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Three tech tricks for functioning smoothly overseas

For Sheryl Rowling, a trip to France offers important tech lessons and insight into the work-life balance

By Sheryl Rowling

May 12, 2014 @ 12:25 pm (Updated 2:57 pm) EST

paris, france, technology, skype, voip, computer, laptop, ipad, iphone

We have completed our first full work week in Paris. Aside from a few technology glitches, the distance issue seems to be going okay. The main issue, it seems, is discipline on my part!

(Here's where the story starts: Can an adviser work remotely for a month?)

The technology problems have been relatively minor. The challenges faced have been:

• Although I could remote in to get my e-mails, when I tried to remote directly into my office computer, it didn't work. Our IT guy had just swapped out my computer for a newer, faster one, so I thought there might be some configuration needed. After contacting him, we discovered the source of the problem — somehow my work computer had been turned off. Another example of the first rule of technology: Make sure it's plugged in.

• My VoIP phone was set up on all my devices — laptop, iPad and iPhone. For some reason, when it rang, I could never answer from the device I was on. It was easy enough to listen to the voicemail and call back, but it was frustrating. A little investigation revealed that I can only be logged in to one device at a time. (Note my description of myself below as a non-techie user of technology …)

• A client meeting was set up at my office in San Diego. Clients and staff were present and I was to attend via Skype. Unfortunately, although they could see and hear me, I couldn't see or hear them. This was especially strange since it had worked fine a few days earlier. Rather than delay the meeting further, a resourceful employee grabbed his iPad and we were able to move forward. The Skype mystery, as it relates to my office computer, will need to be analyzed next week.

As you can see, these tech issues were all easily remedied. What is difficult is moving from tourist mode to work mode on a daily basis. Because of the time zone difference, work should begin here by 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. That leaves all day for sightseeing and window shopping (OK, actual shopping too). The problem is that sometimes I don't want to stop by 6 p.m. Also, if I want to visit with one of my friends who live here, they are done with work just as I am supposed to start.

It's definitely a trade-off. At this point, I have learned the following lessons:

• You can't plan to work full-time remotely unless you are somewhere with nothing else to do.

• Check out technology services before you need to use them.

• Be respectful of your commitments in spite of the temptation to ditch out on a meeting to enjoy a longer dinner!

This coming week brings more interesting situations — virtual attendance at a board meeting and a short trip to London!

Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.