My First year with Corso Systems –

Transitioning from a Centralized team to a Remote team

Editors Note: Read about John’s experience over the course of the first 12 months of working for Corso full time!

Tomorrow I put behind me my first year working for Corso Systems, and what a year it has been. The year has been filled with travel, events, collaboration, training, fun, and projects galore.

Pre-Full Time Employment

To give you a primer, I met Alex and Bill at an Ignition training event in March of 2017. I talked with Bill and Alex in between training about work experiences and the likes. They seemed very genuine and knew what they were doing and how to take care of customers. At the end of the training we exchanged contact information and went on our merry ways.

A few months later, I end up moonlighting for Corso as an independent contractor. I had absolutely no intention of leaving my job that I loved so dearly. When I say absolutely no intention, I mean it. I made myself clear to Alex (probably a few different times) that I would only ever be part time for Corso because my current job as an in-house systems integrator was a dream job that I wouldn’t leave. The company I worked for instilled family culture in their employees (this means a lot to me), provided a mile long benefit list, and generally treated their employees well. I was comfortable, had a career path, and enjoyed what I did with no intention of giving any of that up. Needless to say, these feelings did not last. A couple months in, I knew I needed to work for Corso Systems.

Corso Culture

The family oriented culture embedded within Corso Systems far surpassed any professional experience I have encountered. Growth opportunities in both knowledge and career were in abundance. Alex has the philosophy of taking care of his employees so that they in turn take care of the company. When I was accepting a position with Corso, my wife was pregnant with our third child (Emily). I told Alex I needed time off after Emily was born and was making sure that wouldn’t be an issue. So what does Corso do? Instead of just giving me the PTO, Alex decides to add a new policy that provides a 3-week paternal leave. For a company to be sensitive enough to alter company policy based on the needs of a “new” employee in such a generous fashion speaks mounds for the moral fiber of the guy running the show.

Yes, I understand that I went from a fairly large corporation to a smaller one and there is always a greater level of disconnect between the shop floor and top floor as a company grows in size, but I think Corso differentiates itself well in that regard. I don’t see the family culture within Corso diminishing as we continue to grow in size, and I feel that is very important aspect of a company to both employee and customer.

Commute to Remote

So what actually happened in my first year at Corso? The biggest change for me was work location. Corso is a remote company. While our headquarters is located in Chicago, we have employees spread across the United States. Since I am located in California, this meant that I would be working from home/nearby co-working space instead of my daily 2-3 hour roundtrip commute to the office. What that also meant was that I was free to make my own schedule. I could now attend doctor appointments for my kids or even take a long lunch to help my wife grocery shop on a Monday afternoon. I got to have lunch with my wife and kids every day that I wasn’t on the road for a project.

Speaking of being on the road, this brings me to the other portion of location change. With Corso being a systems integration firm, our projects in the last year have extended across the globe with required on-site time. I have had my fair share of both national and international travel this year and been able to experience a number of different places working for Corso. I initially saw travel requirements as a negative since they would take me away from my wife and kids. After some thought,  I realized that the flexibility of being a remote employee more than made up for the times I needed to be on-site. Plus, the ability to expense all the Red Bulls I can drink to Corso sweetened that pot.

Challenges

Now, my first year experience is not all sunshine and rainbows. With the flexibility of working remotely comes responsibility. I get to make my own schedule, but I am responsible for sticking to that schedule and getting my work done. There is no boss in the next office to hold me accountable. This was not the easiest transition for me. I usually have a few projects at home that I work on in my free time. Now that I work from home, projects are right in front of my face and I have found it far too easy to take a break from work to mess around. A few hours would pass before I’d realize I should be working. Or maybe I’m tired more than usual and don’t actually start work until noon that day or my five year old wants to play Minecraft with me.

The bottom line is that there are far more distractions when you work remotely, and less managerial influence on your daily workload.

Putting on Pants for Success

Remote work requires integrity and the ability to create a schedule and manage yourself. Corso understands the hurdles that come with working remotely and offers assistance to employees to help overcome issues. Alex is and has been quick to make changes when needed to help employees be successful.

Early on I received a book entitled Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (all Corso employees get this book) that talks about the challenges of remote work while offering guidance in achieving a proper work-life balance. After enjoying my first couple weeks of refusing to get dressed for my day (because I didn’t have to), I started realizing the challenges of remote work and looked to this book and other Corso employees for guidance in overcoming said challenges. I have found that when I actively choose to start my day by going through the regular routine of getting ready for work, you know like putting on pants, and setting goals for the day, I am much more efficient in getting work done. Everybody’s story is different, and your experience may be different than mine, but this is what has worked for me thus far.

Conclusion

The last year working for Corso has been amazing. I have enjoyed a nice mix of home and on-site work, worked on a number of different projects for various customers, joked around and had fun with co-workers way too much, broadened my knowledge base significantly, and maintained a healthy work-life balance. My understanding of the processes involved in manufacturing and the hardware/software solutions available to business grew immensely. I was provided with ample support from my co-workers and Corso in any difficulties I have faced along the way. For me, working for Corso Systems is much more than just a job. I have become part of the Corso family. A family who supports its members in the direction they want to go. You know that cliché saying, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”? Working for Corso Systems is as close as I’ve ever been to that coming to fruition.

As I put an end to my first year at Corso Systems, I’d like to thank Alex and the Corso team for a great year. I look forward to many more to come.

John Gerbac – Senior Systems Engineer

Want to know more about John? Check out his page.

He’s also the worlds foremost expert on SPC on Ignition (as per Dave) so check that out as well!