The Collaboration Services blog series continues with our first entry in the "Collaboration Services Interviews"
series which focuses on getting to know a Collaboration Services team member a little
Richard Gorzela has been with IBM for 11 years and currently works in ISSC as a WebSphere® Portal/Web Content Manager (WCM) Solution Architect. Basically, he works with customers to help determine what services are appropriate, gather their requirements, and determine technical approaches for their engagements. His prior role was working as an architect/specialist where he traveled to customer sites to deliver the engagements he now plans. He also held positions in the product development lab.
His focus as a solution architect is concentrated on Portal and WCM where he is involved in all types of engagements, large and small. The larger projects tend to involve WebSphere® Portal combined with other software products such as IBM Forms, IBM Connections, and IBM Lotus Quickr®. His goal is to make sure the right type of engagement is in place, and that he is addressing both the business and technical needs, and to make sure the right resources and plan are in place.
Richard's work experience has made him a very experienced traveler. So in this blog, we asked him for some traveling tips and best practices he has learned along the way.
How frequently do you travel?
In my prior role, when I was working on delivering and implementing solutions on-site, I would do either the architecture work or the development work. I would usually travel Monday through Thursdays and sometimes on a Friday. My engagements were anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks in length typically. I traveled mostly in the United States and Canada, but I also did have some engagements in Europe.
Now in my current role, I'm helping define engagements so my trips are relatively short, maybe a day or two of workshops to determine what the customer wants to accomplish, what kind of resources they need, and what their goals are. So my trips now tend to be shorter.
Do you have any traveling tips you've learned over the years that you can share with us?
A few things come to mind...
Before I leave, I put any addresses in my GPS app so I just have to select them when I need them. That makes things easier when I'm on the road.
It's amazing how many snow storms I missed while on the road. If you live in a cold climate and have a family, find a guy with a snowplow, and pay him to help keep the driveway clear. Your spouse will appreciate it.
As you would expect, traveling frequently can take up a big part of your work week, so it's tempting to try to cut things close. However I find that can contribute to stress, so I recommend to make realistic plans since a lot of unknowns can happen on the road.
What about plane time? How do you occupy yourself when you are stuck on a plane for hours?
Well, some people like the down time because they can't use mobile phones. Some people use the time to work, while others use the time for leisurely reading. I tend to do any work while I'm waiting at the terminal for a flight rather than on the flight. If I need to review something on the plane, I often print out the document since it is easier for me to review it that way. And to tell the truth, I find myself more and more able to just use the time on the plane to relax...ok, even sleep.
Any work/life balance tips when traveling you can share?
It can be really difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you have regular, frequent, business travel for a few years like I had in my previous role. Some people like to travel because they are able to eat out frequently but I found myself feeling the opposite... I didn't always look forward to eating out all the time because it isn't always easy to make healthy food choices.
Exercise at hotels can be difficult too, especially if the equipment is unavailable or isn't working. So I had to find other means to exercise. I used to run. I also would sometimes walk up and down the stairs in the stairwell in the hotel just to get moving after sitting for a long time in a plane.
The job also required that I find other ways to stay involved in the community and my family. My children are teenagers now, but they were fairly young when I started traveling years ago. I wasn't able to do things like coach a sports team my children were playing on, so I would make an effort to find activities for us to do as a family on the weekends. As another example of adjusting, one of my children is in the Boy Scouts, and although I could not make the commitment to be a Scout leader, I was able to become a merit badge counselor which was more flexible with my schedule. The trick was to stick with it and keep looking for the right opportunities.
What advise would you give someone who is considering taking on a position that involve heavy traveling (where their prior role was in an office)?
Some people look at business travel as if it isn't a good thing. I would tell the person they have to like variety and like seeing different places and people. If the person is willing to understand the challenges of traveling and understand ways of mitigating those challenges, it can be a very good thing. For myself it was a really good experience because I feel I received more work experience traveling in a few years than I would have received if I remained in an office type job. I had the advantage of spending quality time with customers face to face. I was able to see exactly what the customer's needs were while also seeing opportunities to be innovative with our software products. That is where the opportunities are.
Read more of our blog series at the links below
Services Radar Blog series: What are the current and future trends
observed by IBM Software Collaboration Services?
Collaboration Services Solution Blog series: Interesting successful projects delivered by IBM Software Collaboration Services.