"You'll turn out ordinary if you're not careful"

"I once had a conversation with a partner at our firm, and he asked what drives me. After a lot of thought, I realized that I am motivated by recognition, and the desire to create things that are valuable to others. I want to stand out and be well-known for something. The last thing I want to be is ordinary!" Michelle Maraj

At these last days of summer, we want you to meet this beautiful ray of sunshine, who is not only knows everything about analytics and consulting, but also runs a blog that will help you get the most out of your work trip, and make sure it’s less stressful.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?
I am an analytics consultant at an accounting and consulting firm. My main clients are financial institutions, and I help implement technology that looks for bad guys. I studied information systems and analytics in college, and I knew that I wanted to go into consulting because I like the constant change of pace and I wanted the opportunity to travel for work. My clients are all across the United States, so I do travel Monday through Thursday usually two weeks a month.

How did you come up with Travel After Five idea?
I had a travel blog in college, but I was primarily documenting trips that I took. As I started traveling more for work, I wanted to take advantage of seeing new cities and I wanted to see as much as possible. I found though that a lot of recommendations online are for a typical tourist during the day. Websites would recommend museums or attractions that usually closed at 5:00 pm; and you are usually at a client until at least 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm. I wanted guides for what you could do after 5:00 pm during the week - so I had to make my own! 

What tricks did you learn while business travel that everyone should try?
If you are traveling for work, especially if you are traveling with coworkers, always use a carry-on. If you are only traveling for one week, everything should fit. You don't want to hold up the team waiting at the baggage claim for your suitcase. Now that I am used to only traveling with a carry-on, I don't have the patience to wait at the carousel. Get a credit card with travel rewards, and use it for everything. I rarely pay for hotels now because I have so many points. Sign up for all of the reward programs that you can, but try to stick to one brand so that you can maximize your status. 

What’s your favorite place that you’ve been and where do you wish you could go?
My favorite place that I have been to for work is New York City. I got to stay for a few weeks in Times Square over Christmas - it's such a magical time of year in the city with all of the lights and spirit, so it was just so much fun! I rarely get the opportunity to travel abroad for work, but on my personal travel list, I really want to see Egypt. The pyramids are high on my bucket list, so I hope to make it out there soon.  

What are some skills that you think everyone should learn?
Everyone should take a programming class at least once in their life. Even if you don't plan on being a software engineer, the skills are still invaluable. Knowing how a computer reads a script is a great thought exercise because it forces you to think about each step to a task and how to frame it. Even after one programming class, it is much easier to pick up new languages if you need to. There are so many instances or programs where just a short script will make your life easier. 

What do you do in your free time and what do you wish you had more time for?
In my free time, I mostly work on my Travel After Five website! I am always looking for guest writers to contribute new after 5:00 pm guides to my site- selfishly, because I want to use the guides too. I also spend time writing about tips for business travel.

Other than my blog, I wish I had more free time to work on my data visualization skills. I get to create visualizations for work, but I would love to be a data artist. There's a few visualization skills that I would like to build up in the next year.

What was the best thing that happened to you this year?
The amount I have traveled is the best thing that has happened to me this year! Not a single event, but adding up everywhere I have gone in 2019 has been phenomenal. This year I have traveled to Canada, Brazil, Spain - and I am going to Japan in the fall. I will have hit 4 continents this year, which is definitely a record for me.

What book do you think everyone should read? Or a documentary to watch?
As I mentioned earlier that I am passionate about data visualization, I would recommend The Truthful Art by Alberto Cairo. I'm not a huge fiction fan. No matter what career field you are in, Cairo explains the psychology of how people interpret information, and it's a great read if you ever have to present data.
Documentary-wise, my guilty pleasure is Ancient Aliens. I'm not sure how much of the "ancient astronaut" stuff I buy into,  but I love watching the show from an archaeology and travel perspective. There's so many interesting sites in the world to see, that we really don't know how they were built. With the lost technology and knowledge, it's fun to learn about different theories and how things may have been at different times in these areas of the world. 

Who inspires you the most?
Karlie Kloss is my celebrity idol. I am obsessed with her because not only is she a gorgeous model, but she decided to learn how to code and even opened up a coding camp for girls in high school. I think it is so inspiring that she is using her influence to introduce more women to STEAM careers. I'm still trying to figure out how I am going to do it, but in my future, I'd also like to introduce more women to technical fields.

What’s in your MILLENNY bag?
I have the common items - a laptop, my wallet, chargers. I always carry gum, to freshen my breath up after a flight. I carry emergency nail polish as well, in case I get any chips throughout the week.  

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