In Praise of Mobility

Mobile Devices, Cheap Telecom, and Virtual Currency: Welcome to the Global Workforce

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A majority of U.S technology professionals would welcome being paid in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, according to a survey by event organizer Tech in Motion. The results were reported in the Wall Street Journal. That was before the recent Mt. Gox implosion and the resulting kerfuffle that’s been slogging through the headlines these days.

However, a very compelling discussion of the potential of virtual currency was posted by Marc Andreeson of Andreeson Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm with $2.7 billion under management. The article Why Bitcoin Matters makes the case that Bitcoin offers a sweeping vista of opportunity to re-imagine how the financial system can and should work in the Internet era, and a catalyst to reshape that system in ways that are more powerful for individuals and businesses alike. Heck, even the Winklevoss brothers are on board, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, that is. Turns out the dynamic duo has offered to pay for seats on the sub-orbital spacecraft with Bitcoin. Now that’s what I call going global!

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Well, no matter how you feel about Bitcoin, Dogecoin, or even Arscoin, Ars Technica’s cheeky hat throw into the ring, one thing is clear: Forward thinkers are envisioning  a world where barriers to mobility are greatly diminished, opening up more opportunities for people everywhere.

As a writer and PR professional, I am fortunate to be able to work remotely. I have had a home office in Los Angeles for over a decade, working with clients in far-flung locations including New York, Atlanta, Seattle, London, Milan, Berlin and Tokyo. A few years ago, my spouse accepted a lucrative assignment in Paris, and given the nature of our respective work, it was easier for me to travel back and forth. When I took my first extended trip to Paris, I didn’t have a laptop. Instead, I bought the first generation iPad. Armed with VoIP, my Go-To-Meeting app, and a blazing fast French Internet connection, it was business as usual, with a view.

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I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that outside of family and close friends, it’s really no-one’s business where you are as long as you get the job done. In fact, my clients and colleagues consider it a big plus that I have an international perspective and personal window to another world. And I can bring them back really nice gifts from Paris!

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Throughout the years many people have asked me how I do it, so I put together this list of Tips For Working Remotely.

1. Bring your Mobile Devices. Of course you have them! In addition to my original iPad, I have an iPhone and a MacBook Air. The laptop gives me the full computer experience, which is big improvement over working on the iPad. However, a colleague of mine did manage to work abroad for over a month with just an iPhone.

2. Get VoIP. We all know about Skype and Viber, but if you still use a land line, take your VoIP box with you and no one will ever know you left your local area code. I have been using Lingo for years.

3. Get a good data plan for your US cell phone. I have the T Mobile Simple Choice Plan. For $50 a month, I have unlimited data coverage and free texting in over 100 countries. I believe this is the direction that telecom is going. There are probably other options out there as well.

4. Get a foreign cell phone number. When I arrive in Paris, I switch my T Mobile SIM card from my iPhone to a spare phone and replace it with my SIM from Réglo Mobile, a French mobile provider. So I have a French cell phone number and 500 MB data for around 12 euros per month. When I’m back in the US, I turn off the Regio data plan and go on maintenance for 1.5 euros per month.

5. Bring more tech stuff. US electrical plugs won’t work in Europe, so stock up on plenty of adaptors for all your gear. I keep duplicate USB chargers in Paris, along with adaptors so I’m ready to hit the ground running when I arrive.

6. Open up a foreign bank account. If you are planning on longer or more frequent stays abroad, you might want to opening a local bank account. I found out that BNP Paribas is a sister bank of Bank of America. I keep a supply of euros in my BNP account for routine expenses. Another advantage is that I have a BNP chip-and-PIN debit card, which offers added security.

7. Sign up for mail forwarding. Yes, of course we do most transactions and correspondence online, but there is still a chance that a pesky letter of the utmost importance might land in your mailbox while you’re out of the country. If you don’t want to give your mail key to family or friends, or risk missing a letter about your outstanding parking tickets, have your mail forwarded to your foreign address. Just make sure your name is on the mailbox at your home-away-from-home.

8. Find an expat group. Sometimes you just want to find a plumber who speaks English or a hair salon where you can communicate without a translator. Resources abound. Check out Expats Paris or Angloinfo for starters.

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Photo credit: Martin Muntenbruch

Maybe someday we’ll all evolve into holograms, living virtually anywhere, anytime. In the meantime, get out and expand your horizons. There’s a world of possibilities waiting for you.

All other photos: Kyrian Corona

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