Life as a SAP Road Warrior – Do you have what it takes?
Update 2019 with comments from the community…
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 – PS: I’m unfortunately up to 800k miles traveling! Power to my wife for sticking with me through all that travel.)
So, once all the travel is arranged my typical week starts on Sunday by printing out the boarding pass (2019 update: now we just use the Apple Wallet so this is much easier now) and packing. Monday morning is an early rise and flight to the client (PS: Park in the same parking location each week…). 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. KEEP THE NON-VALUE_ADD STUFF SIMPLE. Non-value-add = activities that do not directly help you earn an income.
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)
Mileage to and from the airport
Airport parking fees (or taxi fee to airport)
Rental car at client location
Per diem (daily rate) or actual food expenses
So what are the cons???
Spending time away from the family – This is an absolute deal breaker for many who choose not to follow this path
Travel – If you don’t like flying then this is simply not for you
Jet lag! Assuming you get some sleep, I sometimes wake up wondering where I am…
The food. Eating out all the time gets old real quick
“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)” Chris
“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.” Chris
“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! ” Sue
So what are the pros???
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
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://press.erpgenie.com/), write a book, script a speech for a webinar or conference, moderate my forums and read up on what’s going on out there.
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 every lunch time to talk with my wife to see how her day was and what the plan is for the rest of the 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…
“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 piece is only one side of the puzzle and the one people always seem to underestimate is the ability to balance life on the road.” Jarrett
“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.” Chris
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…
“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)” Chris
Another point of view: “Sorry, my answer happened to be too big, so it landed as a separate blog post here: Mixed feelings about the life of an SAP Road Warrior”
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!!!