Monday, February 22, 2016

Laid Off.

February is almost over and this Saturday I am taking a much needed 4 day vacation to New Orleans. I started this month with a completely different life. It's strange to see what my life has changed into. Life right now is new and sort of scary but I know I am growing and learning many new lessons.

It all started with my new hair cut. At the beginning of the year I promised myself I could get a new hair cut once I lost 10 pounds. With 2 days left of January, I had reached my goal and booked an appointment. I chopped off 7 inches! I felt confident with the new do and a slightly slimmer waistline.

Fast forward to Ground Hog Day 2016. It started like any other. It was gray and slightly cold. I went into work and was planning on telling my boss that I needed to come in late the next Monday because I had a doctor's appointment. Our weekly meeting had been moved to the next day so I decided I would just bring it up then. I worked on a few infographics throughout the day, checked emails, and did the normal day to day things. Four o'clock came along and my boss came into my office. He closed the door and I knew something was wrong. He sat down and proceeded to tell me that the day I started they lost their biggest client. He was concerned that the business would suffer but he figured he could give it a few months to acquire new clients. Despite his optimism, he wasn't able to secure any new work and he would have to let me go. I was to pack my things and he would pay for a cab home. I wasn't to return to work the next day.

I had left a very secure job that I enjoyed at Groupon to take a chance and join the advertising world. I knew that things like this happened, especially at smaller shops, but I didn't think it would have happened only two and a half months after taking the job. I felt so naive for leaving. In hind sight, there were red flags but hind sight is 20/20. I cried all the way home. My friend Jordan came all the way over from the burbs and brought Twizzlers and Reeses. After not eating sweets for a whole month, I decided now was as good a time as ever to break my streak. My boyfriend Loren came over around 3am after he got off work. I cried all night. I had barely enough money to pay my bills for the next month. After that, I wasn't sure what I was going to do.

I obviously couldn't sleep that night. That night, I started grinding my teeth again— something that had stopped since I had left Groupon. As I tossed and turned I decided I wouldn't let this get me down. I would approach this situation like I would approach any design problem. I finally fell asleep and around 10am I woke up and got started.

I grabbed my work notebook and wrote at the top "Day One." I made a list of all the things I needed to do for that day. File my taxes, sell some stock, find a roommate, file for unemployment, reach out to families I babysit, reach out to freelance clients, apply to be a Postmate, reach out to my design network, apply to jobs. I went into full on warrior mode. Between taxes, odd jobs, and stocks, I was able to get enough cash to live off of for the next three months. If I could find a roommate it would get me to 5 months. I googled advice on what to do when you get laid off. One of the most helpful articles was something I found on Forbes. It talked about find confidence in yourself, settling down emotionally, and reach out to your network.

Obviously loosing your job is something one is embarrassed and insecure about but I decided that I needed to update my network of peers if I wanted to get any leads. After all, I found my last job through that network.

I am a member of SheSays Chicago. They are a creative group that focuses on strengthening women in the creative industry. One of the best resources this group offers is their Facebook page. People from all over the area post job listings, advice, and events to this page. It took some guts but I posted to the page to see if anyone had any leads.



This wonderful group of women offered so much support. Not only did they share their stories and sympathies, but they actually shared job leads. By the end of the week I had 4 interviews scheduled.

The day I got laid off, I got an email from Jessica at Wunderland Group. I have been contacted by recruiters before asking if I was interested in working with them. At 1:00pm on February 2, I wasn't at all interested and nearly responded to her saying so. However, I was busy and decided I would respond at a later time. Fast forward to 4:00, right after my boss had delivered the bad news, I emailed her and said I would be interested in talking with her.

The next day I talked with her over the phone. It was like any other phone call with a recruiter. I brushed it off and thought, yep, I'm never going to hear from them again. To my surprise, by the end of the day they had already sent me a job description for a junior art director position at United Airlines. After I said I was interested, I was scheduled for an interview the following Tuesday.

I'm interrupting the story here because at this point, I started to feel so incredibly grateful to all the people who had helped make a terrible situation not so terrible. Friends inviting me over for dinner, family listening to me vent, my brother paying me back for all the money I ever lent him, neighbors and peers who sent job leads, Loren for just holding me when I cried, and the man at Oshana & Sons Print Shop who printed my resumes for free! Thank you to all of those who were there when I needed it. Sometimes this city can be so incredibly lonely but it's instances like this that remind me that we are all here for each other. Friends or strangers, we're in this together.

Anyway...

I went to the interview and felt super good about it. I met Loren for lunch afterwards. During our lunch I got a call from my recruiter. They wanted to offer me the job. My recruiter was completely shocked because after all these years of working with this client, she has never seen them make such a fast decision. I still had 3 other interviews that week but out off all the companies, United was the interview I was the most excited about. I decided to be considerate of the other interviewees' time and cancel the other interviews.

After only 7 days of being unemployed I already had a job offer. It was the first time in a week that I could actually breathe. I would start the next Tuesday.

Now this is the interesting part. This job is a freelance job. United Airlines has a about a dozen designers and art directors, most of whom are freelancers (or permalancers, as they call them). This means that my contract is only good for a few months. The company can extend my contract or cancel it at anytime. So as someone who just lost a job, it's scary to dive into the freelance world where the risks of being unemployed becomes a whole lot more likely.

However, if I had never been laid off, I don't know if I would have even considered taking a freelance job. There's no health insurance. No paid time off. No stability. It's scary. But, when I signed on for my last job, I didn't qualify for health insurance until after 90 days. So I got my own insurance until I could qualify. Since I got laid off, I kept my insurance. So I didn't really need a job that offered insurance. I was able to find a really cool new insurance company that covers what I need and costs about $10 more than what I was paying for my insurance at Groupon. This company is called Harken Health and if you are searching for a good insurance company, I highly recommend them.

So while freelancing can be scary, it's also something I've always been interested in trying out. You tend to get paid more per hour. You have more flexibility. You can meet more people. You can work on more brands and projects within any kind of industry. I also feel like Wunderland and United are great companies to be working with as a new freelancer. Wunderland offers insurance, a 401k, bonuses, and freelancing resources to all their employed freelancers. United employs a lot of freelancers so I am growing my network by meeting these great people. Most freelance gigs only last as long as a certain project. At United, they have some employees that have been freelancing for them for over 5 years, hence permalancers. Doing a long term contract feels much safer than finding a short term gig.

I'm currently in my second week at the job and I'm really enjoying the people and the projects. I'm learning a ton and I'm starting to feel like I am back into a normal schedule. So now that I can finally breathe, I'm going to pack my bags and head down to NOLA!

Oh! And as if my life needed more change, my new roommate is moving in next week. I know I have a job but I thought that while I'm freelancing I should probably build up my savings so if I do loose a contract, I can have a nice safety net until I can find a new job. Also, it will be nice to have a new friend. She gets along with the cats so I'm taking that as a good sign.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Belittling Your Ideas Doesn't Make You Humble

After working at a large tech company for about 3 years, I left to take a design job at a small ad agency. In the 2 months that I have been at this job, I will say it is surprisingly more like Mad Men than my advertising education let on (minus the sexism and cool 60’s fashion). I have identified as Peggy and deemed who is Don, Roger, and the rest of gang.

One of the most interesting things that I have been able to identify is my lack of enthusiasm for my ideas. In the creative world, you are taught to edit ideas and take constructive criticism. As a young professional, I read a lot of articles that say your career depends on how much your first boss trusts you. But I have come to learn that it matters how much your first, second, third, and even fourth bosses trust you. I was extremely lucky to have an amazing boss at my first internship. Rachel Hammon, owner and founder of The Paraders, trusted me with more than I probably would have trusted myself. Another boss I had, Katherine Theoharpolous, gave me so much creative freedom and trusted me to work on projects that no intern would ever have to chance to work on. Both of these bosses were warm, honest, and true mentors. 

Through the next few internships and jobs, I would encounter bosses who would shut down every idea, simply because it wasn’t theirs. I started retracting my head into my shell, afraid that every idea I had would disappoint. Anytime I would participate in an “open brainstorm,” my ideas would be shut down with logistical or political excuses. If I had an idea I truly thought would work, I would have to beat around the bush, brush the idea off like it wasn’t that good, or even worst, make my bosses believe it was actually their idea. Phrases such as “like you mentioned” or “your idea reminds me of this one thing I saw” were part of my every day. It got my ideas out there, which is all that mattered, but it felt dirty.

In ad school, I was taught to share every idea with pride. Brainstorms are brainstorms for a reason. An expensive, time intensive idea can evolve into a more realistic idea. It’s a shame that at so many jobs, my ideas were being ripped apart and thrown in the trash before they could even have a chance to grow into something.

This past week I have been working with one of my creative directors on a new campaign. We spent a few hours on the phone brainstorming ideas. We came up with hundreds of concepts, some better than others. But every time I started to share an idea that wasn’t fully formed or frankly sucked, she pushed me to talk about it more. Think out loud. Some of the best ideas we have for this campaign came about this way. 

My creative director and I sat down with another creative director to go over our ideas. At one point, one of our concepts wasn’t strong enough and he wanted us to all think together to make it stronger. I had a suggestion. I didn’t know if it was great but it could work. So I started my suggestion by saying “So I don’t know if this makes sense but...” and finished the idea by saying “but I dunno, it might not be visually different enough.” Like who pitches an idea to two creative directors like that!? But to my surprise, they actually liked the idea. I tried to fight back a smile when I was praised. I didn’t even realize how messed up that was until my creative director turned to me an whispered, “That was a great idea. I love it. Great job!” 

Is it so bad to believe in your own ideas? Is it so bad to be happy when someone likes your ideas? I have been thinking about this a lot. I don’t know if it’s a creative person thing or a woman thing. But there is just too much darn humility in the way I have been working. Maybe it’s not even humility. Humble people can have confidence. Humility shouldn’t be shown by belittling yourself or your ideas. It should be shown by giving credit where credit is due and accepting praise gracefully. In all honesty, it’s not humility at all. Belittling my ideas is a defense tactic. If I show I don’t love the idea, then my ego doesn’t take a hit when no one else likes it either. But how can other people like my idea if I don’t like it? How can others believe in me if I don’t believe in me?


As always, the first step is recognizing you have a problem. I will strive to represent myself and my ideas in a stronger way. I deserve that and so do my ideas, creative directors, and clients.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year, New Resolutions

2015 is coming to an end. It has been a big year!!

I was able to travel to a lot of really cool places:
Park City, UT for the Sundance Film Festival
Logan, UT to meet my new niece June
New York, NY for the 99U Conference
Washington, DC for Memorial Day weekend
Logan, UT for my grandparents 50th anniversary
San Francisco, CA for work... twice
Portland, OR > Seattle, WA > Vancouver, BC for fun!
Logan, UT for Christmas

I was also able to make a few milestones in my life:
Finally upgraded to a queen size bed
Bought my first home in April
Actually started making money on Etsy selling pillows
Printed my first run of Tiny Travels Books
Became motorcycle certified and bought a scooter in July
Became a cat mom in October
Quit my job at Groupon and started at Vis-a-vis in November
Entered my late twenties in December

While this past year has been great I can definitely see a lot of room for improvement. I know everyone makes new years resolutions and most of us stop following them about two weeks into January. For me, I love this time of year because as an adult, it's really the only time that signifies a fresh start. When you're in college, you get a new semester every few months. In high school, you have summer break. I try to make resolutions every year, and for the most part, I stick to them. This year I've created a list of 5 resolutions:

1- Pay off my credit cards
I am sure I am not the only one who lived off credit cards during college. For the past few years I have been using them when an emergency happened or to live off while I trying to pull money together for a down payment. Not the best way to use the cards, I know. But this year I have made a plan to pay them off by October. (hopefully sooner!!) This plan includes making 4x the minimum payment every month. It also includes budgeting my everyday purchases, spending less money on dining and going out, and paying myself (savings and credit payments) before I buy things I don't need.

2- No More Sweets
I did this last year. Loren and I made it to about March! We started allowing ourselves to eat one sweet on Sunday. Then it turned into eating sweets only on the weekends. Then it turned into every day. So instead of allowing myself a cheat day, it's just not going to happen. I will allow myself ONE small treat on special occasions (Valentines Day, Birthdays, etc.) but I do not want to eat them anymore. I seriously think I have become addicted— which is totally a real thing. So it stops this year.

3- Train for a Half Marathon
2 years ago I finished a marathon but unfortunately it was the reason I tore my meniscus. I had to drastically decrease my workouts and eventually just fell off the workout wagon. But now that I've been doing my physical therapy and slowly getting my milage up, I am going to be training for a half marathon at the end of May. The reason I am training for something is because it gives me motivation to actually go to the gym. When training, you have to do something everyday. I loved running the Chicago Marathon in 2014 but due to my injury (new cats and job...) I decided to take it easy this year and focus on running a good half instead of a full marathon.

4- Create Less Waste
I have been watching a few videos of people who live zero-waste lifestyles. These people create about a mason jar worth of trash ever year!! If you're interested to see how they do this, here's a video to check out: http://www.cnn.com/videos/living/2015/03/16/orig-living-zero-waste.cnn. Now, that's a little extreme me for me but I think there are a few things that everyone can do every day to decrease their waste. For example, bring reusable bags grocery shopping. Bring reusable produce bags. Buy in bulk. Recycle and compost instead of throwing it all away. I think it's a good idea to think about where your trash goes when you are done with it. There's no such thing as just throwing something away. You're only throwing it in a box that gets moved somewhere else.

5- Vote
This year is a big election and there are some really interesting people in the running for president. I know there is a lot of talk about your vote not counting. Well, in my opinion, if you don't vote, you're not allowed to complain. You can't complain that someone won that you didn't like. If you voted for someone who didn't win, then complain all you want. But unless you vote, I don't want to listen to you. Speaking of ignorance, research candidates!!! Don't say you won't vote for someone based off of things you've seen on Facebook or heard in the media. Especially don't vote for someone just because they are aligned with a certain political party. Vote for someone because you have read the views of each candidate and their ideas align the most with yours. There is a little quiz to get an idea of who aligns with your beliefs the most. I was surprised with my result. Now, you shouldn't just take a quiz and vote for whoever it says you should vote for, but it is a way to learn more about the candidates. Here's a link to the quiz: https://www.isidewith.com/political-quiz

I would be interested in what resolutions you have! Add them to the comments!

Happy New Year!!


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wanderlusting 2015

Yesterday was the first Saturday, in over a month, that I was able to sit at home, in my bed, and marathon watch Criminal Minds. This is what I typically do every Saturday morning. But for the past month, I haven't been living my typical life. I have been traveling. And as much as I love to travel, it is nice every once and a while to wake up on a Saturday morning and realizing that you can lay in bed as long as you want. After about hour 3 of criminal minds, I thought I would make myself useful and start blogging about all the great experiences I've had the past month.

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA (AUG 25 – AUG 29)
My travels started on August 25th. I was in Palo Alto, California for a week of work. I went to help with an XXUX event at the Groupon PA Office. I love visiting the PA office. I have so many great friends there. It is alway reenergizing to see these amazing people. There is such a difference in the office culture there, even though we all work on the same team for the same company.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to our VP of Design, Elissa Darnell, for the week. I have always respected her but during this week I really came to understand how amazing this woman is. Let me be clear that sitting next to the VP isn't all fun and games. About 3 hours before the event, Elissa turned to me and asked if I would live tweet the event for that evening. Our design team's twitter account hasn't been active since 2012... and no one even knows the password. So I was tasked with starting a new account. Somehow I am now responsible for tweeting for our team. Please follow us so I can look super twitter savvy. @Groupon_Design

In addition to hanging out with co-workers, walking around Palo Alto, and schmoozing with some pretty cool Bay Area women, I was able to catch up with a high school friend, Leah. Leah is recently married and it was so cool to catch up with her and try one of the best burgers I've ever had at Refuge. I also got to play Exploding Kittens with Leah and her husband Pearce.

An evening stroll through Stanford's Campus

I mean, people go to college here!

The amazing Elissa Darnell

Jay teaches us how to design for the Apple Watch

Sebastian gives some pointers on mobile design
Jamie, Janet, and I pose at the photo booth
(a picture of a picture of a picture. so meta)

OREGON (AUG 29 – SEPT 1)
My business trip to PA actually came at the perfect time. Loren and I had planned a trip to The Pacific Northwest for the following week so instead of flying back to Chicago, I flew straight to Portland!!

I was able to spend the night with my friend Rachael. Rachael is the founder of The Paraders. She was the first person to give me an internship. She is such an inspiring person and it was so cool to catch up with her and see Portland through her eyes.

The next day, I picked up some doughnuts from Blue Star then got Loren from the airport. We got lunch at Pok Pok and some ice cream at Salt & Straw. We headed to our Airbnb on Mississippi Ave. The first day we walked around then watched Jurassic Park at a drive in underneath The Ross Island Bridge! 

Flying into Portland 
Jurassic Park Drive In

Day three we hopped in our rental car and drove to the coast. Loren downloaded an app that showed all the Goonies film locations. We started at the Haystacks then drove up the coast to Astoria. When we got back to Portland we went to a Ducktails show at Mississippi Studios. The opener was The Parson Redheads, which if I'm being honest, was much better than the headliner.





Outside the County Jail and Oregon Film Museum

Inside the jail where they filmed The Goonies

Astoria! That bridge goes to Washington!


Day four we explored Portland. We hit up Voodoo Doughnuts, Powell's Books, and Laurelhurst Park. Later we went and saw Straight Outta Compton at the Hollywood Theater. Which I will say, I got some creepy vibes in the bathroom. That theater has got to be haunted. 

The pond at Laurelhurst Park.






The next day we packed up our stuff and returned the key to our Airbnb. Before we left, I had to throw my gray Keds away because while we were at The Haystacks a big wave attacked us and since then, my shoes had let off an offensive odor. We left them at the corner of Mississippi and Shaver. I know if sounds irresponsible and borderline littering, but there are shoes all over the sidewalks of Portland. So we wanted to contribute. 

We hopped in the car and drove to Over Easy Bar and Breakfast, a bar featured on Bar Rescue! It was ok. I mean I could see why they needed to be rescued. You go their because it was on tv, not because the food is actually good, but those biscuits were great!! However, the bathroom was not great. In hindsight, I should have walked across the street to use the gas station bathroom. After a breakfast we hopped in the car and drove to Seattle!!


SEATTLE (SEPT 1 – SEPT 4)
We drove into Seattle, dropped off our stuff at the Airbnb and returned the rental car. We grabbed dinner at Spinasse in Capitol Hill. We walked around, stopped in to a record store and a few other shops. We grabbed some ice cream at Molly Moon's then stopped by Capitol Cider where we tried a ginger flight! On our way home we stopped by a Trader Joes to grab some groceries to make some meals for the next few days.

Seattle! We have arrived.


The next day we learned that only tourists use umbrellas when it's raining. Luckily it only lasted for about 10 min. We met a crotchety old bus driver (who knew math— 2x2.5 is $5!!) as we headed to Pike's Market. After walking around the market, we saw the aquarium and took a boat tour. Then we headed to Gas Works Park to watch the sunset. Once it was dark we headed up to the observation deck at the Space Needle. We took a Lyft home and of course, our Lyft driver was Mormon who had spent his college years in Utah where he "had some friends from Logan." 

No trip to Seattle would be complete without a trip to Pike's.

Hanging out with the Octopus

I love these little guys!

And I love this little guy!

View from a boat.

Playing at Gas Works

Sunset from Gas Works

Sunset reflecting on the city.

View from the Space Needle


The next day we started at The Space Needle. We bought a city pass that included two trips to the Space Needle, a boat tour, the aquarium, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the zoo. Since this was our last full day in Seattle, we decided to visit the rest of the sights on the pass. After The Space Needle, we checked out the Chihuly Museum. Then we went to this amazing Caribbean sandwich place called Paseo. We then walked up to the zoo where we fell in love with the Japanese River Otters. We then went back to Capitol Hill where we check out Montana Bar and then got some pie at Pie Bar. We headed back home to pack for our departure to Vancouver!

View from the Space Needle during the day

The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum


View of the Space Needle from Chihuly


Best sandwich I've ever had!

Ginger monkeys grooming each other

Japanese River Otters


I am so happy it's apple pie season.


VANCOUVER (SEPT 4 – SEPT 7)
The next day we headed to the Amtrak station for our train to Vancouver. When we arrived, an employee at the station said that our train was actually a bus. After a 2.5 hour bus ride we arrived at the border where we went through customs. About a half hour later we arrived in Vancouver where Loren's uncle met us at the train station. He took us to the Olympic Village where we looked at the bay and some of the art and parks in that area. We then went with Loren's uncle, aunt, and cousin to Jericho Beach to watch the sunset.

View of the Bay from Olympic Village

Steps into the harbor at Olympic Village

Loren on a rooftop at Olympic Village

Drift wood at Jericho Beach

View of the mountains from Jericho Beach

View of downtown Vancouver from Jericho Beach

Jericho Beach Sunset

Loren taking a time lapse of the sunset

The next day we borrowed Loren's uncle's car and drove up highway 99 to get to Whistler Mountain. On our way, we stopped at Shannon Falls. Then we took a short walk to the Sea to Sky Gondola. (Kudos to their branding and great user experience, both online and in real life). We took the Gondola to the top of the mountain for some great views of the sea! We took the gondola back to our car then continued our journey to Whistler. after searching for parking for about an hour, we took the Gondola to the top of Whistler, checked out the views, then headed back down the mountain via Gondola. We went back home and hung out with Loren's awesome family.

Shannon Falls

Loren and I checking out the sea

Great views from the sky

Loren snapping pics from the Gondola

Gondola ride up to Whistler

Me posing for a pano on Whistler

On top of Whistler

The next day we started by going up to the Capilano River Hatchery. This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. This is a place where salmon swim upstream every year to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch at the hatchery and then the fish swim downstream to the ocean. After about 4-7 years the fish return to the same hatchery to lay their eggs. I got a video of the salmon swimming up stream. It is one of the most inspiring acts of perseverance I have ever witnessed. Check out the video below, some of those fish are literally flying!


After the hatchery, we went to the Capilano Suspension bridge. They charged like $40 to go to the bridge but after we entered the park it was more like an educational Disneyland. They had people dressed up in period clothing, tour guides telling stories about the family who built and own the bridge, and you got to go on the suspension bridge and a cliff walk. The cliff walk was a small walkway suspended from a cliff. I do not like heights. I did not think this was fun. After Capilano, we went to Granville Island. The island is underneath the Granville bridge and is full of art galleries, food markets, local shops, and large seagulls. We had dinner along the bay and walked around the shops. We got a bay tour on one of the water taxis from the Island. After Granville Island, we went back to Jericho Beach to watch the sunset for our last night of vacation.

Totem exhibit at Capilano



I am pretending this is fun.

Loren didn't even need to hold the railing

View from the restaurant patio on Granville Island 
View of the water homes from our water taxi

Jericho Beach at dusk

CHICAGO (SEPT 7 – SEPT 15)
The next day we flew back to Chicago. I loved Vancouver and I would absolutely live there. (Depending on how next year's election goes, that may be sooner than later...) 

Two days after I arrived home, my sister Hollie, sister-in-law Ashley, and my nieces Haili and June came to visit me in Chicago!! I love having visitors because I get to see my city as a tourist. We mostly just had really good food and checked out the local parks, rode the water taxi, and walked around the neighborhoods. I really enjoyed my vacation but being able to tour my city the same week I got back made me realize how lucky I am to live in such an amazing place!

Haili's first subway ride

June's first subway ride

Haili enjoying some Lillies Q

June stealing some Jeni's ice cream

Haili playing at Groupon HQ

The girls on State Street (Chicago Theater in back)

Hollie getting some cupcakes from the Sprinkles ATM

June patiently waiting for Loren to come over

Walking past Sears Tower

Toddler cone from Scooters Frozen Custard

THE BEAN

Playing at the new playground at Millennium Park

Buckingham Fountain with Baby June

At the fountain with Haili

The Signature Room! It looks like June is the only one who had something to drink...

Ashley + June at the Chicago Mural

Me + My babe at the Chicago Mural

June loves Wasabi's miso ramen