36 - Remote Work: Extreme Edition
Me L. Hello, catherine. Hi. Hi. Oh my gosh. I can hear you loud and clear. I'm so happy. That's perfect bit very it's been very slurred 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's calling from Antarctica. Welcome to rework a podcast by base camp about the better way to work and run your business. I'm Sean Hilton. I'm Waylon Wong. And I will let our guest today introduce herself. My name is Kathryn Millard astrophysicist actually work for the ice cube collaboration which is a nineteen detector those poll Waylon the story hits on a couple of my most nerdy interests, mainly polar exploration, and Astro physics 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 yours. Professor hilter. Okay. The ice cube neutrino observatory is this big scientific experiment where Katherine and our 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 cube was basically about five thousand light sensors arrayed over cubic kilometers sunk deep in the Arctic 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 going to pass through the earth where scientists like Katherine can study them. And how come this has to be done in an article? 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. That's clever when comes through the it starts into acting, and we'll lose energy by emitting light, blue light. And they relate is what we detect are in ice cube. So to say those little flashes of blue light get picked up is cubes optical sensors by tracking which sensors trigger in which order, Catherine or colleagues can figure out the direction the neutrino was traveling and how much energy at head. And that's the end of Shawn's physical. Listen, but Wayland you didn't lead on the story because you you're looking to unlock the secrets of the cosmos, worry 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 base camp. And the peer person mentioned they had an employee in Arctic 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 want to know the ones that they were looking for. So there was 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 necessarily true. However, we are not sure how much of the satellites that we currently are going to be open throat the entire winter. Which is why we took the pickup in basically freezing my employment for the time that I'm working Feis Cuban the in providence. Oh 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. It doesn't have duct tape to do with the window. What's happening is that older science stare that is currently being produced. Here's transmitted throughout the hated. Set the light. That's the light is only useful the science data that we don't necessarily have access to any of its internet so design, but that science data satellite is reaching the end of its life on they've been expecting it to crash into the full awhile now on current full stay, this might happen. In a pro if that happens, this nice feather bed with call on at the moment will become a dedicated satellite for science state that only on we'll have to go back gyna-, which is a great name for Smith light. That's that's gonna be the kind of internet, but you have to wait a Mets opened up a page an-and actually working remotely as Mona's on. Title. It's many 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 you her Catherine explain its littoral bandwidth, Catherine I were able to do an audio call because right now, we're too is in the south pole. They get four hours of good internet day for personal stuff while the satellite passes overhead and that four hour window shifts by a few minutes each day when Catherine I talked it was seven PM her time and midnight might time. It took a non zero amount of effort to coordinate this call and that gave me a very small taste of how Catherine's work life in. An Arctic 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 Lynn. So when I heard about this opportunity, it was more of a dream didn't expect it to come true. On things progressed more and more of my friends from the investing spending here, and they all came back, and they were thrilled. They will said this has been the best time of their life. If I have the opportunity after different Cliquot. So once I finished my PHD invited plight directly. They interviewed me. But they didn't pick me. Then every applied this young. Actually this year. They picked me some. 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 are in this case the initial job interview was back in March. And at that time, they lot of medical checks because the medical coverage shoes bedding admitted so they only one they wanna make sure the don't type any pre existing conditions. We were into medicine discontinuity in August, nineteen anatomy, spend, two months medicine, preparing for jobs. They told us kind of equipment we have here. Whether the typical failures what kind of fixes we can implement after the trading, Wisconsin. The team was sent to Denver Colorado for the next day JR. What happens is that? We have a team building events that we get to know all the people that we will be spending a years on the thing is fairly small station winter. So a lot of the jobs that are usually done by they'll have to be all by us. What happened in Denver's that we got a crash to be firefighter on. I will be part of the official fire brigade for the winter. Oh my goodness. Oh, what kind of training? Did you get to become a firefighter? We we did get to climbed through burning houses. It was actually pretty cool. The first thing you need to decide to put on that gear. Correct. Dry because if you put it on Longley into go into a fire, it's gonna be pretty pretty bad. Firefighting is even trickier at the poll because it's too cold for water based fire retardants train this week here in at SaaS both. So that we can be prepared in once a month. We have drove where we simulated fire. We have to go into fight down. What kind of mental health assessment? Do they have to do because I imagine that's just as important as the physical aspect. What is is that actually during the team bowling spend a week together? A team building there's a psychologist present during the week that Monus serves us also teach us how to cope with anger or disagreement within the group, for example of very extrovert twists. No, very introverted person could have issues coping him because I he doesn't find enough contact on your friends cannot retrieve himself from the people get enough time. So that looking for a very specific type of person shy. Do you consider yourself more introverted or extroverted? That's a really good question. Probably introverted art Biden extroverted in daily life. It's very hard to explain I do need my private time. And I do go to my room spent time by myself, but I also enjoy being out in time 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 at that kind of hope. So 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? Vocalise disagreement is there's a lot of. Jay says it's a small things. Apparently, this is a known issue. He has like if you have so many people on a small in a small room Garrett towards the end of the year. It's it's the way holds the spin. It's the way he choose potatoes. The small things that really get you're going meet annoy in one of the things you need to is like to recognize that this is not a big deal. And the other thing is to be able to live on site. Looked could you possibly hold a spoon different interest. At some point make the entire atmosphere approach for everyone. And what were some of the tips, you got about what to bring not bring respect a lot of time inside inside. It's sing it sixty five degrees. I'm not sure what you need is building. That is actually quite seminar for when you're inside the station than we go up some very specific kind of similar on the where two by four when we have to. The trick. Everyone told me as as layers layers like don't rely on on one pan to safe you like you wanna have your long on the way, then you wanna have pant that you wanna have a wing break. Did you bring any sentimental mementos with you? You know, things that reminded you of friends and family back home since you knew you weren't going to see them for a year. Just because I am a nature fan amid sure that have like big pictures on posters of trees and stuff that I can put up in my vermin pretend Jesse subsidiv whether than just snow. Lot of things that wouldn't estimate crucial. I really think they will lighten up the mood. I got some it's called Harak, spike. You can call like strands of hair. And if you like this, I mean, this is definitely not must have. But it's been bringing me a lot of joy just to walk around with a trend of pink 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 that nickname 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 on. Then if you're wearing glasses. What happens you will raise the rest will go up into your glasses? They will fall then they will the fog will phrase, which kind of limits the time it can spend outside. But especially now in some of the sun's up twenty four hours a day. You can. Spend six to eight hours outside. In winter, it's harder. Because the temperatures drop a lot on it gets pulled in. Then you get to the limit your your closing can actually do. But still like, especially when the Aurora Sarut people do spend a lot of time outside. So yet lefties went over told me that he was actually outside every day because they like being outside. What was it? Like when you first landed you landed I in McMurdo right before you went to the ice cube. And what was it like to step off the plane with disarray? Also you fly with like Oma airplanes with the military plane. Actually, don't really have we noticed. So you you kind of blind to what you wear you're getting while you're landing and lending their getting off the in being the ice. But also there's big mountains Nick murder that you can see especially Erebus, which is the active volcano that was meeting. Cool. It was very different from what I. Late on with C at south pool, b is completely flat. It's a it's a big wide flat circus, so that shames from magma to south pole was much more surreal than the changes. I got from New Zealand to McMurdo McMurdo you can steer. You can see mountains. You can say come FOX. It looks like a snow covered countryside accepted. This meeting missing living plants and stuff when you felt that cold for the first time. Did it feel really different is? Is there a specific cold you've now associate with south pole. Yes is like it's a funny feeding when the hair in your nose freeze end. It is something I had never experienced anyone else before let me get. How do you organize your work day? It sounds like you're fairly flexible, and you said you're allowed to God side 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 how does your day usually unfold come onto priorities? Basically everyone agrees that if there's a fight emergency or firefighting training that takes presence. And then when I have the workday now in summer, basically means that I'm here to support the the scientists that currently here in winter what it's gonna be like, oh, I will be getting up, and I need to be monitoring the experiment than to make sure that every running smoothly. If something goes wrong page to be really fast to get computer as quickly as possible infix on when I say I actually mean way so which repeat doing the same job. I'm we basically alternate on the basis of ping system. So that we can be sure the bay may be able to sleep at least every second week. Is it hard winter 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 the work day. And when you're off the clock. None of this this. I know that for the first months 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. When you're there in the ice cube. You would mention 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 go outside to go to those buildings. So is cupid 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 you have physical failure inside the inside, the hardware, we don't necessarily need to grow. We have a music room. We have a room on the reading library. In the movie, MS. Well, also, we have communal showers said bathroom as on the rooms are Vietnamese small do you have your own room or do you have to share this is one of the luxuries of suss pool. This for example, not the case in McMurdo. He everyone has their own room, which is really nice. If you want to have some private 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. It's it's definitely interesting in the sense that you get to know them look better than you would later on the only other another of the the work is very segmented. So I have I mean, I share a room where the other scientists. But now, I'm for example, the carpenters at work because they woke so far away from where we work that we only cross ways at lunch and dinner are there. Building activities that continue to take place while you're all they're just to kind of, you know, keep the bonds going from actually gonna have like a second dedicated team billing session on the one who is gonna spend though into prison. What be with the cans on meetings where we can need to just bring up all the issues the Mike coast stanchion, hopefully, resolve them before they cost tensions. What kind of preparation are you going to do for the winter when the sun goes down in is not going to come up for many many months, so one of the big prevalent preparations for 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 is everyone's gonna leave. So by February fifteenth all the people that only spend the summer here. We'll have left on. We will only be the full two people of spend the winter here on around forty two. Final numbers. Not quite sure. And then there's has been a very long tradition of watching the same by stationed closer. So the free. That's gonna happen is probably that movie. Have you seen the thing before? Or will this be your first time? This will be my first time some quite excited. Temperature apollo. Bless law. Will we? Oh, we make. Maybe we should. Besides the physical preparation 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 in. It's gonna be potentially. It's gonna feel more isolating. You're a couple of things like we actually can get mailed on here or among the people that spend the winter that they get the mid win to package these packages that packed by people that know you on they send them down you'll in them only on June first when there's the middle of winter until you get something new and exciting in the mid of winters to make the wage until the station be opening a Trojer. 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 Speights something because what happens this night, we get all of food provided. For in. 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 Orioles unwanted mean oils for three months, he wants something different. So away become super exciting. Do you get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables? Are they kind of off flown in at the beginning of the season in just kept frozen. Or you know, somehow kept fresh solo. I saw an apple today. It was really excited. We get free food in okays, mentally this year has been complicated on your to weather and other things the flights haven't been as frequent as they would normally be probably haven't had fresh vegetables b since Christmas and before that since the end of November awfully, but I do absolutely expect that they will can effort to bring things in before the station coasters. So that we do have some fresh furred at the beginning of winter. A now we actually get to entertain a greenhouse ham. So we will be able to grow salads other aspects of life on the south pole that, you know, have have really surprised you in how much you've enjoyed them or how special they are versus what life is like back home. A lot of things become insanely easy, Hugh, I actually noticed in particular when going back to Mike Mondo since my workplace could Jim might room. The galley are all within two minutes Woking distance you, save an insane amount of. Time on on commuting NIA. I've been the love my active here because I mean, the the people would motivate you to go on what kowtow the people you spend dinner with unusually don't have a good excuse not to join them. Very active here, which has been nice. We have we have a bully group. That's actually playing right now, we have a basketball hoop. That's playing Mondays. We have thought belong lays never participated in. We have a climbing bull, which is really cool on. We have a Batman a up Sundays. They have come to realize that one of the important things is some ways to occupy yourself in win too. Because we don't look twenty four hours a day. And if he would eight hours a day at least sixty hours where you have to do if you sit in darkness is can get depressing Mary fuss. So they they have pulled a very strong emphasis on opportunities to keep yourself. Busy on. This is why we have the gym on the craft room in the movie room. So that we can spend time together I talked to someone who's been venturing full longtime face play in. He said it's been a he's actually 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 communal activity compared to than fifteen twenty years ago when there was really nothing else to do than 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 much 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? It's kinda ruined you for the traditional office setting. The fuck on hop in a came here. It was really sure that once I finish. This job would go back to Germany look for like six job in a office than it would be very happy van just build build a life, and I've already slowly shifted to twelve. Thanks months of traveling bangle Bihack. So a flexible in that sense. I'm pretty sure at some point that will naked up because my anti families. They're all my friends other on miss them. So. I wanna be back. Is there a possibility of returning to the ice cube or their people who do repeat tours? I don't know if you have to reapply 'em kind of every year. But is there a possibility that you could come back if you liked it enough, you would have to reapply on the helping people that have done for assessing none of more than two tours? What is also very common that I only in. Here's people booking the tour here at south pole. And then doing the summer in a on una teams like these communities of very intertwined with prize me as well. I didn't expect it to be so much exchange between those two places. I mean, it must 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 must be incredibly bonding is great, especially because you go through team bowling, and you come out with a bunch of friends. I mean, everyone's gonna be a close friend at the end of the year. I'm actually from what I've heard no one's going to be your friend at the end of the year. Once you're off the ice, you'll be allies that that spoons thing was reading the baby can talk to each other. Again. I haven't heard of race of people that will not that poll in ready when they were landing McMurdo. They realized they were both being told big heads on every conciliated immaculate before they made it off the offend Activa. Delegating. You but. It will also. Make use together. Rework is produced by Waylon Wong and me. Sean, Hiller are emusic is broken by design by clip art califor- his help with the story Wilco show notes with links to the ice cube website at rework dot F M. So you can 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 while. I watched most of 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 in the south pole of amusing. Now, I like the part head runaway. I think I I think. It goes the stomach opens up in east the that. That was really scary movie. So okay, actually, my I mean, legit my favorite part is that really tense scene when they have what do they do at that? Needle. No. It's an electrical. Listen, electrified needle or something on their futures. Heat up a piece of wire the blood. Yeah. And they're like sticking it into these individual Petri dishes of blood, it's hard to the couch tense. And then like those two guys on the couch are like trying to get away from changing. Yeah. And they look genuinely hysterical. Did I tell you that? I only saw for the first time over the holiday. 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 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 fallen Chicago we open up the windows put on our big winter jackets for the first time and watch 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 windows, your friends with or windows, these sort of the glass things you can you can open from your apartment. All right. I think that's good for things talk. This has been thing. Thing one and thing too. That's good.