Invest in Experiences – Our adventure in Jericoacoara

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During my three month stint as a remote worker, I took a few weeks vacation in Brazil. I studied abroad there as a college student (7 years ago) and have longed to return ever since. 

While I was only on vacation for just under three weeks, I actually spent a full month and a half in Brazil, working Monday-Friday and exploring on the weekends. Towards the end of my time testing the digital nomad lifestyle, I got lonely. While I wasn’t complaining, my perfect situation would be to end the trip with company… so I did. 

I found a cheap flight and my amazing mom decided to come visit on a whim. I offered to pay the ticket to make it really enticing for her. We spent my last 12 days in Brazil together. While I had to work for most of it, we enjoyed three nights in Jericoacoara (aka Jeri), a sandy beach town in the eastern Brazilian state of Ceará. 

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Mom is the least outdoorsy lady ever, so it was a once in a lifetime experience to see her ride in on a sand buggy– the only way into the national park! This was an adventure; we had to get to the city of Fortaleza, then bus for 7 hours, then buggy in for the final stretch. It was worth the effort to see and feel some of the most pristine freshwater lakes I’ve laid eyes on. It’s a memory we’ll have forever and why I spend my money on experiences over things.

My “let it go” space: Managing Difficult Emotions

When I first read this writing prompt a few weeks back, I actually got my desk clutter organized, in hopes of showing off my office space. 

Describe your “Thinking Space- What do you do, or where do you go when you need to sort through thoughts (maybe you go on a walk, listen to music, or take a hot bath).

Negative Thought Creep

Turns out, this week was hard and this morphed my writing into how to cope. Here are just a few of the thoughts that popped into my mind this week. 

  • The work I do has no impact.
  • I can be more than this. 

I could go on here but as you can imagine, those two are already a full plate. 

Thoughts ≠ Facts

Despite the sea of up and down emotions, the important thing to remember is: thoughts do not equal facts. There has been a lot written on using mindfulness to work with negative emotions, which I’m no expert on, but I’d like to share what’s helped me. 

my workspace

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Be a friend to yourself

  • Don’t beat yourself up for thinking negatively. It’s allowed and it’s okay. 
  • But remember, you don’t have to keep it going all day. Step outside of your head. It’s important to allow yourself to feel upset, annoyed, sad, frustrated. These are true legitimate feelings. Once you’ve given yourself time to feel and think through this, it’s also okay to then move onto something else.

My “Letting Go” Space

  • Go for a walk. 
  • If I’m at work, I love to ask a trusted co-worker to grab a coffee. Sometimes, I’ll be honest and say, “even if you don’t want a drink, I could really use the company.” 
  • Foam roll, stretch, do a few air squats, get your heart beating if you can! 
  • If I’m at home, nothing beats a hot shower. 
  • I like to hide away on a couch at the office, or in a ball at my house, ideally with a warm drink. 
  • Routine as usual. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to NOT go to the gym after work (my usual routine) because of a rough day. While I cut myself some slack if I am legitimately tired or weak, I aim to not fall into this trap. Most times, I always feel better after sticking to my typical schedule and habits. 
  • Table it for later. Heavy emotions can take a lot of focus. You might be better served saving questions like “what am I doing with my life” for after a nice breather- when you have some calm and a fresh perspective. 

Taking care of me

I try not to think of myself as “too busy.”  Life is about priorities; you either choose to prioritize something, or you don’t.  I prioritize health, fitness, family, friends and career (this order is mostly right today) even if it means having to say “no” to things that don’t make it as high on my list. While there are exceptions here and there, I’m deliberate about saying “yes” to things that feed my soul.

I aim to go to Crossfit at least 4 times a week and I’m currently receiving Chiropractic care 2-3 times a week. While hangouts with friends are also high up on my list, health and fitness trump it, so if times conflict, I say “no” to friends. Of course, I always try my best to shift my schedule and slot all the things I care about 😃 Stupid simple. 

While there are countless apps on how to manage tasks and time, I’m pretty non-tech in this space! Some “things” that help me take care of me are habits & routines, investments in my sanity. 

My daily nourishment

I can’t imagine being efficient or pleasant without some food in me:
  •  Bulletproof coffee. I hope I’m not that annoying friend who is always talking about their special Paleo routines but I love the comfort of a nice cup of coffee with ghee, Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil, and Coconut Oil blended up! I have this first thing when I arrive in the office. 
  • Protein. Eggs & my probiotic of choice. Most recently I serve them up with sauerkraut. 
  • Water bottle. Stay hydrated; stay happy. Sometimes I get fancy and infuse with fruit but most times I keep it straight. 
  • Move around! I aim to hit 4 days a week of at least 30 minutes of exercise. To make it happen, I block myself off in my Google calendar. I’m lucky that we have a gym at work, so at a minimum, I stretch and hang out on the foam roller.
  • Decompression time nightly. I try to do ROMWOD a couple times a week, which is like a Crossfit-branded version of yin yoga. Who woulda thought?! Sometimes, it’s as simple as a warm tea or reading my Kindle. 

My devices/swag:

  • MacBook Pro 
  • iPhone 6 Plus. No case! Call me crazy. 
  • Comfy on the bottom workout leggings and professional on top. 

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Staying organized & passionate:

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I’m old school about to-do lists and goals. I stick to paper and pen. I feel somewhat of a fraud here because I’m not diligent and go weeks without logging anything but the system works for me. I even log my weightlifting PRs in here! But I do have a tad of digital in my life…
  • Evernote for note-taking 
  • Google calendar. Pro:tip: I block myself off as “busy” for projects, even if it’s not a meeting.
  • Google Drive
  • Trello
  • Slack. I’m obsessed with bots although I haven’t gotten around to making a Slackbot myself.
  • Pocket. I stumble upon loads of good articles throughout the day. With Pocket, I can “save it for later” so I can stay focused on my tasks.

Automate my life

Anything that I have to do more than a handful of times, I do my best to automate. That’s the Operations person inside of me and it frees me up to meaningful work. 
  • Zapier. Anything manual and repetitive, I try to do with Zapier. 
  • TextExpander. So I don’t have to type the same thing over and over, ya know?  I make my life easier by expanding snippets of text while keeping it personal and non-robotic.

Music Makes the World go Round

When I need to plow through work, I put on my headphones and listen to deep house or trip-hop. These specific playlists keep me going. 

Get To Work (Extended) from MichaelAugustMiller on 8tracks Radio.

Nōtan from disco selector on 8tracks Radio.

How I got on the relationship-building career trajectory

When I graduated from UCSB with a degree in Communication five years ago, I didn’t have a solid idea of “what I wanted to be.” However, thankfully, I’d learned from internships what I did NOT want to be:

  • A cog in the wheel. Doing meaningful work is a primary motivator for me. 
  • An administrator of the “process side” of Human Resources— benefits, workers comp, admin, etc. I had learned this via two internships. Thanks, work experience! 

Armed with an idea of what not to look for, which is huge, I thought that Marketing seemed like a viable route. I’d also been fortunate to be a part of UCSB’s Technology Management Program (TMP) which sparked my interest in the tech startup world. Between my Communication course work and TMP, I took classes like “high technology sales” which at the heart, was all about persuasion, New Venture creation, in which me and my team “pitched” a panel of VC investors, and “Conflict Resolution” which was the most practical class ever. I even spent my full 4th year working on a thesis on Social Identity Theory and Homelessness, in which I interviewed many house-less adults. This was a university highlight and I ramped up my empathy skills (the #1 skill I think you need in Support). 

Presenting a year of work on Homelessness Social Identity and Health
Presenting a year of work on Homelessness Social Identity and Health

Through TMP directly, I settled on an internship in the “tech startup” scene that eventually grew into a full-time opportunity:

Marketing Intern @ RightScale

This gig was my first taste of the tech startup world and I quickly transitioned to:

Marketing Coordinator, then promoted to Marketing Specialist- Social Media & Community Programs @ RightScale

Through the evolution of my role, I consistently marketed to developers, managed social media accounts, and spent a lot of time relationship-building with our biggest customers and brand advocates. While I enjoyed content creation, lead generation, and analytical work, there was really nothing like hearing a customer rave about their favorite features and I even enjoyed the lows— hearing first-hand about confusion and pain points. Most of my time was spent on social media accounts and forums but I loved the in-person community management, hackathons, meet-ups, and building a Customer Ambassador program best.

I am still a marketer today (it’s definitely a piece of me) but everyone is doing content nowadays. Everyone is doing social media. Now, not everyone is doing it amazingly well, but it’s overall saturated and very hard to stick out unless you consistently produce top-notch campaigns. On the flip side, almost everyone does customer service poorly. I saw a great opportunity to be the best-of-the-best in this space and put in my application for a 50/50 hybrid role of Community Management (my roots), with Support (a new world that I thought my skills were very transferable to):

Senior Community Advocate @ Ning

I’m thankful for my time at Ning because it was my first time debugging complex problems myself. My manager set us up with many tools, typically reserved for developers. I learned about Terminal, the Command Line, Firebug, Jenkins, and others. We were truly a tech-empowered team and that is something I now try to emulate myself as a manager. It’s not necessarily about “cutting escalation to engineering,” but giving your team the tools they need to solve problems efficiently and removing blockers whenever possible.

Next up, my time at Threadflip, an online consignment startup which shut down in 2016:

Customer Experience @ Threadflip

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This role was more about the opportunity to join an industry I was excited about (fashion resale). While I left this place with a few amazing friends, this was my first and only time cranking out massive ticket volumes like a machine. Again, it taught me what not to look for in my next role and I left this place having a strong opinion on why it’s important for Customer Service leaders to not only support their customers but their employees too. I also learned volumes about running Operations, supporting tangible goods, and the e-commerce business.

Now, to where I am today:

Customer Advocacy Manager @ Athos

Hanging out as Pooh at Athos Halloween 2016
Hanging out as Pooh at Athos Halloween 2016

While my stint in e-commerce didn’t go the way I’d hoped, I was still genuinely excited about the prospect of a career in Support, and learned of another hybrid Support/Community Manager role in another space I love— fitness! My career has taken a few turns along the way and today I get to support an iOS app, a software piece, hardware, and apparel with sensors inside; it’s all technically complex and new problems no one has ever tackled before. 

Why I do it

A career in Support allows a massive opportunity to differentiate with smart, proactive, empathetic Support. You can also go beyond reacting to actual problem-solving by making the entire customer experience “your problem.”

Because #startuplife allows me to wear many hats, I’d go as far as saying my core competency is “relationship-building.” While sometimes it’s direct support, the heart of it all is:

  • listening to needs & hopefully being able to address that with your amazing product 
  • preemptively addressing paint points
  • improving customer experiences before the customer notices
  • education
  • taking customers from new & confused to empowered, engaged advocates

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