In this hyper-connected, telecommuting, Internet-enabled, outsourced, offshored, cloud, remote-working world, it is not uncommon to never meet people you work with. In some companies it has become almost the norm, and it is only rare exceptions where people see even a live video stream of someone, let alone meet them in the real world. For many people, this is ok.
As you may have guessed from the intonation of the previous paragraph, I am not one of those people. If anything, I make the extra effort to go out of my way to meet people whenever possible. It’s something I learned early on in my career, and it has worked not only to my advantage, but projects I have worked on over the years as well.
To Utah Or Bust
Back in the late 90’s I was consulting on what I would call the most unique, fun, learning and dynamic project of my career. Put it like this – I had over an hour’s drive each way to work and it never even phased me! Where I could write many posts on that project in itself, the project was my first end-to-end Web and service project, and eventually I was the manager of the entire technical environment.
But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and in this case, the client was closing their business unit I was working at and my project was sold to another company. That company had its own development and technical resources, and my job was to transition everything from knowledge to software to hardware to the new company. To add to the logistics, the new company was outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, where I and the project was south of Boston, over 2,000 miles away.
After the client manager informed me of the changes in the project he paused and asked me what was the first thing I needed to do for the move.
I said, “I need to book a flight to Utah.”
When the client manager pressed me for details, my response was straightforward and convincing. We needed to first ship the software and data to the new company, all over the Internet, and set it up on temporary servers. Then once done we’d literally pack and ship the servers to them, then move the data back onto the old servers. Not only had none of us – the current client, new company, or me – done something like this before, but it was 1997 and not many had done something like this period.
Therefore meeting the staff at the new company that would be on the receiving end of this was crucial. It was my job to ensure that the move went smoothly and we were up and running right away. I had to know what – and who – was on the other end and that they shared my commitment to the project, were capable of working on it, and if there were issues, they shared my dedication to resolving them.
Meeting and Believing
So I booked a flight from Boston to Salt Lake City and spent a week south of the city with the team. Following our initial meet and greet, we got down to business, including touring their facilities, reviewing the project plan and made some changes based on their feedback, and discussed the transition and longer term for the project, namely as I would not be a part of it any longer. We also had lunch together and a couple of dinners and got to know each other better, along with sharing stories of past tech projects. As my flight took off for my return trip to Boston, I felt very good and confident the project would be extremely successful.
When I returned to the client the following week, the client manager asked me how it went. I first showed him a list of everybody’s name, email address, and work, home, mobile and pager numbers. Needless to say he was pleased as I went into further details on the trip and overall plan.
In the end, the transition went off smoothly. We had a few issues, such as the data transfer taking longer than anticipated, but in the end everything was up and running over the course of a weekend. The following week there was an issue with one of the temporary servers on the other end, but I worked with their team and reported back the status to the client’s client to ensure everything was under control, and soon after I reported the good news we were back up and running.
Following the transition of the server environment came the transfer of the software development, and my role on the project came to an end. Where it was bittersweet for me, I was more concerned for the people who worked for the client who were losing their jobs. Another project for me was followed by a job change and onto even more adventures.
To this day I strive to meet the people I work with in person. What worked well in 1997 seems even more important sixteen years later.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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