EMC World 2008: Perk or work?

Today marks our final dry-run of the “Getting the Value out of your ControlCenter 6.x Implementation” hands-on session. Problems are ironed out (hopefully!), handouts are completed, and we’re as practiced as we’re going to be. Sunday, I’m sure there will be some last-minute chaos, and then over the next four days we’ll deliver five sessions, each 2.5 hours in length, each with up to 100 attendees sharing 50 laptops. I’ve never been involved in anything quite like it.

Everyone I talk to outside the company about my “free trip to Vegas” regards it as a perk. And clearly it is. But like every other perk, it has plenty of baggage associated with it.

Of course, as a manager, I would love to have this sort of perk available to me as another tool for managing employees. Sending someone to a customer-facing conference to represent your product shows a great deal of trust in and appreciation for them, but also represents a large chunk of extra work. Given how tight travel budgets are these days, you’re only going if you’ve got a (good) reason to go. No boondoggles here.

In the case of my hands-on, presenters had to learn new areas of the product, came up with their own use cases for those areas, figured out how to turn that into a tight 20-30 minute demonstration of the product, came up with a handout for it, attended between 2 and 5 hours of meetings a week to prepare and practice, and will travel there and back on their own time (Sunday, Thursday evening … though getting in pre-dawn on Friday pretty much implies a quiet work day on Friday). That’s not to mention being on call for booth duty and actually doing ten hours of hands-on with customers, with additional time for setup and tear-down each day.

I’m not complaining! It’s still a perk. But it’s a work perk, and work perks always come with strings. It’s all good to know your company is going to pay for your cell phone, but you also have to publish the number to the entire company and answer it whenever it rings. Nothing is that simple.

And the line between professional and personal blurs further….