The beginning of the pandemic both feels like yesterday and many lifetimes ago. On Friday March 6, 2020, I flew back into my home airport — my seventh week of travel in 2020 already — the following morning, I received a message from my company asking us to cancel travel plans and stay home. We of course had no idea that staying home for a few weeks was going to turn into two years.
For me, it was two years of no air travel whatsoever. On my first trip back on a plane, I felt very out of practice; packing even took me much longer than it used to take (which used to feel automatic), the TSA screener very gently reminded me I had TSA Pre-check and would I kindly move over to that line (I know, totally embarrassing newbie mistake).
Flying last Friday night on my way from Washington Dulles back home to Raleigh-Durham, I was reflecting on my time in the Washington area and thinking about everything that has changed since the last time I made such a trip. First thoughts, I was so grateful to have the opportunity to meet in-person safely with my colleagues, as I know that has not been an option for many people. My second thought was the realization of how many things have changed for the better for the PreSales industry since then, not the least of which was the founding of the PreSales Collective in April 2020.
Hybrid Meetings: Prior to the pandemic, when we met in person with our clients and our partners, anyone who was remote was not engaged effectively in the meeting- it was very common for remote participants to be left out of the discussion entirely. Today, we have learned a LOT about effective use of remote meeting tools- I had my first of these new Hybrid meetings last week- about 75% of us were physically in the room with the other 25% in a virtual meeting. We more naturally seemed to include each voice — even the remote ones — in the discussion to make sure all perspectives were captured. I believe as PreSales engineers we are now much better equipped to ensure all participants are engaged, whether they are onsite or remote.
Work-Life Balance: I don’t foresee returning to the level of travel we had before the pandemic – at least not in the near term. Our clients and partners are, for most industries, remaining remote or only in the office a few days a week. As a result, onsite meetings are not the norm. One SE I spoke with recently remarked to me about how nice it was, no matter how busy the day, to be home with their partner and their children at night - and to sleep in their own bed. While there are many of us eager to return to travel, I think for the near future, many PreSales professionals will have a much better balance between travel and being home. I believe this improvement in work-life balance will offer more opportunities for people to join the profession, especially for those who more frequently travel may have been a barrier to joining before.
People: The last two years have weighed heavily on all of us. What we long for now is connection- we have felt disconnected from our communities for so long! We have learned the importance of these connections, and this is the most important thing we’ve learned through the pandemic. What really matters is each other — each of YOU are what makes the PreSales Collective a special place. It’s the same in our workplaces too. It’s the connections we have with each other, with our colleagues, with our clients and partners. As PreSales engineers, we are in the business of connecting with people as much as we are in the business of technology. I believe this focus back on relationships will be a GREAT thing for PreSales.
On my flight home, I felt grateful to be able to travel safely and to be able to gather with my colleagues- and hopeful for the future. I also was probably smiling from ear to ear the entire time- happy that I had the opportunity yet again to take to the friendly skies. How do you think the pandemic has changed our industry? I’d love to hear from you!