Deliverable #3: "On the Road"

An overview of what it's like traveling for work every week in consulting

[Musical Intro]

 

Jay: “Welcome to Out of Bandwidth, the podcast guide for future consultants. I’m your host, Jay Alexander, and I’m here with my colleague, Victoria, to share advice and stories about being an analyst at a major consulting firm. Our third episode details what it’s like living on the road.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “Victoria, welcome to the show.”

 

Victoria: “Thanks for having me, Jay.”

 

Jay: “Before we get started, I like to build a profile of every guest. So, how long have you been with the firm?”

 

Victoria: “Been with the firm for about eight months now.”

 

Jay: “How many projects have you been on?”

 

Victoria: “I’ve been on two projects.

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Victoria: “So my first project was only seven weeks…”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Victoria: “And then the second I’ve been on, like I said, I’ve been there almost six months, could easily be there another six months, and I’m enjoying it so far.”

 

Jay: “That’s good.”

 

Victoria: “Yeah.”

 

Jay: “What type of consulting do you do?”

 

Victoria: “I work in strategy consulting.”

 

Jay: “What industries have you worked in?”

 

Victoria: “So, so far I’ve worked in automotive, IT, and defense contracting.”

 

Jay: “And do you have a target or focus industry?”

 

Victoria: “So right now, my target is specifically supply chain, but I’m also interested in branching outside of that as well.”

 

Jay: “What do you think you might do next?”

 

Victoria: “Um, I’m really interested in customer strategy, sort of the more creative side of consulting.”

 

Jay: “Okay.”

 

Victoria: “So hopefully I’ll have a chance to do something like that in the future.”

 

Jay: “Sounds cool.”

 

Victoria: “Yeah.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “So, today’s topic is ‘On the Road’ and we’re going to be talking about the entire travel piece of consulting, which is really your life Monday through Thursday.”

 

Victoria: “Right.”

 

Jay: “Think back to your first week on a travel project. How weird was it flying to work and living in a hotel, and then, what do you think of it now? Have you gotten used to it?”

 

Victoria: “It’s pretty disorienting, honestly. It’s strange every Monday to get up, fly somewhere, and all of a sudden be 2,000 miles away from home, but kind of feel like you never left, because you go back to that place so often.”

 

Jay: “Every week.”

 

Victoria: “Yes, and so, you know, I get off the plane and, on the one hand it feels kind of unnatural, but on the other hand, I’m there, like I said, every week. And so, you get a routine. You get established on your route from the airport to work, and it starts to feel very normal. Um, but when you think about it, it’s really pretty strange.”

 

Jay: “Have you gotten used to it?”

 

Victoria: “I do think I’ve gotten very used to it. And I have a pretty set routine now, and because I’ve been going back to the same hotel for so many months now, I have the same room every week. When I check in on Mondays, the people at the check-in counter greet me by name.”

 

Jay: “You probably know their names.”

 

Victoria: “Yes, I definitely do. And, you know, my local coffee shop, like people know me. Like you do kind of form a community away from home. The people that work the TSA line at the airport in Dallas, they all know me. They’re like, ‘You’re back again!’”

 

Jay: “There’s Victoria…”

 

Victoria: “Yeah. One nice thing about that travel aspect is, when you go down to your project, you go there for work. And so, yes, you’re not at home, but with that comes the lack of distractions. And so, I’m really there to get my work done Monday through Thursday. I’m in the hotel just to sleep, really. Maybe work out, maybe eat. But other than that, I’m really not there.”

 

Jay: “Yeah.”

 

Victoria: “So, your new normal kind of becomes the client site and your team, and then, when you come back for the weekend, generally I feel like I have time to kind of like relax, and decompress, and just be home, which is nice.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “How do you prepare for a week on the road?”

 

Victoria: “So by now, my routine is pretty standard. I was actually discussing this with a fellow consultant yesterday. We’re all really good at packing by now.”

 

Jay: “Oh yeah.”

 

Victoria: “So I don’t even put much thought into packing, because I know, you know, I need four tops, and I’ll bring, you know, maybe two or three pairs of pants, and I’ll have all my toiletries basically already set. And so on Sundays before I leave, you know, I’ll do my laundry and pack…still have to do that tonight. Um, I try and squeeze in time with friends, because obviously I don’t see them during the week. So, you know, Sunday nights a lot of time I’ll watch movies, or just have dinner with friends, and then try and go to bed at a reasonable hour so I can get up at the crack of dawn.”

 

Jay: “So let’s back up at that, you’re getting up at the crack of dawn. What time is your flight?”

 

Victoria: “6:45.”

 

Jay: “Ooh.”

 

Victoria: “AM. Yes.”

 

Jay: “So what time are you getting up?”

 

Victoria: “I usually get up around 5:00. It only takes me about twenty-five minutes to get to the airport, so generally I’ll schedule a Lyft for the morning. Take that to the airport, hope that the driver doesn’t want to chat too much at 5am. Um, I have CLEAR so I can go right to the front of the line, and so generally I aim to arrive to the airport maybe five to ten minutes before boarding. There’s no wiggle room for mistakes, which I always forget until I’m living it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, should have given myself twenty more minutes, but it’s true.”

 

Jay: “You’ll just book a new one.”

 

Victoria: “That’s the thing. Worst comes to worst, you do a same-day flight change and be on my way.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “Let’s talk about the social aspects of living with your team and seeing them everywhere all the time. So, the gym, the ride to the office, the client site, team dinners. What are the positives and negatives of seeing everyone everywhere all the time?”

 

Victoria: “Sure. So, on the project I’m now, we actually have a lot of people around my age that are working on it. So it’s nice to have people to be able to grab drinks with, or dinner, or go to a workout with, and have some social time to blow off steam at the end of the day. Just last week, we went into downtown Dallas and got drinks at a bar together. You know, people say, hey tomorrow at 6:00 I’m gonna go to this cycling class, do you want to come? And that can be really fun. It can also feel like an obligation sometimes, I think, to go to that team dinner, or go to somebody’s send-off party. Um…”

 

Jay: “You have to learn how to say ‘no’ when you need time for yourself.”

 

Victoria: “Right. And the work-thread I’ve been working on has been fairly intense, and so a lot of times, my small team will say no to these events. And sometimes it’s a relief to not have to go, but other times it can be really fun. So, it just kind of depends on how your week is going, how your day is going. An issue that I had with my first project was I felt like there was an expectation every single night to go to dinner with the team.”

 

Jay: “That’s a lot.”

 

Victoria: “It is a lot. And we’d get up every single morning and eat the hotel buffet breakfast together. Just something to look out for, and I think, you know, as much as you can, just being comfortable saying no, regardless of, kind of, the pushback you might get.”

 

Jay: “You need to do what you need to do for you and be comfortable speaking up for yourself.”

 

Victoria: “Right. And you’re work isn’t gonna be as good or as high quality if you’re not kind of, outside of work, doing what you need to do to prepare for the next day. And so, that’s what I tell myself.”

 

Jay: “Work-life balance.”

 

Victoria: “Exactly.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “What is your diet and gym routine like while traveling. How do you avoid gaining weight, and have you been successful with it?”

 

Victoria: “Yeah, so I was worried about that when I started, and so far, so good. I think it takes a real dedication to it, and you have to make a conscious effort to eat well and also get in exercise. Um...”

 

Jay: “And sleep!”

 

Victoria: “And sleep. It can be really hard, if I’m being honest, to get all three. I think there are times where it feels like, alright, if I’m gonna work out tomorrow morning, I have to wake up at 5:00-5:30, and I may not get—in fact I definitely won’t get—eight hours of sleep. You know, so it’s either, do I want get the full eight hours or do I want to work out?”

 

Jay: “What about your diet, what is your diet like on the road? What tricks do you use?”

 

Victoria: “So, I’ve found, one thing about being on a long-term project which is nice, and maybe you can relate to, is that you find the places that you like and the places that you know have healthy options for you and you can go back to them time and time again. So…”

 

Jay: “Whole Foods!”

 

Victoria: “Whole Foods is a great place. I try and mix it up between both, you know, rewarding myself with something that I like, and that’s fun, and then also just trying to stick to a steady diet and not eating a lot of snacks in between meals, which can be hard.”

 

Jay: “That’s the key.”

 

Victoria: “Yes. Because you’re not necessarily limited by your own financial constraints, and there’s, you know, Doritos down the hall, which look really good. Or even, our team will have big boxes of chocolates set up like right on our tables…”

 

Jay: “Oh my God.”

 

Victoria: “So being able to, kind of, avoid that, it’s key but it can be tricky.”

 

Jay: “If you don’t want to eat it, don’t buy it.”

 

Victoria: “I know, but I always buy it.”

 

Jay: “I know, well then you’re gonna eat it!”

 

Victoria: “I know, I know.”

 

Jay: “Have you maintained your weight so far?”

 

Victoria: “Yes. So…”

 

Jay: “Wow.”

 

Victoria: “I think I have. I don’t really weigh myself, but I’m just assuming that I have because I’m wearing all the same clothes.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “Why is it so much fun earning travel perks. So this is statuses, points, miles. Why do we like it so much?”

 

Victoria: “So, I think, on the one hand, it makes your day-to-day travel that you have to do much more convenient and much more comfortable. So, when you have status on an airline and you can get upgraded to nicer seats, that makes your flight a little less dreadful, that you have to go through every single week. I also think it’s nice for when you have time off or the weekends and you decide to travel somewhere, to be able to have hotel points that you can take and use in another city. Use your airline miles to fly somewhere you otherwise probably couldn’t afford on your own.”

 

Jay: “How have you cashed your points in so far? What was, like, the coolest vacation you took?”

 

Victoria: “Um, I took a really fun vacation recently to Mexico City. And I was able to fly there from Texas, rather than flying home, so I had my ticket paid for. I used my points to book a hotel there. And it was an incredible vacation and a great place. We are, at the end of the day, I think, pretty fortunate at our young ages to be able to see all these places if we want to, and travel in a way that we otherwise wouldn’t if we were using our own money.”

 

Jay: “How has being on the road all the time impacted your relationship with friends?”

 

Victoria: “I think in some ways, it’s almost made it stronger in that I can see certain friends that live in other cities more often that I would otherwise because I can fly to see them on the weekend. For friends that live here, a lot of them are busy with school or work during the week anyway, and so I think, when I come home, it almost makes the time we’re able to spend together a bit more special because we’re looking forward to it and we’ve spent time apart. Obviously it can be difficult, though, and other times I’ve gone stretches where I haven’t seen my roommate for a month, because she’ll be off somewhere one weekend and I’ll be off somewhere two weekends, and all of a sudden it’s been four weeks before we’ve seen each other…”

 

Jay: “Reunion time!”

 

Victoria: “Yeah! And then when you see each other, it’s like, ‘Great!’ Um…but you can definitely feel lapses in your relationship when you’re not able to see each other, so…It is challenging to be on the road every week, and to feel like you can really build a community in your own town that you live in, while also being gone a majority of the week. I feel like as soon as I come home, I’m getting ready to leave again.”

 

Jay: “Yeah, it’s very fast.”

 

Victoria: “It is. I definitely envy people that can actually live somewhere and really build a network and a community in that place. It can be difficult when you’re gone so much. And it’s just exhausting.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “We’re coming to the end of the show here. I like to wrap up with a question: what advice would you give to a future consultant?”

 

Victoria: “I think my advice would be to work really hard and get the most out of it that you can. And to be realistic about what you’re getting into, and so, to know that there are some great perks. Take advantage of the traveling if that’s something you want to do. You know, learn as much as you can about different industries regardless of whether you think you want to work in those forever. You’ll still get something meaningful out of it. And then just keep your eyes open and know that there are other opportunities out there. And so, if you don’t want to do it long-term, that’s okay. And if you do, great. But for the time that you do it, try and enjoy as much of it as you can, because it’s hard as a 22 or 23-year-old to find a better gig in a lot of ways.”

 

[Interlude]

 

Jay: “Victoria, thank you for coming on the show.”

 

Victoria: “Jay, thanks for having me.”

 

Jay: “Thank you for listening. Please be sure to subscribe and give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts. Links can be found at consultingscoop.com. Until next time, this is Jay Alexander singing off. We’ll catch you at the client site.”

[Musical Outro] 

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