January 30, 2009

In the Ether

I've recently noticed that there are two kinds of travelers, professionally.

See, I do tons of conference calls. Other than redlined documents, I live and breathe conference calls, really. So I feel somewhat qualified to state that professional travelers belong in two categories, generally speaking:

1. Those who live in the physical world


2. Those who are comfortable in the ether

What do I mean?

Well, take Kathy, for example, an executive with whom I need to speak sometime next week. She thinks that where she is on any given day or time is important, and that not only me, but everyone involved with her should know where she will be, what time zone she will be in, and why she will be intermittently unavailable due to traveling inconveniences before and after the windows when she is available.

I can only assume this is because she thinks it is somehow relevant to the the contract we are working on. This may or may not be true. I do not know. It may very well be that she would give me different edits from NYC than she would from ATL, or LAX, or MEX. Regardless, I learn many things about her comings and goings throughout the world and the associated inconveniences every time I speak with her. If nothing else, her stories are very entertaining.

Kathy is a member of group #1.

For a counterexample, take Elizabeth. Elizabeth, an executive for a different client, also travels often for work. But I will never know that she's traveled unless, on a call, I say something like, "how's the weather in Chicago (her home-base)?" and then, she will reply, "oh, actually, I'm in Washington D.C." Or, she will mention that on Wednesday she met with so-and-so at such-and-such headquarters, and I will realize that the call we did last Wednesday was actually when she was in such-and-such and not Chicago.

Elizabeth believes that where she is does not matter for the purposes of doing her job and thus, it should not affect those with whom she must work. She does her job from the ether. She is comfortable scheduling meetings to meet the time zone default of the party she is working with, and for clarity, in her meeting invitations, or email, she will just say, "3 PM PST" instead of 3 PM. She will default to my time zone even if she is in Chicago, Washington D.C., or Bermuda. She declines meeting invitations where her travel plans get in the way, but much like I don't ask my other clients why they are unavailable, it never occurs to me to ask her why she is unavailable. I assume she is working. Aren't we all?

Elizabeth is a member of group #2.

I have to say, members of group #2 spend much less on legal fees because there isn't time spent discussing, maneuvering, or rescheduling around travel. They have found a way to manage the inconveniences of physical travel such that they don't pay for it in legal fees. I have to assume this extends to inconveniencing others as well.

I wonder what splits the two groups.

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