We are the road warriors. Each week, many of us leave our homes for the next four days, barely conscious of the fact of how much coordination it takes to make it all happen. Some of us have been doing this for so long that getting on an airplane, picking up a car, and checking into a hotel seem quite normal and an everyday occurrence. In reality, this is an amazing feat that is often forgotten in the grand scheme of the needs of the work week.
Whether your project has two or twenty people on it, getting any number of people together in a strange place is quite a task. Unfortunately, we take it for granted just how difficult it really is to show up someplace that is not our homes. Yes, the ambiguity is part of this job, but that does not mean we cannot find ways to make it a little easier for everyone.
Take for instance a little extra role I have taken on for my current project. With client demands high and the system constantly breaking (not our fault, but we always lend a hand), our PM had his hands full. In order to help out the team some, I took on the role of travel coordinator. Every week, I have had team members send me their incoming and outgoing flights (affectionately refereed to as “Arrival Plans” and “Exit Strategies”, respectively) and put them in a simple spreadsheet. Then, sorting by data and time of arrival, I have been able to group people together to lesson the amount of cabs/rental cars we need, as well as trips to the airport. This was especially important when the project was a half hour from the airport.
Not to say that the sheet is the be-all, end-all of the process. Flights are delayed and cancelled, people have to leave early, messages get lost in the mail. With all of these issues potentially (well, most likely) happening on a semi-regular basis, being the travel coordinator means that you have to be available to everyone’s frantic cell phone calls and text messages, as well as letting the rest of the team know what is happening. It is amazing how a quick message like “Greg missed his plane again” really puts the team at ease, just by knowing!
Of course, the other end is that you do need to heckle your customers a little bit. Since coordinating a large group of people is a very behind the scenes task — and we are a very self-reliant bunch — even getting travel plans in the first place can be harrowing. Patience is key in this effort, and you cannot get upset at your coworkers! Every week you have to remind yourself that these slights are not an act of aggression against the coordinator, but just because we are all busy people who forget where we are day-to-day.
Beyond the day-to-day life, though, there is always the new teammates who come on board as a project goes on. Being a travel coordinator can also mean keeping track of the “how-to’s” of getting on-site. Saving a running list of security forms that need to be filled out, key contacts for getting technology and access, codes for rental cars, hotel information, directions, good places to eat, and everything else you could possibly think of ease the process of a new team member. The quicker you can get your teammates ramped up on the seemingly “simple” logistics, the quicker they can catch up to the project and become productive.
It all boils down to a thought that we see everyday. Sure, these are all small and simple things that take ten minutes. But when you add up the simple things it can suddenly be hours upon hours of work. Taking that load off of everyone and concentrating it in one person helps the team overall. Instead of having six people running around trying to figure where the others are or what forms they need, one person can keep it all together and running smoothly.
The Travel Coordinator: often underappreciated, but an immense value for the needy Palladium team.