Travel: Nashville, TN

Every time that I visit a new city, my traveler’s soul is filled to the brim with happiness! After this month, I’m one step closer to reaching 50 states before I turn 30, and my husband Mike and I were able to put another pin on our travel map together. Our trip to Nashville has a special place in my heart for so many reasons, and I’m excited to share with you why!

Time Spent: 5 days

The Adventure: Five days was the perfect amount of time to spend in the greater Nashville area. We explored everything the city had to offer, taking part in so many fun activities thanks to our amazing local tour guides, who are friends of ours from our time at Biola University.

Okay, so let’s dig into my favorite activities in Nashville, and why this place needs to be the next city on your bucket list:

  1. The epic bar scene. I had never experienced a social scene quite like Broadway Street in Nashville before. When we were walking through downtown I had a smile on my face as we walked by building after building filled with happy people and live music. Personally, my favorite of each place we visited was Nudie’s Honky Tonk – it was the first bar we went to and in my opinion the music was the best. I’d also give a special shout out to Crazy Town, which had an outdoor area with a nice view of downtown at night.
  2. Girl time at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. One morning we spent a few hours at Cheekwood walking around the gardens and mansion, finding endless spots for photos and Instagram stories. It was so refreshing to walk the grounds, and experience a classic piece of Nashville history. As we toured the mansion, we learned that the owners founded Maxwell Coffee – a fun surprise!
  3. Slowing down at the Farm. We were lucky enough to spend some time in Franklin, TN, where our friends had a multi-acre farm ready for us to ATV, Dirtbike, and enjoy the outdoors. The ride to the farm took us down country roads with gorgeous lands, homes, and animals. Spending time on the farm was the perfect opportunity to slow down from our non-stop weekend and experience God’s country. We definitely sang a round or two of “God Bless America” while we were there.
  4. The Pedestrian Bridge. The entire time we were in Nashville I was looking for that perfect skyline view, and I found it at the Pedestrian Bridge! Right next to Broadway Street we found a walking bridge where you can see sweeping views of the city, and I was in heaven. I think if I had the option I would have sat on a bench looking at the views for hours! Fun fact: the famous music video “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” was filmed on the Pedestrian Bridge.
  5. Southern Culture. Each city across the globe has it’s own personality and culture, and in Nashville I experienced a dose of that southern hospitality. From interacting with the locals, to eating at Loveless Cafe, to learning about this history and importance of music in Tennessee, to driving through all of the neighborhoods (and seeing Carrie Underwoods house), Nashville now has a piece of my heart. Experiencing the southern culture reminded my how different each part of the United States is, and why I love every sub-culture that it has to offer.

Enjoy this short video encapsulating our unforgettable Nashville adventure! 

5 Ways To Be A More Collaborative Professional

The value of successful collaboration within a team is invaluable. During my time as a post-graduate I have realized how sincerely I enjoy working with others who have a “team player” mentality, as it is easy in business to become solely focused on your own goals. I came across a quote recently by Vince Lombardi, American NFL player, coach, and executive that resonated with my perspective on the importance of teamwork:

“Individual commitment to a group effort: that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

When a team collaborates well, everyone feels like they are contributing to a part of the whole without hesitation or confusion. For me, I think there are ways that each of us as professionals can actively pursue becoming a better team member, which includes collaborating effectively.

Being a team player means actively taking steps to collaborate with your team.

Here are five ways that you can become a more collaborative professional:

  1. Embody positive team attributes. There are many qualities that, when combined, exemplify a team player. These traits can include, but are certainly not limited to being empathetic, inclusive, encouraging, honest, and reliable. Forbes Magazine expands on these character attributes, many of them leading to team success.  Be self aware here – look at these traits and assess if there are areas of your professional (or personal!) life that you can take active steps to improve.
  2. Meet with professionals in similar roles, and share best practices. I’ve personally gained so much by reaching out to people within my company who are internal/executive communicators like myself. Most often than not, these relationships can serve you in the future by coming full circle and offering further opportunities for partnership and collaboration.
  3. Use the tools your company or group provides. Does your company have an intranet? Bookmark your team page and actively contribute. Does your small group at school have a group text? Be engaging and responsive there. Many of my colleagues have heard me say “An engaged team is a strong team” and I stand by that phrase whole heartedly because I have seen what a collaborative team can accomplish!
  4. Be well versed in interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. Let’s be real, even the most well functioning teams experience conflict whether that be a miscommunicated email or a failed deadline. Knowing how to communicate and collaborate through the conflict shows a level of professionalism that is appreciated and respected by your colleagues.
  5. Raise your hand to lead and be a part of exciting projects and opportunities that come your way. Working in new settings with new people presents you with a great chance to collaborate and experience new growth as a professional.

 

By becoming a better collaborator you can ultimately help yourself. You help yourself with future team projects, opportunities that come your way, conflicts you will have to deal with, and so many more interpersonal interactions. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to take these steps together, and become the best professionals we can be not only for ourselves but for our teams.

Have No Fear, Communication Studies Majors!

Last month a staff member from the Biola University career center gave me a call, looking to ask me about what life was like post-graduation as a Communication Studies major. I remember exploring multiple majors in college – from Political Science, to Sociology, and finally to Communication Studies. When I landed in this department during the second semester of my Sophomore year, I recall loving that this major could take me anywhere. However, for some students the ambiguity can feel overwhelming. What can I do with a communication major? Where will interpersonal, organizational, theatrical, or rhetorical communication get me? Would you ever think that a Liberal Arts degree could lead you to the Technology Industry?

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Not too long ago I read an excellent article titled, “Liberal Arts in the Data Age” from the Harvard Business Review, and I remember connecting with some of the main points that the author makes:

  • People are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do.
  • If we want to prepare students to solve large-scale human problems, we must push them to widen, not narrow, their education and interests.
  • The CEOs of YouTube, Slack, and AirBnb all have liberal arts degrees.

It has been so exciting to see the industries that my classmates have entered – Entertainment, Action Sports, Fashion, Non-Profit, Education, Photography, and let’s not forget Technology. Students who pursue a Liberal Arts degree should keep their minds open to the possibilities that follow after graduation, including reacting to opportunities outside of their norms. For me, it was accepting a job at a technology company. I remember writing my first ever blog post here about being a “Communication Girl in an Engineering World”and shaking my head at where I’d landed after graduation thinking, “could this industry be any more opposite than me?” Fast forward to three years later and I have grown and progressed professionally more than I could have imagined.

If you are a communications professional, or a student wondering where to use your communication studies education, the options are endless and the technology industry has a place for you. Let’s keep this conversation going – message me on LinkedIn or tweet at me and I’d be happy to chat.

Travel: Orono, Maine

Although I grew up in New England, my family never quite reached the Maine border when we traveled, always stopping for camping adventures in New Hampshire. When my brother started attending University of Maine in Orono, I finally made a couple treks up north. In May, I flew to the East Coast to attend my brother’s graduation, and spend some good old quality time in his college town! Here are some of my favorites.

Time Spent: 5 days

The Adventure:

Orono Brewing Company & Nest

OBC is an awesome brewing company in downtown Orono that is small, but mighty. We loved our time there drinking a flight of nice brews, and laughing endlessly over one of their retro trivia games. My other favorite location on the main strip in Orono is their coffee shop – Nest. I went there twice! I would definitely be a regular there if I was a UMaine student.

Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor

Acadia National Park – check! Another National Park added to the list, and it didn’t disappoint. We drove a little more than an hour from Orono to see the sweeping views of mountains and the sea, did a quick hike (got to love those classic New England Trails), and spent some time in downtown Bar Harbor. A couple foodie highlights for us were the clam chowder and lobster rolls at the Thirsty Whale, and Black Raspberry ice cream at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium.

The Bog Walk

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A favorite excursion of ours during our time in Maine this year was checking out the Bog Walk, which is a one mile wetland trail that is peaceful, uncrowded, and beautiful. It’s perfect for a little day retreat with a friend, or even a solo walk to clear your mind and be in nature.

Our trip to main can be summarized by the notable quote: “Maine. The way life should be.”

Travel: Campinas, Brazil

It’s time for a very overdue and wonderful reflection about my nine day trip to Brazil this Spring. For me, the trip came quickly after committing to make the journey, and somewhere in between came two months of preparation and fundraising, which went as smooth as can be! Unlike other trips that I’ve blogged about, this one was unique in the sense that it was not by any means a vacation – it was a service trip and an opportunity to enrich the lives of the children, students, and professionals that we encountered.

Time Spent: 9 days

The Adventure: 

As I write, it’s hard to know where to begin. My first trip to South America was an amazing and remarkable experience that I will never forget. Normally I have some sort of expectations as to what my travels will bring, but with Brazil I went in with open eyes, an open heart, and no expectations which allowed me to be fully in the moment.

Volunteering at the City of Youth through Hope Unlimited for Children included multiple photography projects for their marketing department, painting one of the homes that 12 children live in, spending time with staff to encourage them in their efforts, and celebrating the children in a variety of ways. One of my favorite evenings from our trip was our birthday party celebration for kids that had birthdays which fell between January and March of this year. Did you know that many of the children that live in the impoverished communities have never been celebrated? Could you imagine not celebrating or not even knowing your own birthday? We made this a celebration of epic proportions – $5 to pick out your candy, popcorn and soda watching Bella e Terra (Beauty and the Beast), ice cream, and a special dinner at the mall afterwards. We loved spoiling these kids!

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When I think about the most impressive part of the trip, I remember being so amazed at the scope of what they do at the City of Youth – from housing 110 children, to hosting vocational courses, to providing physical, emotional, and spiritual therapy to the 3-18 year olds who live there. The staff and leadership at this organization and phenomenal and SO compassionate towards these children. Often times hearing their stories made us emotional, but I find that moments like that were what brought us together.

We refrain from posting any photos of the children from the organization to social media because they are considered at-risk youth. Otherwise, I would love to share more photos of the kids I photographed during my time in Brazil. For anyone who is interested in learning more about my trip, or to gain access to my private share of photos, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Why Culture Always Wins

During my three years at Dell EMC, we have consistently achieved “Best Place to Work” status, and recently Dell Technologies has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top Companies of 2017. For me, the driving factor in this success is our emphasis on company culture. As a new company, I credit the efforts that our leadership and transformation teams have placed on creating a foundational culture code.

One of the best articles that I’ve read about Dell’s “Culture Code” is What Makes a Company Great? Culture is Key by Dell’s Chief HR Officer, Steve Price.

“As a company that recently closed one of the biggest tech mergers in history with EMC, we made listening a top priority as we looked to unify our company culture as part of the new Dell Technologies. We turned our collective ears toward team members from both former Dell and EMC to define our corporate culture as the driver of how we run the business, go to market, work effectively together and provide inspirational leadership.”

As both a communicator and a team member at Dell EMC, watching the communications unfold to promote our culture code has been amazing, and our internal communications team has done a great job.

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I’ve really appreciated the way that our culture code is organized because it is easy to embed into the communications I craft for the Chief Technology Officer and his team. For example, at quarterly All Hands meetings we are able to dedicate time to connecting our major wins to our fives values that you see above, which makes the direct connection between the work that people do, and the organizational culture.

In his most recent Direct2Dell article, Steve Price addresses the importance of effective leadership development in the area of supporting and inspiring company culture. He says that it is expected for leaders to embed these values into the way they run their business units, and I couldn’t agree more. In the end, if our leaders and team members are in, our customers are in, and then we all #GoBigWinBig!

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What’s New in the Communicationsphere

As many of you know, I’m a big Twitter user. I practically use it every day to learn more about my industry, my peers, and what’s going on in this big world of ours. I’ve found a huge benefit in using Twitter to stay up to date on the pulse of corporate communications, and I often re-tweet articles or blog posts that I find interesting. Allow me to share a few of the golden nuggets I’ve found while scrolling through my feed recently:

“5 Keys to Engaging Corporate Culture” by Jacob Morgan at Inc.com

The author in this article gives kudos to CEO James White from Jamba Juice, a well known and refreshing chain store just minutes from my office, who has embedded a strong culture within the company that has lasted through tumultuous times. Two of the five key ways that you build a strong culture are communicating from the top down, and actively engaging your community. I believe it is crucial for communicators to have a seat at the leadership table, and I’ve seen a lot of great employee campaigns come to fruition at my company because of this. We even have our culture code listed as an FY’18 objective as a company! I can imagine, however, that there are some companies out there where communicators might not have a seat at the table, and the challenges that they would face as a result of that. From experience, it is SO SO SO important that leadership is onboard with corporate communication strategy. Otherwise, you cannot expect a strong and engaged community.

“How Every Internal Communicator Can Be a Rockstar” by Alison Davis on LinkedIn

In this article written by Davis & Company’s CEO Alison Davis, internal communicators are encouraged to rise above and become rockstars. With a few of her helpful tips, she suggests that you can become a rockstar communicator by:

  • Channeling the characteristics of a rock star.
  • Using evidence to make your case.
  • Sharing best practices.
  • Changing the conversation from tactical to strategic.
  • Focusing on outcomes.
  • Not letting setbacks get you down.
  • Measuring your results.

“The Workplace is the New Corporate Communications Platform”

Intriguing title, wouldn’t you say? This article by WorkDesign Magazine is about eBay, and the gorgeous renovations they’ve completed at their headquarters in California including touchscreen walls, natural light, unique installations, and more. They claim, “These dynamic experiences not only invite guests to engage with the company’s story; they also help transform the eBay workforce into a connected, empowered community.” One of the tips they suggested for starting your own workplace transformation that really made me think was to use your company data to bring your brand to life. Reading this gave me some really great ideas about implementing more data into my own communication programs.

“Communications 2006 v.s. 2016”

If you’re looking for a good laugh, and a trip down memory lane, read this short article and remember the times when social media didn’t exist, there was no such thing as internal communications, and smartphones weren’t a thing!

If you’re interested in more articles like these, give me a follow at @beckyykurtz.