Planetary Perspectives: Samantha Black

By Helen Chen, 29 August, 2018

Meet the Planetary team! We’re a team of multidisciplinary designers and developers spread out across 3 times zones and 4 countries. Despite having a dispersed team, we come together and build awesome products while having fun, and we want to share our insights!

Each week, the series Planetary Perspectives will feature an interview with a team member on their experiences of working remotely, building productivity, and maintaining work–life balance.

Art by Lauren Kim


Where are you currently working from right now?

Barbourville, Kentucky, USA.

How long have you been at Planetary and what is your role?

2 years as a Senior Front-end Engineer.

Please share an interesting and unusual fact/hobby about yourself.

I’m an avid homesteader; gardening, raising livestock, gathering wild edibles, and hunting are all staples of my lifestyle. While I rely on technology to lend me a lucrative career, I also strive to get back to my roots.

What’s your secret talent?

Finding out-of-the-box solutions to problems that folks would typically give up on. I’m inventive, and if there’s a way, I will see it.

On Working Remotely:

What do you enjoy most about working remotely and what do you find to be challenging?

I find the schedule flexibility to be the most enjoyable, as a mom it’s important to me to be able to work and parent with minimal conflicts. My challenge is overworking almost entirely by accident — it’s easy to do when you love your profession.

What was transitioning into remote work like for you? What did you love, stress over, and learn in those first few weeks?

My transition was different, but I embraced it. I was the most relieved not to have to commute every day! My children were much younger then and I needed to set rules on when to parent during work hours. After a few weeks, it became more comfortable for everyone, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

What traits do you think are important for someone who works remotely?

Honesty and dependability are definitely at the top of the list.

“A company which allows its employees to work remotely takes a systematic risk in the employee’s accountability. If you aren’t transparent about where you’re at in your workload, then there’s no way it will work out in the long run.”

How do you create your most productive environment to work in?

I keep the same hours every day. I feel it helps maintain my work ethic and drive when I give myself regular business hours. But I also take full advantage of breaks, daily or vacations, which keeps me from burning out.

What is a common misconception of working remote that you’d like to clear up?

A misconception I had was that I wouldn’t feel like I was a part of a team. It takes all of us sharing a common goal to bring Planetary success, and that can only happen if we work together. I’ve never once felt like I was a lone developer after I started working remotely.

What do you think Planetary does well in regard to having a dispersed team?

Culture-building and communication. While working remotely, it can be easy to feel removed from a team environment. However, at Planetary, it’s a group effort to keep connected and enjoy each other’s collective time online. The annual team retreat is also a huge help too, giving us a chance to meet each other in-person, building our team dynamic and culture.

How do you build rapport if you aren’t meeting someone in person?

Communication. There’s nothing like being utterly transparent with people, and our team does this exceptionally well. Deadlines, project statuses, workloads, hold-ups, and challenges are all discussed with open minds. We trust each other in a way that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

How has working remotely been advantageous for other aspects of your life? How has it allowed you to achieve things you wouldn’t have if you had to work in a specific place?

For starts, I have the unique opportunity to be a stay at home mom while supporting my family. I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with my children that would otherwise be lost. Next is the ability to live/work from anywhere — which allowed me to purchase a hobby farm in the Appalachians. Remote work has provided not just myself, but my family, opportunities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

How has living in different places informed or contributed to your role as a designer/developer/project manager?

It’s been great getting to meet developers with a variety of backgrounds.

“While some have gone to school and others are entirely self-taught, we’re all united by a common goal of building excellent products.”

I think we all contribute to each other to strive to do better and to stay motivated to learn new things.

Thanks to Karyn Lawrence.