I Always Wanted to Be Bacon

When I was in college, I worked at a summer camp called Strong Rock Camp & Retreat in my hometown of Cleveland (and it’s one of the first things I blogged about back in 2017). After 2 summers of being a counselor, I returned for a 3rd summer as a Program Director where I helped organize skill classes and camp-wide games rather than being responsible for a specific cabin of girls.

Central staff, as we were called, ate at a table with other staffers and directors (since all of the other tables are organized by cabins and counselors). One morning, the Director of Operations at camp, Bacon, (we all had nicknames) got up in the middle of breakfast. I asked him where he was going, and he replied:

The Sysco truck just pulled up, which means the cook is helping unload, so the toast is probably burning.

And he headed to the kitchen to save the toast which was, in fact, left on the grill.

I knew in that moment that I wanted to be Bacon at my job. I wanted to be so tuned in to the innerworkings of a business that I can see a potential domino effect and stop it ahead of time. And all with a calm, nonchalance presence (still working on that part).

Breastfeed Like it’s Your Business

I recently changed from feeding my baby every 3 hours to feeding him every 4. It took some trial and error when it came to filling up his bottles for daycare to make sure he was getting enough to eat, but he takes 2 bottles with 7.5ish oz each day, and then I nurse him for his other two feedings.

I originally celebrated dropping a pumping session  from my workday. I have a pretty easy setup: I work from home, use Freemie cups, and usually sit with my laptop and continue to work during pump sessions. Besides doing the dishes, it doesn’t interrupt my work day that much.

But I don’t like it.

I am fully aware formula exists, and no one is forcing me to breastfeed. I like breastfeeding; it’s pumping I’m not a fan of. And since switching to 2 pumps/day from 3, I haven’t been able to keep up.

I didn’t worry about it too much at first since I had so much milk in the freezer. But now that I run a pumping deficit on a daily basis, I had to get organized.

So I made a spreadsheet.

Breastfeeding is like running a business. You want to plot out your cash flow, so you can project your runway. If your burn rate is too high and is shortening your runway, you need to make a change ASAP instead of getting closer and closer to the day you run out of money.

There are two ways to extend your runway – cut expenses and/or increase revenue.

In my case, I can either pump more milk, or Caleb can eat less (Lol – yeah right).

According to my spreadsheet, at my current burn rate, I run out of stored milk in about 5.5 weeks. If I change to 3 pumps/day and change nothing else, that increases to about 8 weeks. If I pump 3 times/day and add a weekend pump or two, I can get up to 13 weeks. And all of this assumes Caleb keeps consuming the same amount.

On average, babies start to decrease their breast milk ounces around 9 months, so I need to try to make it 12-13 more weeks at his current feeding rate.

Other measures could include going to daycare to nurse him and of course just using formula (like getting a loan to continue the analogy), but for now I begrudgingly changed all of my pump times on my calendar back to 3 times/day and will be chugging water like it’s my job. Oh, and updating my forecasting spreadsheet each week. 🙂

3 Years at Praxis

Today is my third work anniversary at Praxis! Old me would have started this blog post at least a week ago and been ready to post it first thing in the morning. Current me as a 6-week old and didn’t remember my anniversary until a Facebook memory reminded me this morning. *shrug emoji*

Here are a few notable things from the last 12 months:

Christmas Party

I went full ham for the Christmas party last year to the point that I was literally jumping up and down the minutes before it was scheduled to begin. It’s always fun to visit with the team, but when I get the reigns to be the official head of the self-appointed party planning committee, I get extra excited. I made my own Christmas trivia and culminated the games with a Nailed It inspired gingerbread house decorating contest. Then we finished the evening with a book swap with White Elephant/Dirty Santa rules.

Team Split

It’s old news now, but half of the team as of 1 year ago focuses on Crash, a separate product from Praxis, so TK and I were running Praxis for most of 2019. I learned a lot about running a business and especially a lot about financial statements and the difference between accrual profit/loss reporting and cash flow statements. The number of times I’ve been confused about something because I confused revenue with cash flow is…a lot. Thankfully our bookkeeper is incredibly patient with me, and I’m also married to a CPA who is also patient with me. Now I have the ability to judge our revenue and cash flow strength and make more accurate projections on both.

FEEcon

We had nearly 50 Praxis participants, alumni, and staff at FEEcon this year, and it was a blast to see everyone! I got to be on a panel with TK and Hannah and put a lot of faces to names when meeting our participants in person for the first time.

Interview Prep

Before having Caleb I was doing interview prep sessions with our participants to help them prepare for their interviews with business partners. I’ve always interviewed candidates for the program, and since the team split I started doing a segment of Opening Seminar, but I don’t have a ton of interaction with them once they are in the bootcamp. It was fun to reconnect with participants and see how they had grown since starting the program. Those sessions also prompted this blog post which I think is pretty good if I do say so myself. 🙂

That’s all for this year! I’m excited for year 4 and beyond.

The Quickest Way to Start off an Interview on the Wrong Foot

Do you want to know the quickest way to start an interview off on the wrong foot? Don’t reciprocate when the interviewer asks how you are.

That’s it! It immediately causes a sense of unease in the interviewer and makes them question your social intelligence. It causes a weird pause where the interviewer is kind of waiting for you to ask, but you’re just sitting there staring at them.

Compare the two following conversations:

Interviewer: Hi, Applicant! How are you doing today?

Applicant: Good.

– – –

Interviewer: Hi, Applicant! How are you doing today?

Applicant: Good! And how are you?

I’m not even going to harp on the fact that the grammatically correct answer is “well” instead of “good” because that isn’t nearly as big of an issue as not reciprocating is. I’m not saying you need to over exaggerate your interest in them as a person or be insincere, but you should show the basic manners of reciprocating a basic “how are you?”

So, don’t dig a hole at the beginning of an interview that you’ll have to win your way out of. Ask your interviewer how their day is!

Even better, ask before they ask you.

Dance with who You Came With

Yesterday I did 800s at a pace slower than I used to run mile repeats. They were sufficiently hard with a nice dose of weird.

The comparison game makes getting in shape difficult. Thanks to my diligent logging, I can look up the splits of past workouts and see the difference with just a few clicks.

In the middle of my workout yesterday, I tried a new mantra.

You’ve gotta be good with where you are and what you have.

It reminded me of the saying, “You’ve gotta dance with who you came with.” I have to run intervals with the body and fitness that I have right now, not what I had in 2017 because apparently just wanting to be faster doesn’t make you run faster.

Once you accept where you are, you’re better able to see the benefits of your effort. Each workout builds a little more fitness and gets you closer to the times you want to run. There are no shortcuts to get there, and the process will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re at peace with where you are and what you have.

 

Two Years at Praxis!

Today marks my 2-year anniversary at Praxis! Here are some notable moments of the last year:

Salesforce still kicks my butt

Salesforce is my greatest love and also my greatest source of frustration at times. I’ve been using it long enough to at times be overly confident in my vision for a new process, only to realize my mistake after I test what I’ve built out.

For instance, I recently learned that an object has a ~1.6 million character limit on text area fields. The default character limit on a long text area field is 32,678, so if you create too many fields set at the default, you’ll hit the limit! And have to go back and edit the character limit on all of those fields. Also, 32,000 characters is INSANELY long.

Another new discovery is the Salesforce Optimizer. I ran this and the report let me know that we were at 130% of our data storage limit! Data storage costs money, so this is something I needed to address. I looked into what made up our data storage and saw we had about 350,000 tasks!

We use tasks to track emails, both personal and automated ones, but those aren’t things we need a forever record of, so I went about pulling reports to delete old tasks. I deleted about 15,000 tasks before I realized 15,000 at a time wasn’t fast enough and wasn’t really making a dent in our storage problem. I ran a report on all tasks and only found…9,000 remaining? Where are the other 300,000+?!

Thankfully, Salesforce is so widely used that you can type your problem into Google and find the answer. From Googling, I learned that Salesforce archives tasks 365 days after they’re closed, meaning they aren’t reportable, but still counts them toward your storage limit! Tricksy little hobbitses.

I used the data loader to export all tasks (including archived ones!)…and then I crashed the export because it was too large. I tried cancelling the export when it was 50,000 or 100,000 into the export, and that worked well enough. Then I was able to filter by non-deleted tasks and get even more of them cleaned up.

Now I have a quarterly calendar reminder set up to delete old tasks, so I won’t have this unpleasant surprise in the future!

New application process

I revamped the application process with my coworker Chuck, and it was a huge project! To read about the finished product, check out this post. To give the TL;DR version of what went into building this:

  • A new Salesforce object record type & page layout
  • 55 new fields
  • 5 forms with Salesforce mapping
  • 15 new Salesforce workflows
  • 44 new emails
  • 4 outbound messages

Plus all of the work Chuck did in building an entire subdomain and all of the coding that goes into advancing people through the process.

February Retreat

The team got together in February where we spent a few days at a beach house working together and mapping out our StoryBrand. We also took some group photos and this is my favorite of the outtakes:

A Lesson in Marketing

We were without a marketing manager for most of the year, and I took my turn managing the department over the summer. Marketing is nowhere near my strong suit, but I did learn a lot, and I enjoyed the data analysis aspect of the role. I also managed our first (to my knowledge) direct mail campaign, which is an entirely new language compared to digital marketing.

Event & Conference Travel

I ran two Homeschool Career Day events, and we experimented with attending high school and/or homeschool conferences over the summer. I went to Austin and Virginia and San Diego and Minneapolis as well as some local conferences here in Atlanta. I even had a breakout session at some of them where I spoke about the advantages homeschool teens have as well as projects teens can start today to set them apart in the job hunt.

FEEcon Social

I love that FEEcon is here in Atlanta because so many staff, participants, and alumni come to me! It was fun to see everyone at the conference and then gather for a social at the end. We had some new Praxis swag to debut as well!

The Team has Grown!

I think at this time last year there were 10-11 employees, and now we’re up to 14! I even hired my first apprentice last month and am enjoying experiencing the apprenticeship program from the business partner perspective.

Praxis HQ

Praxis has an office now! It was fun to visit in September and help break in the new ping pong table. I can’t wait to go back next month for the first annual Praxis Christmas Party!

It’s been a great second year, and I already know year three is going to be even better/crazier. Onward!

Check your Perspective, Change your Attitude

Ever since my injury, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I can’t roll out of bed and out the door to run anymore. I talk about the necessity of my new warm up routine due to being “old” or “broken” or some other negative framing.

Then I ran across this tweet from Molly Huddle – replying to another professional runner Matt Llano.

And I realized what makes perfect, logical sense when you take away the self-imposed negative framing: warming up is good for you, and people do it for that reason. It’s not punishment for getting older or being injured. It just furthers the reward of running. Making sure your ankles are mobilized and your glutes are activated means you glide into your first few steps instead of an awkwardly jolt while waiting for the pain to warm out.

Changing my attitude from angst to pride – pride in doing the right thing for my body, the smart thing that other athletes do – has already made a difference. And even if that’s some sort of placebo – I’ll take it.

 

Passive Voice Makes You Sound Slimy

Whenever I read something written in passive voice, it makes me think of politicians. “Mistakes were made” is the most political thing to say, and it’s a common example for explaining passive voice.

What is passive voice? It’s when you hide the subject of the sentence; you’re hiding who is one taking the action described by the verb. Examples:

Mistakes were made.

Lives were lost.

The snacks were eaten.

All of the sentences leave you with questions. Who made the mistakes? Whose lives were lost? Who ate the snacks?

Passive voice implies shirked responsibility. Instead of being clear, the author or speaker is intentionally hiding a key piece of information by choosing passive voice over active voice.

Active voice forces you to reveal the subject, giving the reader/listener clarity.

I made a mistake.

The soldiers lost their lives.

Cameron ate all the snacks.

In my own writing, I sometimes throw in passive voice sentences when I’m being lazy or vague and can’t fully form the idea I’m trying to get across. You can also trick yourself into thinking passive voice sounds more professional or academic, but it usually isn’t.

Challenge yourself to be clear and eliminate passive voice from your writing.

 

Podcast Recommendations

I am a late mover to most technologies, and this year is when I fully jumped on the podcast train. Here are some of my favorites, by category.

Professional Development

Office Hours – I don’t care if it’s cheesy to plug the podcast from the company you work for because Office Hours is often pure gold. Isaac and TK take submitted questions as well as riff off of situations they encounter with young professionals, and it’s often unfiltered. One time, Isaac’s initial response to a question was, “What is WRONG with you?”

Masters of Scale – Isaac recommended this podcast to the Praxis staff, and it has been fascinating. If you’re interested in how companies like Google and Facebook grew to current size without imploding or how serial CEOs know when to start a new company, check out this podcast.

How I Built This­ with Guy Raz – Similar to Masters of Scale, this podcast interviews founders of various companies. Some of my favorites have been Stonyfield Yogurt, Rent the Runway, and Buzzfeed. Nearly all of these founders had the odds against them in some way, and it’s inspiring to hear how they overcame them.

Forward Tilt – Yes, I’m plugging another Praxis podcast, but these episodes are little gems and under 10 minutes each, so they’re easy to take a listen.

Intellectually Engaging

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know – This is a fun game show style show where contestants compete to tell the most interesting, useful, and true fact based on the night’s theme. The show has gone through a few different versions (used to have a panel of judges, now sometimes the host invites one other guest to be the judge and that’s it), but it has always been very entertaining.

Freakonomics Radio – Economics is everywhere, bro! Since I’m an econ nerd, I like to occasionally listen to this podcast as well. Some of my favorite episodes talk about lying, the war on sugar, the demonization of gluten, and when helping hurts.

Soccer

From being in the car with my husband, I’ve listened to quite a few soccer podcast episodes. My two favorite shows are:

Total Soccer Show – This is the intellectual soccer podcast. They provide in-depth technical breakdowns of matches as well as report on current events in major soccer news. They also have a less serious episode where each host fields a full team based on Parks and Rec characters.

Dirty Tackle– This is the inappropriate NSFW version of analyzing world soccer. They sing their own opening song and have a segment called “True, are ya?” where one of the hosts either reads a fact or makes something up, and the other two have to guess. It’s hilarious.

Pure Entertainment

The Shipping Room Podcast – This podcast is about TV relationships which might sound shallow but I am not ashamed because I really enjoy this show. A friend introduced me a little over a year ago when they did an analysis show of the Gilmore Girls revival. I literally banged on the table a few times in agreement when listening to that episode. I sporadically listened over the next few months before getting hooked this summer. It’s been a fun to have a shared experience with the hosts and other listeners as they discuss famous OTPs (one true pairings), BroTPs (best friend pairings), and NOTPs (people who don’t belong together). [Note: the show is currently on hiatus as one of the hosts just had a baby. You can still listen to the last 2+ years of content, though!]

Good Christian Fun – One of the hosts of this podcast came from Gilmore Guys, which is how I heard about this new show. GFC analyzes Christian pop culture without proselytizing or harshly judging (most of the time) it. Since I grew up very conservative Christian, it’s fun to listen to them talk about things that were normal in my childhood (VeggieTales, Relient K, the Left Behind books/movie) but might not be to the general public. It definitely is borderline (and sometimes definitely is) sacrilegious, so listen with care if you’re easily offended.

 

If you have holiday travel coming up, I just supplied you with endless hours of entertainment. Enjoy!

 

 

One Year at Praxis

A little over a year ago today. Isaac Morehouse turned my life upside down by sending me an email: “Got ten minutes for a quick phone call?” That quick phone call led to me giving notice at my job – my first job out of college where I had been for 4.5 years – and embarking on the new adventure of working for Praxis. Here are some of my favorite memories from the last 12 months:

November

I dove straight in by getting to know the product better, getting to know the team better, and getting caught up on the implementation of Salesforce and Hubspot. I found Hubspot to be very intimidating since I had never worked with a marketing automaton software before but I quickly became a fan. Anything that gives you stalker level data (page views, email opens, etc) is fascinating to me.

December

My first trip to Charleston! I witnessed a Ceterus vs. Praxis basketball game and burned more calories from laughing than I would have if I played myself.

I got to meet some team members in person, and Isaac asked me to do a presentation on Salesforce for everyone. I was extremely nervous for this (funny looking back how nervous I was about literally everything), but it went well! I love Salesforce, and talking about something you love and use for 90% of your job is fun, not scary.

January

January was an exciting month because it was a fresh start in terms of data for the year. Since we got Salesforce in November, I spent 2 months importing and organizing all of the past customer/applicant data. When you import hundreds of new leads one week, it kind of throws off your lead capture tracking! January marked a month where all of that was finally over, and we could have consistent metrics going forward.

January was a lot of dashboard building. I had experience building reports at my old job but never dashboards, so that was a new project to tackle. Having visual representations of our data is incredibly useful for team members who want the “at-a-glance” summary of what’s going on.

February

February had a very memorable phone call. Accepted applicants typically set up a time to talk with me about tuition questions or start date questions while they’re making their decision. An applicant scheduled a call with me and let me know his dad was joining the call. I had never spoken with a parent before and immediately feared the worst – he was going to think we were a scam or not the right path for his son (aka not college), and he was going to take out his doubts and frustrations on me.

In reality, the call was fantastic. Yes, they both had some logistical questions, but the dad was on board and a huge fan. He was one of those parents who say, “I wish this had been around when I was younger!” I left that call feeling on top of the world.

March

March was a crazy month for the team because Isaac went on Fox Business News, and our website traffic (and every other metric) blew up. Everyone on the team went into recon mode, and we were working around the clock to keep up with all of the emails and calls and applications. It was managed chaos that had moments of stress but was mostly a blast – that sweet spot of having a full (and interesting) plate without being detrimentally overwhelmed.

March was also our second team get together in Charleston! This trip was centered around a Rugged Maniac race – a 5k course with 25 obstacles along the way. Some of us enjoyed it more than others.

April

I started this blog! Since our participants build a website and blog for 30 days during the bootcamp portion of the program, I thought it was probably time for me to get on board and tackle the challenge on my own. My coworker Chuck built my website and I got up 30 blog posts over the next month.

I kept telling myself April was a terrible time to start since we bought a new house, did a week’s worth of renovations, sold our old house, and moved during that month, but it actually provided some good material for writing.

May

May started our first discussions on upgrading our Salesforce from Professional to Enterprise level. I visited the Salesforce office in Buckhead and had a meeting with our account’s team, and then we had many, many meetings over the course of the month. While I was eager to get the functionality of workflows back in my life, in the end we weren’t able to justify the huge jump in cost (for now – keep reading!). It was a good exercise for me to quantify the benefits rather than just be excited about “all the cool things we could do!”

June

In June I created my first custom object in Salesforce! With our program growing, it became more important to have an accessible record of what all of the participants are up to. I created a simple object where advisors can log their notes as well as the advising session date, so we could track sessions by date. I also had to make a new user profile for advisor permissions – more new territory in customizing Salesforce.

June is also when FEEcon happened! It was a fun mix of my past FEEple and current Praxians, and it was the first time I met many of our participants and alumni in person.

July

I further delved into the customization of Salesforce and built my second custom object. Our participants complete deliverables each month, and I worked with Chuck to make the submission forms and mapped all of the information into the new Deliverable object in Salesforce. Since each deliverable has different fields, I made a different page layout for each deliverable record type and then created a report to show participants with and without deliverables, so our Education team can easily see who has submitted what.

When your job doesn’t consistently create a tangible product in the same way a carpenter or a painter does, it’s incredibly fulfilling to build something new.

August

Praxis came to Atlanta! We had about 70 participants, alumni, advisors, and staff gather downtown for a Praxis Weekend. I gave a talk for the first time in my life (not counting being a moderator or running an activity) and enjoyed meeting people in real life as opposed to conversing over chat or email.

We also made a huge change in August: we switched our marketing from Hubspot to a mix of Salesforce (upgrading to Enterprise, reuniting me with my one true love – workflows) and MailChimp. We had to remake our entire marketing and sales funnel by the end of August before Hubspot turned off on September 1st. Chuck, Brian, and Derek flew to Atlanta and stayed at my house, so we could grind through the 12+ hour days together. I was insanely excited to move to Enterprise and work with Salesforce workflows, but there were certainly some frustrations along the way (like how formula fields and workflows can’t kick off other workflows and how annoying it is to design HTML emails inside Salesforce). We made the deadline, though, and successfully transitioned into a new marketing funnel and application process.

September

The beginning of September was juggling practice as I had August applicants in the old application process who needed certain emails manually and September applicants in the new application process who were in automated workflows. It all worked out fine, but I was counting down the days until everyone was successfully transitioned to the new system!

October

I started advising sessions with participants! I’ve been interviewing applicants since I began working at Praxis but have had little involvement in the education experience. Isaac asked all staff to be open to advising sessions, so I set up my calendar and got a booking! Even though I was nervous about the new territory, all of my sessions so far have been a blast. I leave the sessions with energy and excitement for what the participants can accomplish. #thePraxianeffect

 

It’s been an awesome year, and I can’t wait for what’s next! Here’s to 2018.