Igor Kulman
Software Engineer
August 08, 2018

Interview with Igor Kulman, a software engineer building iOS apps remotely

Igor converted a part-time contract into a full-time remote software engineering job—learn how he did it and his tips for working remotely.

How did you get started with remote work?

About two years ago while still working in an office I got in contact with a remote company through a friend. I started working for them a few hours a week remotely and then after about 6 months later I got an offer to come work for them fulltime on a new project. I accepted and started working remotely fulltime.

In a previous job I was used to working from home one day a week, basically Friday was a "work from home day" for the whole company, but doing it fulltime is a real change.

It was hard in the beginning. I had the feeling that I have to be available and replying to everyone all the time so people see I am actually working.

This made the remote work more stressful than working from an office and I had to get rid of this feeling to actually start enjoying the remote work.

Now I can take a long lunch without checking my phone and not thinking about work. Or I can take a break and watch an episode of a favorite TV show without feeling guilty.

It also helped a lot that around the same time I moved to a new apartment where I had a spare room that I could dedicate to being a home office.

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What are you working on?

I am currently the lead iOS developer for a German company developing a secure messaging app for corporate customers.

I basically got hired to ditch the old hybrid app and write it from scratch and better natively with a colleague and I think we did a really good job.

I am still in touch with one client from the old days of Windows development, they contact me every few months to make some small change in the app.

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What's your typical work routine?

I have a quite strict work routine that I developed and really helps me stay focused. I get up at 8 am every day, check Twitter, have some tea and start working at around 9 am.

On Mondays, I basically start my day with a weekly sync call at 10 am where we talk about what was done the week before, what are the plans for the coming week.

I usually take a long lunch around 1 pm, I almost always go out for lunch, for a change of scenery, so I do not spend the whole day at home.

The advantage of working from home and having a flexible schedule is that I can go for lunch basically anywhere I want, I am not constrained to a specific area around the office.

I stop working around 5 pm or 6 pm, depending on the workload. I turn off the computer, leave the room and switch context.

I usually go for a walk to clear my head and catch up on podcasts. Once or twice a week I go for a swim after work hours.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

I have a separate room in my current apartment that is used as my home office. It is totally minimalist, with just a standing desk, chair, and a cabinet. I use the NASA Space Tourism posters to decorate my walls not to have the room totally plain.

An example of the NASA 'Visions of the Future' image collection.

An example of the NASA 'Visions of the Future' image collection.

I never tried working from a coffee shop, I am not really a coffee shop person (I do not even drink coffee) and I absolutely hate noise.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

I really like my standing desk, I spend maybe half the day standing instead of sitting and I really got used to this workflow. I have an anti-fatigue mat that I stand on when working while standing, I bought it when I realized my feet hurt from all the standing.

I have my desktop computer mounted to the standing desk, connected to two displays, an old 22" LCD and a new 27" 4K IPS both mounted on adjustable monitor arms. The monitor arms are great, they allow me to position the displays to the correct height to achieve good ergonomy and save me a lot of space on the desk.

I use a vertical mouse for work, it takes some getting used to but it is so much better on your wrist.

I kept a gaming mouse for gaming after work hours.

The company I work for develops a secure messaging solution so we used it for daily communication and as a form of dogfooding. I basically spend my day in Xcode and Gitlab. We run our own Gitlab instance that we use not only for source control but also for project management; issues, feature planning, etc.

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How do you stay on task?

Remote work requires strong will and a lot of discipline. I think it is not for everyone. I never had problems staying on task and always had a strong work ethic.

What really helps me working remotely is establishing a routine. Getting up at the same time every day, working the same hours and taking breaks.

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What do you like about remote work?

I like being the master of my own time and the flexibility.

When I need to go to the dentist or have something in the apartment done, I do not need to tell anyone or ask for time off.

Remote work opened new possibilities for me, I can work for a German company with no physical presence in my country just as easily as I could for a local company.

I also like the peace and quiet that allows me to concentrate on the job.

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What do you not like about remote work?

Working remotely can sometimes get lonely. You can feel isolated, missing human contact. Communication can be also a bit tricky sometimes. It helps to work for a company that is remote, meaning most of the people are working remotely so the tools and workflows reflect that.

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Biography

Igor Kulman

Software Engineer currently working with iOS and Swift after a long time spent building Windows Mobile apps and Microsoft Azure cloud solutions.

Blogging about software development at https://blog.kulman.sk, tweeting about everything at @igorkulman and doing open-source at https://github.com/igorkulman.

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