Suitcase. Railway station. Onsite: ten tips for a business trip
A business trip to the customer is usually a pleasant task. The main thing, going to an interesting and new city for yourself, is to remember what you are going there for and not to forget how to prepare.
A special team inside DataArt has long accumulated onsight travel experience - a special checklist has been released on its basis, and now they are preparing seminars and additional recommendations. The team’s organizers, DataArt travel-practice project manager Konstantin Polosukhin and Development Lead Dmitry Kuperman, shared ten basic tips that everyone will need to use when traveling to customers.
1. Evaluate the responsibility. The
main problem of travel to customers is that many guys think that they are going to just cut the code in the client’s office. Of course, programming enthusiasm is good. But on the trip, you also become part of the sales team. You are no longer just a developer, QA or Team Lead, you represent the whole company. This should be taken into account when drawing up a plan and when packing a suitcase.
2. Make sure they are waiting for you.
Large companies are very bureaucratic, plus they can have a specific policy regarding the provision of jobs in their offices. Therefore, it is necessary to make a request in advance and wait for confirmation that you will be able to sit there at the table, get the necessary equipment and connect to the network. At the same time, check if your laptops comply with the host security policy.
3. Understand the plans
The preparation for the many onsights that we saw was very basic, and sometimes it even boiled down to a single phrase: “You are going on such and such a number.” In our company, plans are worked out at the level of delivery and project managers, but the colleague himself, who goes to the customer, must ask as many questions as possible before departure. It is necessary to understand in advance who occupies important positions for you, to see how these people look, and to prepare a list of events and meetings that you need to hold.
4. Learn languages
It's not just about English or other foreign languages. Sometimes developers are only able to speak as developers, and therefore, in a conversation with analysts, marketers or designers, they may simply not find points of contact. It is good to understand in advance who you would like to meet and who you will have to meet with, and to prepare a little for a conversation in a professional language that your interlocutors understand.
5. Broaden your horizons.
Two enthusiastic engineers will always find pleasant professional topics for conversation. But when you can talk about books, movies, cuisine, the history of your country, it is much easier to communicate. Ability to conduct small talk or easy conversation is a must-have skill; talking over lunch or waiting for colleagues before a meeting allows you to find common interests and create trusting relationships. Weather, family, sports, cars - topics that you are most likely to be offered to chat with. Even if you are not interested in football, it would be good to clarify which of the clubs in your country this season are in the European Cup. And if you saw that your American colleague came to the office by car with a manual gearbox, it would not be superfluous to note this by starting a conversation.
6. Play by local rules.
This applies to absolutely basic things. For example, it is important to check the wallpaper on your desktop: what if you have a favorite page of the Pirelli calendar there. The same applies to the dress code: even if you are accustomed to walking only in shorts or black leather jackets, step over yourself and dress as the customer requires from their employees. We would advise you to come to the office as early as possible. Especially hard to have on the first day - this must be taken into account when planning a flight. It is best to fly on Saturday, sleep off, overcome jet lag, deal with transport and be on site at 8:30 on Monday. Remember that the first impression is very important.
7. Think about what to talk about.
All that you say, even in an informal conversation, will be perceived as an official statement, and if you are not sure about something, it is better to remain silent. On the first visit to the customer it is difficult to understand the boundaries of a conversation with someone from his team. For example, what to answer the question of how much it costs to order a particular project from your company. But the correct answer exists: honestly say that this question is not at all in your jurisdiction, and calmly send it to the manager or to the person who does this in your company. Be careful about posting on social networks: your check-ins and photos with new friends can directly violate confidentiality agreements.
8. Consider cultural patterns.
Do you shake hands with a woman in the country where you are going? This is a good idea to know in advance. In the US, we did not notice any particular cultural differences, except that you will greet a person here every time you meet him - at least ten times a day. In England, everything is much more complicated, it is no coincidence that Oxford and Cambridge produce special guides “Living in UK”. We always advise to talk less and more cautiously about politics, but in principle Americans usually express their views quite freely, but in the same England or Germany this is not a topic for small talk. Do not forget that, for example, in Western Europe and in the States it is customary to smile and maintain eye contact.
9. Remember the little things
Do not forget the necessary adapters. It may sound ridiculous, but almost every person who goes on business trips once comes across this situation. For example, on my first trip to the US, my colleagues and I could not get down to work right away: we had to flee to the nearest Wallmart - and we were very lucky that the electronics consultant gave us the necessary adapters for free, pulling them out of the pile of retired wires. Gurus are advised to always wear smart casual clothes with them (even if you were not going to go to a restaurant with a customer, in 60% of cases this may well happen). Do not forget the first-aid kit - be prepared for the fact that after the flight the head may ache, and after going to the restaurant - the stomach. And seize antibiotics, for example, in the USA they are not sold without a prescription.
10. Keep in touch
When you work onsite, it makes sense every night to write reports to the managers of your project. Everything that you see and hear can be useful information for account development, even if it has nothing to do with your work directly. As a rule, business trips are very stressful and intense, and if you do not write down what you did today, tomorrow you can just forget half the details. If you come as a team, it is better to make one general report - this will allow you to look at each described situation from different angles. In addition, the evening discussions of the working day are great.