, unreliable, and its main redeeming feature is it links to Caliber, the requirements-repository tool for this project. The problem is, DefineIT's license doesn't let me install it on my laptop and work offline. So I remote-desktop into my machine at the office.  The connection speed isn't lightning-fast but it's not bad, probably comparable to DSL.  The VPN does disconnect randomly, but it did that back home too.

Telecommuting requires discipline. My current situation reminds me of when I was taking online classes. I have to pace myself and stick tightly to my to-do list; there's nobody checking up on me in person. I do communicate with my boss and team-lead regularly, but mostly I'm on my own.  The communication has been getting better and the internet is more reliable in the apartment and I've been working more in the evenings.

Thursdays are regularly scheduled electrical blackout days here, when the power company turns off electricity to the campus during business hours. Contrast that to when we were in Delhi five years ago, where the power went out 20 minutes each day. The college has a backup power supply that they use, so I go over to Michael's office and work from there. Our apartment goes for about six hours without power on Thursdays, never mind it being right next to a hospital. Water is pumped via a local pump in the apartment building, so no power means no water either.  The water outages are particularly annoying when one of us is starting to take a shower; we shower twice a day in this heat.  But the water still usually runs out around midnight, even when there is electricity.

The first week or two of work was a real struggle to adjust. I was jet-laggged and sick (GI), sleeping several additional hours each day. A 20-minute walk across campus in this heat was exhausting and made me want to collapse into a nap. Now, I still get completely soaked from sweat if I walk across campus during midday, but I'm fine once I'm drinking water in an air-conditioned rooms.  I'm extremely glad I'm not doing my original plan of going back and forth, spending a few weeks here and then a few weeks back in the US. I don't think my body could've handled the shifting jet-lag. I still randomly wake up in the middle of the night for an hour or two at a time, wide awake and unable to sleep. That's partly a good thing, since that's when I've been writing most of these blog entries.

Now, I'm settling in and my work has been pretty productive here, despite being ten and a half hours ahead of East Coast time. And in spite of the connectivity. The internet availability has improved, but I still operate like the connection might die at any moment.  When I do have internet available, I grab all the emails and copy them to my laptop to respond to offline. Then if the internet or power dies, I can still keep working and just send them when it returns. And the time zone kinda works in my favor, since a couple of the developers are early birds and start their work around 6:30 AM.

Conference calls have been more challenging, not just on my end. My boss had a department meeting, which she very kindly scheduled for 9 AM their time (just before my suppertime here). I tried using Skype, but the connection died. So I called via my cell phone at 6 rupees (12 cents) a minute, which is fine. That worked okay to get the main number, but the conference room where the meeting didn't have a working telephone. So my colleagues gathered around some kind of microphone (or maybe somebody's personal cell phone?) and had the meeting. Wasn't as good as in person, but I heard most of it. And it was nice to hear their voices again. Every organization has politics and good and bad aspects, but my company has really great people. I miss my co-workers.
flora: Photo of a baby penguin chick (Default)
We move to rural India in two weeks. Or less. Or maybe more? We still don't have definite dates; the bureaucrats are still ordering the one-way plane tickets. We've asked to leave August 28 or later and have a two-day layover in Paris. Then hopefully we'll have a day or so of in-country orientation in Delhi before moving to the host university's guest house. Michael starts teaching around the first of September. Indian school-year semesters vary by region, and they don't line up with the traditional US school year. Overall, it seems like they're much more flexible about class schedules or just dates in general.

Speaking of flexible, my amazing company is letting me telecommute! We can keep paying our mortgage and I don't neglect my teammates. I will be keeping busy, helping finish the major software project I've been working on for a year. It's work that can mostly be done offline if needed, so if a stray cow knocks out the internet for half a day, it'll be OK. Our CTO also gave approval to start writing a company standard-requirements document for usability and best practices. So that'll give me a fun back-burner project to work on when the acronyms are driving me buggy.

I have precious little time to pack. My second summer class ends this week. My final presentation (50 minutes long) on how to evaluate Business Intelligence software is on Saturday. Sunday is our take-home final exam. The final project report is due Monday. I'm still almost a week behind, since I didn't have much internet access on my recent business trip. So tonight I will be working hard (the prof gave me an extension, but I don't want to push it). The class has still been great; terrific, practical information on usability engineering. I already applied some of it at the users' group meeting a couple weeks ago.

Enough procrastinating. Must go do work. Ack!

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