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The No Travel, Travel Option

June 30, 2020
How online education and events are quickly filling the travel gap caused by COVID-19

Early in my career, I realized how much Murphy’s Law affected mundane things like business travel. I was at a factory for equipment testing when Murphy stepped in. The testing was underway when suddenly the testing area suffered a failure, and testing was done for the day. Unexpectedly I had a lot of spare time on my hands. But this happened in a city with a museum I had always wanted to visit. The museum was great, and it turned out to be one of the best mess-ups ever. From that point on, I made sure I had a Plan B whenever I went on any type of business travel, which resulted in many worthwhile side trips.

Travel Hack

Murphy’s hindrances will always be there no matter how much planning goes into the occasion. So, having a frustration-reducing Plan B became an excellent travel hack that I have shared with many friends and colleagues. One time an unprepared consultant could not answer simple questions about their proposal, which resulted in the meeting rescheduled for the next day — Plan B, visit the Chicago Art Museum. Another time a manufacturer’s employee drove a forklift into a piece of test equipment — Plan B, go to the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are many other examples, but you get the picture.

So, when COVID-19 put a damper on travel, I found a Plan B here too. It started when a friend sent me an email with a link titled, “Virtual Tours of The World’s Coolest Museums.” Soon I had a plethora of links of virtual tours for the world’s greatest landmarks, theme parks, zoos, and aquariums. You could say these links were my no travel, travel option for the COVID-19 disconnection — kind of a virus hack. They led to some great virtual sharing with colleagues, but more importantly it got me thinking beyond amusement and more focused on training and work subjects taking place online.

Conferences were the first thing that came to mind. After all, I use these conferences to keep current with the latest developments in digital technology, so it was a big deal. I also used seminars and on-site training sessions to gather continuing education requirements for my professional engineering license, as I’m sure many of you do too. So I Googled some of my favorite 2020 conferences. Many were postponed to later in the year or rescheduled for the following year, but some had moved online, and that wasn’t all.

I found there were a great deal of virtual education resources available online to fill the virus void. It turns out there are some amazing online training courses, webinars, eLearning events, and workshops available. T&D World, and its sister brand Utility Analytics Institute puts on a variety of free webinars throughout the year as do companies such as ABB, Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, GE, Schneider Electric, Siemens, and many others. A quick search online will show the latest virtual learning happenings offered by the vendors, industry consulting firms, and suppliers. If you missed it last month, you can also check out Utility Analytics Summit Reimagined on-demand. 

Don’t forget organizations such as the Institute of Electrical Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, CIGRE, the Department of Energy, and the national laboratories. They all sponsor online webinars and seminars, many of which are offered at no charge. Sandi National Lab had a series of energy storage webinars for example. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory presented a series of webinars on wind workforce development. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a series about increasing energy efficiencies of commercial buildings. These are a few of the national labs and their webinars, more are available on their websites.

There are also user group associations formed and sponsored by manufacturers and suppliers who provide online conferences and online educational opportunities. Esri’s User Conference has been a successful physical conference that was changed to a virtual conference in July 2020 was complementary for its members. Power Line Systems announced their on-site user group training classes have been changed to online training with no charge to their members. Autodesk has announced its Autodesk University conference scheduled for Las Vegas in November is going to be a totally digital experience for 2020.

The bottom line here is the fact there are a lot of organizations, societies, institutes, and other establishments stepping up to fill the void felt by the COVID-19 isolation. A little virtual searching reveals a great deal of interesting opportunities for personal development even in these times of limited travel.  

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