This month, we’re featuring Ian Washburn, system risk mitigation manager in the University Information Security Office (UISO), whose work-from-home situation is pretty unconventional.
In early 2021, Washburn purchased an RV and along with his son, Harrison, and their two dogs, Abby and Sugar, has been traveling around the country. (Read more about Abby and Sugar as puppies in this 2019 article.)
For a couple of weeks at a time, the pair sets up camp so that Washburn can work full-time and Harrison can attend seventh grade via Zoom and Google Classroom. They move locations over weekends to avoid disruptions to their schedules. During the evenings and weekends when they stay in place, the two explore their new areas searching for groceries, laundromats, and local adventure.
After spending February in Florida, where they enjoyed warm weather, beaches, and Disney, Washburn and his son headed back to Indiana to restock the RV before heading out west on their next journey.
Briefly describe your work-from-home desk space: where is it in your home? What are some of its features?
My desk is all over in the RV. When it’s nice outside, I prefer the picnic table. When my on-screen presence is a priority, I have a desk in front of the fireplace with multiple monitors to help me view and present materials with greater ease. I also have a standing desk on the RV’s island. This gives me a break from sitting and lets me do quick meetings without having to set up all the little bits and pieces of tech needed to reach full desktop immersion.
What piece of tech do you rely on the most?
My network equipment. Being mobile provides its own set of challenges, including finding and maintaining a connection that allows me and my son to connect and meet our work/school obligations. The RV has its own wireless network, which allows me to keep all of my network-connected devices contained in my home network, just like at home.
Instead of plugging my wireless access point into a modem, I use a D-Link Wireless Client Gateway to join local Wi-Fi and feed internet to my RV. When Wi-Fi isn’t available, my Logitech Nighthawk 5G Wireless Hotspot Pro lets me connect to the cellular network at 5G speeds, so my devices can stay connected to the cozy, safe Wi-Fi in the RV.
What piece of tech causes you the most headaches (or the most swearing)?
That would be the internet. Being mobile means that new connections are always presenting themselves. In RV parks, Wi-Fi can be heavily saturated or poorly configured, which has led to lots of swearing. Luckily, with the 5G hotspot we’re still able to connect when Wi-Fi is giving us headaches.
What’s your favorite gadget for work or for home?
Small things amuse me and bring me joy. My favorite gadget as of late is the $15 phone holder/selfie light I picked up on Amazon. For meetings, it provides a few shades of light and brightness levels, and it also makes holding the phone much easier for Facetime calls to friends and family back home. The light also makes an excellent bedside light using the lowest setting and the warmest light. As you can imagine, in RV living, finding multiple uses for something is always a plus.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
I get up in the morning and spend a few minutes sitting quietly, greeting Abby and Sugar—they are always waiting for me right outside the door. While my coffee brews, I take the pups out for their morning stretch. Then I come in and start a morning yoga practice and some mindfulness preparation for the day. I wake up Harrison and make breakfast while I watch the news. And I have to walk the dogs before my first meeting or they will insist on attending.
How do you stay organized?
It takes 6 seconds to clutter up the RV—it’s just the nature of tiny home living. I’ve been organizing and reorganizing since we started our adventure. For me, the key is daily mindfulness to put things back in their place. Inevitably, I end up tidying up at the end of the day to get our work/school stuff put away and make room for relaxing.
For work and all of the moving parts of my job, I use a bullet journal. Bullet journaling is a method of note taking and task organization that has been very helpful to me for keeping the boat heading in the right direction.
What is your work philosophy?
My work philosophy is that I don’t take work personally. I have a lot of great personal relationships at work and take my pride in my work to heart. But I work to carry out the mission that is set out by my leadership. I may not always agree, I may not always understand, but I’m not always right and I’m not always privy to the information that caused my leadership to make a certain choice. However, that doesn’t affect my work or my desire to do my best in every situation.
Work/life balance is important. I want to feel relaxed and confident in my work environment and I want my team and colleagues to feel the same. I’m proud to serve the university in its mission to promote learning, teaching, and research. Working for an organization that I’m proud of makes it easy to feel like my work is contributing to a noble cause.