Student Adventures Around The World

Quia, PLANO

Quia
Map of Texas

Quia, who graduated from SMU in May 2004, is a marketing communications writer for a software company based in Plano, Texas. A New York native and Dallas resident since 1994, she majored in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, and minored in print journalism.

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Feb. 12, 2007

First Time Homeowner
Last week I officially became a homeowner and committed myself to 30 years of oppressive debt (in addition to the great big student loans that I have). After I signed the paperwork and drove back to work with the manila folder rattling around the "trunk" of my Rodeo I started to feel strange. I panicked and called my former office mate and screamed and ranted to her about what I've done and exactly how I feel about the pressure of not being able to call the super if something breaks. By the time I got back to my job parking lot I felt sick. It was a hollowing dizziness that dulled all the sounds around me and made me feel like I was going to vomit.... I pretty much felt the same way when I was 20 and I brought my daughter home for the first time (those 5 days in the hospital didn't count--she was officially mine once we got in the car).

My friends congratulated me and assured me that the feeling would pass and I'd feel happy. But it took a while. It was panic, anger, nausea, listlessness, euphoria, fear, and denial (I didn't look at my closing documents again after I signed them). It was exactly one week after this that I was moved into the house. (Yes, I'm still making the psychological shift from it being "the house" to it being "my house.") I still feel like I'm house-sitting for the previous owners who left it a freezing, dusty, wreck. I've since had cleaning ladies, the carpet cleaner and the air duct cleaner guy out here to sanitize this situation. It's very attractive and livable. As a matter of fact, my furniture looks very nice in here. And I've got Verizon FiOS.... My internet is wireless and faster than ever, baby!

First Night in the House
My first night in the house was hard, though. I barely slept, and then a friend of mine sent me a text message at 3 a.m. asking if I was going to meet him at an after hours club. *hmmmm, no.* I guess being startled by the phone triggered enough stress to cause an anxiety attack. I hyper-ventilated; I sat up in my cranberry red, Egyptian cotton sheets and started crying. I wiped my face quickly, as if someone would see me acting like an idiot, not being happy about my good fortune. My feelings didn't make sense to me at all so I just got out of bed and started arranging my walk-in closet at four in the morning. I breathed slowly and in about 30 minutes the anxiety passed. I still felt awkward, like I wasn't supposed to be there, though. I don't have any remorse about ditching my apartment--I mean, people were getting robbed and assaulted over there! But I guess underneath my controlling exterior the stress of everything was really getting to me and just bubbled over :-\

I'm fine now. I've had the locks re-keyed and even programmed a new remote and parked in my garage for the first time tonight.

Dec. 20, 2006

To say that things have been busy is such an understatement. I really wish I had a twin to go to work for me every day so I could handle the freelancing, kid activities and house shopping.

Weekend in Atlanta
Picking up where I left off, here are my photos from Atlanta. The funniest thing about that is I spent that whole weekend with friends of my former office-mate. I didn’t go to college with any of them. They are all from Florida A&M University and we went for the Atlanta Classic (FAMU vs. Tennessee State University). Much fun was had and I even came home with a 2-disc soundtrack to the weekend.

Cruising
Two weeks after I got back, Mom, me, and the kids packed up and said bon voyage to Galveston on our Carnival Cruise. The first night was really choppy and everyone staggered around the boat like a bunch of drunks. My mom and daughter started feeling seasick but my son and I thought it was absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t get over the global diversity of the staff. It was like being in Disney World. We met people from everywhere—Jamaica, the Philippines, Peru, Thailand. It was so interesting to hear about their backgrounds and how they started working for Carnival. We docked in Progresso, Mexico where my mother and I took a guided tour to Merida. The kids stayed on the boat at camp. It was far outside of the tourist district so we got an authentic taste of life in the Yucatan. Our second port was in Cozumel. My son wanted to stay at camp so my daughter accompanied me and mom on our shopping expeditions. By the fifth day, I was ready to go home, but my daughter was already planning our next cruise with my mom. They were talking about Hawaii.

We're Having a Party
November marked my daughter’s 8th birthday. Since my son’s birthday is only three weeks after hers, I’ve always thrown them joint parties. The original plan was to have a bounce house in my mom’s back yard, but I didn’t think the weather would hold up so I whipped up a last-minute skate party. I’m very proud of my son. He doesn’t like to skate, but he kept his skates on for the duration of the party—even though he stayed in front of the video games. It was the same day as SMU Homecoming, so we missed the parade. We hadn’t missed homecoming activities since 2001. My fellow Mustang, Rhonda Nicole took photos and sent them to me from the Boulevard. I was crushed when I found out I missed out on the vintage furs that were for sale outside of Meadows!

Last-Minute Rush
This brings us to December. It’s the end of the quarter again at Fort Knox and I’m going back over my project list to make sure I’ve completed my goals so I can get my fourth-quarter bonus :o) It never ceases to amaze me how projects rain from the sky in the last few weeks of the quarter. Just when I was beginning to feel bored with the making banner ads and e-mail templates, I was called to be a project manager for a hilarious “corporate movie” to be premiered at our global sales kick off. And it needs to be “in the can” before Jan 5. Talk about pressure… I love it! As if playing point man on this high-profile project weren’t enough, I’m buying my house.

House Hunting
THAT’S RIGHT! I didn’t plan on buying until the end of January, but as I was browsing Ebby.com I spotted a house in Plano that I just had to visit. My realtor was unavailable that Saturday so I went by on my own and peeked through the windows. The neighborhood was great and the house was built in 2001. It’s younger than my son. The next day he took me for a walk through and I was sold. We turned in our offer the following Monday and the seller accepted. Now we’re down to the inspections. If everything goes well, we’ll be closing on Jan. 25. How’s THAT for kicking off the new year!

September 27, 2006

Crunch time
I hadn’t had much time to blog here since starting a correspondence course in addition to my already hectic schedule. I figured a few internet-based classes to help me sharpen my skills in marketing communications would be to my advantage. Well, eight weeks goes by really fast when you have readings, essays, PowerPoint presentations and required online forum discussions in which to participate. Whoever thinks that taking an internet class is the easy way out is gravely mistaken. I expect to spend the weekend at Fondren Library researching and writing papers—one today and one tomorrow. Since I graduated more than two years ago I wondered how much access I’d have to the library. I thought I’d be forced to use the main branch of the Dallas Public Library, which by itself isn’t bad at all. However, on the weekend a lot of homeless people tend to congregate on Young Street (where it’s located) and I don’t want my children to be alarmed by them since they’ll be with me. Besides, the main library is several stories tall and I’m completely unfamiliar with the landscape. After some digging on the SMU libraries home page, I discovered that all of the SMU libraries are open to the public (I thought so but I wasn’t certain) and alumni are allowed to check out books *excellent!*.

At Fort Knox it’s the end of the quarter and everyone is scrambling to complete their goals (which are tied to our bonuses) before September 29, and prepare for the launch of our new marketing communications initiative. It’s a global initiative that will affect corporate and channel marketing, advertising campaigns, and branding. Right now we’re waiting on the official style guide so we can update our creative agencies and start implementing the new look and feel into the materials. I’ve been tasked with creating new templates for several different internal emails the company uses. I’ve been going a mile a minute: working as creative consultant on our rewards team’s website re-design, creating email templates and landing pages for a few different product campaigns, designing banner packages for our marketing assistance kits, and pulling together a case study with a PowerPoint presentation about the company’s internal use of its security products (we’re our own success story). Downtime hasn’t been in my vocabulary for more than three weeks.

At home I’m preparing for a much-anticipated 3-day weekend in Atlanta for a friend’s birthday. I’m headed out there on the 29th and I’ll be back on October 1. This will take the place of that Super Bowl trip to Detroit I planned last year but never took. There are more than 20 of us coming in from out of town for the party weekend and we’re staying at one of Atlanta’s hottest, new hotels, Twelve Hotels at Atlantic Station. The birthday girl has been sending out emails every few days giving out the weekend itinerary and getting everyone excited about everything. I can’t wait. It’s my first trip to Atlanta and I bought three new outfits and a new digital camera for the occasion. My mother will keep the children for me.

And speaking of the children, my mother and I will be taking them on their first cruise on October 16. *Yes, vacations back-to-back for me!* We’re spending five days on a Western Caribbean Carnival cruise , with a stop in Cozumel and one in Progreso, Yucatan. They are extremely excited about it and sing the song in the commercial whenever they see a Carnival cruise on TV. They know it’ll be plenty of fun in the sun, but they don’t know that I’ve been in contact with their teachers and will be bringing their lessons along with us (HA HAH).

In other news, I think this book project I was working on has been put on hiatus (at least my part). I haven’t heard from the author in quite a while. Lastly, it’s almost the countdown to home shopping. By the end of the year, I expect to have a few thousand dollars saved and my realtor cousin will take me to start looking for houses in January. I expect to really start the process with pre-qualification near the end of January. I want to time everything right so that I move into the house right when my lease is up on March 31.

I know that was a lot, but that’s what’s been going on with me!

August 23, 2006

Well, I'm finally back in the office and I'm loving it. Even though the convenience of working from home is attractive, I think I'm one of those people that psychologically has to be at work to work. I got things done last week, but it was too loud in the house to focus on any corporate communication. Now it's piled up and I've got a stack of sales victories to write. While working from home I corresponded with a creative agency and a brand manager to compose a whitepaper (def.: An informational document issued by companies trying to promote or highlight the significance of a planned product or service. – dictionary.com  <http://dictionary.com/> ) for an upcoming product launch.

Things went fine while trying to orchestrate the visual elements, but my lack of experience (and familiarity with whitepapers) skewed the editorial process. I was caught between what the agency wrote, my boss's expectations and the product manager's input. I finally had to bring my boss into the picture to shed light on what the tone was supposed to be, and just how much product information to include. I expect to see a next-to-final draft today. I hope everything has turned out right.

That's something else I've learned… working with an agency is NEVER easy. Oftentimes I can empathize since I used to do contract design work and clients were never good about conveying their mental images. But now that I'm the client I understand the frustration of thinking you explained something clearly, only to have deliverables come back looking nothing like what you expected. Outsourcing is time-consuming and expensive, and I secretly think that's why everyone is so nice to me here (JUST KIDDING). I represent less outsourcing and quick turnaround.

Now I'm working on a campaign for the company's rewards program. In a 4 p.m. brainstorming meeting, I pitched an idea that will likely be the big Q4 promotion. I hope that goes over because that will be a big gold star for me. As for the current project, I've got to devise some cool-looking banners for the Mini Cooper that has been added to the rewards catalog. They've also given me creative license to work with their agency to revamp the rewards website. There are corporate style guidelines we have to follow, but I've got the idea they want to push the envelope a little… if it gets rejected then we'll scale back, but the plan is to make an extravagant start.

* * * * * * * * *

In other news, my son started kindergarten this week and my daughter started 2nd grade. There's a photo in the Flickr gallery. I did well and didn't cry, but I did walk them inside and gave them big kisses and hugs before they got into the breakfast line. It makes my head spin how fast they're growing up. When I have these pauses and realize that, it motivates even more to give them a memorable childhood. I like to think I'm doing well so far. They've scored some pretty good vacations: Cozumel, Mexico, Walt Disney World, New York City (twice), and in October we're going on a 5-day Carnival cruise. They're really excited about that one. My daughter already decided which outfits and swimsuits she's bringing with her.

The next frontier is the house, and I often sit down with them and the IKEA catalog so they can tell me what they want their rooms to look like. I need moments like that with them. Of course it's a chance for us to bond as a family, but personally it reminds me why I'm working so hard.

August 8, 2006

I'm working from home this week. (Sarcasm Alert) For some reason, day camps and schools have conspired against working parents and created a one week gap between when typical camps end and when school begins. (Okay, I'm done being sarcastic). Fortunately, they don't really have a warm-body complex at Fort Knox. As long as your team is able to reach you, and the work is getting done, they're good about letting people work remotely. Now I just need to fight the urge to eat everything in the house. I'm convinced that if I worked from home on a regular basis, I'd have to have PE as part of my curriculum. The food calls to me just because I'm here to eat it.

Book news: I've started writing and submitted a few pages to the primary author to get his opinion on the tone. It's difficult to match schedules with him since the both of us are continually busy. I expect to hear something back soon so I can proceed.

Home news: For the most part I've targeted Plano and Richardson school districts to search for real estate. I'm still learning which zip codes fall in the RISD; it covers a lot of ground. I could live in certain parts of Dallas and Garland and still send my children to Richardson schools. Since I'm a single-income household, it makes my home shopping difficult. I'm making peace with the notion of buying a "starter house," but I'd much rather be shopping those $250,000 contemporary homes in Lake Highlands. But then again, who wouldn't, right? For the sake of being practical, I looked at a new construction community in Frisco— far Frisco. Just outside of Prosper, Fox & Jacobs has a community with homes starting at $135k. The homes were nice enough, but I couldn't fathom living so far outside of central Dallas. I'm a New Yorker and I don't like to live too far away from the action and entertainment. There were longhorns on the property. Cows, people! I'll take nightlife over livestock any day.

The Big Picture: Despite being the type that bores easily and craves constant change, I understand that I've got a good thing going at Fort Knox. For the betterment of my career, I've resolved to stay there for about four years. During that time, I'll expand my skill set, finish my master's degree, and raise my salary index. When it's time to bid farewell to that gig, I'll shoot for a management position in media relations (or communications) and stay in that position for 3-4 years. By that time, my daughter will be in high school. *sheesh* That's an overwhelming thought—but she's going to be 8 this year. It's going by quickly. We'll do what we can to work on scholarships, academic and otherwise, but as a contingency plan I want to end up working on the SMU campus. Hopefully in about eight years I'll have a leadership role in University external relations or handling marketing communications for Meadows. I'll have the education and years of experience to offer the SMU community and receive tuition benefits for my children. It's a win-win.

July 28, 2006

Well I'm finally settling into my role here at Fort Knox. Today my team got together and took me to California Pizza Kitchen for my welcome lunch. Even though I've been working and interacting with them since last Monday, it was a good opportunity to get to know them all. I'm part of a pretty lively group and everyone is full of personality. Lunchtime convo ran the gamut from global warming to the ingredients in dietary supplements to letting your kid dye his hair purple if he wants to.

I joked that I must write a pretty mean resume to come from updating websites to designing small ad campaigns. Oh yes, you read that right. A last minute promotion came about and there wasn't enough time to consult with our agency on creative elements, so I'm doing them. Granted, I'm working from templates, but I have a good degree of latitude when it comes to messaging and copy. I'm also choosing stock photography for upcoming projects.

Along with those duties, I've been working on executive communication and consulting with another team to work on their email templates. Not far down the road I'll be working with a third-party marketing agency, playing editor on a book that compliments one of our products, and sending out two large-scale e-mail campaigns to our affiliates. Next week I'm headed to Santa Clara, Calif. to meet the other half of my team. I'm bringing my camera since I've never been to California before.

As I've told my friends, the tone is different here, but it's still interesting nonetheless. On the outside, working in technology for the next two years (I promised myself I'd stay here for two years at the very least) seemed boring. But to my surprise our clients are extremely interesting and the projects I work on keep me engaged. I'm constantly developing skills that will make me a competitor in the marketing/PR industry and I'm happy about that.

I told my mother yesterday, I remember it wasn't long ago that I was looking at these kinds of jobs in the newspaper and couldn't have them because I didn't have a degree. At the time I worked in a call center and barely made enough money to feed myself and my daughter. I knew I didn't just want another job, I wanted a career. That's when I got off of my butt and enrolled at SMU. Yes, it's very corny and cliché but it's true. Only two years out of undergrad I managed to land the kind of job that I daydreamed about.

July 26, 2006: Quality of Life

Most people look forward to Fridays anyway, but here at Fort Knox I have even more reason to be excited. They have what I like to call "Free Breakfast Friday." Yummy bagels, fruit, donuts, kolaches, and mini-muffins offer a good incentive to get to work before 8:30am. If you don't you'll be stuck with crumbs and all the stuff nobody likes.

As usual, I've been kept incredibly busy around here, but my time off is my own. Still, I expect that to become busier as well. I was recently contacted by a former colleague who is writing a book. I can't give up the topic (sheesh, I feel like a spy at this point… so many secrets). Anyway, it's catering to a Gen X audience, so he's looking to me to help write it. We used to work together at Reach Media, Inc. (BAW) and he always liked the material I wrote. When I wrote correspondence on behalf of Tom [Joyner], my colleague felt that I captured his voice well, and he believes that I can do the same with him. He sent me some outlines, and now that I've got my freelance assignments turned in, it's time to get busy.

With the new demand on my schedule I've had to scale back my freelance work. I came dangerously close to becoming a love & dating contributor for Askmen.com, but I didn't feel like the price was right since they'd retain the rights to the work. Also, I've pretty much let the Y:L Magazine site run itself (on RSS feeds and contributors). Finally, I told my editor at WHERE Dallas that I am only able to commit to one article per month — I used to write two. By itself it doesn't seem like a lot of work, but when you have to do interviews, site checks, and gather press materials, it can get to be overwhelming. But, I've written for them since my senior year at SMU and I'm not ready to sever the relationship. I'll continue to write the "Here & Now: Shopping" section… and now a book.

How exciting!

July 11, 2006: A Battle of wits

When I interviewed for this position I had quiet doubts in the back of my mind suggesting that perhaps Fort Knox wasn't where I wanted to be since I wouldn't be working in media anymore. I'm very good at denial, and I pretended those doubts weren't there. However, it didn't take very long for me to start feeling moody about the situation and wonder if I'd made a mistake.

Was a fantastic starting salary, bonuses, and benefits enough to keep me motivated to write tirelessly about security? Why would it not be. It's not like that's all I am responsible for. True enough security is what Fort Knox is about and everything I touch will be related to that common theme, but so far I've worked on an internal ad campaign, designed a new direct mail template reps will share with clients, written several pieces of corporate communication that were deployed globally, and put together a mini-site to help our telemarketers in the Philippines. I don't have a boring job.

As I type, I'm sure my boss is cooking up some kind of campaign or initiative for me to design and implement, and thank heavens for that. Perhaps I'll be so busy building a portfolio that I won't notice I'm addressing a topic I never thought about until I started working here.

I felt restless yesterday and daydreamed about working for Universal Music. However, I know enough about the industry to understand that the job I'd want at a label goes to the person who starts out as an unpaid intern in their sophomore year, and then only lands a paying position after graduation. I already knew technology wasn't as glamorous as media… That is, unless you're working for Danger right now, who is in the midst of launching the Sidekick 3, which I want very badly.

I woke up today feeling better about my job choice. It's the right move for where I want to be. Whenever I choose to leave here (better yet, if I get recruited, ha hah) I'll have an arsenal of skills that I wouldn't have otherwise had. A part of me hopes that the media industry will still have a place for me then.

On a final note, look for me in this quarter's SMU Magazine. I was interviewed as part of a feature on former DC editors.

June 28, 2006

The view from Fort Knox
Well, I'm finally settling into my role here at Fort Knox. Today my team got together and took me to California Pizza Kitchen for my welcome lunch. Even though I've been working and interacting with them since last Monday, it was a good opportunity to get to know them all. I'm part of a pretty lively group and everyone is full of personality. Lunchtime convo ran the gamut from global warming to the ingredients in dietary supplements to letting your kid dye his hair purple if he wants to.

I joked that I must write a pretty mean résumé to come from updating websites to designing small ad campaigns. Oh yes, you read that right. A last-minute promotion came about and there wasn't enough time to consult with our agency on creative elements, so I'm doing them. Granted, I'm working from templates, but I have a good degree of latitude when it comes to messaging and copy. I'm also choosing stock photography for upcoming projects.

New projects, new perspectives
Along with those duties, I've been working on executive communication and consulting with another team to work on their e-mail templates. Not far down the road I'll be working with a third-party marketing agency, playing editor on a book that complements one of our products, and sending out two large-scale e-mail campaigns to our affiliates. Next week I'm headed to Santa Clara, California, to meet the other half of my team. I'm bringing my camera since I've never been to California before.

As I've told my friends, the tone is different here, but it's still interesting nonetheless. On the outside, working in technology for the next two years (I promised myself I'd stay here for two years at the very least) seemed boring. But to my surprise our clients are extremely interesting and the projects I work on keep me engaged. I'm constantly developing skills that will make me a competitor in the marketing/PR industry and I'm happy about that.

I told my mother yesterday, I remember it wasn't long ago that I was looking at these kinds of jobs in the newspaper and couldn't have them because I didn't have a degree. At the time I worked in a call center and barely made enough money to feed myself and my daughter. I knew I didn't just want another job, I wanted a career. That's when I got off my butt and enrolled at SMU. Yes, it's very corny and cliché but it's true. Only two years out of undergrad I managed to land the kind of job that I daydreamed about.

June 21, 2006

Big girl business
It's been two years since my commencement at SMU. Within that time I've turned an editorial internship with WHERE Dallas into a regular freelance gig, landed a job as marketing specialist for a website that's one of the top news/entertainment sources for the African American community, moved out of my mom's game room, written for the Dallas Observer, launched an independent teen magazine, Y:L Magazine, and appeared on the front page of the Sunday Dallas Morning News early edition (Nov. 6, 2005). Not to mention, I'm a single mom raising two children—ages 5 and 7. Needless to say I've been busy.

I spent 20 months working at BlackAmericaWeb.com (BAW) and the environment felt like a non-stop party, but I needed something more. There weren't any life projects to work on, no short-term goals. That's when I made the decision to buy a house at the end of this year. Eagerly researching first-time homebuyer programs and real estate listings, I noticed I couldn't afford the kind of house I wanted on my current income. *DING* Project number two: climb the salary ladder.

I scoured career sites for weeks with no luck. Just when I decided to give up the job search and settle for a modest home I got a call from a recruiter who'd found my resume on Monster.com. A very large software company in Plano set their sights on me to be their new marketing communications writer. I didn't know what to make of the situation since I'd never been recruited before. It is such a different ballgame when the employer is already interested. After a whirlwind of interviews and work samples, I was extended an offer 10 working days after the initial contact. The benefits and travel opportunities were hard to deny, but the deal closer was the fact that I'd be able to afford a much nicer house if I took the job. (Hey, can I be in one of those "today's the day" commercials, now?)

Fond farewells
I hated to do it, but I delivered the news to my team at BAW and the reception was bittersweet. Two weeks later my coworkers threw me a farewell happy hour at Café Japon where we promised to keep in touch via email and Evites. That was my first job where my coworkers actually became my friends. I'm sincerely going to miss the spontaneous laughing fits I shared with my office-mate, the impromptu musical performances by Rhonda Nicole (a fellow Mustang, BTW), and all of the smiles and good times I shared with the other "Reach Media Divas." They made it a pleasure to go to work… but they weren't going to buy me a house.

First days
Today was my third day at the new job, which I've nicknamed Fort Knox. (They prefer to remain unnamed—it's a security thing.) I'm pleased to say that my early impression of my team is a good one. They seem like a group that works hard, but also knows how to have fun. There won't be jeans, sequined tank tops, and stilettos at work anymore, but I guess we all have to grow up sometime.

May 24, 2006

On the job
I manage the content for BlackAmericaWeb.com, the online presence for syndicated radio show host, Tom Joyner. BAW is also a news/entertainment website that receives 500,000 unique visits per month. It is the perfect job for me as a new grad.

Preparation
I taught myself HTML in 1999 and became pretty adept at navigating Internet tools and web design programs. I found out about the position through Careerbuilder.com <http://Careerbuilder.com>.

Goals
BAW's parent company is Reach Media, Inc. and the company has several different branches (radio, TV, Internet, and a non-profit organization). I'm hoping to network throughout the company and eventually get into marketing communications.