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Smart gadgets play invaluable role in busy lives

Keeping up with business developments and family matters wherever and whenever they occur is standard procedure for successful area businesswomen. Smart gadgets offer them invaluable assistance.
 
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the iPhone and iPad (and their various versions) are the mobile gadgets of choice for these women who have to be in touch with work at all times and available for meetings, conference calls, messages, texts and tweets. And the nearly constant use of those gadgets continues with personal and family matters as well.
 
"I don’t turn it off as much as I should," says Susan Butler, CEO of Butler/Till Media Services Inc., of her iPhone, which has become an integral part of her right arm in recent years. "There is probably sometimes that I should disconnect more than I do. It’s my personality; I can’t let it go."
 
Using the iPhone with an iPad is an essential combination for Butler, one that also allows her to virtually visit her only son, Alex, 26, who started a craft beer business in Kosovo.
 
"If I had to get on a plane, it would take 24 hours to go see him. I still wish he was home, but it’s a great gadget (the iPad). I’m so grateful for that technology," Butler says.
 
At work, it is her job to help clients connect with customers to sell their goods and services, and understanding how platforms work is an essential part of a media buyer’s job.
 
Patricia Larrabee, CEO of Rochester Clinical Research Inc. and a 2014 Athena Award finalist, is a self-proclaimed "gadget lady," who wants the latest technological devices she can get her hands on, like the version 5S iPhone.
 
"I like the technology when it works, when it makes sense, when it helps us to get a task done more efficiently," she says.
 
Keeping her finger on the pulse of a situation makes her feel "more in control, even if it’s artificial," she says.
 
If a medical study problem or opportunity comes up, it is quite likely that it will be after hours or from an international source that will require Larrabee to have remote access to her work server. The Apple iPhone and iPad make work doable from home or almost anyplace else.
 
"Your office is everywhere now, in an airport or shopping at Wegmans," says Debra Martin, assistant attorney general in charge of the Rochester regional office.
 
She knows attorneys who deliberately choose to vacation in remote locations where work or client communications are impossible. Those places are getting harder to find.
 
Martin has a state-issued BlackBerry but admits to being one attorney who really does turn it all off at times-which is just as well, since anything she says or writes about a legal matter may or may not be discoverable in a court case. Her office is currently examining the possibility of using an iPad for electronic storage of documents in paperwork-intensive cases. The legal field has been slower to change its reliance on physical paper than any other profession, Martin says, and a slower pace for careful examination is not such a bad thing for legal decisions.
 
Larrabee has legal rules to follow as well. U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations that govern clinical medical trials require that meetings be held to disseminate the results of those trials, and meetings no longer require extensive travel, since everyone can meet virtually.
 
"You lose some stuff that way," Larrabee notes. In the case of health care, she says, doctors should not fixate so much on putting information into a mobile device that they lose the personal contact that is still so important in a doctor-patient relationship.
 
When she does end up on a long trip, however, Larrabee has plenty to read-using her third update of the Kindle e-reader and choosing from works such as non-fiction by Malcolm Gladwell or mysteries by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo.
 
Wearing a Fitbit on her wrist to track vital signs, measure sleep and record calories burned is another use of technology for Larrabee. Her son, Adam Larrabee, director of business development at Rochester Clinical Research, helps her keep up with all the latest gadgets.
 
Larrabee says she wants the newest iPhone and iPad versions even if the bugs haven’t been worked out yet.
 
"Whenever you can automate for quality, the better off you’ll be," she says.
 
Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, does not check her iPhone or iPad when she is asleep, but that is about the only time she does not. There is plenty for her to keep up with these days, she says, as the foundation determines how to allocate resources to meet the community needs created by problems such as racial and ethnic disparities, concentrated poverty and an academic achievement gap.
 
Leonard got her iPad from her husband, David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and commentator.
 
"You’ll never go back (to a laptop) if you get one," she says.
 
With a daughter in Toronto, she also has to keep in touch with a child outside the country.
 
"The only thing that distresses me is it will hit the wall one of these days," Leonard says of her already-outdated iPhone. "A lot of the changes in life happen so quickly, it’s easy to feel off kilter. It’s so easy to use, so intuitive that I never feel strange about the power it has. It’s very practical and pragmatic."
 
So is her favorite comforting gadget, a Capresso milk frother for lattes.
 
As practical as they may be, there is little doubt that iPhones, iPads, Kindles and similar technological tools quicken the pace of the business world.
 
Butler fondly recalls the bygone days of the fax machine but says the world is better off where it is now and definitely more productive. And as technology advances, businesswomen can look forward to more mobile gadgets that do more and are even easier to use.
 
Todd Etshman is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

1/10/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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