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I can only speak of my experience, so please take this in that context… Everyone is different yet this is what I do to make it work for me and my family.

 

Firstly, what is an SAP road warrior? Well, in my terms, it’s someone that jumps on a plane on Sunday evening (or early Monday morning) and arrives at the client’s office several hours later ready to rock and roll. They spend the rest of the week on site, picking up fast food in the middle of the day, working late  and the retiring to the hotel room in the evening. Then comes the trip back home on either Thursday evening  or sometime on Friday (and sometimes even on Saturday!) On extreme cases weekend duty is called upon which makes for two or more weeks away from home… International road warriors often leave for a month or more at a time.

 

Now that we have established what my understanding of a road warrior is we can go in to the mysteries surrounding them.

 

Just to set the scene … So where does it all start and what do you have to do as a road warrior?

 

Once you’ve taken your job search through to interview ->  job offer -> acceptance of terms -> contract signing it’s time to make arrangements. Since I’m often left to my own devices I make my own arrangements. Firstly I see if I can get a flight arranged as cheaply as possible to the required destination. (I prefer to keep the same airline so as to minimize the variances in my life) On the same website I try to book a car rental and hotel, also to avoid unnecessary complexities. I can go to one website to get my itinerary. (PS: A site like http://tripit.com/ can now also track your itinerary for you)

 

So, once all the travel is arranged my typical week starts on Sunday by printing out the boarding pass and packing. Monday morning is an early rise and flight to the client. Pick up the car (hopefully from the same location each week) and off to the client. Once we have a full day under the belt it’s off to the hotel (hopefully the same hotel each week) to check in. If you keep things the same each week there is just less time thinking about the stuff that ultimately does not matter!!! Repeat until Thursday when you pack up, check out, work a full day, return the rental car and fly back home.

 

So, in short let’s bullet point some financial aspects of the road warrior life:

Typical expenses include (hopefully reimbursed by the client but if it’s an all inclusive contract then take these costs in to consideration when bidding for the gig)

  1. Mileage to and from the airport
  2. Airport parking fees (or taxi fee to airport)
  3. Airfare
  4. Rental car at client location
  5. Hotel accommodation
  6. Per diem (daily rate) or actual food expenses

So what are the cons???

  1. Spending time away from the family – This is an absolute deal breaker for many who choose not to follow this path

  2. Travel – If you don’t like flying then this is simply not for you

  3. Hotel pillows!!!

  4. Hotel beds!!!

  5. Assuming you get some sleep, I sometimes wake up wondering where I am…

  6. The food. Eating out all the time gets old real quick

So what are the pros???

  1. Networking with the best – Each project offers a unique view in to SAP and you invariably learn something new all the time. It’s an ever evolving world out there. It’s great to be a part of the small world of SAP and to learn from others and share with others
  2. Time: I have time in the evenings to work on the many other initiatives that I have under way. I can write blogs, work on my website ERPGenie.COM (http://www.erpgenie.com/), liaise with potential authors for Genie Press (http://www.geniepress.com/), write a book (http://www.geniepress.com/books/sapem.htm), script a speech for a webinar or conference, moderate my forums and read up on what’s going on out there
  3. Money: The remuneration for a road warrior is often more than that of a salaried employee, mostly for the reasons listed above… Supply and demand ultimately prevails and determines the price though. If you are looking for the best resource in a particular area it would be naïve to think that the resource would be local to your company so your next best bet is to call in the road warriors  😉

If I take a look at what I believe it takes to be a successful SAP road warrior

First and foremost comes your personality and core belief system. You need a stable life back at home with a trustworthy, reliable partner taking care of the family and home.  With so much time spent on the road and so many people involved in your life that are strangers to your partner, you have to be trustworthy and accountable for your actions. Take time each evening to feed this relationship with your family back home. I like to call home 7:30pm every night to talk with my wife and kids and see how their day was and what the plan is for the following day.

 

Secondly, you have to be able to adapt quickly to new circumstances particularly at new clients. You need the ability to merge your knowledge in to providing value to the client in the area that they hired you to fill. They expect you to hit the ground running.

 

Of course, you need the knowledge that separates you from the rest of the warrior clan…

 

Are you ready?

I have been at many clients where the employees I work with have shown some resentment towards myself and my fellow road warrior clan because they have some knowledge about the rate being paid to get us in. Often it’s 3 or more times their annual salary… On each instance I found myself trying to justify the difference by stating all of the above issues we face as well as the fact that we don’t get the billing rate, only a fraction of that (hopefully a good fraction 😉 Now, I just say to those people “You have the choice to do it as well if you wish!” and this is usually followed by a volley of reasons why it wouldn’t work for them (usually one or more of the issues mentioned above) . A mutual understanding is then formed and life continues…

 

This life is certainly not for everyone but if you have the right personality, some great knowledge, a drive to make it a success for yourself, then you can do big things as the next SAP Road Warrior!!! Welcome to the clan!!!

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14 Comments

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  1. Susan Keohan
    Hi Kevin,
    Sometimes, the one left at home forgets the trials and tribulations of the road warrior.  Yes, he doesn’t have to do dishes, or laundry, or homework, or any of the myriad things that keep a house with kids running.  But I don’t have to get up at 4AM to go to the airport every Monday.  Nor do I have to worry about flight delays, too much eating out, and missing the charming moments of being a parent.
    Probably the hardest thing is getting on the same page – even with nightly phone calls and multiple emails during the day – a lot is lost.  Timing – so we can have a friendly chat without either one, or both, dropping off to sleep – really is everything!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Sue
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    1. Kevin Wilson Post author
      Sue,
      You are so right, it would take a book to discuss the life of the significant other left at home and the kids. It’s a choice in the end and you have to learn to live around your choice. At times it’s easy when all is going well and at times it gets tougher, especially first days of school, parent teacher conferences, first rugby game, high fever and a trip to ER, …

      Good luck and all the best
      Kevin

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  2. Claudine Lagerholm
    Thanks so much for posting this blog, Kevin!  We don’t often talk about the personal qualities and the life styles of consultants, so your blog brings another dimension to the career related discussions that we’ve been having on SCN.  The pluses and minuses are definitely what consultants need to think about, even early in their careers.  Long term, depending on how the scale tips, these factors determine who stays in the game and who chooses another path. I used to be a road warrior, not as a consultant but when I worked in global operations, and I can definitely relate to the cons. #6 – eating out all the time was the toughest one for me. Somehow I would always end up eating more than I needed and it was just plain boring to eat on my own, so I used to bring books and magazines to restaurants.  But the experience was great – at the time.
    Good luck on the road!
    Claudine
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  3. Jarret Pazahanick
    Great article and as someone who has been a road warrior for the past 12 years everything is right on the money. I really like how you mentioned a stable life at home and a trustful relationship as that is that is often forgetten and a key part of the work/life balance for the road warrior.

    At various clients over the years I have had very sharp team members ask me if they had what it took to be a consultant. I always tell them that the SAP peice is only one side of the puzzle and the one people always seem to underestimate is the ability to balance life on the road.

    On a side note I fly the same flight each week, stay in the same hotel room and use the same taxi as my goal has been to make travel as comfortable and easy as possible so I can focus on work.

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  4. Igor Barbaric
    Hi, Kevin,
    Thank you for an excellent blog on private and intimate feelings that all of us have and rarely share.
    As for myself, your cons were exactly the reason why I didn’t become a road warrior for so many years. In fact, I could live with all horrible things like flying and eating out, but being away from family is what I see as unacceptable for my entire career. However, your pros are appealing to me too, so I had internal struggle all the time: shall I do it or not? Recently I decided (and had opportunity) to take the middle path. Yes, there is one! I base my existance on teaching courses plus local consulting projects (currently) plus remote consulting (rarely) plus short-term consulting (in theory). I am a semi-road-warrior; I do all mentioned things with flights, hotels etc, but I do them occasionally. I have the benefit of spending full weeks with my family, but it has drawbacks. The biggest one is obvious: I earn less and uncertainty is greater. For example, in teaching business you never know until 2 weeks before the course will you teach or not.
    The life can be so ironic sometimes! I don’t mind travelling if it is for business, but I don’t have the urge to do it for fun. I have everything I need in 200km range and I could spend the entire vacation just exploring bicycle routes in my county. However, my wife with her static 8-hours/day employment, would sell her soul to see some more cathedrals, castles, parliaments and shopping malls.
    But so far so good – I am hanging on. And when my lovely little girls grow to independent young ladies, I could merge my business with my wife’s pleasure. I might try the “real thing” and accept some overseas offer, she can quit or take sabbatical and we can go together. But then again, that’s not being a true road warrior, is it?
    Igor
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  5. James Gaddis
    Wow, your blog brings back a swarm of good and bad memories to me.  I spent the first 6 years of my SAP career as a road warrior.  I still think fondly of all my old client sites, but I’m also still trying to forget that night I got stuck in the Newark airport!  When my family started to grow beyond just my wife and dog, I decided to end the travel.  I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to work on long-term projects for the past 10 years, and I’ve only had to move the family twice (yes, they go where I go!).  At this point, I’d have to say that I am a permanent “Home Warrior” with no desire to hit the road any time soon.  Coaching my son’s basketball team and seeing my baby girl’s smile every day are worth too much to me…
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  6. Edward Pelyavskyy
    Kevin,

    This was my superficial and judgmental first impression I got about you based on this blog.
    After googling “Kevin Wilson SAP” (as you recommend in your other blog) to get to “know” you better I formed a more positive opinion about you.

    Nonetheless here I come…

    I would like to defend the employees who “have shown some resentment towards” you.

    To me the words “expert” and “architect” are the most abused words in the SAP community.

    In my mind the guys like you, experts, fall into two categories: the real experts and the sales people.

    I have not seen too many real experts but a lot of sales people.

    With an enormous self-confidence you sell your expertise to the company management who hires you for (mine * 3) pay and starts believing every word that comes out of your mouth.

    A few months later, when the expert is long gone, an employee is asked to quickly take a look at the work of art created by the expert. And what one sees makes one scream in one’s mind and question every next expert that one comes across.

    I’ve seen employees who are real experts but because of lack of self-confidence (or the language barrier) they are overshadowed by the “sales people” experts.

    Long live employees!

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    1. Kevin Wilson Post author
      Edward,

      Thank you for your great perspective on this. Please forgive me if i came across knocking employees. When I said that I often feel resentment from employees I do not mean that in a negative way. I was trying to say that I understand exactly how they feel. I was an employee for 10 years before hitting the road, the last 4 of which I worked with SAP and watched over 120 Andersen consultants come and go, all mostly road warriors. I also saw good ones and bad ones.
      You can ask some of my past clients if you wish but I often say to the employees that they are left with the hardest work of all. My work is easy. The client calls me in to do work in an area that I know well and have command of, I help the employees put it in and then I leave…. Who is left to ensure that the value is achieved through what I have put in? If I have not adequately educated the employee then how on earth can I expect them to run with it and get the value that was promised the organization? A truly successful implementation is one where the client can take it on to the next level by themselves.
      Regarding your comments on expert and architect, I hear you. Chris summed up the expert part in his comment perfectly (Also see my blog on what it takes to become an expert Striving towards becoming a world-class consultant? What’s the next step you need to take?).
      Regarding Architect, it is a widely used term these days and you, as a client hiring an “architect”, has to do their job well to weed out the “wannabes” and the real architects. I have a blog on how to identify good SAP talent as well that describes how to do this.
      I have chosen to try and avoid that term and have started using Solution Engineer… 😉 because what I am most often asked to do is to design a solution and then implement it, so that’s what I do in the areas that I specialize in.
      Employees make the world go round for sure and I second your salute to them as well “Long live employees!”

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  7. Christopher Solomon
    Kevin,
      I think you summariazed it all very well. It’s not the most “easy” career path to choose, but it can be the most rewarding in many ways (experience, exposure to industries/biz processes, people, and of course, financial). A few things to add….

    (1) to your list of “cons”, I think it’s nice to add that work is not always guaranteed…hence, you can’t look at an hourly rate as and annual salary comparison. You might work a project 6 months at a great rate and then be “on the bench” searching out your next project for months without income…..so, save some of that “big money” coming in. haha

    (2) In response to the treatment you get from employees on-site….yes, I have experienced it too. Therefore, I have learned to set expectations to those I am exposed to and work with early on. So I communicate clearly (a) yes, I am a “consultant” brought into the project….that does not always mean “expert”…it means their company has a project with a short-term need for a resource like me, and it is smarter for them to bring me in as a contractor than an employee as I will be disposable. (b) I am brought in also because it is easier/less costly (time and money-wise) than training an employee to do my work…especially again if only needed on a project basis (c) although I might be an “expert”, “guru”, etc. in a particular area of SAP, I am NOT an expert in their business, their way of doing things, and possibly, the things they try to force SAP to do…in other words, I can’t possibly have “seen it all” with what they might throw at me. (d) we are on the same team, working towards the same goal, so let’s focus on that….and by the way, enjoy sleeping in your own bed each night at your own home (haha….ok, so I don’t really say that one)

    (3) Time does not stop just because your on a project…add to your cons, that ALL those things you are typically use to taking care of during the week don’t just magically disappear….the time to do them gets more compressed. So prepare for that span of Fri-Sun while home to be FILLED all the time with this, that and the other little things you must deal with before setting off again. Of course, this helps when you have support at home, but some of us (single folks…haha) don’t.

    (4) I fully agree with the “eating meals out” all the time. As you might recall, Kevin, I work out, run and stay generally healthy…therefore, I tend not to eat out a lot on the road or make “wise” choices when doing so. Hence….PRO TIP…I always get a room with one of those mini-fridges in it. Then, on Monday’s I can buy a few groceries for my meals for the week and eat as I wish. The added benefit here is that it also saves money as well (esp. if you are “all inclusive”). Along with this, I scout my hotels. If a client has rates with several, I call around and find which has “agreements” with nearby,local gyms for guest to visit for free…hotel gyms just don’t cut it…..and even if they are “nice”, you will want to get out of the hotel otherwise it will feel like hotel-work-hotel-work-hotel-work and that get’s REAL old fast.

    (5) As you kind of alluded to, I think it works best to get into a habit as quickly as possible…same flights, car rental, hotel, etc…daily routine (ex. wake,workout,breakfast,work,lunch,work,workout/run,dinner,sleep)…time arriving on-site/time leaving for home…so you keep all the outside “distractions” to a minimum. It also helps pass the week/time more quickly for me. I often get called a “creature of habit” but it works for me especially with the “extreme time management” we often have to pull off. haha

    I am sure I could come up with many others (haha), but I think you did a great job covering it, Kevin! Thanks for letting me (us) know we are not alone….Road Warriors unite!!!! =)

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    1. Kevin Wilson Post author
      Chris,

      It was a great pleasure working with you. You most certainly have genuine command and mastery of your area.
      You have made some very valid points that I completely agree with. The time off anf the time not able to do things during the week are huge cons and I think I’ll add those to the list.

      Thanks again
      Tell then next gig together
      Cheers
      Kevin

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  8. Nikesh Hajari
    What was your career path and how did you end up as a road warrior? It’s something that I have thought about considering as a possible career choice (consulting). I just received an internship at SAP to start this summer.
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