As I am writing this post, I am on my way to Tech Field Day 12 in San Jose. I am very excited about it, but deciding to come was actually a very stressful decision? As a bit of background, all of my costs are covered, I don’t need to do any prep work, and I don’t need to do anything after the fact. Of course, I have already done a lot of prep work (see my previous ‘Primer’ posts), and I do plan on doing ‘follow-up’ work after the fact.
So, why the stress? Well, to get right to it, it’s because of family. I have a wonderful wife, and two younger kids who are *mostly* wonderful. Truth be told, we couldn’t have asked for better kids – on several occasions we’ve been complemented by strangers regarding their behaviour (every parents dream). The stress came from letting them know that I would be going away again for a few days.
I have a fairly traditional 8 AM – 5 PM job, Monday to Friday, with occasional work outside of office hours. These past 12 – 14 months has involved a lot of travel. My first VMWorld last year had me away for about a week, shortly after that I was honoured and privileged to take part in the Veeam Vanguard event in London, England, followed by another VMWorld, and now Tech Field Day. Combined, that’s likely somewhere around a month of being away (although my wife did come to London with me).
VMWorld is horrible timing as my wife is a teacher, and she uses that week for start prepping her classroom for the upcoming year. Mornings are tough as well as she is out of the house by 6:15 AM. Going from a 8 – 5 job, to all these ‘extracurricular’ activities has been an adjustment.
Ironically, I had considered putting my name in as a delegate for Tech Field Day as it is an event that I have followed for years, and I already know quite a few of the existing delegates, folks I would consider peers and friends. I opted not too though as I felt like it would be too much travel. Well, surprise! I was asked to come along. The day I received invite, my wife was driving down to Charlotte, NC, for a conference (she sells Jamberry nails – an interesting market). The last thing I wanted was to tell her, after driving 14 hours, that I was asked to fly to San Jose.
While in London, my wife met Rick Vanover, which is great because she’s heard me talk about Rick (all good things). I asked her to watch this video, where Rick was interviewing Stephen Foskett. After that, she called, and asked what the deal was – I told her that I was invited, and she was instantly excited for me, and without hesitation told me to go (thanks again, Buddy!).
Travel is never easy, my wife and kids miss me, and I miss them. We try to stay in touch, usually with a FeaceTime chat at bedtime (not always possible), of I’ll send pictures of interesting things that I see. But, that doesn’t change the fact that we are away from home.
Using the time away
If I do find myself away, I try to make sure that my time is always productive. This may come in many forms, such as meeting new folks, writing, or maybe even the (very) occasional exercise. I try to avoid sitting around in my hotel room, unless I am sleeping. If I am in the room, then I use the uninterrupted to time to do things like finish up partially written blog posts, maybe some email, etc.
If I find myself at an event (say VMWolrd) with nothing planned, then I don’t just wait for something to happen. I’ll see what sessions are going on, and maybe choose something way outside my skill set so I can get a peak at it. Or I might head over and chat to some vendors – you can learn a heck of a lot from talking to Systems Engineers.
Lastly, I may socialize. I may go talk to someone new – conversations can start with a simple question such as ‘how are you finding the event so far?’. You never know who you’re talking too, or who they may introduce you to.
Ultimately, it’s a tradeoff, and not one to take lightly. I have had some other opportunities for travel in the past, which I have turned down as I don’t think it is worth the time. But how does one tell if it is worth it? I usually ask myself if a) there is a new, valuable, skill that I can pick up by attending that I may not be able to if I don’t and b) who else is going. I have always written ‘networking’ (the people kind) off as an excuse for executives to mingle, but I have definitely found the value over the past year.
It’s exciting to go to events where not only will you know others going, but on rare occasions folks may know you before you know them. Definitely a cool feeling! So, to summarize, if you find yourself spending a lot of time away from family, ask yourself, is it worth it? You can’t replace that missed time.
I think Chad Sakkac summed it perfectly when he appeared on the Geek Whisperers, when he said (paraphrased) ‘a work / life balance doesn’t always mean 50/50. Sometimes it might be 70/30 or 40/60, but make sure things balance out overall’.