A product & UX designer who loves exploring wilderness & outdoors
Himanshu is a multidisciplinary UX and product designer with 5+ yrs of experience
1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Himanshu Vaishnav, a product and user experience designer currently based out of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. I hail from a small town in Rajasthan and completed education from Jaipur. I moved to Delhi for working with a startup as a product lead.
After spending 3 years full-time in office I managed to convince the founder to switch my role to a remote job. I used this newfound freedom to explore the country, moved back closer to home. Last year I learnt programming and built a side-project which helps people finding remote jobs in India.
When not designing or building - I love exploring wilderness and outdoors. I have acquired a massive interest towards rock-climbing during my stay last year at Himachal.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
I come from a very small town in southern Rajasthan - just like everyone there trying to build a career in tech, I moved to Delhi to lead the design and tech at Food Talk. While Delhi had a lot to offer in terms of career growth and experiences, I really didn’t like the quality of life and intense work culture there. So after 3 years of working in-house, I re-negotiated my contract with Food Talk to work remotely (had to take a small pay-cut for not being in-office). That’s how I got exposed to remote working and have never looked back since then.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
I was lucky as going remote wasn’t a gamble for me. Instead, it was a well thought out decision made with contingencies in place and a solid, year-long contract in place. However, challenges came in the form of finding motivation, battling procrastination and managing hours. I also made the rookie mistake of making travel plans in the first few months of going remote. For a moment, I completely gave up on ever being productive remotely and almost decided to go back to full-time office work.
It was in the third month of my contract that I decided to take a step back and give remote working another try, but this time from a fixed, more friendly location of Jaipur (closer to home and also my college town, so have many friends and family there). I set up a home office, cancelled all travelling plans for the next 3 months and focused on building a routine. First few months of going remote was a rollercoaster, but it taught me a few valuable lessons about myself, which in turn helped me become an overall better, self-managed professional.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
I never relied on only being a freelancer. Actually, I enjoy longer design projects that come with a sense of responsibility and impact. However, I did signup for talent platforms like Toptal, joined remote working communities such as We Work Remotely and kept an eye on many remote job boards like remoteok.io and Remotive. After the first two years of doing project work, I moved to a full-time design position at Compucorp. I think surviving the first year as a remote worker is the most crucial. After that, you get an idea of the market, your skill sets and the time it takes to find the next job/ project.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
Best: Growth - working remotely means you have to be a self-accountable, reliable, motivated and self-managed professional individual. These are the key characteristics required in any profession, remote or not. Working remotely has helped me integrate these values in my personal and professional life.
Good: Independence - this includes financial, time, location and commitment independence. You get to choose and design every aspect of your life and this kind of freedom is something that is very hard to even fathom for someone coming from a middle-class background like me. The only reason it’s not the best part is that freedom is a double-edged sword. Being completely independent means you have to take absolute responsibility for all of your actions.
Worst: Isolation - We are biologically social creatures and offices provide us with a great way to socialize while working and making a living. I fought the severe feeling of isolation in my first few months of going remote. Moving back to a town where I had a social circle was one of the steps taken towards fighting isolation. It’s a very real problem that a lot of people miss/underestimate when going remote. But just like any other problem in life, this too can be handled by making it a priority. For me being outdoors and prioritising my mental health and family while including socialising into routine did the trick.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
I hardly rely on any digital tools as a remote worker. As a designer - I have a work-specific toolchain and I generally keep work tools separate from all non-work communication. (helps with work/life balance, if there’s such a thing). I think Slack is the global standard of communication while working remotely, emails and Zoom (for video calls) are also something that can’t be avoided at any cost. Since going remote, I always invest in a quality daily journal and make sure I disconnect and spend time away from screens/digital tools on a daily basis.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
I’d say it was in the summer of 2019. After getting comfortable with remote working for a couple of years, I started exploring an expatriate lifestyle - moving to the Himalayas for entire summers. We rented a decent cabin with connectivity and spent the entire summer in great outdoors, also gladly avoiding the scorching heat of Rajasthan.
There were moments when I jumped on quick troubleshooting calls while still having climbing chalk on my hands but that’s all gone by. Looking back, it was one of the most exciting years of my life. Right after there, we moved to Udaipur, the City of Lakes, and are currently experiencing a very different but equally exciting life - always planning our next adventure :)
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Become a proficient remote worker before you start making travel plans. Regardless of what stage in life you are - no one is happy and excited 100% of the time. Every lifestyle has a unique set of challenges, you just have to find the one worth battling through for you. Don’t go remote because of the glamour of it; go remote because of the actual value it provides. There is nothing wrong with the traditional work model - it’s tried, tested and refined over the years - while remote working is fairly new. Try it, experience it and decide if it’s a good fit for you.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
Remote work has given me a lot of confidence in my skills as a designer. It creates a level playing field where designers from small towns get a chance to compete with global talent in the industry. It’s both exciting and frightening at the same time. For now, I plan to continue working remotely and establish an identity for myself in remote working and design communities in India.
For the future, I’d like to use my remote working experience to help Indian startups and organisations learn the nuances of working remotely in a more effective fashion. This can be done through a product or as a consulting service. It’s an exciting future - one with more possibilities and risks than a stable, regular full-time job.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
I truly believe that remote work is the future. The only reason it wasn’t a mainstream mode of work in the information industry was that the tools and tech wasn’t just there. Now with the internet reaching every nook & corner of the world and its speeds getting more reliable, I don’t see any reason for more and more tech jobs to not be remote-friendly.
India is lagging behind both in terms of infrastructure as well as in adapting to the remote work culture. But it’s a massive economy and many startups are already embracing the benefits of remote work. The growth in remote-friendly jobs and projects is apparent and cannot be neglected. I built a platform for the Indian audience to find remote-friendly jobs that allow working in Indian timezones and a, planning to add more content for remote workers in India there.
11. Where can we follow you on?