Alyssa J Freitas

August 23, 2017

Let's Talk About Chronic Illness

People always talk about how if you have your health, you have everything. I've always acknowledged that statement, but never fully realized how the way you physically feel can impact every single aspect of your life. Without going in to too much detail, I'm currently trying to figure out a tricky health situation myself and although thank goodness I have found some relief in recent days, I can't quite describe the fear and sadness and yes, physical pain, that can distract you from your life. When every call from the doctor raises another issue and possibility, it is hard to maintain a sunny disposition and positive outlook.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! In this post, I talk about the best chronic illness content creators to follow, whether or not you suffer yourself. For some real deal perspective and honesty be sure to check out these writers and Instagrammers
I usually schedule my posts pretty far in advance, but I'm writing this one only a few days before publishing because I have been uninspired. It seems as though every topic I come up with is trivial and unimportant as I have been researching and learning more about people who live with chronic pain and incurable illnesses. I've written about perspective before when I was first faced with someone close to me dying and when I was experiencing heartbreak, but now I am viewing the concept through a whole new lens and appreciate the value of perspective far more. 

Today, I'm going to highlight some people who are spreading awareness for chronic pain and illness, who can all teach us a thing or two about gratitude, support, and appreciating what we have, even if you are not dealing with the same situation. 

Ruthie Lindsey

Guys. This girl is such an inspiration. Instead of attempting to explain her story, take a few minutes to watch this powerful video. Then go to her Instagram and take in the positivity and joy and kindness she shares.


Jenni's introduction to her site is: Are you a ChronicBabe? Yes. Oh, wait—too fast? You have some doubts? Let’s see: Are you a chick? Check. Do you have a chronic illness? (You know, something that’s stickin’ with you, like fibromyalgia or depression or HIV?) Check check. Are you ready to kick ass in spite of it? Are you grinning as you read that? Triple check. Yes! I proclaim you a ChronicBabe. What a perfect way to kick off a blog that is positive, upbeat, real, challenging, and empowering. Definitely take a look at her YouTube series #AWAPwednesday (as well as possible wednesday) for inspiration on a variety of topics. It's been a while since she's uploaded, but the archives are worth checking out.

Britt Johnson

Britt aka Hurt Blogger waited years to be properly diagnosed with Behcet’s Disease, a rare form of vascular autoimmune arthritis. What I love about Britt is the way that she embraces physical activity, and faces every associated pain in a truthful and awesome way. Her Instagram is the hub of her story, with some blog posts when more detail is needed. One Instagram post to point to in particular includes this chain of comments all about how we think of "exercise."

Lara Parker 

This is the blog to read when you want to understand and empathize and hear an unfiltered voice. Lara is a damn good writer, who has endometriosis, and her work can be appreciated by anyone. Really, not much more needs to be said. Just go read it.  


This is a site with multiple contributors that share information about chronic illnesses and how to "cope, move, eat, live, and share" in an accessible and helpful way. From dating, to how to afford medical care, to using writing to cope (amen) there is something to help everyone.

One note I want to make is how I didn't come across many male chronic illness writers/Instagrammers. My theory is that women are more inclined to seek community as a way of healing and coping, but I also don't know if perhaps I was biased in my search. If you know of any chronic illness male content creators, let me know!


August 16, 2017

IBM Summit Program: Weeks 7&8

Check out weeks 1&2, 3&4, and 5&6 here!

It’s getting harder and harder to remember everything that happens over the course of two weeks. From client site visits, to Yankee Stadium, to making my way over to the newest IBM co-working space in the city, there was a lot of movement these past two weeks.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Hitting up a new office, going to the ball game, and client site visits were on the agenda these past two weeks. Check out how month two of the summit program wrapped up!
At the start of last week, I spent the day at a client site where I had the opportunity to sit in on a weekly planning session and a call about a Watson conversation tool. Despite all my reading and learning about our Watson solutions, I continue to find out about new offerings and was especially excited to hear about Watson Workspace, which is a collaboration tool. My favorite aspect is that if you are away from a conversation for any length of time you can quickly browse the highlights of what you missed, as compiled by Watson, eliminating the need to shift through messages to find what is relevant. I don’t know about you, but trying to make my way through the banter and chit chat of group messages to find what is actually important can be such a headache. This tool also has the ability to integrate with other apps, share files, and all that jazz. I get completely psyched when I hear about the ways cognitive technology is being implemented across the board!

The rest of the week was chiefly dedicated to working on the next Global Sales School challenge that focuses on developing a proposal. We had to create documents with extensive information on a proposed solution, benefits to the client, and show how we have had success in the past. Working with other summits (new sellers in my program) from across the country is fun and challenging. Coordinating work over conference calls and shared Box folders isn’t the easiest, but I absolutely love the team I get to work with (you'll remember from the last post that we are great at working together on complex projects like building a bridge out of paper and cups). We are going to present our work virtually next week (wish us luck) and then it’s on to prepping for the next challenge.

A highlight from last week was going as a group to Yankee Stadium for a game. This was also an activity last summer when I was an intern and I purposely wore the same hat and outfit, just so I could put these photos side by side in this post.

Two notable items: 1. I love how you can tell how my photo editing style has changed. Last year I was all about cool, vintage-type tones, and now I can't get enough of saturated color. 2. I am not bald this year, I just put my hair back in a ponytail. I know everyone was concerned about that, so I wanted to put your mind at ease that I have not in fact taken a major fashion plunge that I would inevitably and immediately regret.

Although it was rainy most of the time, I enjoyed socializing with everyone outside of the office. Also, this is a special shout out to Jesse, one of the summits I interned with last summer, who is moving to Florida after the end of the program because he is working with an awesome client down there. We (read: me) are going to miss you!

As I’ve mentioned in other posts (if you want to get caught up, you can read the rest here), I spend quite a bit of time meeting other IBMers and learning everything I can about the areas of the business that most interest me. This past week I have been scheduling calls and connecting with others. I am continually impressed with the people I meet and how willing they are to talk to me and be helpful as I navigate the start of my career.

Last summer I prided myself on the fact that I visited all of the IBM offices in the city, but when I returned this year a new WeWork (a super awesome co-working space, with all of the amenities you could want. Mouthwash in the bathroom? Yes. Never ending supply of coffee and snacks? You bet.) had been added for the marketing team down near Union Square. This week I checked going to the new office off my list (in fact, I went there twice because it’s such a cool space). The first time was to meet with a group that plans events for women at IBM. I continually seek out ways of getting to know people across IBM in other job functions because I learn so much more about the company and what’s going on! The second time I headed back to hear Rob Thomas, the GM of Analytics, talk about IBM’s “One Architecture” and how we are developing simplified solutions to deliver maximum value. After that, I got together with a woman from marketing I met on Monday to learn more about the research she does that is created in part to support sellers. It was interesting to hear about the process and projects she focuses on to enable some of the work that I do.

Another fun part of my week was seeing my friend Dan, who is a seller up in Boston and also went to The College of New Jersey. He invited me to join his quarterly business review where he presented to his managers and team the deals he is currently working on. He prepared me for the worst and claimed that he was going to get beaten up, but that was not the case at all! Seeing how they strategize and help one another to plan was great and gave me a better idea of what to expect once I am the one up there.

One of my favorite parts of this past week was helping other summits prepare for their first Global Sales School role plays. Not only do I love helping colleagues out, but when it has to do with mock sales calls I am all over it. A combination of technology, acting, and asking another person a million questions is literally my dream activity.

Lastly, I worked on a variety of courses and webinars to continue my IBM education. I’ve also been talking to sellers to identify ways I can assist their teams. I anticipate that the next two weeks will be filled with preparations for my upcoming set of role plays and continuing to get involved with in-territory experiences. Two months down, four to go!


August 9, 2017

College Packing For The Minimalist

As I walk through stores and browse online, I notice all of the "back to college" merchandise and feel only the slightest twinge as I realize this year I won't be heading back to school. I absolutely loved my college years and certainly miss piling up my things in the corner of my room in preparation for move in day.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Heading back to college and want to know what you actually need? Here is a minimalist approach to back to college shopping, in partnership with eBay #eBayBackToCollege #ad
One of my most popular posts ever is a minimalist guide for college packing, published back in 2014. Now I am excited to update that post with college essentials and where you can go to find everything you need. eBay is one of the places where you can get what you want, shipped quickly, with no hassle and a huge selection. While eBay has their own great back to college checklist, in this post I am going to take a minimalist approach to highlight the essentials and highly recommend you go back to the minimalist guide to college packing post for the full list!


  • To start with, you need bedding. I used my Kate Spade comforter all four years (with my freshman roommate and I accidentally matching haha), and here is where you can find a whole variety of options.  
  • Another important item is a vacuum. Dorm rooms can get so dirty, so fast that having a powerful vacuum is a must. I used a Dyson I received as a gift, but any vacuum will do. 
  • Noise canceling headphones were a game changer for me and I now consider them a basic item. The dorms are noisy and when you just need to do work or sleep, blocking out noise is pure bliss. I have a pair of Shures, but there are a bunch of options from great brands.   

School Supplies

Let us not forget that we come to school for the purpose of learning and, you know, actually going to class. While I am a fan of taking notes on my laptop, and managing my calendar digitally, and keeping to-do lists on an app, I still believe there are some key school supplies items to bring with you. 

A journal is super important to me (you can take a look at why and how to start journaling here) and having one with you to document your college experience is such an awesome keepsake. I have heard great things about the Moleskine brand and just got myself one to try. 
When I was getting ready for college I thought that I would be skipping across campus with a cute tote bag, without a care in the world. Reality soon hit when I realized that I would need to carry my laptop, charger, folders, pens, textbooks, etc and I discovered that a backpack was the only way to go. I loved my backpack from PBTeen that lasted me through half of high school and all of college. There are also tons of other great brands you can check out here.  
Speaking of how much you have to drag around, my Apple laptop was the most important item I had with me at any point. From logging on to class portals, to writing papers, to accessing e-books, my laptop never left my side. 
Lastly, the most basic item is to have a pen. Please don't be the person in class who is always asking for a pen. Just don't be that guy. I really like Pilot pens (see how happy I am with the one I am using above) because they are inky and they last.

There you have it, my key essentials for the minimalist college student. You truly don't need much stuff to get started and remember that you can always have items shipped to your campus if you discover you really need something (and from eBay over half of items ship free! Be sure to check out all of eBay's college items here). 

What are you most excited to shop for? 


This post is brought to you by eBay and Her Campus Media

August 2, 2017

IBM Summit Program: Weeks 5&6

Check out weeks 1&2 and 3&4 too!

You know that nervous and uncertain feeling you get when you are about to do something and you’re not entirely sure how it’s going to turn out? Where you’re simultaneously excited and wishing that you could see into the future so you would know for sure that it would turn out ok. That’s exactly how I felt over the weekend leading up to my first experience in Global Sales School (GSS). As you’ll remember from the previous post, my stream of summits headed off to Chicago (more accurately Schaumburg, but that doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous) for our first dive into role playing.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! It's been over a week in the IBM Summit sales program and things are heating up
The week started out with a smooth arrival to ORD, where I was reunited the awesome summits I met at orientation a month ago. It was fantastic to all get together again and hear about what they have been up to at their home offices. During our first day, we learned about our individual communication styles and how we can best adapt to others in various circumstances. Not surprisingly, my style was characterized by excitement (pretty sure that’s the word I use most to describe my state of being when people ask how I am) and being fast paced, which as you can imagine are both good and challenging traits. Through discussions and exercises we all learned how to play to our strengths and address areas of improvement.

Another aspect of the first day was working with our team to design and build a replica of a bridge (please note I am not saying which bridge we were meant to replicate because it ended up looking nothing like it anyway, but we still learned about team work!). This is Cory, one of my wonderful team members, who specifically requested a shout out and is getting one better with this photograph. We had such a blast with this project and I appreciate how my team is always laughing and having fun. I firmly believe that enjoying what you are doing (at least for a good portion of the time) is integral to success, and this team knows how to do just that.

The rest of the week was dedicated to role plays and I was on cloud nine! It is the perfect combination of preparation and improvisation, and took me back to my college days (is it too soon to start saying things like “my college days” when I have only been out of school for a few months? Probably). We began with a partner and had to jointly present two fictional opportunities that we were going to be pursuing with clients. My partner is a tech seller and was so helpful as I was learning the key selling points of the solutions (thanks, Dan!), and we worked well together to communicate what we were intending to do with our clients to our manager. The feedback we received was helpful and I was excited to go into my next call later that afternoon.

For all of the following calls, we were observed not only by the sales advisor we were role playing with but also by three of our peers. After one person role played we moved on to another room with a different sales advisor to allow us to experience a variety of opinions and advice. I was slightly disappointed with the grade I received after my first call, and used it as motivation to improve for my successive calls. Ultimately, I took the advice of my many advisors and combined it with my own style to become better throughout the week.

Like many of my fellow summits, we were all motivated to get the highest marks and would ask one another how we did. At one point someone said, “It seems to me a better question than ‘how did you do?’ is ‘what did you learn?’” This short statement helped me to reframe how I was viewing the experience and better focus on the learning component rather than my score (although the competitor in me was never fully silent). It was a completely fantastic week and I appreciate all the feedback and advice that the experienced sellers shared with us.

One of my favorite parts of the Summit Program is the people I get to spend all of my time with. Everyone is engaging and interesting and kind. One night we went out for Korean barbecue and our lead sales facilitator ran among our tables making sure that everyone had enough to eat and that we were enjoying our experience. The encouragement and support and challenge is exactly what we all need to continually improve.

Side note: I can always seem to get to my destination via air travel with no trouble, it’s coming back that’s the problem. This has been such a prevalent issue that my fun fact while I was at GSS was that I took a solo Disney trip when I was delayed for not one, not two, but THREE days in Florida. It should have been apparent that I was messing with the fates when I used that as my “fun fact” because I ended up being delayed yet again when I was coming home from Chicago. A word to the wise: try and avoid any return flights that I am on because you are guaranteed to have trouble. End of side note.

This past week I reconnected with a few more people from last summer, which was wonderful, plus I got to meet up with a mentor outside of IBM here in the city after a lot of back and forth on our calendars. I also began to dive into the next GSS case with my team and we’re looking forward to continuing our work together. Another goal has been to continue my in-territory experience by assisting sellers and sitting in on planning sessions, so I have been engaged there as well. With a summit happy hour and delicious lunches this week, I have nothing but good things to report from the island of Manhattan. Happy weekend, everyone!


July 26, 2017

Using LinkedIn For Branding & Connections

Welcome to the third and final post of the LinkedIn series (take a look at the intro to LinkedIn post and how to use LinkedIn to get a job)! After learning how to build a stellar profile and what steps you can use to get a job or internship, this is a continuation of crafting your personal brand and connecting with others. In the previous post I dedicated an entire section to connecting because it is the best way to get a job, so today we'll talk about maintaining those relationships.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here are the best ways for you to build your personal brand and make connection with LinkedIn


"Personal brand" are buzzwords that have undoubtedly been overused, but they are relevant for this discussion. When you think of using LinkedIn, you are creating your professional brand: how you want potential employers, others in your industry, and followers to view you. For example, will your tone be polished, witty, serious, etc? 

Here are some of the ways you can share your voice and thoughts on LinkedIn:
  • Write an article - this is my absolute FAVORITE way to share experiences and expertise on LinkedIn. Instead of someone looking at your profile and only seeing your accomplishments formally written out, they can also read an article where you demonstrate your unique insights and voice. I had an awesome time sharing my IBM internship experience on LinkedIn (and the blog) and got a great response that allowed me to connect with many people I otherwise would not have. It also helped me to stand out in the program and be memorable, so I've started up again now that I'm full time! Writing on LinkedIn is a great way to showcase your work.
  • Posting articles, photos, and updates - some people will post motivational quotes or ask questions to get discussions started. I like to share great articles that will interest my community. Creating valuable updates will make others happy to see your face pop up on their feed and help you to establish your credibility. 
  • Keeping imagery consistent - you have the option of adding a header image and can use this space to express your personality and brand. I have seen people give a nod to their company or city and I love the creativity that can be infused. Extra points if you coordinate colors with your profile picture ;) 
  • Summary - ah yes, back to the darn summary. I went over this in detail in the initial LinkedIn post, but it's worth mentioning that this is the first spot for you to set the tone and express your professional side. 


There are three facets to discuss here: who to connect with, how to connect with them, and how to keep in touch.
  • Who to connect with - I am more liberal with my connections than I use to be. If I get a request (with an unpersonalized message, more on that later) and there are some mutual connections or we worked at the same company at one point, I will likely connect. When it comes to finding others to connect with, you can look for people you already know, or search for others in much the same way as I described looking for jobs. When you go to the search bar you can click on the "search for people with filters" section and use keywords, location, company, industry, schools, etc to narrow it down. This is great if you are looking to connect and learn more about a particular field and want to reach out to people who have experience. You can also find people to connect with by joining relevant groups and engaging in discussions. When you click "search for people with filters" you can click "groups" at the top of the page and search for your interests. 
  • How to connect - it's essential that you personalize your connection requests (although, I am definitely guilty of sending some out without personalization and I should be ashamed). You can't personalize when you're on mobile, so it's best to use your computer when requesting. When you click "connect" on their page, you will have the option of writing a short message where you can mention when you met, or what you are interested in talking about. This will give them context and increase the likelihood of them saying yes.
  • How to keep in touch - a great feature of LinkedIn is that you get notifications when it's someone's birthday, or work anniversary, or they get a new job. You can write a short note or like the update as a way of keeping in touch. It's also great to reach out periodically to share an interesting article or to say hello. LinkedIn makes it easy to always be able to get in touch, so take advantage of the site!   
And now we have made it to the end of the LinkedIn trilogy! I hope you have found these posts to be valuable.

How do you establish your professional brand? What is your favorite way to connect on LinkedIn?