I returned from a week long trip to Manila two weeks ago. While it was not my first business trip, it was by far the longest. In fact, it was the trip I have ever taken in my life. Granted, the trip was fairly comfortable, even for a guy with my long legs, however, it was also a very educational trip in so many way I have lost count.
Normally I go to Sweden or Norway to talk to customers, but this time I went to meet my development team, who I only know from communicator chats and Skype calls. Of course I had a pretty good idea about who these people were, but as any product manager, hopefully, will tell you, nothing beats sitting with your developers and work closely with them. The funny thing about this trip is that I actually met a Danish developer from Saxobank in wine bar in Dubai. It was really great sitting there sipping wine and talking about software development. The really interesting thing was that we shared the exact same views on pretty much everything related to software development. It leads me to believe that I am not completely wrong when I argue about how I think software should be developed. But that is another blog post I guess.
Living at a five star hotel and enjoying the warm weather on my employers bill is needless to say exceptionally nice, however, I still think the work experience was the most stimulating aspect of the trip. I got to sit with my development team on the 24th floor of one the high riser in Makati city and work on our solution. Despite a pretty bad change of plans regarding the purpose of my stay, we still managed to get some things going, and more importantly, we got to establish a good working relationship. I am lucky that I have a really good team to work with, and I am lucky to have a good architect who is sharper than most. However, the trip also highlighted some the issues with outsourcing development. Even though I talk to my team on Communicator and Skype, nothing beats the face-to-face contact the I experienced that week. Small problems were solved much quicker than they normally would, and we were able to make smaller changes to the application on-the-fly without having to wait out the time difference or cumbersome decision making processes. I hope we will be able to keep that pace up now that we are on different continents, but I have my doubts.
The most profound experience though, was seeing my own company from the outside. Working from Manila gave me the opportunity to see how we act towards our partners as well how we come across generally. My wife has travelled a lot, and she told me that once you get to see your company from the outside you either fall completely in love with place, or you realize that you cannot get behind it at all. It is almost like being on the inside of a cult that defines your every day and then suddenly be let out in the world to see what other people see when they look at you. I can really only agree with her on that one. I most certainly had that experience…