Alyssa J Freitas

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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November 8, 2017

Yoga For Everyone

In late August I posted about chronic illness and some super inspiring influencers who are creating a community for those impacted. Soon after that, Alex from Cerebral Palsy Guidance reached out to me and we talked about how important it is to have a community not only centered around common challenges, but also to seek out groups of people who share the same love of activities.

As you may remember, I wrote about how I began incorporating yoga into my workout routine and how much being able to hop on YouTube to look for resources changed the game for me. Alex told me how adaptive yoga can provide awesome benefits for those with Cerebral Palsy and I am so excited to share his message here. Read on for more info on adaptive yoga and to see some of my favorite yoga resources.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Today I am partnering with Cerebral Palsy Guide to share resources for classic and adapted yoga so everyone can experience the benefits of this practice

Adaptive Yoga for Cerebral Palsy 

The ancient practice of yoga has been embraced by western cultures because of its benefits for mental and physical health. It is a spiritual, mental, and physical practice, but it is not just fit and healthy people who can enjoy and benefit from yoga. Children and adults living with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy can get a lot out of adaptive yoga. And yoga instructors can add to their rosters by learning how to adapt poses for those who can benefit so much from it.

How Cerebral Palsy Affects the Body 

Cerebral Palsy is a common disability caused by brain damage at an early age, often in the womb or during childbirth. Individuals can have any combination of a number of symptoms or complications, ranging from mild to severe, but all have some degree of disability related to muscles and movement. Cerebral palsy can cause tight, over-toned muscles, poor range of motion in joints, under-toned muscles, spastic movements, tremors, limited mobility, inability to walk, and muscle and joint pain. Treatments and therapies help improve mobility and lessen pain, but cerebral palsy is not curable. 

How Yoga Can Help 

Yoga is great for flexibility, strength, and even moderate cardiovascular exercise. It also helps improve mindfulness, reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure. For someone living with the mobility issues caused by cerebral palsy, yoga can have more specific benefits: developing strength in specific muscles, stretching the spine and relieving pain, improving mobility in specific joints and in general, and relieving stress.

Adapting Yoga for Special Needs 

For someone with a physical disability, doing yoga as it is intended is not necessarily possible. It is, however, possible to adapt yoga. The poses used in yoga can are adaptable to a wide range of special needs and physical limitations, from using foam bricks and bands, to adapting poses to a sitting position so that even those who cannot stand can benefit from practicing yoga.


Resources for Adaptive Yoga 

Adapting yoga for someone with special needs is not something that should be undertaken by just anyone with an interest. There is a potential to cause a person more harm by doing movements and poses incorrectly. If you are living with cerebral palsy, or have a child with the condition and you want to try adapted yoga, look for an instructor with specific training in working with people with physical disabilities. Medical centers and hospitals often have such yoga programs, and this is a great place to start. Here are some other great resources for individuals with cerebral palsy and instructors interested in adaptive yoga:
  • American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine. The AACPDM offers a range of resources for people with cerebral palsy, including resources and adapted poses for teaching and practicing yoga
  • National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability. NCHPAD is a national organization that offers a range of resources for people with disabilities who want to be more active. It also has an extensive set of videos on adaptive yoga, specifically designed to be used for children with cerebral palsy. 
  • Disabled Sports USA. Disabled sports USA offers resources on a variety of sports and activities that are adapted for people with disabilities, including cerebral palsy and yoga
  • Integral Yoga Institute. Several organizations that offer courses and training for yoga instructors include specializations, such as adapted and chair yoga. These courses give instructors the option to diversify what they offer to students and the people they can reach. 
Yoga is a powerful way for anyone to gain flexibility and strength while reducing anxiety, stress, and pain. Those with physical disabilities don’t have to be left out of the benefits. With adaptive yoga, nearly everyone can get involved in this ancient spiritual and physical activity.

In addition to the resources shared here, I also wanted to point out some of my favorite yoga videos.
These will give you a great workout or recenter you or just make you feel super stretched out. You’ll notice all of these videos are from the same channel, Boho Beautiful. I love her videos because they are always challenging and active. I don’t like to sit and “just be” too much haha

For when you want to sweat. A lot. 


For when you want to be stretched out quickly.


For when you want to challenge your balance.


What sort of yoga resources do you use? Have you ever done any adaptive exercising? What do you do to relieve stress and recenter?

-AJF
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