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Careers That Travel is an interview series where we feature people who get to travel for work. This post was created during National Engineers Week 2019, where we showcased five different engineers who travel as part of their jobs.
In this post, we speak to Kaitlyn, who is a friend from university. For her engineering job, Kaitlyn has had the opportunity to travel internationally to help develop company products.
1. What is your current job, and how does travel play into your role?
My role is a Product Marketing Engineer at a semiconductor manufacturing company. I own a portfolio of products, and my job is to grow our revenue faster than the market by selling and marketing our current products, developing new products, and by managing our online presence to reach the broad market. My day-to-day is completely different, but one constant is that I am always working with Account Managers all around the world to help sell my products to their customers.
My travel schedule is completely up to me, but I try to spend at least 1-2 weeks of the month on the road, growing business at my top customers.
2. What did you study in school, and what helped prepare you for this job?
I studied at the University of Texas at Dallas and received my B.S. Electrical Engineering. My current role integrates my technical background with business skills. My current role actually felt like quite a leap from my major in school, since I had no business background, but I did an internship with my company to test it out. It ended up being a perfect match for me!
Curiosity was a skill that ended up being critical to success in my current role. Coming from a technical background with no formal business training, everything was learned on the job from my peers and mentors.
3. What is the most exciting place that you have traveled to for work? Least exciting?
My favorite place that I’ve visited for work was Istanbul, Turkey. I was able to spend a weekend there before my business meetings during the week, and I absolutely fell in love with the kindness and generosity of the Turkish people, the natural beauty of the city, the architecture… and the food! During the work week, we were constantly running from city to city, meeting many hard-working engineers, and covering a pretty good area of the country.
I’m trying to think of a “least exciting” place, but honestly nothing comes to mind. Every trip that I’ve been on has been very fast paced and exciting. Some trips have been challenging though. In China, our customers are spread literally all over the country, so each day is an early morning, 8am-5pm meetings running from customer to customer, and then a 2-4hr flight every single night. So China trips are very very busy for me.
4. What types of challenges do you face while on the road?
The most challenging thing is probably the fast pace of my trips (like I mentioned with China in previous question) and trying to balance my job in Dallas. When I am traveling, I am meeting with new customers all day, preparing for the meetings, sending the follow up notes/actions, and then when I get back to my hotel late at night, I have at least 100 actionable emails to respond to. The work never stops!
5. Do you get to travel with a team, or do you typically travel for work by yourself?
It’s a mix of both. Initially, I would make sure to always travel with a team member, since the dynamic of business trips were new to me and it was helpful to have someone who knew how to get around (figuring out the train systems can be tricky!). More recently, my trips have been solo, which I absolutely love. Many of my solo trips have been to counties that I’ve never visited before (Israel, Italy, Taiwan), which can be scary initially, but you get a sense of independence from figuring everything out on your own – it’s very exciting!
6. How long is a typical work trip? Do you ever extend your stay for personal time?
My least favorite part of business travel is the long flight overseas, so I’ll typically spend 2 weeks at a time in order to maximize the coverage of my trip. It’s great because I get used to the new time zone (the first week can be tough with jet lag), and I’ll get a weekend to explore. I did have one trip where I booked 1 week of personal time off afterwards – this was when I visited Italy. My sister flew out to join me for the last week so we could spend time on the Amalfi Coast.
7. Do you have a home base, or are you completely remote?
My home base is an office at our Headquarters in Dallas in a cubicle near my team. While I’m in Dallas, I spend a lot of time communicating with my customers worldwide, meaning early morning phone calls with Europe, and late night calls with Asia. Thankfully, because of my (sometimes) long hours with calls on both ends of the spectrum, my team is flexible in allowing us to work from home some days.
8. How does the amount of travel you do change as you move up in this career?
The amount of travel is actually completely up to me in my current role. I have ownership of my business within the company, and I make the decision to travel to wherever I believe we have the most business potential. Moving up in my career would still require great amounts of travel, with some trips being required (such as regional alignments for management).
9. Does your company offer any benefits for being on the road?
Since this is a part of my role, there aren’t any specific benefits. Our food is covered while we are on the road, so that could be considered a “benefit”. But to be completely honest, getting to travel around the world is one of the biggest benefits of the job in my opinion!
10. What advice do you have for someone who has to start traveling for work?
My advice would be to try and discuss with people who have traveled for work with your company before (ideally to the same country you’re headed to). They will help you to prepare and give you tips that you may have never thought of (like getting the right electrical adapters). There are a lot of things to consider and prepare for.
A few apps that are good to have: currency converter, Google translate, and Mobile Passport (this is a LIFE SAVER when going through customs – helps you to skip the kiosks).
I would also recommend learning a few common phrases in the local language – how to say thank you and hello, ordering food, asking for a taxi, etc.
Most important thing is to be open-minded and to try to experience new things during your trip if time allows!
Do you travel for work? We’d love to interview you! If you are interested in being featured, please email [email protected].
Read about other traveling engineers:
- Faizan the Management Trainee at a railroad company
- Michael the Cybersecurity Consulting Manager at a consulting firm