Luck and Strategy
I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve also been incredibly strategic about making my passion for travel work for me and my IT profession travel for me. There are thousands (possibly millions) of webpages or articles about quitting your job and becoming a travel blogger. While that may be my “retirement” plan I still need a “day job”.
Keep at it
I volunteer for work-related travel. A LOT! Sometimes it doesn’t work out (a trip to Uzbekistan in 1995 to translate English-Russian telecommunications requirements or a trip to the UK to install a computer system in 2011 or a trip to Morocco in 2018 to help plan a bilateral military exercise). Sometimes it works out (a whirlwind 32 hour Israel-DC-Israel medical escort trip in 2000, attending a one hour DC software licensing class and using that information to save $980K for a customer, a weeklong trip to Bagram to fix a laptop in 2003, an overnight trip to Dubai to make a phone call in 2004, an OpenStack conference in Tokyo in 2015, a proprietary phone and infrastructure system training class in Las Vegas in 2018, and more.) And I almost always manage to add a couple of personal days to each work trip.
In 2005, when I changed employers on my second day I went to an Technical Review Board meeting and generally sat quietly, trying to understand all the enterprise changes being discussed. And then on my 9th day, IU was thrown in the deep and appointed the Engineering Voting Member responsible for approving or denying changes to an enterprise supporting 80,000 employees, 500+ servers, and 2 data centers.
Be open to change and more change
With the next employer change in 2009, my first day involved traveling to a 2 week offsite. In under 2 hours, I’d assessed some critical oversights and was strongly told that I couldn’t call myself the “new girl” any more! (Full disclosure I continued to preface my comments with “I’m new” for the rest of that first day.)
I never would have survived in IT if I’d done the same job every day for 25+ years. Understanding how it all works together to support a business or mission allows me hit the ground running in each new assignment. Being open to opportunities in different countries allows me to jump right in. I volunteered to travel to assess a new software development project, even though it meant learning several different aspects of IT, and because I’d just relocated to a different country and my furniture hadn’t arrived and I was sleeping on the floor of my new apartment until it did. It’s not all the same! A networking technician is probably not a software developer. A data architect is probably not a server operator. A physcial security professional is not a IT security professional. Solving new and different problems in new and different places energizes me.
Find your happy place, or keep looking
It’s not a life for everyone. I lived in one hotel for 7.5 months one time (and didn’t get any frequent stay points!) Some people are happy to stay in one place and like the security of a single employer. But for me, the trade-offs are all worth it. I get to keep learning new technologies, new cultures, and more. My choices have led me around the world and allowed me to share my travels, trials, tribulations, troubles, and triumphs.
My favorite engineering proverbs/quotes:
- Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?” -Carroll Shelby
- “Good, cheap, fast. Choose two.” -Dick Wexelblat
- “Not all who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkein
- “If you didn’t write it down. It didn’t happen.” -Larry Zana
- “Size ALWAYS matters.” -CJ Johnson
- “Build a tool to automate your job, then find a more interesting job.” -CJ Johnson