Jonathan Ruff, 35, faces the same challenges as every other business traveler — staying connected, efficient, and productive while living out of a suitcase. "I happen to work for the company that makes the products that sustain me on the road."
Ruff is senior manager of business development with the Air Ventures business unit of Motorola's Wireless Data Group. He spends more than half his time in airplanes and hotels, flying from San Francisco to Boston to Chicago to San Jose. His communications weapon of choice: Motorola's Personal Messenger 100D, a wireless modem card. Ruff shared four real-world adventures in which wireless e-mail saved the day.
The Plane Truth
I was in Milwaukee. Our plane had just pulled away from the gate when the pilot announced that O'Hare had denied us permission to take off because of foul weather. Everyone else started groaning. We parked on the side of the runway and the pilot turned the engine off. I fired up my Hewlett-Packard 600C, popped in my modem card, and sent out 35 emails. I exchanged 4 messages with a distributor I'd been trying to reach for weeks. I didn't know where he was; he was connected wirelessly as well. It turns out he was in Chicago. We scheduled a face-to-face meeting for later that night.
Messages in No Time
I do a lot of marketing work with Europe, and the time-zone difference is tough. The beauty of wireless is that when I have breakfast, I can pop in my modem card into my lap-top and do my email over breakfast. Recently, a European customer sent me an email about software problems. I got the message at 6 AM and forwarded it to our tech-support manager. The problem was solved by the time I got into the office — and before this customer went home. What could have taken 24 hours was in fact handled in three hours.
Start the Presses!
I was working on a press release. It was a Friday night, and I had to approve a bunch of changes so we could release the product Monday morning. I couldn't wait. I was in a cab in Indianapolis when I got an email with the revisions. I approved the changes as the cabby was swerving through traffic — and we made the deadline.
A Flood of Email
My neighborhood was badly hit by a rainstorm. I woke up at 2 AM to find 4 inches of water in my basement. I knew I wouldn't be going to work. But I ran my email continuously from 7 AM until 7 PM. I'd pump water out of my basement and check for messages every 20 minutes. If I had dialed in, I would have had to pay for a 12-hour call. With the wireless modem, I paid only for the messages I sent and received, instead of paying for the amount of time I was connected. I stayed online and still saved money.
Coordinates: $700. The Motorola Personal Messenger 100D inserts into PCMCIA Type II or Type III slots in laptops, palmtops, and personal digital assistants from Apple, Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Toshiba. It runs on wireless software from RadioMail. For more information, call Motorola, 800-894-7353; http://www.mot.com/wdg
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.