Virtual Assistants – Location No Barrier!

Commentary, Workplace, Frontier Centre

When Greg Cole, Research Director and US Principal Investigator of the Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee, decided he needed an extra assistant, he resolved to look for a Virtual Assistant. But this VA needed to be different from the two assistants he already had – specifically, they needed to be located in Australia to take advantage of the time difference.

“As I spend a lot of my time out of hours responding to emails and writing proposals and reports,” said Greg, “I needed a VA who would have the work completed after the end of my business day, ready for me next day to proofread and send out. It’s truly a 24 hour operation.”

Enter Lyn Prowse-Bishop, Manager of Executive Stress Office Support, who saw Greg’s call for help via an email discussion group.

“Working with a US-based client adds a whole new dimension to the VA work I do”, said Lyn. “And it shows how truly global this industry can be.”

Using digital technology, Greg dictates his documents and sends the audio file to Lyn via email or posts the file to an FTP server for download. Once received, Lyn transcribes the file, using Quikscribe digital transcription software, and emails the resulting document back to Greg. “In addition, I have an email account set up for Greg, so that from time to time I can respond directly to the emails he forwards me, with the Sender’s address showing his details. This helps save him some more time and gives him a professional image.”

In addition to document production and email response, Lyn also provides proofreading and copyediting services for any reports that Greg has already written, as well as some desktop publishing assistance, internet research and online database maintenance.

You would think having an assistant so far away would prove difficult when a quick response to a query was required. Not so. Greg utilises email-to-mobile technology enabling Lyn to contact him whenever necessary.

“In fact, we used this quite recently when an audio file came down the line scrambled and I was unable to decode it,” said Lyn. Knowing Greg had left the office, Lyn emailed his mobile that the file needed to be resent. “It was in my in-box within 2 minutes of my having sent the distress email!”

“We also utilise Voice over IP (VoIP) internet telephony technologies – specifically Skype – which enables us to talk in real time and as if we’re in adjoining offices,” adds Greg.

Greg also travels quite extensively to Russia, China, Korea and within the USA. “Of course, this makes no difference to our partnership,” said Lyn. “Our locations are not important. I can complete the work no matter where Greg is in the world – nor where I am for that matter!“

“The arrangement is working out better than I expected,” adds Greg. “It’s just amazing! Almost too good to be true! It has improved our productivity 100%. Lyn’s transcription of my work is just wonderful, and she clearly has no difficulty with my Tennessee accent. I am one grateful, happy customer!”