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A laptop, two extra monitors, a whiteboard, the Pomodoro technique, software development project management system Jira and a large bottle of cold brew.
This is the work-from-home setup for Emmanuel Apau, Cvent’s lead site reliability engineer. Last year, Apau was one of the 12 developers honored on our inaugural RealLIST Engineers DC as one of the most influential technologists within our local tech community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cvent has allowed unrestricted work-from-home capabilities to its employees, while offering extra flexibility with defined work hours. As many companies make the adjustment to working from home, Apau shares some of his tips on how he stays focused while working remotely full-time, and how to unplug from your workday when needed.
You’re the lead site reliability engineer at Cvent, the Tysons-based curator of an event management platform. Give us a brief overview of what your primary tasks are?
Currently, I’m leading a cross-team AWS account migration and disaster recovery effort to automate the process of integrating new acquisitions into CVENT’s AWS architecture, [plus] building automation to create an active-passive environment that is geographically separate from production, and can be enabled within a one-hour RPO and four-hour RTO window.
What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any company-related work?
Being that I WFH primarily these days, it’s important to start your day as you would going into the office. You need to get out of bed (surprisingly tough when you start working from home), brush your teeth and even change into “work” clothes. I call it my morning commute, it helps get my mind in the right perspective for work. Then, of course, a full cup of cold brew to start the day.
How often do you check your email, and do you use any program to get to “Inbox Zero”?
I used to use tools like Google Inbox to help keep my “Inbox Zero” status but sadly since that is no longer a thing, I’ve started using the Pomodoro technique but instead of 25-minute intervals, I do 45 minutes.
When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?
When I WFH, it’s easy to have your breaks blend into soft tasks like catching up on Slack or email. So I created a secondary login profile on my laptop for “breaks.” It can be a way to “check out” for a short time on the same computer without being distracted by notifications.
About how much time per week do you devote to professional work that isn’t your full-time job (i.e. teaching, running meetups)?
I probably spend about five to 15 hours per week on out of work activities, teaching at the GW Bootcamp, organizing for Black Code Collective or working on my own consulting firm Mechanicode.io.
What’s one time-saving tip you have?
Muting Slack notifications on your laptop; it is a big distraction on focused work time.
Many of us are shifting to remote work these days. What are your tips for staying productive at home?
- Purchase a good noise cancellation headset; you’ll be surprised how many distracting noises occur in your house from the laundry, to family members, etc.
- If you don’t live by yourself, make sure there is some sort of signal or visual indicator that you are working or in “do not disturb” mode that is communicated with others. It’s easy for them to think you’re free when all they see you doing is staring at a computer screen.
- Remove your email/Slack notifications from your phone; it’s easy to have work blend into your personal or break time. Ensure your coworkers have a method to reach you for emergencies like your phone number, but everything else can wait until you’re back at “work.” Being well-rested physically and mentally is the best way to ensure productivity.
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