Like many professionals, I maintain my certification status with continuing education. I’ve made a habit of trying to attend one or two conferences a year, which, along with a couple of lunch seminars, usually covers the necessary credit hours. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve found it easier to convince my boss to send me to national conferences. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve also found that it’s a lot harder to arrange the time to leave the office.
This year, I planned to attend the Institute of Management Accountants’ annual conference in Denver. Lovely time of year to travel to Colorado, but a few things were going on in the background.
1 – Two of my key staff members are out of the office on vacation.
2 – The colleague who was supposed to attend with me dropped out at the last minute.
3 – We are in the middle stages of a major financial software conversion, and I’m the project lead.
4 – We just instituted new banking protocols, and all of the company members who could access the accounts were going to be out of the office, including me.
5 – My ICE is due by June 30th, and it isn’t finished.
For those who don’t recognize the acronym, the ICE (or ICS) is the Incurred Cost Exhibit/Submission. This is a multi-tab spreadsheet monster designed by masochists in order to train defense contractors to submit to the coming reign of the alien overlords.
Just kidding. It really demonstrates to the government auditors exactly how you spent $500 making a hammer: $2 for parts, $3 for the administrative burden, $245 in overhead costs from the secure facility that was built to protect the secret hammer, and $250 for the government’s requested design changes.
Most of my professional colleagues would look at the above list and immediately see the biggest problem. Numbers 1 and 3 will survive a temporary absence, and someone else might surprise you by doing some work for a change. Numbers 4 and 5 can be worked from the road; because we all love doing office work after hours.
Number 2, however, was almost enough to make me stay home. Who wants to go to a place full of strangers without a wingman? I went anyway, because even though I’m terminally shy, the class sessions looked interesting. The previously unmentioned fact that my son and his wife live 45 minutes from Denver and had a Taekwondo tournament in the city that weekend had no influence on my decisions whatsoever.
No travelogue, just a few notes from the trip:
- The speakers at the conference were incredible and inspiring. Some would suggest a direction connection between the speakers’ engaging, informative dialogue and the fact that they aren’t accountants.
- Altitude sickness is real. I grew up in a mountain valley at 3300 feet altitude, but I’ve lived on the Gulf Coast of Florida for a couple of decades, where the biggest drop in altitude comes from stepping off the front porch. This wasn’t my first case of altitude sickness, but it was by far the worst. After a few days and several gallons of water, I recovered – right about the time my plane touched down in Florida.
- Weed. It’s legal in Colorado, but not if you’re a DoD government contractor. Denver is jam-packed with people who don’t fall under these restrictions, and there were times when I was getting a pretty good contact buzz out on the 16th Street mall.
- This is not a good food city when you have a pepper allergy. The local cuisine has chili pepper in places you’d never expect. After finding it in my quiche, my mashed potatoes, and my blue cheese dressing, I decided Denver was trying to kill me.
- A tropical storm was zeroing in on the Gulf Coast while I was at the conference. I wasn’t worried about my house – we don’t even bring in the lawn chairs for anything less than a Category 2 hurricane – but I was worried about getting stuck in the Atlanta airport. I have spent so many nights in that airport that I’m surprised they don’t charge me a bed tax when I buy a ticket.
There was a lot of talk at the conference about setting goals and doing what you love, but I went back to the office and my overflowing inbox anyway. I haven’t given up on my dreams, but I’ve also committed to a five-year plan for my employer.
And yeah, I’m also committed to making money. Let’s not even pretend.