Difference Are Key to Success

I realize it has been awhile since I last blogged and I apologize for that. Life has been crazy busy, work has picked up, training for the half marathon has picked up, trying to enjoy summer, taking some trips, and fitting in a semi-normal social life has been taking up most of my time.

So what has happened since I last blogged, well this could take a few posts but lets start with my career to date for starters.

I have said before that I will never regret my decision for going to RIT and spending my four years of higher education there. It taught me so much not only in the classroom, on the basketball court, but also about myself.

I learned that it is okay to be different, it is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses but not be afraid to stand up for who you are. It is important to be yourself and not allow peer pressure to make you do things you don’t want to do.

I think the most important lesson though that I learned from RIT was how to get along with all different kinds of people. How to understand that differences are what make a team stronger, make a company better, and make individuals better. Having the ability to not judge those for their differences in a negative way but see them as positives and see the amazing things that can come from collaborating among differences is a strength that I can only credit to the way I was raised and my time at RIT.

The team I am working on now has grown from 2 to 3. The new hire on our team is someone with a vast amount of experience from a different industry (difference #1). There is a generational divide between us (difference #2). And there is a personal experience divide (difference #3). Those are just a few of our differences but we also have a lot in common. We both have passion for Innovation, a goal to see the team succeed and a willingness to learn about each other.

Types-People-You-WorkWhat I have learned from her is that you a have a few choices when it comes to your co-workers:

  1. Be Friends
    1. Sometimes it is nice to have a friend at the office but walk the fine line of sharing to much personal information with someone you have to have serious conversations with.
  2. Fake It
    1. This doesn’t work for many if any because it takes to much energy and it will stifle creativity. This is probably the option I prefer the least and do not recommend.
  3. Simply be Co-Workers
    1. You do not have to be friends with all of your co-workers, frankly it won’t happen but you need to be able to be professional. I recommend not being “besties” with the people you work closely with because it becomes

The way our team is set up it would be impossible for us to not get along. We are in such close quarters and all open space that it is absolutely necessary to communicate. If something rubs you the wrong way, the other person may not realize it. I am learning in the workplace it is so important to keep honest communication. I think that is what is going to make our team succeed (of course we several other things) but honestly and communication is crucial to success of a small team and as we grow it will be important for new hires to see that strength in communication and continue it on.

As a team we are building the right way in my opinion, start small and build in reasonable and manageable increments. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Pilot everything and then implement. Life is good, I am loving my job, my team, the place I work, the company I work for, stay tuned for another update about the new area of the bank I am working in!

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.

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

 

When One Journey Ends….A New One is About to Begin

IMG_1850

When you are young you always look ahead to what is about to happen, you image certain things and wish for the exciting day to come.  As a player in any sport you always dream about your first game and wonder what it will be like and how you will perform, will you win or lose, how will the other team be?  But as a player the game you never think about, until it is right in front of you…is your last.IMG_1847

Last night was the last game of my basketball career.  The final buzzer sounded in the semi-final and my team did not have the higher score.  It was a rough game and not the way I had imagined it would go just hours before but that is life.

Basketball is something that has meant so much to me for the majority of my life that it seems weird to not have another practice to attend or season to prepare for.  When you spend your whole childhood and young adult life constantly preparing for the next game or season when it is all over, where do you go? This is the question however I am prepared for.  I always knew basketball would end someday for me as it does for anyone.  But I have seen myself successful at school and in the future (things outside of the game) and come to terms with the fact that this “career” is done, unlike many of my collegiate student-athlete peers.

free throw

There are a lot of former athletes that do not know their identity without sports and if you had asked me in high school who I was, I probably would have said a basketball player.  However, college has prepared me for who I want to be in the future, has molded me into who I am. But please do not get me wrong, basketball has helped make me the person I am today without a doubt – it just doesn’t define me.  Basketball has helped my confidence, my time management, my organization and my leadership skills.  It has made me more friends that I could have ever dreamed of.

basketball seniors

My teammates over the years have become some of the closest people to me and I do not know what I would do with out them.  I am talking about high school teammates, AAU teammates and college teammates.  My teammates, my girls, my Ohana, know more about me than most people.  I know I could tell them anything without judgement.  They have seen me at my best and they have also seen me at my worst.

Life is funny.  You never know who your class will be in college but I got really lucky with my fellow seniors.  They are the most genuine group of girls.  The four of us have been on a journey that will connect us for the rest of our lives and that no one else can ever understand completely.  I am so glad the four of us made it through all the BS, drama, sprints, injuries, health scares, coaching changes and other curveballs that were thrown our way.  We came in as the four recruits and stood on senior day just as we had planned…TOGETHER.   I love these girls like they are my sisters.  I know that in the future they will be in my wedding and I know that we will remain close even though it will be different.  college basketball

Basketball will always be my first love.  My first true commitment and though our relationship has been tested at times, it has gotten me through some of the toughest times in my life.   Basketball gave me hope when my dad was sick, basketball gave me strength through my parents divorce, basketball connected me to my sister in a way that we never would have been connected, basketball brought me honors and awards but more importantly basketball brought me my Ohana.the four seniors

There is something to be said about being a four year varsity collegiate STUDENT-ATHLETE.  People who are not student athletes will never understand the dedication, passion and commitment it takes to be a four year athlete.

basketball shotTo abide by the NCAA’s rules, to abide by your school’s rules and to follow your team’s rules takes strength.  It is not always easy to give up your weekends or time with your friends but what you are giving up is far less than what you are gaining.  Because while all the other college students are out partying – you are learning life skills that will stay with you long after your athletic days are over and despite missing time at the bar with your friends, you are spending the time with you friends on the court doing something you love.

My competitive playing days may be over but my love of the game is not.  Basketball is in my blood, it is apart of my past, present and future. Saying goodbye to the competition is going to be hard.  Next year on Oct. 15th when all the collegiate basketball programs are starting their seasons and I am at work, it will be different but it is the sign of growing up.  At the end of the day this is just a game and my tears at the final buzzer last night were not because of that, they were because it is the end of a journey.  But like all journeys, when one ends it means a new one is about to begin and I can’t wait to see where that journey takes me.

A Moment in Time

People always assume because I am tall I play basketball.  Well I do play basketball but not just because I am tall.  People often assume because you are tall you are good at basketball, well that was not always the case and on some days I am flat out terrible.  We all have those days when we can’t seem to do the things we normally can.  In basketball it is making a layup or hitting a three pointer or even just flat out catching the ball.  In life it could be answering a question in class, giving a presentation in front of your board members or discussing the latest findings within the company with your boss.  Everyone has those days where everything seems to be going wrong.  But we work hard so that those days do not happen often or when they do happen we know how to recover from them.

Since I was in fifth grade and played on my first organized basketball team up until now I have had to work extra hard to become the player I am; as well as, to overcome my height “advantage” and the stereotypes that come along with it.  I developed a three point shot (which this season has been off-point up to this stage in the game) and I have strived to be a diversified player that was known more for my skills then just being the “big” girl or the “tall” girl on the opposing team.

On January 4th, 2014 I hit my first milestone of 2014 and a major accomplishment in my collegiate basketball career and playing career in general.  I joined five other female players in RIT basketball history and many other college players who have come before me to score 1,000 career points in our game against Hamilton.  I was grateful that the day had finally come because there was a point two years prior that I did not know if basketball would continue to be in my future.

I hope that this team right now can extend our season past the 25 regular season games and advance to the Liberty League tournament and hopefully beyond to go to the NCAA tournament.  That is my goal for this group.  I am thankful that this milestone could happen with this team and this group of girls.  I am glad that my biggest support in my mom could be there and Brian was able to make the trip from Buffalo.  I am also grateful for my dad and Grandad to have been able to see it.  To see the looks on their faces when it had finally happened was like nothing else.  Hugging my mom after the game and seeing the tears in her eyes in a moment I will never forget.  The one thing that could have made it better was if my sister had been able to attend the game but she had her own game to compete in, the last before her season ending surgery this coming week.

My point for this post is not to talk about my accomplishments.  But more so to say, life is short.  Collegiate careers can end in the blink of an eye.  Injuries happen, seasons end, life can get in the way.  You are not meant to play competitively forever but remember when you are playing play because you love the game.  Not for the fame, the glory, the points or stats.  I play this game because I love the game.  I play the game for the sense of pride my family feels from my accomplishments.  I play for the girls that join me on the court every night.  It is about the moments that you are going to look back and remember for the rest of your life and the people who you meet along the way.  This team is a group of people I will never forget and not because they will be with me until my last game but because of who they are, what they bring to the table and the bond that we all share.

Cheering