Software Venture Consulting

FileMaker Pro downloads & Resources
FileMaker Custom Functions
FileMaker Web Viewer Examples
FileMaker Pro & Lasso Consulting
FileMaker Books
FileMaker Articles

Free Web Tools
Free FileMaker Tools

Personal Pages

Shopping Cart
Shopping Cart


Free Newsletter


Privacy Policy

FileMaker is a registered trademark of FileMaker, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries.

February 2003

A Consultant's Guide to Traveling
by Brian Dunning

digg this article | this article

The life of a computer software consultant often involves travel to customers' locations. Such business travel requires a careful balance of family and professional life. It also demands a mastery of thinking on one's feet, often in unfamiliar surroundings, while separated from your own office and coworkers by a great distance. Some thrive under such circumstances, but all too often, many of us find ourselves at a loss.

And so, with nothing in mind other than the public good, I have compiled a brief tutorial for the technology professional whose work takes him on the road. My own experiences have spanned many years, during which I've sometimes been forced to cope with difficult situations with only minimal resources. Hopefully, some among you may find the following instructive guide to be useful, and help prepare you for what you might face abroad.

Lesson 1: Arriving On Time.

Always begin by scheduling a plane flight that will get you to your destination with plenty of time to spare; the night before, if possible. Choose an inexpensive flight, such as one in the middle of the night, that saves money as well.

Get extra work done while the plane sits on the runway for 45 extra minutes due to a lightning storm that, although you don't know it at the time, is shocking the guts out of your main production computer back at the office because you were too cheap of a bastard to buy a decent battery backup system.

Next, miss any possibility of making your connecting flight due to the delay. If you've chosen a good airline, the plane will inexplicably pull off the runway and taxi back to the gate amid a chorus of protest from your already-late-enough fellow passengers. When the attendant comes on the PA and requests that "the passenger bound for Eugene, Oregon please get off the aircraft," stand and collect your things from the overhead compartment, and return the angry, accusing stares with an apologetic smile. Apologize again for bombarding the head of a passenger with several bags from the overhead compartment.

When the airline's customer service staff explains that they removed you from the aircraft because there were no overnight accommodations available at your stopover airport, thank them pleasantly. Always remember that you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Accept the coupon for a free cab ride to catch the first flight in the morning.

When the taxi arrives at your house at 4:00 AM later that same night, try to catch some shut eye so you'll be looking and feeling your best to meet with the client in six hours. Be prepared to wake up quickly when the cab driver almost immediately drives off the road at high speed, wiping out half the bodywork and getting the car stuck in a ditch. Keep one eye on the clock as you assist the driver in rocking the vehicle free by bouncing on the bumper in a cloud of tire smoke. Take caution when you discover that he's flooring it in forward while you're pushing on the front bumper, and again when you discover that he's flooring it in reverse while you're pushing on the rear bumper.

Once you're back on the freeway, try not to listen to his stories of killing babies while serving as a British commando, until the large steel plate in his head ended his career.

Upon arrival at the client's office, act as if nothing interesting has happened, and that your work there with them today is the only thing on your mind.

Lesson 2: Arriving Prepared

Once on board your aircraft, get a seat beside one of those passengers who is mandated by the FAA to purchase two seats. Wish that she had purchased all three.

Feign mild interest as she shouts, in a voice to raise the dead in cemeteries 30,000 feet below, about her fancy water bottle that has a built-in filter, how she is a distributor, and can offer you one at a discount if you give her a call (wink wink).

When she gets to the part of the sales presentation where she inverts the bottle to demonstrate its resistance to leaking, quickly lean forward to protect your laptop, which is open because you're trying to watch a DVD that she is interrupting. Be just a fraction of a second too late, and watch several ounces of water quickly filter down through the keyboard. Watch in stunned silence as the movie pauses, then fades away, then shuts down permanently.

Upon arrival at the client's office, quickly fabricate a reason that it's important and beneficial that you arrived for this costly onsite visit without bringing the finished software to install. Try something lame-ass like "wanting to gauge expectations to insure satisfaction."

And when you discover that the service guys stole your DVD that had been imprisoned within the laptop, smile. You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Don't call the water bottle distributor for your promised discount.

Lesson 3: Dressing for Success

Be a gentleman in the hotel elevator and squat to assist an elderly woman who has dropped some things. Apologize to her for swearing when the rear seam of your slacks tears completely open.

Assess your options upon unpacking in the hotel room. Your options will be limited to a shirt and tie, dress shoes with black socks, and boxer shorts that might possibly, as a stretch, be interpreted as Bermudas. Walk up and down the Ft. Lauderdale esplanade at ten o'clock at night on a Sunday, wearing the boxers, hoping to find an open clothing store. Hope that the sweat on your forehead will be attributed to the warm weather.

The next morning, when you're already late for your appointment and all options are exhausted, call the front desk to ask for any desperate suggestions. Tip heavily when the bellman brings up some utility Dickies coveralls salvaged from the maintenance locker.

Go to the mirror and try all possible combinations of wearing the long tailed dress shirt out over the coveralls, inside the coveralls, not at all, or as a kind of decorative sash. Get in your full year's allotment of cursing during the cab ride to the client's office. Hope that either this is somehow in style in this part of the country, that the client will turn out to be a sewage treatment plant, or that they will simply expect this of a Californian.

Lesson 4: Projecting Positive Vibes by Looking and Acting Your Best

The intrepid traveling consultant is on the road in all seasons, all weathers, through thick, and through thin. Sooner or later, you will be onsite for an important installation with a fever in excess of 105, smashed on Benadryl, dizzy from cough syrup, and stiff all over from last night's volley of double vodkas intended to kill any and all viruses, bacteria, germs, amoebas, and the horses they rode in on.

Smile pleasantly when you perceive the receptionist and your client waking you as you sit in their lobby. Come up with some line like you were working on their project all night on the plane.

Smile pleasantly again when the lobby fades out, your client's office fades in, and you realize that your client has been talking for ten minutes, then studying your unresponsive face for five. Come up with some line like you've been "processing all the interesting things he's said."

Start to perform some simple tasks on their computer system, and then leaving things half done and in a state of disrepair, curl up on the floor someplace warm and float gently off to sleep to the soothing sound of your client on the phone to your home office, speaking loud and critically about…something.

Lesson 5: Producing Effective Results

When performing an onsite software upgrade for an international financial institution, arrive on time at the client's office, dressed sharply, laptop in hand, and a spring in your step. Insert a CD containing their latest software update, and begin the process of logging in to the files on their server and importing their current data into your new files.

Be sure to delete the old data from your new files in preparation for importing each data set. Neglect to notice that the cascading delete function is wiping out most of the client's original data as you delete each old set. Discover this only after having completed the process and running the backup function manually, to replace the data files in their backup directory with fresh files using the new data structure.

Do not sit in stunned shock for more than a few moments. Try not to turn too white.

Instead, manage this situation by quickly packing, announcing success, shaking hands, and marching sharply out the door, as the clients wave and remark about your professionalism and efficiency.

Drive away quickly. Call a headhunter. Change your name to Ben Schmezer.

Lesson 6: Communicating Effectively

Some clients are personable, and some are not. But no matter how rude or condescending a difficult client can be, always remember that they're the ones writing the check.

It can be frustrating to keep complaints about difficult clients pent up inside oneself. So, to relieve this tension, forward one of the client's insulting emails to your coworkers, along with rude commentary, where you believe the client should stick that attitude, and exactly what the client can do with all that honey you've been using instead of vinegar.

Make an innocent and common error with Outlook's forward, send, and reply buttons. Realize too late that you've just replied that email back to the client. Tear the Ethernet cable out of your computer, dash across the office, stumbling over boxes and desks, ripping the power cords out of hubs and switches as you chase the email across your network. Remember the 802.11 network and swipe wildly at the electromagnetic waves shimmering around you.

Call a headhunter. Try the volley of double vodkas again.

Browse Mode
Jan 10 Solving Performance Emergencies with FileMaker Server
Aug 06 Top Ten Sessions Cut from the 2006 FileMaker Developer Conference
Jul 06 Who's Driving This Thing, Anyway? Or, How Marketing and Engineering Buried the Hatchet (Warning: Contains a Curse Word)
Nov 05 Shingle Grandiloquence
Oct 05 In Celebration of Geek Magnetism
Aug 05 A Rogues' Gallery of Devcon Attendees
Mar 05 Lies, Damned Lies, and Project Specifications
Feb 05 Pick the Right Tool for the Job
Oct 04 Home Media Server Requirements
Jul 04 Leveraging Your FileMaker Lingo
Apr 04 Technical Support Redux
Mar 04 Enforce Seats in FileMaker 7/8/9 Commercial Solutions
Feb 04 Reinventing the Wheel
Oct 03 WAP: The Technology That Wasn't
Aug 03 Brian Dunning's California Governor Election Platform
Jul 03 Sex and the Single Software Developer
May 03 XSLT: Creeping Out of the Closet?
Feb 03 A Consultant's Guide to Traveling
Nov 02 Adventures of Bat Magnum, FileMaker Consultant
Sep 02 FileMaker at Area 51
Aug 02 FileMaker Terminology
Feb 02 Computer Shunts
Dec 01 Aquabase Alpha & the Consultant's Challenge
Aug 01 It IS the Size That Counts
Jun 01 On the Trail of Sasquatch
May 01 Spring Cleaning
Feb 01 FileMaker Mobile Survivor Challenge
Jan 01 Letter from Nürburg
Dec 00 Performance Anxiety
Nov 00 Objection, Your Honor
Oct 00 Leveraging Convergence: Jargon for the 21st Century
Sep 00 Top Ten Things to Do at Devcon
Aug 00 Aesop's FileMaker Fables
Jul 00 Ten Commandments of FileMaker Pro
Jun 00 Explats Cross Examined
May 00 iMac, Therefore iServe
Mar 00 Valley of the Dollars
Jan 00 Are You Up for a Review?
Nov 99 Tales from the Script
Sep 99 Tech Support Revisited
Jul 99 Moderns vs. Classicals
Mar 99 Nashoba, We Hardly Knew Ye