Sunset — Cambria, CA — Lawrence Manickam

Telecommute — Walls have Ears

I do telecommute for 15 years in a row, with some travel. In my opinion, telecommute worker force was invented by IBM after 9/11. Between 2005 and 2008, I enjoyed my telecommute consulting experience at IBM Global Services with necessary tools.

I am an advocate for Telecommute work. When Marissa Mayer had banned Telecommuting at Yahoo in 2013, I opposed her decision for all good reasons through Social Media for a year. Her Anti-Remote work stance was a major reason for the high attrition rate at Yahoo and a key factor in bringing down the company eventually.

Today a major part of the corporate work force around the world telecommute due to the Corona Virus that has originated from Wuhan, China. My heart goes out to the loved ones of the deceased, people who currently suffer due to this illness, and financial strains.

There is a flux of interesting and useful articles on telecommuting on social media. Those are encouraging, motivating and gives a new dimension to people who work from home. Read them often.

In this article, I explain about asset protection during telecommute.

Company Laptop

The company laptop at the desk is your bread winner.

  • Place the laptop at the center of the table
  • Keep coffee, juice and other beverages in the side table, not next to the laptop.
  • Do shutdown the laptop at the end of the day. Most of the patch updates requires reboot of the machine and keeping it in sleeping mode for few days will raise technical issues.
  • Do not drop the laptop charger and break it. Some models of laptop chargers are hard to get during this time. It’s not a good time for wire tripping.
  • Do not let others touch the company laptop.
  • No fun browsing such as videos, social, news etc. (Use your own laptop).
  • Clean it often.

WI-FI Router

Internet bandwidth has become slim. Kids are now home schooling, and parents work from their homes. All those smart devices, and TV consumes a lot of bandwidth.

  • Use a separate SSID for your work laptop. Do not share it with other co-workers or devices at home.
  • Change the SSID password once a week.
  • The recommended security protocol is WPA2.
  • Restart the router twice a day.
  • Do not keep coffee, juice and other beverages next to the router.

Few years ago, a consultant was fired from his contract because his roommate was watching pornography using the same SSID. He came to know the reason through a co-worker few months later. Don’t be like him.

Security and Data Protection

A major responsibility of mine all these years is data protection. Customers trusts companies with their data and the company is relying on us to maintain the trust. Data leak leads to deaths, suicides, coups, mob violence, litigation, famine and economy losses. It is our responsibility to make this world safer for all.

  • Keep the laptop in your home locker and lock during off-hours.
  • Always use Ctrl + Alt + Del when you leave the desk. It would be even better if you close the lid.
  • Store documents in the company share drive if they have a policy in place.
  • Email your working documents to yourself at the end of the day. If you are not able to access the share drive next day morning, the documents at your email Inbox will make you look good.
  • Make sure no one listens to your work-related conversations.

One of my known connections who worked at New York hedge fund was loud in his company conferencing call from his condo balcony and he discussed elaborately about the company plan to refactor their CRM system. A neighbor listened to the conversation and published the whole story on Facebook along with the condo location. It happened during the financial crisis. He went through hardships several years and still feels guilty about it. Don’t be like him.

Most of the company laptops has disk encrypted software installed (Ex: BitLocker) these days therefore your disk is well protected.

Never say ‘I do not handle sensitive data so I don’t care’. You have access to the company network that is connected to the vulnerable home router. It is more than enough for an intruder to skim the asset information.

Remember, walls have ears.

By all ethical means, it is our duty to protect the company information and data so the people (Customers) will be protected.

Communication and Meetings

VPN — It’s a killer. The VPN bandwidth of most of the organizations has been designed for 30% remote work force at a given time and it’s an unprecedented era. The data shows 87% remote work force for the same infrastructure. For more than a month, executives and IT Support scrambled to provide additional switches, servers and network to manage this spike. Kudos to them.

Use it responsibly. Ask this question to yourself ‘Do I need a VPN connection to execute this task? As a documentation writer (Architect), I do not need VPN all day. 70% of my day work can be done without VPN. Therefore, I disconnect the VPN and the bandwidth is given to the mission critical operations.

Remember production support engineers, financial analysts who need access to internal financial systems, security engineers who deserves a stable VPN than anybody else. We should use our due-diligence to share the bandwidth.

Video call — Some companies disabled video facility in their internal conferencing system. If your company policy allows, you may want to turn on the video only when you talk and the remaining time it can be turned off. It will save the bandwidth of your company network.

Audio call — Use caution when you use the option ‘Call Using Computer’. It is routed through your company data center network that generates load.

I generally use ‘I will call in’ option from my phone. It reduces the load on data-center calls and also keep my voice clear during WI-FI/VPN network latency.

Professional Courtesy

  • Change your LAN password proactively. Do not let the password to expire. Change the password at the end of the working day therefore any issues will not affect your business hours.
  • Dress for business.
  • Show your face and hands on the video call visibly. Mistakes may affect your career growth.
  • Submit time sheets and work status reports on time. Do not let your Manager to ask you about it
  • Start your work an hour earlier so you can enjoy a good internet bandwidth for some time. I start my work at 6:00 AM PST (The client is in Chicago, 8:00 AM CST) and it gives me at least 3 hours of excellent bandwidth before the local time zone workers connects.
  • Respond to emails ASAP.
  • Instant messages must be instant. As a professional courtesy, leave a status message at the IM software when you are not at your desk.
  • Careful when you do screen sharing. Avoid sharing the whole desktop as much as possible. You don’t want to show certain email previews, or a sudden cozy message popup from a co-worker at the IM to all meeting participants.
  • Email drafting requires attention. I usually complete typing the email, review then type the recipient email addresses to send.
  • Several systems are designed to lock you if you use incorrect login thrice, hence ensure to remember and use the right password so as to not get locked out during this time.

Last but not least, be courteous to help desk staff. They are over worked and a nice gesture is not only gracious but also gets you their blessing.

This is it.

I too have anxiety and fear about the future. It’s the very first time in my life that I don’t know what to do next. Most of us are in the same boat.

However, I work hard to overcome them by giving free Cloud Computing training through online webinars, engage with the startup and learning Spanish. I completed training 30 people for free in Azure Cloud Fundamentals and six of them got certifications this month. Few more will write this exam in the coming weeks.

I plan to conduct Google Cloud Fundamentals webinars (4 sessions) during May 2020. Keep checking my LinkedIn posts for schedule.

This chaos gave me another type of relief. Several understood the complexities of Telecommute and no one will say ‘Hey! You’re lucky because you work from home’ in the future.

Do not let this Pandemic define who you are. How you want to be seen after few months when this chaos ends?

This too will pass by.

Stay strong.

We are in it together.

Lawrence Manickam is the Founder of Kuberiter Inc, a Seattle based Start-up that provide Enterprise/SaaS DevOps Services (Kubernetes, Docker, Helm, Istio and CyberArk Conjur) for MultiCloud.

Please subscribe at www.kuberiter.com to try our DevOps SaaS Services.