Friday, October 10, 2008

A Better Business Traveler

The world's economy is sinking.
Wall street is dead. Global recession.

I have been hearing those words for the past two weeks. The reason was because in the several countries I have been into all the hotels have only CNN or BBC News channel in English, while the other channels are already translated to local language. So it forced me to watch only the news channel before I slept and those words always pop up. Yes I know it is a real thing. It is really bad out there. I know perhaps as the analysts keep saying on TV the worst is yet to come. But this is not a reason why I made a decision recently to try to minimize the expense during my business trip. The nature of my job requires me to travel extensively. I can't control the number of travels so I can't save the environment and contribute in making a greener world by reducing the number of flying with airplane. But obviously I can do something to reduce the travel cost. So when I was on my way to Brussels last month as the beginning of my 4-weeks Eurotrip I made a commitment to myself that during this trip I want to spend as low as possible.

In Cisco Systems we have a culture called frugality. It can be understood in many different ways but in this company it means reassessing everything we do to ensure we place the greatest number of resources in areas that have the greatest profit potential. In another word: don't spend unnecessary on non-productive areas. If we can achieve the same goal with cheaper way, why not to try that path? And I completely agree with it. I get decent pay by the company, I got my annual bonus, and I don't have major financial issue. In summary I'm not in bad situation and if I can cut unnecessary expense as part of the culture and as my contribution to bigger community, even the amount looks small, I decided to do so.

During my trip I invented some ways that I think can cut my travel cost and I have tried my best to always apply them. I even tried to cut some unnecessary expense even those are completely allowed and not against the company policy at all. There are few things that I can't control, for example hotel and flight since I must use company's preferred hotel and airline, but I found that there are many other things that I can do to minimize the expense.

So I have been traveling for about a month. I left my home on Sept 14, and today is Oct 10 I'm in Singapore calculating how much total I spent exclude the flight ticket and hotel. And the result, for 26 days traveling in Europe I spent only 482.72 Euros. It means in average I spent only 18.6 Euros per day for food, transport, visa fee, internet, tips etc. And I was traveling in Europe that is known to be more expensive than Asia. Try to beat that!

I'm really proud with the result. And I like to do this. I like to challenge myself and set my own target. I like to do things in different way everytime. So if I used to be one of the top spenders for travel and expense, this time I tried to be a better business traveler. I can do the same thing as previously I used to do, to spend in regular way since it's allowed and as long as the amount is below the company policy, or I can try to do it differently. And I don't do this to get reward whatsoever. It always gives me a highest satisfaction if I set a goal and I can achieve it or even exceed my own expectation.

So here it is, with proud, I presented the Himawan's Way to a Better (and cheaper) Business Traveler:

1. Book the flight as soon as we know the schedule of the trip. In Cisco if we book 14 days in advance we get special rate. It's more difficult in the projects since customer may change the schedule or confirm the date close to the time but for internal meeting and training the flight must be booked no less than 14 days in advance

2. Get a hotel that is closed to office, so no cost for transport between hotel to office. If we know we will spend most of the time in customer than book a hotel that is closed to their office instead

3. If we work with another team member try to go together to hotel/airport/customer/office to share the taxi cost. If possible use public transport or subway instead of taxi. Try to use shuttle bus from airport to hotel, and from hotel to airport (in some hotel it's free, if it's not at least it will be much cheaper than taxi)

4. Avoid to use Internet in the hotel if it's not free, go to office and finish the work there instead. And this is good since once we come back from the office in the evening we can have social life to explore the city instead of working from the hotel room. But if you are a real geek and can't live without getting hooked to the Internet than book the hotel that provides one for free

5. Avoid to eat in the hotel unless it's included in room charge (i.e. breakfast). Get used to eat food in local restaurant which normally cheaper than foreign food and it's always good to learn new culture or taste local food. Or just try to find McDonald around ;) Bring noodle cup in case we get hungry in the late evening

6. Hotel minibar is evil. Go to grocery to buy water and all snacks for late evening stock. Bring water, soft drink and any available free food from the office. Utilize water cooker provided in the room

7. Avoid to do laundry in the hotel, so bring enough clothes. Or do it yourself in the bath tub, and use ironing tools provided in the room to iron your clothes

8. If you work in project, let the Project Manager or local team to pay for dinner :) Make friends with local colleague in the office to get free ride to customer/hotel or even airport. If you are lucky they may even treat you for dinner or buy you drink

9. Apply for frequent flyer program and hotel membership, and use the advantage to use free business lounge in the airport. So if there is a day between flights, we can sleep in the airport or office. I did this many times in Changi airport I'm afraid if they start checking and ask for some fees next time I sleep over there :) If we stay in the same hotel frequently we may get free stay as rewards from the hotel membership so it can be utilized for a day between flights.

10. Use IP phone to call our family back home. Use hotel fixed line or office phone to join teleconference. Use callback facility in webex to call our IP phone instead of our mobile to avoid roaming charges

Friday, October 03, 2008

Oktoberfest Quotes

I have just arrived in Bratislava. For those who are too lazy to open the google map, it's the capital city of Slovakia, one country in eastern Europe. This afternoon I was still in Munich where I spent 3 days to attend several meetings with my new team and the other WWSP teams who cover the same Europe and Emerging Markets (EUEM) but for different technologies. Finally I had a chance to meet my new boss in person, meet his boss, introduce my self and meet half of my team members, and to learn and understand more about one of the Cisco AS organizations that I joined about a month ago.

So I work for World Wide Service Provider Carrier Ethernet practice team. We focus on solution and technology that involve the products related to end-to-end carrier ethernet network. That means it can be the whole solution or portion of it from core network where CRS-1 is taking the main role, multi-service aggregation network, user facing aggregation, to access layer until the last mile technology such as DSL or Wimax. And we don't only lead the deployment in this technology but we also have to write leading practice documents afterward to share our experience and ensure the knowledge gained can be replicated in other projects within our team, by another team and even a bigger community.

The best moment for me is when I realized that I work for a team who not only responsible to lead carrier ethernet deployment for EUEM area, but we also have global responsibility in our technology focus since there is only one carrier ethernet practice team in the whole Cisco organization. That is actually really cool, well, at least for me. Finally I'm in the spotlight just as what I have always wanted to.

There were lots of meetings and discussion and I heard some guys mentioned about the following quotes that I think they are really good so I put them here:

- During the discussion about mobility

We don't "go" to work anymore, we work

- During the discussion about workload

We are all burned out from work, but the tolerance from each person is the one that makes the difference

- During the discussion about work-life balance

It's not a question of "can you do it?" but "when can you do it?"

- During the discussion about inventing new solution

We don't sell solution to reduce Capex anymore, because there is no Capex! We need to sell solution that can generate revenue

Then there were two quotes that I personally made during the night when I had a chance to go to Oktoberfest:

I can't believe there are so many people get drunk at the same time in the same place and no fight

I'm hungry like hungary

Those two, of course, can be safely ignored :)

"Heid is so a schena Dog - lala lal la la!"