This month’s postcard is from Dunedin, where Cameron Kerr diagnoses client issues while advising on and implementing solutions that increase site resilience and performance. Read on to learn more about life in South Island, New Zealand, and what inspires and motivates this free thinking site reliability consultant.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I live in Dunedin, a coastal city in New Zealand, which is also where I grew up. With a population of about 130,000, it’s big enough to have almost everything you need but small enough that you could walk everywhere if you like hills. As the major city in the south of the South Island, Dunedin is close to the natural beauty of Central Otago and Fiordland. The University of Otago plays a major part in the life of the city because students make up about a fifth of the population.
We’re 45 degrees south of the equator, so we’re accustomed to cool weather. Although all seasons are beautiful, the weather can change daily, so it’s not uncommon to see people wearing shorts and a puffer jacket at the same time. But it all makes for a lovely mid-day walk or bike when working from home.
What was your path to Pythian?
I studied computer science at the University of Otago, and I stayed on to become a Teaching Fellow. There, I was instrumental in designing and delivering the content of two university papers in systems administration and network programming. I learned a lot about how to design and support systems, write documentation, and much about perseverance.
Later, I left academia and moved into an enterprise IT role as a systems engineer, where I was exposed to much more complex systems, networks, and organizational structures. Continuous learning developed in me a reputation for tenacity in problem-solving and innovating my way out of problems. I continued in that role, experienced restructuring, and promotion, and grew until I felt a change was needed.
Pythian was a brand that was new to me when I first saw the job posting. But with some encouragement from friends and family, I applied. I’m glad to report I felt more at home in the first interview than I had in the last few years at my previous position. It was evident that Pythian put a lot of effort into their culture, and I’ve yet to find otherwise.
What’s a typical day like for you now?
Most of the people I interact with tend to be in the Eastern time zone. So, my meetings tend to be early, even as early as 7 AM. That leaves the rest of my day to focus on work for clients. I might work on scheduled maintenance, advise, implement solutions, diagnose issues, or write documentation. Our team implements a “follow-the-sun” model, so near the end of my day, I have colleagues in India coming online with whom I can catch up.
It’s important to foster these lines of communication, even if it’s not strictly work-related. Having a safe harbor where you can support one another is very important to prevent feelings of loneliness and frustration. Slack helps me feel more connected and helps me bring my authentic, quirky self to work. I feel like I truly belong, and I’m very glad that Pythian has supported remote working since its inception.
Mondays have a very distinctive feel. Because of the vast time difference I mentioned earlier, Mondays are quieter because most people I interact with get online as I get off. So, it’s a day I can add a little ritual to the morning breakfast routine, plan ahead, turn on the radio and catch up on the minutiae that can otherwise compound into a bigger problem. It’s taken some time, but I’m learning to enjoy the quiet of Mondays.
I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, and the flexibility in hours does improve work-life balance and boosts my productivity. Pythian’s pacing reports give me back the balance I was previously missing. Thanks to our wellness programme, I now bike for a couple of hours a week into town, grab a coffee, lunch, maybe work (more) remotely, and then ride back after lunch. After family time, my wife and I work/study in the home office. My life is more balanced than it used to be, but I still need to be conscientious of taking time for myself and getting exercise.
What has been the biggest challenge in this role so far?
Navigating time zones. I’m not sure this ever gets easy, but I’m getting better at it. It’s not just the actual time zone differences but the flow-on effects they have on effective communication and synchronization. Thankfully, I prefer asynchronous communication. I’m very thankful for the work the team managers (thank you, Olga!) and project managers put into making this easy for me. So, while time zone differences are a challenge, it’s never been a pain—no 3 AM meetings here!
Tell us about your workspace
We’ve turned the spare bedroom into a home office. Some days I have the home office to myself, and others I share with my wife. We have a fairly decent setup with good ergonomics. There are still a few improvements to be done, such as lighting and decor, so recently, we’ve been discussing paint colors.
How do you spend your time off?
I like to get creative in the kitchen or work on a small project in the workshop. But most of my project time is happily consumed by helping my son with his science projects. Here’s a picture of a fun project we did making a cable-stay bridge out of paper straws and string.
What’s one type of food you could eat every day?
It would be nachos, but only if created with a generous spirit.
Describe Pythian in one word
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