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Mary Neech - Software Developer, John Holland Group

Mary Neech
'I have a couple of computers that are connected to the company network and I spend my days fixing bugs, creating changes, adding new functionality and giving technical help to our user support team.'

Mary lives in Adelaide at a beachside suburb, and has worked for a large construction company, John Holland Group, as a programmer for six years. She began with the company working at their head office in Melbourne, then, after deciding to move back to Adelaide, the company kept her on as a consultant while she finished her existing projects. This meant working remotely from an office at her home.

The long-distance arrangement worked so well that new projects were sent her way. She continued as a consultant freelancer for the company and recently she moved from consultant back to full-time employee. Most of her team work out of the head office, but the users of the system work all over Australia. For this reason, working remotely is not a problem for her or the company’s ability to keep the wheels turning.

In many ways, Mary’s employment arrangement is a successful working model for businesses that want to use digital technology to provide greater flexibility for their employees and therefore, retain good people who need to work offsite.

How did you start working from home?

I left my job at a large construction company in Melbourne because I wanted to move back to Adelaide to be with my family. I was still working on several projects when I made the move, and it was suggested that I work from home in Adelaide until they were completed. New projects kept popping up and so I continued to do the work, as everyone was happy with the arrangement.

What work do you do as a software developer?

I have a couple of computers that are connected to the company network and I spend my days fixing bugs, creating changes, adding new functionality and giving technical help to our user support team. I undertake computer programming with Delphi, database administration and development using Oracle, application maintenance and implementation, and user support. The application I work on is an enterprise-wide, custom-built project cost reporting system or accounting system.

How do you keep in contact with the head office?

I contact team members by telephone quite regularly throughout the day. This team consists of around 10 people, and I share my workload with a fellow software developer. These team members are based primarily in Melbourne and the users of the system are situated throughout Australia.

What do you love most about working from home?

For my work, I need to be able to focus on what I am doing and so the silence and lack of interruptions are wonderful. I also enjoy the flexibility. When I am running late starting work in the morning, it’s not a stressful problem as I can make up the time by working a little later in the afternoon or doing a few hours on the weekend.

What do you find most difficult?

I miss the social side of working with colleagues, having a quick lunch together or a drink after work. Sometimes when you have a problem that you are stuck on, it is nice to talk it over with a colleague – it’s not quite the same doing this over the phone.

What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy keeping fit through lunchtime dog walks and morning gym sessions using my new road bike. I am also an avid snow skier and each year I try and get some skiing in, both in Australia and also overseas in Canada. Outside of work hours I tend to stay clear of computers altogether, preferring to read books, watch movies, dine in or out with friends and catch live music.

Do you ever feel lonely working from home?

I personally like to work in total silence with no distractions, so working from home allows me to become absorbed in what I am doing – this leaves little time to feel lonely. I have plenty of phone calls with my colleagues during the day and my dog comes in and checks up on me at regular intervals – if it’s time for her walk she literally will knock my hand off the mouse until I give in!

What’s something you had to learn the hard way?

It’s worth paying all the money in the world for a decent chair.

Do you have any tips on office organisation?

I have my back to the window, and I swivel and take a look outside every now and then to give my eyes a break. Keeping a good temperature is also important – not too hot, not too cold.

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