“How’s work going?” That’s usually the first question I get from my parents when I call home. My response, “It’s going.”
As a self-employed, “anything-you-want-I-got-it” entrepreneur, my work comes in waves.
Some weeks I’m knowledge sharing with young entrepreneurs, other weeks I’m aiding international organizations with their communication needs. Some days I’m building with up and coming museums and still other days I’m on the phone answering questions about a bevy of topics that range from living in Senegal, how to open a clothing manufacturing factory, great gallery spaces in Eastern Europe and the Caribbean, and how to engage people in an online community space.
However, I know, just five short years ago, I would never have been able to do all that I do now, while living at the ocean’s edge in Dakar, Senegal. Why? Because I am a digital consultant and as long as I have an Internet connection I can get things done!
I moved here in 2010. At the time, 3G had not yet arrived in Senegal. But I had arrived with my brand-spanking new iPhone – ready to connect and engage on the go, just as I had done in New York. I thought I would post status updates, tweets and photos, as they happened, to let family and friends in on this wonderful new adventure of living in a new country on a new continent. But that was not the case.
Not only did I have to purchase a “regular” mobile phone –and relearn how to use it– I had to reserve my smartphone for use when I was connected wirelessly to the Internet. The concept of finding free wi-fi then was not one that had fully caught on yet and my “Instagrams” were more like take a photo now and post later when I connected.
But things were in the works.
Every time I inquired about 3G, I was told it was on the way and I was starting to see iPhone advertisements pop-up around the city. I also learned there was a market I could visit to have my regular SIM card modified to fit the micro SIM format that was used in my iPhone.
I visited the market, had my SIM card cut and with a little, funny-looking contraption installed in the SIM card tray, I could once again use my iPhone to make phone calls. I thought I was back in business then, especially since I couldn’t quite get familiar with using a traditional mobile phone again.
That was my 2010-2011. My inaugural year of living in Senegal. Fast forward to 2014 and you will find things have changed extensively.
Smartphones and even “regular” mobile phones are used to reach out to friends on Facebook. On Foursquare, I’ve been ousted as mayor at several locations by other frequent visitors to the local bakery, cafe and beach. People are outsmarting the local mobile phone company and saving phone credit by using the popular VoIP messaging service Viber and having meetings via Skype. You can even now find “gratis” or free wi-fi on local buses and at many cafes and restaurants.
Four years doesn’t seem like such a long time, but in tech years it really is an eternity. Lucky for me, the changes that have taken place in those four short years, have made working virtually, as a multi-passionate entrepreneur, just a little bit easier.