Stand up & fight.

1 Dec

This year has been full of change and growth and for that, I am grateful.

2012 was a year of excitement and then contentedness, and then 2013 snuck up on me with a whole lot of ugliness and distress. I was challenged to not only handle ugly situations with grace and maturity, but to stand up and fight for something better. I learned not to waste time thinking about how awful things could get, but to charge forward and surround myself with awesome people who would push me to be better.

Choosing photos to represent the kind of year has really made me appreciate what a great year it’s been. It hasn’t been easy, but I think I like it better that way.

This year I….

New Apartment

Began to furnish my apartment

Paleo chicken satay

Started learning how to feed my body better food (falling off the wagon a few times and hopping right back on) – Kermit looks very skeptical, doesn’t he? 

naptown roller girls suicide seats

Discovered roller derby

Geist 5K

Cheered my mom on in her first 5K

railsbridge

Started learning how to code

shih tzu puppy

Became a dog mom

Mixwest Conference Indianapolis

Went to the coolest marketing conference in Indianapolis, and made new friends

gen con 2013

Had my first Gen Con experience

speak easy

Met some kick ass people in the Indy startup community, thanks to The Speak Easy, Verge, & Linking Indy Women

geeky and gingerish blog

Launched Geeky & Gingerish, with the help of my friends at Haute Blog

The Children's Museum Indianapolis Birthday Visit

Celebrated my sister’s 18th year on earth

TEDxIndianapolis

Soaked up the inspiration at TEDxIndianapolis

SWIndy - Startup Weekend Indianapolis

Competed on the winning team at Startup Weekend Indianapolis

Hediwg and the Angry Inch Indianapolis

Signed on to be a part of Indy’s own production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, so that I get to work with these crazy cats every day.

meandshawn

Celebrated 4 years of awesomeness with my partner in crime (Okay, I cheated with a throwback photo, but this is my favorite of the two of us)

family

And…loved my family just a little harder with every battle we fought

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “December 1: Your Year in Photos
Document your year in photos. Did one photo encapsulate your year? Maybe it takes a gallery. And don’t forget to caption, describe,  or document what made an image so important. Let’s see those photos!”

It Starts With Culture

27 Sep

I’ve thought a lot about culture and building community lately. As a result, I’ve been really hungry for opportunities to learn from others who have expertly crafted amazing culture within their own communities. My latest journey into the world of learning from culture and community experts took me to a ‘Box Lunch at Indy’s own Smallbox yesterday afternoon. I had the chance to meet some really smart marketing professionals in the Indianapolis business and nonprofit community, and learn from culture and customer experience enthusiasts Elizabeth Heil and Jason Ward. The whole experience really satisfied my appetite in more ways than one!

We discussed competition, rethinking how we work, fueling good experiences with solid culture, transparency, giving people something to believe in, setting expectations, and being accountable. Can you believe we managed all of that in an hour, and still had time to eat?

createalltheexperiences

Since you probably don’t have an hour to digest my humble little blog post, I’m going to provide the best of Jason and Elizabeth:

  • Question your notions of competition. when it came to discussing our biggest competitors, many of us cited insourcing and vendors as competing with our organizations for business. This is especially relevant for service-oriented, B2B companies. We often play the role of the middle man for companies that don’t have the time or patience to work directly with our vendors. We also often represent an alternative to internal hiring. My company for instance, a managed services provider, is able to offer companies an alternative to a hiring more IT staff, and companies like Smallbox often work with companies who have small or nonexistent web marketing teams. When companies decide they’re ready to beef up their hiring efforts, service providers can often find themselves fighting for a share of the work.
  • Ask “How was my service?” and mean it! Elizabeth told a story about a recent experience she and her husband had on a cruise. Their regular server on the ship was so mindblowingly amazing at creating great dining experiences, that the couple went out of their way – even going to late dinners – to experience her service. Her secret? Every night, at the end of her dining service, she asked, “How was my service? If my service was not excellent, I want you to tell me how I can improve.” What we can learn from this as customer-serving organizations is to always solicit and accept feedback.
  • It starts with culture. The what of your product should be a foregone conclusion, so focus on the why and how of your product. The why and how comes from the culture you and your team create. You can hire your way to a fantastic culture, but without something fantastic for your team to believe in, that culture will fizzle out pretty fast. If your team doesn’t have something to believe in, you can’t expect your clients, members, or donors to believe in anything you do.
  • Always under promise and over deliver. This was one of my first lessons in customer service, and it rings true in all kinds of service delivery relationships, whether you’re interacting with bosses, internal teams, or clients. This will save you from disappointing clients when projects end up being bigger and more time-consuming than expected. Instead, you give yourself the opportunity to surprise and delight your client when you are able to go above and beyond their expectations!

If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on the next ‘Box Lunch, keep an eye on the SmallBox twitter feed. AND because I’m really nice, I’m going to share Jason and Elizabeth’s kickass slide deck with you too.

If you want to learn more about Smallbox and their culture-powered marketing, check out their website, or come say hello at their fabulous Broad Ripple digs!

If not now, when?

26 Sep

denverhutt-liw

Denver Hutt spoke to a full house of women yesterday morning at The Speak Easy. All of these women, many of them first time attendees, are part of a fantastic local community called Linking Indy Women. Community, as it happens, is Denver’s forte.

This Southern-California native has claimed Indiana for her home. If you ask her why, she’ll tell you, “It’s because your state is awesome!” and because Indianapolis is truly a city in which hungry, driven, and smart twentysomethings can actually make things happen – and are encouraged to do so. She is the Executive Director and instigator of this awesome community of Indianapolis entrepreneurs called The Speak Easy. She is a pillar of the startup and tech community in Indianapolis, and increasingly, all over the country.

I’ve kind of been a lurker in the community of Denver Hutt and have been following her story and exploits in the startup community. She’s been my hero and local lady crush ever since I first heard about her work through some acquaintances who have Speak Easy membership. I finally got to meet her at Steven Shattuck’s Indy SM talk last week. Oddly enough, I felt like I already knew her from following her latest project, 418 Stories, where her masterful storytelling abilities shine through in posts about kicking cancer’s ass, learning experiences, and getting sh*t done.

You know that old adage about never meeting your heroes and being disappointed? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Denver Hutt is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. She put up with all my gushing about the Speak Easy, answered all my questions about membership, and didn’t even make me feel weird about my hero-meeting-induced awkwardness!

I learned more from Denver’s hour long talk + Q & A session about success, living life, and accomplishment than I have in three years of my post-retail career. Here are a few of the gems:

  • Don’t wait to act on your dreams or your “someday list.” Make “If not now, when?” your mantra and start turning your dreams into reality now. If you like to create to-do lists or bucket lists, create them based on specific periods of time and places in which you spend a portion of your life – i.e. a Fall list, a Spring list, an IU list, while I’m at X company, before I’m married, while I’m in Indiana.
  • “Working in startups was the best thing that could have happened to me.” The startup mentality can be useful in areas of life outside the scope of running or working in a business. When a huge, life-altering obstacle or challenge presents itself, use the startup mentality to overcome it. Do the thing you’re not sure will work, test it, and make decisions about how you’ll change your approach (or not) in the future.
  • “In the world of startups, there is no work life, social life, and personal life – it’s just your life.” We could all benefit from accepting this and just be our most authentic selves in all aspects of our lives, no matter what industry/sector we work in.  Blend your separate identities and embrace it.
  • On connecting with others who share your experiences: Denver noticed she doesn’t always share a world view with many of those who have the same kind of cancer she has, but has been able to connect on a deeper level with others who don’t have cancer, but can understand her challenges through similarly challenging experiences. My takeaway from this is that the best connections we make may not be the obvious ones, look for shared experiences with people who may be totally outside of your circle, interests, and profession.

And finally…

  • Cough drops don’t cure cancer.

If you want to learn more about Denver, Linking Indy Women, or The Speak Easy – here are some happy little links!

Denver Hutt – 418 Stories

Linking Indy Women

The Speak Easy

On friends, wisdom, and new perspectives

24 Sep

barney stinson challenge acceptedToday, I was supposed to have lunch at Twenty Tap with my friend and former colleague, Steven Shattuck, but we were foiled by Monday hours. Not lunch-friendly.

Instead we continued on down the street to Yats, where we traded marketing stories, caught up, and enjoyed some delicious Chili Cheese Étouffées. At one point in that lunch, in the midst of a discussion about not always being able to do the kind of work I want to do at my own company, I accepted a challenge to write one blog post every day – whether it’s here or (cross your fingers for me!) a guest post on a relevant industry blog. More importantly, though, my friend helped me to see some career challenges I’ve been dwelling on lately in a whole new way.

AND…now that some of these ideas have been rolling around in my head all day, I’ve come up with some challenges of my own. Feel free to try them yourself, and I promise to keep you updated on my progress and the things I learn along the way!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask, “How can I help?” – If you want to be a part of something, no matter how big or small, just ask! Don’t be afraid to approach an organization you really admire and ask if there’s anything you can do to help or how you can get involved. I took my first step today, when I asked the Executive Director of my favorite local non-profit if I could offer my skills on a volunteer basis.
  • Building the career you want comes from more than just the work you do at the office – put your underutilized skills to work volunteering, blogging, writing for blogs and publications that publish on topics you’re passionate about, and staying connected to smart, driven, and passionate colleagues and mentors
  • Nurture relationships with smart, passionate people who you can talk to about work and your career, in a frank and open manner, from whom you can solicit advice, but also share ideas. A mentor doesn’t have to be a boss, he or she doesn’t have to come from within your organization, and while we’re talking about mentorship…
  • If you want a mentor or sponsor, you have to earn one. Do work that makes people want to to help you grow. I’ve been thinking so much lately about how I need a mentor to help me figure out how to get where I want to go in my career. I had a realization tonight – it’s okay to ask for feedback and advice, but if you want someone to invest time and effort into helping you become awesome, you have to show that you’re willing to put the work in.
  • Also, did some research, and in case you were wondering, this is the best breakdown I could find on the Internet, of the difference between mentors and sponsors:

“Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.

Sponsors advocate on their protégés’ behalf, connecting them to important players and assignments. In doing so, they make themselves look good. And precisely because sponsors go out on a limb, they expect stellar performance and loyalty.”

-Sylvia Ann Hewlett, New York Times (follow her on Twitter)

So that’s my song and dance for today. Stay tuned for more on marketing, career development, community, culture, and organizational health – often with a geeky twist ;)

Why the Greeting Card Industry Hates Unmarried People

21 Feb

This year, on February 11th, I broke up with the American greeting card industry. It was not amicable and I we will not be seeing each other again.

Since the beginning of my 3 year relationship with my boyfriend, whoroses are shut the fuck up for the purposes of this blog, I’ll call Mr. Kayla, I’ve had a rather testy relationship with the greeting card industry. Every time Valentine’s, our anniversary, Mr. Kayla’s birthday, or Christmas rolls around, I steel myself for the unfriendly sight of the greeting card aisle at Target (this is where I’ve had the best luck, grocery stores are have the worst selection, and Hallmark makes me feel funny) and get ready to find tons and tons of great cards of all stripes – from the sappy to the cartoonish, the bible-quoting to the crassiest of the crass – all for married people! This year was no different.

I got to Target at about 7:30, and went straight for the greeting cards, hoping that just this once I could find a card that was clever, but not that “patting yourself on the back” kind of clever; cute, but not saccharine; pretty, but not covered in garish shades of pink and sparkles; and for the love of god, please no Saturday morning cartoon style dogs or other cornball anthropomorphic mammals on the front!

I was doomed.

I could barely find more than ten cards that didn’t say “Husband” or “Wife” on them, much less find anything that met my stringent (but not entirely unreasonable, am I right?!) criteria. After 20 minutes of squeezing past the surprisingly numerous amount of entire families that filled up the greeting card section and double, triple, and quadruple checking that I hadn’t missed my perfect card on the shelves, I finally gave up and went to buy some groceries at Meijer… where, having conceded defeat, I finally settled on a card that made a joke about driving my SO crazy, and how it’s really not that far of a drive. Groan.

While Mr. Kayla laughed at the card, and didn’t seem to mind it at all really, I will still be finding alternatives to commercial greeting cards when his birthday rolls around this June.

Any favorite Etsy shops or other independent sellers? Comment below or send me a tweet with your recommendations!

How to raise “fids” and alienate people:

21 Feb

Parrots are sort of a polarizing pet…it’s universally acceptable to share pictures of your dog or cat and everyone will ooh and aah over the unquestionable adorability of fur babies. When your baby has feathers, however, you learn to feel out who the bird-friendly folks are pretty quickly.

I brought home an 8 week old Green Cheek Conure last April, and the experience has been truly eye-opening. I have a newfound respect for avian wildlife, and a renewed awareness of the noise output of my apartment.

kermit

This is my little guy, Kermit

Most “bird people” will tell you that raising a parrot-type bird is like having a life-long toddler, and they’re not wrong. There’s even a term the community has come up with for the birds we raise: “fids,” or feathered kids. Here are a few tips for aspiring parrot parents, in case you haven’t been lucky enough to come across another bird-friendly person in real life:

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on this subject, just the proud pet parent of a feisty little flighted beast with some experiences to share and maybe a few beak-marks to prove it…

  • Find your friendly local bird & supply store – the best ones are full of super helpful and passionate people who love birds and are probably raising several at home. When I talk to the awesome folks at Bird Fever about their own feathered companions, I often picture giant aviaries in their living rooms. I would not have felt prepared to take my little guy home last year without their guidance and support.
  • Be prepared to go through lots and lots of toys – Parrot-type birds love love love to shred!
  • Seeds: Don’t Believe the Hype! – Until very recently most pet stores, and even some bird “experts” recommended a seed-based diet as the best option for keeping your parrot happy and healthy,  but most avian vets now recommend a pellet-based diet. Seeds are great treats, though, and you should feel free to mix in other safe foods like dried or fresh fruit, leafy greens, whole grain pasts, rice, and plain cooked oatmeal. Kermit loves dried papaya, and I can usually count on a snack of cooked plain pasta to put him in a good mood!
  • That beak isn’t just for show – Parrots’ beaks are designed to break things open (like hard nut shells and sometimes even Xbox controllers). Keep in mind that it takes patience and a decent amount of training to get your bird to understand that biting is not the way to get what they want – and sometimes you’ll still get the occasional love nip, just because he or she thinks it’s funny to get a rise out of you. Don’t take it personally and be patient!
  • There will be poop – There, I said it. You’re probably not supposed to talk about poop if you want to have a respectable blog, but it must be said. If you intend to let your bird out of his or her cage at any point in time (and I sincerely hope you do, because parrots need lots of attention and playtime), you, your floors, your clothes, and your furniture will get pooped on. The good news is, you can potty train a parrot and this stuff works wonders – seriously, I use it as my primary stain remover now.

A home with a parrot is never a dull one, and they’re just as much fun as they are hard work. The decision to get a parrot for yourself or your family should be an informed one that you consider very carefully. The next place I recommend you go for more information is BirdChannel.com, where they have a great article for first-time prospective parrot parents. If you live in Indianapolis, I strongly suggest you check out Bird Fever – where you can look at (and even play with) all of the babies they have available and have your questions answered by their knowledgeable staff.

Hello world!

17 Jan

Yes, I did leave the infamous “Hello world!” as the title of my very first blog post. It seemed fitting, as those two words seem to have been taunting me for the past year and a half…puttering around and trying to decide what I should blog about. I’ve cycled through more themes and “angles” for my future blog than I can count, and I’ve finally decided to just say “fuck it” and write whatever comes to mind. I know that the first twenty times or so, I’m probably going to look at what I’ve written and hate it. I know that I’m not “comfortable in my own literary skin” yet (as a coworker of mine so eloquently put it). I know that I’m going to worry what people will think of my writing and fear the judgment of my friends and peers.

BUT! I need to remember that, for now anyway, this is for me.

AND… in reality, very few people will read this anyway, and no one really cares if my posts aren’t life changing or earth shattering.

I’m really excited to finally just do this.

So stay tuned, I think this is going to be fun…

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