2021 – Thoughts so far

Hello all! I know it has been a while. Wanted to provide some updates and share. First of all, wanted to mention that I’ve been posting fairly regularly on LinkedIn– sharing successes and gratitudes. Check those out if you’re interested! Like most ambitious people, I am always working on how to better celebrate successes and get off the “treadmill of achievement” so to speak- this has really helped me do that a bit better.

Work

So since my last post here, I’ve had a few updates professionally and personally! First of all, my title was updated at work- I’m now officially Associate Director, Learning & Development. I’ve been working toward a director level role for some time and I’m excited to be taking more steps toward that.

Also, the Allies Acting for Change task force that I am part of was nominated for, and won, the biggest award at our organization. It has been such an honor to work with that group and to be recognized in such a way. I’ve felt really lucky this past year.

After attaining my coaching certification at the end of last year, I’ve been able to work with a group of dedicated coaches to provide an awesome coaching offering to all our leaders as part of our leadership development program. It’s a great way for more leaders to be able to access coaching, and has really gotten some great feedback from leaders. I’ve been able to expand on the offerings and keep leveling up the ways we support our leaders’ development.

I also took on a pretty big freelance project that was ongoing throughout the beginning of 2021. It was a great opportunity to work on developing resources for small business owners. The first two sets of courses are already released which is awesome, and one more set should be coming soon.

Professional Development

So I have wrapped up all the courses in my Master of Education program, and have now applied to graduate! More to come as that process continues- I’m hoping to do a sweet photoshoot in academic regalia. As part of one of my last courses, I got to make a video talking about my experiences, which was fun. I’ve learned a lot about editing video from a few little video projects this year. Still definitely a novice but it’s great to have picked up a few skills! Take a look if you’re interested.

I’ve also been taking an antiracism course and am planning to take an Organizational Design course starting next month. I’ve always got so much to learn, and it’s awesome to have lots of options available. One benefit to COVID is that lots of courses that would have required cost-prohibitive travel in the past are online now!

Personal

The kids have been in and out of in-person school this year as lockdowns and COVID management has been ongoing. Distance learning is a bit tough because it means managing everyone’s calendars and schedules, but we’ve been doing our best. Trevor has gotten his first vaccine dose, which is great! I’m still trying to get an appointment. I might try lining up somewhere next week to see if that works. Most of my friends who are eligible have gotten their first dose already.

We’ve had a bit of a nicer spring this year than last year, and the playgrounds are open which means it has been a bit nicer for getting outside. We still mask up outside if the parks are busy but it’s nice to have more outdoor playing options.

Looking forward to a bit of “quiet time” so to speak, now that I’m wrapping up grad school and I don’t have any freelance work on the go. Weekends where I don’t have to do assignments or consulting work are pretty nice!

2020: Year in Review

This year has been unusual, but still has been quite a year for me. The COVID-19 pandemic obviously has had huge impacts worldwide, and even on me, but overall I have been tremendously lucky this year to stay safe, well, and comfortable despite such immense challenges.

Work:

I started a new role this year, as the Learning & Development Manager within US HR for Sun Life. This was back at the end of February just as the pandemic was getting very serious in North America. My new role had me shift to a primarily work-from-home situation, as my work team is located mostly near Boston and elsewhere in the US.

That was serendipitous in a few ways- as my partner also works from home primarily, we were able to sort out ways to work from home effectively alongside each other, a few weeks prior to it being a requirement for everyone, which was helpful. I was able to get the equipment and setup I needed to be comfortable and efficient.

This role is awesome and perfect for me in a lot of ways, I get the opportunity to wear many hats- do some facilitating (but not full-time facilitating, and mostly for leadership development work), consulting, coaching, DE&I work, and lots of other great things. I’ve gotten to build up a flexible, robust leadership development program, roll out innovative DE&I training and support important initiatives, and it’s been an awesome year. I even won an actual award.

Professional Development:

I’ve wrapped up four courses this year as part of my grad program, Work and Learning, Fostering Learning in Practice, Global/Local Learning, Comparative Education, and I’m now in the middle of Understanding Research. Three more courses and I’ll have finished up the program- looking forward to that next year.

So I’ve continued to work on my Masters program, but this year I also got the opportunity to pursue additional professional development in the form of a leadership coaching certification. I started my training back in May, and am just wrapping up the final phase tomorrow. I’m excited to have leveled up my coaching skills and have that to offer to my clients and to my coworkers. I’ve gotten to connect with some awesome people, some of whom I have kept in touch with after our courses have wrapped up.

I also renewed both my other certifications this year, the CTDP and the CPTD, so I’m all set on those fronts for another three years. I got to do a cool member showcase with TLDC as well- I wish I had a little more time to give to that group, they’re awesome.

I also got to do a little bit more fun video editing this year (mostly for fun work projects), so I’m learning more about how to edit video which is a fun skill.

Personal:

The kids were out of school this year for several months due to the pandemic, with some virtual schooling to support but it was definitely a challenge. We were able to set things up here in such a way that they were able to have some space to do schoolwork and play while we were still working full time.

Obviously we didn’t do any travelling this year, though we did have a masked, socially distanced trip to the zoo during the summer. We mostly spent the summer inside and in our own backyard- the playgrounds were closed for quite a while.

Despite all that, we’ve still been able to enjoy some seasonal fun here and there, apple picking and seeing fall leaves, and a drive-through holiday light show.

Because the typical rehearsal/performance season isn’t an option this year, I was able to join the Grand Philharmonic Choir again (which I hadn’t planned to do until I finished my Masters program). It has been great having a way to see friends and sing even if we can’t all exactly sing together at the same time. I have also been able to sing in a few virtual choirs this year (one still to come!)

Charitable giving:

I’ve been lucky enough this year to be able to donate more than last year (based on preliminary/back of the envelope calculations) across many organizations, particularly healthcare, arts, and community organizations. I know that so many folks have been in increasingly precarious financial positions, particularly my friends and family who rely on live performances and other work environments that have been impossible to keep open this year.

2020

All in all it has been a really good year for me. I’ve learned a lot, been through a few things, but overall, stayed safe, kept learning and growing, and was able to achieve some really good things. Looking forward to 2021!

2020: Thoughts so far

2020 has been an interesting year in a number of ways- from the global pandemic closing schools, offices, and other gathering places, to Black Lives Matter leading us to take to the streets in protest of ongoing racial injustice, the impeachment trial in the US, Brexit, developments all along the US 2020 campaign trail (though I live in Canada I remain a US citizen and am still able to vote in federal elections).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 2020 has been, objectively, a LOT.

And while all of these developments have affected me in various ways, there were so many lucky things about my particular circumstances that have helped me and my family manage through a year that could have sunk anyone. My husband and I were both already working from home and had figured out some ways for that to work well for us. Our house has a bunch of different spaces that we’re able to retreat to so that we’re not all stepping on each others’ toes throughout the day. I was able to work on some important work initiatives and do very well in the first few months of my new role. Our kids are young enough that school is still fairly lightweight in terms of study time and the activities were ones we were able to support. We were able to stay employed and even continue to save some money.

My masters’ program is already a fully online program so there weren’t any substantial changes to how my courses were being delivered or evaluated. I was even able to take on a couple of professional development courses outside of that, and am on my way to being a certified coach.

We had hoped to do some traveling this year, and that hasn’t materialized and won’t. We’re lucky that we went to Texas over Christmas and saw my family because it had been a while and we won’t likely see them again for a bit. We have been able to do window and outdoor visits with Trevor’s parents, which has been nice.

One thing I haven’t been fully focused on is my physical health- I haven’t been able to eat as mindfully or exercise as much as probably would have been best. But I also haven’t had as many colds, or gotten injured, or gotten COVID-19, so while I’m not in tip-top-shape, I’m managing.

I also haven’t been able to take on some of the home improvements I had slated for this year- I wanted to get everything repainted and get new window coverings throughout, but that has been more than we’ve been able to take on with everyone home all day every day. Maybe next year.

I have been able to donate to charitable causes- at the beginning of this year I had signed up for a few charity events that were canceled, but was able to turn those into donations instead, and have been able to take some of the money I would have spent on childcare and put it toward important causes.

Looking back at the goals I set at the beginning of this year- some of them just don’t make any sense any more. But despite that I still feel like this year hasn’t been a backslide or a wash- I still got to spend time with my family, do well at work, do professional development, and have overall stayed pretty healthy (even if I have put on a few pounds). We’ll see what 2021 might bring!

Pandemic reflections

Things have definitely developed fairly quickly over the past few weeks. Just a month ago (on the 17th of February) we were traveling into Toronto to go to the car show, and now doing something like using public transit to attend an event attended by tens of thousands is unthinkable.

Since then, things have been slowly shifting, we went from fairly typical activities (going out for groceries and haircuts, going to the dentist, seeing friends every week, going to the gym, to none of that. I had planned to travel to Boston to visit my work team and attend some meetings, and that was cancelled as travel restrictions ramped up.

For me, the shifts were doubly interesting because I went from a job where I was going into the office every day, to one where I was working from home every day- before we had additional work from home directives. So I was ahead of the curve in that regard- we have already set up multiple workstations at home (my husband also works from home nearly 100% of the time).

It felt like things started to go away slowly, then quite quickly- I made a comment to my work team that the schools were still open after our March Break and then about an hour later we got an announcement that they were closed until April 6. I had already planned to take March Break off, so was able to spend that time with the kids, staycation-style.

Since I switched to working from home back on February 23, the transition doesn’t feel quite so dramatic, but the overall feeling of urgency and stress is not lost on me. We’re also going to have the kids home with us as we work through the next few weeks at least, so we’ll have some adjustments to make as we manage that.

Thankfully my workplace and others understand the situation everyone is in so there’s a bit more flexibility around having a kid show up on your conference call (that had happened for me a couple of times already and thankfully everyone was cool).

Overall I’m feeling grateful that I already had put in place what was needed to effectively work from home, I’m grateful my kids are old enough to manage themselves for short periods so I can focus on some things (though I still do have to intervene to get focus time here and there). I’m grateful we have service through Good Food and PCexpress to get groceries we need with minimal need for interaction. I’m grateful our house has space for us to spread out a bit and get out of each other’s ways.

There’s a lot to be nervous about but I’m feeling very grateful overall. As an introvert I’m able to get plenty of social interaction without a lot of effort using technology, which is great. I got to do a cool video chat with my regular tv-watching group this week, did a dress-up fancy party on Facebook (with everyone dressed up fancy in their own homes of course) and have more fun things planned. I’ve been able to donate to some of the fundraising efforts providing relief to those much more affected than me, and help out a few folks as well.

Back to work this week- we’ll see what the next week brings but I know I’m so lucky.

Reflections on a new role

A couple of weeks ago, I started in a new role- I’m now the Learning & Development Manager for US HR for Sun Life. I’m still in learning & development, but I’ve shifted to an entirely different part of the company and am now working in HR, which is awesome because it lets me have a bit of a broader talent development scope than I’ve had in some previous roles.

Now two weeks in, here are some of my observations:

  • I love working with the US teams. So far everyone I have met has been awesome and so many of their goals seem well aligned, which is awesome.
  • Working from home is pretty great. I’ve got everything I need to make things work well, even setting up a desk in another room so my husband and I can head to separate spaces for phone calls. It’s working well so far.
  • I’m still sorting out some of the changes in systems access and set up I’ll need- one of the things about internal transfers vs external hires is that it takes a bit longer to catch these things sometimes.
  • I’m super excited about every project I’m getting involved with so far! They’re all things I’m super passionate about which is great.

Overall so much positive! I’m loving the role I’m in and looking forward to a great year.

Work and Learning course

I’m only a week in to my Work and Learning course and I’m really enjoying it (as I expected). The readings have me buzzing about globalization, the future of work, how economies affect education and vice versa, adult education and the impacts on organizations, and and and… there’s a lot to think about!

Already I’m concluding from my readings that leaders increasingly need to take a futuristic view in order to avoid being left behind- as technology and the nature of work shift, leaders will need to be out ahead of it. Even in very traditional industries, the focus on technology and the pressures of shifting customer demands are having an enormous impact.

Even my masters’ program itself is an example of how learning is changing- a part-time, distance education program with a cohort made up of globally diverse students. It aligns well to professionals’ increasing demand for education opportunities that allow them to continue to work full time.

Looking forward to more as we dive in to week two!

2020: A very Mondayesque Thursday

Back at work today, for the first work day of 2020. I’m happily able to wrap up something that has been bumping along on my to-do list for months, which is great.

In my reflections over the past week or two, I’ve been realizing that I have been missing the journaling I used to do. I’m going to endeavour to write more in this blog as a way to pick back up on that practice again. No defined goals yet, but it starts with writing some posts here and there.

I found a great sketchnote today that highlights 4 kinds of leaders that create the future (full credit to Tanmay Vora for the sketchnote)

Of these, I’m definitely identifying the most with the learning zealot. There’s a full post outlining these here on HBR.

2019 Year in Review

It’s snowing outside today. Things are quiet at work which is nice.

At the end of the year I always think about goals and where I want to be at the end of the next year. This year has been great in a lot of ways, but really challenging in others.

Here’s some wins and losses for the year from across my whole life 🙂

Wins for 2019

  • Worked hard on some really challenging work initiatives (challenging due to the climate, not so much the work itself)
  • Worked with new mentors and coaches and gained some really valuable perspective
  • Got into grad school
  • Finished my first term of grad school
  • Raised and matched a ton of charitable donations to causes I care about
  • Took the kids on their first overseas trip (to Madrid!) and it was awesome
  • Stepped away from volunteer work I care about in order to have enough time for schoolwork
  • Stepped back on some freelance work in order to have enough time for schoolwork (if you can’t see why the last two are wins, you don’t know me very well, haha)
  • Had a great trip to Quebec City and Montreal in the summer
  • I upped my savings
  • I made the most I ever have from freelance work
  • I got a great performance review at work
  • I got the yard landscaped
  • I got a new (hybrid) car (we’ve been a one-car family for 5 years, and may be able to be again, but 2 cars makes things easier for now)
  • I got some professional organizers to fix up a few closets in my house- the ones where they installed shelving are SO MUCH nicer than before

Losses for 2019

  • Didn’t make any great gains health-wise, I gained weight, I didn’t go to the gym as much, I didn’t eat as healthily as I could have
  • I didn’t spend as much time with my family as I would have liked to
  • I didn’t do as much reading for fun as I would have liked to
  • I did awesome work this year but I’m still reaching for some career goals that I haven’t met yet
  • Had some major work challenges and leadership shifts that made work really stressful this year
  • Didn’t prioritize the quiet focus time I would have liked

Overall, a lot more wins than losses and it was a really positive year. I know 2020 is going to be a really good year for me, I’ll be continuing work on my Masters degree and continuing to work toward my career goals, but I think this year I’ll also be focusing on my overall well-being and health.

I’ll articulate those goals in a list in the next few weeks.

What are your goals for 2020?

Setting up your Side Hustle

The environment we currently live in

One of my professional colleagues recently posted on LinkedIn about the whole idea of “the side hustle,” opening with this unfortunate anecdote: He had encountered a manager who claimed side hustles were for “people not good at their main hustle.” This is an old-school way of thinking, and side hustles are tremendously important these days. 

That’s become an increasingly reality for many reasons: There is a rise of ageism in the workplace, which means drawing income from a single primary job after age 40 becomes challenging. Then, you have issues around mergers and acquisitions; the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, for example, will end up costing about 28,000 people their jobs (while the executives of both companies make a good chunk of change). One of the fastest paths to growth for a company is to acquire another one, but when that happens, certain roles become overlapping and redundant. 

The side hustle isn’t so much something that should interfere with your main hustle — there needs to be an amount of respect and professionalism afforded to your main income source — but it’s more along the lines of thinking of your career as a pipeline, just as sales professionals think of their work. If Opportunity A drops, is there an Opportunity B? As many in various fields have said, develop your network before you need it, not right after you become unemployed. Side hustles are a way to develop your network — and one of them might become your “main hustle” at some point. In fact, that’s likely to happen.

So if you’re building side hustles right now, what do you need to be thinking about?

The questions to ponder regarding side hustle development

These would be some of the big ones to start thinking about:

  • Is there a conflict of interest with your full-time gig? For example, I knew someone once who was writing about learning and development, but his main job courted bigger companies that worked in the L&D / instructional design space. Sometimes those companies would go to him directly, because engaging with one freelance option is cheaper for them than engaging with his main company of employment. This created a series of issues and eventually he was fired from that company. Make sure there is not a conflict of interest between main gig and side hustle, and if there’s any potential overlap, make sure that you make it explicitly clear to your current full-time manager.
  • Register your business: You can get an Employer Identification Number relatively quickly, which is a good boon for small businesses and the self-employed. There are similar steps, with different names, in Canada.
  •  Establish a brand: This is hard and massively time-consuming, so you will not be able to do it overnight. How to begin, though: Start by thinking about what you offer and where people who need that would be spending time. If you offer instructional design as a side hustle, for example, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are likely better platforms than Instagram. You could get into niche discussions on Reddit and other boards / industry sites as well. Your brand needs to be unique, i.e. you cannot say the exact same stuff everyone else is saying, and it needs to be a mix of visual and text-based, with some video thrown in, as humans are creatures that respond to multiple learning modalities. You can check out brands you admire, but don’t straight copy them. Take elements of them and infuse those elements with your voice.
  • Create a proposal and contracting templates: These can be pretty simple, and proposals can start by thinking about your finances (scroll down a bit). Look around at what others are offering. You don’t want to be the lowest in a market because that means you’ll attract mostly people competing on price, and people competing on price tend to — not always — be less-than-stellar client engagements to have. Here’s one self-employment contract template, and here’s another.
  • The numbers: This is a series of steps. You need to work out these numbers — >
    • How many hours per week can you devote to side work?
    • How much money would you like to earn from side work in those hours?
    • What are your core offerings?
    • How can you price those offerings to meet the other numbers?

Here’s a relatively simple math breakdown: Let’s say you think you can devote 10 hours/week to a side hustle of consulting on instructional design. In a given month, you’d ideally like to make an extra $2,000 from your side hustle. That means you will be spending 40 hours/month on the side (10 per week) and need to make $50/hour to reach $2,000 (40 x 50). $50/hour is not a huge rate for many businesses, so this is totally doable! You could probably get it from one client, or break it up across two clients and potentially even clear your $2,000 goal.

  • How do you find those clients, though? Start with your networks, especially LinkedIn. Explain what you’re doing, what you can offer, and ask if anyone knows of referrals. Message people directly as well. Send emails to old colleagues, confidantes, and bosses you trusted. Work the existing network you have; this can usually land you 1-2 initial conversations (or more!) and those can become clients. Once you get clients, it’s about delivering for them and getting more referrals and recommendations; that’s largely how the self-employed make the hustle work. But as you go through these steps, consider slightly advanced ideas like building an email list around weekly content blasts, using Facebook or Google ads, and more. You want to get a little bit established with people who have a pre-existing knowledge of you before you try that out, though. 
  • Get business insurance: Look specifically into errors and omissions coverage.

How will you know when to move “side” to “main?”

There are easy, direct ways to know — i.e. getting laid off at main gig. Then there are more subtle ways to know, i.e. you enjoy the side work more, there seems to be more of it, the relationship with side partners is growing and your main income source seems purposeless and flat. Most people reach a specific point where they inherently know they should switch from Option A to Option B, but it’s obviously a great idea to discuss with friends, significant other, mentors, and more to see if it feels right to someone not experiencing both options daily. 

What else would you add about setting up a side hustle?

Strong leaders

This month, I finished a 10-month-long leadership development program offered by Communitech called Strong Leaders. As a learning and development professional who works on leadership development programs, it was awesome to be a participant in the program.

There was a built-in coaching component which I found super valuable, and it was a great way to build connections with other leaders in the community.

The pacing was incredibly useful as well- the every-three-weeks cadence of the face-to-face sessions made it easy to take the time to process and recall each new concept or approach we learned.

Overall I found it really valuable and use things I learned from it every day!

Certificate!

Next in my development- I’m starting a masters program in the fall! Super excited about that.