How I Manage

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In the television series The Office, Dwight Schrute is convinced he doesn’t waste any of his company’s time. Learning of this, Jim naturally seeks to distract him. Jim butchers the plotline of the TV show Battlestar Galactica hoping that Dwight will defend his favorite show. Dwight, visibly angry, continues to work in silence as Jim talks about the show’s protagonist, Dumbledore Calrissian, who needs to return the ring back to Mordor. Jim also times Dwight whenever Dwight does non-work related things like sneezing and going to the bathroom. To Jim’s amusement (and amazement), Dwight manages to sneeze with his eyes open as he looks over spreadsheets.

Alas, not all of us can harness Dwight Schrute focus within the hours of the workday. As a member of the Customer Success team, I can speak for everyone when I say that distractions bombard us all day long. And not the Dwight Schrute kind of distractions (although playing pranks on my coworker Jeff is a favorite pastime of mine; he’s such a Dwight). I often think that if I had one more hour of the day, I could accomplish the tasks that remain outstanding. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. Maybe the problem is not the amount of time, but what we choose to do with our time. One of the main reasons we experience the stress of task completion is the distractions that seep into our day. A study from the University of California Irvine found that once distracted, it can take 23 minutes to get back to task. That’s a LONG time. You can do a lot with 23 minutes here at Daxko – that is prime time to get close some cases, make a phone call, and talk with Darshell about her love for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But instead, distractions come in and chop block your focus zone, leaving you dazed and confused. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be willing to help people; I’m all about the team effort, putting the team on your back, jumping on someone else’s back, watching people’s back, scratching someone’s back, or any back metaphor that alludes to helping a teammate. But there is something to be said about guarding time and getting after it with less distractions. So…. I’ve compiled a list of helpful practices. As with many of the things I say, these aren’t my ideas. I found them all on the interwebs and by watching people at Daxko (for science purposes). All are pretty simple in theory but can be challenging to execute. But to be honest, so what? If habits aren’t hard to train, they probably aren’t habits worth having. Boom, roasted.

#1. Don’t keep your phone on your desk.

This may be the easiest one. It involves taking your phone and putting it in a drawer, or out of arm’s reach. The average American touches their phone about 2,617 times a day. Now granted, this number is an aggregate that includes every tap and touch, but it still shows we are reaching for our devices and interacting with them at an unprecedented level. Checking your phone when you’re in the groove can really kill your flow. Why cool down? Ride that focus out!

#2. Have an email plan.

Set aside some time and listen to this guy blow your mind on Outlook quick tips. Before I watched this gem, my inbox looked like someone took a fresh bag of groceries and dumped them on the kitchen floor. It was a mess. His videos help you organize Outlook and set you up for email success. Watch this one too: Outlook Time Savers

#2a. Figure out how often and when you will check your email.

Everyone has varying theories for 2a. It’s been helpful for me to have 4-6 scheduled times throughout the day to check email. Some people recommend waiting until later in the morning to check it while others benefit from checking just once in the morning. Regardless, some type of plan will help. Email can be just as distracting as your phone if you check it every five minutes.

#3. Plan your day before your day gets going.

Jot down some action items for the day ahead. I usually do this at the end of the day for the next but doing it when you arrive in the morning works too. It’s easier to get things accomplished when your task list sits on your desk all day.

#4. Run from meeting to meeting to save time.

See Marland.

#5. Scooter from meeting to meeting to save time.

See #4.

#6. Block off brain energy time.

Days are filled with processes, and most can be enhanced, delegated, or removed. With just a bit of brain energy time, these can be improved. It’s hard to ask the why behind why you are doing if you’re strapped for time. Some people call this reflection; others, pensive pondering. I like brain energy time. I made it up and it is the only thing I have authentically contributed to this post thus far.

#7. There is no spoon.

In The Matrix, Neo meets a bald kid in a bathrobe who is bending spoons with his brain. The boy tells Neo the key to bending the spoon is realizing there is no spoon (because they’re in the Matrix, duh). When Neo realizes this, he can also bend the spoon with his brain. What does this have to do with time management? This will seem utterly counterintuitive based off what I have mentioned so far but, according to entrepreneur and time master Rory Vaden, there is no such thing as time management. He says that you can’t manage time. Time continues to move on whether we like it or not. There is only self-management. For him, tips and tricks will only get us so far because time management is not just logical but emotional. Humans are emotional beings whose decisions are contingent on the desire of our hearts.  And if Rory is right, then even our “time management” decisions provide a small look into what we think is important, time sensitive, and beneficial. Understanding our time in this light may not give us the ability to bend spoons, but it could provide a paradigm shift that could lead to maximizing, prioritizing, and realizing the potential of what we can accomplish with our time.

There you go! These have been beneficial for me since being at Daxko and have helped in making the most of my day. All in all, I am thankful to work at a place that does not view time simply as a commodity but a space in which excellence, collaboration, and hard-work are always at play. It means the world that teammates, in considering the best use of their time, graciously give me more of it than I deserve.


Sam G. is a Customer Success Advocate who enjoys slow mornings, coffee, and homemade waffles with his wife every Saturday.

May 2017: Be a Brand Ambassador Through Social Recruiting

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On May 3rd, our lovely Talent Marketing Manager (and editor of the Culture Blog that you’re reading right now!) Janna Stevens-Bradt led a Daxko TMD encouraging us even in its title to ‘Be a Brand Ambassador Through Social Recruiting.’ Self-styled as our ‘Daxko’s chief story-teller,’ Janna is the marketing extension of our People team, ensuring that we are recruiting as many good hires as we can.

In an earlier TMD, the idea that we should want to impress our interviewees as much as they want to impress us was proven to be beneficial for all parties on both a personal and professional level. This plays into how recruiting has changed, as well: we live in an increasingly globalized world and economy. Top talent is no longer wooed by local companies, but nationally and sometimes even internationally as well. In a job market where nets are being cast so far and so wide, companies must go out and search for the best and the brightest. Utilizing social media, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or whatever platform you prefer, it is possible to reach a much wider range of applicants. For example, Glassdoor is now our top source of influence for candidates. Since January of this year, we have had a 214% increase in views on our Glassdoor page.

As an example, Janna asked us to raise our hands if, when applying for Daxko, we had sought out the company on social media. As expected, the grand majority of hands were put in the air to indicate that most of those present had done so. Having an engaging and inviting social media presence is a good way of showing Daxko culture to potential teammates.

Now that Janna had proven how integral recruiting through social media is to a company’s hiring process, she had some guidelines on what to share and what not to share. Sharing career opportunities or photos and videos of neat Daxko gatherings is of course recommended! As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case, some find it easier to tout a company’s strengths with a picture as opposed to written word. However, many of us aren’t so great at taking pictures… which is why I choose to write for the Culture Blog! Be it submitting a post or simply an idea, we’re encouraged to contribute to the Culture Blog in any way we can. After Glassdoor, it is the second highest source of influence for our candidates.

Janna concluded with how we should put our best selves forward: be professional, be fun and be responsive. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and, really, if you’re already active on social media, just keep doing what you’re doing. Tagging Daxko and throwing out that shout-out, showing that you’re excited about your job and the company, will continue to cast the net of social recruitment far and wide.

March 2017 TMD: Own it Like Oprah

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For March’s TMD, many teammates and I congregated in the Garage to learn how to Own It Like Oprah, courtesy of our VP of People, Dawn Burke. This TMD, promising tips to be an outstanding presenter, certainly did not disappoint, as I left the session with ideas to ponder and practices to perfect (at best; at worst, I had to break some old habits).

Dawn got right to the heart of things by asking the group how, on a day to day basis, we present materials. Her point, of course, was that everyone presents all the time, be it in Sales or onsite training a customer, or anything in between. This light conversation got the crowd engaged and feeling comfortable, which she later pointed out is a good technique to presenting well.

She then asked if there was anyone who had not heard of Oprah, to which the room was unsurprisingly silent. Be it for her magazine, her talk show, her book club, or her philanthropy, I would wager there are not many people who do not know Oprah. Her interviewing skills were the things we spoke about the most, how she has a way of making the interviewee feel as if they are the only person in the room as she asks questions, listens well and then asks follow-up questions. Her charisma and body language paint her as authentic, which makes her engaging.

This authenticity aspect was my big takeaway from the discussion: because Oprah is authentic, when she praises something, her viewers will see it as an honest and earnest recommendation and try it. Good examples include her Book Club and how those books rose to become best-sellers after Oprah’s recommendations. This authenticity led to a connection, and as Dawn put it, ‘the more you connect, the more you’re heard.’

Another excellent quote from Dawn, the one which she described as the biggest focal point of her presentation: ‘the reason you present is so people hear your message.’ Combined with the ‘authenticity’ piece above, it makes sense then that to successfully communicate your message to an audience, it is best to engage them well. Which leads us to Dawn’s 13 Tips on Talking (a name I just made up, but you’re welcome to it for a small fee, Dawn):

  1. It’s all about engagement. Dawn suggests immediately engaging the audience by captivating them with a story or some other form of ‘hook’ to immediately grab their attention. Anything that makes the audience want more will do, be it ‘Call me Ishmael’ or the opening riff on the guitar in the Rolling Stones’ song ‘Satisfaction.’
  1. Start strong. Similar to the above, generally speaking the first and last five minutes of any presentation are the ones that will stick with the audience. Hit the ground running and finish strong! A big point (for me, at least) that Dawn made here is that starting with an apology is seldom the best move.
  1. Slow down. Remember to breathe. Another important idea is to view the presentation as a conversation, which will make it feel more natural and, importantly, ease the feeling of wanting to sprint through the prepared material.
  1. Be aware of verbal garbage. The ‘empty calories of conversation,’ filler words should be avoided. Uh, um, like, y’know, ah…these are verbal ticks best avoided though, as Dawn points out, filling silence in this way is not as big a deal as many often make it out to be. Avoid using these when possible, but do not lose sleep over an errant ‘um.’
  1. Make eye contact. Making eye contact builds trust, though maintaining eye contact too long or in a manner that might be seen as inauthentic does more harm than good. Singling out one person and holding eye contact for too long makes all parties uncomfortable and scanning from side to side looks robotic. Move from person to person, do not linger too long.
  1. Know your audience. Without knowing your audience, you will have trouble connecting with them; without a connection, your communication will be hindered. Dawn revealed her questions in the earlier parts of the TMD were building rapport and a connection with the audience.
  1. Make Shakespeare proud. More for in person, but presentations, like Shakespearian plays, are better seen and not read, better as plays and not novels. Body language is crucial. Stand like an actor. Body language, though subconsciously, is more telling than speech.
  1. Hand-le with care. Continuing on that, your hands are the biggest tells your body has as to how you’re feeling. Are your hands in your pocket? That might come across as boredom. Are they across your chest? You now seem standoffish. Dawn recommends keeping them at your side or, if that induces too much discomfort, lightly linking your fingers together in front of your stomach.
  1. Don’t turn your back on the audience. Instead, use what she called the ‘actors’ cheat,’ which is when two actors are having a conversation and somewhat ‘open up’ to the audience, so that they’re included in the conversation. Turning your back to the audience is insulting at worst and, at best, it makes the presentation significantly harder to hear.
  1. Work the tools. Don’t let the tools work you. Have your technology together, have your files together, and know how everything works with one another.
  1. Have a Plan B. That being said, technology can and will fail, so it’s best to be prepared. There is no shame in taking a small break to resolve any issues that have sprung up before a presentation.
  1. Practice. A quote Dawn used here that I enjoyed: ‘make talking to yourself an art form.’ However, over practicing can lead to a rehearsed feeling, which is something we want to avoid entirely. Practice to the level of your own comfort and be comfortable in your material.
  1. Be yourself. You knew it was coming, but the last tip is to be authentic. Again, without a connection between the presenter and the audience, communication will be hampered. Be yourself, be authentic. Enough said.

As we were leaving, though, Dawn had one more piece of wisdom that seems to be the case regardless of any of the rules above: content trumps everything. Of course, the tips above are the stars for which we all shoot, but if your presentation is on a topic that is of immense interest to the audience, all the ‘ahs’ and ‘ums’ of the world will not be able to detract from your presentation.

A Designer’s Perspective: Top Tools & Resources

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When I think about cool tech and design resources, so many options pop into my head. As a user experience designer always looking to learn something new, I have to say that there is an ocean of books, blogs, design tools, and inspirational sites out there that can help you grow personally and professionally. If you are curious, passionate about design, and eager to learn, we have already something in common.

Productivity, design thinking, behavioral change, and innovation, are a few areas of focus that have shaped the person and designer I am today. Below is a selection of tools and resources to help people like you and me:

Books:

  • Change by Design – An introduction to design thinking and how to drive innovation in organizations.

A little bit of everything:

  • Einstein window – Identify which is your most productive time in the day and get the most out of it.
  • Bullet Journal – A straightforward and productive way to design your to-do list.
  • Toastmasters – Improve public speaking and leadership skills while meeting new people.
  • Leadercast – Leadership event to get inspired and learn from top leaders in the world.
  • Pomodoro technique – The best productivity tool that helps you prioritize and time yourself.

Community:

  • AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Arts) – Excellent professional organization for design, especially around graphic design.
  • IXDA – Interaction Design Association
  • Code for America – If you are interested in civic projects, open data and, helping your community, I highly recommend finding the Brigade chapter in your state.

Trend, news and, inspiration:

  • Website Awards – Recognized web designers and agencies in the world.

Webinars, blogs, and podcasts:

  • Mural.com blog – Mural is an awesome tool for remote collaboration and documentation. They also have really good webinars.
  • UserTesting.com – Test your designs and sites with this tool. They also provide webinars with top leaders.

Prototyping tools:

  • Balsamiq – Create quick mock ups, and wireframes
  • Invision – Build web and mobile prototypes to share and to gather user feedback.
  • Axure – Create highly interactive prototypes.

Design resources:

  • Codepen – Front-end inspiration
  • Usability Hub – Use this free service to get quick user feedback

I hope you find these tools useful, regardless of whether or not you are growing a design career or a career in another field. Do you have other exciting tools and resources? I am always looking for new things to try.


Erika B. is a multidisciplinary designer, thinker, researcher and strategist from Caracas, Venezuela. She is an alumni of Savannah College of Art and Design where she studied Industrial Design and Service Design. She works at Daxko as an Interaction Designer and during her free time, works as a community organizer at Code for Birmingham.