This post contains a few tips that are based on my dire experience and my close encounters with death and destruction, both on the Yom Kippur roads and in the client’s office.
A Week ago here in Israel we had a special day called Yom Kippur. Traditionally it is the Jewish day of repentance: you do not go to work, you don’t drive, you don’t watch TV, use the computer, eat or drink, and basically you should just sit in a dark corner and think of how you’ve been a naughty boy. On the other hand, a lot of people make use of the car free roads (no driving, remember) for cycling. Yes, some stay in, feel sorry and fast, while others take to the open road on bicycle. I am a cyclist, but I also have done some wrong.
You might be tempted to think that an experienced cyclist as myself will appreciate the company, and you’d be right – as far as I am concerned, the more people ride bicycle the happier I am. However, being that most of the cyclists who ride on Yom Kippur are either very young or very inexperienced cyclists (many doesn’t even own bicycle, they just rent or share it) the road, ironically, becomes a very dangerous place for an everyday-20to30mph-road-cyclist like myself. After years of cycling in Yom Kippurs, and more than a few on-clients’-premise days, this is my (current) list of do’s and don’ts:
No matter how crazy things get keep OBEYING the rules
No matter how mad things look around you, the change of crowd you share your space with (be it cars or coworkers) does not give you a free ticket to go bonkers. There are still rules, codes of conduct and methods you used to work hard every day to maintain (because you found them to be worth while, remember?). Changing your environment’s inhabitants is not reason to throw the book entirely, some portion of it may still apply, and what works in one place will probably work in another, unlike something totally new and untested you just made up right now (that should be your second option, though). Try and be predictable, this will make it easier for others supply you with what you need because (that’s right) they can predict it.
be alert and respectful for the needs of those around you (ESPECIALLY if they are less experienced)
You are now a guest. Having you as a guest demands creating a new culture (or “team-dynamic” – a term I love to despise). Moreover, you, (usually) being the minority may have little influence of that newly forming culture. That puts the burden to adapt on you. Please, try to play nice, you don’t have to prove you are an expert, that’s why you are here. So keep yourself calm and collected, and keep your eye peeled for anyone having trouble with what you offer (that’s BTW, the real value of an expert).
don’t leave anything in the middle of the tarmac, and don’t just stand there either
You don’t like it when things are in your way, nobody does. keep your plate clean. Take small tasks and complete them as efficiently as you can. If a task you do alone takes a lot of time maybe you shouldn’t do it in the client’s office (unless you have nowhere else to work).
Just as important, make sure that no one is waiting for you being idle, if someone does, offer them a sit next to you so they could learn from you, usually they would appreciate it. Also make sure that you always know what your next task is, this will help you not waste time while the client is thinking what he/she wants you to do next.
plan your route ahead (but have alternatives ready if you’ll have to adapt fast)
Part of knowing what to do next it to try to have a goal for the day, week or whatever period of time you are going to be spending there. Map it down to milestones and map these milestones into tasks. Not everything will go to plan, but you’ll know you are in the right direction even if you go astray. plus, having a goal and a set list of tasks will keep you from..
fiddling with your smartphone (Don’t do it)
Not only it’s disrespectful, but it looks bad. The client is (hopefully) paying for you to be there, so be there, not on Facebook, Twitter or any news site. Sometimes you’ll get stuck waiting for the client, my suggestion is to have something good to read* (preferably technical) in hand, read it on your working station (=laptop) and you will be even less of an eyesore.
know thy self (and the limitations of your tools)
Walking in to a client’s office mind your language, most importantly make sure you can deliver on what you promise. Excuses are like assholes – everybody has one and nobody want’s do deal with yours** . Speaking on assholes, don’t be one. You are not a perfect being sent from beyond time and space and the client is not an idiot knuckle dragging grease monkey devoted to wasting your time and leave you unemployed, even if they ask the occasional dumb question. Be kind, honest and generous and (almost) everything will turn out OK. You are, after all, the expert.
*oddly enough this is also a good Yom Kippur tip if you stay at home.
**there are some exceptions, I know, let’s not get into it