I WORKED in a business office for Verizon for seven years, but in 2006 I became one of its facilities technicians. In addition to installing fiber optic cables in people's homes, I climb telephone poles to check customers' cables and make service calls when there's a problem. For example, if one of our set-top boxes hooked to a television needs to be rebooted, I'll be assigned to do that.
The chance to be outdoors drew me to this job. But beyond that, there's a sense of freedom in not being tied to a desk. Even though I work for a big corporation, my job still offers a lot of leeway. I'm still accountable, but there's no one standing over me telling me what to do.
In a way, I have more freedom than people who decide to start a company because they want to be their own boss. Business owners aren't always as free as they'd like to think. They still have to work to bring in money or they won't be in business for long.
I had a group of co-workers as friends when I worked in a building, but there's also a camaraderie among people who see one another on the road all the time. I wave to my Verizon colleagues, along with city workers, delivery people, postal workers and others I've come to know. Most wave back, including some technicians who work for other communications companies. You make your work friends as you can.
Going into people's homes may seem more casual than working in an office, but those homes are my workplace. Not every customer understands that.
Some people are shocked when they open the door and see a woman working as a technician. I'd compare it to a group of executives walking into a conference room to meet with representatives of another company. If they encounter a woman at the table, they might not always consider that she could be the president or the C.E.O.
When a woman opens the door, she seems to love seeing another woman standing there. But some men don't quite know what to think. I've met a few who think that only men can do this job. They may say, "Where's your partner?" and I tell them it's just me.
It can get dicey when I say that I'll be drilling in their houses. One customer became upset and wanted to talk to my supervisor, and I encouraged him to call. I knew that my boss would tell him that I was a top-notch technician. The man reluctantly let me continue, and, when he saw that I could do the job, he was fine.
I like to think that I can handle pretty much anything, which, again, makes me feel that I'm my own boss.
Whether working in an office or at another location, other women might feel strongly about gender stereotyping, but I don't take it personally. I ignore the comments. I find that a smile can overcome just about anything, so I just go about my work and keep smiling. I also have to be professional.
During one appointment, a woman wanted me to watch her 3-week-old daughter while she left to pick up her other child from school. "I really can't," I told her. I'm not permitted to be responsible for someone's child or to work alone in a house. I probably have even more rules when working in people's homes than I did at an office.
I sympathize with office workers who have had overly neat or messy officemates. I like things extremely tidy, so I appreciate walking into a home and finding it neat and clean. That's one thing I miss about the office, where I would say something to a co-worker if I found a work area distracting or unsanitary. Instead, I now carry a hand sanitizer with me.
I like working in a home where music is playing. Residents will often ask me if I want them to turn it off, but I visit diverse communities and enjoy listening to various types of music that I wouldn't ordinarily hear.
OFTEN, I run into pets in people's homes. I was bitten by a dog as a teenager, so when customers have a dog, I ask them to put it in another room. "Oh, he won't bite," they always say, but I insist. It's safer.
Telecommuters sometimes say they become lonely working by themselves, but I never feel that way. Occasionally, one of my co-workers comes along with me during the day, but I find it easier to work alone. I'm accustomed to doing things a certain way, and, sometimes, another worker can slow me down. I can't see myself ever going back to an office.
As told to Patricia R. Olsen.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.