Work From the Road Like a Boss

In a previous post I wrote about the ins and outs of working from home. It has been one of my most popular posts. Now that I am an Senior Systems Engineer for a Managed Services Provider I find myself in many different situations. I am constantly needing to work from the road, literally. I’ve had to pull over at a gas station or a McDonald’s on more than one occasion.

In addition to parking lots, I also end up in clinics, numerous types of offices, manufacturing facilities, mechanic’s bays, and pretty much any other environment you can imagine being in your average city. Through trial and tribulation, I’ve filled my bag with the gear that allows me to be successful, no matter the location.

The most important item in a road warrior’s bag is their laptop. You want to choose your’s carefully. For example, if you work from it all day, a twelve inch screen will probably be a hindrance regardless of how little the laptop weighs. If you spend time in professional settings, a gaming system that resembles a Tie-Fighter might be inappropriate. Battery life isn’t as important as it used to be now that most systems will hit the four hour mark.

My weapon of choice is the Surface Book 2. I find that with a few key accessories, it adapts to any situation. From drawing out plans during a presentation from the tablet, to running three monitors while managing an entire company’s infrastructure, and even some gaming on down time, the Surface Book does it all.

I mentioned that adaption requires some accessories. I find that a portable docking station is a necessity. With the right one, you can connect to any type of equipment you may need no matter what it is. I carry the TOTU USB C 12 – N – 1 Hub . Three monitors, a keyboard, mouse, network connection, power, and SD card all at once are no problem for this little gem.

When it comes to connecting to other people’s equipment; I’ve never been a big fan of using random keyboards and mice. You never know which button doesn’t work, when the batteries will die, or where they’ve been. I avoid the jank and carry my own. The iClever IC-BK08 folds up to the size of a phone, connects to three Bluetooth devices at once, as well as anything with a USB port, and includes a great little touch-pad.

Monitors, monitors everywhere and not a screen to use. How do you take an extra screen on the road ? There are several ways. If you carry a tablet in your bag there are apps that will turn it into a wireless monitor. You can also purchase purpose built portable monitors.

I have tried both of those options, but have landed on something that is more useful than either. I carry a Vivitek QUMI Q38-BK mini projector. It’s small, battery powered, displays in 1080P HD, and is bright enough to use almost anywhere. A few days ago, I propped up a white binder, pointed my projector at it and had an instant second screen. I’ve also given full presentations to customers with it. It runs Android so you can install your favorite apps on it. It supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Mira-cast, HDMI, and USB connections.

Cables are the key to connectivity. I have a one of each type of USB cable: 2.0, 3.0, C, Micro, A, B (printer), and Mini in my bag. I also carry two ten foot CAT 6 network cables, a USB to serial port adapter, a Cisco serial console cable, a 3 foot HDMI cable, a Display Port to HDMI adapter, an extra PC power cord, and a lightning cable.

In addition to all of that you will also find a 5 port mini switch, a 1.5 terabyte USB hard drive, a Bluetooth mouse, a pair of over-the-ear headphones with mic, a Voyager Pro wireless headset for phone calls and conferences, and a Nintendo Switch.

After reading all of this you might be asking yourself, “Does he actually use all of that?” The answer is “Yes, all of the time”. I don’t bother carrying things that I rarely use in my bag. Those things live with the junk in my trunk. Sorry, it was too easy.

Speaking of bags, the one you choose is as important as the gear it will carry. If you are going to stuff this much stuff into a bag of your own you will want sturdy straps, a reinforced handle, and lots of pockets to keep everything organized in. I use the Wenger Ibex 17″ Laptop Bag because it has all of those features and then some.

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