Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Life Pro-Tips from a non-pro

I have been kicking around the idea for this post in my head for a while, finally sitting down to write it. If you don’t know, I recently graduated from the bachelors/masters accelerated program at UMBC (in December) and started a job at APL 9in January) and got engaged (in March) to get married (this July).

One of my co-workers recently joked (about me passing a five month work anniversary) about it being “five months of the next forty years” since that’s roughly the expected time to work (until about age 65 - he thinks I'm older than I really am). I've been engaged for two months (two months of the rest of my life, you could say). Hence the title of this post “Life pro-tips from a non-pro”, since I am most definitely a non-pro, at both work and this whole engaged thing. However, I feel like I've learned a lot as things have been changing around me, and so I wanted to capture that on paper somehow – so blog post!

As my mom frequently points out, only people who know me will enjoy this post – I’m not a particularly gripping writer, by any means, but I am the kind of person who likes to process externally, so pardon me while I publicly process.

Work Tips:
1.       Join groups and communities
As a student, I took a single class in Hadoop based distributed computing. I don’t think I’m an expert on Hadoop at all, but when I started my job, I joined  the “Big Data Users” community. I was able to use those connections for one of my projects. I’m also a part of the machine learning community, a topic I enjoyed in college but didn't ultimately focus on. I’m getting the chance now to focus on it more. Networking in college seems like this thing that are constantly talking about – I didn't really see it in action until now, but it’s proven to be one of the more valuable skills I learned. I'm also in some fun clubs - APL Dancers and APL Board Gamers! Yay Community!

2.       Never turn down invitations to lunch
For super-extroverts, this seems obvious. While I am technically an extrovert, saying yes to going to lunch with people always intimidates me – what if I’m boring? What if they don’t really want me and are just being polite? (Mostly, this is because I’m insecure). But generally, I say no. But saying no might mean not getting invited again, and it’s way better to know and be slightly, uncomfortably social with your co-workers, than to not know them at all. One of my favorite co-workers is this guy named Chris - he has an awesome beard, and a great way of persistently bugging me about lunch (twice as an intern, and several times as a full time hire).

3.       Tell a good story
One of my favorite co-workers/boss figures (I have multiple “bosses”) says that work is all about telling a good story. He’s definitely, totally, 100% right. Every project I've worked on has been about telling a good story, about describing how you've exceeded the expectations set for you. Telling a story about why your work is good is really, really important. Of course, it’s easier to tell a good story if you are already doing good work J

4.       Presentations
Presentations were the bane of my existence as a student, but I’m really good at them now, because I’ve practiced and I continue to practice. Being able to make good, concise PowerPoint slides, or to write clear, objective short papers, is essential for work. I have volunteered for a number of presentations at work (some have gone well, some have sucked), but every time has helped me improve. Also, the presentations in school, where everyone has to present and you only have a five minute slot – not realistic. Be prepared for it to be just you, for 30 min-1 hour, and for random questions to interrupt your train of thought.

Wedding Tips:

1.       There’s no way everyone is gonna be happy
I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy all the time and will bend over backwards/over commit myself/make myself miserable trying to make everyone happy. Wedding pro-tip: there are way too many people involved for them to all be happy all the time.  I’m not saying you should just throw all caution to the wind and ignore everyone, just recognize that you have to be OK with saying no to some things some of the time. Of course, the flip side is to say no to everyone all the time – you have to be in relationships with these people for the rest of your life after marriage (parents, future in-laws, and future husband) so if you say no all of the time, that’ll be tough too.

2.       You can’t force someone to be the kind of bride/bridesmaid that you would be
I’m learning this in my role as a bride to be and as a bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding – everyone does things differently, and if I wanted everyone to be the same type-A, plan everything to the minute details, complete things way in advance person that I am – well, I’m living in a dream world if I want that. Just got to go with the flow, ya know? That's not to say that as a bridesmaid, I should ignore the bride I've agreed to "serve" - I should just do what serves HER, instead of me. I know, it seems obvious but ya know, things are obvious and cliche because they're true.

3. Being engaged (and I assume being married) doesn't have to mean always doing the same thing
This applies to regular dating as well. One thing my fiance and I are constantly doing is the "what do you wanna do, I don't know, whatever you want to do" dance. Eventually we figured out we can hang out and be together without actually being in each others faces all the time (he's playing Supreme Commander while I blog). Happy We figured this one out before the wedding, folks - I definitely plan to bring books on my honeymoon to read while Ryan does other things! Because while we do want to be together and spend time together, time alone is absolutely invaluable.

Other things I've been bopping around:
1. Friendship is hard
Post-college relationships (besides the fiance) is one of the hardest things ever. Finding time to maintain relationships with people when you don't see them everyday like you used to takes a lot of work, especially when eight hours of my day are consumed by working. Scheduling time is something that isn't natural when you used to spontaneously meet in the dining hall but has to happen if you are actually going to see each other.

2. Church is hard
Being recognized as an adult at church is hard for me, and it doesn't help that my church's 20-something nights is on Friday (when I'm usually exhausted from work). Of course, going to a new church would also be hard (see point about friendship being hard). I know community and relationships are important so I stick with it but that doesn't make it easy.

The end.
Thanks for listening me to process externally. To see some of my other friends process about their more interesting (Nancy) or more artistic (LA) lives, check out their blogs at: 
https://nancysexperientiallearning.wordpress.com and http://www.labirdiephotography.com/