Chief Engineer Appreciates Benefits of Remote Work

Bill Corely, chief engineer for Excerra, thought he didn’t like his job until he started working remotely. He discovered that what he didn’t like was the commute. Now he works with people all over the world without having to leave his home office.

RNP: How long have you been a remote professional? 

I’ve been working remotely for a year and a half – Oct 23, 2015 to be exact. I work for a company called Excerra. We make test equipment for the semiconductor industry and I work with people all over the world ….Taiwan, mainland China, Europe, Norwood, MA and the west coast of the US. I’m the chief engineer; luckily I can do my job from most anywhere in the world and live where I want. I used to have an office and do a lot of traveling. These days we use VNC in viewer and Webex so now I travel around the world from my desk without getting up.

RNP: What do you see as the biggest benefits of remote work?

I got rid of my commute!! When I went to the office every day my drive was close to an hour each way and by the time I got there, I was in a foul mood. I thought I hated my job. Well, it turned out that when I started working remotely I discovered I didn’t hate my job at all, I just hated my commute. Once I got rid of that commute, I remembered how much I liked my job plus I got two hours back in my day. My work schedule is somewhat flexible depending on what needs doing. If I need to make arrangements to take time out in the middle of the day, I can do that easily.

RNP: When I started working remotely, I was told to prepare for the loneliness – but I’ve found with all the social connection today, it’s the exact opposite; my device is my console to the world. 

I don’t have this problem, I do independent work – I’m an individual contributor. Because my job involves things that are mathematical, I need to sit for an hour and focus to get work done, so I prefer the quiet. I get more work done when I work at home, the quiet is a benefit. I have no problem getting in a full day’s work at home.

RNP: What do you feel are the biggest challenges?

You need to stay connected – especially if you are one of the only remote workers. You need the face time because they (the people in the office) need to know you are still there. They need to see your face occasionally and talk with you. It doesn’t work as well over the phone or a remote meeting site. You also have to keep people informed on a daily, weekly basis of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Keep your supervisor informed and keep tabs on things in the office so you can stay relevant and stay informed.

There are only a handful of people who work remotely in my company and we’re spread all over the world. Even when I worked in the office, I spent a lot of time working remote with lots of communication back and forth between the customer sites and different offices. Even if I was working at the office…I’d still be doing a lot of the same things so some things haven’t changed at all.

Another thing – we make hardware testing equipment and I don’t have access to the physical hardware from my location. I can’t spend all day working on hardware. I have to figure out what I can do remotely without help and that takes some planning.

If you work remotely, you need to keep fairly regular hours. If you don’t, you can make up excuses to do something else or worse, you can end up working all the time. Then you end up not having time for yourself, block out time for yourself.

RNP: What is your best practice tip for building trusted relationships over distance?

Show up at your meeting, keep it honest, make your deadlines and let people know what’s happening. I’m not in a management role so I can’t look at it from that angle but as an individual contributor, dealing with peers and supervisory people, it’s the same as face-to-face. Do what you say you are going to do. Show up and show up on time. Understand that people forget you are doing other things so maintaining good regular communication and demonstrating you are meeting your obligations is important.


RNP: What advice would you give a new remote professional just starting out?

Enjoy the privilege – it’s awesome to work remotely. Don’t invest in commercial real estate. I think there is going to be a glut of commercial real estate at some point because remote work is catching on. We have three other families around us that all work at home and that has to have an impact on commercial real estate demand in the future.