The Way We Work: Chris Fassnacht

As promised last week, here is part two of “The Way We Work” with Chris Fassnacht and Stephanie Pakrul.

Gregory: Have you worked remotely before working for CivicActions?

Chris: Not really. I was doing some remote contract work for a couple of months before starting to work with CA, but for the most part I’ve worked in standard office and lab settings in the public and private sector.

GH: Do you work from home? or from an office? or a cafe? Do you work around other people? or alone?

CF: As Stephanie mentions, our home is our office, though we make a clean distinction between our living space and our office space. I couldn’t imagine working in a cafe. We drop into cafes occasionally and grab some wifi, but it’s hard to focus in that kind of environment. Too many distractions.

The two of us work together, usually in tight coordination on the same or related projects. It’s a very productive kind of shared working environment.

GH:What kind of computer do you work on primarily? what are your favorite peripherals? 30 inch monitor? track ball?

CF:I use what is affectionately known as “The Beast,” an overclocked (3ghz) quad core running Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) with 4gb of ram and dual mirrored 320gb hard disks in a large silent black Antec case, with twin 19-inch monitors driven by an NVidia 8600gt fanless display card.

For a pointer, I use a hand-me-down trackball from Stephanie. We keep everything on our 1.5TB RAID1 NAS (network attached storage) for easy access no matter what machine we’re on (7 desktops + 2 laptops + 1 Nokia tablet).

GH:Any special furniture you could not work without?
CF:Ditto on the footstools that Stephanie mentioned. They help alot. And have at least a decent chair (IKEA Nominell). Latest
important piece of furniture: a large overstuffed comfy chair in the
office. Sometimes you just need to take a break and relax in something cushy.

GH:How does your average day begin?
CF: After any morning calls, it’s usually some yoga and wrist stretching (some Aikido exercises that seem to help stave off carpal tunneling), and occasionally some light weights. Then it’s a breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and granola all mixed together, followed by a large cup of coffee.

Then, I check the email for anything flaming, check news and feeds to see what the world is up to, then discuss the plan for the day with

GH:How does it end?
CF: It usually ends by recognizing that while I may be at my computer, reading things and clicking on them, I’m not actually doing anything productive, educational, or entertaining. It’s hard to keep hacker’s hours with morning meetings, so I try to be good and get to bed by 1am or so.

GH:If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the way you work, what would it be?
CF:I’d love to have all the power, resources, and connectivity of my office setup in a truly mobile version. A lightweight laptop, but with a high-end processor, high-resolution screen, high-speed cellular broadband, mobile printer, etc. All with easy access to everything on our NAS, forwarded phones, mail, etc. Then we really could be as productive as we are now, but from anywhere in the world. We’re working on it.

GH: What are the most productive times of your day?
CCF: It differs. Usually not first thing in the morning. If I don’t have a coma-inducing lunch (i.e., loaded with carbs), then mid-afternoon is often very productive, as are evenings. If left to my natural tendencies, my productive groove would probably be between 10pm and 3am.

But that’s not sustainable when you have to interface with folks in the morning.

GH:What is your biggest challenge about working from home? and what do you love the most?
CF: Honestly, not [many challenges]. No commute, no pointless office politics, no work wardrobe, good inexpensive food/coffee/snacks, no arbitrary schedule, rests/breaks/naps whenever you need them, no distracting interruptions. All the comforts of home.

We live in an uber-industrial wasteland, so it might be nice to work
somewhere with a better restaurant selection, but we don’t suffer from lack of going out. Also, there are some times when it would be nice to hang out in person more often with the people you work with. Especially CivicActions people, who are a lot of fun to co-work with.

Mostly working at home just feels like a vastly more efficient use of my time and energy. While the work itself can be difficult, there is almost zero hassle dealing with the stuff surrounding work.

GH:Do you miss working in an office with other people you work with?
CF: Working with Stephanie gives me pretty much everything I’d want from working with others in an office: someone to share the day, joke around, exchange ideas, get a 2nd opinion, have lunch, etc. As I mentioned, it would be nice if we could do co-working a little more
often with fellow CivicActions folk, but I wouldn’t need that to be an everyday thing.

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