A remote data engineer who loves reading books and doing CrossFit

1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Emilie Schario. I was the first Data Analyst at GitLab, before becoming a Data Engineer, before becoming an Internal Strategy Consultant. I have a background of being the-first-data-person at a couple of tech startups. I spend my time outside of work with my nose buried in a book, doing CrossFit, or adventuring with my husband and dog.

I hadn’t planned on a career in tech. I majored in Politics in college and focused on political methodology, which is a lot like data analysis in the political sphere. I had dabbled in R but didn’t know what Git was and certainly didn’t think of knowing some R as knowing how to code. Out of college, I joined a post-grad fellowship called Venture for America that places recent college grads in startups. I joined Baltimore-based Allovue, where they taught me everything I know. 

2. What motivated you to choose remote working?

Because of the nature of my husband’s career, we move a lot. The statistic was that we’d have to move once every 3 years, but in the 4 years we’ve been out of college, we’ve lived in 3 states.

We were lucky enough to be college sweethearts, so early on I narrowed into remote work as a requirement for me to build my career, if we were going to work. Now, we’ve been together for 6 years and we’re both thriving in our careers.

In a lot of ways, I didn’t choose remote work. I chose to build a career while being with my husband, and that required remote work. 

3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?

I’ve been working remotely for so long now that I don’t remember my initial reactions. I do remember, though, how I struggled with isolation. I remember one day walking to my mailbox and thinking to myself that I hadn’t left the house for a couple of days. We had just moved to a new city, I didn’t know anyone, and I felt SO lonely. I had my job, but making friends as an adult in a new city is incredibly difficult, and I struggled.

At that point, I realized that if the remote work thing was going to work, I needed to be intentional about getting out of the house. Lots of people have worked to solve that problem for themselves in a myriad of ways. I chose to join a gym, and now working out is a part of my life 4-5 times per week. I get out of the house, get social interaction, and get self-care in one part of my day. When I start my day with a workout, I start the day by feeling accomplished, and I think it translates into better quality work. 

4. How did you find remote working roles?

I landed at GitLab through the dbt community. GitLab was hiring and was starting to build out their data stack. I had a ton of experience in the stack they were using and was looking for a new role. It was a match made in startup heaven.

I think this really worked out because I didn’t look for a remote company and *then* try to find a job that works. I knew what job I wanted first and just made remote a requirement for any roles I was considering. 

Remote is a feature of a job, as is the size of the team, the programming language used, and the problems to be solved. You may only want to work in Python. I only want to work for a remote-first company, but my role is the most important part of the search.

5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?

The best thing about working remotely is that I don’t have to worry about what will happen to my job when we move (which will happen, and likely with little notice). That peace of mind removes a dark cloud from hanging over my head.

An impressive and oft under-discussed part of remote work is the diversity of team members from around the world that I’ve gotten to build relationships with. GitLab isn’t my first fully distributed, global startup, but it is much bigger. In the same day, I might have a call with a Dutch team member living in Mexico, an Australian team member who is starting his day as I’m ending it, and a working mom in South Africa who is taking a meeting from her car while her kid is in their dance class. The diversity of team members and lifestyles that those team members live is a great reminder that remote work is about shifting the paradigm from making your life fit around your work to shifting your work to fit with your life.

The worst thing about remote work is the isolation it can cause. While I think that can be a problem with an always evolving solution, today I’ve found something that works really well for me to address it. 

6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?

Do not disturb mode.

As remote employees, especially folks who are really passionate about their work, it can be really easy to let personal and professional lives bleed together. Too many folks I know wake up, immediately reach for their phones, and jump immediately to email or Slack. We are better when we make sure to step away from work, but when you work from your home it can be hard to learn to develop that habit. 

Making yourself always available doesn’t do people favors. It handicaps your team. There is a time & place for urgency and interruptions. Whenever I’m working with a new person or starting a new project, I widely share my cell phone number. If it’s urgent, **call me**. My cell phone number is in my Slack profile for any team member to be able to call me. If it’s not important enough to call me, it’s probably not urgent and I’ll see it when I see it. 

7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.

Remote work provides me with the opportunity to work with an incredible group of humans from around the world who I get to learn from every day. I am excited and grateful for that every single day. 

8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?

Be proactive about building the life you want. Remote work isn’t for everyone, but the best thing for your situation depends on what your situation is. I struggled with isolation, so I joined a gym and that has worked for me, but that’s not effective for everyone. 

One of my colleagues gained a lot of weight when he transitioned to remote work because he cut off his 2 miles of walking that he did over his commute. Other folks struggle with relationships or communicating async or mostly in writing. Pay attention to what’s hard in the beginning and be proactive about addressing it.

9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?

I don’t know where I’m going to live in 6 months, and the idea that we need to plan out our careers is a bit silly to me. Six months ago I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be in *this* role, yet here I am. Right now, I’m focused on doing the best work I can, solving the most important problems to the company, and learning along the way, as effectively as possible. I am grateful for the opportunity to grow with GitLab. 

At some point, I think I’ll move back into data in some way, but I don’t know in what capacity or what I’ll do next. 

Right now, I’m really just focused on hitting a 300 lb (136 kg) deadlift, getting better at checking my ego, and helping build up the people around me. 

10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?

Remote work will continue to be the norm as companies like GitLab prove the model. For a long time, companies believed that “remote” only worked for engineering or maybe for product and engineering, but what fully distributed companies, like GitLab, Doist, Automattic, and InVision, show us is that it isn’t true. Finance, marketing, and sales can do it just fine too. You just have to be intentional. 

11. Where can we follow you on?

You can find more about me or my background on emilieschario.com

I have profiles on GitLab and Twitter

Are you a remote worker too?
Would you like to share you story?
Just reach us at hrishikesh@remote.tools!

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