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Home > Audio, Podcast > Archive : Keeping it going – August 26, 2008

Archive : Keeping it going – August 26, 2008

September 24th, 2008

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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Working as a freelance computer consultant can certainly have its challenges and its rewards, but sometimes it can be difficult to keep my career moving forward. Over the last several years, I have had various complications and interruptions that have effected my ability to continuously develop my career. While these complications certainly haven’t brought everything to a halt, they have forced me to be creative about how to continue my work, especially when everyday live intervenes.

Back to school

Seven years ago, I took a long hiatus from my work and became the stay-at-home parent for my son. This lasted for about 3 years. I continued to do some consulting work during that time, but it was significantly less than my usual load. Scheduling was a constant problem, so it seemed easier to bow out of the market, for awhile.

Now, I find myself in a similar situation, but with a few new quirks. Three years ago, my wife decided to return to school to get her graduate degrees. She achieved her Masters in History about a year ago and is currently in the second year of her Ph.D program. Initially, she was able to take most of her classes in the evenings, and my son is now in school, so this didn’t effect me too much. There were still scheduling issues, but through judicious use of daycare and play dates, I could work as much as necessary.

Busy, busy, busy

That said, as she gets deeper into her studies, her time has become more and more fragmented. Additionally, my son’s schedule has also become busier. We are not the type of parents who sign him up for every activity, but he is now engaged in ice skating lessons and will play Little League baseball again this Fall. Combine this with the various school events and it adds up to a busy schedule. This has set me to thinking again, about how best to manage my time so that I can handle the role of both high-tech professional and hands-on father.

Remotely yours

Lately, there have been some technological advances that have opened up new avenues for my work. Thankfully, in many cases, my work doesn’t require my physical presence. I have long offered telephone support and training to my clients, billed on a per-minute basis, and it usually adequate for many of their needs. However, as systems grow more and more complicated and customizable, the necessity of actually viewing the client’s screen has become a necessity.

VNC (Virtual Network Control) software has been around for quite a while, but configuring it to allow a connection to a client’s machine often involves changing router settings and other complications. Recently, though, a method was developed to allow the computer user to place an “outbound” call to a VNC “Listener” with limited software installs or software configuration. This, combined with the growing ubiquity of broadband, allows me greater access than ever before to computers without being physically beside them. I have used it to assist my clients on the other side of the country or just a few blocks away.

Microsoft, Inc. provides a similar product to assist in the management of their servers and desktops. RDC (Remote Desktop Client) allows me to use a server, just as if I was sitting in front of it.

This capability allows me to be available for my son and my clients in most situations. Often, I am completing some of my work, while he sits at the dining room table finishing his homework. Furthermore, using a Wi-Fi equipped laptop, I can often perform work when I am waiting for him at school or lessons. Here in Los Angeles, free wi-fi hotspots are expanding at an enormous rate. If I really need access desperately, I can expand my connectivity dramatically by signing up for paid access at any of the myriad Starbucks, Borders or Barnes and Noble franchises. This allows me to fit my work into the irregular holes that make up a typical day.

Balancing a life as a high-tech freelancer and equal- partner parent is never an easy proposition, but technology can provide some assistance. Whenever you are feeling stressed, look for technology that can provide the same measure of flexibility as your high-tech career.

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