I don't get out much.
In the 5+ years that I've been working for my current company, they've never once sent me to visit a customer. I think they realize that it's not wise to send work-at-home programmers out to the people who actually pay money for software. I mean you wouldn't ask the troll who lives under the bridge to start taking tolls, would you? Of course not. Firstly, trolls smell. Secondly, trolls don't know squat about customer satisfaction, and thirdly, I should avoid metaphors.
Caution was thrown to the wind today and I was asked to visit a customer here in downtown San Francisco. Apparently their technical people wanted to talk to our technical people. That and the fact that I actually live in San Francisco meant that I had to shower, shave, and put on nice clothes this morning.
I picked out my newest slacks (wrinkle-free! Bless you, Nordstrom!) and a newish button-down shirt. I ignored the fact that the shirt and pants were slightly mismatching shades of blue. If a computer programmer shows up wearing elegantly matched clothing, no one will respect their technical abilities.
The presentation went pretty smoothly. I adeptly tailored my schtick for this technically savvy audience. Here's a snippet:
I was a hit!
Ok, I exaggerate a bit. No one can come up with schtick like that on their feet. But it did go pretty well. I think everyone's expectations are pretty low when they bring a programmer in to do a presentation. Other more polished employees from my company were on hand to step in, in case I just lost it and started spewing Java code in a Tourette's fit.
Giving a technical presentation is akin to walking a fine line. You want to tell them as much as possible, yet you don't want them to actually go comatose. That's career-limiting. So, I made sure to look around fairly often, and to ask if things were making sense. Often I'd get no response from the audience.
This didn't phase me though. I'm used to asking my wife or daughter a question and being completely ignored. Generally my response to this situation is to respond on behalf of my rude family member, in a shrill falsetto, amicably agreeing with whatever plan I had just suggested. I refrained from using this tactic during today's presentation though, instead choosing to cluck nervously. I also discharged small amounts of sweat from my armpits. It's a coping mechanism.
I think the audience was satisfied overall. And I think my coworkers were relieved. When a computer programmer makes his way through a presentation without crapping his pants, it's cause for celebration. I suspect they all expected me to show up, smeared with feces, one hand clutching my laptop, and the other hand loosely holding together my bathrobe. With expectations that low, it's hard to disappoint.
Being feces-free, I came through, big time.