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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Intersections: Why I chose a full-time consulting job.

I am a public relations major. I have never held a consulting internship. How does a public relations major end up accepting a full-time offer with a huge consulting firm?

You can ask anyone around me and they’ll tell you that being around me made them more nervous about the job hunt than they probably needed to be. Even while I was finishing up my internship with Amazon this summer, I was already reaching out to potential companies I could see myself working for. I started writing down what I wanted in a company culture, what benefits I needed, a salary range that was livable for the areas I wanted to move to, and the skills I could bring to the table.

I set up coffee meetings, drove to Silicon Valley and San Francisco tech companies to meet recruiters for coffee – I just wanted to know what I was getting myself into. I knew I wanted to pursue the tech industry, but I didn’t know when to apply or how to throw myself in for consideration. Never once did consulting actually cross my mind. I kept looking for “marketing specialist” or “public relations associate” positions.

Then, the school year started and job postings started to roll in the on the college career services website. I applied to anything I could get my hands on. I saw a posting for a full-time management consultant. I figured it couldn’t hurt to look. I read through the description and realized I had the skills listed. While it didn’t have the marketing/PR title I thought I wanted, it had what I wanted as far as development.

After long rounds of interviews, meet and greets, and “researching” my interviewers on LinkedIn – I got an offer. So now what?

I would be blantantly lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I’m incredibly nervous, scared out of my mind actually. There’s a part of me that still wonders if this is the right decision. Am I giving up the dream of eventually becoming a product marketing manager of an enterprise software company? Not entirely. Because my goal from the moment I started college was always to work with tech companies to some capacity and apply the skills I had as a non-technical within the technical word.

From the age of 18, I knew I wanted to play the role of being the intersection between technology and communication.

Upon utter panic of making the wrong decision, I spoke to my recruiter and found myself placed in the heart of technology – San Francisco, exactly where I wanted to be. Additionally, I discussed options on the types of projects. While there is no guarantee that I’ll be placed with my dream project, there’s a higher chance of communication, media and technology projects – woo!

The lesson of the story? Don’t confine yourself to what the title of a job. It sounds beyond cliche, but what I’ve learned from the job hunt is that the skills learned in one area can easily be applied to another.

To answer the question I’ll be asked throughout the holidays by my relatives: yes, I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, but I can’t wait for this new adventure.

Confinement Isn’t An Option.

I’m closing in on the one month mark of my summer internship and the initial skepticism has blossomed into pure excitement. I have reached a point where I understand 99 percent of the projects I’m doing, the products the company designs and am comfortable with the people and culture. This summer just might have the potential to go down into the books as one of the best summers I’ve had.

I honestly think that part of my happiness from this job not only has to do with the supervisors I’m working with, but also because of the interns I have met. Like I mentioned in a previous post, there are 225 interns from 60 different universities. This huge number seemed intimidating at first glance, but now that I have actually gotten to know a fair number of them, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the best part about  being a marketing and communications intern in the sea of engineering interns is the massive amount of information I’m learning. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I want to work with engineers after I graduate and what better way to prepare for the future than immersing myself in a sea of future engineering professionals?

After two weeks of lunching with engineering interns because none of the marketing and communications interns were at the office, I reached a point where I was learning about each department of the company through the hands-on work the technical interns were doing. By the time I finally started the simplified version of product training, I already knew the majority of the information presented and I wasn’t lost during the course. Shout out to all the hardware/software interns that talked to me about their projects because I believe everything you’re doing is fantastic.

What I have learned within the past few weeks is that confining myself in my comfort bubble would have restricted me from the potential of this internship. I’m meeting people who process information different that come from different parts of the state, country, and globe. The melting pot of views will be the main source of why I enjoy this internship as much as I do. I may be receiving the lowest hourly wage I’ve ever had at an internship aside from the unpaid ones I did in high school, but the experience is definitely making up for it.

So, to all the marketing, business, and communications interns out there who are interning in-house this summer, go mingle with the other departments – you won’t regret it.

Marketing Princess + Reality Engineer

As I am sifting through my emails from companies and reading all my usual publications, I can’t help but notice that there is a constant push for more STEM programs and an emphasis on increasing the number of candidates for degrees in engineering/science programs. As much as I support this push and lord knows our society needs it, I can’t help but wonder if my focus in the technology industry has gone unnoticed. I am not majoring in engineering or any science, unless you count that computer science minor of mine, but that’s another story.

As you know by now, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in public relations. While the majority of my peers tend to steer towards the path of the “glamorous” side of PR, I chose a different route. I am a strong advocate of engineers and the technologies they create. My mind wasn’t built to create the same technologies, but my goodness I want to be a part of it. Which brings me to my main point: students in marketing, communications, PR and any other similar major should consider the technology industry.

At times, I have felt that my classes have focused solely on acquiring a position in large PR/advertising agencies to a degree that the in-house opportunities go unnoticed. Or better yet, sometimes classes focus more on the “cool” industries such as fashion and entertainment. Can I be a marketing princess and a nerd too? I geek out so much when it comes to the latest products and software innovations. The technology industry is quickly growing and so is the world of public relations, so why not pursue both?

I like to think that the electrical engineers design the software, but I’m the reaility engineer that promotes it to the consumers, so that the market knows just how amazing it is and why it is a relevant part of daily life.

Android >> iPhone

WhiteiPhone5When it comes to smart phones, the industry seems to be ruled by two major players: Android and iPhone. Whether you’re an Apple die-hard fan or an Android connoisseur, you have to admit that both products have features that boast positives and are dependent on what your daily use for the phone is. When I first entered the world of smart phones last year, I was beyond excited to purchase a functional Samsung Galaxy S. It wasn’t the newest of Androids, but it did what I needed it to do: send emails, text messages and take photos, which I filtered using Instagram – naturally. Nothing was wrong with my Android and honestly, my only complaint was that the Google Play Store lacked a few apps that I wanted and were only exclusive to the iTunes Store – i.e. Vine.

So when I returned home from finishing my second year of college and my mother gifted me an iPhone 5, I wasn’t going to turn down the free phone, but it wasn’t one of those moments where I was beyond giddy. The switch hasn’t been too rough and I found it to be similar to when I switched from my HP laptop to my current MacBook Pro. The phone itself does have a sleeker and more compact design than the Galaxy S4 that I initially requested; I wanted to stay within the realms of Samsung because I was satisfied with my Galaxy S.

So, what did I learn from my switch from an Android to iPhone?

  • They’re both really good smart phones and both do what I need for daily use
  • I expected the iPhone 5 to have a better battery life, but it’s really not that much different; maybe I’m syncing too many apps?
  • The syncing between my iPhone and MacBook Pro is seamless and iCloud is genius
  • This is definitely better than past iPhone models and I honestly wouldn’t even try to use any model before the 5
  • I spent a good amount Googling how to use certain functions on the iPhone, but I did that with the Android when I first got it too

Overall? I liked both devices for different reasons and to be honest, it really depends on what you’re using the device for. I’m pretty indifferent about the switch aside from being able to finally see emoji icons, which would show up as boxes on my Android. If you’re looking for a great smart phone and you’re a college student – it really doesn’t matter which one you get.

The Fibers of the City.

About a week ago, I sat down and began compiling the list of interesting technology articles for my daily media monitoring at the office. During the process, I stumbled across an article that highlighted that the rumors about Google meeting with the City of Austin to discuss plans for a “new project” were in the works. Immediately, Google Fiber came to mind and I became a giddy little girl. Even though a part of me knew there was a great chance that Google was simple suggesting a same-day delivery program to business leaders in Austin. However, there was a good chunk of me that was hoping for Google Fiber.

Today Google confirmed that it will begin installing Austin homes with the Gigabit Internet service, which offers 1 Gbps broadband Internet service and is expected to be completed by the middle of 2014. So basically, in case you didn’t believe that Austin was becoming a tech-oriented city, this is proof that it’s definitely moving towards being the Silicon Valley of the south. In other words, it’s a fantastic time for me to be studying in this city.