Hello Autonomous.ai community and Happy Programmers and IT Month! When I was invited to write about my desk setup guide, I immediately thought about my own journey into tech. From the time you write your first line of code to your first production deployment and beyond, it’s always an ongoing process of self-improvement. Building the “workspace of your dreams” is like this too -- it’s always a process.
As a software engineer and startup founder, I often find myself working long hours and in one place. When COVID hit, being in lockdown, and not being able to have a person-filled workspace, it made me rethink the concept of work. We were all forced to look inwards and become mini remote offices.
I had actually been following the @autonomousdotai Instagram page for the past year, and I was so inspired by all of the other content creators sharing amazing desk setups and
Let’s Deconstruct the Workspace I Built
Ok...so this is a lot...
It’s just like a piece of technology, software, or an app. There are so many components that add up to the whole.
Let’s break down all of the tech and how it helps me with my work each day.
1. Autonomous SmartDesk 2
Coming out of college, I had an amazing opportunity to work at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. It was here where I actually was able to see the value of a standing desk. No longer did I feel tethered to sitting...I had a choice. I feel so much more active when I’m standing, I’m able to be more creative, and I feel more focused. I also had an absolute blast assembling the desk and putting it together.
When I think about the Autonomous SmartDesk 2, I am so grateful for this amazing standing desk because it’s wide enough to fit my laptop stand, ultrawide monitor, keyboard and mouse, books, water bottles, and everything else I need to power my day. I used to feel so crammed in my small desk before, barely having enough room to take notes. But now I have space, which allows me to really dive into work and get into my flow state.
Whether I am coding, working on a new business plan, or giving a pitch of my company to investors or customers, being able to stand let’s me show up as the best version of myself. Rather than being hunched over, I’m able to truly show up and be present in the best light possible.
2. Autonomous ErgoChair 2
Before Autonomous-izing my workspace, I had never had a true ergonomic chair. I just had normal chairs and I didn’t know just how much an ergonomic chair would help me throughout the workday.
To be honest, during the summer of 2020, my old chair was beginning to break down. It felt like I was sitting on metal because the cushion had broken down and was becoming super uncomfortable. I knew I needed to upgrade my chair ASAP and it became an obvious choice that I needed a chair in and around the time I was thinking of getting my Autonomous SmartDesk 2.
From the head-rest to the arm supports to the seat cushion, everything about the Autonomous ErgoChair 2 is what makes an amazing office chair complete. While I do alternate between standing and sitting throughout the week, the ergonomic setup of the chair ensures my back will be supported around the clock while I’m sitting.
3. HyperX Alloy Elite 2 Keyboard
This was a really fun upgrade for my workspace and got a ton of buzz on social media as soon as I started posting photos and Instagram Reels with it. I get so excited when I talk about this specific upgrade because it wasn’t as inherently necessary as the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 or ErgoChair 2, but the keyboard is what I call a monotony-blocker, as seen here:
Let me explain what that means. About 4-5 months into the pandemic, I was feeling lethargic and a bit demotivated. I started to do some research and learned that looking at the same environment day after day can make you less motivated, tired, and fatigued. Instagram provided a great pool of inspiration to pull from and I started looking at keyboards that glowed -- that was what I needed!
I looked at probably 20+ keyboards online, but none of them fit the bill quite like the HyperX Alloy Elite 2. I needed the keys to glow (not just the letters/symbols) and the mechanical keyboard with pudding keycaps gives such a great experience for typing quickly. I love being able to have the pulsating glow effect going while I’m working. It helps me stay stimulated around the clock.
4. Autonomous LED Desk Lamp
This was a super fun workspace upgrade because during the holidays, Autonomous hosted a Flappy Rex game where they were giving away discounts, gear, and deals to upgrade your workspace. It instantly brought me back to my days playing Flappy Bird, and had an absolute blast playing it. On the 3rd to last day of the competition ending, I managed to get a high score and was elated to learn I won an LED Desk Lamp...which was just what I needed to amplify my Smart Desk 2.
You’ll see the desk lamp behind me in my YouTube videos because it’s the perfect size and I love how I can adjust the luminosity and the different types of light. My favorite is the orange light, which comes in so handy for all of the Zoom calls I have to take throughout the week and for my own content creation needs.
5. Govee Smart LED Lights
In my opinion, these are the most cost-effective, value-packed LED lights on the market. You get a roll of LED lights with 100+ lighting possibilities. By putting them along the wall, I’m able to have a pulsating light backdrop for my workstation, enhancing my mood and keeping me stimulated throughout my work. I don’t usually play them during the day, but when the sun goes down, these lights are a whole mood.
6. AUKEY 1080p Wide
A few months after the pandemic hit, I knew I needed to upgrade my camera. More and more Zoom calls meant I needed to have a better way for people to “see” me. While the MacBook Pro camera is OK, I needed something that streams at a higher resolution.
Ironically, all of the Logitech webcams were sold out, so I had to find another alternative. AUKEY had received great reviews online and I ended up getting not just one, but two for my other workstation as well.
7. RODE NT-USB Condenser Mic
When you make content, voice overs for a video, or need to record yourself for a pitch, plain headphone mics just won’t cut it at the end of the day. There are so many different types of mics, but one that is very unobtrusive and sits cleanly right on my desk is the RODE NT-USB Condenser Mic. I didn’t want a boom mic with a whole arm extension from the desk because those honestly stress me out. I can have my mic right below my webcam, record, and pump out high quality sound.
8. LG UltraWide Monitor
The LG UltraWide Monitor is the IDEAL monitor for anyone doing technology, design, presentations, or anything involving multiple application windows. I sort of got used to having a small second monitor, but now I can have VS Code with multiple columns AND have my internet browser windows open next to the code and perhaps Pages open as well all in the same monitor screen.
I’ve been able to completely maximize my workplace efficiency because of the extended screen. A big workspace hack was putting the monitor on a raised stand. I was surprised with how low the monitor sits on a desk, so being able to prop it up at eye level is fantastic. Especially with the ErgoChair 2, I’m able to maintain a proper posture without hunching over to look at the screen at the same time.
9. HyperX Pulsefire Surge Mouse
Initially when I was upgrading my workspace, I got a bluetooth mouse, thinking fewer wires is better, cleaner and more efficient. However, little would I know that there would be an immense amount of lag as I moved the mouse across my LG UltraWide monitor. I really needed to think of a solution here, because it was affecting my ability to work and focus with the mouse being so delayed and spotty.
Knowing just how much I loved my HyperX keyboard, I found that HyperX also made glowing mice as well. It didn’t take much mental convincing for me to order this one and it’s so cool. IT pulsates with a rainbow band that moves around the mouse. It makes for the perfect photo and day-to-day workstation addition.
10. AWS & Peloton Waterbottles
I’m big on symbolism and having two water bottles reminds me to continue to stay healthy and stay hydrated. I try to get in at least a workout in the morning or in the evening, so the Peloton water bottle reminds me to make sure I get in my daily exercise routine. All of the AWS Community Builder team members got water bottles, and they’re fairly large containers, so this reminds me to ensure I get my daily intake of water. Health is wealth!
11. Beats Solo Pro Noise Cancelling Headphones
Whether I’m listening to a podcast or some Chillhop Low-Fi Jazz beats, noise cancelling headphones from Beats by Dre. are a real winner for me. The sound quality is fantastic and I’m really able to get into a flow state and zone into the work ahead.
12. Dev Books
As young professionals, we often need to step into new roles and find innovative solutions to problems that we haven’t experienced before. I find that I spend about 20% of my days now learning something new. Even if it is just one thing, it’s positive progress.
Books and online coursework have been key for me, which is why they’re always on my SmartDesk 2. I’m a TeamTreehouse affiliate and a huge fan of their subscriptions to learn how to make amazing apps and software in only a couple weeks.
Wow…that was a lot! Of course I have some knick-knacks on my desk as well, like a Stream Deck for LIVE videos, a YooTech wireless charger, an eagle snowglobe, a sign that says “TODAY WILL BE AWESOME”, an AWS stylus, and a wooden bear from the Redwood Forest. For developers, there’s often a “rubber ducky” concept where you’ll explain your buggy code to a rubber duck and talking out your issues will help you explain the issue and hopefully resolve it. I do not have a rubbery ducky so this little bear does the trick for me!
So much can happen in 1 year…
This past year was a huge year of upgrades for me and I’m so glad that Autonomous was there to support this growth every step of the way. It just goes to show that when you invest in yourself, whether that means equipment, or skill sets, or certifications/school, or other areas of your life, it can pay off in a big way.
In 2021, I’ve made health, productivity, happiness, and continuous self innovation a priority. I got to fully create the workspace of my dreams, built a startup, became an AWS Community Builder, launched two podcasts, and a lot of exciting plans are in the works. But I attribute so much of these successes to the tools and technologies I built and incorporated into my workflow that made the pivotal difference. Hopefully this can inspire you too about what’s possible and how you can turn your workspace into a virtual command center.
*Que the Star Trek Theme Song*
Please reach out to me (Instagram: @BrianHHough / LinkedIn: Brian H. Hough) if you ever have any questions on how to upgrade your workspace! I LOVE talking about this and helping other people upgrade their setup, maximize their productivity, and level up their work from home grind.
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WRITTEN BYBrian H. Hough
As a Massachusetts native who loves to travel, I have developed a passion for mass communication, public relations, enhancing digital engagement, and amplifying voices.
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