The Uncommon Corporate Traveler

How I became the "Uncommon Corporate Traveler"

I worked for a large technology company and was originally hired to manage office and computer lab moves within a local facility.   From there I became a strategic business planner, forecasting capacity planning for office space needed to support business. I did this for 6 years both locally and regionally and was then hired by one of the businesses I had supported to be a location strategist. This was a new role within the company and my responsibilities included managing the space the business occupied worldwide, analyzing the utilization of each facility and making recommendations on how to consolidate for operational savings.  During this time I traveled to almost every facility where the business I supported had space, to understand exactly what was happening on a local level. I did not believe in being a spreadsheet analyst.  In a company this size, there were too many hidden agendas and things I would have missed if I did not see what was happening firsthand.

In order to do my job I had to build relationships with people at each facility. When I first started, I met with quite a bit of resistance as everyone was defending their turf and was very concerned I would make a recommendation to close a building or an entire facility. Eventually people began to understand I was actually their ally and looking to keep the business running, but in a more efficient manner.  I needed to understand what was happening at each facility, who was there and why it was essential. As decisions were made to consolidate our teams into centers of expertise, the path became clearer and the first plan and direction were set.   We would need to build up some areas and reduce others. Depending on which facility was shrinking or growing, dictated the level of anxiety or relief at each particular site.  The plan would change several times due to business decisions, acquisitions and what was or was not viable to execute in each region.  As my work became more focused, I would travel, within the continental US and internationally to help to develop more concrete plans in strategic locations.

  One of my major projects was to lead the consolidation of co-located campuses in a US regional area.  It all started with a strategic forecast with a one year timeline, focusing on reducing excess real-estate.  By year six, I was managing a multimillion dollar budget and had a team of helpers, none of whom reported to me and not one of whom really wanted to be part of the project.  Most of them had grown up at the campus that was closing and it was like asking everyone to leave their home.   I just kept encouraging everyone to move forward, because there really was no other choice. The deadline was real. The property had been sold and we had to be out or face steep financial penalties.   I knew I had the right team and I knew I could make this happen despite all the emotional attachment, obstacles and the tight timeline.  During the last two years of the project, I personally had five changes in management.  In addition there were several reorganizations, changes in business conditions and strategy, all of which contributed, at one time or another, to putting the project schedule in jeopardy.  There were so many changes within the company; the magnitude for absorbing change and closing the campus were often at odds with each other. There was so many pressing business issues that I was simply expected to be accountable and to get it done.   I did both.   I was mostly left to my own devices to complete the closure and I was rarely even asked about the progress of the project or if it was on target.  With the help of my trusty team, we relocated over a thousand people locally and we moved thousands of servers to five different locations worldwide without interrupting the product roadmap.   We finished the project two weeks ahead of schedule and under budget.

 

When I first started to travel, I mostly visited large sites in the continental US. I also visited strategic smaller sites to gain full understanding and context of why we were there. I sometimes travelled alone or with a partner from the IT department who had a similar role but with a different focus.   We had both been recently hired to our individual teams and this was a new position in the company and we were both in uncharted territory.  There were not many or us in this type of position and it was really nice to bounce ideas off each other.   We had to go many of the same sites and we ended up sharing our notes and documentation, driving and our meals. We quickly discovered we could accomplish more in a shorter time by working together. We often had to go places where the other one did not have any business, in those cases we would each go our own way.  When we had business at the same site we would sync our schedules and share the workload.   Later this would totally fall apart because our jobs would evolve and would take us in very different directions and at different times. When we traveled together we made the most of our experiences. My travel companion had an adventurous spirit. We would go places after work and take sideline trips that I never would have gone alone.  This experience gave me the confidence that I could travel for work and do some fun things along the way in my off time. Frequent travel can be draining, especially if you are going across major time zones.  I often ended up working all day in the time zone I was visiting, and then working at night catching up with people in my time zone at home. Little side trips and taking advantage of hotel services really helped to change my focus and renew my spirit.   

I started to keep a journal of my travels, as I was going places I knew my family and friends would never go.  I would often travel alone and sometimes with other collegues to places in the US, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. Along the way I learned to get myself around all over the world and I absorbed the flavor of the local area.  I made every effort to take advantage to meet local people, eat local food and to see everything I could.  It changed my life. 

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Jacque Salerno | Reply 05.11.2012 13.00

Can't wait to ride along on all your travel adventures around the world!

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