Remote Work: Extreme Edition (Rerun)
Welcome to rework a podcast by base camp about the better way to work and run your business. I'm Sean and I'm Waylon Long. We have been doing a couple of weeks of reruns while Sean and I get adjusted to some new working conditions. And you know all this talk about remote work and social isolation reminded. Us of an episode. We first aired just over a year ago about someone who had to work remotely under very extreme conditions arguably much more isolated than even. We are now in our homes. That's right this story of remote work coming all the way from Antarctica. Enjoy you hear me L. Hello Catherine Hi hi. Oh my Gosh I hear you loud and clear. I'm so happy that's perfect. I was buried in very slow tonight. I was worried too because I just thought there's a million things that could go wrong but This is great. Thank you so much for making the time I'm talking to Catherine Mallet and you can tell the phone call is a little choppy. This is because she is calling from Antarctica. Welcome to rework a podcast by basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I'm Sean I'm Waylon Wong and I will let our guest today introduce herself. My name is Katherine Hillard. I am astrophysicist actually worked for the ice cube collaboration which said Nitra detector yet South Pole Waylon. This story hits on a couple of my most nerdy interests mainly polar exploration and astrophysics. Actually do mind if we do a little physics lesson. I to help explain what Catherine's doing in the South Pole. I'm all ears professor hyllner okay. The Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory. Is this big scientific experiment where Katherine and her colleagues studied. These tiny subatomic particles called neutrinos and by tiny. I mean really really tiny which makes them extremely hard to detect. The ice was basically about five thousand light. Sensors arrayed over a cubic kilometer sunk deep in the Antarctic Ice Tommy more about these neutrinos so violent cosmic events like exploding stars send neutrinos hurtling through space at essentially the speed of light. Some of those neutrinos are GonNa pass through the Earth where scientists like Katherine can study them. And how this has to be done in Antarctica so I think this is the coolest part coolest anyway to avoid interference from background. Radiation Neutrino detectors need to be buried deep underground. They also need some sort of transparent medium. Some detectors consist of enormous tanks of water. That have been built in abandoned mines. Ice Cube however uses the thick pure and ultra transparent. Ice That's found at the South Pole and that's clever. Why not comes? Through the Earth's it starts into acting and we'll lose energy by meeting light blue light and what we detect in our in ice cube so to say those little flashes of Blue Light get picked up ice cubes optical sensors by tracking which sensors trigger in which order Catherine. Our colleagues can figure out the direction the Neutrino was traveling and how much energy it had. And that's the end of Shawn's physical lesson but waylon. You didn't on the story because you're looking to unlock the secrets of the cosmos. Now that was just a bonus but I was introduced to Catherine actually in a more roundabout way. I got an email from someone doing. Pr floor an anti. Malware software company called MC soft. They're headquartered in New Zealand but have people working remotely all over the world just like basecamp and the PR person mentioned. They had an employee in Antarctica. I seize on that right away because I thought it'd be neat to do a story about what it's like to work not just remotely but extremely remotely from an article and I started working part time for them because they needed someone that speaks for languages and I happen to know the ones that they were looking for so many nice on the when I applied here actually people told me that the Internet here so bad that I there's no way I could continue with my job at the moment. This is necessarily true however we are not sure how much of the satellites that we currently are going to be operational throughout the entire winter which is took the call. Basically freezing my employment for the time that I'm working is Cuban and go back to them once I finish up here. Hey so what's the risk with the satellite in the winter and that starts fairly soon right. You're coming up on that season now is directly to do with the window. What's happening is that All the science stated that is currently being produced here is transmitted Set the light. That satellite is used for the science data. We don't necessarily have access to any of its Internet so to say but that science data satellite is reaching the end of its life and they've been expecting it to crash into the atmosphere for awhile now on current forecast. This might happen in April if that happens. This nice fathom they were calling on at amendment will become a dedicated satellite for science data. Only on we'll have to go back Gannett which is a great name for satellite. That's that's GonNa be the kind of Internet where you have to aid. Who opened up a page? An-and actually working remotely is more or less on TV show. It's funny because when I was going back and forth with the PR person about Interviewing Katherine. He told me that she had to start working for. Mc soft because of bandwidth limitations. I'm using air quotes around bandwidth limitations. And at first I thought that was an annoying corporate euphemism for getting laid off. But as your Catherine explain its littoral bandwith Catherine and I were able to do an audio call because right now where she isn't the South Pole they get four hours of good Internet a day for personal stuff while the satellite passes overhead and that four hour window shifts by a few minutes each day when Catherine and I talked. It was seven. Pm Her time and midnight my time. It took a zero amount of effort to coordinate this `cau- and that gave me a very small taste of how Catherine's work life in an art. Deco is unique. This episode ended up being about what it's like to live and work with a small group of people in very close proximity isolated from the rest of the world. It's about self care and working calmly in extreme conditions which is very rework after all. So let's get back to Catherine story when she first heard about the opportunity to work at ice cube she was early in her studies to get a PhD huge. These take a long time so when I heard about this opportunity it was more from a dream. I didn't expect it to come through. And s things progressed more and more of my friends from the university spending here and they all came back and they thrilled they all said this has been the best time of their life if I have the opportunity extra differently girl so once I finished my PhD IMBODEN plight directly and they interviewed me but they didn't pick me. The navy applied this year. And actually the they picked me some really. Can you talk about the kind of preparation you had to do? how much time did you have and you know. Were you given materials and resources about everything you needed to do before departing. So the preparations Trivia Sir in this case Nishel job interview was back in March and at that time daylight of medical checks because the medical coverage his bedding admitted so they wanna they wanna make sure that really don't have any pre existing conditions into medicine -Sconsin in two thousand and August thousand eighteen. And then we spend two months medicine preparing for jobs. They told us kind of equipment. We have here. What are the typical failures? What kind of Sixers we can implement after the trading Wisconsin. The team was sent to Denver Colorado for the next stage. What happens there is that on? We have a team building events so that we get to know the people that we will be spending years and the thing is they're fairly small stationing so a lot of the jobs that are usually done by Have to be out by us. What happened in Denver is that we got a crash to be a firefighter and I will be part of the official fire brigade for the winter. Oh my goodness so. What kind of training did you get to become a firefighter? We did get to climb through. Burning US It was actually pretty cool. The first thing you need to do this to put on the gear correct because if you put it on Longley into go into fire it's going to be pretty pretty bad. Firefighting is even trickier at the poll. Because it's too cold for water based fire retardant week here in a hospital so that we can be prepared Once a month we have drill where we simulated fire. We have to go into. What kind of a mental health assessment did they have to do? Because I imagine that's just as important as the physical aspect. What is is that actually during the team bullying spend a week together for team building. There's a psychologist present during the week. That serves US. Also teach us how to cope with anger or disagreement within the group for example of very extrovert to us know very introverted person could issues coping him because he doesn't find enough contact. You finally cannot retrieve himself no from the people and get enough alone time so. They're looking for very specific type of person. Do you consider yourself more. Introverted or extroverted. That's a really good question. Probably an introverted Biden extrovert in daily life. It's very hard to explain. I do need my private time and I do go to my room and spend time by myself but also really enjoy being out in intern with the people here. Actually that probably makes you ideal then. Because you're kind of right down the middle and you can. You can be kind of both scenarios. Yeah I can I can only guess. What was the team building like? I imagine it's fairly important since you're going to be in close quarters with This team for a long time. It was a combination of More or less like lectures on how to cope with frustration. How To resolve conflict How To vocalise disagreement is. There's a lot of cases where it's the small things and apparently this is another issue. Here is if you have so many people on a small small rim gary towards the end of the year. It's it's the way holds the spoon. It's the way he choose data the small things that really get your growing. It's really annoying. And one of the you need to recognize that this is really not a big deal and the other thing is to be able to allies and say look. Could you possibly hold a spoon differently? Rather than interest when at some point and make the entire atmosphere which for everyone What were some of the tips? You got about what to bring not bring respect a lot of time inside inside. It's a sixty five degrees. I'm not sure what you need is serving. That is actually quite similar for when you're inside the station and then we got some very specific kind of Similar nowhere to buy for when we have to the real trick everyone told me as layer layer layer like. Don't rely on on one pan to save you like you. WanNa have your long underwear and then you wanna have a pant and then you WanNa have a windbreaker. Did you bring any sentimental mementos with you things that Reminded you of friends and family back home since he knew you weren't GonNa see them for a year. Just because I am a nature fan amateur that there have like big pictures posters of trees and stuff that I can put up in my room and pretend to see subsidiv whether than just snow loss things that wouldn't estimate crucial. I really think they will lighten up the mood. I got some It's called HEREX. You can call like strands of hair if like this. I mean this is definitely not must have been bringing me a lot of joy to walk around with pink or blue a green hair every now and then some happy I have it. What did they tell you about how much you would be able to be outside versus inside so technically? I'm allowed to be outside as much as I want. Practically does get cold. It's cold enough that you want to have your face covered and then if you're wearing glasses what happens if you will raise the rest will go up into your glasses. They will fall and then they will The fog will phase which kind of limits the time you can spend outside but especially now in the signs up twenty four hours a day You can mean expense. Six to eight hours outside in winter. It's harder because the temperatures drop a lot and really pulled in you. Get to the limit. Your your closing actually do but still like especially when they are. Assad people do spend a lot of time outside so yeah. Let's days went over. Told me that he was actually outside every day because he liked being outside. What was it like when you first landed landed I in McMurdo right before you went to the ice cube. Yes and what was it like to step off? The plane was really surreal. So you do not fly. It was like Oh model airplanes with the military plane. Actually don't really have We knows so you you kind of blind to what you where you're getting where you're landing and Lending their and I'm getting off the post in being the ice but also there's big mountains in McMurdo that you can see it especially Erebus. Which is the active volcano. That was really mean a cool and it was very different from Later on with C. At South Pool because is completely flat. It's a it's a big wide flat surface so the change from magma to suspect was much more surreal than The change I got from New Zealand to make McMurdo you can steer. You can see mountains. You can say come vox. It looks like snow covered. Countryside accepted as missing living plants and stuff. When you felt that cold for the first time did it feel really different. Is there a specific cold? You now associated with South Pole. Yes it's like. It's a funny feeling when the hair in your nose praised and it is something I had never experienced anywhere else before. Let me ask you. How do you organize your work day? It sounds like you're fairly flexible. And you said you're allowed to go outside for as long as you feel comfortable. And the conditions cooperate And you also have a lot of research you have to get done you have to be and you have to be a firefighter near a lot of responsibilities. How does day usually unfold? I guess it comes onto priorities. Basically everyone agrees that if there's a fight emergency or firefighting training that takes presence and then when I have a workday now in summer it basically means that. I'm here to support the scientists that currently here in winter. Wait it's going to be like I will be getting up. I need to be monitoring the experiment. I need to make sure that every running smoothly and if something goes wrong I had paid to be really fast to get to computer as quickly as possible. Infix said when I say I actually mean way so which repeal doing the same job I'm we basically alternate On a weekly basis the paying system so that we can be sure that they may be able to sleep at least every second week. Is it hard when there's so much sunlight to kind of figure out a natural rhythm for when your day begins and ends and how to draw a line between kind of like the work day and when you're off the clock it kind of is yes? I know that for the first month and a half. I would be baffled when I looked outside. Oh it's bright. It's not that lady. Look at the clock. It's eleven pm Lee when you're there in the ice cube you in mentioned kind of what the Ice Cube itself looks like. And then are there buildings attached to it where you're living and taking your meals and that sort of thing or do you have to like go outside to go to those buildings so ice cube Dedicated building which is about half a mile away Gino station and under general station host. Almost everything else. We also have a work area here so unless we have physical failure inside the inside the hardware we don't necessarily need to grow We have a music room We have across room and a reading library in the movie is also we have. Communal showers bathrooms and the rooms are really really small. Do you have your own room or do you have to share. This is one of the luxuries of suss. Pull this for example. Not the case in McMurdo Here everyone zone room which is really nice. If you want to have some Your time I mean that's kind of an interesting aspect. I imagine of this assignment. Right is that you are living in very close proximity with your co workers which is not the case for most folks right now. It's it's definitely interesting in the sense that you get to know them Look better than you would later on the on the other hand. A lot of the work is very segmented so I have. I mean showroom where the other scientists but numb for example. The carpenters at work. Because they weren't so far away from where we work that we only cross ways on lunch and dinner are their team building activities. That continue to take place. And while you're there just to kind of you know keep the bonds going actually going to have like a second dedicated team building sessions on the one who is GonNa spend the winter present and what be with the candle meetings where we can need. Just bring up all the issues that Mike calls tension and hopefully resolve them before they caused tensions. What kind of preparation Are you going to do for the winter when the sun goes down and is not going to come up for many many months so one of the Big Trevor Preparations were doing at the moment. Is We're digging out all the buildings on. There's a lot of snowdrift over the winter. The other thing is everyone's GonNa leave so by February fifteenth. All the people that only spend the summer here we'll have less than we will only be the full two people of that. Spend the winter here on around forty to the final numbers not quite sure. And then there has been a very long tradition of watching the thing when stationed closer. So the frizty that's GonNa Happen is probably that movie. Have you seen this thing before or is this your first time? This will be my first time so I'm quite excited for the temperature up all over. The cat won't last long. Will we make besides the physical preparation and logistics that? You have to do for the winter. Is there kind of any emotional and mental preparation? They give you since You know you're not going to get that exposure to light and it's going to be potentially it's GonNa feel more isolating Yeah there's a couple of things to do like We actually can get mailed on here so among the people that spend the winter is that they get a midwinter package. These packages that have packed by people that know you on. They send them down in them. Only on June twenty. First when there's the middle of winter as you get something new and exciting in the middle of winter to make the way until the station reopening. I don't know what's in my package. Obviously because I haven't opened it yet but I would suspect it's going to be some Chris. Surly your favorite speeds to something because what happens as we get older food provided for and it's actually really good food but you will end up eating the same thing over and over again and we always have cookies for example at the station it's mostly Oreos and once Oreos for three months you want something different. So away for become super exciting. Do you get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Are they kind of all flown in at the beginning of the season and just kept frozen or you know some fresh So I saw an apple today. I was really excited. We get fresh fruit in occasionally. This year has been conflict on your to weather and other things. The flights haven't been as frequent as they would normally be probably. We haven't had fresh vegetables reviewed since Christmas. And before that since the end of November roughly but I do absolutely expect that they will make an effort to bring things in before the station closest so that we have some fresh fruit at the beginning of winter and then we actually get to entertain a greenhouse here so we will be able to grow salads. Are there aspects of life on the South Pole? That you know have have really surprised you. And how much enjoyed them? Or how special they are versus. What life is like back home? A lot of the things become insanely easy here. I actually noticed this in particular when going back to McMurdo Sense. Plays Jim my room. The Galley are all with two minutes walking distance. You Save an insane amount of time on on commuting Nia and I've been active here because I mean the the people would motivate you to go on without the people you spend dinners and you usually don't have a good excuse at dinner not to join. Lanfang active here which has been really nice. We have a. We have a volleyball group. That's actually playing right now. We have a basketball trip. That's playing on Mondays. We have thought blondes as NFL. Never participated in We have a climbing wall which is really cool on. We have a Batman Setup Sunday's they've come to realize that one of the important things is some ways to occupy yourself in winter because we don't look twenty four hours a day and if you will eight hours a day at least sixteen hours where you have to do if you sit in darkness can get depressing. Mary faster than they have a very strong emphasis on opportunities to keep yourself busy. This is why we have the dream the craft room and the movie room so that we can spend time together. I talked to someone who's been venturing for a long time just recently. He said it's been a he's actually really disappointed about the Internet. Now what happens? Is that everyone? Dinner just goes to the room to go on the Internet. There's actually very little community activity compared to than fifteen twenty years ago when there was really nothing else to do and then they would use things together. So it's GonNa Change though because the the satellite doesn't come up every day at the same time. It comes up four minutes earlier every day. Which means that by The satellite will be done by six. Pm which might be more interested in doing other stuff. I mean it might be too early to to say but do you picture yourself ever going back to a traditional job where you're commuting to an office every day or do you think that it kind of ruined you for the traditional office setting what's going to happen like I came here and I was really sure that once I finish this job I would go back to. Germany would look for like six job in a office than I would be very happy. Settled Life and I've already slowly shifted to a twelve months of traveling so flexible in that sense. I'm pretty sure at some point will accurate up because my entire family's there and all my friends other and miss them so I WANNA be back. Is there a possibility of returning to the ice cube or there are people who do kind of repeat tours? I don't know if you have to. Reapply am kind of every year. But is there a possibility that you could come back? If you liked it enough you would have to reapply The heavy people have been for none of them. Were more than two tours. What is also very common that I only learned. Here's people working the term here at South Pole and during the Summer Nascar and it seems like these communities of very interesting to me as well. I didn't expect there to be so much exchange between those two places I mean it must just be the most intense bonding experience kind of sharing sharing this time with the colleagues that you have. It's just I can't imagine what that's like it must be. Incredibly bonding is great. Especially because you team bowling you come out with a bunch of friends and not. Everyone's going to be a close friend at the end of the year. I'm actually from what I've heard. No one's GONNA be your friend at the end of the year. Once you're off the ice you realize that that's Boone's thing Talk to each other again. I haven't heard of race of people that would not that poll already. When they were landing in Mcmurdo they realize they were both being told. Big Heads and conciliated IMMACULATA before they made it off the often tactica but it will also make you fused together. Rework is produced by Waylon. Wrong in me Sean. Our music is broken by design by CLIP ART BEING SEPARATE. Cala for his help with the story. Wilco show notes with links to the ice cube website at rework dot. Fm So you can hurt out about neutrinos if you want in season photos of light at the South Pole what is your favorite scene in the thing My favorite scene. I watched most of with my hand covering my face so The only scenes I really saw were of Kurt Russell pulling on a leather jacket to run outside without zipping it because apparently that is all you need and the South Pole amazing now. I like the head runaway. I think I did. I did see related and it goes to the stomach opens up and that was. That was really scary. I love that movie so okay actually my I mean legit my favorite part. Is that really tense scene? When they have. What do they do with that needle? No it's an electrical listen electrified needle or something. And they're just heat up a piece of wire kind of blood. Yeah and they're like sticking it into these individual petri dishes of blood tied to the couch. It's tense and then like those two guys on the couch trying to get away from McGuire. Who is changing. Yeah and they look genuinely hysterical. Did I tell you that I only saw the thing for the first time over the holidays? Yeah and I think we already discussed we. Our priorities discusses but first of all I did not realize until the end of the movie that one of the characters was named windows. I thought that every time they said windows it was Kurt Russell ordering people to check the windows as really confused. We have this tradition. I think it started in college where the first snowfall in Chicago. Not even the first. Gd Week of winter as they say in the movie I know fall in Chicago. We open up the windows put on our big winter jackets for the first time. And the thing you open the windows yet has to be cold in the living room. You know so you're talking about a person named does your friends with or windows though. These are sort of the glass things you can. You can open from your apartment all right. I think that's good for things. This has been thing to thing one and thing too that's good.