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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 am working as a programme manager and design consultant on a pan European Corporate Identity roll-out for a car manufacturer. Therefore, I visit car dealerships all over Europe to introduce the new corporate identity and find solutions how to implement it at their showroom.
2. What did you study in school, and what helped prepare you for this job?
I studied Interior Architecture. Whilst designing car showrooms probably wasn’t what I set out to do during Uni, I somehow stumbled into this niche and stuck with it. The architectural qualification aside, languages were the big thing needed for my current job. I am bilingual English and German, so my main markets are the German speaking countries Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
3. What is the most exciting place that you have traveled to for work? Least exciting?
I’d say the most exciting place was Israel. I was fortunate enough to travel to Tel Aviv three times last year. Whilst obviously most of the time was spent working, we did get a chance to see glimpses of the country and explore Tel Aviv in the evenings.
But also travelling to Serbia and Slovenia was really good. These were places that I would probably have never added to my personal bucket list. But now, I am thinking of going back to Slovenia for an actual holiday or road trip at some point (not the least because I didn’t get a chance to explore Lake Bled and I really, really want to see that).
Talking of highlights: Any excuse for a trip to Vienna. I just love this city and am always happy if another Austria trip pops up on my itinerary.
Least exciting? I couldn’t pinpoint an exact location as my least favourite or least exciting. It’s probably the ones that take me to the middle of nowhere and require two days of travel just to get to and from the dealership for a three-hour meeting.
4. What types of challenges do you face while on the road?
My biggest challenge is usually logistics. Getting to a meeting in a major city is relatively easy and I can fly out and come back within a day. Travelling from London, I am fairly spoilt for choices when it comes to flight connections. But even so, certain areas are hard to reach (pretty much the whole of East Germany for example. Although there are airports in Dresden and Leipzig, they don’t offer any direct flights to and from London).
Since I don’t always know how long my meetings will take, I tend to play it safe when booking my flights and trains. So, I am no stranger to sitting at an airport for six / seven hours before a late flight home, just so I wouldn’t have to rush.
5. Do you get to travel with a team, or do you typically travel for work by yourself?
I typically travel on my own, but then meet up with the client in each country. So more often than not, they will pick me up from the airport, accompany me to the dealership and then either stay in the same hotel as me or drop me at my hotel (if we are close to their home) and pick me up again the next day. It is very rare that I travel with an actual colleague. But since I’ve been on the road with some of my clients for years now, we’ve established a very good relationship and happily share a laugh and some drinks in the evening.
6. How long is a typical work trip? Do you ever extend your stay for personal time?
Most of my travel tends to be just one or two night. Occasionally I might stay the entire week (like Israel for example). But since I do have a private life as well and do occasionally want to see my husband (and vice versa), I try to keep the trips short. Even though that means travelling almost every week.
Where it fits the schedule, I might extend my stay. Most of my family lives in Germany, so given the chance, I try and combine some of my trips with weekends at home. Or a catch up with friends (that seem to be scattered around Europe nowadays).
7. Do you have a home base, or are you completely remote?
I am based near London and if I am not travelling, I will work from our office in Central London. But the nature of my job means, I could effectively work from anywhere. As long as I have my laptop, phone and a half decent internet connection.
8. How does the amount of travel you do change as you move up in this career?
It doesn’t really change. Over the years, my role has evolved, and I have taken on extra responsibilities, such as Programme Management. And whilst those extra responsibilities require a little less travel, the main bulk of my job is still the design consultancy. And for that I need to physically go and visit the dealerships, which means I still need to travel.
9. Does your company offer any benefits for being on the road?
As travelling was always at the heart of my job role, there is no additional benefit for being on the road. But I do get to keep any air miles I collect, which I regularly use for my personal travel. And since I am a frequent flyer, the added benefit of lounge access at airports also applies when I travel for leisure.
10. What advice do you have for someone who has to start traveling for work?
Be aware that business travel might sound glamorous, but it very rarely is. It is hard work; you can’t really expect a nine to five day whilst on the road. And the novelty of sleeping in hotels and eating out in restaurants every evening wears off rather quickly. Be prepared to eat on your own in restaurants (something I really struggled with in the beginning).
Get yourself some decent travel gear. Nothing worse than struggling with an oversized, heavy suitcase and a handbag that doesn’t quite fit all your work gear.
Make the most of all the places you go. Don’t be tempted to stay in the hotel and catch up with emails every night, just because you don’t fancy exploring on your own. You might never come back to that city, so go out, explore the town, mingle with locals, try some typical foods and beverages and have fun.
Do you travel for work? We’d love to interview you! If you are interested in being featured, please email [email protected].