When thinking of remote work, we tend to think of cutting edge companies in tech like Buffer, Zapier, DuckDuckGo, GitLab, and Mozilla. Sure, they are doing their bit to change the landscape of the job market, making the remote dream more and more accessible to people around the world. But what if we told you that remote work existed before them? Like, way before. What if we told you that the history of remote work started way before even the internet?
You’re definitely envisioning some of these 90’s numbers, huh…?
Well, you’d still be off the mark. Around 40 years off the mark, actually. It was 1962 in the UK when Dame Stephanie Shirley, a refugee that as a child had escaped the Nazi regime in Germany, founded her software development company called Freelance Programmers. Out of her first 300 employees, 297 were women. Employees of the company didn’t have an office, they didn’t have internet, they didn’t even have personal computers. They were truly a distributed team, with many women working from home.
Shirley’s programmers were also some of the first to adopt modern solutions like part-time work and job sharing. They used paper and pen to draw flowcharts, break down tasks, map processes, and write binary code. Collaboration meant meetings over the phone and overnight express letters.
Okay, so how fast did that ship sink?
Well, it didn’t really. Just one of their biggest successes: Freelance Programmers coded the black box flight recorder for Concord that is still in use today. Shirley sold her controlling interest in the company in 1991, making her a pioneer in distributed ownership and equity-based motivational systems. The company went public on the London Stock Exchange as F. I. Group in 1996. 70 of the employees became millionaires and in 2007 they had 8600 employees. They have clients from banking, insurance, public sector, retail, transportation, logistics, and utilities.
And how do we know this?
At Hacker Paradise, we love to learn, practice and share skills with others. Haiko Schol, a software developer from Germany, is a valuable Hacker Paradise community member who returns trip after trip and always participates in a way that serves not only himself but the larger community as well. He presented this story to us while on a Hacker Paradise trip in Seoul, testing out his presentation in a safe space — among his travel fam. After receiving feedback from the group, he refined his work and gained the confidence he needed to present it at GopherCon Europe in Tenerife.
So basically, we learned the history of remote work from a remote worker, while we were working remotely (let that sink in). Ah, we love it when a story comes together.
Still need to convince your boss on remote work?
Start with this: we are not in the 60s anymore — you can collaborate and get work done from anywhere. And if we were, you’d be in good company (we’re pretty confident our homegirls at Freelance Programmers would have been #HP4lyfe). There are so many incredible technologies out there these days giving us the ability to work not only from coworking spaces around the world but also from trains, sailboats, in front of the Acropolis, cafés, and even tuk-tuks. And brainstorming from a surfboard in Brazilian waters counts too (trust us — we’ve done it)!
Our Hacker Paradise community boasts lawyers, real estate agents, copywriters, recruiters, accountants, and even doctors, all who have achieved remote independence. What we’re saying is that you too can find a way to make it happen. Just like our girl, Dame Shirley.