(updated March 22, 2015)
I’ve been hunting for good sysadmin positions that could get me back on a team, back to solving fascinating problems, and help me get smarter. There’s one thing that has complicated matters: I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona and have some commitments outside of work that keep me tied here. What’s a person to do who wants to work in a great environment, but has to scope his options down to one locality? Find a position that allows them to work remotely!
In the 21st century, there’s a lot of positions that don’t need to be filled in-person. If a company does not smile on remote IT engineering positions, often the reason is merely corporate culture rejecting remote workers rather than a true case of a job’s responsibilities not being easily fulfilled from afar. If a business wants to allow remote work, they can. It’s as simple as that. Frequently remote work can be done just as well as an in-person position as long as the responsibilities don’t require physical racking and stacking.
As I’ve looked around, only a small handful of sites have risen to the top in terms of quality and a honed focus on remote sysadmin work. Here is my list of the top sites I frequent while looking for remote sysadmin positions, as well as some clunkers and cautions:
Job Sites for Remote SysAdmins
Careers 2.0: This site has a high quality of clientele and has a convenient little check box to filter all results by the ability to work remotely. I get every job opening available by simply going to the home page and clicking the orange search button without anything in the keywords or location boxes. I then click the “work remotely” check box before clicking “Search” again. Or you can just save this shortcut. Now you’ll see all job listings that allow a remote worker.
And yes, before anyone says it, I did write a post titled “Stack Overflow’s Careers 2.0 Service is Not for SysAdmins or Related Disciplines” but before you get too confused, let me explain. The findings of my post were that Careers 2.0 is not intended for use by sysadmins, and yet great sysadmin / devops jobs end up being posted there anyway. Mostly by the same companies who are also posting developer positions. The post was intended to settle a dispute and to hopefully spur some positive change. Just know that there are some very good opportunities on the site if you’re on the operations side of the fence, so give it a chance. The volume of jobs posted on the site is low enough to make it easy to spot new operations jobs in just a minute or two, but high enough to need daily checking.
WeWorkRemotely.com: Started by 37 signals (of BaseCamp fame among other things), the site is a living testament to the ideals set forth in their book “Remote” which posits that a remote workforce is increasingly tenable for most companies. The site categorizes jobs, including a system administration category, but also has lots of developer positions and customer service jobs. Predictably, the amount of jobs for developers far outweighs those for sysadmins, but keep an eye out and you’ll see some good opportunities posted.
GoRemotely.co: A very new site on the scene, goremotely.co does not publicly state what specific markets are catered too, but there is a natural ponderance of developer positions. However, there are some operations style positions that have shown up occasionally, and I’m sure more and more will be available as time goes on and the site gains popularity.
jobs.supportops.co: Only customer related jobs are featured on this site, so if that’s not your thing, you’ll want to avoid it. That certainly doesn’t mean that the jobs are non technical. They just focus on supporting customers / clients. They have a remote category that you can focus on.
Job Sites for a General Remote Workforce
Some sites don’t focus on remote IT jobs, but rather remote jobs in general. You can search their positions by market or keyword and scope results down to your liking.
FlexJobs.com: This is a big site. It’s dedicated to all positions in all industries just so long as they are in some way “flexible.” You can scope the job list down by how much telecommuting is allowed, what schedule the work would be (full time, part time, etc), if travel is necessary, and more. Information technology is just one of many markets that have remote jobs listed.
RemoteEmployment.Jobmatic.com: I’m not terribly impressed with this site, but at least it’s an option. It’s very similar to FlexJobs in that it does not focus on IT jobs, but rather any remote job, of which IT is one slice of the pie. Furthermore, the positions that seem to make their way to this site appear to be a little… scammy. Or at the very least, lame. Nevertheless, keep it in your rotation of possible places to find a remote operations job.
Companies That are Very Remote Friendly
There are some companies that I know for a fact are very remote friendly. By “very” I mean that you won’t need to travel to an office more than once or maybe twice a year. It would pay to keep their careers pages bookmarked and scan their listings, perhaps applying even if the position doesn’t explicitly state that it allows remote work.
Joyent: Seriously, who wouldn’t want to work there?
Wikimedia Foundation: Wikipedia is by far one of the largest websites on earth. How cool would it be to work on their infrastructure?
Rackspace: I will list Rackspace, but only very reluctantly. While they may offer remote work in many instances, the success of working remotely for them relies heavily on which team out of many you land in. Also, before you can work remotely, there is a mandatory three month on-site work period for many of their support positions (which makes no sense to me because if someone needs to work remote, that means they can’t move somewhere else for three months). Furthermore, a lot of the internal education opportunities are only available to in-person workers.
Sites to Avoid (In My Experience)
I prefer to exclude the negative by focusing on the positive. However I think it’s worthwhile to warn against some poorer options that exist for the hopeful remote sysadmin. I recommend avoiding freelancer websites like eLance.com, Freelancer.com, Guru.com, oDesk.com and the like. Those sites tend to focus on very, very low paying and extremely short-term jobs. While you can make a few shekels through them, and I’m sure a few exceptional cases exist, you probably won’t advance your career very much or work with particularly notable clients. Also be very careful about what you are agreeing to by becoming a member and making business relationships through those sites. In some instances (if not all) you may be agreeing to never again work with those clients except through the freelancing site, or at least agreeing to not work with them for a certain period of time after you stop working through that freelancing site. It is for that reason alone that I no longer use eLance. Sure, it might be hard to enforce, but just know that you’re now liable for one more potential lawsuit.
More traditional job boards like Monster, Dice, and CareerBuilder are focused on standard in-person positions and do not have the best search options for focusing on remote positions. Often you’re left to simply use keyword searches, which can bring back results that have nothing to do with remote work, but instead have a sentence like “Must work with remote clients using screensharing tools.” Also, the companies that tend to use those larger job boards are often the more rigid, traditional companies that might not see the value of remote work or be able to maintain a great remote work environment.
Craigslist has plenty of possibilities for remote work, however… it’s Craigslist. It’s not going to have the best clientele with very many truly great positions available. I view Craigslist as one notch below freelancer websites because at least with most freelancer websites you have built in dispute resolution and payment guarantees.
LinkedIn has a jobs section, and it’s not uncommon to find companies that would be more friendly to remote work in theory, but LinkedIn has no easy means of finding those remote positions outside of a simple keyword search. Nevertheless, I’ve found that simply searching for the word “remote” in the job title brings back the most relevant results.
Sites out of Scope
There are some great sites that can be used to find remote IT-related work, but fall outside of the scope of this blog post. To reiterate, I’m speaking of jobs that are 1) Exclusively remote work, and 2) SysAdmin / Devops / Operations / Systems Engineering / etc. / you-get-the-idea. One site that’s a great option for remote geeks is gun.io (pronounced gun-yo), however it’s specific to developers.
And at this time gun.io is the only site I have that’s in the right spirit for what I’m looking for, but out of scope for sysadmin style jobs.
A Work in Progress
This post is a work in progress. I encourage you to please add your comments about various companies, sites, and boards that would best fit into one of the above headings. There’s not many sites that focus on remote IT work, specifically for sysadmins. I’d love to collect as much information on the topic as I can, and keep it fresh.
Contact me through the comments below, on Twitter at @Nonapeptide, email at [email protected], Google+ here, or Skype at Wesley.Nonapeptide. Did I miss a site that belongs in one of the above categories? Do you know of any companies that are very remote friendly for their engineering team(s)? How about poor options that people should avoid? Give ’em all to me and I’ll keep this post updated over time to the benefit of all sysadmins looking for remote work.