Group Project: Do You Have the Skills?

Learning to work in teams is a huge part of the MDP program.  Not every department in the bank functions in project teams; however, at some point in your career you will have to work on a team.  As an MDP you are given a five month long project to work on with your team that is supposed to help you develop group fundamentals.  To me the idea of this task was just par for the course as I had been working on teams since Day 1 of RIT with the Business 1, 2, 3 program. Group Projects

But what I wasn’t aware of going into MDP but I probably should have been was how different everyone in the program’s project experiences were. At RIT, you work hands on with real world clients. RIT does not believe that you should work with hypothetical scenarios when there are so many real world situations that the course concepts could be applied too.  Big shout out to RIT for preparing me for how projects actually function – that is one thing that if you are looking at colleges to think about – how does the school prepare me for the real world?

Working in project teams is a skill that most people do not think about or at least most people coming out of college. Most young people feel that project management and working on a team is easy but when it comes down to it – it is not always sunshine and rainbows.  It can be quite challenging when different backgrounds, different skill sets, different personalities all come to work on a common problem.  Sometimes there is perfect chemistry and other times there are group dynamics that just do not work well together.

At RIT I experienced all of these scenarios in both the educational setting and with athletics, work and clubs.  It happens all over the world.  But being able to understand to adjust on the fly when things are not going perfectly is what makes you stronger.  It is important to remember that not everything is going to go perfectly but how you react when things go wrong or you make a mistake is how you grow.  It is instilled in us from Day 1 as MDPs that mistakes are what you learn the most from.  group-dynamicsA team that never experiences trials or tribulations will probably not have as good of a learning experience as those that went through the five stages of a group project: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. I think often times we think this process of group project stages is more of a waterfall style; however, to me it is definitely more agile.  You can cycle through Storming, Norming and Performing multiple times before the conclusion of the project and I think that it is important to remember that is normal.

Stay tuned as I will be sure to talk about what stage my project is currently in for MDP and the MDP project experience.

How Do You Teach Generation Y?

millenialsWhen you become part of the Management Development Program at M&T there is an expectation between the program coordinators and yourself that you will be future leaders of the bank.  Unfortunately across the world the same mentality is not shared especially when people think about our generation and our different ways of doing things this is not just a bank wide thing – the world as a whole is beginning to see a shift in the expectations as we move from early Generation Y to more of the millennial generation.  Call my “class” what you might (Gen Y, Millennials, the “i” generation) but regardless of the name you assign to us we still expect different things out of an employer and we are here to change things up across the real world.

There is a lot of conversations within the bank and outside in the corporate world that my generation has come to be aggressive in our drive for success.  Our expectations are not that of earlier generations, we have come to know a different world than those who believed you worked as hard as you could all day to get a task done.  Call it growing up in the digital era with answers at our finger tips or having the ability to study anywhere – as we enter the real world we have different expectations than previous generations. These include the ability to work from anywhere there is a signal, the chance to develop a wide set of skills rather than fitting into just one mold and the ability to have work-life balance with an emphasis on the life.

what benefits of gen yOur generation values the ability to check social media at work, the ability to be flexible where we work and when we work, we value feedback and want to know how we are doing on a more frequent basis than most managers are used to and we value having a boss who serves as a mentor rather than a boss. This is not to say that we all feel the same about all of these things but as our generation stands to be the largest chunk of the workforce by 2020 we all better buckle up because those who are not ready for the changes in culture are in for a rough road.

So how does a company like M&T create future leaders through MDP from generation y? Stay tuned.

Want to know how millennial (generation y) you are? Check out this quiz – I got a 93!

 

Where is My Career Headed?

Today at work I was challenged to think about where I want to go, do and who I want to be in my career.  It was an interesting question to be asked but rightly so my manager has a right to understand where my head is now, where I hope it is in five years, 10 years and even the end of my career.  I really appreciate my manager asking me this tough but fair question because it made me think and create a vision for myself.  Even though the path to get there may change over time, my manager can only help me get there if he knows where the end destination is.  There is a quote I love and have used in this blog before, “the road is long, but in the end the journey is the destination”.  I love that quote from One Tree Hill because it is so true and can apply to life, love or your career.  If you are constantly racing towards a destination you will miss the journey that helps you get there.  The ups and downs, twists and turns are what guides us to where we are meant to be.

There was another reason that question was so valuable to me and that was how can you define career objectives if you do not have a goal in mind or at least some perspective of where you are going?  This is true if you are not working towards something even if the specifics are not defined, how can you help yourself progress.  In my life I always want to be moving forward, challenging myself and making sure I am constantly challenging myself.  I never want to be a sitting duck in a company that can be replaced by a computer or replaced by someone less expensive.  I think it is important as you plot out your goals, that you are always looking where you can add value to who you are now and what you are doing in the present.  I have an upcoming post regarding something that my manager mentioned to me, “deserve before you desire”.  Working towards your end goal does not go against this statement but helps you maintain your focus.

College BasketballSo, now after reading my determination to always have an end goal you must be wondering why I paused when my manager asked me the question about where I wanted my career to end up.  And the answer is complicated yet simple, up until a graduation in May, I had a very clear a path and plan that lead me straight up until graduation day with my MBA.  I was focused and determined and had the goal in the front of my mind.  I had basically set my goals in ninth grade when I knew I could earn college credit for free from my high school.  Knowing this I took as many college credit bearing classes as my schedule would allow.   This was also around the same time that I was pulled up to Varsity Basketball as a freshman and was determined to play in college.  I knew my college classes would potentially allow me to shave off an entire year of my undergraduate career which would mean that I would have one year left of eligibility left for college basketball.  Being the planner that I am, I accounted for this extra year in ninth grade and was determined to finish my MBA as well.  Finding a school that offered the possibility of basketball and a prime education was on my mind even in the early years of high school!  When I began looking at school’s RIT may not have been top of my list for basketball but it won me over for academics and that was after all what was going to take me further.  Though the sport tested my path and commitment to the plan I stuck with it thanks to some amazing teammates and completed my four years of eligibility with my Bachelors and Masters.  I had combined two of my passions, marketing and technology, and was determined to find an opportunity that allowed me to use both passions and degrees in my career, at least initially.  M&T’s offer allowed that better than any other offer I received so I took it.

In the time since committing to M&T, I had not put much thought into my future career or the bank; I guess it was my reprieve from being so focused for the last eight years on one goal.  That is not to say I hadn’t thought about my career or what was to come through MDP but I hadn’t really thought about where my career would take me until my boss laid it on the table, plain and simple: “Where do you want to be?”.  His example was that everything he had done in his career had been done with a purpose of gaining a skill, learning a process or understanding a system.  Everything he did early in his career allowed him to grow his base and now he was in the point of his career where he was growing vertically rather than horizontally.  He and his boss within M&T have had discussions of where he is headed and what his ultimate aspirations are – yes people will continue to ask you the question of “where do you want to go” even after you are out of college and have been in your field for a number of years.  After telling me his path and his story, I had to think, that was me in the sense being so planned out, methodically making decisions and moves for my entire high school and college career.  So why wasn’t it in my present situation because it was part of my personality to have a plan?  Why had I shied away from being so focused and driven and after thinking about it the reason came to me – I had been so focused on one specific path for so long that coming out of school I needed a break from the long-term pinpointed goal.  But being the person I am of course the thought has crossed my mind of ultimately where I want to be.

The C-Suite In terms of where would I like to be when I retire, I see myself as higher up management on the level of the C-Suite, at M&T the group that I would aspire to be a part of is called Management Group.  What was once a smaller select group of people has expanded to include many different positions depending on what company you are at.  You could be a CEO, CFO, CMO, COO, CIO, CTO and many other executive or senior positions (Note: Not all are a part of Management Group at M&T).  All of these roles and titles carry tremendous amounts of responsibility and as my manager said in our meeting you need to deserve something before you can desire it.

You may ask why I am in technology then and that is because I believe everyone has a specific focus but in my opinion you cannot be a well-respected manager or leader of an organization if you do not have experience in other areas.  I love technology; I love the constantly moving parts and the point when you cross into the unknown of a project.  I love knowing that we are crossing-boundaries and making a difference.  Technology is the avenue that changes how people do their daily business or go about their lives.  I have a professional personality that is always thinking and moving and technology allows me to fit right in and be a part of the action.  Unlike a position such as a CFO which has a fairly “standard” path, rising to the top of the marketing or technology world or even the executive world in general requires a diverse set of skills and a broader spectrum.

I feel that I will always flip back and forth between marketing and technology and right now that is the beauty of what I am doing at M&T, I am connected to individuals all over the bank.  I have a network of peers in my MDP class all over the bank; as well as, mentors from every level of the bank.  What is great is that because I received nearly two years of marketing agency experience while at RIT, I can strictly focus on learning more about the technology side of things.  I know I never want to be a developer but I want to understand it because I have an appreciation for what they do.  I can modify my own website’s HTML and CSS but I will never say I am a developer, which is why I shy away from saying I want to be a CTO.  Although I attended a technology school, I do not have the educational background from a technology perspective in computer science; however, I will never rule it out because just like you learn things in school, skills can be acquired on the job simply by practicing and doing them and there is always the option to go back for more education.

csuite2Another important thing to remember, your education is never complete, if you think it is it is time to wake up and smell the coffee.  We no longer live in a world where people can afford to be content with what they know.  There will be someone right behind you striving for your job or to bump you out of place.  Education is not always learned in a classroom, it is learned by experience.  That is why when you come out of school with your degree you are not immediately named a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, that experience is crucial!

So how do I get where I want to go?  I think it all starts with relationships and building up one’s network.  You have to always be willing to jump into something that scares you.  For those that are willing to just do a job and go home at 5pm every day or punch a clock to pay the bills, that is perfectly fine, but that is not me.  I want to be the one that is making a difference, changing the way things work in the sense that I can help make someone’s life easier.  I strive to always be challenged and always continue to learn.  I know that when I am content with my job or just doing it because it seems like the thing to do, I will know that it is time to move on to something new or to retire; although I don’t really see the retiring happening simply because of my personality.

**The opinions in this blog are solely my own and are in no way the opinions of M&T Bank or endorsed by the company**

The Winding Road of Relocation

Buffalo City Skyline Relocation is a word that can have many different meanings to people.  But for my purposes relocation may be moving to your dream location or to the place where your new family, job, school or anything in between resides.  My relocation process was exciting, stressful, exhausting and exhilarating and so many more emotions that I will not put you to sleep reading.

The moving process took place in several phases and steps.

The first phase involved moving Brian out of his apartment and moving the majority of his stuff; as well as, some of mine into storage.  This was a crazy day because it involved a last minute decision to rent a U-Haul so that we only had to make one trip from the apartment that morning rather than seven or eight 20 minute journeys down the road to drop things off.  The whole process too about 4 hours.

The next step took place 3 weeks later when it was time to move me out of Rochester to Buffalo.  I made three trips to and from Rochester that weekend in order to move my stuff.  Luckily for me I did not have to rent a U-Haul for my college apartment items because my biggest items were a TV, mini-fridge and book shelf – a big bonus of having a furnished apartment in college!  While I was packing up the Rochester apartment with my sister, Brian was renting another U-Haul to move his furniture across town to the new apartment.  All in all the U-Haul cost about 40 dollars which probably would have been spent on gas alone anyway to move all of the stuff, plus it definitely made the move much smoother!

IMG_3078Our final phase after we went a week with very limited furniture was making the 3 hour trip home to pick up the furniture from my mom’s house.  With her in the process of moving to a new home, she was so gracious to offer us a wide variety of furniture (some older and some purchased within the last two years).  It was a big help to not have to buy the majority of our stuff when we were just starting out.  The overall process of moving that furniture was a nightmare however thanks to U-Haul.

Now let me start off by saying, U-Haul does state in their policy that they can cancel your reservation up to 24 hours before but who would really think they would do that, wouldn’t they want the business? I guess my assumptions were wrong.  I reserved my U-Haul truck a month out, just to be on the safe side.  I thought I was safe from all the bad reviews.  After all, U-Haul was by far my cheapest option…and now I know why.  Mid-week before I was set to make the move, I received a call from U-Haul stating they were looking for a truck for me.  My initial thought was, WHAT?  Brian and I didn’t have much furniture in the house and we definitely needed to get it that weekend.  But I assumed again that they would find me a truck and make me a happy customer.

Boy was I wrong, Friday rolled around (I was scheduled to pick my truck up the next day) and when I was at work right around 9am, U-Haul called me and not only told me they did not have the size of truck I had reserved available, there were not any trucks in my area…period.  There was however, a 14 foot truck (I reserved a 17 foot truck because U-Haul trucks have an over-hang that is included in their total length).  The truck was available in Chittenange which would have been fine if they agreed to comp me the mileage and if I could have picked it up on Friday since I would be driving through there on my way home anyway that day.  But of course that was not to be, they said I could only get it on Saturday and that they would not comp me the additional mileage.  I declined the offer and told them to cancel my order and that I had no intention to use their trucks ever again.

But being a person with a blog, social media accounts and network of people to talk to, I was determined to share my poor experience with the company.  I sent a tweet to U-Haul and was connected through to customer service (see the conversation below).  What resulted from that Twitter conversation was a $50 credit to use at a company I have no intention of ever using again.

UHaul TwitterYou are probably wondering what happened and if I got my stuff?  Well safe to say thanks to my mom’s level headedness she spent all morning and afternoon on the phone with U-Haul (was lied to about truck availability) and thankfully was connected with Penske truck who were more than happy to locate a truck for us to use.  There are only two drawbacks to Penske, the price (two times the U-haul cost) and because I had made the reservation so late I didn’t have a say in the time that we got to pick up the truck which made the day longer for everyone (we got to pick the truck up at 1pm).  Other than that, they are kinder people to work with, have newer trucks and guarantee they will never cancel on you after you make a reservation.  I know in the future if I ever have to make another major move, I will use Penske for sure.  Companies like U-Haul and Penske have to remember that it is all about how customers perceive them and U-Haul definitely lost my respect.

Thankfully, I had an amazing team helping me out with the move including Brian, my mom, Tim and Ben.  We moved the stuff really quickly out of the house and into the truck and hit the road.  My mom was with Brian in the truck, Tim and Ben were in the Edge and I was by myself in my car for the three hour trek.  I am so grateful to have people that were willing to spend 9 hours in a car (round trip because Tim and Ben came from Corning that morning) just to help me move.  I had so many other offers from people to help out that it really made me feel special and I definitely could “feel the love”.

It took about a week after moving the furniture to get all settled into the house and finally have everything put away, but all in all I could not be happier.  Brian and I both know we have a lot of stuff and do not have any plans of moving again, until we are buying our own house or moving out of Buffalo.

Hello Real World…Here I Am

M&T MDPSo after all the waiting and anticipation of starting on the job, the first day is in the books! I can not believe that I can now consider myself a working girl.  All that hard work, time and effort put in all the books, test and presentations became all worth it on Monday, July 14th.

The first day started off in what seemed like a normal on-boarding for a new employee at a company.  M&T brought all the new T&BO (Technology and Banking Operations) MDPs (Management Development Program) together for an all-day orientation.  It was great because it was an opportunity to meet the other MDPs in our “bucket”.  When I say bucket I mean all of the MDPs who fall under a specific Executive Vice-President.  In my case it is Michele Trolli.  The 13 T&BO MDPs had the opportunity to sit down with Michele and be introduced to the bank from her perspective.  It was a rare opportunity that not many get and I was very excited to get to hear the only woman on the Management Group at the bank speak and be in charge of my department.

I want to note that I think woman in business and leadership roles are becoming more and more acceptable and common in today’s society.  When I walk into the office and even when I walked into a classroom at RIT (a school dominated by males), I never felt that I had to be quiet simply because I was a female.  I believe that your actions and your work speak louder than what gender you are.  I loved reading the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and was excited to hear that M&T has Lean In circles within the organization and I am looking forward to joining after getting settled.  But the female topic seems to be a topic that often gets discussed and I wanted to make sure I got Michele’s take on it but I wasn’t sure how to phrase it.  I think she knew what I was preparing to ask when I raised my hand because she said something along the lines of don’t be afraid to just say it, if we fear what we are saying or make it seem like a hard subject people won’t get over it and move past it.   I thought that was great and instantly I knew, Michele would be someone who I would strive to learn from and look up to at the bank.

women in business

What was interesting was being able to hear her talk about her direct reports and her experience coming into the bank.  She was not afraid to tell an embarrassing story or be real because as I was beginning to understand, that was M&T’s culture, real people doing real work.  Michelle is one of the “young ones” on the M&T Management Group and she has been with the bank for ten years – that is another part of the culture at M&T the average tenure is 10.4 years currently and you are still considered “new” if you have not been with the company for more than twenty years.

The next group of speakers brought in were the Senior Vice Presidents of T&BO, my SVP is Julieta Ross who recently joined the M&T team after a long career at Citi.  It was great to see that in a business with such long tenure the company understands outside perspectives are often necessary to keep moving forward and growing.  It was so nice to be able to begin to understand the structure at the bank as it pertained to our “bucket” and then begin to put the bigger picture together.  I thought it was great of T&BO to focus on its own sector rather than overwhelm us with the entire bank and its operations on the first day.

The rest of the day was focused on learning about the bank’s values, mission and culture.  It is impossible to understand a culture without actually experiencing it.  But for all the MDPs and most of M&T’s employees you are taken through countless interviews (I went through 12) so you meet a lot of people along the way and begin to see similarities (at least with M&T) among those employees and can pick up on the qualities that make up the majority of the company’s employees.  One common characteristic at M&T is that everyone seems genuinely invested in helping you and maybe that is just for the MDPs (I cannot speak for the traditional recruitment, hiring, on-boarding or career) but so far, everyone I have come in contact with has extended warm welcomes, well wishes and offered to assist in any way that they can.  M&T is invested in their future.working world

Learning about the culture it was great to see that M&T’s vision statement is a Be the Best statement.   “Be the best place our employees ever work for, the best bank our customers ever bank with and the best investment our shareholders ever make.”  That says something because if you are a happy employee your productivity is better meaning that customers are better cared for and have higher quality experiences within the branches or online.  As for the shareholders, a large portion of employees of the bank are shareholders and have a financial investment in the company; as well as it being their place of employment.

The day wrapped up with a Happy Hour at the Lodge with our SVPs.  This was very nice because we got to have 1-on-1 time with the leaders of our department.  It is important to remember when going to a company Happy Hour you are there to network and talk with people, not to eat or drink.  It was nice to talk over a glass of wine with Julieta and hear her vision for the department and the future of M&T’s technology.  She was another person who I was instantly excited to be given the chance to work under and learn from.  She seemed genuinely excited about having me join the team and was ready to help me with my future in the department and the company.  I was beginning to see that most people were excited about the new prospects and talent pool in the bank.

 I think that this is going to be a great opportunity to grow a career with the bank and I am excited to see what the future holds!

***This blog post is in no way endorsed by M&T Bank, the opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own.***

One Short Summer

cruiseIt is official, I am a working girl! I just completed my first full-time week of work with M&T Bank and boy was it a whirl-wind of emotions. Having just come off my 6/7 weeks of vacation between finishing grad school to starting work it was definitely a transition. I will have a blog post to follow regarding how my first week at the bank went and everything that went along with that; as well as, a post regarding the relocation process – but this post is to talk about the summer and all the relaxing and vacations that went along with that.

First let me say, I would highly suggest that anyone starting a job after school not try and squeeze in a small job for the piece of summer that you have the break. Maybe if you don’t work hard in college you won’t need to recharge before you enter the real world but if you have the opportunity to just relax, slow down and enjoy the time off – I highly recommend it. I know that not everyone’s situation is the same; however, I think that before you embark on the journey that is your career you need to take the time to enjoy the little things whether you go on vacation, spend time with your family, hang out with your friends, anything you can think of – it is important to just relax and recharge.

mlb marlins gameDuring my 6/7 weeks off I took an amazing trip, thanks to Brian – to the Bahamas on a cruise with Royal Caribbean. We did everything from snorkeling to a glass bottom boat tour, laid around in a hammock, gambled a bit in the casino, saw shows, got a nice tan on and off the boat, was able to avoid getting badly sunburned despite our Upstate NY skin.  We also ate some amazing food, did some casual shopping and overall enjoyed spending time with each other.

After the cruise we were able to see a Marlins game and cross that stadium off of his bucket list quest of seeing a Major League Game at every baseball stadium in the MLB.  What was interesting about the night we were at the game was that the Heat were playing in Miami at the same time during the NBA Playoffs, it was Game 6 so everyone it seemed in Miami was at that game rather than the Marlins game.

It was nice to just spend time with Brian and vacation together. And when he went back to work the following week and I got to enjoy so more time off before starting the real world! While I was in my transition period, so was my family. My mom was preparing the house for the market so I was definitely grateful that I could help her get the house ready, help pack everything up and go through things from my childhood.  It was nice to be able to spend time in the home that I grew up in. I hadn’t been able to spend much time there since leaving for college so it was great to have a few weeks to be back and forth between RIT (where my apartment was) and home.

bahamasBeing able to have time to spend with my family and friends without the pressure of a job or school work or training for my sport getting in the way was great. Laying by the pool, working on my tan, catching up on my must reads was exactly what I needed after squeezing my undergrad and grad into 4 years all while playing basketball and gaining experience in my field!

I can’t speak for everyone but I plan on working extremely hard throughout my career, enjoying what I do, learning as much as I can, enjoying going into my place of work everyday and having a long lasting career. As an over-achiever, I have always enjoyed doing things, staying busy and am happiest when I have a lot going on. I have never been the person to just relax which was why I think that recharging during the weeks between graduation and starting at the bank was so important to me.  It was the best decision I could have made for myself and my career.  For all of those that are going to be in that position in the future, I highly encourage you to look at what is best for you!

***please be aware that these opinions are not associated with M&T Bank and are strictly my own***

Reflection

graduationIt is hard to believe that graduation was just over a month ago and I am now the holder of two degrees, my masters and my bachelors.  It seems like just yesterday I started as a freshman at RIT and was living in the dorms.  It is amazing to think back on all that I accomplished and experienced.  My friends told me in high school that they believed I was destined for college, college was going to be my best experience to date and they were right.  College was so much better than high school for me at least but for others it is a different story and that is okay because everyone’s path is different. College for some people is an extension of high school, they don’t learn anything new in the sense of life experiences, they may pick up a few new math equations or understand new subjects but they don’t experience what college has to offer in the sense of growing up.  For me college was a time of coming into my own, figuring out who I was a person and who I wanted to be in the future. katherine schwarzeneggerNow I am not saying I have all the answers but who really does.  During this month off, I have spent time reading by the pool and really relaxing.  Reading nothing of great importance in my life but just reading because I enjoy it.  My latest book that I finished in three sunny days by the pool was, I Just Graduated…Now What?by Katherine Schwarzenegger and if you are like me a recently graduated student, I highly recommend reading it this summer.  I do not know if I would have picked it up had I not won it from Barnes and Noble in their end of term twitter contest but I am very glad I tweeted my piece of advice for college students because it allowed me the chance to realize I am not alone in how I am feeling post-graduation. RITMy copy is signed by the author; however, she may never know who I am.  If by some chance she does happen to read this post I want her to know that we have a lot in common in the sense that we both strive to do good in the world, leave our own mark and break out of the shadows (her shadows may be more public than mine but none the less what I saw from reading her book is that a name does not get you everything – you have to work just as hard if not harder to prove your worth). Katherine, if you are reading this, I hope that one day I have the chance to meet with you, maybe collaborate on a project together or just pick your brain on different things.  As was stated in your book, you are young but can still have a voice.  You may not have all the answers but who really does? Growing up is about finding your path because every piece of the puzzle makes for the journey.  Hopefully one day our journeys will cross because your book was truly inspiring. Sorry to my readers for my slight tangent,  I Just Graduated…Now What?, is a compilation of interviews of famous people who have been down the road before the graduates of today.  Katherine interviews: athletes, actors, comedians, DJs, politicians, talk show hosts, entrepreneurs, rising chefs and many other public figures whom you may or may not know, who struggled with the What Now question.  Katherine tells her story of her recent graduation in the Spring of 2012 from USC along with many others in a youthful way that will keep you turning each page because it is extremely relatable.  Whether you read it to make yourself feel better about where you are at, to see that you are not alone or to be inspired to follow your dreams, this is a must read during the summer after you graduate! Going to college at Rochester Institute of Technology may not have been my dream school growing up; however, after a few weeks on campus, I knew it was meant to be.  It is hard to believe I almost crossed it off my list thanks to a terrible recruiting visit there during October of my Senior Year of High School.  Life is funny sometimes, at RIT the campus looks flat and boring at first sight, the bricks all look the same and there appears to be no character.  But when you take a closer look and join the RIT community, you realize like each student attending, the bricks are all unique.  The unique blend of cultures, majors, colleges, ethnicities, programs, clubs and teams at RIT – offers students a one of kind experience.  RIT is no longer just for the techies but I will say if you do not believe at least a little part of you is a nerd, RIT is not the school for you. RITLooking at RIT from a distance people may say, how did you go there for four years? Why stay?  Because RIT was my home, RIT was where I was supposed to be and RIT is a huge part of who I am today.  I believe that you define your own college experience, you choose your own level of involvement and you decide if you will be the type of student that embraces the opportunities given to them or sits in the back of the room and does not give anyone a chance to get to know them.  I was not the later of the two options if you can not tell.  I took every opportunity I could to become someone who was recognizable and not just because of athletics.  I made sure my professors knew me as the student so that when it was time to come looking for career advice, they were willing to help me. I was very fortunate to have some great professors in both my undergraduate programs and masters programs.  I would not have traded the experience for the world.  People have asked me, “If you could go back, knowing what you know now would you choose a different school?”  Without hesitation my answer is “no shot”!  RIT The next question that tends to follow is, “Would you have gone back for your MBA right away if you could do it again?”  My answer may be more calculated but it is along the same lines, “Yes, I would because I had many loose ends left to tie up.  As an NCAA athlete you are given four seasons for your sport, just four.  Having only used three of them, I had my class, my seniors, my senior year, and my team to return too, they weren’t finished with me and I wasn’t finished with them.  I also had a lot of goals that were not accomplished yet and when I set goals, I plan to achieve them unless it is not physically possible. There are not a lot of people in the world who get to say they were a student-athlete let alone a four year student-athlete.  It takes commitment, sacrifice, desire and passion to play all four years because it is stressful but it can be done and I am proud to say I am a part of the four year student-athlete club.  I am the type of person who completes what I set out to accomplish and I had committed to four years of basketball at the division three level and I was not willing to walk away just yet from that promise simply because I was faster at school than the average student.  graduation caps I believe that the commitment and loyalty shown in college is just as important to perspective employers as past work experience.  The lessons and work ethic learned on a team in college are life lessons I will carry through with me to the real world.  Plus, had I not gone back to RIT I wouldn’t have been able to redefine and grow the Tiger Den program and make all of the connections I did this year. But if I was asked had I not completed my undergraduate career in three years and done it in the traditional four, I can’t answer that question because I was not in that situation.” RITA masters was always in my future it was just the timing and for me, four years and two degrees later, I could not be happier.   Remember that everything you do, each step you take whether you feel like it is a step towards something or not, is a step on your path. My biggest advice is try to live your life with no regrets.  If you think it is something you could regret by not doing, just do it.  I knew that if I did not take my selfie crossing the stage during graduation then I would regret it.  What harm could come from me doing it? Well, the picture may not have come out perfect but seeing the look on the Mr. Saunders face, yes, E. Philip Saunders, the namesake of my college, was a look I will never forget.  He was cracking up and smiling and I hope will now remember me.  It may be something as little as that but those little things will add up to a lifetime of memories.  saunders college of business

High School Can End

Cortland High School Over the last month I have had time to look back on what happened over my school experience.  I have been able to actually relax for the first time in 4 years, go on vacation (blog post to come) and to go home to spend time with my family and friends.  Spending time at home allowed me to realize how lucky I was to grow up in the town I did.  Cortland may be small and definitely has gone down hill since my experience going through the school system; however, it was the sense of community that formed my experience.  I love my neighborhood and I will be sad when the day comes in the next few weeks when my mom calls me to let me know the house has officially sold.

Senior PictureBut getting to spend time with my high school friends allowed me to reflect on how different my college experience was vs. my high school time.  Because of my busy schedule with basketball and school and co-oping in the summer, I wasn’t able to go home for more than a few days at a time during the four years so I hadn’t seen my friends more than a handful of times.  I realized how much I had missed them but I also realized that there were people in my town that hadn’t grown up since leaving high school…to put it simply, a lot of things were the same as if it were four years ago, only this time, I was different, along with a handful of others.  I am sure it is the same in a lot of other small towns but for me the only experience I have to go on is my own.

Catching up over drinks with some of the girls, I realized that my high school experience wasn’t as unique as I had thought in the sense that when I felt excluded, I wasn’t the only one.  High school was not my favorite time, I had my friends but I got used and walked all over just because I wanted to fit in.  High school is filled with “mean girls” or “popular people” that feel that they are better than others.  Sadly a lot of them don’t realize that they are the stereotypical mean person.  Now, I am not saying my school was like the movie, Mean Girls but I think every high school has their similarities.

I am very fortunate to have been able to go to a school like RIT because of its diverse nature, everyones willingness to except virtually everyone and how “real” most people are.  I think in high school everyone is trying so desperately to fit in and find their way or define who they are, they tend to just go with the crowd.

athlete quotesNow I am sure there are some that might read this and go, “what the hell is she talking about” because I appeared to have a really good high school experience and was friends with the “popular” people and don’t get me wrong, I did but it wasn’t my favorite time but I know I did not have it the worst, my situation could have been so much worse and I am sorry for those who were mistreated or victimized in high school by bullies, either mentally or physically.   I was never a victim of physical violence; however, I definitely had my fair share of mind games played on me.  Looking back on it, I think that high school was the way it was for me because I knew I had so much more in my future that was outside of this town so I just let it be and didn’t fight for something better.  By the end of my senior year I was sick of being taken advantage of, coming in second place for plans with people and ready for a change and ready to make my mark on the world at RIT and beyond.

friendsSo for those of you reading this, that felt like me in high school, the girl that didn’t want to go out and drink, who would rather watch a movie with her mom than be out trying to sneak into a bar, read a book on the weekend instead of hanging out at the mall, who put everything she could into getting better on the court for her team, or set a goal and did everything in her power to accomplished it, this post is for you.  Life is so much better when you are true to yourself, when you believe in yourself and know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind too.  Know that the mean girls in high school will probably still be stuck in high school (figuratively) in four years and know that if you allow yourself to get out of your town, you will be embraced for who you are.

I haven’t changed much since high school, though some would (and have) said I have changed.  But for those who believe I have changed, I have changed for the better.  I no longer allow people to walk all over me, I have grown up and believe in myself and try and better myself.  When I have a problem with someone I don’t spread gossip I confront that person nor do spread gossip that was shared with me.  However, in my opinion I am not far from that girl who choose to be home with her mom and sister watching a movie over sneaking into a bar. I would rather have a chill night with friends and some drinks than get hammered at a club.  I would still rather not waste hours at the mall and I continuously challenge myself in new ways mentally and athletically (though no longer for a team) and strive to reach every goal I set.

So to that girl in high school, who was just like me…I promise, life is so much better when you choose the way you want to live.

California girls

 

Relocation Planning

As I have just over three weeks before I start my new job, Brian and I have been searching for a new apartment.  My company provides great relocation assistance; however, I am a plan a head person and like to know things in advance I began working on the house hunting search.  I worked on reaching out to different apartments and then Brian would go and look at them after work since I couldn’t make the trip.

new apartment

But what surprised me the most was finding our apartment with a website I never expected to use – CraigsList.  We searched around on the site looking for the features we hoped to have.   Having been “spoiled” at Park Point the last few years with a washer and dryer in-unit, electricity, water, heat, cable and internet included, a gym and pool to use; as well as, maintenance and security available when needed.

Brian was actually the one to come across this apartment and immediately sent it to me to look at.  I loved it!  It was a newly built townhouse that had been lived in by another couple for less than a year.  The landlord had bought the lot next to his home and built this home for his mother to come live near him and when those plans fell through he turned it into an income property.

kitchenBrian and I got very lucky.  So far Brian is the only one to see but I am pleased to say we have signed a lease that will begin on July 11th, 2014, just 3 days before my start date.  It is going to be a hectic couple of days moving in, going to see Jason Aldean in concert at Darien and starting work but I am excited because who would want to be living a dull life.

The apartment is perfect! Two bed, two bath, in-unit washer and dryer, fully updated high-end kitchen, walk-in closets, security system and two car garage! So here is to not having to ever brush off my car in the morning on the way to work! The apartment also comes with snow removal, landscaping and water included which is really convenient and nice.  We have the perks that come with living in an apartment building but have the benefits of living in a neighborhood.  I am really excited to be able to go running in the morning through the near-by park.

Changes are quickly approaching and I am excited to experience them all.

 

Without Them I Would Not Be Me

We often forget to say thank you to the people that have helped us out along our paths in life.  I have had so many people who have helped me get where I am today over the past four years at RIT, during my time at Cortland High and well-before that.  From my family to my coaches, from my teachers to my professors, from my bosses to my co-workers, from peers and friends to those who I have coached.  There are so many people who have made and impact on my life.  I wouldn’t be standing here with out them and it would not be right if I let my thanks go unknown.

mother-daughter-quotes-imageThe first person I need to thank is my mom.  She not only my mom but has been my biggest supporter, my cheerleader, my guidance counselor, my voice of reason.  She has been there for me through good times and bad, surgeries and hospital visits.  She is the woman I most admire and the one I aspire to be.  She is stronger than anyone I know and I owe the majority of who I am to her.

IMG_1002My mom was my shoulder to cry on in high school, was my cheerleader at all my games throughout my playing career.  She played the role of driver for all the late night practices, driving all day to get to us to AAU games.   The number of times I turned to my mom for advice is countless.

My biggest fear in college was letting her down and came very close when I had to confess to her that I had drank my freshman year.  At the time, I thought this was would be the hardest conversation that I would ever have, turns out it wasn’t but when you are young letting the people down you respect the most is your scary.  Freshman year was a rough transition for both of us (I think) but when we made it through it, we were only stronger in our relationship.graduation mom

The next person I have to thank is my sister.  She may not realize it but she is one of the closest people to me, she knows me better than most and is not afraid to call me out for anything.  She may make mistakes but she is not afraid to make those mistakes.  I was the person who felt that I had to be perfect and maybe because I felt like that, she felt she didn’t which I am glad for her.

seesterPeople say we look almost like twins and she looks older which I know drives her crazy since she is three years younger.  We know we don’t but our personalities make us different.  Devon has always been the one who can make me laugh.  We can talk in code that no one else understands and then laugh non-stop for an hour.  Friends will always come and go but she will be always be my seester and always be a part of my life.

boyfriendThe next person I have to thank is the love of my life, Brian.  He always knows how to keep me grounded.  This year tested us with distance and not seeing each other everyday.  It may have been hard but it has only made us stronger.  He is my best friend, the one I love to enjoy new things with.  When I was over stressed, had a bad game or was just in a bad mood he knew just how to get me out of it. We are now finally in the home stretch of our time apart.  I am so excited to move to Buffalo and begin our lives together in the real world.  I am excited to make our house our own starting July 11th.

graduation with my dadI love my dad and have learned a lot from him.  No one is perfect and as I have grown up and experienced more things I understand that more than I did as a younger child.  I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and my dad is one of those things.  I would not be me without my dad and am thankful for all he taught me.

familyI have the most supportive family anyone could ask for on both sides. I am one of the luckiest people to have both sets of grandparents to support me and guide me.  I am forever grateful and thankful for having them in my life. My whole family has always supported me through all of my dreams from coming to my games, to cheering me on at home while watching games on the live stream to supporting me in everything I dreamed of doing.  My family has watched me grow up and watched me become the person I am today but without them, I would never have become the woman I am today. family

Growing up, the ups and downs that my family went through have become the norm for childhoods around the United States.  I had an amazing childhood despite everything and I had so many people that helped me along the way.  It can take its toll on a kid but it can also make them stronger.  I had so many strong people around me growing up that I owe a lot to so many different people! A person can not be shaped by one person, they are shaped by many people involved in many different aspects of their life and I have to thank all of those people (I apologize for those who I forget)!

familyI have had so many coaches and trainers in my life and they have made such an impact on me as a person and me as a player.  I would not have been the player I am without all of them.  From winning Sectionals as a Senior in High School to my AAU days.  From Coach Harris to Coach Reed to Coach Finucane to Coach P to Coach Williams (2x) and all my coaches in between and from the younger years. Some of you taught me what not to do.  Some of you encouraged me to stay in the post and not move out to the three point line but what I found from being told what not to do was my own game and what I liked to do.  Shooting threes became one of my favorite things to do and you could not believe that you ever told me to stay inside. One coach taught me how not to treat my players before, during and after my playing career.

People value how you treat your players and I have had coaches who have lost the respect of their players, never earned it or earned and valued the player-coach relationship. I am so thankful to my coaches who have taught me so much about what I want to do in my life, how to act, how to time manage, how to prioritize.  I know somewhere down the line I will want to get into coaching I am thankful to have positive and negative experiences with coaches because I know how I want to treat my players and coach and how I definitely do not want to!!

I have had the opportunity to play on some amazing teams, work along side some amazing players and call some amazing girls my teammates.  From my AAU teammates to my high school teammates to my college teammates I have played on so many different teams and with so many girls it would be impossible to mention every single person.  But there are a few specific people I have to thank.

seniorsMy senior class.  Mallory, Jess and Kayla will forever be my best friends.  We have been through more than most teammates (in my opinion).  We have had experiences that no one else will ever have, we stuck together through the good times and bad and had one hell of a ride on and off the court.  These girls are three of the most amazing people and together we make each other better people.  We could not have made it through the four years without each other.

My 2013-14 RIT Women’s Basketball team will be one of my favorite teams I ever played with.  I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and each one of those girls has a special place in my heart.  They made my last competitive season so special and I thank them for that.  seniorsNever have I been a part of women’s team that has had no drama within the team until this season.  I never wanted this season to end because of that.  It is a rare occurance that you can find that within women’s sports and we did. Sarah, Maria, Ash, Syd, Julia, Allie, Christina, and Bre….thank you for making this year so special.  I hope that over the rest of your time with the RIT Women’s Basketball program each season is just as special.  Remember that teammates are what make the experience, when you stick together you will never regret a moment of it.  Remember that coach didn’t make you love the game, you found your passion before you ever set foot on the RIT campus but your passion continues because you are playing with girls you love! There is so much to be said about playing all four years of your NCAA eligibility.  Standing there on senior night with Mal, Jess and Kayla, I hope that every one of those girls gets to experience that because that was what we worked for and showed our accomplishments and is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.  I wish RIT the best of luck in the upcoming season.2013-14 Women's Basketball Team

There are two other players I need to thank one is from high school and one is from college.  Shannon Finucane is the only player I have ever fully trusted.  If she said something I never questioned it, I just did it.  I played a season of AAU and two seasons of high school with her.  When I was just a freshman and she was a junior captain of the high school team she made a lasting impression the first time she spoke to me.  I walked into a preseason open gym wearing soccer shorts and she said to me, “Go buy longer shorts and come back next week wearing them.  I never want to see short-shorts in the gym again.”  As a young impressionable freshman in high school I did what the best player in the gym said.  As I got to know her and play with her, I came to respect her even more.  She went on to win a National Championship and made four consecutive final fours at Amherst College as the starting point guard during her college years.

competitorsThe second player is one of my three year teammates at RIT, Leslie.  It was no secret that Leslie and I were competitors.  Leslie is one of the hardest workers I have ever played with and probably the best defender that I have ever called a teammate.  Les could pick your pocket and be off down the court before you realized the ball was gone.  My favorite memory with Les happened in our RPI game.  We needed a last second shot.  Les passed me the ball from the wing, I gave her the sign to come in for a hand off and I would screen off my girl and hers and she would take the lay-up.  The play worked, as it worked day-in and day-out in practice.  Regardless of how we competed or how Les and my friendship looked to anyone else, we knew when it came down to it, we were on the same side in the end.  Our opponent was our competition, not each other.  When it came down to the game we were playing against the other team and ready to win and would do whatever it took, even when it came down to doing what we felt was best not what the play demanded, which happened a lot more than one would expect.  Competition made us stronger, knowing each other were the best at our positions, realizing we weren’t competing against each other but only working to make the other better, helping each other reach our goals was something most would never understand based on how Les and I appeared to the typical on-looker but we knew better.  From making plays on the court, to finding out that jello-bowls are so much better than jello-shots, to taking crazy amounts of pictures that we have to make sepia or blank & white because we both have way to pink of cheeks, to playing bop-it like we were nine years old, our friendship may seem strange to some but we know better.

So to Shannon and Leslie, thank you both for making me a better player!

Being a student was something I valued and prided myself on and challenged myself to always do my best.  I had so many mentors that helped me along the way, especially at RIT.  Vic Perotti, Peggy Tirrell, Tom Traub, Bob Boehner, Mike Johansson and Sally Haigh are some of the people that I have been grateful to get to know over the last few years at RIT.   They have pushed me and have worked toprofessors get my best every time!  Thank you so much to all of you!

To anyone who I did not have the chance to thank in this post, thank you.  You know who you are and have helped shape me into the person I am today.  Life is going to be changing fast over the next few years.