career, digital

#helloorlando

What a crazy few months it’s been! Back in October, my husband, pup and I returned to Florida. I worked from home for Swarm Agency through January, but I’m now on a quest to find a new fit for me local to Orlando. I’ve dubbed it #helloorlando.

This job search has been ongoing for roughly a month. I’ve had a lot of luck this time around. So far, I’ve had in-person interviews with 5 potential employers, and have made it to advanced rounds with two of those. I would have made it to advanced rounds with three, but one had the dreaded hiring freeze put into place.

I’m also finding that my varied experience is getting me interviews for several types of positions, including technical account manager, marketing manager, digital project manager, business analyst and digital product manager positions. At the end of the day, all of these involve digital know-how and project management skills.

I’ve also had touch points with a lot of recruitment agencies here in Orlando. I’ve found the folks at Ciber, Theoris, TEKSystems and Conexess to be the most helpful and professional, although it’s looking like in the end, the job I land may be one where I was directly recruited or directly applied to the position. Funny  how things work out!

LinkedIn has been wonderful. I sprang for the JobSeeker Premium, which was free for the first month, and it’s been so helpful. I’ve also found that a lot of companies are using ZipRecruiter these days. I also like the Indeed job search engine, and have alerts set up with LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed. The “suggested jobs”emails I get are the funniest though. Pretty sure I would NOT make a good construction site project manager, ha.

My goal is to have this job search wound down and starting a new job by no later than March 21. Hopefully I can make that goal. Wish me luck!

Random

Sitting In My Empty House

Here I sit, in a house in Austell, Georgia, empty for all but a few belongings to get me through tomorrow afternoon, when I will depart for my and my husband’s new home in Clermont, Florida.

This past year — wow, it’s been quite the ride. I don’t think I have grown more as a professional than I have during the past year. I’ve had some major victories, made some big mistakes (and been forgiven for them), and I’ve done everything possible to perform at my best. I’ve learned so much about managing projects, holding clients and my team accountable, and I’ve learned a whole heap more about the marketing industry and about the industries of my agency’s clients.

And the best part… I’ve found my work family.

I can’t say enough about how much I will miss being in the office every day with my amazing team. They make every day fun, and we get through major challenges together on the reg. They understand my weird, random sense of humor — because they’re all a bit kooky in their own ways, too.

A few other things I’ll miss: Our huge backyard, and our massive garage to match. The house we’re renting in Florida leaves a little to be desired in the roominess department in both of those categories. Also, proximity to family and friends in Alabama. And the beautiful spring and fall weather. No thanks on the winter weather, though!

I’ll also miss the Southern accents, the Southern hospitality, and the regional allegiance to SEC football. Yes, the Gators may play in Florida, but let’s face it… Florida just isn’t Southern like the rest of the deep South.

A few things I won’t miss: The terrible Atlanta traffic… the seasonal allergies and yellow pollen coating cars each spring… and oh, did I mention the traffic?

I’m looking forward to putting down our roots in Florida, working toward buying a home, starting a family, and continuing down my path with my awesome employer. I can’t thank them enough for being willing to keep me on, and I’ll do my best to make sure they don’t regret it!

career

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”

This quote has been my mantra for several months now.

Let’s rewind back to what feels like a lifetime ago: August 2014, when, after just 10 weeks on the job as a contractor for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online, I was told my contract would end in two weeks due to budget shortfalls.

I was devastated. After losing my dad to a sudden illness in January 2014, I made the decision in May to leave my steady job and take the leap as a contractor with WDPRO, signing on to 1 year with the company. Working for Disney had always been my dream. And it was a great gig, with nice people, interesting projects, and an endless supply of Coca-Cola products.

The worst part about it was that my stint was cut so, so short. I had finished training and ramping up, and was really getting to know the brands, the projects and the people involved in my work.

So, I started looking. I was anxious to find something quickly, as I bring in about 2/3 of my family’s income, and we rely on my salary to pay our monthly expenses.

I first started looking in the Orlando area, and was happy to quickly begin talks with some local companies and agencies… only to see all of those opportunities fizzle out. I spoke with my former employer, who agreed to bring me on part-time, but couldn’t commit to full-time. I gratefully accepted and continue on with them to this day as a consultant.

So, after a couple of weeks, I expanded my job search net to include Tampa, Atlanta and Birmingham. And a few phone calls and Skype video chats later, I found myself seated at a conference room table with the leadership team of the Swarm Agency in the west Midtown area of Atlanta.

We clicked. I could tell it from the get-go that this was a great team of scrappy, genuine people with a sense of humor and a desire to grow and learn together. And shortly thereafter, I received an offer to join the Swarm team as a project manager.

Fraught with anxiety, I discussed the issue with my family. I made the decision to relocate to Atlanta and take the job, not knowing what sort of job my husband would find in Atlanta. And he went along with the relocation, though not happily. And I found out later on that my husband did not feel comfortable speaking up about his true feelings — that we belong in Florida — because of the loss of my dad. He did not want to stir up trouble in my time of grief.

But trouble we encountered, when my amazing Disney chef husband could not find anything up his alley as a mid-tier chef in Atlanta. And we were homesick for Florida, more so than I ever thought I would be, having grown up in the Atlanta area. My husband was right. We belong in Florida.

So after six months on the job in Atlanta, I made the decision to share with Swarm Agency leadership that we will relocate back to Orlando this fall, to allow my husband to return to his career as a chef at Walt Disney World.

And Swarm’s response? “We love you, you’re awesome, and we still want you to work with us.”

Wow.

So I can now proudly announce that as of October, I will work remotely for the Swarm Agency, traveling to Atlanta as necessary.

And I can say that more than ever, I am so happy that I made the decision to come to Atlanta. I am happy to have found a mutual match in an employer that values its employees as people, not commodities. And I am happy to continue on with Swarm, happily buzzing away from my home office.

Thank you, Swarm, for making my difficult road lead to a beautiful destination.

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See Ya, 2014! Looking Ahead

2014 will go down as one of the worst years of my life. No, make it THE worst. A few bright spots, for sure, but losing my dad in January, then losing a job in August, then moving out-of-state for a new job in October while dealing with said losses simultaneously…well, it all made the latter half of 2014 especially hard.

That said, 2014 was also a year of growth and renewal for me. Professionally, I learned SO MUCH. Maybe this is because I had 3 different jobs in 2014, or maybe it’s because I’m at a pivotal point in my career, or maybe it’s all of the above.

The other high point for me was rediscovering my body. I joined Weight Watchers the same week I lost my dad in January. In June, I tried hot Power Yoga classes for the first time. By August, I had lost 35 pounds. I’ve maintained that loss and aim to reach my goal in 2015.

Moving to Atlanta was unexpected for us, but we are enjoying being closer to family. I’m also really enjoying my job as project manager at the Swarm Agency. There is one missing puzzle piece, though, and that’s a full-time gig for my amazingly talented chef husband. He has had fun working on some gigs with a friend of his who owns a catering company in Alabama. He even worked a gig last week in the poker world. He previously worked the poker circuit as media in 2007-2008, so he had a lot of fun connecting with old friends and colleagues. But we’re still hoping to find the best fit for him here in Atlanta as a chef.

All that aside, here are my 2015 resolutions!

1) Reach goal weight with Weight Watchers. About 20-25 lbs. to go!

2) Become Scrum Master certified and work toward Project Management Professional certification … just so I can have an annoying email signature that says “Kristen Heptinstall, CSM, PMP.”

3) Take care of my mental health. Address my anxiety and my continued grief for my dad.

4) Continue knocking down debt and prepare to buy a home, most likely in summer 2017 (maybe sooner?) when we will have taken care of the majority of our debt and will have less obstacles in our way.

5) Live in the moment and see what’s around me. I feel as though 2014 was a murky haze. I wasn’t totally present. I was distracted and living in my emotions, my grief, and in my head. I’m vowing to turn 100% attention to what’s going on around me, listen to those I love, and make clear and rational decisions.

career

New Beginnings: Kristen is Up for Grabs

Back in June, I took on a new challenge: Account coordinator with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online (WDPRO). 

Here’s the rub: It’s a contract position that lives or dies by the funding available to our department. And unfortunately, the funding has dried up in this last stretch of the fiscal year, which ends Sept.30. 

My last day with WDPRO is August 22, and I’m looking for the next challenge. 

I don’t regret coming to Disney on contract for a second. After all, what’s the quote — “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I’ve ushered through complex digital projects involving copywriters, producers and developers. I’ve met some amazing, smart, and friendly people. And I’ve received all positive feedback from my leader and partners I work with.

So, now it’s time for the next move. 

I’m really digging deep this time, and trying to ignore my anxious thoughts about finances and possible unemployment. I really, truly want to find the best fit for me — a place where I can manage digital projects, act as account or product manager/owner, or work with internal or external stakeholders to come up with the best digital/social strategies and products.

As to where that will be, I don’t know. I’m looking here in Orlando, of course, mostly concentrating on digital agencies and the tourism industry. I’m also considering remote work, with a couple promising options. And I’m considering cobbling together a couple great gigs into a consulting business for myself.

On top of those types of opportunities, I’m exploring other cities. It’s no secret that my husband and I miss Alabama, and we’d actually like to be able to go to a Tide game every fall. We would love to find an opportunity in Birmingham or Huntsville that would be a fit for me, but in all actuality, there is more up my alley in Nashville or my hometown of Atlanta. 

Wish me luck, and feel free to send any leads my way.

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Enjoying the Journey

 “The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.” -Marjorie Pay Hinckley

It’s hard to put into words what a journey these past few months have been.

I continue to see little things that remind me of Dad everywhere I go. I feel him when I eat his favorite foods, experience a weather event, hear his favorite songs, or pass along a joke or piece of advice he imparted to me. I like to talk about him, because I want to remember and pass along everything that was so inherently good about my Dad.

My dad was not only an excellent dad, but a wonderful husband, grandad, friend and just a great person. He was our rock, and I believe strongly that he is watching over our family and conspiring with God to make life as great as it can be for us without him here.

Case in point #1: My weight loss journey with Weight Watchers. I don’t believe I would have had the courage to begin and the faith to continue on in my goal of reaching a healthy weight. I’m down 26 pounds in 5 months, with 30 pounds more to go to reach my healthy weight range. 

Case in point #2: My recent career wins. A couple months ago, weary of my 48-mile commute to my former job, I reignited my career search. A few interviews later, I was offered a contract position with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online. It’s no secret to those who know me that working for Disney has been on my bucket list for years. I feel infinitely blessed, and can’t wait to see where this takes me.

Despite all these positive moves in my life, I am hurting. I am grieving. There are times when it hits me like a truck how much I miss my dad and just wish I could speak to him one last time. He was taken from us too soon, and all I can think of is that God needed Dad. God needed him for a higher purpose that I just can’t understand. But I am going to do my best at working through the grieving process in a positive way, so that I can learn and grow from it while staying connected to Dad.

Going forward, I am going to do my best to see my progress as Glass Half Full. If I had known a year ago that today I would be 26 pounds lighter with a position at Disney, I would have been over the moon excited. So I’m just going to let myself be over the moon excited… while keeping my eyes on the ball. 

family

The Weight of Knowing

Dad in November 2003

I’m on a journey. It’s a journey of Life After Dad.

I’m also on a weight-loss journey. I joined Weight Watchers in late January, around the time of Dad’s passing, and went to my first meeting in mid-February. I’ve lost a total of 13.2 lbs. since joining, and have recorded 6.2 lbs. of weight loss since my first meeting.

Along with my job and my volunteer work, the Weight Watchers gives me something to focus on, something to accomplish in the wake of losing my dad.

But sometimes the weight of knowing that Dad is gone literally takes my breath away. I’ll just be going about my day, trying to accomplish whatever … and it hits me. And I crumple. The other day, it happened as I was riding in the car. My husband was driving, and while I didn’t explain what happened *out loud* to him, he knew, and he comforted me.

Grief is a journey. I wish it was something I could just get through, but it’s not. My life is indelibly changed. And I’m simply having to learn to live with the weight of knowing.