There is an advert currently running on TV from a well-known computer company showing people in various jobs saying 'I am a PC'. I don't think anyone 'gets it' as much as me. I, Jayne Smith, Document Direct, am the ultimate, mobile PC. I work at any time, any place, anywhere.
Before I became the ultimate mobile PC, I was a legal secretary. I had a good job working for a blue-chip law firm's document production department. My working hours were 5pm to midnight. I still say the reason I'm still married is because I never saw my husband for the seven and a half years I worked in that job. We were ships that passed in the night and for the working week our children had the benefit of two parents who were effectively separated. However, the working hours did put a strain on our well-being and I was regularly asked by my husband if there was a way that my type of work could be done from home and at times that suited our family.
The answer to our prayers came with the advent of digital dictation systems. Dictation is typically used by professional people like lawyers who dictate their letters onto a tape and hand it to a secretary to be typed up. Digital dictation removes the need for tapes. Instead, the user records into a computer or sound card and e-mails the sound file to interested parties. This has changed the way people can work.
The business idea of outsourcing typing using a digital dictation system was the start of my new career and just one of the technology systems that we use today. Built around the dictation system is a virtual office using terminal services. Connected to that virtual office are teams of secretaries. And managing those secretaries is me, for most of the time using a Blackberry and small laptop. I really like to be mobile and flexible so my laptop is very small, a 7" tablet. Wireless internet connectivity at home and around the city means I can plug into the office systems almost anywhere and catch up with who is doing what, for whom and when.
Having e-mail delivered to my mobile phone means I can keep in constant touch (Blackberry is today's preferred choice, but only because I have dictation software that works on it). The dictation system has a web-based database and by logging onto a website I can see who is typing what for whom. It's a great management tool. And it's not just the youngsters who are using instant messaging to chat to their friends out of school. Each of the secretaries works remotely from home and we all chat to each other using MSN's instant messaging. It's a great way to ask for help when needed, have a natter without running up a phone bill and, most of all, it reduces feelings of isolation and alienation.
Three years later, my old life is a distant nightmare and I'm now living my dream. I take my laptop and Blackberry on holiday with me. I like to be in control and keep my finger on the pulse but really, it's showing off that I can sit on the balcony of my Turkish apartment and manage a business from a holiday home - now that's really living.
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About the author
Jayne Smith is head of operations for Document Direct where she has worked since October 2005. Prior to her current role, Jayne was a legal secretary and had an IT training background. Working as an IT trainer, for international law firm DLA Piper, Jayne gained an insight into the various systems and processes employed and she has used this knowledge to deliver quality outsourced services for lawyers who send their typing needs to secretaries who work remotely.
This was first published in March 2009