Nine years ago, Francie Tanner was working at a technology consulting company in Dallas when she received an email that began, "Dear Sir or Madam, I manage a bank in the country of Anguilla..."
She hit "delete."
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"I knew there was no such country as Anguilla," she says.
Eventually, the mix-up was straightened out, and Tanner was on a plane to Anguilla which turns out to be a British territory in the Caribbean to spend 10 days in a "concrete bunker" helping the bank set up a small hosting center.
"There was no beach time, nothing," she says. Well, there was one thing. When she arrived at the island, she had an overwhelming sensation of belonging, she says.
"Which made no sense," she adds. "I had lived in Texas for 14 years by that time, with a house, four kids, and a job in Dallas." And she was originally from Switzerland. There was nothing in her background to indicate an affinity for tropical islands.
"So I did what any sane human being would do," she says. "Which is nothing. And I went back home."
Four months later, she was sent back to Anguilla to help the bank set up a Blackberry server. And the feeling was still there.
Two months later, she sold her house, her car, packed up all her belongings, her kids and their stay-at-home dad, and moved to Anguilla.
Why the rush?
"If you actually think these things through, and look at the details, objectively, you're going to talk yourself out of it," she says. "There's no way you're going to do it."
And there were a lot of details. She hadn't seen the house where she was going to live. Didn't know if there was a school for her kids. Didn't know that there was no water system, half the roads weren't paved, electricity was unreliable, and medical care was dicey. "But if human beings are put in a situation where they don't have a choice, amazing things can happen," she says.
Luckily, when it came to the Internet, Anguilla was a late adopter, so the infrastructure was new and very good. Tanner got 4Mbps download speed when she first moved to Anguilla, and the connectivity has continued to improve since then.
"If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't have been able to do this," she says.
Her boss was supportive and, for the first nine months, she continued to telecommute to her old job. Then there was a change of management, and she became an independent consultant until she was hired by Panagenda four years ago. Austria-based Panagenda offers enterprise software that provides monitoring, upgrade and management capabilities for IBM Connections, Lotus Notes and Sametime.
Today, Tanner travels about once a month to speak at IBM conferences and the rest of the time works remotely.