If you’re anything like me, you’re an IS professional who finds yourself travelling a little more this year than you did last year, and a little more last year than the year before that.
Although we’re no full-time road warriors, we’re finding that despite the increasing use of technologies like e-mail and teleconferencing, we seem to have more good reasons — training, visiting customers, visiting suppliers, for instance — to be on the road every year.
Some IT people travel well, get a lot done, and come back from a well organized and purposeful trip fired up for what they’ve got ahead of them. Some IT people travel poorly, spend a ton of unnecessary money, and come back to their office exhausted and with a bigger pile of work on their desk than when they left. You can avoid being a travel-for-work victim. Here are a few things I’ve learned about travelling well and keeping in touch with the office.
You know if you don’t pick up your e-mail, it’ll be stacked up and waiting for you when get back. Make sure you set up an autoreply message that tells correspondents that you’re out of the office, and that you’ll only be picking up and responding to their mail once a day, at the end of the day.
And when you do go to pick up your e-mail at the end of the day, you may be shocked to find out how much it costs to dial in to your home mail server from your hotel room. Remember that any direct-dial long distance calls out of a hotel room are pricey — connections for long e-mail sessions can get ridiculous. So save money on your hotel room phone bill, and buy yourself a nice meal instead. Before you leave on your trip, set up an e-mail/network dial in script (easy to do with almost any remote dial-up package) that allows you to dial in to your own network making use of your calling card number. A script grabs an outside line, charges the call to your calling card, and then dials into your network. If you set a script up before you go, you’ll find that your calling card bills are much smaller than the additional room charges would have been.
Something else to keep in mind — you usually have to dial an ‘8’ to get an outside line from a hotel room, and you’ll want to ensure that you set your dial-up script to pause between elements — usually a couple of seconds after each set of numbers. For example, pausing long enough to get a dial tone.
Even better than dragging a portable around with you, consider getting yourself a Hotmail account and picking up your e-mail messages (including attachments) from any machine that’s got access to the Internet. Hotmail accounts are free (see www.hotmail.com) and you can get at them from anywhere.
Autoforward your corporate e-mail messages to your Hotmail account when you’re on the road, and you’re ready to go; the sender won’t notice the
difference, except if they get a reply from an e-mail account they don’t recognize. This is why I advocate setting up a Hotmail account that closely mimics your corporate e-mail address, the only difference being the @hotmail.com suffix.
I use an @hotmail.com address when I don’t have any other reason to have a PC with me, and I don’t feel like carrying a portable around. Despite what
the manufacturers say, they’re still heavy when you have to haul them around
with power packs and batteries and other junk.
While we’re on the subject of travelling and portables, I suggest you
take only the portable on the plane when you’re travelling — no extra
battery, no power cord, no external mouse (no room to use one on an airline tray
table anyway). Pack all the other stuff in your luggage and don’t worry about it until you get there.
If you can get three solid (battery) hours of work done on a plane on your PC before the power starts to fail, you’re getting a lot more work done than most of the people who sit beside me and read People magazine or watch the in-flight movie.
Hanley is an IS professional living in Calgary. He can be reached at email@example.com.