PFE Work Myths

    Often, when you tell friends and acquaintances about your work (as in this article ), they admire and honestly envy how interesting my work is. I, in general, agree with them, but I would like to take off my rose-colored glasses and tell about the other side of the field engineer’s work. Before reading further, I want to highlight: I worked in my role for almost 4 years, which means, in general, the situation was not bad, and in some places even good. But this text is self-reflection on what could be better, or on what looks different from the outside. Writing complimentary speeches to a good computer, free mobile communications, insurance for yourself and children, to adequate colleagues is not for me.

    Myth about traveling around the world

    Before understanding the essence of the myth, you need to understand how the company works from the inside. Field engineers are located in a separate service organization. A business takes orders, makes money, and the task of engineers is to be a resource for work. Based on this, we begin to reveal the myth:

    The Russian business division, which needs this engineer, pays for the “head” of an engineer from Russia (as well as for his trips). The interests of the neighboring region are hardly very interesting to business. If an engineer from Russia goes to work in Poland, for example, then his trip is financed by default from the budget of the Russian division, and the Polish gets the benefit ... Well, you understand that from the point of view of our business, it’s silly to pay for someone else, even if we are one company (pay for a neighbor in the stairwell is anyone ready?).

    The company's business is divided into different regions. An example of such a region is EMEA (Europe / Middle East / Africa), in which CEE (Central and Easter Europe) is located, in which Russia is located.

    Thus, to go to work in Brazil from Moscow is something incredible, because This is a different region. On the other hand, any trip to such work is a burden on the budget, which is limited and lies in Russia, and the Russian business will not receive profits from this trip. Trips across Russia "yes, please", in the former USSR - "also possible", in Eastern Europe - "okay". But Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East is not prohibited, but there are engineers there and must meet local demand. Personally, I traveled to Saudi Arabia, I had to go to Zambia, and my colleagues were in Pakistan and Nigeria, but this is more an exception / exotic than the rule.

    You rarely choose the time of your trip, everything is dictated by business necessity.
    They often say to me: “oh, how cool, you were in Cyprus - this is the sun, the sea ...” There is a nuance: in Cyprus in December and February, of course, warmer than in Moscow, but still 10 and rain with the wind . Probably not such a picture in my head is drawn with the word “Cyprus”. In this particular date, you can not choose, because the client needs in December or February (+ -2 weeks from the expected date is usually normal, but not always. And most importantly, 2 weeks by January is still not a warm June).

    Travel location is also dictated by business interest.

    The same case with Cyprus: I only saw the sea when I took the plane at the airport. I worked in the industrial zone of Nicosia (center of the island), between a large store of building materials and a cement plant. Well, as in Moscow, the Moscow Ring Road is not the most romantic place.
    Of course, the longer you work successfully, the more you will have connections in all countries; The more other engineers learn about you as a qualified engineer, the more room you have for maneuver and choice. But you can’t go to Brazil tomorrow, because today you are standing with your left foot.

    But after work you can see the city

    In theory, always yes, but in practice there are nuances. I will give an example of my trip to Novosibirsk in December. By 9 am you arrive at the site (still dark), after 6 pm you leave the site (it is already dark), lunch at the site and the building without windows. I saw the sunlight only on Saturday, arriving on Monday morning. There are places that can be seen at night, but not in Novosibirsk in winter.

    You can stay for a few days, since you are already in the country

    Again, in theory, everything is fine. In practice, the manager will arrange for you additional travel days only at his own expense. This in turn means: no subsistence and, most likely, relocation to another hotel (because you took the hotel from the company's budget, and you are ready to live in a cheaper one, and also possibly in another area closer to interesting places). At the same time, if a family with a small child is waiting for you at home, then at least you will be bitten by the conscience that you are resting here, and the child is not receiving proper attention.

    In the end, at best, you will have half a day on the day of arrival and half a day on the day of departure for exploring the sights , although for European cities this was even a lot for me.

    In addition: I personally do not like to have a rest in the same place 2 times, I like it when we have common impressions with my wife. In sum, this means that I will not go to most countries and cities for the second time unless there was something super interesting ... well, I’m not going to go with my wife for the second time for my money.

    You can take a wife with you

    It is possible, but you will have to pay for its flight from your own pocket, but you will also have to be cunning, so that in the payment from the hotel it was not indicated that 2 people lived in the room (and this is not always possible, because some hotels refuse to go towards in such a question), otherwise you will have to pay half of the room price from your own funds (you can’t find out about it beforehand, because even if you called and in words you were told that yes, we only write you, it may turn out to be “yes who told you that! ”). Well, and most importantly: you need to understand that your second half will have to spend 4-5 days all day without you (meaning in a joint rest, if you aren’t resting, but your wife?)because you will work from dawn to dusk. In addition, often you will not do so, because a wife can also have a job, and the vacation schedule cannot be changed. And also a child who cannot be left for grandparents (also working) for whom from 2 years, in fact, a full ticket must be paid, and the cost of holidays abroad after the ruble exchange rate is biting. By the way, the pleasure of going to museums with a small child is also not great, because you become attached to his daily routine.

    There is one more caveat: I usually take tickets so that I can fly to the country later in the evening so that the day is not crumpled (if you fly to Moscow from lunch to west, then you should go to the airport almost immediately after breakfast). In the case of a wife and child, such a trick is already bad rolls, because the child, unlike you, will not tolerate until 11 in the evening with sleep.

    You can talk to other people.

    Let's start with the language barrier. Many peoples of Europe, whatever the polls and TV shows, speak very little English. Perhaps, on average, better than us, but still you can’t tell a lot. They are just not comfortable talking non-technical things in another language. Try to somehow tell the story of your favorite science fiction film in a foreign language - you will learn a lot about your level of language proficiency. In one of the business trips, I was offered to describe the situation in my country through some movie. The film “Inhabited Island” came to my mind, but I couldn’t even translate the word “Inhabited” correctly without a dictionary (there was no translator at hand, I had to use the word populated - populated). And this is not only my personal problems with vocabulary - my opponent is also a match for me.

    The difference in mentality also interferes. With the Greeks, it is possible even to have heart-to-heart conversations at every dinner: it doesn’t matter to them why you came; Most foreigners are different. They are enough for a maximum discussion of the weather in Russia, a terrible winter, and, perhaps, something about our president. And most of them: Slovenes, Bulgarians, Czechs, Serbs, Romanians, Belgians, Finns, etc. My conversation with them was rarely very warm and friendly. Personally, with difficulty without sarcasm, I manage to say every time that in winter in Moscow it is not so cold and -10 degrees Celsius does not happen very often. But at some point a sense of humor prevailed over everything and I began to talk about my favorite polar bears with a gun and a bottle of vodka in their hands on the red square, because so at least fun.

    You can talk to other people who are completely different from us.

    Many will disagree with me, but people damn strongly resemble each other in different countries. All 2 legs, 2 hands, mortgage, dissatisfaction with the government, bosses who do not understand their subordinates, business in general lives on another planet. In the end, you realize that you, as a software engineer, have a lot more in common with some Egyptian admin who is engaged in work done by other jobs than with 99% of the population of your native country.

    Do not believe? I will give an example. In Saudi Arabia, I talked to local Egyptian and Indian. So, we discussed with them who learned how, who rests how, who works how, what interactions in the family - I did not feel much of a difference compared with us (no one has harem; love the warm sea, working to support a family, and everyone is watching TV shows). Even in the matter of faith, we had no problems. Of course, they were surprised that I am an atheist, but at the same time I respect their choice. It was not difficult to communicate with them, because you are with them one social group with a similar level of income (adjusted for the standard of living in the country).

    Travel fatigue

    As a result of frequent trips, complete indifference to each subsequent place appears. At the beginning of my business trips, I tried to learn at least a few words in the local language. After 2 years of my work, the maximum that I do is reading an article on Wikipedia about the country and city in order to understand where to go. At the beginning of the trips, I took hundreds of photos during walks, after 2 years - well, 5-10 and then there was something to show my wife / mother / grandmother, after 3.5 years - 1-2, again to send to my relatives. As a result, an understanding comes that in our Eastern Europe everything is approximately the same, in Western Europe it is not very different, although on the first trips the eye constantly found differences between local reality and your home country.

    Travel problems

    Almost every trip something goes wrong:

    • the taxi driver is trying not to give you a check and does not speak English,
    • then the bank blocks the card, despite the trip warning (my best example was to block the Microsoft employee card at the headquarters in Redmond, although transactions from Albania / Romania did not bother them),
    • then the plane is delayed
    • the client is located in a remote industrial zone, where the nearest hotel is an hour away by taxi,
    • then they forget your bag on the transfer and then refuse to take it to the hotel,
    • then a rebellion unexpectedly begins in the country (my colleagues in Turkey and Ukraine were during relevant events),
    • then in Novosibirsk for taxi drivers, 1000 rubles is a big bill and there is no change (they say that it was necessary to inform the dispatcher),
    • then the taxi driver will bring you to a hotel in another city (there is a hotel in Seattle and Redmond from one network and you need to go to Redmond, and bring to Seattle),
    • it may turn out that your pronunciation will be incorrect by local standards. In Turkey, there is a company maycrosoft, and the Turks pronounce it as “Microsoft”, and they pronounce Microsoft as “Microsoft”. At the same time, Microsoft employees themselves call us "Microsoft".

    As a result, the taxi driver brought to the other end of the city, because I did not listen to the address, but simply took it to a company known to him, and then cursed for a long time and demanded that he pay for the trip in full.).
    In general, nothing terrible, but if you can avoid such stress, then why not just go on a business trip ?! In my fourth year at the company, the answer was almost obvious to me.

    About countries

    Over the years of my business trips, I have had many trips to different countries (only 29 countries visited business trips over 4 years). Most I do not even remember, so they were "about nothing." Best of all, I remember, of course, the problem ones, where they blew me up, or I was very warmly welcomed.

    • I remember well Saudi Arabia, because she made a strong impression on me after all this same Europe. There is almost no greenery in the city, it is full of tall glass buildings (I like these), mosques, shopping centers on every street, an insane number of expensive cars, but a terrible garbage dump even on central streets and conspicuous social differentiation.
    • Slovenia remembered, because I had to travel from the airport to the city for more than 2 hours by taxi in the mountains. At the same time, most of all, my brain was blown up by a taxi driver who was not quite a taxi driver, but the owner of a small fleet. He earned money for this fleet by working as a sapper in South Sudan, where in a month it was possible to get 10 thousand dollars and 8 thousand in the field, teaching local specialists. I would not believe it, but the pictures on facebook convinced me. But that was not all. In fact, he is taxing when there is no main work, and his main work is a freelancer of applications on java under android. I would not have believed it, but in 2 hours I, as a programmer, can understand whether a person is actually writing a code or not. He clearly wrote.

      • I also remember Slovenia as an excursion to the foundry of a metallurgical plant and a town for 6,800 people, where there is only 1 hotel for 10 rooms.
      • I remembered that the local recommended me to leave a day earlier, because According to the forecast there was a blizzard, and I could not leave the mountains for a week after that. And so it happened: back in a blizzard, I go 4.5 hours, instead of 2 ... but with the same driver.

    • Cyprus was remembered for its openness and hospitality of the client’s engineers.

      • Listeners drove me from the training center to the hotel every evening, despite my persistent attempts to refuse.
      • On the last day, we all went to lunch for the birthday of the mother of one of my listeners and eventually returned to the training center only when the manager had already called and asked where we were.

      Can you imagine this in Russia, and I’m not talking about any Germany !?

    When I look at the map of my trips, I vaguely recall what I did, when I did, etc. But I have almost no vivid memories, since most of the time, you still work at the site, and there is no time left to see the city, especially the country.

    The myth about "you do not need to sit in the office from 9 to 6"

    I often hear: “How wonderful it is, when you do not need to sit in the office from 9 to 6 - you can come later, you can leave earlier, you can not go to the office at all”.

    In general, I agree with this statement, but behind this lies the difference in the approach to working at Microsoft and in other companies, as well as the difference between the work of the field engineer and any other professions.

    Yes, you don’t need to go to the office every day ...

    However, almost every day you need to go to the site to the client. You “trampled” your way into the office, drove a hundred times and know all your tolerances. As for working from home, do not flatter yourself: the more clients you work with, the more different offices you will have to visit. Today you are going to Moscow City (how to get faster, from which car to get out, where to park the car ...), in a week - to the Water Stadium, then - Almaty, then - to Omsk or to Bucharest.

    You can work from home

    Behind this phrase lies not a small nuance, but a whole nuance.

    • First, it all depends on the type of work and on the client. Audit code can be partially done from home, if the code is received in advance. But there are always 1000 questions that are easier to solve on the spot. So you need to sit in the office, and not in your own.
    • Secondly, in the office you are guaranteed a cup of coffee, a stable Internet, the presence of at least some seat, meeting rooms. At home, everything is like a freelancer: you need to equip yourself a comfortable, long-term workplace. This means that you seem to be giving away a piece of your apartment to your work and taking it out of general use. And if you already have a workplace at home, then you are likely to be forced to retool it, because it was not designed to sit on it for 8-9 hours a day. A good table, light, curtains from the sun, an armchair, a door to the room (so that the child does not run) is, of course, useful outside of work, but doing it for work is another matter entirely.

    There is also a question of a working place , because Additional space in the house is not taken from the ceiling, but work in the kitchen will not work because the family will often go there, and you yourself will come to the refrigerator every 5 minutes. It is necessary to isolate the corner or a balcony, or a separate room, because if your wife can still be explained that you work, then it’s almost impossible for a small child.

    And then there is a general socialization .

    When you constantly work from home, once a week making 1 call, where you show results and discuss the plan for the next week, then the only people you see and communicate with are the family (in my case, the wife is on maternity leave and the child). And it is quite expected that there is a desire to talk even with someone else.

    At one time, my predecessor gave me advice: you, when you become an experienced field engineer, you will understand that you need to come to the office once a month, even if you don’t really need it . Just to see if the repair was done in the office, whether the shuttle was stopping at the same place, or maybe someone quit, someone took a new one, maybe your manager shaved bald or even about to change. In the second year of my work, I learned this wisdom , so sometimes I go to the office just to see if I missed anything.

    At the end of the 4th year of work in my role, I came across a letter to the general group of our engineers from a girl whom I do not know. I decided to look and ask. It turned out that a person has been working for 5 years, but in my 4 years I have never crossed paths with her and did not know about its existence.

    The cherry on the cake is that, according to the law, working from home is a spree (as I was explained).

    Personal time and work time

    My biggest problem stems from the fact that I use a corporate phone and computer for personal purposes, often working from home. This is one of the reasons for the blurring of the boundary between personal time and the worker. You're at the computer, so you work. You are reflexively starting to open mail on Saturday. In the evening you forget to turn off the internal messenger and answer the questions if they write to you even at 9 pm. Personally, it is extremely difficult for me to isolate personal and work time, and for myself I have not found a recipe. It’s expensive to buy your computer and phone, and you don’t want to synchronize. Turning off everything related to work at 6 pm does not work, because sometimes you have to work a little longer, and then you just forget. Who calls you at 7 pm on the phone, until you pick up the phone is not clear - maybe your mom has a new phone, or maybe a colleague just ask.

    Win against Tetris

    As one friend said: “you need to restrict yourself in work.” If you think that you can redo all the work, then very soon you will start working 24 hours a day. Work as Tetris: if you quickly solve tasks, she can simply give you more letters from her bottomless list. In the end, this is a race with Tetris - Tetris can just play faster and so on to infinity. It is possible only at the end of the year to score the most points, but not to win.

    Once again, I do not regret that I worked for 4 years as a field engineer. These were very interesting years of my life, it’s just necessary to clarify that in this mode of operation there are also underwater rakes.

    PS: I am sure that many (especially my former colleagues) will find arguments and opinions on any point in this article that everything is wrong or not so. I will not even argue, because each individual looks at the situation through the prism of his life experience. For this, I suggest not to argue much in the comments.

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