Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to avoid "I don't know" at work

When I first started my first "real" corporate job at Johnson & Johnson, I ran into my first big learning within the first month. And it simply is to never say "I don't know". Now I'm not saying you aren't allowed to say that specific sentence while you are at work, but it is the concept that is important to understand. When it comes to a fact or figure, don't just say you don't know. Say you will find it and get back to them. Then actually deliver on that. While it may seem subtle at first, the difference is huge. It helps build your credibility- not only are you finding the correct answer but you are also being reliable about delivering the answer to the source that asked.

The same goes when you are asked to work on a project that you have no idea how to do. Within the first couple of months, I was asked to build out a report that used something called macros (which is essentially code written in Excel to manipulate data). When my manager asked me to work on this project, I responded by saying I didn't know how to do it. It was completely true- I had never worked in that program and had no idea how to even begin working on the project. So I told her that I didn't know how to do it. Now to people still in school, this may seem like a logical response. However, in the work world, you are expected to take the challenge.


In school, I feel like there are so many different resources at your fingertips to learn new concepts and theories. When you had a problem, you could always consult a text book, look it up on the web, ask a peer, or as a last resort go to office hours and ask a professor. Unfortunately, your company does not have a textbook with a glossary of acronyms and cheat sheets to get you up and running. Neither does your specific job function. There are no office hours and no professors to help you solve your problem. You have to create those resources for yourself (whether it is literally on an excel spreadsheet or figuratively in your mind).

Now the next logical question is how the heck am I supposed to figure all of this out without any resources?! This is the very question that tripped me up those first couple of months on the job. I was so frustrated with my manager that I remember driving home from work thinking she was asking for the impossible. She wasn't. In fact, she was challenging me to learn and grow; I just couldn't see it at the time. So after a couple weeks of being frustrated and complaining about how I didn't know what I was doing, I realized that I had to find some resources or let down my manager. For those of you who know me, the latter simply wasn't an option. And so began my on the job learning.

The first thing that I did was set up touch bases with people who had built similar projects. They were way more tech savvy than I was, but it was helpful to understand the overall purpose behind what my project was trying to accomplish. When I candidly asked where they learned how to work in that software, they said they learned it from other people and through searching on the internet for answers. This came as a surprise to me- I figured they had learned it in school at some point. But they hadn't. Which meant if they could learn how to do it, I could to.

At this point, I finally felt like I had some traction under my feet. I meet with a few more people, asked to see similar projects they were working on in hopes of leveraging their work and avoid "reinventing the wheel". I was able to dive into the work and begin seeing how everything fit together. I started by looking up basic articles on google about excel and macos, and started building simple codes. I watched excel tutorials, followed examples I found online, and read about different short cuts and tricks that I could use. The more I built, the more I learned. I finally was able to make the basic project that was asked of me.

Now that I had a base, I was able to show people a tangible project and get real time feedback on it. I meet with my manager again and was able to have a much more tactical and specific conversation about what would work for our team. Within a couple more months I had a functioning tool for my team. Throughout the process, I ended up getting pretty good at working in the software, and was able to leverage that skill later on in a future job.

As I finished up my rotation, I reflected back and realized that school may not teach you the specific tools you will utilize in your job. It's more about becoming a good learner and knowing how to find resources to help you along the way. It is sometimes easy to forget that overall purpose of school when you are stuck in the minute details needed to ace an exam. School helps you be able to think on your feet in many different situations.You need to always challenge yourself to try new things- whether its a new way to do something, a new program to leverage, or an added project to help accomplish a certain goal. For that is what keeps you innovative and always improving. It adds value to you as an employee, expanding your tool kit each time you learn something new. It is easy to get stale when you work at a corporation. But if you challenge yourself to try something new or learn a new way to do something, you will always be adding value not only to the company but also to yourself as an employee.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Nike Women's Half Marathon Recap- SF 2015

Last weekend, I completed my fourth (!!!) official half marathon by running in the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco. I had done this race last year (as well as one in DC within the same series) and had a great experience as always.

I flew out Friday night after work and settled into my hotel room. On Saturday, I slept in, grabbed some coffee and went on an awesome food tour (see the previous post for details) for a couple of hours in the afternoon. After that I went to go pick up my packet at a hotel across the street from Union square (which didn't have much of a wait at all) and went to check out the Niketown SF window display.

I love that they put up displays with all the runners names in them! It's always fun to search for yours. I was lucky mine was near the bottom so I could easily name a quick picture. It is weird to think that the next time I run a half marathon my name may be different! I haven't decided if I'll run another one between now and June, but we shall see. Anyways, after picking up my gear, I went back to my hotel to catch the end of a football game and hang out for the evening. I knew tomorrow morning would come mighty early!

On Sunday morning, my alarm went off at an ugly time of 5:20 (ew!) and I started getting myself ready. I stopped by a Wallgreens the day before to grab some cereal and bananas for a quick and easy pre-race meal. Then I started the short walk over to the race site. I ended up seeing the bright starting line and really started getting amped up for the race. 

There were 25,000 runners at the race this year, so we took up a few city blocks as we waited for the race to begin. There is always a fun and exciting buzz going around right before the race. It's fun to chat with other runners and get to hear their stories about training. 

The race started at 6:30am, and we only had to wait 10-15 minutes before we were on our way! I was in the 9:00-9:59 corral, which I usually like to start in. It's usually a bit faster than I end up finishing (especially with a tough course like SF), but I find it's a bit easier to navigate around people who are running at a good pace. As for the course itself, there were 3 big hills, one at mile 2, one at mile 8, and a really bad on at mile 10. It was a very similar course to last year, so I knew what I was in for.  

Since the race started so early, it was pretty dark out at the beginning but it wasn't too cold. After the first couple of miles it got brighter and turned into a beautiful day. The last time I ran this race it was cool, misty, and foggy, which is awesome for running but terrible for views. This time around, I was able to see how beautiful the course truly is. 

The hills on mile 2 and 8 weren't too bad, but boy did mile 10 slow me down. That hill is a killer! But unlike last time, we got an AMAZING view of the bay and golden gate bridge. It was a good reward for climbing up such a steep hill for almost a mile straight. 

Once I reached the peak, I speed up my running down hill in order to try to make up the time I had lost going uphill. I might have gotten a little overenthusiastic on my decent, because I still had to run 2 flat miles before finishing. Those last couple miles were a bit of a killer, but I was able to manage through it and jog to the finish line. 

My official time? 2:17. While it definitely wasn't a PR (I got a 2:10 on a race in Portland earlier this year), I was pretty happy with how I did, especially considering the elevation changes in the course. 

After taking a breather, I moved through the finishers area and collected a tote full of food, some chocolate milk, a water bottle, and finally the finishers necklace. 

Necklaces are so much better than medals, especially when they are Tiffany's necklaces. This one guy had a funny sign he was holding along the race that said "hurry up, your BFF Tiffany is waiting for you at the finish line". 

The race overall was pretty well organized. I was bummed that they didn't have an expo like they did last year, but packet pickup was a lot quicker than it previously had been. At the end of the race, they had a bunch of finishers gear, but I elected to skip the line and just order it through Much easier. 

After grabbing a hot shower, some lunch, and doing a little shopping, I made my way back to the airport via the BART and flew home. Luckily SF is very close to PDX, so in under 90 minutes of air time I was back home just as the sun was beginning to set. Overall it had been a great weekend, and I'm really glad I participated in the race again this year. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

SF Food Tour

This weekend I was in San Francisco to run the Nike Women's Half Marathon! I'll do a whole separate post about the half, but I wanted to talk to you about what I was up to the day before the race. As those of you runners know, you don't want to do TOO much walking the day before a race, but it's nice to walk a couple of miles to stretch out the legs. Dan decided not to come to SF for the weekend and a lot of my work friends couldn't do the race this year. So I decided to venture out on my own and take a food tour! I figured that coupled with some light shopping and packet pick-up would be the perfect way to spend my Saturday.

Here's a quick bonus shot of my delicious breakfast at Blue Bottle Coffee.

A few days before I flew out, I did a little bit of research on things to do and read about Avital Food Tours. It seemed to have good reviews and since one of my favorite activities is eating I figured I'd enjoy it. I actually did a similar tour in Portland when I first moved called the Portland Walking Tours. It was a great way for me to get to learn about the city and eat some delicious food along the way, so I figured I'd give it a shot in SF. Let me tell you, I am two for two so far. Food tours are becoming one of my favorite things.

I ended up signing up for the Mission Avital Food Tour, which was an easy 10 minute BART ride from my hotel (I was staying close to Union Square). I bought a ticket in advance (the last one in fact) and navigated my way to our meeting point. The tour started out at the Women's Building, which was a building with a beautiful mural painted on it. It is a non-profit women-led community center in the Mission district. Ida, our wonderful guide, had us introduce ourselves and then talked a little bit about the history of the building and the Mission district itself. It is a relatively new foodie destination that some people titled the "Gourmet Ghetto". It has transformed over the past couple of decades into a district known for its Food, Murals, and Music.

Our first food stop was for an Austin breakfast burrito at West of Pacos. It was avocado, maple glazed pork belly, scrambled eggs, and a chipotle aioli on a freshly made tortilla. It was insanely good. It had a great complexity of flavors- creamy, fresh, spicy, and authentically Southwestern.

Next, we walked over to Mission Cheese to sample some cheeses. I was thoroughly impressed by how knowledgeable the staff was about the production, taste, history, and nuances of cheese.

Afterwards, we went to a vegan restaurant called Gracias Madre and had butternut squash quesadillas. Normally I'm a sour cream kind of girl when it comes to quesadillas, but they did a great job rounding out the flavors with a cashew cream sauce, nutty roasted pumpkin seeds, and sweet roasted onions. I always call a vegan restaurant that can create dishes that don't leave me hankering for more a success, and this one fit the bill.

On our way to our next stop, we took a look at a couple of impressive murals. I was surprised by how many there were in the Mission. Our guide told us that a lot of businesses will commission murals in hopes of keeping people from spraying graffiti.

Our last stop on the tour was to Bi-Rite Market and Bi-Rite Creamery. We were able to sample some prunes outside the grocery store and then take a quick look around. Then we ended our tour at their ice cream shop across the street. We all sampled the salted caramel ice cream, which was a perfect way to end the tour.

All in all I had an awesome time on! It was fun being able to try some delicious food that was reflective of the culture in the Mission. Our guide was welcoming, funny, and knowledgeable about the area as well as the food in the area. While it was a little pricey, we did get to sample a lot of different foods and I definitely felt like I ate a substantial amount. Plus, SF tends to be on the pricey  side for a lot of things, food included. All in all it was totally worth it for the food and the experience as a whole. I'd definitely recommend this food tour if you happen to be in the bay area anytime soon. It's a great way to get to know the city, both through your eyes and through your stomach.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wedding Toast

A few weeks ago, my best friend Krista married her husband (!!!) Kyle at a beautiful Restaurant/Venue in New Jersey. I was honored to be one of her bridesmaids, along with her sister and her friend that was there when she met Kyle. Krista's sister was her maid of honor, so that took the pressure off of me to write a speech. However, I started forming some ideas of things I wanted to share at the wedding and decided to ask Krista if I could give a speech. She said I was welcome to it if I wanted, so I ran with it.

I was a little nervous going into the speech, but the moment I went up to speak, I looked over at my best friend and her husband and saw how happy they were. I was able to take that positive energy and feed off it. Overall I think the speech went pretty well! It's quite possible that I am biased, but that's alright. It was a great way to show my appreciation to the couple and top off such an amazing day.

Logistically, I didn't do much research beforehand (because these kinds of speeches should be personal obviously), but there are a few tips that I read after the fact that I thought would be fun to share! My hope is that this will help people who are having trouble with writing a toast or want to incorporate some new ideas ideas.

1. Make a short introduction of who you are and your relationship to the couple.

2. Make sure to talk about both the bride and the groom separately. Although I didn't know the groom super well, I made sure to mention him personally to make sure they both felt included.

3. Talk about the bride and groom's relationship- I was able to talk about how my friend has dated her fair share of frogs and how I was happy she ended up with an amazing guy.

4. Try to hit a mixture of humor and heart felt- I had a few pieces that I thought were a bit funny, but I'm not exactly a comedian so I don't think anyone "laughed out loud". Still, a bit of humor can keep it light hearted; just make sure you don't tell TOO embarrassing of a story. You could always be paid back with an embarrassing story at your wedding!

5. Don't make it too long- speeches that are long winded tend to loose guests' attention, especially if there are a lot of speeches in a row. Make sure yours is long enough to cover the content but short enough to keep it interesting (and yes, I just stole that from some high school writing teacher).

6. Make it authentic to you and the couple- don't just fill out a template you find online. Make sure that the speech truly reflects the couple's relationship as well as your relationship with the bride and groom. If the couple is nerdy, play on that. If they love a certain band, see if you can weave a lyric into the toast. It will be way more meaningful if it feels truly them.

7. If you are nervous, write it down- I wrote some points down just to organize my thoughts, but if public speaking really isn't your thing go ahead and write the whole thing out. I honestly didn't even use mine, but I felt more confident holding it just in case I froze.

8. Talk about their future- I said something simple like "this is only the beginning of your journey together, and I'm excited to see where it takes you both".

9. Add a thank you- I said I was honored to be apart of such a special day, celebrating the marriage of my best friend and her husband.

10. End with a toast- I was definitely unprepared and forgot to bring up my glass which in hindsight wasn't the best idea. I was able to gesture, but if I ever gave a wedding speech again I'd make sure to grab my glass before talking.

I'm so glad I decided to give a toast. It was the perfect opportunity to let the couple know how much they mean to me. I hope some of these tips can be helpful to you!

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Alright, I know I'm a little bit of a fanatic when it comes to Nike, but I can't help it. I love working for the company for a whole host of reasons, one of them being the inspirational pieces they bring to consumers through marketing. Every time I see a inspirational video by Nike I get goosebumps. Every single time. You'd think after working here for 3 years and having seen ads long before that that I would grow immune to them, but I really don't. They do an amazing job. This video is just one example that makes me so proud to work for this company. No I haven't run a full marathon and I'd like to hope that I'm not last in a race (fingers crossed) but I love the message nonetheless.

Before moving to Oregon, the longest distance I had ever run was the dreaded mile in high school. I was a pretty active kid, but I was involved in activities that where shorter spurts of energy as opposed to enduring hours of high intensity cardio. Running held absolutely no appeal to me if it lasted more than a one minute sprint. It was partially because I thought it was boring and also because I was pretty bad at it. I was busy enough without adding on another athletic hobby.

 My high school's football field & track

Then the whole adult life thing happened, and I didn't have any dance classes or cheerleading practices to attend. I sort of didn't really know what to do with myself, so I started running and doing some light weight training at my college gym. But by running I mean running a handful of miles at too fast of a pace and completely burning out. Definitely not sustainable or healthy. 

Fast forward to me working at an athletic footwear and apparel company that started out as a running shoe company. That combined with the fact that I live in Portland, OR, one of the fittest cities in the country, convinced me to try this whole running thing again.  I started out by doing some research about running and how to get better at it. I would do the whole run a couple minutes, walk a minute, and try to stretch the time between walks on the treadmill. After a couple months of doing this, I tried my first "long" run which ended up being 5 miles. At the time that distance sounded absolutely crazy, but I was able to get myself through the whole thing with a couple of short walking breaks.

As I became more comfortable with running, I decided that I wanted to start doing some races. I started out with a couple 5ks (3.1 miles) and built my way up from there. It made me SO much more motivated to run when I knew I had a race coming up. I'd plot out how many miles I'd run and what days I'd shoot to run on. I'd also plan in some strength training classes (pilates or yoga) to round out my training. Although I started out slow, I progressed each week in the number of miles I could run. My pace picked  up a bit as well.

All of these good vibes helped convinced me to sign up for my first half marathon. I really had no idea if I could actually do it, but the excitement of participating in a fun race (I did one of the Run Nike Women's Races) and a solid training plan help me reach my goal of running 13 miles. 

I never considered myself a runner. I felt like a fraud as I laced up my running shoes and signed up for a half marathon. But here's the thing- all you have to do to be a runner is start*. That's it. You don't have to run 8 minute miles, or run a single mile at all. You can train and practice from running a full mile without walking to running a half marathon. And the best thing about it is that running doesn't cost $20 a class or have any kind of monthly payment. You can go outside anywhere and just run. And once you do that, you will join an amazing community of runners who would be more than happy to give you tips along the way (or else you learn the hard way- body glide anyone?). You will also gain a great hobby that helps keep your body in shape that you can do anywhere, even if you travel often. I'm proud to call myself a runner, and I hope that others out there who are intimidated to give it a try. 

*It's important to note that obviously I'm not suggesting that people with chronic injuries should start running. Always check with your doctor when it comes to injuries and what exercises will benefit your body the most.