Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Life of a Traveling Consultant

Hello from here and there. Today I was flying on AA, sitting in my seat waiting for us to takeoff when a beautiful AA Boeing 777 came by on departure and the percussion from the jet engines caused my heart to skip a beat, and as I watched the beautiful jet gracefully defy the forces of gravity and lumber into the sky, I thought it would be a good post to write about life on the road, so here it is.

I had often dreamed about the glamorous life on the road, thinking it would be all about staying in nice hotels, flying commerical airplanes all the time, eating in different restaurants and meeting some very interesting people, and I'm pleased to report that's exactly what it's like. In the past I would just stand in awe at the airport watching the lucky business travelers work their way through the system and know the behind the ropes' scene of current day air travel and now I'm one of them. I had a great innoculation due to the excessive personal travel I've done the past few years, so much that I had already attained status on airlines and hotels prior to becoming a modern day road warrior.

Being a road warrior is not for everyone. For instance, my car spends more time at the airport and in the garage at home that it does being driven - for me that's a plus since I'm not a fan of manejando (driving in Spanish). This kind of lifestyle becomes readily apparent when working at a client site. I have more than once found myself with a corporate mentality of "heck it's 5 PM time to go home" only to remember that I'm not home and leaving would just mean more hours sitting in a hotel room reading, so why not stay at the office a little longer and get more work completed. Thankfully most hotels today have wonderful service and beds and I have found myself enjoying the accomodations quite well, even if sometimes I would like to just be in my own home, watching a baseball game while sitting on my couch.

Another benefit (or not, depending on your perception) is continuous learning of how other companies operate. Just like any corporate job, I have to get in there and play a game of politics to find out who are the power players, who gets stuff done, who knows what, and importantly, who not to listen to. In past experience, I've found some most interesting information from people in the last category, as they might be clammed up in a corporate world, but have a lot to offer to someone who is an outsider (like my role). One thing I've learned is that each organization has it's own quirks and monkey hoops that you have to go through to get even something menial completed, but accepting this is just part of the game.

I'm going to write more on this later and tell stories of some of the battles I've fought and share some of the knowledge I've learned, but now I have some free time and personal time is short for us road warriors, so I ask that you carry on, enjoy your life, appreciate the small things, and have a great Labor day.

Monday, August 04, 2008

TDWI Membership, Is it worthwhile?

The primary organization in data warehousing is TDWI - The Data Warehouse Institute. Many of you might also be aware of PASS for SQL Server, or the Oracle User groups for Oracle. Today I want to talk about TDWI and get some feedback from you as to the value you find from your membership.

I was a TDWI member but am not currently. I attended two TWDI World Conferences in 2005 and 2006 and while I learned a lot at the first conference, the second was interesting but almost the same content. A lot of the comments I've heard from contats are that TDWI conferences often have the same courses time after time which is good for new attendees but not so good for repeat attendees. The biggest complaint I have about the conference was that my contact information was sold and I received about 20 phone calls per week for six months after the conference, and at least 1-2x a week for 2 years following my attendence.

Along with the membership comes access to reports and website information. There are some good case studies and other reports and I often receive emails requesting to fill out a survey about salaries and projects. One complaint I have about these surveys is that by filling it out, I give them information which they resell to others without receiving any information that helps me in my competitive situation. Most salary information is also given at salary.com. To be fair I have found some surveys to be worthwhile (companies starting projects, etc), but again not worth the $299 per year.

Now TDWI is trying to break out into forming user groups. My premonition is that their membership is declining and they are looking for more ways to reach out to the community (and more membership sales). The brilliant part of this strategy is that they get a huge networking community together and that definately has a lot of value for the membership.

In short, I think TDWI is useful and worthwhile to attend a conference every couple of years, but I'd like to hear and comments about the value you have received from your membership.