David Herbert is our fantastic local remote worker who regularly attends our Blyth, Durham, Newcastle and South Shields Coworking days. It was great to find out more about David and his role at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
TELL US ALL ABOUT YOUR JOB ROLE DAVID…..
I work remotely from home in beautiful Beamish, creating engaging web –based mapping systems to showcase scientific and operations/logistics information for the Antarctic/polar community. Most recently I’ve been developing Sea Ice information systems for the new ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough (not, I’m pleased to say, Boaty McBoatface!). I’m part of a distributed team of 9 mapping and cartography specialists, most of whom are based at HQ in Cambridge where I spend about one week in seven catching up on office life. I’ve been a remote worker for nearly two years now, moving to the North East in October 2016 after my wife got an NHS training placement in Consett.
Over the 11+ years I’ve worked at BAS, I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Antarctic in 2013/14, spending two weeks on the research vessel RRS James Clark Ross and a further two weeks on Rothera Station, where I was involved in developing and rolling out a new map-based system for operational situational awareness. This has proved an invaluable aid to visualising the state of play during a busy and complicated Antarctic Field Season, with lots of conflicting demands on scarce aircraft and ship resources. The trip also gave me time to admire the completely awesome scenery and wildlife of the Antarctic region.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST WORKING ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
Some of the web mapping systems I developed for BAS came to the attention of an NGO in Tasmania in 2013. They liked what they saw and wanted me to develop a system to help visualise some of their work (brokering international fishery limits in the Southern Ocean). The project was an end-to-end one for me, gathering requirements, scoping out the system and implementing it. It culminated in my spending time in the lovely city of Hobart doing system installation and user training, as well as getting in some travelling and wildlife watching!
WHERE IS YOUR TYPICAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT?
I work from my home office, interacting with my distributed team in Cambridge and Innsbruck via Skype and Slack instant messaging. I’m often to be found on Colleagues on Tap Coworking days since I discovered Coworking this year – currently I try to get along to Blyth and South Shields, and am trying out Durham as well. I’ve investigated other hot-desking arrangements in Newcastle and may do more of this in future for the variety.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BEING A REMOTE WORKER?
Sometimes when all my colleagues are busy, or many of them are out on holiday (during the summer) or it’s the September conference season, the communication channels can be really quiet. I can feel forgotten, out of sight and out of mind. The four walls can feel a bit oppressive. I miss the social interaction of the office, and there are simply things I miss out on (like celebratory cake and drinks for various achievements!). There are also issues which are current among office staff, but which people don’t think to relay to those of us who work remotely. To try and find a surrogate office community, I investigated pretty much all the Coworking spaces around Newcastle, all of which seemed to have the same problem – lovely office spaces with nobody there! Colleagues on Tap turns the whole thing on its head, putting the people and community angle first, with the working space being secondary. I like that, and have found it enormously helpful.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE TO OFFER OTHER REMOTE WORKERS?
Make sure to have variety in the days, go and work somewhere else occasionally. Coworking certainly helps with the need for social interaction. Use the media channels like Slack and Skype proactively, ask questions, find out what’s going on for others you work with. Go for a walk at lunchtime.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
I play jazz piano in a couple of bands. We’re often to be seen playing at Whitley Bay Metro Station on Farmer’s Market days, or at The Globe in Newcastle. I love improvisational music, and enthusiastically attend jam sessions and love to learn and absorb from others. Currently exploring Bossa Nova. I help run The Globe as a community-owned music venue.
I also enjoy walking on the gorgeous beaches the North East has to offer, and also the spectacular woodland in the immediate area I live in. I enjoy watching wildlife and gardening, travelling, eating out at good food restaurants.
YOU ARE A REGULAR COWORKER – HOW HAS OUR COWORKING DAYS HELPED YOU?
I’ve felt instantly part of a really friendly and supportive community of people who all understand well the pros and cons of remote working. Being part of an office created just for the day energises me and makes me feel more connected to people than by virtual means such as Skype. I look forward to Coworking days as providing much needed variety in the daily work routine, and a sense of “going somewhere” to work, which (when your workplace is all of 5 metres away) is lacking normally.
THANK YOU, DAVID!
If you would like to find out more about David Herbert or about his role at British Antarctic Survey come along to one of our Coworking Days as he will usually be there or take a look at the website www.bas.ac.uk