Laurent Parenteau
VP Engineering
August 24, 2020

Interview with Laurent, an introverted remote worker & engineer

In this interview, this VP of engineering shares his strategies for managing family time and organizing meetings as an introvert.

How did you get started with remote work?

I started working remotely 11 years ago. At the time, I didn’t really think it was possible to be hired to work remotely.

I thought this was only a privilege you could get after having worked for some time for the same employer.

So I was quite happy and considered myself lucky to find that opportunity. It was for a Bay Area-based company, that was one of the few competitors we had at my first company. One of my previous co-workers worked there, and our specialized background made us really attractive to them. So we got hired as remote employees.

After that, I really wanted to be able to keep working remotely. I didn’t want to work from an office full time anymore. Not wasting time commuting, being able to live wherever I wanted to, being able to spend more time with my kids, the possibility to travel more were the biggest reasons why I wanted to keep working remotely.

I was still skeptical of being able to find remote positions, but I knew I wanted to try every time.

As such, I was taking a lot of effort to apply to places where my background was really relevant, and where I knew the skills they were looking for was hard to find.

This was giving me more confidence when selling myself in the interview process.

As time went by, I also found more and more places that were open to remote hires. So now, I’m not worried at all about finding a remote position if needed. However, I’m not looking right now 😉.

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What are you working on?

I am currently VP Engineering at Wellthon, where we are building a digital health platform designed to help older adults and those with a variety of disorders and diseases to live their best life.

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What's your typical work routine?

I wake up when the kids wake me up, which is always earlier than I’d hope 😄. I am able to spend time with them before starting to work at around 8:30.

I usually have some meetings at 10 am, so I take the time before that to catch up on messages, production analytics, task updates from my team, and post my daily standup in our messaging app (we use Twist). I take a break to prepare lunch for the whole family at 11:30, so anytime before that will be used for quick individual contributor work.

I resume working after launch at 1 pm. Depending on the day, I will have some 1:1 meetings, but otherwise, I can do individual contributor work pretty much every afternoon. I’ve set aside 4 to 5 pm every day to read books; this is my continuous learning block. I take a break at 5 pm to prepare dinner for the whole family.

I get to spend time with my kids until the younger ones are in bed. Then I do a final one hour of work between 8 to 9 pm. I use this time to either catch up on stuff that happened during my dinner or plan stuff for the next day. If all is fine, I can do individual contributor work instead.

I can spend the rest of the evening with my girlfriend until bedtime, which is at around 11:30 pm.

On Friday we have an unofficial no-meeting policy, which is really great 🎉.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

Ninety-nine percent of the time working, I am from home (or whatever lodging we're renting when traveling).

Some people like a clean environment, but I like noise. I always have music playing, and my desk is a mess.

I could justify this by saying that all these stimuli help me be creative and actually focus on my tasks. But I actually don’t know if there’s really some basis to that, it may be just an ad hoc hypothesis 😉.

I also have a window so I can see outside. When traveling, I make sure I can always see outside, too, when working. I like to see nature, and time goes by as the day progresses.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

Our current software stack is :

  • Whereby: For video calls & meetings.
  • Twist: For text messages. All the discussions about product development need to be there in public channels.
  • GSuite: For email and documents.
  • Trello: Product & engineering management.
  • GitLab: Our git repo and CI/CD pipeline.
  • Fellow: For meeting agenda sharing.

On the hardware side, I've got a MacBook Pro, a Newsoul USB C Portable Monitor, Macally solar-powered keyboard, and a Jelly Comb wireless mouse.

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How do you stay on task?

I am an introvert, so meetings are draining to me. Because of that, I initially wanted to have them spread out in my schedule as much as possible.

But I came to realize that I was more productive whenever I had big blocks without meetings.

Now I am trying to pack all my meetings back to back as much as possible in the day. So I end up having a block of meetings, and a block of no meetings. I still feel exhausted after that block of meetings, but I end up being more productive after that since I get a lot of uninterrupted time.

We’re also pushing as much as possible toward an asynchronous communication culture, so nobody feels pressured to respond to chat messages immediately.

That’s one reason we have been using Twist (instead of Slack or Microsoft Teams or others), the notifications control you have are really great. This really helps with staying focused on the task at hand. I can decide to check Twist only when it’s a natural break in my current work.

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What do you like about remote work?

Freedom :)

I enjoy the freedom to travel. I also favor the ability to adjust my schedule as needed and be with my family while not having to organize my life around work.

I think this brings out the best in me, which puts me in a much more productive position. But it also put me in a much better position to help others at work, build a great team, and take care of others.

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What do you not like about remote work?

There's obviously less social interaction with my coworkers. I can't have lunch with them every day, etc.

But while you can't have lunch with your coworkers every day, you can enjoy lunch with your family.

So while I love my coworkers, I still prefer to work remotely and spend more time with my family 😉.

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Biography

Laurent Parenteau

Laurent Parenteau lives and works remotely from Quebec, Canada. He is the VP Engineering at Wellthon, where they are building a digital health platform designed to help older adults and those with a variety of disorders and diseases to live their best life.

He has been in the software development world for 19 years, the last 11 years fully remote. He has four kids who are homeschooled, and he loves to travel and spend time outside in his backyard and forest.

Learn more about him at laurentparenteau.com.

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