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Post-Pandemic Life and Work as an Engineer: Back to Normal-ish

Published 2/15/2021

In today's episode we continue our discussion about what life will be like when the pandemic ends... whenever that will be. Will we go back to normal? How can we think about "normal" when so much has changed?

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Will we ever return to a life that looks like what it did before the pandemic? When will we get back to normal or when will we figure out what our new lives look like? And what will they look like? These are the questions that we all have about our lives and about our work and We've been talking about these things on this series of Developer TeaThis series is called post pandemic work and life as an engineer And in today's episode we're gonna be talking about this idea of getting back to normal whatever that is so the question is an interesting question and Spoiler alert we can't tell the future on this show and anybody who claims that they know exactly how things are going to go in the future You should probably stop listening to them The truth is we don't know But we can make some pretty good guesses about some things that might change or at least we can think about Some things that might change in the different ways they might change so First I'm gonna talk about something that we talked about on the show before the asymmetry of information Or in this case the asymmetry of communication of Information so we're gonna rewind back to somewhere around March 2020, which is nearly a year ago kind of amazing and Around the middle of March news publications started talking about something called the curve flattening the curve and the basic idea was We can't allow the virus to grow too quickly To to spread too quickly Because given the same number of people Eventually getting the virus over a longer period of time We will have enough resources to be able to help them. We'll have enough hospital beds etc But if it grows too fast then the hospitals will fill up and You can't pause the virus right it's going to Run it's course much faster if you're not able to get treatment if it gets really bad As we said before we're not really getting dive into the kind of medical details of when you would need Hospitalization versus when you wouldn't But instead I want to focus on this idea the communication that happened and There's been a couple of other ones since then the Wide spread idea of flattening the curve is this something that you probably know about if you're listening to this and You probably also know that at some point we all believed that we needed to Sanitize all of the surfaces that we touched and That we need to leave our groceries in the garage for two or three days and then sanitize them when we bring them in as well and And that the opinion of many experts kind of changed on that that the virus doesn't transmit as much through Surfaces as it does through the air through aerosol particles and so our behaviors changed in response to that and what became perhaps the most obvious and public communications are two things you can probably guess them social distancing and And masks so these two ideas they were communicated from a very high level all the way up to the world's leaders very specific ideas very specific measures that we can take during the pandemic and so Because of this unified message about the pandemic and the types of behaviors that we care about like flattening the curve and sanitizing we washing our hands wearing masks and social distancing these are all things that we experience kind of at the same time there was some synchrony to How we kind of got those messaging from our governments from our social Environments from our cultures all of those things kind of happen at the same time and this was also promoted very heavily in various types of media including entertainment media so It is not that surprising that we all knew about it and that there was relative behavioral changes that reflected these communications and So we've been primed to imagine and this is true outside of the pandemic We've been primed to imagine that we all kind of move on the same cadence That we all get the same kinds of information that we all are privity to the same kind of data and That that will continue and this has been true in some ways about this pandemic, but It's going to change It's going to change as we Come out of the pandemic and we're going to talk about why right after we talk about today a sponsor Launched darkly Launched darkly is today's leading feature management platform empowering your teams to safely deliver and control software through feature flags By separating code deployments from feature releases you can deploy faster reduce risk and Rest easy if you are not using feature flags to release your features You are missing out on so much flexibility. You're missing out on a lot of ways of testing Those features to see how effective they are see if you're actually being successful with those features But you're also Missing out on a huge amount of peace of mind whether you're an established enterprise like Intuit or Small business like Glowforge There's thousands of companies of all sizes relying on launch darkly to control their entire feature lifecycle and avoid anxiety fueled sleepless nights For example at O'Reilly O'Reilly media releases used to be stressful nerve-wracking experiences But launch darkly enabled the O'Reilly team to decouple their deployments from their releases In fact O'Reilly's VP of engineering had this to say he said With launch darkly our engineers can ship code whenever they want that's Chris Good tree We can test features in production well in advance of a marketing launch and if feature causes problems on the day of launch We can just turn it off with a kill switch no rollbacks launch darkly makes our releases boring And this is something that you want you want boring releases. You don't want to be you know hanging on the edge Waiting for your releases to fall apart and have to press that rollback button if you want to make releases snooze fest And start deploying more frequently and securely with less stress head over to launch darkly.com. That's launch darkly.com thanks again to launch darkly for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea So we're talking about how we'll get back to normal And what normal might look like What changes we can expect but before we can talk about that we need to talk about How we'll know when normal is coming When do we know that we're out of the pandemic And this is a much harder question because in the beginning of the pandemic We all experience things essentially at the same time There was some time delay between for example high case numbers in New York City in the United States and then eventually That growing the those case numbers growing elsewhere. Right. This is Just because of the way that the virus transmitted and Because of the high population densities and that kind of thing there's some delay But for the most part the public messaging that we received was in sync But that's not going to be the case as we come out of the pandemic In fact for some people who have either received the The vaccine or they have already had COVID They are already experiencing what many of us hope to experience in the future the end of their particular involvement in the pandemic And so this is going to be staggered and it's going to be staggered in a much different way because Vaccines don't grow virally In other words We don't have an increasing number of vaccines on the same scale and rate Right because the virality model is an exponential model But vaccines are closer to a linear model in terms of how quickly they can be distributed. So we're not going to have Distribution to wide audiences very quickly Instead we're going to have a more linear distribution Additionally while everyone could Theoretically catch COVID they could be infected with COVID Not everyone is going to opt to actually take the vaccine And Not everyone will have the vaccine when most of it Has been distributed when most of us have been vaccinated And so for this reason we will still hear about active cases for quite a long time into the future So when do we declare that the pandemic is over? Well, there's a definitive answer to this Because remember a pandemic has somewhat of a formal definition or at least a formal declaration This happened on March 11th of last year When the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 Was indeed a pandemic a global pandemic but declaring the end of a pandemic is not the same as Say declaring the end of war In fact the World Health Organization will likely eventually declare post pandemic status We don't say the end of pandemic we say post pandemic This is all very confusing to our brains Our brains want simplicity we want to be able to say this thing is over But this thing that we're talking about Won't be over for a long time perhaps ever And the reason for that is because there's a lot of trailing effects Even if we have infection numbers that go very low through the floor There's likely to be new versions of this same virus that continue to be spread It's extremely hard to contain a virus like this that has had a spread like this So it is unlikely that any of us will Forget that we ever heard of coronavirus It's unlikely that it will go into our rearview mirror without a trace So if we're looking for a grand finale or a moment in time that we can celebrate It's possible that some governmental agencies Might hold some kind of press events or something similar to this Where we can kind of mark That we kind of have effectively ousted the high transmission numbers right that's about as much as we can hope for But because of this staggered experience and because You know for example each state is approaching vaccinations very differently each country is approach is approaching vaccinations very differently We have such an asymmetrical experience Right, we have such differing experiences With coming out of this that it's unlikely that we'll ever experience Something like what we did in the beginning which was very unified messaging about the pandemic itself So what can we expect When we do kind of move forward as a culture as a society what can we expect That to look like we're going to talk about that a little bit on today's episode and the next episode of the show since there's so much to talk about in terms of our expectations The first thing that we should note once again we said at the beginning of that episode we'll say it again now Is that anything we say here? It's just a guess nobody can predict the future But we can look at trends and many experts say that Covid has not necessarily created much new behavior in us other than maybe some avoidance behaviors But it is accelerating existing trends It's kind of amplifying those trends to a much faster or much more severe degree So what are some of those trends? Certainly going remote going remote was a trend before Covid occurred And part of this is in response to the fact that our tooling allows for it Our tooling especially a software engineers allows us to work remotely Very fairly effectively most of our work is very tightly controlled in terms of what is the output of the work the output of the work for most software engineers is code and documents surrounding code All right, so much of our collaboration happens in that document oriented fashion And working remotely has become a financially advantageous in many ways option for companies to pursue So remote working was already a trend coronavirus obviously accelerated that trend But it did a lot of other things for remote work For one people who had never experienced it before and who didn't really have it for seeable future where they wanted to experience it They were kind of forced to experience it Many times when we're talking about coronavirus in the future especially on this podcast We're going to talk about some of the forcing functions that were provided to us as a result of the pandemic And this is one of them The people who we would never expect to try remote work were forced into trying remote work In some cases what this is provided is obviously a new perspective on remote work But in almost all cases at the very least we have this new set of tools and a new understanding For how the person who is remote is feeling in a given workday We understand the idea that remote meetings can be very difficult on the person who is listening from their computer By having the experiences ourselves We can develop naturally Empathy for those who are remote and this is important because it means That future remote positions especially in companies that only have some remote in other words They're not fully distributed. They have only some positions that are considered remote positions Those people now have a new lens on how to Elevate the experience for the employees who are remote and this could be perhaps one of the most important things About this forcing function that we're talking about here One of the most valuable things for remote engineers for remote software developers is for other people to understand and respect The difference between in office and remote work. They're not the same and we shouldn't treat them the same In this pandemic has forced us to feel that Not just to reckon with it from a logical perspective, but to actually have the emotions Of sitting behind your screen all day rather than sitting in a cubicle Another very important effect that this hyper acceleration of You know experiencing remote work could have Is something I'll call a permissive effect on remote work where previously remote meetings remote communications was viewed as a second rate substitute and it was viewed as a A bad alternative to in person. It was viewed as second rate or the unfortunate side effect of You know having a travel schedule that wouldn't allow you to be in the office now many companies Have moved to a remote default position In other words Not only is remote no longer considered a second class citizen for meetings It's the most likely option that people are choosing right now. That's true That will change to some degree as large companies say okay today is our you know our moving back day Everybody can come back to the office now and people may have this kind of rebound effect where they want to meet in person for a little while But what will likely not change from a cultural level is now that we've opened the door to remote meetings or remote collaboration being a viable tool It's very likely That the people who otherwise would have felt and here's the permissive part the people who otherwise would have felt some level of self-consciousness About suggesting a remote interaction Will now feel full permission and perhaps even a duty to make that an option Remember as we said before the I kind of outro coming out of the pandemic is going to be staggered We're gonna have a different experience for each of us and so by showing other people respect That will require that we accommodate remote First thinking It will require that we accommodate for people who have not yet had the vaccine right So we're going to start building these muscles for hey, you know what some of us are comfortable Some of us are vaccinated some of us aren't in the office And so we could hold this meeting in person But not all of us are here Let's provide the remote option. This is very likely to happen Because we've already started building those muscles. We've already tried these pathways We've already seen that people are capable For the most part people are capable of using this route of work successfully And so in order to show respect for the people who are Not able to meet in person yet We will still provide that remote option For everyone for quite a while most likely the normalization of this remote process Uh or or the option of remote processes We'll likely trigger us to start questioning our assumptions about what is necessary And this is a move towards some kind of efficiency Minds said when it comes to our meetings do we really need to do this meeting or do we really need to do this meeting in person This could lead It may or may not lead to us questioning whether we need an office at all Do we really need an office if all of our meetings have the option of being remote I don't know That we're going to do away with offices this year or even in five years from now because There is still a human element to interactions in person And we have felt that And so the interactions that we do have in the future Are likely to mean more to us When we choose to spend time and you can probably survey your own life experience over the past couple of months or over the past year The people that you've chosen to spend time with in person Whether you chose to let's say quarantine in order to see them Those people are likely very important to you You're not spending time around people that you don't know most likely Those interactions Have likely been very important very valuable worth Spending the time and the effort to make happen And so as people return to an office environment Some people will most likely return to an office environment They are likely to at least initially See the office environment as more of a social Interactive socially interactive place than they did before It's more of a social opportunity than it is a productive Opportunity We're going to talk more about what the future could look like post pandemic on the next episode of Developer TeaThank you so much for listening to this episode if you don't want to miss out on that one the future one Then go ahead and subscribe in whatever podcasting app you're currently using Thank you again to today's sponsor launch darkly launch darkly is today's leading feature management platform Empowering your teams to safely deliver and control software through feature flags By separating code deployments from feature releases you can deploy faster reduce risk and rest easy Head over to launch darkly dot com to check it out. Thanks so much for listening to this episode I would love for you to join the Developer Tea Discord. I will give you an invite directly if you send me an email at Developer Teaa gmail.com You can also reach out to me on Twitter at at Developer Teaif people in there who were talking about their careers asking questions I'm in there I answer and ask questions asked for feedback in there. We have episodes every episode The that comes out. It is automatically added to that discord. We're gonna hopefully continue to expand Uh what we're doing with the discord into the future. Thanks so much for listening and until next time enjoy your tea