Pierre Sylvestre – successfully combining a full-time career with being a caring father

November 15, 2019

What’s it like supporting a growing family as a divorced parent?  In this day and age, broken families are a common occurrence. This month’s Employee of the Month, Pierre Sylvestre, explains how working remotely for OTGS has benefited his family.

Pierre, although you live in Brazil now, I believe you come from Europe.

My kids in my birth town, Annecy

That’s correct. I was born in France, in a pretty town from the Alps called Annecy (also called Alps’ Venice) not far from Geneva (Switzerland). My parents and grandparents are from this area so I have deep roots there. In 2013, I moved to Brazil for family reasons. I am divorced and I have 2 kids, a daughter who is 14 and a son who is 12. Fortunately, my ex-wife and I have a good relationship and our children are quite happy to spend one week with their mom and the next week with me. We live within walking distance of one another so this arrangement is very flexible and has its advantages. 

We live in São José dos Campos, close to São Paulo in Brazil. It’s a middle-sized town (approximately 700,000 inhabitants) on the road to Rio, 1 hour from the beach. It’s between the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains on one side and the South Atlantic Ocean on the other. Unsurprisingly, I enjoy biking in the mountains, usually on Saturday mornings, and swimming from time to time! 

São José dos Campos is well known for its aerospace industry. It hosts Embraer’s plants (now part of the Boeing company) and several research institutes like the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) or the Aviation Technology Institute (ITA).

You joined OnTheGoSystems in 2015, what were you doing before that?

My kids and I in-the-grass

I spent half of my career in the metallurgy industry (in various positions), but I have always enjoyed dabbling in web development as a hobby. In 2010, I decided to move forward with my career and started to build web sites professionally. When I moved to Brazil, though, I found it was not easy to continue my little business in this new environment. One day, as a WPML customer, I received an email saying that they were hiring and I decided to apply. In less than 10 days I joined OnTheGoSystems and started working as a WPML supporter. I quickly moved to 2nd and 3rd tier support, and just a year later I was asked if I would consider joining the WPML dev team.

What are the advantages of working remotely with OTGS? 

As a divorced parent raising 2 teenage kids, I want to devote as much time to them as possible. Working remotely means I can devote the time I would normally spend commuting to work, and possibly getting stuck in traffic, with my kids. It’s great being here for them and enjoying lunch together every day!

Working remotely also allows me to be more involved with my children’s education. Here in Brazil, public schools leave much to be desired and private educational institutes are often regarded mainly as profitable commercial enterprises. About 5 years ago, a group of us parents founded an associate school as an alternative way of education for our youngsters.  Apart from funding this with our own contributions, we are all actively involved in contracting teachers, providing teaching tools and keeping the facilities in good repair. In addition, I also help handle our finances. At this time we have 30 students, but soon my kids will need to move on and attend a private school to complete their education. 

Thomas helping to grow trees in the ecovillage

We are also involved in a local ecovila project planting trees to protect our environment. Unfortunately, a fire broke out last weekend and we lost a lot of our trees but we will continue working hard to replace them.

It’s great that working remotely saves you so much time to devote to your family and these fascinating projects, but what exactly does your job involve?

My job as a WPML developer is to convert ideas into concrete products and this is not just about coding. Sometimes an idea is a bit fuzzy at the beginning, so we try to prepare a specification to introduce some technical points. Then we elaborate a strategy to achieve the goals we are aiming for. We might build a draft code to check the strategy, a proof of concept. Coding comes in the last part and this also includes writing unit, integration and/or acceptance tests.

I not only work closely with the WPML dev team, but also the Compatibility team and the “Purple team” (for everything related to Advanced Translation Editor or Translation Proxy). The latter’s nickname comes from the purple line showing the income it generated in one of our financial graphs.  When we release a new version we also have close interactions with the Support team. 

Someone interested in this kind of work needs to have at least a minimum proximity with computers, to have the ability to reason logically and be willing to learn new technologies (or concepts). Then the years of experience will make the difference!

Working remotely requires self-discipline too. What kind of routine do you follow from day to day?

Bike ride in the countryside

My daily routine revolves around my family. We wake up, I drink a glass of water and go out for a walk. I have breakfast with my kids and once they leave for school I start my working day. I usually have lunch with them because they study only in the morning and are home for the midday meal. 

My afternoon is often lonely because I have 4 or 5 hours difference with the European time zone and the kids need their own space too. But it’s also a very good opportunity to focus on complex problems. The highest satisfaction for me is when I manage to build a simple and generic solution for a possible complex problem, although this is not always easy :)

Thinking ahead for the future?

Concerning WPML, my hopes are that we can continue improving its reliability and performance while we develop new features. In this way, we should also work with new technologies or more modern approaches/paradigms of our programming languages.

My family benefits greatly because I am enjoying my work and enjoying what one does means less stress. Having less stress reflects positively on the children’s well-being too. I hope their future will be bright.

Whether you are raising a growing family like Pierre or making the most of being single, working remotely certainly has many great advantages and career opportunities. If you are interested in remote work and would like to learn more go to  https://www.onthegosystems.com/jobs/