Planetary Perspectives: Tom Treadway

By Helen Chen, 25 September, 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?

Berlin, Germany

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

8 months as a Designer.

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

I moved to Berlin, Germany without ever having been there before. I just decided it would be interesting to try something new, and went. My first day in my apartment was the first day I had ever been there. One year later, I love it!

What’s your secret talent?

My secret talent is a bit unusual — I used to be really good at knitting & crocheting when I was a kid. For some reason I picked that up as a hobby and was obsessed with it for a bit.

On Working Remotely:

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

Transitioning into remote work life was a relatively simple process for me. Before working freelance/remote, I was commuting 2 hours (each way) every day to the Apple Campus in Sunnyvale, California. Cutting that wasted time out of my schedule seemed like a no-brainer. I was mentally and physically exhausted from spending 12 hours a day at work. That being said, I quit my full-time job with no other job lined up, so the uncertainty made me a bit nervous. But one project led to another, and two years later I haven’t looked back.

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

When I started working from home, I began to test the ways in which I could make my schedule work most effectively for me — which turned out not to be the standard 8-hour office shift a full-time employee normally has. I realized I could get up early and work really effectively for a solid 4 or 5 hours, take a break mid-day to run errands or take care of personal things, and finish my last 4 hours with the same efficiency as I had in the morning. I think most people who work in an office have a huge drop in productivity after lunchtime, which means you have about 3 to 4 hours at the end of the day of wasted time.

“After a few months, I realized I was not only doubling the amount of work I produced, but the quality was significantly higher. It also reduced my stress levels greatly.”

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

I think Planetary does a really good job of giving you the flexibility that you need to work your most efficient schedule, but the team workflow still has structures in place to make sure you’re not just working in a vacuum (design reviews, team check-ins, and one-on-ones).

“At the end of the day, the work that we do is collaborative in nature, and work is always the strongest when you have insights and perspectives from multiple people.”

Planetary has found a good way to balance these elements.

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

I think the most common misconception of working remotely is that I don’t work full-time, or that I’m doing it because it’s “easy”. Since my schedule is more flexible, I get to travel a lot and have mid-day breaks to recharge so that I can spend my time working in a more focused and effective manner. Working remote is about being efficient, not about being lazy.

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

You need to be dependable to others, as well as yourself. Set deadlines and communicate them to your teammates. I believe that this is what drives momentum in a team environment and creates work-life balance — everyone wants to enjoy their life but also do the best work they possibly can. Everyone shows up (metaphorically speaking) to work their hardest and contribute to make something awesome together.

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

It has been awesome to see different creative perspectives, and to get to meet designers and creatives from all over the world. It has opened my eyes to different design styles, inspirations, and methods of collaboration. Everyone has a different source for their passion. Through living in different cities, you start to meet people with so many different reasons for doing what they do.

How has it allowed you to achieve things you wouldn’t have if you had to work in a specific place?

It’s about work-life balance. If I didn’t work remotely, I would never have had the opportunity to move to Berlin and travel around Europe. It just wouldn’t be possible if I had to be in an office every day.

Thanks to Karyn Lawrence.