Two Years Later

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Photo Credit: Jaclyn Rose Design

Where do I begin? I guess I’ll start with this: I am so much happier now than 365 days ago. Leaving Chicago one year earlier than planned was a great decision, and moving to New York was an even better one!

In March 2015, I wrote about leaving Boston for Chicago, and a year later, I mentioned leaving Chicago for a summer in New York and New Jersey with fall plans in Southern California to finish graduate school remotely from there. Those plans changed too..

Until July, my plan for a fall in Southern California was still on.. But several signs kept encouraging me to stay in the Northeast. I ended up signing a one-year lease for a NYC apartment with my wonderful roommate Sarah (thanks for helping us find this place, Claire!). I’m glad I stayed. My time in NYC is making up for the tough year in Chicago in more ways than I imagined. Even though I still think I’ll eventually end up back in Boston, I don’t see myself leaving NYC anytime soon.

It’s been a year since I’ve updated this blog, and two years since I first started it. In my January 2016 post, I mentioned that I wanted to publish at least one public blog post per month. That lasted three months. This year, I’ve got a new, tailored goal: post two times a year. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, but it’s what I feel comfortable sharing versus keeping to myself. HBR recently published the article Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It), and in high school, my incredible teacher would have us take a moment and reflect on the highlights of our day. He told us no matter how challenging some days may be, there is almost always something positive in the midst of chaos. So, here are some of my highlights:

Career
During my summer 2016 consulting internship, I was aligned to the Media & Entertainment industry. I worked with an amazing team on a fun client in Orlando, and collaborated with other interns to research and present on M&E Analytics. I’ve traditionally been interested in Life Sciences, but I’m glad I tried something different and learned something new.

Community
I Airbnb’d a sublet in Union City, NJ, from June through August, and I admire the way my hosts built a strong sense of community by taking us out for breakfast and organizing karaoke nights. Getting to know everyone, including Ria, Azalea, Julia, and Marcel, was a blast! S&J, thank you for hosting me. I may have to take a page out of your book one of these days!

Perspective
Some friends and I turned the mid-August series of unfortunate events into something positive. Though we didn’t get a full refund, we were able to change our perspective and view the experience as an investment. An investment in not only helping us realize the truth about some people, but also in bringing us even closer together. They say misery loves company, and boy, we sure were happy to have each other during that emotionally and financially exhausting experience.

Family
My parents, who have a long-distance relationship, celebrated their 30-year anniversary in October. I loved spending quality time with the family on a weekend cruise to Ensenada and then again over Christmas in NYC. Can’t wait for our next family trip. In addition to my immediate family, I appreciate my extended family. Special shout out to cousin Vinnie who not only helped me with my Python homework, but also flew to Boston and drove across the country from Maine to SoCal with me.

Alumni Relations
I enjoy attending alumni events and reading alumni relations newsletters from universities and organizations that I have been a part of. Kudos to those who have truly kept me engaged and encouraged me to give back in one way or another. An alumni relations connection is actually how I ended up in my current short-term contract. Since December, I have been involved in design thinking/human-centered design and social innovation work with a Wicked awesome team. Learning from Colleen and Kate has been an energizing experience—I’ve already witnessed improvement in my professional and personal development as a result of their effective coaching, proactive mentorship, and sincere friendship. Last night, I was on the alumni panel at the Bentley 2021 NYC Meet and Greet hosted by Morgan Stanley. I hope the incoming class loves Bentley as much as I did (and still do). To this day, I still value my Bentley experience and how much it has shaped who I am today.

Learning
I found a way to make the MSLOC program work for me, and moving away for my second year of graduate school made me feel less terrible about attending class virtually (see last year’s blog post for more context). Even though I personally would have still preferred a true in-person full-time student immersive experience, I was able to gain more appreciation for online classes. On March 11th, I presented my Capstone on Using Social Identity Theory to Understand Membership Negotiations in Rotational Development Programs, and on March 24th, my degree was officially conferred! Filling out the exit survey was aggravating, but it is best to provide honest feedback in hopes of seeing improvement in the future. Now that I have this master’s degree under my belt, what’s next? #LifelongLearner

Well-being
As I get older, my tolerance for bullsh*t severely decreases, and I’ve learned that it’s OK. To maintain my patience, I can practice the life-changing magic of tidying up (a la Marie Kondo) along with mindfulness and meditation techniques. Last year, I started getting my sweat on at OrangeTheory Fitness classes. While I still love these classes and try to make my way to a studio once in awhile, the Manhattan/Chelsea studio charges a premium fee. Irene, one of my favorite Boston friends, got me hooked on the Kayla Itsines workouts when she visited NYC a few months ago. I started the 12-week challenge on January 9th and successfully made it through Week 6. I’ve had to repeat Weeks 7 and 8 a couple of times, but I’ve become forgiving of myself because I get back up and keep going. I took a week off when I was sleep-deprived and balancing graduate school with my full-time job. At first I was disappointed in myself, but one of my colleagues had a good point: sometimes well-being is about being mindful and listening to our bodies so that we can adjust accordingly versus forcing ourselves to exercise. On that note, I’d say I’ve been doing just fine. There are still other things I need to work on, but slow progress is better than no progress! It means I’m still moving forward.

Today, I’m another year older. I’ve come to realize that I may need to change my “Thirty Before Thirty” bucket list to a “Thirty-Five Before Thirty-Five” one. Other activities and priorities have come up along the way, and I’m ok with that! I have a lot to look forward to this year, including celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Orlando, traveling to Basque Country with my wonderful super cool dope epic sister, closing out the Bentley Centennial festivities, attending more weddings, hopefully meeting more of my cousins’ children abroad, and launching my consulting career in August. I also promised my roommate that I would finally give the NYC dating scene a shot now that I’m no longer spending weekends doing homework. So, friends, set me up on a date, send me your app recommendations, or simply wish me luck! 😉

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with this: design a life you love, and remember, it’s a iterative process!

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One Year Later

#ThrowbackThursday

A year ago today, I crossed the first item off my Thirty Before Thirty bucket list by starting this blog — that makes today my blogiversary!

This time, last year, I was moving out of my Boston apartment nine days later, to live out of a suitcase until I moved into my Evanston apartment in June. I had a farewell party at Loretta’s, then I spent my last day in Boston volunteering at Bentley Consent Day.

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Loretta’s, March 2015.
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Bentley Consent Day, April 2015.

Today

I am another year closer to thirty, flirty, and thriving, and I am overwhelmed with joy by all the birthday love — thank you for the phone calls, messages, Snapchats, etc.! I started 27 with my fourth OrangeTheory workout of the week, because you know, our metabolic rates decline with age. Shoutout to Yiyi for telling me about OrangeTheory over a year ago, and to Rachel for finally getting me to a studio on Sunday! I still plan to stick with the T25 at-home workouts, but I know I need a little extra boost before Justin & Alyssa’s wedding in June, and Erik & Angela’s wedding in August.

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OrangeTheory Evanston, March 2016.

Other than relaxing during a 90-minute massage and publishing this post, I didn’t really have any plans for the day — I figured I would just go with the flow and enjoy the outdoors during the intermittent bursts of sunshine. Shen, one of the Graduate Housing Assistants, graciously purchased a chocolate chess pie from Hoosier Mama’s — it was absolutely delicious! I am also eyeing tonight’s menu at Boltwood, and might head over there for dinner for one and maybe even chat with the bartender who twice called me out for ordering club soda + lime when there was an open bar on two different occasions (I was in detox mode). Tomorrow, I am excited that I get to play dress up with Melissa, my rock in Chicago, and attend the Barristers’ Ball at the Tiffany Dome with Corey, a close friend of mine from high school.

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With Melissa at Benchmark, March 2016.

As some of you may know, I only have less than two months left in Chicagoland, which I find difficult to believe especially when I was planning to be here for two years.

The primary reason I am leaving sooner than expected is because while I thought I had the option to take all my classes in-person, I discovered that certain classes are only offered virtually with a three-day in-person component. As someone who was actively involved on-campus as an undergrad, I was looking forward to being a full-time student and immersing myself into student life once again, only to realize that there is a lack of campus life with the way this program is designed. Knowing what I know now, I would have done this program as a part-time student and worked full-time instead of studying full-time and working two part-time jobs. However, I am already here, and as an optimistic realist, I know it is about having the right mindset to make the program work for me. As such, I have enrolled in two non-MSLOC in-person daytime electives at Medill IMC to balance out my virtual MSLOC night class this quarter. On Tuesday, some classmates and I even decided to attend our virtual class together from a restaurant to still experience in-person interactions. Next school year, I only have five credits remaining and will complete those remotely, primarily from Southern California in the fall and a location TBD in the spring, hopefully with some side trips in between…budget pending. Having to read Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty and The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking for one of my electives certainly comes at an opportune time!

Yes, I still like the curriculum and content of my graduate program, I am thankful for the opportunities to learn from and with my MSLOC professors and classmates, and I am happy that I have taken a step towards where I want to be career-wise because of this program. I am also glad that I have gotten to know some of the MSLOCers outside of class — one of them even introduced me to her study abroad host sister, who I met up with in Denmark over spring break, and a few of us are planning a bachelorette for two of our classmates who are tying the knot to their respective significant others this summer!

Living here has taught me how to become more comfortable with being alone without being lonely, and has reminded me that there are certain opinions that we cannot have unless we have had firsthand experiences. I am surprised to have discovered that while I love the Chicago area as a place to visit (and I plan to continue visiting in the future), it is not a place for me to live in; I appreciate those who respect my opinion regardless of their thoughts. I have also realized that while I have often said that I could never do New York for more than just a weekend, and I apologize for making such an inexperienced claim, I simply won’t know unless I try. I am excited to intern in New York this summer, and I am actually nervous that I might not want to leave the concrete jungle (shout out to Nicole & Sarah). I still have a strong feeling that I will eventually end up back in Boston, but who knows where the world will take me!

I would like to continue making the most out of my remaining time in Chicagoland, crossing additional items off my bucket list, and maintaining and strengthening my relationships with others.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and please feel free to reach out — I would love to hear from you and catch up!

Cuídense,

Alexa

 

A Leap of Faith

Thank you, Julius Caesar, for leap day! I definitely needed the extra day in February to catch up on work, grad school assignments, and personal tasks, such as finishing this blog post.

On Saturday, it was 55 and sunny in Chicagoland, so I decided to walk a good 4.7 miles from Edgewater to Evanston after a delicious huevos borrachos brunch at m.henry. I appreciated the opportunity to clear my head and reflect, especially after how busy this quarter has been — I can’t believe winter classes end next week!

My biggest accomplishment this quarter is landing internship offers from multiple consulting firms, taking me one step closer to crossing the following off my Thirty Before Thirty bucket list:

#5 Re-brand myself away from a finance/accounting career and into an organizational change or corporate/marketing strategy path.

Preparing for case interviews was quite the process, and I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who practiced with me and helped me succeed, especially Terri Cramer, my MSLOC advisor. Deciding between offers was almost as tough as preparing for the interviews, and after making several pros and cons lists, having discussions with multiple sounding boards, and listening to my mixed gut feelings, I finally decided. While I will always have some Green Dot pride and will forever cherish those Moments That Matter (and I am grateful for the opportunity to return to a different service area), I am going to see what Building a Better Working World is all about. Catch my drift? 😉

Fail faster, succeed sooner. -David Kelley, Founder & Chairman, IDEO

Public accounting was a career path I had known since my sophomore year at Bentley, and leaving the known for the unknown took a leap of faith. I remember initially feeling like a failure when I decided not to pursue my CPA, and some people strongly believed that I was throwing my career away by leaving external audit too soon (they thankfully agreed to support my decision regardless), but I knew that it wasn’t the long-term career for me. I do have to admit that I am glad I launched my career in public accounting — it further strengthened my work ethic, introduced me to some of my closest mentors and friends (HI MEGAN! HOLA CAROLYNN!), and exposed me to the world of consulting, specifically human capital and organization transformation. I did my research, spoke with multiple advisors, and ended up at Northwestern after an internal firm transfer and a few months at a startup. Once I finish my internship in NYC this summer and hopefully receive a full-time offer, I can officially mark bucket list item number five, complete!

If you’re interested in learning more about my experience as a career shifter, please feel free to reach out and set up a time to chat in person or virtually. If you’ve changed careers yourself, I’d also love to hear your story!

Additional Thirty Before Thirty Updates

#5, 6, 10, 18, 23, and 27 are currently in-progress (I’ll even be in Denmark on March 15th!), but check out the following items I have completed:

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#11 Attend a multi-day music festival: Lollapalooza, July 2015, with James, Corey, Sarina, Nick, and Jen.
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#25 Participate in a week-long fitness/wellness retreat: Phuket Fit, May 2015, with my sister Myra.
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#29 Live by myself: Evanston, IL, June 2015-Present.

MSLOC NUsite

I’d also like to thank fellow Bentley ’11 alumna, Hillary Schnip, for taking the time to participate in an interview for my second #msloc430 post: Using Yammer to Engage Employees at a Large Multinational CPG Company.

Let’s Catch Up!

When is the last time you and I spoke and/or hung out? Let’s catch up — I’d love to hear how you are doing!

Hello Again, World!

Second Post Struggles

When I first started my blog and shared the link on social media, I wasn’t sure who were actually going to read it. Surprisingly, TheAlexaConnection.com reconnected me (no pun intended) with some friends and extended family members who I haven’t spoken to in years, brought me closer to friends who I already talked to regularly, and allowed me to develop stronger relationships with those who were initially acquaintances (shout out to CP and JJ) — it is amazing how one post sparked up several offline conversations. I know it has now been almost ten months since my first blog post, and several of you have been asking about updates to my blog, so I decided to finally rip off the Band-Aid!

I have learned a lot about myself over the last few months, especially since I have had more time to truly reflect. I realized that while I do not necessarily mind sharing some things one-on-one, I find myself more self-conscious and shy when I write about them publicly. I completed a few more items on my Thirty Before Thirty bucket list and even drafted a blog post about the 7-Day Fitness Retreat at PhuketFit back in May, but I did not feel comfortable posting it because it started to get really personal when I discussed the challenges of getting back in shape. While I have decided that there are some posts I am going to keep private, one of my 2016 New Year’s resolutions is to publish at least one public blog post per month, especially since I am no longer living a nomadic lifestyle and have settled into my on-campus apartment in Evanston. Here it goes!

Adjusting to Evanston

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#TeamSirWagsalot Holiday Dinner!

Even though I have lived in multiple places, moving to a new city is still challenging. During the summer quarter, family and friends visited the Chicago area for one reason or another, so the change of scenery did not hit me right away. As I transitioned into the fall quarter, however, I started to feel lonely. Those of you who know me really well know that I tend to make friends and build relationships fairly easily, but my current environment makes this more difficult. Yes, I am in grad school and chose the MSLOC program primarily for its curriculum and collaborative nature, but the majority of MSLOC candidates are part-time students who work full-time whereas I am a full-time student who works part-time.

Because classes take place in the evenings, I am often unable to hang out with friends who work full-time and are free when I am in class. I tried joining the clubs of other grad programs to meet more full-time students, but I still felt like an outsider because everyone else already knew each other very well. Even though I tried to avoid thinking about this too much, our MSLOC Foundations professors emphasized the significance of reflecting (along with the proper ways of reflecting) and I was bound to face my thoughts and feelings eventually . #ReflectingOutLoud on The Hive, MSLOC’s online social collaboration platform powered by Jive Software, turned out to be very therapeutic, and several classmates reached out to me with support and encouragement.

Note: Fall 2015 MSLOC 410 Foundations students have access to the reflection post here. If you do not have access to the post but are interested in reading and/or learning more about it, please let me know — I’d be happy to share the reflection post with you privately. 

My third quarter of grad school, while busy, is off to a great start both personally and professionally:

  • I constructed my Reflected Best Self Portrait for MSLOC 420 (Accelerating Learning & Performance) at the end of last quarter and discovered that family, friends, and colleagues consider these my top three strengths: building & maintaining relationships, positivity & optimism, and coaching & support. This exercise continues to bring out the optimistic realist in me — I consider this challenging environment as a learning opportunity and a way to further push myself out of my comfort zone. I have taken several steps to power through, including going to the bar alone, reaching out to a Bentley alumna who is a part-time student at Kellogg (thank you for your “People you may know” algorithm, LinkedIn), attending meetups, maintaining relationships with classmates and team members who have become friends, interacting with non-MSLOC students during recruiting season, etc.
  • I was inspired by this quote from a blog that I subscribe to: “I left there with zero new friends, but I left there knowing that from now on, I don’t need that plus one in order to say yes to an adventure. I am good enough, brave enough, and excited enough to go to places all by my 27-year-old self.” -Jen Glantz, From How to go to Events Alone – The Things I Learned From.
  • I had my mid-year review with my Resident Director last week, and overall, I have thus far exceeded expectations as a Graduate Housing Assistant.
  • I experienced my first set of case interviews in the past few weeks and I am excited to progress to the next round of interviews with multiple firms.
  • I booked a flight to Denmark for spring break to visit my cousin Lala and her husband Thomas and meet their adorable little boy. Hillary, my birthday buddy, will also be joining us. I look forward to exploring another country!

MSLOC 430 – Creating & Sharing Knowledge

I am currently taking Jeff Merrell’s Creating & Sharing Knowledge course, where we are encouraged to write blog posts on a related topic of interest. I am interested in exploring how Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) drive individual and team behavior and/or performance in the context of change management — I will be blogging on my #msloc NUsite.

That’s all for now, folks! Next month I’ll post updates on what I have crossed off my Thirty Before Thirty bucket list. Stay tuned!

-Alexa

Thirty Before Thirty: Number One, Start a Blog.

Today, I am officially closer to thirty than twenty. As a birthday present to myself, I am starting this blog and crossing off the first item on my Thirty Before Thirty bucket list. Don’t worry, I also spent this past weekend in NYC celebrating with my birthday twin Hillary and this evening I am heading to Loretta’s for farewell drinks with a bunch of friends – if you’re in the area, come join us!

After almost eight years of calling Massachusetts home and living here for the most number of consecutive years to date (compared to SoCal, Cebu, Utah, and Madrid), it is hard to believe that I am moving out of my Boston apartment in nine days. Lately, I have been thinking about who from Boston I am actually going to keep in touch with. Who do I want to make an effort to talk to? Who is going to make an effort to reach out to me?

Yes, advances in technology and social media have made it easier for us to communicate with one another, but we can still get so caught up in our own day to day lives. Maybe we are spending countless hours in windowless conference rooms, hunching over workpapers, forgetting when we last saw sunlight, and bonding with our team as we long for that filing date of never. Maybe we are overwhelmed with extracurricular activities. Maybe we are dating someone new and are zoned into that honeymoon stage of a relationship. Maybe we are locked up in a library studying for standardized tests or working on group projects. Maybe we do not want to leave our apartments due to the ridiculous amount of snow. Maybe we are simply busy with life.

I do not know how busy I will be once graduate school starts in June, but I do know that I would like to do my best to keep in touch. My friends sometimes joke around that I am the Queen of Networking, often connecting people. Instead of networking, I actually like to think about it more as Relationship Building.

If we build relationships as opposed to network, we add another layer to our relationships. Your relationships are now much more than cultivating a “productive relationship for employment,” they now have become a genuine relationship in which you show interest for other people as a whole, not just their profession, title, or employer.Jose Gutierrez, a fellow BentleyU and Deltasig alum.

I enjoy getting to know people because I believe that we learn something different from each other’s perspective, and, it’s fun. Meeting new people is a great way to get out of our comfort zones, but it is equally important to continue maintaining and strengthening existing relationships. I have done a great job in keeping in touch with a good amount of family, friends, colleagues, and mentors across the globe thus far, whether we talk on a regular basis or have a major catch up session about once a year, but there is always room for improvement.

I haven’t seen my sister Myra, who is currently teaching English in Thailand, since September, and I haven’t seen Jackie, a close friend who is exploring her personal and professional interests in Australia, since May. While they are among those who I chat with almost every day, I gain more insight through reading their blogs and feel even more connected to them. Amrita, the founder of the fashion technology startup I currently work at and who I happen to meet via Twitter (a story of its own), also inspired me to start my own blog, amongst other things. After floating the idea of this blog to my sister, my MSLOC advisor, and some friends, here I am.

My goal is for The Alexa Connection to evolve into a lifestyle blog and creative outlet, connecting people to my thoughts and potentially to each other. I am interested in blogging about a wide array of topics, including but not limited to those listed on the About page. As a newbie to blogging and WordPress, I am excited to see how this blog is going to unfold and I look forward to actively hearing your feedback and input!

-Alexa

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