One of our largest customers, a group of agricultural research centers, held the annual meeting of their IT Managers in early May, in Washington, DC. I was invited to attend so that I could provide an update on a pilot Active Directory project we were conducting, and to give a talk on Microsoft's direction with respect to cloud computing. Naturally, this meant an opportunity for another "Product Managers on the Road" edition!
Travel Day. Flight leaves at 6 AM... yeesh. At least I have a car taking me to the airport. Brian's with me, since he came out to make a surprise visit to Sean during Sean's chemotherapy treatment.
After saying goodbye to Brian (he's on a different flight back to DC) I head to the gate. Okay... it's a 737 with only paid amenities. Time to stock up on some nuts and dried fruit for the flight. I send a couple of text messages to Sean to see how he's feeling.
It's a full flight, and naturally everyone is attempting to carry their life's possessions onto the flight. They were taking volunteers to gate-check bags; a great way to check your bags for free.
On the plane. The passenger ahead of me is falling asleep, and keeps snapping her neck as her head drops forward. Reminds me of me at the opera.
Good news: there's a monitor in the seat back. Bad news: I can't turn it off. Welcome to six hours of the same Lincoln car commercial. Or I could pay to watch network TV shows, with commercials. Wait, what?
Dante, who's traveling with me, finds the oldest Peruvian restaurant in DC. I get to experience aji, a kind of all-purpose hot sauce. I stupidly ask Dante if he's ever had Peruvian food, forgetting that Dante is from Peru.
Meeting Day One. At the IT Managers meeting. I learn a new term when one of the IT Managers says he is going to “throw a spanner in the works.”
Many of the IT Managers here are European. Maybe that's why they commented that today's hot meal is "a real lunch" compared with yesterday's cold sandwiches. I also notice a reluctance to eat in the meeting room, even though there are more places to sit there. This is certainly different than a startup! There's also a bit of the "Microsoft as Evil Empire" feeling in the room. How long until Google attains that status?
Good news: the Golden State Warriors' playoff game is on TNT! Bad news: there's no sound. I get to watch the entire game, including two overtimes, on forced mute. Steph Curry's face at the end of the game says, "can we just get this over?"
Meeting Day Two. During one of the smoking breaks (!) I observe the commotion as a group of people are trying to feed/protect a duck they find nesting in the flowers. The contrast in attention paid to the duck vs. the homeless guy panhandlng nearby is perfect.
Dante and I get to leave the meeting early. So I take Dante to see the Capitol Building. We're walking, and when I feel the first couple of raindrops we head for shelter. Good thing--the skies open up for 10 minutes or more. We end up taking a taxi the rest of the way to the Capitol building. Of course, the rain stops as soon as we arrive.
Looking for a cab after out Capitol visit. Thanks to a kind taxi driver, I learn where to stand (and where not to stand) if you're looking for a cab, in the rain, at 5:00 PM.
Evening off. Brian and I had planned to go see the Washington Nationals play, but I already have one experience getting rained on while watching them, so we change plans. We end up getting some great seafood, including, oysters we've never heard of before, at Hank's Oyster Bar in Georgetown. Then it's over to a 60s style bar for a drink. I feel like I'm in some sort of James Bond movie.
Day Three. Visiting another customer, have some time before my appointment. The weather's cleared up a bit, so I take a stroll near the White House and then back to where I had been staying. I decide I'd better eat now, since I may use up all my lunch time walking back to my hotel. I grab a hot dog and find a bench to sit and eat.
I can only imagine the advice McKinsey gave this vendor: "diversify!"
Now back to the hotel, to check out and go to my next appointment.
A great meeting with my customer, now on to the airport and back home... As Brian had told me, Thursday afternoon is the worst time to fly out of Dulles; all the Congress-people are headed back home for the weekend. So everything takes longer, and my plan to change into casual clothes before the flight is for naught. I have just enough time to get to the gate and hand them my ticket. And who do I run into (almost literally) at the gate? Jackie Speier. Brian interned for Jackie when he first went to Washington, so it was great to catch up with her and let her know what Brian is doing these days.
Late-night arrival in SFO. Fortunately, I have a car taking me home so I can doze off. Great trip, great fun with Brian and co, great customer interactions!