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This interview is part of Careers That Travel on Travel After Five. Careers That Travel is an interview series where we feature people who get to travel for work.
1. What is your current job, and how does travel play into your role?
I work as a management consultant. The duration of a given project can range from a few weeks to a year or longer, and we go wherever our client is. That means if you’re in New York, but you’ve been assigned to a client in Chicago, you might be flying out Monday morning, staying in Chicago until Thursday evening and then flying back home. The constant back and forth traveling can be challenging, so many companies allow consultants to fly out their partners or visit another destination over the weekend, so long as it isn’t more expensive than it would be to fly home (though they won’t cover your hotel stay).
2. What did you study in school, and what helped prepare you for this job?
I studied chemical engineering and business. Engineering taught me to problem solve and be process-oriented. Business gave me context into the situations I would be solving problems for. Most people join consulting with only one degree – the second one was a bit overkill!
3. What is the most exciting place that you have traveled to for work? Least exciting?
I went to Los Angeles through work, and I regret not booking some vacation on the tail end of it to explore the area. A lot of destinations that consultants travel to – New York, London, Tokyo or whatnot – are exciting to travel to, but often you spend most of the time working with your client, not touring the city. The least exciting places, for me, are mid-sized suburbans cities.
4. What types of challenges do you face while on the road?
It can get pretty lonely if you aren’t comfortable being alone with your thoughts. I’ve had amazing co-workers to travel with, but you’ll still end up on an early morning flight by yourself or in the hotel alone after a long day of working. If you have children, I imagine it can be really difficult.
5. Do you get to travel with a team, or do you typically travel for work by yourself?
It’s really a mix. If most of your team lives in the same city, you will probably coordinate your flights together. However, if you are from one city and your team members are from another, you will probably take a lot of solo flights and cab rides.
6. How long is a typical work trip? Do you ever extend your stay for personal time?
Three nights would be the norm, but if you’re going further away (i.e. for an international trip) you may stay a week or longer. You can also extend your stay over the weekend for a mini-vacation – if you’d normally leave Chicago on a Thursday evening, you can work remotely for Friday and spend the weekend. The company will still reimburse your ticket if you fly back on Sunday night (assuming cost is not more than the original option).
7. Do you have a home base, or are you completely remote?
You technically have a home base, though some of my friends feel like they are almost entirely remote. There is a lot of flexibility in this job – especially if you want to be traveling for long stretches of time. You’ll always have a home office and home base, but you get a lot of choice over how much time you want to spend there. And because consulting is project based, you can be entirely remote for one project, and then be entirely at home for the next.
8. How does the amount of travel you do change as you move up in this career?
It depends on what you want in your career and personal life. Among the leadership in my company, there is a balance between people who do absolutely no traveling anymore (they often have young kids) and people who almost exclusively travel. One of the reasons I chose to go into management consulting was the degree of flexibility you have.
9. Does your company offer any benefits for being on the road?
The biggest travel benefits would be the hotel and airline status you accumulate. The other benefit would be the flexibility in when you choose to fly (like staying for the weekend) or flying out your partner to visit you for the weekend.
10. What advice do you have for someone who has to start traveling for work?
Find a hobby or activity you can do at home and on the road. For me, that was blogging and lifting weights. Some of my friends do creative writing or yoga. You need something to keep you grounded to your passions. Otherwise, you spend the whole week working and traveling, only leaving the weekend to do what you love. If you can, bring it with you. It will make the travel easier and you might find people on your team share similar interests.
Interview with Mikaela Ferguson from Voyageur Tripper
Do you travel for work? We’d love to interview you! If you are interested in being featured, please email [email protected].