Career Power-UpCareer Skills

Out of Office Experiences to Boost Your Career

By Paige Kassalen

It’s summer vacation time, and the familiar automated “out of office” email responses are back!

Loads of data and countless articles show how beneficial taking time off is for increasing your productivity at work. I agree with this notion, and always try to find ways to optimize my vacation days to get the most out of my time away from the office.

Instead of discussing the benefits of taking time off, I wanted to highlight a few vacation ideas that provide experiences to benefit you in your career.

  1. Travel somewhere where your native language is not the dominant language

When I was working for Solar Impulse 2: the first solar-powered airplane to fly around the world, most of the team had a different native language than I did. I remember being in meetings and struggling to follow along with the discussion, and wished more people would pause to make sure I understood the topic.

I have taken this lesson with me, and now make sure to pay extra attention when I am working in an international setting. If you haven’t had an experience like this, the next best thing is to take a trip somewhere where your native language is not the dominant language.

Traveling somewhere where you cannot easily communicate provides perspective into how difficult it can be to operate when you cannot speak your native language. When you return from your trip, keep this in mind, and you can be more purposeful when choosing your communication style when interacting with global colleagues.

  1. Go to a manufacturing plant

Traveling to a new country might not always be possible, but there is probably some type of manufacturing facility within a one-to-two-hour drive of your house that offers tours.

When you look at a product, you do not always think of the journey it took to go from raw materials to a finished product in your home. I have toured old steel mills, water treatment facilities, cheese factories, chocolate factories, and more.

Touring a manufacturing facility can spark creativity, because you can see how things are made, and this will make you think about the value chain and how your role fits into the bigger picture of what product or service your company provides.

  1. Visit something you have learned about

I feel empowered every time I visit a landmark that I’ve only read about in books or seen in movies. It seems obvious that you can hop on a plane and see the Statue of Liberty or the Taj Mahal, but I am always completely star struck by the experience.

Part of the reason I get star struck is because it reminds me that the world is so much bigger than our day-to-day problems. The other part comes from the realization that great engineers and architects were able to create structures that are so impactful that they have been preserved for generations to come.

We think our careers will follow a linear path where we are working at a desk in an office, but these moments, where I visit something I have learned about, remind me that there are no boundaries to our careers.

  1. Travel somewhere that will allow you to build stronger connections

Since so much happens virtually these days, it is increasingly important to find creative ways to make stronger connections.

If you work with clients from a certain region or state, maybe it is worth a visit to get a feel for the culture there. For example, if you have a client that is always talking about a type of cuisine, visiting a place where you can try the food can help you build stronger connections with that person.

You can bring up this experience to bond with your client, while also having the memories of a fun and unique trip you never might have thought to do before!

Being a lifetime learner is a great skillset to have, and the learning does not stop just because we are out of the office on vacation. The experiences we choose to have on our days off can help us get the necessary perspective we need to work better with global teammates, connect our work to the bigger picture, realize there are no boundaries for our careers, and build stronger connections.

Have fun planning your next vacation!

Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Fast Company and the Huffington Post. After Solar Impulse, Kassalen has helped Covestro and JPMorgan Chase develop and implement strategies to embrace a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now uses her problem-solving skills at an artificial intelligence startup, CrowdAI, where she leads the implementation of computer vision solutions for existing commercial customers.

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