August 26, 2005
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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
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
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.
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
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.