The Perks of WFH

The Perks of WFH

One of the cool things about being an actor was that I got paid to travel the world and perform. My very first job out of college was with The Sound of Music – Asia Tour. I spent 2 months in Mainland China, where everyone spoke Mandarin and I felt extremely out of sorts, relying heavily on the translator that traveled with us. This was pre-iPhone circa 2005, so I carried print outs of maps in my pocket and generally only traveled in groups for fear of being lost forever in a foreign country, or worse yet, miss my 8pm curtain and get fired from my show.

The last 3 months of the tour were spent in Hong Kong, which was much easier to navigate. While Hong Kong was no longer a British territory at this point, everything was in Cantonese and English, and I didn’t have to worry about not speaking the language. It was my first experience of being independent in a foreign country. I loved it. I would take the bus every day from my hotel into downtown Hong Kong, go to the grocery store, go shopping, make my way to the theatre in time to get ready for the show and then go out with friends in Lan Kwai Fong after for drinks.

It was a good thing I enjoyed traveling and spending time in new locations, since the next 6 years of work would involve me being on tour traveling frequently between cities across the United States and Canada. Mamma Mia! had me flying weekly, racking up as many cities as I could in 3 years and trying to hit every Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives I could find. Wicked had us sitting down for as long as 10 weeks giving us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a city to the point of feeling like a local. I’ve been to every major city in Canada as well as every US state except for Alaska. We played major cities and smaller cities, I’ve been to El Paso, TX twice and spent Christmas in Ottawa and Hawaii.

When I traveled, I tried to avoid the major touristy spots instead finding a cafe and a yoga spot I could call my own. I traveled a fold-up bike while on tour and would explore the city that way. I chose housing rental options that would allow me to bike to and from the theatre. It was a pretty magical way to see the country.

When I left the Wicked Broadway company full-time in 2015, I spent a few years headlining my own show onboard Norwegian Cruise Lines. I spent about 3 days every other week in the Bahamas and then taking a cab home at the end of the cruise after we’d dock back in NYC. I had my favorite Greek restaurant in Nassau and my favorite cafe in Bermuda that I’d go to every shore day, as well as my favorite beach spots that were far from all the tourists. To say I like being on my own in a foreign location is an understatement.

When I decided to learn to code and considered officially leaving the theatre business, I found the reality of working from a desk a bit scary. The stagnant lifestyle of office work definitely freaked me the f*** out. I am a mobile person who enjoys my freedom and sitting behind the same desk day-in and day-out was not something I’d ever done and to be frank, it’s part of why I avoided the 9-5 life for so long.

However, this was pre-pandemic. Since March of 2020, tech companies have realized that their employees can be pretty darn productive while working remotely. Many are choosing not to go back to the office, or giving their employees the option. I have been fortunate that the jobs I’ve had in tech thus far have allowed me to take advantage of the #wfh lifestyle.

My first job in tech, was for a small startup in NYC. When I was hired in June of 2020, I was told that we were remote until we could go back to the office. Around January of 2021, that changed. My husband and I were both given the go-ahead to continue working remotely forever. FOREVER! Our first trial of real remote work was buying a car and renting a house in upstate NY for a week to work out of. Having wifi in the middle of the woods really cemented for us that we could actually work from anywhere.

So, my husband and I said, screw it, let’s leave NYC. This was not an easy decision since we’d both called it our home since 2003 when we relocated to attend NYU. As of 2020, we had been living in a tiny 650 square foot apartment in Brooklyn, and while my heart belongs there, I was losing my mind in that apartment. I watched as many of my close friends began to leave the city and it stopped feeling like the city I knew and loved.

We opted to move to Chicago since we both grew up there and had family and friends there. Having these remote jobs gave us the ability to buy a house, yes a house, with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a yard, a garage, and a roofdeck in a super hip neighborhood with bars and restaurants in walking distance. I don’t mean to brag, but having lived in NYC and hotels for so long, I recognize that this is a major upgrade!

Our move to Chicago definitely solved the problem of feeling stuck in a tiny apartment during a pandemic. However, as the year went on and I started a new job (also remote and a bit more flexible with my time), we endured our first winter in Chicago since the early 2000s and got a bit itchy (both metaphorically and physically from the dry skin that freezing temperatures create!)

My folks moved out to the beach in LA a few years ago giving us somewhere to escape to. This would be the first time we’d be tempting not only remote work, but also a larger time difference. My day started at 7am while my husband’s first meeting would be at 6:30am. The warm weather made it worth it as did finishing the day at 3pm. We spent our afternoons walking the dog along the ocean, getting poke and playing cards while the sun set over my parents balcony. We began thinking about how we could do this every year… maybe 3 months next winter in LA?

Recently, my husband started a new (fully remote) job that has its headquarters in Paris and his team local to Brooklyn. The realization that he may have to go to NYC every few months and Paris potentially twice a year got us really excited about pushing remote work even further.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cafe in Paris, officially testing the waters of what it’s like to work 7 hours ahead of my team in Chicago. So far, so good! This morning I woke up, strolled through Montmartre, grabbed a croissant, made my way to a cute lunch spot before heading to a cafe to drink a ton of coffee (still fighting jet lag) and get some work done. This evening, we have plans to eat dinner a cute restaurant near Sacre Coeur.

Lucky for me, this week my team is in the middle of an Innovation Sprint, which basically means we can work on whatever we like (I’m doing an advanced React course so I can learn more about testing patterns and advanced hooks) and don’t have normal meetings. I’ll be back in Chicago for our regularly scheduled sprint next week and won’t have to worry about how afternoon meetings in Chicago would end up being very late at night in Paris.

When my friend said he wanted to have his birthday in London later this summer, we said, “Great, when and where? We’ll be there!” We figure we can go early and work remotely for the first a half of the week before taking advantage of some of that unlimited PTO and enjoying the birthday celebrations.

When I really sit back and reflect on all the things I thought the theatre, and only the theatre, could offer me, I’m finding I had a very narrow view of reality. Leaving the theatre actually gave me the ability to travel more! I did not anticipate this when I decided to change careers, but I’m really excited about the potential to see the world (especially as Covid flight restrictions have begun to be lifted). For now, my husband and are taking advantage of the DINK (dual-income-no-kids) lifestyle and will continue as long as we can.

I love talking about my career change into tech! If you are thinking about it or just find my story interesting, feel free to sign up for my mailing list and you can read more about my journey.

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