Former startup consultant turned digital media planner based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Alisha below.

Make My Week: a weekly check-in goal list

In my continuing search for the best ‘work hacks’ I have come across 'Make My Week' app — a simple and fun way for people to think about what matters to them and find new ways to get more out of the time they spend at work.

My days are rarely slow-paced, which means I don’t have much down time to think about or chase side projects that have no deadlines attached. Though I make it a point to design my ideal day every morning or evening (with the help of this amazing planner), try as I might, my clients and projects simply have other plans. 

But I will not be easily defeated! I’ve earmarked Fridays as days to reclaim as my own. A day where I aim to knock out the most important deadlines in the morning so I can get to the fun stuff in the afternoon, maybe even leave at 5pm if time is on my side. That’s where ‘Make My Week’ comes handy. I love the simplicity behind the tasks they’ve designed. Most of all, they are practical and realistic goals anyone can take on at their own pace. Take a look —

Try this…

  • Approach someone you admire inside your organization.
  • Ask if they’d mentor you towards a specific goal or if you can shadow them for a day.
  • Make it your business to know your teammates’ personal goals.
  • Look for win-win outcomes in team projects.
  • Look at recent customer feedback.
  • Think of 3 ways your team could help with the customer’s biggest pain point. Bring it up in your next team meeting.
  • Keep a notebook or app handy. Make a separate page for each work challenge and note ideas as they come to you. Look at each page at least once a week. Is there a continuous improvement program? Join it, or talk to your manager about creating one.
  • Make yourself known as a subject matter expert, by sharing relevant articles or posts with your colleagues.

Answer this…

  • What are you working on? 
  • What time do get up each day?
  • What do you wear each day?
  • How do you feel in your clothes?
  • What does your calendar look like?
  • What are you doing all day?
  • What do you do after work?
  • What kind of meals do you eat?
  • Who do you spend time with, or talk to on the phone?
  • What time do you go to bed?
  • Do you read any books or watch any TV?
  • How do you feel at the end of the week?
  • What did you accomplish?

I love that these questions challenge you to think about how you’re spending your time and what you can do to optimize that time. I challenge you all to take this list and run with it — see what happens, and tell me about it!

Advertising is broken. Here’s how I’m trying to fix it.

It has been more than a year since I’ve switched career paths from solo tech freelancer to full-time digital media planner working in advertising. I can’t say I would have ever predicted the switch but now that I am here, I’ve noticed something: advertising is broken.

Friday evening’s train ride home was fueled by episode 35 of The Broad Experience, a podcast I’ve come to rely on as it discusses pivotal movements and issues of women in the workplace. This particular episode talked at length the obstacles women still face in the media industry. This episode and the women leading the conversation hit home especially hard. Here’s a few reasons why:

Madison Avenue has a long way to go with respect to not only female, but diversity in its truest form. My dream would be we really do reflect, especially here in the US, the American experience, which is not white and male, dominantly.

…another challenge for women in advertising is getting them to believe their opinion matters, getting them to speak up, getting them to put their face out there, getting them to enter their work in awards shows. And then mentorship. You just can’t downplay that you need someone – and sponsorship -  you need someone  to see the talent in you and open doors for you

If you really want to create great work for your clients that’s going to be motivating to consumers you would not run your agency the way you do. And I think if I were a client today and I knew what my customer base looked like, and chances are it’s mostly female, and I knew that by demanding something to be done in a crazy turnaround kind of crash and burn, and that meant the female creatives at the agency would be less likely to be able to service my business, why is that a worthwhile trade? I think it’s actually lunacy.

People say, well, that’s just the way it is, and I think wow, if that’s how much the agency culture is cemented in people’s minds…I don’t know, maybe I’m enough of an outsider, maybe it’s because I live in Silicon Valley and work with a lot of startups, and I’m trained to think differently and ask questions, but I don’t think it’s working

In the last year as my professional career took off in directions I couldn’t imagine, I became ever so aware of my gender and my ethnicity and the roles they play in my ability to grow in a saturated industry. In this same year I experienced workplace obstacles in extreme ways: I was bullied by a female coworker (not only emotionally but nearly physically), was sexually harassed by a manager, displaced in meetings and projects by male colleagues, and not to mention downright insulted via social media for being a young woman — especially a non-white woman — working in a man’s world. I began to see the under belly of media in ways I never had before. So, listening to the women on this podcast talk about these every day issues, I felt compelled to form my own response. 

One huge problem this all stems back to is lack of diversity. Diversity is a hot button issue as everyone (and by everyone I mean those who want to see real change happen) is quick to point out where diversity needs to improve in order to pave way opportunities for all: race, gender, sexuality, background, etc. Just to give you an example of how far diversity has yet to come, do yourself a quick test: run a Google Images search for “young teenage guy with friends” and then do a Google Images search for “young teenage spanish guy with friends” — notice any differences? Part of my day-to-day is to create highly visual proposals to submit to clients. This means I rely heavily on Google Image search results to fill in the visual representation of a client’s target audience. I sometimes spend hours rummaging through these search results trying to find a non-offensive photo that accurately represents a certain demographic, to no avail. It’s disappointing and frustrating when I’m looking for photos of women of my ethnicity and all I can find are young girls who are pregnant, or even beaten or maybe even incarcerated, in these photos. It’s a disgrace.

Thankfully, I have found a temporary solution: these Getty Images stock photos of real women in contemporary professional and personal settings. Finally, an accurate and positive depiction of women at home and at work that I can feel confident using in my proposals. Finally, real diversity I can get behind. I take this one step further by going through proposal templates within our team’s wiki and replacing images of women who are predominantly white with a variety of those Getty Images photos so that the more proposals we send out with diverse women featured, the more our clients will make the connection that women are in fact from other backgrounds, not just Caucasian but even perhaps “multicultural” as some of our clients like to describe. I dare you to take small steps like these in order to create diversity amongst your peers. 

I also speak out, a lot, about what matters most in my job and I make sure those in leadership positions understand this. I don’t come from the traditional media path, I don’t come from the agency world, I come from the startup world where you have to collaborate and be a creative thinker to win clients and projects. I find that in advertising, as much as collaboration and creativity are advocated, it truly isn’t happening. I see a lot of pencil pushing and monotonous administrative tasks being delegated, which delays real productivity and solution planning. I see a lot of “over promise, under deliver” tactics that result in loss of trust and more importantly, loss of business. I see a lack of mentorship and motivation from internal teams. I see a step backwards in time to segregate teams and hierarchies when there should be a movement towards integration and knowledge sharing. I actively bring up these observations in meetings with decision makers so that they take into consideration company culture fixes. Without a progressive-thinking company that cares, these changes will never happen. I suggest you do the same.

The advertising structure is bigger than I will ever understand, but I hope by encouraging others to step up and call out its discrepancies, we can come to work in a space that aligns with real values, real change, and real output. 

If you’re a fellow lady working in media, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ve worked towards fixing this broken system.

Now Hiring: Developers with Tech & Personal Skills

The Mechanism is growing its development team in New York City. Interested and qualified candidates should be digital natives, immersed in the technology world, as well as open to learning new skills and tools of the trade. As a developer, you should be knowledgable in the following:

  • HTML5
  • jQuery/AJAX
  • VCS (git/subversion)
  • Must be available to work on site
  • Mastery of PHP and PHP frameworks, HTML/XHTML, JavaScript, CSS, LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)
  • MySQL Setup and Administration
  • Ability to communicate clearly with management and clients about solutions, options, strategy, dependencies
  • Familiarity with Drupal and other open source CMS platforms

See the full job descriptions posted below:

In addition to technical capabilities, The Mechanism is interested in bringing on developers who are comfortable communicating with clients, assisting with project management, and presenting their ideas with the team. This job is as much about web skills as it is people skills. This position is full time and the candidate should be able to start immediately. 

Interested? Email me here with the subject line: Developer Recruitment.

Stay relevant

Now that you’ve done your homework and practiced my tips (hopefully) it’s time to keep your name in the game. This can mean a few things:

  • write, write, and write some more
  • create an online portfolio
  • go to events or host your own
  • meet new people, always

I just happen to do all of the above. It’s crucial to my career that I constantly do these so that I always have new opportunities knocking at my door. 

We females are experiencing an interesting time in the digital age. The feminist movement is pretty much back in full effect (reasons why I wanted to write this post) which means our voices are ever so important. Now it’s up to us to take back media time from the dudes, create our own work, and make things right, or at least fair and equal. One way to do this is to write about it. Keep up that blog, pitch more pieces, write in your journal, or start a newsletter. Express yourself and make it known what you value, what your goals are, and what matters to you as a professional. However you want to write - via pen and paper or digitally, get it out there.

With that, you should also have an online hub. I’ve always and will always vouch for as a great website to build upon. And of course I have Tumblr to vouch for. Seek out what platform makes sense for your work. Create a home online, build upon it, keep it updated, and make it grow. People will find you and connect with you from there. 

Once you’ve got a good site/blog/portfolio going, meet people in your field. I have hosted many networking sessions, panels on technology and media, and career workshops because I believe in the power of being a connector. I like connecting people of value, who can exchange skills and ideas, and collaborate on mutual goals. It’s important that you seek out people who are friendly and genuine and who can be your buddy as you carve out your own career path. Never take advantage of that

This concludes my lessons in lady biz careers. Hopefully I was able to help you navigate the waters of our modern work places. 

Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here

Write it down

If you’re like me, then you are an organization freak who wants to know what’s going on in all facets of your life. The same is true about my career. I am one to document just about everything I’ve ever worked on and made it known the value that I bring to the table when I enter a new gig. I would advise you do the same.

One small step you can start at: create a document (or write this in a notebook) called “What is my job?” List out everything you do on a daily basis, no matter how big or small or mundane or complicated it is. Then compare this list to the job description you’re applying to or already working at. Are you doing more than what you’re being paid for? Less? What are some new areas of expertise you’re building? What do you need help conquering? Communicate these things to peers, friends, and colleagues you trust. Get their perspective and decide if it’s time to approach your supervisor/boss/manager about a promotion or raise. Or, perhaps it’s time to change directions entirely.

Are you a freelancer juggling multiple gigs? Get a tool like Evernote to organize and prioritize your projects. Start a log with all your clips. Create templates for your portfolio that you can always use when something new has to be submitted or updated. Know what you’re working on and what’s down the pipeline at all times. This will help you clarify your role in future employment. 

Tomorrow’s tip: Stay relevant.

Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here

Do Your Research

I have always been one to “wing it” when it comes to job opportunities. I was naive to think the most important factor of my work was that I was having fun; the money would come later and everything would be fine. What an idiot I turned out to be. 

I cannot stress enough how much you need to research your future employer before making a decision. Google them, check out their LinkedIn page, find out where their offices are, who and what kinds of people work for them, or search latest news. Anything and everything will help as you collect information about a job you’re thinking of applying to. 

Young women, listen up: know the facts and approach every career decision like a business woman. The more you know, the smarter you’ll be at taking up a job offer. Check sites like Glassdoor and Indeed for company reviews and salary ranges, know tax deductions and benefits packages, learn how much of your pay check will go towards these taxes and benefits so you know your potential true income at the end of the day. 

Dig deep and discover yourself. Ask yourself what type of worker you are. What kind of office environment do you want? How would you fit in? What are you awesome at? What do you suck at? The more you know about yourself in the work place, the clearer your answers will be. 

Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here

Stay tuned for my next tip: Write it down.

Get a Mentor

I really really really wish while I was wrapping up my college days that someone told me to stop for a second and think about the impact of my decisions.  I was ever so confident about my game plan when I graduated, I even lucked out with securing a job only a few weeks after I left campus. i took so many internships and went after so many freelance gigs so quickly, I didn’t stop to think financially and professionally what my future would be. I wish I had been smart enough to take the time and seek out guidance and advice from a mentor at that time. 

Looking back at my professional career, I can see so many mistakes I could have avoided had I had a mentor or a career coach. I’ve learned my lesson though - I’ve made mentorship a top priority in recent years so that I can always have people surrounding me with positivity, encouragement, and a shared connection that has guided me to making better decisions. I view my mentors like my fairy godmothers: I treat them with respect, admire their work ethic, and show the love back for they will watch over me every step of the way as I climb the ladder. Even more so, get a mentor that will be honest with you and present facts about opportunities you’re pursuing from a research and experiential standpoint. 

Mentors can be people (get a woman on your side!) you work with. Is there a co-worker who really stands out for you that’s always super helpful or goes out of their way to welcome you in every project? Reach out to him/her! Mentors can be someone you know through your online universe. For me there are plenty of people that I consider mentors who I only know from their online identities: be it their Twitter feed, their blog, or articles they share. The content they are constantly pushing resonates with me and I can always go to their sites for more advice. However you find one, grab them and never let them go. 

Stay tuned for my next tip: Do your research.

Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here

Lady Biz Lessons from a Career Hopper

If you have been following my Twitter feed in recent months, you may have noticed a stronger tone of opinion. I’ve become openly vocal about practices, policies, and experiences in the work place and beyond that have deeply affected not only my own career outcomes but many of my peers and colleagues. Many of the issues I’ve faced are directly related to being a gender and race minority in this industry. But instead of focusing on the negatives, instead of coming from a place of “no”, I feel inclined to pay it forward to those of you who perhaps are entering the workplace or looking for a new way to up your career game. Really, I want this post, like many others to be words of wisdom.

Before I begin my advice piece, I want to personally thank these two women for fighting by my side as I continue to climb the career ladder. I have worked in just about every role in digital and it’s through their mentorship that I grow into a stronger place in my career. 

Below are my tips and lessons for career-focused ladies:

  1. Get a mentor
  2. Do your research
  3. Write it down
  4. Stay relevant

I will be posting one tip a day over the next 5 days so make sure to check back for more info. 

Next up: Get a mentor

Have a question about lazy biz lessons? Tweet me @makeshiftalisha or submit your question here. 

Now go conquer the world!

Everyone’s trying to reach millennials. Yet very few to do it effectively. This is your chance to hear from the new powerhouses of modern media for the millennial generation. Watch Will Pearson, president at Mental Floss, share how his editors have created off-the-charts engagement within this all-important audience. Don’t miss this view into what these brands are doing right.
RSVP to the Mental Floss panel here. 

Everyone’s trying to reach millennials. Yet very few to do it effectively. This is your chance to hear from the new powerhouses of modern media for the millennial generation. Watch Will Pearson, president at Mental Floss, share how his editors have created off-the-charts engagement within this all-important audience. Don’t miss this view into what these brands are doing right.

RSVP to the Mental Floss panel here