Alyssa J Freitas

December 13, 2017

IBM Summit Program: Weeks 23-25

Check out weeks 1&2, 3&4, 5&67&89&1011&1213&1415&1617-19, and 20-22 here!

6 months and 10 blog posts later (well, 9 months and 21 blogs posts if we count the internship too), we’ve arrived at the last installment of my Summit Program series. When I wrote my very first Summit blog post during my internship last year, I was hopeful that some people would read and enjoy my trials and tribulations and successes as I navigated IBM. What I didn’t expect was to have thousands of views and for dozens of phone calls and meetings to follow with people who connected to my writing and stories. It is only appropriate for this final post to begin with a thank you to everyone who has taken time to click on my post.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! This final installment of my IBM Summit Program blog series is all about graduating, attending industry events, and figuring out what career topics to tackle next
Now, let’s jump into the last three weeks! Thanksgiving week was short, so I don’t have a ton to report. It was the usual combination of landing team work and getting ready for Global Sales School the following week. The final week of Global Sales School was all about bringing together every element of sales we had learned over the past 6 months and creating a distinctive experience for the client. The picture for this post is me right after my last role play. Don't let the smile fool you, I was crying on the inside. Thanks to Matt for taking this photo!

I headed off to Chicago on Sunday to be ready bright and early on Monday. First, we had “agile” training where we learned about the best practices for teaming and continuous improvement in self organized groups. There are many elements of agile, but instead of going into all of that, I’m going to describe an exercise we did that I loved.

In our group of 30 people we were each given a tennis ball and told that we had to maximize the number of tennis balls that every single person had touched. The catch was that you could not pass the tennis ball to the person directly to your left or right. Oh, and the ball must end where it started to earn a point. We were given less than a minute to organize and execute. As you would imagine, the first time was chaos as we tried to work together, but with each successive round we got better. This taught us to identify bottlenecks, have a clearly articulated goal at the start of a project, and the value of multiple iterations.

In the afternoon, we began our role plays. At the end of this week had to give a final presentation with our team and write a proposal for an e-commerce solution for the client. To find out the client’s requirements and what they wanted in a solution, we listened closely during every role play and got together to determine what we had to make sure to ask in each conversation.

After a full day of role plays, we went out for dinner then made camp in the hotel lobby to work on our proposal. Looking around at all the other teams I felt like I was on The Apprentice with all of us getting ready for the next day. What I love about the Summit Program is the perfect mix of competition and support for each other. The next morning we were back in the office, hard at work on the proposal in the morning, and then the afternoon and evening were spent on the presentation. I’m so grateful for the team I got to work with during the program. These guys are talented and fun and smart and I did not stop laughing as we worked together.

When we gave our presentation the next day it was surreal to realize that we were done with the Summit Program. There was a final lunch where our instructor, Feridoon, passed out our graduation certificates and announced that my team won the presentation competition!

I also found out that I graduated first in the class and was given a book on international business etiquette as a prize. If you’ve ever read my etiquette posts, you’ll know that etiquette is a passion of mine and I was so excited to receive this book!

Leaving Chicago and saying goodbye to my friends was sad, but here’s to hoping we’ll reunite at the THINK conference in a few months (Vegas, anyone?). The Summit Program was a wonderful introduction to the professional world and now I am focused on putting to use the skills I built with my landing team.

This past week I attended the IBM Payments Summit in Manhattan where IBMers and clients got together to discuss trends and progress in the payments industry. It was a great learning experience and gave me the chance to meet more of my team who live across the country. After that event, Logan and I went to a Fintech talk that IBM hosted about how startups work with large companies. These sort of events teach me more than I could ever hope to on my own and provide a great place to meet people in the industry. Being in Manhattan puts me right in the heart of the action of the Financial Services industry and I cannot wait to continue my career here.

There you have it. My final Summit Program installment. Blogging about my experience has been a wonderful way to capture and remember this time, and I would love to continue sharing my career story in the future.

-AJF
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December 6, 2017

STEM Careers, Without A STEM Background

Hey everyone! Today I'm sharing a guest post with you that I recently wrote for Katrina over at Yours Truly, Katrina. She has a series called #STEMBabes, providing guidance and advice for women in STEM, and I was so glad to contribute with this guest post. Make sure to head over to her blog to read the entire post :)

Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here's what it's like to have a STEM career, without a STEM background and how you can do it too!

College as a Non-STEM Major 

In college, way back in the day (note: I graduated in May 2017, nearly an eternity ago), I studied business with a speciality in professional sales. If you’re a STEM major, my course work most likely looked a lot different than yours. I spent my time learning how to ask the right questions to understand what clients need, how to lead a conversation and make recommendations, and all of my extracurricular time was spent traveling the country to compete in sales competitions. And I loved every second of it. But I knew that I wanted to be in technology, despite my lack of background in the field and taking geology to fulfill my science requirement because I heard it was a pretty straight forward course.

Using Your Skills for a Career in Technology, Without a STEM Background 

Yet here I am, working for IBM as a Client Relationship Representative, helping clients in the financial services industry achieve business goals by leveraging cognitive technology. Everyday I find myself learning more about how our technology works and the most valuable capabilities it provides. I am thoroughly obsessed with the results that technology can drive and the business improvements that our clients experience.

It’s challenging to be a non-technical person in a discussion about technological solutions, but what I’ve found to be key is the first word I used to describe myself: curious. If you’re like me and think technology is fascinating and you want to be in the field, but don’t know where to start, begin by being curious. Pick something (anything!) and learn more about it. Become familiar with terminology. Keep a running list of vocab and acronyms (mine gets longer everyday). Have your eyes open to spot patterns and trends that are relevant.

Being a client rep is the perfect combination of tech knowledge and sales skills that I could hope for! I have to understand our solutions to the extent that I can explain them to a client and help them see the possibilities of leveraging technology in their business. It is possible to find a job that will allow you to use technology to help others, even if it isn’t your background. Maybe you’ll be in sales like me, evangelizing new solutions and bringing them to businesses. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself as a technology journalist, narrating the latest developments.

To read the rest of the post, head over to Katrina's blog!


-AJF
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November 29, 2017

How To Save Major $$$ Holiday Shopping Online

As you may know, I am not a shopper (remember that year I didn't shop at all? And how much I learned). At all. And when I do have to shop, I want to save as much money as possible. I've blogged about how I love consignment shopping because I always get great deals, but my favorite shop is miles away from me now that I'm not at school, and I haven't found a comparable place since. Yet, I still have to shop for some staples and wanted to share with you the ways that I maximize my savings through three recent examples. These are great tips to use when you're doing your holiday shopping and want to give a nice gift without breaking the bank!
Click to read now or pin to save for later! These are my top tips for saving tons of money when online shopping. From discounted gift cards to membership sites, these are the hacks you need to know

I'd been wearing the same winter coats since high school, so I figured it was time for a change now that I am out in the working world. I knew that I wanted a wool toggle coat and was willing to invest in something that was high quality and would last for years...so I went straight to Brooks Brothers.

Enter this beauty:

I immediately fell in love with this dark green coat for $278. But you probably already know that's not the price I ended up paying.

My first stop is always Gift Card Granny. I cannot stress how important it is to always look for discounted gift cards, and even mentioned this method in a post earlier this year. When you go to Gift Card Granny and search for the store of your choice, you will be presented with a variety of gift card denominations and percentages off. Often, you'll be sent to other sites and my experience has been positive with all of them. I was able to get a gift card for 14% off, taking about $40 off my total.

Then, when it came to shipping, I signed up for the 30 day trial of Shop Runner. Shop Runner is a membership site (complimentary for Amex and MasterCard) that gives you benefits like unlimited free 2 day shipping at select sites, free return shipping, and other members only deals. You can check out more info here. I was able to avoid the shipping charge and get my lovely coat in 2 days. Score!

Next example uses one more of my tricks. I needed a new sweater and after loving this one in Express (but not the original price), I set off to find how I could get discounts.

Before even going to the site, I went to my Chase rewards home page. I use the Chase Freedom Unlimited card that gives me 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but has special rewards for certain sites (like 6% back at JCrew). I just have to click on the link for Express and I automatically get 2% cash back. Then on top of that I got free shipping through Shop Runner and used discounted gift cards that gave me 16% off. Another win.

Lastly, I was in the market for some new riding boots (my other ones had been worn into the ground) and found this pair from DSW.

I didn't use any discount gift cards because if I don't like them, I didn't want to be saddled with $100 worth of gift cards for a place I don't shop at that often. But I did get automatic free shipping plus $20 off my order thanks to an awesome web browser extension called Honey. Honey will automatically scan the web for discount codes and special deals that you can apply to your final order. It takes the work out of looking around for deals and you don't even have to visit any other sites.

There you have it! This is how when I do inevitably have to shop I make sure that I am saving the maximum amount of money.

Recap of steps

  1. Sign up for Shop Runner (or do the 30 day trial like me when you know you'll be making some purchases)
  2. Shop through Chase or your credit card provider's reward system to make sure you're maximizing your cash back
  3. Install Honey so you can automatically scan the web for deal codes
  4. Go to Gift Card Granny to get discounted gift cards to take an additional percentage off your purchase
What are your tips and tricks for saving money? I'm always looking for another way to get a deal. 

-AJF
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November 22, 2017

IBM Summit Program: Weeks 20 - 22

Check out weeks 1&2, 3&4, 5&67&89&1011&1213&1415&16 and 17-19 here!

The other afternoon I was talking with some of my fellow Summits about our upcoming graduation. Our last in person training ends on December 1st and we are officially part of our teams on January 1st. It's exciting that we'll be able to dedicate 100% of our time to our teams, but this also poses an issue for me: I'll no longer be part of the Summit program, so what in the world am I going to blog about on LinkedIn?! If anyone has any suggestions of content they'd like to read, please let me know! I'll keep thinking about it as we come to the end of a blogging era.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! These past 3 weeks were filled with training, negotiating, and meeting members of my team in-person! As my stream is finishing up the end of the Summit Program, we're all integrating with our landing team and learning about what it will take to be successful out there in the real world.
Now on to what has been going on for the past 3 weeks! Thanks to a Summit alum on my team (shout out to Gini) I got to listen in on a client call and am excited to follow the progression of a client interaction from initial conversations onward. I also spent time preparing for another in-person training the following week that was centered around negotiation.

The next week I headed off to Chicago and got to meet Gini in person, as well as my landing team manager who was in town. It's so funny how we create an idea of what someone will be like based on phone calls and profile pictures, and I'm happy to say that my team has been just as wonderful over the phone as in-person. Something I am still getting used to is being part of a geographically spread out team. I was spoiled last summer to have so many people around, especially my manager, making it easy to build relationships and connect. Now I am learning how to do the same through the phone, and email, and instant messaging. It's a bit of a learning curve, but definitely a good skill to master until we have inexpensive teleportation or holograms at our disposal.

After that meeting on Monday, I headed to Schaumburg where the negotiations learning lab was held. On the first day my partner Dan and I (remember we were partners at our very first learning lab?) presented a proposal we developed for a client in the oil and gas industry. Next up was our first solo negotiation.

I would love to be able to say that I conducted a negotiation as comfortably as I started with my sales calls (my sales studies in school had me prepared), but alas, I found myself floundering. When I finished my first negotiation call I was disappointed in my performance and unsure about how best to approach a negotiation conversation. It didn't help that I was the first person to go, so I had never seen how to do it.

Whenever you try something new and it doesn't go as smoothly as you hoped, it can be discouraging. But, I knew that this was all part of the process so I resolved that I would take the feedback given directly to me and to my peers and improve for each successive call. Easier said then done, of course, but the encouragement of my fellow Summits and recognizing that we were all being challenged together certainly helped. By the last negotiation at the end of the week, I was confident and effective in leading the conversation and proud of the final deal I created with the client. Being coachable is a key strength to have in the Summit program and I have seen it's benefit extend beyond the program for me and others.

This past week I've been back at work on the quotes I mentioned in the last post. I had the opportunity to update the leadership team on our status and projected outcome of this project and it was exciting to be able to talk about real clients and numbers that would make an impact on the team. Summit training is wonderful, but I must say I have been craving to move from the hypothetical to reality. When I get to answer a client's question (or at least find the right person who can) and move a project forward, I'm exhilarated.

I've also started to work with a team that helps clients to identify projects for software that they purchase as part of a larger agreement and make sure they are getting the best use out of what is available to them. It's a great way to learn more about the solutions I'll be selling and see how clients actually start using our solutions. In connection with this, a technical sales leader on my team came into the office, giving me another opportunity for an in-person meeting! Rochelle spent time with me talking about everything from the work described above, to what it takes to be a successful seller, to her very first deal.

The last big highlight of this week was going to a book club meeting at our Astor Place office. I'm not kidding when I tell you it has been a dream of mine to be in a book club, and I never seemed to find the right group until now. We read The Circle by Dave Eggers about a technology company that promotes questionable (at best) practices for its employees and consumers. We discussed how willing we, and the characters in the book, have become with sharing personal information and allowing technology into every crevice of our lives. I enjoyed the book and can't wait to continue to be part of this club!

The next time you hear from me about IBM I'll be reporting on my final training and graduation. Until then, have a great Thanksgiving!

-AJF
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November 15, 2017

Chicago (Rainy) Weekend Guide

Following the ultimate NYC weekend guide Austen and I created, I was inspired to create another weekend post, this time for Chicago. I visited for the first time on a weekend attached to a work trip this month and got to explore the windy city.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Visiting Chicago for the weekend? Here is your guide to making the most of the windy city when it rains!
Our first stop after dropping our bags off at the hotel was breakfast at Nutella Cafe, the perfect place to have crepes and waffles with a chocolatey filling.

After that we made our way over to Millennium Park to see the bean because it was our one day where it didn't rain.



My absolute favorite part of the trip came after that. We took an architecture river cruise with Chicago Line Cruises (check out Groupon for discounts) and loved it! The views were fantastic and our guide was knowledgable and entertaining. Joe and I recently read The Devil in the White City, which is about architecture in Chicago, and I would recommend the book regardless of if you have plans to visit (p.s. let's be friends on Goodreads!). Our hotel, the Swissotel, was pointed out on the tour, which made us feel pretty cool.




We also went to the Chicago Tribune Building that has stones from all over the world incorporated on its exterior. From the Taj Mahal to Washington Landing in New Jersey, there were so many to enjoy.

The next morning we began with another sweet breakfast, this time at Chicago Waffles. A cinnamon apple order was right up my alley. (I forgot to take a picture until I had already eaten half of it because I was so excited).

We took a walk over to the Adler Planetarium in the greatest downpour I have ever experienced. It turned into a hilarious run that ended up with us soaked walking into the planetarium. At the planetarium we listened to a lecture on theories of other beings in the universe, saw a show about a potential ninth planet in our solar system, and got to explore the extensive museum with interactive exhibits.


Next, we had lunch at Lou Malnati's, a Chicago classic for deep dish pizza. I loved it, but Joe wasn't completely sold and will be sticking with his New York pizza, thank you very much haha.

After that we met up with some Chicago friends at Andy's Jazz Club. It was so nice to enjoy the music and excellent food together.

The day after that, we started out at Chicago Bagel Authority where you can get every breakfast sandwich combination under the sun!

From there, we walked to Lincoln Park to check out the Peoples Gas Education Pavilion. I spotted it on Instagram before our trip, but clearly the weather was not making it easy for me to recreate some of the cool photos I saw.

We also checked out the free conservatory in Lincoln Park. Thank goodness I planned indoor activities in anticipation that we might not be able to wander outside much.

Continuing our indoor activities, we went over to Wicker Park to see the Flat Iron Arts Building where artists have studios you can wander around for free. Since it was the weekend, most were closed up because the artists weren't working, but we still got to see pieces hung in the halls.

After that, we poked around some vintage stores and also went into Myopic Books, a huge used book store. Then it was time for an ice cream break (essential for any vacation) at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Joe went for chocolate based flavors and I went for vanilla. Both were delicious and the staff was so sweet (sweet, haha, get it)! 

We headed back in to the heart of the city to visit the free cultural center. There are a variety of exhibits, most were centered around architecture, and it was another good place to have fun while avoiding the rain.



We parted ways the next day when Joe headed back to New York and I began my week of training. It was a great, quick trip and I hope this helps you plan your own Chicago weekend. If you want to check out how I plan trips, take a look at this post. And you can see all of my travel posts here.

Have you visited Chicago? What cities do you think are great for a weekend trip?


-AJF
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