Monday, February 27, 2012

Musings for the Future

I'm still buried in thesis edits, though I'm getting close to the end.  (For now anyway.)  I took a break one afternoon last week to go to a panel discussion for women in engineering about how to get ahead professionally.

I've been thinking a lot lately about where I want to go with my career.  I have a variety of options.  I'll be working for a very large engineering firm when I gradate in May.  If I stay there for my whole career, it's likely that I will do engineering calculations 95% of the time for my whole career.  There's a chance of moving up higher in the company and doing something more general like project management or something more corporation oriented with a high level executive position, but I don't know how likely that would be.  I could stay there long enough to get a couple of licenses and switch over to a smaller firm where I could have a leadership role but still perform the engineering work that has gotten me into the field.  I could ultimately decide to start my own firm by myself or with a colleague or two.  If I decide I miss academia, I could go back and get a PhD so I can teach and/or do research.  At various times, all of these sound quite appealing.

There were two big ideas that I took away from the panel discussion today.  One was to keep all avenues open, because you never know which way you will decide to take your career later on.  If you pigeon-hole yourself too early you may find it very difficult to change course later.  The other idea was that your relationships matter.  I've known that for a while, but getting specific suggestions for how to get involved with the right professional organizations, how to build meaningful relationships, and how to find mentors was extremely helpful.  Since I'll be moving to a brand new area when I graduate, the professional and academic contacts I have here won't be as relevant and certainly won't be as accessible as I will want.  I need to start thinking now about how to go about making those contacts inside and outside of the company I'll be working for without the framework provided by my university.  I'm thinking I should start looking into those professional organizations now, and also finding members of my alumni association in my future home, so that I can be as prepared as possible for this transition.

There's something about hearing successful people talk and give advice that makes me feel like I can do anything if I just make the right choices along the way.  Right now I feel like the world is mine for the taking, if I can just get myself through graduation.  My posting is likely to remain sporadic until then.  I have priorities, and blogging comes after both school and career.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Drowning in a Sea of Thesis Edits

I apologize again for the lack of updates lately.  Trying to get edits done to my thesis, which is taking up all of my ability to form coherent sentences.  I'm hopeful that I'll be back to normal in a week or two.  In the meantime, check out the Yakezie blogs posted on my left side bar.  They're awesome. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Plusses and Minuses of Graduating

I've been in college for seven years.  That means, including kindergarten, I'll have had 20 consecutive years of school when I graduate this spring.  That's a long time.  Finally finishing up and moving out into the real world means a huge amount of change for me, and I've been thinking about that a lot lately.  For the most part, I'm incredibly excited and wish the semester would just hurry up and finish.  Here are my lists of my pros and cons of graduating:

Plusses of Graduating:
  • Having a real income.  I've had tastes of this on an off for years now, but I've always had to save the majority of what I made for the times when I was working at all or wasn't earning as much.  I had to make sure that tuition and living expenses were taken care of during those times.
  • No more homework.  I'll be honest.  I don't do much of my homework on evenings and weekends.  I'm generally so exhausted when I get home that I just cook some pasta for dinner and veg out.  On the weekends I'm busy with other things.  That doesn't change the fact that I'm supposed to be doing homework then.  Even if I know I have enough time to get it done any way, I feel guilty about not doing homework or studying because I really should be.  So not having homework doesn't necessarily free up a ton of time (though there are definitely weekends when I have to lock myself in the computer lab), but it will relieve a lot of stress and time pressure.
  • Paid vacations and sick time.  I never feel comfortable scheduling weekend trips or longer ones during the summer because I never know in advance what my schedule will be like.  Will I have a big test I need to be studying for?  Is that group project going to be do the following Monday?  Will I be interning somewhere and unable to get away?  Being able to take time off without that stress and guilt will be nice.
Minuses of Graduating:
  • No more reset buttons.  I love that I get a fresh start every four months with a new schedule, new classes, and new professors.  When things get frustrating I know that there's a limit to how long I'll have to deal with that particular issue.  I will definitely miss that.
  • Moving.  Since I already have a job lined up in another state, I know I'll be moving when I graduate.  It will be hard for me to leave all of my friends here.  I kind of hate meeting new people.  Knowing that I've already met most of my coworkers and get along with them helps some, but everything else will still be so new. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend Update

Things are still crazy trying to get into a new routine.  I think I got all of my exercise in last week, which is definitely a plus.  I also got that last bag of Good Will items out the door, so I was finally able to get my Declutter Challenge tracker updated.  Now that that's updated, I can see that I'm a little bit behind schedule.  To average one item a day, I should be up to 43 by now.

Thanks to:
Money for College Project for including me in their weekly roundup! I think the idea of posting a different scholarship every day is a great idea.  Where was that when I was still looking to apply?

Some favorites from this week:
Broke Professionals asks us to think about the definition of broke.
Fiscal Phoenix takes us through the ins and outs of mutual funds.
Mighty Bargain Hunter discusses the possible repercussions of the tax deduction for mortgage interest going away.
Money for College Project wonders whether the game Second Life can teach our children personal finance.
Stock Trend Investing Guide recounts a recent conference visit and what he learned about acting like a real entrepreneur with your personal finances.
Jeff at Sustainable Life Blog describes the reasoning behind his new challenge for himself: the meat challenge.
Watson Inc. provides us with four ways to reshape your views regarding money.
Money Cactus asks a simple question: what motivates you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Can Small Business Owners Ignore Business Etiquette?

As I've mentioned before, I'm in the process of planning my wedding and many of the wedding vendors do not have office spaces of their own.  Instead, they offer to meet at coffee shops or cafes where we can discuss wedding plans and contracts at our leisure.  After meeting with five different photographers at five different eating establishes in the past two weeks, I noticed another interesting trend.  Not everyone ordered something while we were there.

I'm fairly tight fisted, and I almost never go places like Starbucks for coffee.  It's just not where I want to be spending my money.  On the other hand, my fiance and I both feel pretty strongly that if you are going to go into a coffee shop and take up seating, you need to be a paying customer.  That goes doubly if you are also going to be making use of their wi-fi.  If you're using their place of business as your place of business, it goes triple.  I found it kind of shocking the first time we met with a photographer who didn't buy anything, but they weren't the first, and there was an interesting correlation between whether they bought food and how well we liked them as photographers:
  1. The first photographer had bought a pastry and juice.  His photography was amazing and we loved his personality.  He was staying at the cafe after our meeting to meet with other clients, and mentioned needing to buy something else to feel comfortable staying.
  2. The second photographer did not buy anything.  He also showed up late, had mediocre photos, and didn't give a very good sales pitch.
  3. Our third meeting was with a team of two photographers.  Neither ordered anything.  We liked their personalities and thought the working relationship would be good, but their photography was only so-so and they used some weird post processing styles that we didn't particularly like.
  4. At the fourth meeting the photographer didn't buy any food for herself, but had brought her teenaged daughter and bought food for her.  Her photography was good, but not excellent, and we thought she would be good to work with.  
  5. The fifth photographer did buy coffee.  His photography was really good, and he had an excellent personality.  
I don't think that whether they bought food determined their skill (or vice versa), but I do think it says something about how they approach business and give some insight into their working relationships.  It's possible that some of them saw that we had already bought coffee and decided that the table was covered by that, but that still seems wrong to me. 

What do you think?  Do you feel obligated to buy something if you take up a seat in a cafe and use their internet?  If you met someone in a cafe to discuss a potential business relationship, would your decision be impacted by whether or not they purchased something?  Are my fiance and I crazy for even noticing?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Blog Roundup 2/5/12

Here are some of my favorite posts from around the web this week, courtesy of my new Yakezie team.  (Notice the new links in my sidebar.)

The Sustainable Life Blog had a guest post this week about the Newest Status Symbol.  Much better than a pair of Air Jordans!

Broke Professionals discusses Maximizing Salaries and Raises with a creative twist on increasing your income.

Money for College Project tells us about his Shocking Email from Amazon About Sales Tax, and reminds us that we all need to pay.

Watson Inc lists 3 Myths Regarding the Great Idea, which all of us should keep in mind.

Money Cactus has some great advice about How to Have Anything You Want With No Regrets.

Mighty Bargain Hunter posts about How to Save Money on Gifts for your Spouse.

Stock Trend Investing gives his Top 7 of How Not to Do the Stock Market.

Fiscal Pheonix describes How to Open and Invest in a Roth IRA, which I finally did last year.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

January Goals Update

I set up some quarterly goals for myself, and I thought I'd post an update about my progress so far:

Work enough to avoid needing student loans.  I secured a job this month that should be more than sufficient to cover my living expenses.  The work is a little bit tedious and frustrating, but overall it's much more interesting than I was expecting and I'm learning a lot.  While this isn't a job that I would want permanently, it's definitely helping me get a feel for types of problems I've never seen before and I think it will serve me well in the long run.

Sit down with my fiance and discuss our finances.  We haven't done this yet because we've been in full speed wedding planning mode.  We have all of February and March left to do it, though.  Actually, I think it would be ideal to discuss it when we do our taxes, because we'll already be looking a lot of the numbers we'll want for that discussion.  The biggest thing, though, is to figure out what our long term goals are.

Work out three times a week.  Fail.  Like, horribly fail.  Between my new job and school I'm now sitting at a computer for 8-12 hours a day, and it's starting to cause back pain.  To recap my weeks:
  • Jan 1-7: 0 workouts.  I was sick, though, and I don't think running is good medicine for vomiting.  I don't count this week as a failure because not exercising was the most healthy option.
  • Jan 8-14: 3 workouts.  Pass!
  • Jan 9-21: 0 workouts.  No excuses.  I need to find a way to work exercise into my schedule.
  • Jan 22-28: 1 workout.  Better, but not good.
  • Jan 29-Feb 4: ??  I got out three times this week to walk for about half an hour.  I was mainly doing it to help my back (it's amazing how much it helps to move just a little), and it wasn't really enough to count as exercise.  
I'm definitely having trouble juggling the new job, school, research, wedding planning, and blogging.  I'm really hoping to spend this weekend getting caught up on everything, and write myself a more explicit schedule.  That tends to help.

Get my butt in gear and plan my wedding.  Totally doing this!
  • Bridesmaids Dresses  I took most of my girls out shopping and found something that actually worked on all of them.  As long the out of town bridesmaid tries on the dress and doesn't hate it I think that's settled. 
  • Lots of meetings.  We've started meeting with other vendors that will be a part of our wedding, and we're making progress with that.  I'm getting better about responding for emails in a reasonable fashion.  (I tend to want to wait and talk to my fiance about emails in person before responding to anything but we don't see much of each other so it can take weeks when I do that.)
I just need to keep this up for a couple more months and we'll have everything planned!

Increase the frequency of my posting.  Ugh.  I was doing pretty well for the first two weeks and then things kind of collapsed.  I need to refocus and reapply myself.  Four posts a week.  I can do it!

Decrease my Alexa rating below 200,000.  In January I went from about 538,000 to about 345,000.  And then I changed my domain and I'm starting over.  I'm actually still tracking for the blogspot domain as well, just to see what happens.  As of today I'm at about 321,000 for my blogspot domain, and my rating has gone from about 21,000,000 on Thursday and Friday to about 12,000,000 today.  It should drop faster than the other one did, because I already have traffic coming in here, but I'll need to work extra hard to get it down to 200,000 before my deadline.  I'd been planning to switch my domain at the beginning of January for just that reason, but the domain was a gift and there was some delay in getting the necessary login information.  I'm confident that I'm on track to meet this goal, though.

Declutter Challenge.  I haven't done any decluttering in the past couple of weeks, and I still have that last bag of stuff to go to Good Will.  I'll try to take that when I'm out running errands today, because then I can update my status bar.  (Nothing counts until it leaves the apartment, and I didn't count how many items were in each bag before I took the others away.)  I know I have more to get rid of, and actually ran some stuff through the wash specifically so I could donate them, but then I got behind and just put them away with the regular laundry.  Oops.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Domain

My blog is now located at not  Everything should still work fine if you type in the blogspot URL or click a link with it, but if you have anything bookmarked you may want to update it.  Also, if you notice any problems with broken links or anything redirecting improperly, please let me know.