As Andrew Stanford sits eating lunch at his deck, looking out at the sunny garden of his Auckland home, a computer in the lounge bleeps and he goes indoors to see who's entered his virtual classroom.
Stanford is proof that technology means you really can work from anywhere: a New Zealander working the "nightshift" as a trainer for British company International Computer (ICL) while sitting in the New Zealand sun. A Microsoft-certified trainer, Stanford can train students in Visual Basic, SQL Server, Java and Visual J++. Before Christmas, he was working for ICL in the UK doing the same job, but during the day.
"Then they announced that they wanted to start offering a 24-hour service, and I wanted to move back to New Zealand," Stanford said. "When I first suggested doing it from here they weren't sure -- there's still that feeling of wanting you there in the office, under a manager's eye. But it's hard to find trainers with my level of experience, so in the end I persuaded them -- and here I am." His job is part of a three-year training project, by the end of which ICL hopes to have 3,000 Microsoft-certified systems engineers and 1,000 Microsoft solution developers.
"My job is to help them pass by monitoring 24 different classrooms," he said. "It can be a challenge -- you'll be answering a VB question one minute, networking the next: I've had four different conversations going on at a time, all on different topics. But it keeps you on your toes." Stanford is also involved in improving CD-ROM training programs, proofreading the planned scripts and pointing out errors, ambiguities and ways of making them more student-friendly.
"I think this is the way things will go in future, in terms of both work style and training methods," he says. "More and more people will work from home, and a lot of training will be computer-based."
Stanford owns his own equipment, and bills ICL in pounds sterling through a company he has set up in the UK. A satellite dish gives him a high-speed connection and monitors in different rooms allow him to move around his house during the day without missing any students who "visit" his class.