I started my first full-time job as “Government Channel Manager” on May 16, 1988 working for Informix. I had just finished my MBA program the prior Friday. Steve (my husband) and Derek (2.5 years old) packed up our apartment’s few possessions and met me in California a few days later. I was pregnant with our second son Todd, due on June 24. Yes, my first boss (George Billman to whom I will be eternally grateful) hired me at 8 months pregnant (more on that in a future blog). Suffice it to say I worked at Informix for 6 years in a variety of roles.
It is incredible how much has changed since then. At Informix we were heavy email users (very modern of us using a program called “Elm”) but in 1988 we didn’t have laptops. Nor internet access at home. No cell phone. Bottom line, if I had work to do, I pretty much needed to do it at my office. If I had to leave the office for a doctor’s appointment for one of my boys, I was out of touch for that hour or two. If I didn’t finish my work by dinnertime, too bad, I needed to be in the office during the evening and miss that time with the boys. I was lucky to live only a few miles from Informix’s headquarters so I could do a bit of back and forth if I needed to work late, but for the most part I was tethered to the office in those early years to get most of my work done.
By my last two years at Informix, I had a cell phone and a MacSE that I would bring home and I could connect to the network over slow dialup. I got my first laptop while at Gupta. By the time I got to Netscape in 1997 laptops and internet connectivity from home and while travelling were the norm. The ability to leave work in time to have dinner with my children, give them their baths or help with homework (depending on age) and then finish my work after they went to bed (I’m a night owl anyhow) was transformative. It was rare that the work couldn’t wait a few hours until my kids got to bed, but they couldn’t stay up late waiting for me to get home from work. The parenting window of opportunity is already narrow for a working parent – being able to time and location shift allows us to maximize that narrow window.
I got my first Blackberry in 2003 and iPhone in 2008. Now I am almost never without some sort of mobile device be it an app phone or tablet. Using the power of the Cloud combined with these devices, there is almost no project that I can’t make progress on anywhere, including at a high-school lacrosse game! Of course there is no substitute for being with coworkers face-to-face (and at SugarSync working as part of the team in the office is an important part of our culture) but for those special moments for our children, it is easier to be there because of the Cloud. Of course there is the insidious side – am I really there at the event if I’m checking the device? All I can say is for me it is a net positive, I know that I can be at events I otherwise would have to miss due to today’s technology. It is up to me to be mindful of managing the distraction and being as present as possible for my kids.
Those of us in the daily juggle of balancing work and family are lucky to have these technologies to help us. This is one of the main reasons I was so excited to build SugarSync – it is a technology I use constantly to help with my everyday life.