by Asif Khan
One of the coolest things about working at Accenture is that you can live anywhere AND work anywhere in the world…sometimes simultaneously. For example, one of my coworkers lives in Chicago and had the opportunity to work in Sydney for six months. Another lives in Seattle and spent two years in Paris. I recently had the opportunity to work on a project in Helsinki for three weeks–but I committed to another project with a shorter commute.
For previous generations, the ultimate measure of success was to become a “company man” with a steady job for life, a full pension, a house with a white picket fence and a short commute to the office. But if you, like me, enjoy dangling on the bleeding edge of technology, all those quaint notions of a comfortable middle class lifestyle have pretty much disappeared for us.
I live in beautiful and sunny San Diego, CA (more on this later) but I have always commuted to wherever the interesting projects are. My previous employers (as well as my current one) have told me, “I don’t care where you live as long as you are close to an airport.” My weekly commute has been mostly courtesy of Southwest Airlines. The only thing steady about my job history is that I’ve been on LinkedIn since it first launched. Oh…and defined-benefit pension? What’s that? My 401(k) took a dive in 2000 and then again in 2008, along with everyone else’s.
So for people like us, did the traditional pillars of stability and community get upended by the unrelenting demand for flexibility and mobility? Of course stability and community are a basic human need but how we satisfy our cravings has changed. Social media and the mobile revolution have replaced the town square, church social or whatever it is our parents did to feel like they were contributing members of their local community.
I, on the other hand, have friends, family and a business network dispersed all over the world. I keep up with my personal contacts on Facebook. I talk face to face with my family while traveling courtesy of Skype. I keep up with my jet-setting work colleagues on LinkedIn and sometimes I even meet up with them IRL (“in real life”) in random cities whenever our travel plans intersect…thanks to TripIt, FourSquare and Twitter. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.
In other words, I may have a home (anchored by a ridiculously high mortgage) in San Diego but modern technology allows me to work wherever the cool projects are.
Taking a broader look at the dismal state of the US economy today, I bet that we could shave a couple points off the stubbornly high unemployment rate if more people (and more employers) embraced the idea of location independence. The technology definitely exists but the mindset at the center of the bell curve hasn’t yet shifted. We ARE on the bleeding edge!
And this concept of location independence works flawlessly…until you get to your hotel room at night and you realize that you miss your family and that Skyping with your five year old is not quite the same thing as being there and pitching whiffle balls with him in the park .
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