Life as a SAP Road Warrior – Do you have what it takes?


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 2 weeks, 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 and prefer non-stop flights 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 be used to track your itinerary for you and also allows you to share it as a calendar with others – I use this to share my schedule with my wife.)

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, gather the phone, charger, laptop, access ID card, negotiating the TSA at the airport and ultimately a flight to the client (I have my “mobile” office permanently in my laptop backpack). 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, including the hop off to a fast food joint at lunchtime (argh!!!) 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 or taxi 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. Missing first days of school, graduation, parent / teacher conferences, parent days, sport practices and games, dinner at the table, bedtime stories, …
  2. Travel – If you don’t like flying then this is simply not for you
  3. Hotels…
    1. Hotel pillows!!!
    2. Hotel beds!!!
    3. Hotel bathrooms!!!
    4. The thin walls allowing to hear more things than needed!
  4. Assuming you get some sleep, I sometimes wake up wondering where I am…
  5. The food. Eating out all the time gets old real quick
  6. You are always on the look for the next gig. This is not good when you are trying to pay a mortgage each month. You always need to prepare for a very rainy period when the projects simply are not there
  7. Variable income often leads to a harder time getting loans as banks frown at variable income employees thinking that the income could disappear at any time, and they are right, it can…
    1. You only get paid when you work but the monthly expenses still keep on coming. This makes going on “vacation” twice as expensive because you have to pay for the trip while earning no income.

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. Each new project brings new insight that can be leveraged at the next client making you more and more useful as time goes on…. (In our industry we call this EXPERIENCE!!! and it’s invaluable)
  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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE23l64NSD4) 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  😉
  4. Rewards programs: Make sure you sign up to take advantage of the hotel, rental car and flight programs. At the end of the year you can reward your family with a free trip of your choice!

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!!!

I am very interested to hear what others think and what their experiences are…

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3 thoughts on “Life as a SAP Road Warrior – Do you have what it takes?

  1. Hi Kevin,
    Great write up and enjoyed it as it truly relates to consultants who have passions for being a road warrior, making clients successful, and lastly the hunger for learning new things.
    Thanks,
    Van

    • Thanks Van,
      It’s been a long time since we last hooked up on a project. Where is the road leading in your life these days?

      Kevin

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