I have been asked to write a diary about our last trip, but before I dive into the single chapters of this truly episodic and exciting story, I would like to give the reader a general overview.
I am fortunate to be part of a development team that serves US clients from Germany and occasionally travels across the pond.
Often specific information-technical knowledge is needed in the workshops on site. One of the reasons for this is that IT has become the focus of most companies as a competitive advantage in the course of general digitization. The business partners simply expect to make contact with the IT of the service provider from the very beginning.
When looking after customers from other continents, spatial, linguistic and cultural distances have to be bridged while technical obstacles have to be overcome. This is much easier if you are on site to communicate on all levels. Topics that have been discussed for weeks by e-mail, telephone or web meetings often become clear after only ten minutes of conversation vis-à-vis. Communication is the be-all and end-all, with which the entire project and time planning stands and falls.
Our team is often confronted with the statement that we actually only go on vacation when travelling, which in the end is true when one understands adventure holidays as such.
It’s like a class trip – an excellent team-building measure, because nothing welds people together like a shared adventure.
Work hard and celebrate even harder is the motto!
You leave the comfort zone of your own office, go out into the wild and do a lot – often unusual, exotic and unexpected things and not always just good ones. In a very short time an unbelievable number of impressions, situations and challenges pelt down on you and you have to act and react accordingly. The adrenaline level is always high. It’s like leaving the city by car and driving out onto the motorway: an incredible rush of velocity: you are on the front line, representing the company, being viewed critically by the customer and full of expectations and demands from Germany.
But also, the strains are part of it and become the common history of the team, which one remembers again and again with pleasure.
Such a trip is like a raw egg – so much can go wrong, personally and with the mission, and very often you are on your own. Examples of possible difficulties on the way are sudden stomach upsets, limb cramps and illnesses, flight delays or even cancellations, lost or forgotten documents, luggage or technical equipment, jet lag, lack of sleep and notorious fatigue.
That is why careful planning is essential. It starts with the fact that you don’t have time for day-to-day business on the road and it is very important that the part of the team that stays in Germany backs you up.
In any case, you should consider the time differences that limits the communication with your home country during working hours to only a small period of time. It is the same with the contact to the family, e.g. at 6 p.m. is the end of the working day. At this time, it is already midnight in Germany.
It requires a certain amount of discipline to make the most of the available time. This can be seen in the following average daily routine:
6:00 a.m.: Get up. Half a day has already passed in the home country. Checking e-mails, first arrangements with colleagues in Germany and possibly still with the family.
7:30 am: Breakfast and planning of the day with the colleagues on site.
8:30 a.m.: Customer visit, which often lasts until 6 p.m..
6:00 p.m.: Short refreshment, maybe sports in the hotel, then dinner with (another?) customer. Here, too, you must always keep in mind that you represent the company.
10:00 p.m.: Possibly debriefing for the next day and recording the new tasks for the team in Germany.
12:00 p.m.: One last short phone call home, because there is already 6 o’clock in the morning. And then: off to bed.
This “routine” is interrupted by domestic trips between business partners (flights or car trips), spontaneous meetings with potential customers or the press. From time to time we have to be present at various events, meetups and congresses and do PR work. Due to the postponed mealtimes and the quantities of American food, the diet plan gets quite disordered, so that at the end of your stay you feel like Hulk: the clothes are getting very thight.
Of course, we try to fill the spare time that we have with sightseeing, which is sometimes not that easy, as first of all, one is often not directly located in a big city, so that the sightseeings are hours away with the public transport, or one simply falls dead to bed in fatigue and cannot move until the morning. Exceptions are trips that go over the weekend: then you can actually see some places and do something with the colleagues. But in the almost three years that I have been in the team, such opportunities have only occurred twice, that’s why they are a big highlight every time.
During the trip so much is coming to you that after you have returned home, it takes a whole week to organize the mass of notes, records and minutes, to incorporate them into offers, documentations and user stories and to bring colleagues and superiors up to date.
Yes, you can compare the trips actually with vacation, an adventurous, ludicrous, crazy and nevertheless personally and for the company profitable vacation. A kind of language, culture and educational trip with Road Trip romance.
A journey is always a gift to open doors, meet customers at eye level, understand them and their needs and make new contacts.
For me, it’s part of the work-life balance.
I look forward to it every time.
Well, I’m going to pack my bags now…