Kevin Scott
October 22, 2018

Interview with Kevin, a developer and remote consultant

Kevin is a developer and consultant working on many different projects - learn which tools he uses to optimize his time management.

How did you get started with remote work?

In 2009, I quit my job to backpack around the States and South America, and started freelancing remotely to support myself (as a means to an end). That ended in 2012, when I went back to school.

In 2013-2014, I had an onsite position as a developer, but in 2014 I took a full-time remote position working as a developer for Tenable .

I wasn't sure what it'd be like working a full-time job remotely, but I loved it and was so much more productive.

In 2016, I started my own remote consulting firm, and I've been doing that ever since. I'm based in Boston, with most of my clients in New York or San Francisco.

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What are you working on?

I'm currently working on a short ebook about getting started with Machine Learning in Javascript. I'm really fascinated by the technology, and there's a surprising amount we can do in the browser today.

I started my own meetup here in Boston called AI & Design, and we've grown to more than 300 people. I also recently gave a talk on using Tensorflow.js, and hope to give more talks this fall.

I'm consulting for about 20 hours per week, and will be auditing Startup School (put out by Y Combinator.

I'm also working on a (personal) album of music that I'm hoping to release this fall!

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What's your typical work routine?

I prefer not to work from home, as I get distracted easily. I also enjoy being able to turn off and separate home from work.

I'm part of a coworking space in Boston called Workbar. They have a number of locations around the city. One location is accessible via a secluded bike trail, so if the weather's nice I'll bike to work. Otherwise, I'll take the train to a downtown location.

I try to get my day started early. As much as I can, I devote Mondays to phone calls, errands, and other small tasks that tend to pile up during the week. For the rest of the week, I try to focus on deeper tasks like programming or writing.

On Fridays, I'll tend to work out of coffee shops around the city, just because I can.

I try to start my day with my most important personal task, which is writing. Otherwise, I find that consulting work or other tasks tend to box it out.

As much as possible, I try to combine similar tasks together. I use NotePlan (a markdown to-do editor) to track my tasks.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

Yes, I am a member of a coworking space and use their facilities 4-5 days a week.

They have shared desks but plenty of external monitors, so I'll get in early, secure a prime seating location, and post up for the day.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

Slack is big for remote work, though it can also be the bane of my existence. I tend to stay signed in via my browser to whatever Slack channel is relevant that day.

I use NotePlan for tracking personal tasks. Fantastical is great for scheduling and calendar. I rely on Google Hangouts for doing video calls.

All my work is code, and I generally use whatever my clients prefer. That can include project management software like Trello, Github Issues, or a regular Google Spreadsheet, and either Github, Bitbucket or Gitlab.

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How do you stay on task?

I use NotePlan to track my tasks - although I don't use most of its features; I just like its markdown capabilities.

Every day gets the following layout:

  • 8/6/2018 Monday

  • Goal

  • Review

  • Tasks

I'll start by reviewing the previous day or week, and then set out the high-level goals I want to accomplish that day.

Then, I'll collect all the tasks I have to get done that day and mark them out by time:


  • task one


  • task two


  • call

These estimates are often wrong, but they give me a rough sense of what I can get accomplished. They also help me avoid wasting time on rabbit holes that don't push me towards my goal.

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What do you like about remote work?

I love having the freedom to work where I want. I really enjoy being able to move around depending on the day and how I feel.

I like being able to choose the environment I work in. Too often, I've been forced to work in noisy crowded places with awful commutes that leave me frustrated and drained.

I like paying for a coworking space and having a say in how that space is run.

I enjoy the camaraderie of a shared working space. It's great to meet and mingle with people not in my industry (as well as people in my industry!) and learn new things.

However, I also liked my former at-home setup. I enjoy mechanical keyboards and blasting the keys at 100+ decibels, not having to worry about bothering others in an open-plan office.

I no longer have that setup (since I work from coworking spaces), but I am exploring ways to have a more dedicated desk.

I love not being distracted in person by the people I work with.

I really love the ability to be able to travel and work. My girlfriend and I enjoy hiking and camping, and we'll occasionally do longer trips that require us to leave on a Thursday evening.

Being able to just pull up to a coffee shop halfway through a trip, or work from a remote Airbnb, is one of the most wonderful things.

Also, the fact that I was able to move cities (from NYC to Boston) last year without so much as a hiccup in my work was amazing.

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What do you not like about remote work?

This is a hard question to answer.

I think if my goals were different - if I wanted to be more part of a team, if I wanted to move into management - I think working remotely would work against those goals.

But I am very happy doing what I do and my goal right now is to ensure I'm able to work this way for as long as I can.

I think that it can be helpful to work face to face for certain tasks. For instance, when doing deep design work, standing at a whiteboard together (or even at the same table) can be much faster than doing things in sync online. I think this can be solved with an occasional in-person meeting, though.

This may just be my computer, but video conferencing software often leaves me wanting. I look forward to better software in the future.

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How has your routine changed over time?

In 2009-2012, I backpacked and worked. Working out of coworking spaces was wonderful then, since it helped me network and meet people and also provided the essentials I needed, like quiet phone areas and fast internet.

In 2014-2016, I worked out of my apartment (that I lived in alone) in Brooklyn.

My first six months, I was siloed on a greenfield project by myself. I loved it - I routinely spent 12+ hours a day crafting my baby.

This inevitably came to an end. As I (reluctantly) started taking on managerial duties, it became harder to stay focused at home.

In 2016, I quit my job and my girlfriend moved in. I got a private office about 15 minutes away. That was really wonderful; I had a door that closed so I could be loud but also had a (small) community. The commute was also wonderful, biking through a park along the water with a view of the Manhattan skyline in the background.

I'm now living in Boston and working out of a shared coworking space, and I really enjoy the community here. I miss having a dedicated desk, but I think the community outweighs that.

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Kevin Scott

You can find Kevin at writing about AI, Javascript and design. He's writing an e-book on hacking on AI with Javascript; subscribe for updates here!

If you're in the Boston area and into AI or design, he's always looking for speakers for the AI & Design meetup.

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