Lucky 7: My Favorite Tools of 2014

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert of any sort, nor is this a sponsored post. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move forward with the point of this post. With a contractor/marketing intern-ish position that started off the year and an epic tech PR internship to end the year, 2014 led me to discover new tools and apps that I figured might be useful to others too.

While some of these tools are newbies, some are oldies, but goodies. This is in no particular order.

1. Slack

It comes as no surprise that Slack has made the cut. Listed as no. 1 by Mashable in its 10 Startups to Watch in 2015 list, I definitely agree that it is one of the most useful communication tools. As someone who has used a variety of internal communication platforms including Lotus Notes messenger and Outlook messenger, Slack brings a bright and entertaining method to communicate. From its Giphy extension that allows me to pull up puppy gifs to share with the rest of the office to its breakdown of channels for each account to communicate internally x2 (communication inception), this is a tool that every SMB should consider. Did I also mention it has a really sleek-looking iOS app?

2. Cision

Cision is a PR classic that reigns over the indusry. When I’m building a media list, Cision is the tool I venture to first before hunting down a reporter’s information directly. For the most part, the contact information and beat of each reporter/analyst is up-to-date. While there is still a lot of room for growth, I believe that Cision’s recent acquision of UK-based Gorkana and Visible Technologies and merger with Vocus, the PR software world can only get better.

3. Box

I was a Dropbox girl –  was. The first sharing platform I ever used was Dropbox – both for my freelance PR projects and internships. However, this year, I’m convinced that Box is my new love. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m on a business account or if I just like the overall design better, but I just prefer Box now. Whenever there’s a project that requires a deck or a plansbook, I save a copy to my personal Box account for easy access anywhere. And of course, my professors also love holding office hours during times when I should be interning, which causes me to send the immediate Slack message of “WFH today.” Thanks to Box, I can access all necessary files from my personal computer and not be labeled as the flakey intern – whew!

4. Sprout Social

I’ve always been a HootSuite girl by default because it’s the only platform that’s been used at previous internships. However, Sprout Social is on par, if not better at times. Like HootSuite, it allows you to schedule Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and recently, LinkedIn posts for all clients. One of the best features, in my opinion, is the queue option, which chooses the best time to post for that account, based on previous post engagements/impressions. I’m also a huge fan of the analytics portion.

5. Feedly 

I’m constantly looking for new platforms to read news. The best part about Feedly is the ability to break up news into categories. I currently have a personal Feedly with groups for tech, PR/marketing, business and top tier publications for general news.

6. theSkimm

I started using theSkimm during spring of my sophomore year and I’m so glad they’re finally taking advantage of college campuses. My entire newsfeed has at least a handful of student ambassadors who are promoting the easy-to-read email newsletter that breaks down the latest news in jargon-free language. When I’m riding the West Campus bus from my apartment to a class, I’ll open up my email and skim through the newsletter.

7. Canva

Have you ever wanted to make a quick graphic, but you don’t have time to sit there and layer images on Photoshop or mess with the vectors on Illustrator? Canva is here to save the day! I sound like an informercial because it’s that easy. For those of us who only know the basics of the Creative Suite or don’t know it at all, Canva is a quick and easy tool to develop graphics for simple flyers, Facebook banners, Twitter cover photos, and much more. The best part? They have already sized the image for you and most of the graphics to drag and drop are free. The ones that aren’t free are generally only $1. Woo!

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The Stages of Winter Break

Whether you’re a connoisseur of knowledge and aspire to devour every word uttered by each professor or someone who believes that “B’s get degrees,” it is certain that counting down to winter break is a habit that has been engrained in your mind since your started your academic career.

When the swarms of exams have closed, the presentations made, and the projects have been handed in, there is a sense of freedom that fills the campus. It’s time: winter break – an almost month long experience that allows aspiring marketing professionals, financial analysts, engineers, and medical students to rest their minds.

Initially, the break feels like the gates of heaven have opened and there is a part of you that believes that you can “catch up” on the sleep you have lost all semester.

Photo: Surviving College

Photo: Surviving College

And then it finally hits you that all your friends are also home for the holidays and you can grab drinks or coffee and catch up on life.

Photo: Tumblr

Photo: Tumblr

Life is grand because instead of eating decent processed food, you can now enjoy mother’s homemade cooking that has been laced with love, which you suspect is why you are devouring everything in sight.

Photo: Tumblr

Photo: Tumblr

Instead of staying up into the wee hours of the night, you can now binge watch your favorite shows and get good use out of your Amazon Instant, Netflix, or Hulu subscription.

tv

Then relatives start coming and suddenly you have a million new presents and you’re meeting family members you forgot you had.

Photo: Cursive Content

Photo: Cursive Content

But then the relatives leave and you still have another two weeks. To kill time, you decide to download random apps for entertainment. Apps you would rather not admit to, like…

Photo: Tinder

Photo: Tinder

And then you run out of things to do, so you decide you’re going to accomplish all those New Years resolutions like working out more.

Photo: Google

Photo: Google

So you try to be a good sibling and hang out with your brother or sister in hopes that you two will finally become best friends. But they’re not really interested.

Photo: CDN

Photo: CDN

But then, you look at the calendar and you realize that winter break is finally coming to an end and soon you’ll be back on campus with your friends and promise of freedom.

Photo: Google

Photo: Google

Even though you know returning to campus means you have papers every week, project deadlines to meet and exams to study for, you also know that your college years are some of the best years of your life. As much as you enjoy the time with your family and chatting with friends from other schools, nothing beats returning home to your own apartment or dorm room.

After all, we both know New Years Eve is a whole lot more fun when you’re with your friends from college and you don’t have to shamefully return home to your parents’ house. 

A Letter to My Freshman Self.

I recently changed my profile picture on my Facebook page to one of my mother and me during Christmas of my freshman year of college, which got me thinking about how it seemed like just yesterday I was a freshman and now…I’m not.

The first semester of my junior year is coming to a close and finals are just around the corner. The weather is chilly in Austin and I’m getting rather…nostalgic to say the least. I’m not even a senior yet, but just knowing that the school year will soon end in a few months and I will be entering the last year as a college student terrifies me.

So here’s a tribute to the lessons I have learned so far that I wish my freshman self knew when I first stepped foot on the Forty Acres.

The Boys.

But really. There was a point during freshman year where I thought every guy who wanted to kiss me was somewhat interested. It’s crazy to think about it now because I’ve learned to be smarter. Don’t cry over the first college boyfriend. Don’t assume that the fraternity brother who you made out with and called you “beautiful,” is actually interested, and whatever you do, do not make out with the boy who’s visiting from another school who won’t remember your name the next time you see him.

Academics.

Don’t take a course load of every single challenging class you can possibly think of – have a combination of different types of classes if you can. Learn the names of the people in your classes and be their friend, not just the person who you go to for notes. Most importantly: actually go to office hours, not just TA office hours, but professor ones too.

Friends. 

I know you like meeting everything and anything, but really, figure out who your group of friends is. You will meet your best friends and your worst frenemies this year. Love your close friends unconditionally.

Professionally.

Networking will always be key and those handwritten notes do matter. Don’t stop meeting smart people who want to teach you.

Student Organizations.

Stop spreading yourself so thin you can barely move. Join the ones that matter and be involved in them. Joining 100 organizations and being a crappy member won’t do you any good.

Superwoman.

I am a student. I am a woman. I am driven. I want a successful career. I (eventually) want a family, including children.

Women have made an immense amount of strides in the corporate world today. Images in the media have shown us from a young that as a woman, you can have it all if you work your ass off. But how does one ever have a work-life balance? According to everyone woman that has a high position in a company that I’ve ever asked, you don’t ever really reach a balance. I’m still not entirely sure if I’m content with that answer. They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but I’m as stubborn as they get, so there’s a good portion of me that says, “Yes, I can and will; I’ll prove you wrong.”

But I’m also 20-years-old, I’ve had a few internships under my belt, and I’ve never been in love. So no, I am not an expert on having a work-life balance because I’ve never really had to; at least, not to that degree. Which is why I’m so incredibly happy with my past two internships. I’ve been able to work under the leadership of women who are passionate about what they do, smart about what they do and still somehow, manage a good family life and still look pretty darn classy and poised throughout the entire process.

I’ve scoured the Internet and sifted through handfuls of articles about women who have managed to “have it all.” One thing remains true: no one can have it all. I’m not saying I’m going to start sacrificing here and there to make sure I appear to be able to do it all. One thing that I’ve learned from my mentors is that you can work to your heart’s content during the week, but on the weekends, you better take some time off and focus on your own happiness.

This summer, I’m interning full-time and I start my Spanish 4 course in July. On paper, that doesn’t look like much, but when my former supervisor asked me when I would actually find time for myself, I didn’t know how to respond. I informed her I would be driving home to Dallas this weekend to see my family and I planned on traveling to Houston in July. Those are relaxing weekends, right? Wrong. I think part of my nervous break down in the last post had to do with the fact that I don’t know how to relax. And that in itself is a realization I never wanted to admit to myself or anyone for that m atter.

Why I don’t want to be the “super woman.”

They don’t sleep. Okay, so I admit that my sleep schedule is pretty terrible during the school year because it really depends on the week. During weeks when I have a million exams and projects, I don’t sleep. Four to five hours of sleep? Totally normal. Now that I have to be at the office at 8 a.m. every morning, my sleep schedule has improved to some degree. I’m at least going to bed a little before or at midnight. This is still pretty bad and I’m still a coffee addict, but we have made progress.

They have everything scheduled. I used to be one of those people who would screen shot my iCal and send it to my former boyfriends and have them choose a white space. Ladies, don’t do this. By far one of my dumbest dating mistakes ever. I do have a busy schedule, but I also like to make time for people who matter to me and the worst feeling in the world is knowing that my schedule is too packed to even try to schedule anything. I’m a pretty organized person, but I don’t want to be that person that turns to their child and says, “okay, so at 3:00 p.m., mommy is actually going to make time for you.”

Happiness. The concept is so basic. From the outside looking in, these women who appear to have it all aren’t always happy. At the end of the day, all I really want in life is to be happy. Happy in my professional, academic and personal life. I would take happiness over anger and depression any day.

The Routine.

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I kind of had a nervous break down. I sat down and started writing my to-do list for the next few weeks and I realized something, I’m in way over my head. Maybe it’s the stress from the school year that has still yet to fully disappear or maybe I’m biting off more than I can possibly chew – nothing new there; either way, I had to call one of my closest friends and just vent.

The advice he gave me seemed so simple, “take each day as it comes and stop worrying.” Okay, he’s a hot-shot journalist in the making and I’m probably misquoting him and fitting the PR stereotype, but his advice was definitely something along those lines – I promise.

So what do the next few days mean after the pep talk from my good friend and post nervous break down? Change of routine.

  1. Plan out meals: I’ve lost weight since I returned to Austin. Not because I’ve been working out more, but more because I’m forgetting to eat most of the time or don’t realize just how much food I need to pack for lunch so that my stomach doesn’t start growing around 10 a.m. or 3 p.m.
  2. Get off the grid: if you know me well, you’ll know that I am attached to my phone and laptop – technology is my life, not only in my professional life, but also my personal life. My phone is usually on silent, but I have the vibrate feature on, so it buzzes every five seconds from a text, phone call or email. Before going to bed, I vow to put my phone on silent, shut down my laptop and just sleep as a normal person is intended to.
  3. Go to bed before midnight: this is more of a personal problem. No matter how tired I am from being at the office, I can never seem to get myself to fall asleep before midnight. I’ll lay in my bed at 10 p.m., telling myself I’m going to fall asleep and then not actually falling asleep until a little past midnight. I have to be at the office at 8 a.m., so you can see why I strongly dislike this inability to sleep.
  4.  Relax: I have this note taped to a shelf on my desk that reads, “smile, don’t stress, stay classy.” In high school, my BC calculus teacher referred to me as his “little Asian ball of stress,” I know it was a term of endearment and he was probably one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, so I wasn’t offended at all. But the fact holds true, I stress out far too much and usually it’s about the little things that shouldn’t matter. But here’s the difference between my stress and the average person’s, I pent it up for as long as I can, which results in the hot mess of a break down.
  5. Forget the schedule: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, my calendar is my life. I have always been one of those people who writes down everything she has to do and checks it off on a daily basis. The problem? By the time I figure out when to schedule my social life, everyone has already made plans. So here’s to being more lenient and actually making time for people who matter to me. I’m not saying I’ll just flake on professional or academic commitments, I’m just saying I’ll be more likely to agree to “Hey! I’m free right now, wanna have lunch?” if a friend requests it.
  6. Exercise: I’ve been doing this a little more often. I’ve learned that running calms me down – A LOT. I feel accomplished, productive and according to Legally Blonde, exercising releases endorphines and endorphines make people happy.

The beginning of a new chapter.

When I signed into Facebook this evening, I was asked in the status bar, “What is your New Year’s resolution?” Well Facebook, I don’t think I can answer that with just a simple status update because like many of my peers, I have more resolutions than I can probably count on my ten fingers.

The year 2012 was a year of highs and lows, but mostly highs for me. I finished my first year of undergrad and survived living in a dorm that some may cringe at the sound of the name. I learned that college and high school are two different entities and who I was in high school is not who I became in college. I learned a lot about myself, what made me happy, what made me tick, and how to cope with the various emotional roller coasters. The best possible way to sum up my 2012 would have to definitely be via a list.

In 2012, I

  • Fell in love with my college and realized I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else for four years
  • Became more confident
  • Learned that dating in college is not the same as dating in high school
  • Realized that a kiss isn’t always meaningful
  • Got my heart put through hell and back
  • Cried in public for the first time
  • Got in my first car accident
  • Experienced my first college paid internship
  • Worked with the smartest engineers I have ever met on a project I initially didn’t understand
  • Was given the opportunity to be an orientation advisor and got to know a group of great people and help incoming students who have so much potential
  • Networked like crazy at professional events and career fairs
  • Acquired a fascination with wine
  • Blogged more than I have ever blogged in my life
  • Moved into my first apartment
  • Somehow managed a handful of A’s while interning during the week
  • Engrained the basic AP Style rules into my head
  • Finally learned how to write a proper press/news release
  • Went to a hackathon and approached people reporter style
  • Had a handful of first dates
  • Was offered internship positions at places I didn’t think I’d ever had a chance with
  • Screwed up my first major phone interview
  • Developed a logo, portfolio, and nearly perfect creative resume from scratch
  • Actually had stuff to put into my portfolio
  • Learned a few programs (ish) along the way: Final Cut, Photoshop, Illustrator, Cision
  • Experienced what it was like to have a family member in the hospital
  • Realized I never want to grow up
  • Questioned my major
  • Realized I loved my major
  • Drank more coffee than what is considered healthy
  • Cooked more on a daily basis than what I was used to
  • Had little to know sleep on a weekly basis
  • Slept more than necessary and wasted entire days
  • Met wonderful people
  • Made my close friends even closer
  • Appreciated my family more than ever
  • Learned the importance of budgeting and being basically financially independent
  • Survived the Apocalypse
  • Worked on my relationship with God and why I chose to be a Catholic
  • Laughed until I cried with people I care about
  • Came to the conclusion that 2012, was overall, a pretty damn good year

In 2013, I

  • Hope to survive my upper-division classes with decent grades while interning
  • Will build a strong foundation from working with a boutique marketing and communications agency
  • Put my love life on the back burner and concentrate on my academics and the future of my career
  • Focus on the present, prepare for the future, and avoid dwelling on the past because it’s already happened, and what’s done is done.
  • Actually learn how to express my feelings in a public setting
  • Continue to network and learn from seasoned professionals in the industry
  • Hopefully receive an offer from a tech company somewhere in the Bay area or Seattle for the summer (fingers triple crossed for this goal)
  • Run at least once a week – baby steps, y’all.
  • Don’t study the night before or pull all-nighters
  • Occasionally replace coffee with tea
  • Call my parents more often when I’m not at home
  • Prioritize my life
  • Learn how to program in at least one language (coding)
  • Bake something at least once a month, document it
  • Be healthy
  • Be happy
  • Stop stressing over the little things
  • Enjoy life, and stop being so rigid

Here’s to 2013 and hoping all my resolutions and goals are made into reality.

Ten Things Tuesday – second edition.

With all the bustle of holidays and busy work weeks, I almost forgot today was Tuesday. And y’all know what that means: Ten Things Tuesday! In this second edition, I will reveal to you one of my guilty pleasures – dressing up for no apparent reason and documenting how proud I am about my outfit.

Exhibit A:

J.Crew skirt & shirt, Gap scarf, Express tights, Bandolino boots, Old Navy bag, Lucky Brand watch and a J.Crew plaid headband (not shown).

Anyways, back to the original intention of this post: the ten things that make me happy.

1. Sifting through magazines to find outfit inspiration
2. Buying the look for less/on sale
3. Dressing up for no reason
4. Pretty PJ bottoms
5. Simple, sophisticated and timeless accessories
6. Writing for fun
7. Making lists and checking it twice – You’re not the only one Santa
8. Conservative nail polish colors
9. Reading my favorite blogs
10. Pinterest

Have a nice day y’all!