Adjusting to Post Grad

The professional world is in full swing for me at this point. I’ve been with Reclaim as a customer support specialist for almost two months now. It’s kind of surreal to be back in the town where I went to school, not only in the summer, but not getting ready to go back for the fall semester at the end of August. But it an odd way it feels normal.

I am very fortunate and lucky to have a job right out of college, and at a company I interned with no less. And I think that’s why a lot of this feels so normal.

Things were off to a rocky but good start. I’ve found that working from home is one of the hardest things about the job. I was still living with my parents back in June so I was constantly bombarded with the questions “Are you working on a ticket?” (I mean that in the most loving way, mom and dad <3) I also didn’t have a desk in my room/guest room before I moved back for the summer. So I was constantly moving from the kitchen table into the dining room when I needed to jump on a call then eventually back to my bed because the kitchen was too busy to focus. It was frustrating. 

It didn’t help that I had so much to learn (and I still do). Every situation is dynamic, so the solution isn’t always the same. I was constantly asking questions in the help channel in Slack, and having the computer screen as a buffer was not in my favor.

I hate asking for help. Well I shouldn’t say hate, I really dislike it. It’s something I struggle with. I’m more of a work until something gets done, searching for answers on Google and going based off of my knowledge. I try to ask for help only when it’s the last possible option. And I’ve had to ask for help more times than I can count in this job. Ironic right?

That’s something that I’ve really adjusted to, not only this past spring semester, but coming back onto the team in June. When I first started at this job, I realized how high stakes the position could get. If I missed a step, I could really mess something up or even break the internet. The same can be said for most jobs too, when I was a lifeguard over the summer if I didn’t follow the right procedures, a pump could break or even worse, someone could get hurt (but that’s another post for another time). So I knew that asking for help is crucial to getting something done correctly.

I really wasn’t expecting to be so frustrated with myself at this point in post grad life. After graduation, I was so excited to get started with my job and I was looking forward to my little summer break lifeguarding before moving. It really hadn’t sunk in that I was no longer going back to school. To be honest it still hasn’t. I keep thinking that I’ll move back to my apartment that was slightly off campus, and getting ready to work at the Digital Knowledge Center for another year.

With all of those challenges and frustrations, I can honestly say that things have gotten better from there. Being in the office has been such a blessing. I actually have someone I can talk to in person! Whether Tim or Lauren (most of the time both) are in the office, I don’t have to worry about if I am asking a question in the best way. It’s 10000% better to talk out a process and get all the questions out in a conversation rather than typing.

Unfortunately that didn’t last long. Tim and Lauren went on vacation shortly after I was back in the office and I was running CoWork for the week. It was back to the computer screen for help. I wasn’t completely alone on the support side of things. Jim was a super big help, he was not on vacation. Although seeing him live in Italy I’m convinced that living there is a constant vacation in itself. Just check out his twitter. He was around for most of my questions. But I learned how to research for the solutions until I was just stuck or I exhausted every resource. Then I learned the aspect of effective communication because of the buffer that the computer screen provides.

But with that being said, I love my job. I am constantly learning new things. Even though I’m done with the educational part of my life, I’m experiencing a completely different side of higher education. Coming from Mary Washington, I only got to see how the Domain of One’s Own program works as a student. Now I see how different institutions incorporate DoOO/web hosting into their curriculum. There are so many different configurations to this too. I even get to explore a completely new side of the web, that is web hosting, that I knew was a thing, but couldn’t grasp how it works until now.

I interact with people across the world. Just the other day I was helping someone with their website from Ireland. We even have clients from Australia! Speaking of people I work with, I work with people I consider to be great mentors. I have learned a ton of things from Tim, Jim, and Lauren in just my short time working with them.

The office space is awesome too. Since Reclaim is just 4 people, it wouldn’t make sense to get an office for us. CoWork has been another perk. There are so many more people in the office that it’s not just Reclaim any more. I’ve gotten to see the space transform during the construction phase as an intern and its awesome to see it full during the week.


Another thing I love about this job is that I get to travel. Granted, I’ve only gone on one trip for the Domains conference, but who gets to go on a business trip before you even start with the company? I’m definitely looking forward to more travel in my future.

It’s been a whirlwind of a new experiences, emotions, and adjustments over the past few months. I’ve moved back to the city I’ve been in for 4 years and I’m officially on my own. I’ve started a new chapter of my life at Reclaim and I’m so excited to see where this goes! So stay tuned!

**Featured Image by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Embedding Myself into the Professional World

Well, #domains17 is done! We’ve wrapped up on Tuesday and are all home by now. I definitely needed a few days to gather my thoughts for this post. I’m so grateful for this chance to experience what the Ed Tech world is like before I even start my job with Reclaim Hosting. It was a great way to meet tons of new people I will interact with. 

wanted to talk a bit about what I wanted to get out of the conference, how the conference actually was, and what I’m doing after it. 

So I knew that Reclaim was planning a conference in OKC back when I was an intern. Lauren would send messages on Slack of updates to her planning and it was very cool to follow how she was planned out the entire thing. I was looking forward to hearing about all the fun once I started at Reclaim. Then about 2 weeks ago, I received an email from Tim asking me if I could come along with them to OKC. I was on board immediately! I definitely didn’t want to miss the chance to get to hang with the full team before I started and to see what the Ed Tech world was all about.

Now flash forward to Saturday. I was so nervous, anxious, but mostly excited. I was nervous because it was my first exposure to a business conference. I was anxious because I really only knew the Reclaim and UMW crew out of the 80 people that attended. But I was mostly excited for this wonderful opportunity to really jump into my career with both feet before it even begins. 

I arrived at the hotel by the early afternoon and met the whole team to get things set up for the conference. Although the conference really started on Monday, we used Saturday and Sunday to get acclimated to the space and have everything ready for when people got in on Sunday. We all got dinner together along with Adam Croom, the University of Oklahoma liaison for the conference. He and Lauren worked closely to plan. It helped to have someone on the ground who knew the surrounding area and was able to provide awesome recommendations. 

Sunday rolled around and it was a great day full of awesome conversations. Lauren and I started the morning by walking to a local coffee shop called Coffee Slingers. And when I say walked, I mean like 30-40 minutes through the city. OKC is a weird mix of open space, but also you get into the city quickly. It was such a nice morning, despite the rain that I totally didn’t mind walking. I enjoyed the time to get to know Lauren a little more than just from our Internet class with Jim in 2014. It was a great girl bonding morning. After the morning, we met for lunch with Jim and Tom Woodward for another meal full of awesome conversation. Tom talked about his work with Georgetown University. He gave a presentation on his work during the conference, you can read that here.  He also took some awesome photos as well. 

This was my first experience with a conference like this where I am actually involved. I’ve been to other conferences before but never on my own and in this capacity with people who are now colleagues.  But honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to be introduced to the new professional world than through this conference. Jim, Tim, and Lauren both helped make me feel very welcome by introducing me to people and asking me to be involved with a lot of the conference. 

We kicked off the conference with a Domain Fair, where participants had numerous booths talking about the different projects they were working on. It was a great chance for people to catch up. For me, it was a great experience to see for the first time what people were working on. I was also recognized from Twitter which was insane, I hadn’t thought that my profile would be recognizable!

Then it was time for Martha’s Keynote! Martha Burtis was my boss at UMW, the director of the DKC, and I knew she was going to talk at the conference but I had no idea that I was going to see it. It was totally awesome. At UMW, the Domain of One’s Own project has been around for 4 years. I was a student there when the program started and I’ve seen it grow so much over the years. Martha talked about the DoOO program being at a point of “inflection,” as she called it, to shift the focus from getting the program set up, to a point of deeper thinking about what DoOO really is. Martha said

“I want to spend my time here dwelling on the the inextricable, in this case, why we in higher education must teach our communities to grapple with the Web in these deep and discerning ways — how the Web, and our culture, and our systems of education are bound up with each other and why they demand a particular responsibility of us.”

For me, this quote really stuck. I have noticed a lot of times that people don’t really understand how to navigate the web. And not just students I’ve encountered as a DKC tutor either. Other students and friends take the web for granted very often. It’s important that we teach others how to use the web, what the web represents in our society today, and promoting digital citizenship. Martha continued to talk about DoOO and provided some thought-provoking points. Towards the end of her talk, she mentions my name. I was totally surprised!  She talked about my individual study I did last semester and one of the questions I asked, during the interview process, if the web was a concrete space what would it be? Martha put together all of the answers to that question. It was such a cool video, take a look:

She challenged us to think about what the web would look like if it was a concrete space to us. After I interviewed everyone for the project, I had an idea of what everyone else was saying but I never really put it together like the way Martha did. I thought about and thought about it, then, it hit me that the web was a shipping container. You can do a ton of things with shipping containers, build shelters, buildings, and ship things in them. But when I’m talking about the web as a shipping container, I don’t mean just one of them, there are thousands of them around the world. And they can be transported anywhere in the world. There’s not just one item in them either, there can be a bunch of different products in one container. Just like websites, there are tons of different things within a website.

I thought this example is perfect for what the web represents in my life. My dad works on ships, piloting them from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay up to Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. He travels on all types of ships, car, container, and tanker ships. So I thought to illustrate my example of the web as a concrete space, I would use some of the photos he’s taken from the ships perspective:

Panorama Shot my Dad Took

 

I took this in London when studying abroad.

Another photograph my dad took while on a ship

After Martha’s keynote, the group broke into sessions for the remainder of the conference. This was another great opportunity to see what others are working on. This was very new to me, which was very exciting. But there was a chance for me to step out of my comfort zone as well. I’m used to being behind the scenes of events not presenting in front of other people. During a few of the sessions, I was introducing the speaker. It may seem like a small thing introducing someone but for me, especially since I’m so new to the field, it was pretty daunting. Luckily I got to introduce some of the UMW DTLT crew, so that took a little bit of the nerves away.

The first talk I introduced was Sean Morris and Jesse Stommel’s “If bell hooks made a Learning Management System (LMS).” Their talk was awesome, diving into the question: If bell hooks Made an LMS: Grades, Radical Openness, and Domain of One’s Own. Here are a few quotes from the talk:

I also introduced Jordan Noyes and Lora Taub who examined archiving protests. This was something that I’ve never really thought about. I haven’t participated in a protest before, but after their talk, I was intrigued. So I’ve set this as a new goal, start archiving protests, or participating for that matter.

One of the other talks I went to was from Jess Reingold and Jenna Azar. Jenna is an Instructional Designer at Muhlenberg College, who also runs the Digital Learning Lab, which is just like the DKC. She brought her son along, Jarrett. Jarrett is a Digital Learning Assistant and helps students with their digital projects. It was really interesting to see how the Digital Learning Lab is run as compared to the DKC, and really cool to see the concept that the DKC started to continue to grow.

Jess talked about her time as an Instructional Technology Specialist at UMW. It was really interesting to see that perspective. Here are some quotes:

Overall this trip was one of the best things I could have done to kick off my career. It still hasn’t hit me that I start at Reclaim Hosting this week. I feel refreshed, excited, and motivated to get a start and jump into my work at Reclaim. Thank you, Tim, Jim, and Lauren for this opportunity!

Wrapping Up as an Intern

Well as this semester is wrapping up, I just wanted to write a reflection of my time at Reclaim Hosting. It’s really weird to talk about as the last weeks of my undergraduate finishing up. It still hasn’t officially hit me yet that I’m graduating in May. But things are finalizing all over the place, I just had my last classes and I’ve got a job lined up! I’ve officially accepted a position to stay on the team at Reclaim! I start in June, so I have a little time to enjoy my summer and it will be exciting to move back up to Fredericksburg.

Enough chatter though! Time to get into it. Not too much has been going on. I was still working on documentation for the new company the team has started called Rockaway Hosting (I’ll talk a little more about it in a little). I created a style guide to use with the new articles. Style guides are vital in technical writing. These articles are what the clients will look at if they have a problem. They keep the article flowing in a precise way so that the readers don’t spend too much time on the article. The goal of each article is to solve the client’s problem efficiently. The tricky thing too is that you want clients to stay on your website because they are more likely to click on more pages and posts. Luckily I didn’t have to write the articles, if I did, I would have no idea what to do. Most of the topics were written on topics I never really thought about until I started with Reclaim. But there was a major learning curve, and I actually used the articles to figure out what I needed to do. When I started to go through each article, I learned a lot about the different topics as well, because as I was combing through each article, I would go through the steps to make sure they were accurate. Unfortunately, I did not finish all of the articles, but that’s okay! I can continue going through them when I start in June.

I also wanted to talk about what I’ve learned throughout my time as an intern. For starters, I got to see what it was really like to be in a workplace. I’ve had summer lifeguarding jobs and most recently my job at the Digital Knowledge Center, but those helped me gain skills that I can put towards my career. They were a professional environment to some extent, but they are nothing like a real office space. Even though Reclaim is as casual as it gets, there is still a professional feeling to it that I hadn’t experienced while at my other jobs. I was given projects and I would work on my own. A lot of the time in my other jobs, I would work on projects with other people. This was such a change to start working by myself. I learned a lot about time management and staying away from online distractions.

I learned a ton about web hosting and a lot of components that go into it. It is really such an interesting field in technology. I never realized how intense web hosting is. There are a ton of moving parts, you have what the clients see and what the administrators see. There is a community forum used by the clients to search for help when they run into trouble. Of course, there’s the support side of things, which I have to say is the best part but I’m biased. It’s so fascinating to explore the ins an outs of webhosting, that field is really something I’ve come to enjoy.

So let’s talk about Rockaway Hosting! Jim wrote about it on his blog here (he explains it way better than I will). But Rockaway Hosting is the non-educational counterpart to Reclaim Hosting. Reclaim Hosting is mainly about Domain of One’s Own, which I’ve been involved with through Mary Washington since I started there in 2013. I’ve been working on a project for the program for my individual study, which you can read about here. So Reclaim has been all about educational web hosting. Now Rockaway is different to Reclaim in that it provides different hosting plans and support features for an additional fee. The company was still being built when I first started at the Reclaim, but it has grown so much to start a ‘soft-launch’ and hopefully, soon it will be fully operational! I’m really excited to see Reclaim growing!

But that’s it for me as an Intern! I’m really excited to join the Reclaim/Rockaway Team in June, I’m so fortunate to begin my career with them!

New Projects With Reclaim

Well I’ve been at Reclaim for 6 weeks now! I can’t even believe it, it feels like I’ve been there for months. I’m really enjoying my work and I’m definitely getting the hang of things when answering support tickets. I still ask Tim a ton of questions throughout the day because there is just so much to learn. But in this post I wanted to talk about some new projects I’m tackling for right now, one I started before my spring break and another just this week.

Just before break (so two weeks ago) I started learning a network protocol called Secure Shell or SSH. SSH is a cryptographic network protocol used to navigate through servers remotely, that means you don’t have to log into your account in your browser like you would normally. You use a separate program entirely. On the Mac its called Terminal. Its a very quick, secure, and efficient way to view files and error logs. This comes in very handy for numerous tickets. One ticket came in where the user was having a problem accessing their site at all giving a HTTP 500 error. That usually means that some aspect of the site is broken thus completely breaking the entire site. Using SSH we can go into the site and clear out the bad file to fix the site. Another ticket came in where the user was having trouble with their storage quota. SSH can read the error log right in the program and that allows us to figure out what went wrong. I’m actually struggling with SSH quite a bit however. My brain and code do not mix at all. So its difficult for me to wrap my head around this new type of navigation. But I think I’ll get the hang of it slowly but surely.

 

I started the second this past week. I am now tackling documentation on the community pages. I’m going through all of the articles to update screenshots, and rewrite a few if the process has completely changed. I’m enjoying that as well! Back in the summer of 2015 I tackled that same sort of project for the Digital Knowledge Center. The DKC was in the process of migrating its documentation to another site and I was in charge of creating a style guide and rewriting the documentation accordingly. So I felt like an old pro going through the other documentation at Reclaim. Its very different though. There is a lot more information to understand and a ton of different topics. Its actually helping me learn a lot about other topics that I didn’t know at the DKC, like nameservers, domain management, and other open source platforms.

I also wrote a new article on the community page, for installing themes to an Omeka site. That was a lot of fun, I’ve never used Omeka before and I had to experiment with it before I could write the article. Omeka is relatively intuitive so I was able to write the article very quickly.

On another note, I continually run into a problem when I’m answering tickets. At the DKC we tutor WordPress, which means we can help students edit their website, but at Reclaim the support we provide stops when it comes to actually editing the clients website. I’ve had a few tickets where clients want help actually editing their site and I’ve had to tell them I can’t. I want to help but its out of Reclaim’s wheelhouse. I guess I’m still getting used to the fact that the DKC and Reclaim are two completely separate companies.

But other than that I’m still having a ton of fun and I’m learning every time I step into the office. Stay tuned for more posts!

Learning New Content Management Systems

When I started at Reclaim I realized that I needed to learn some more open-source web platforms than I thought. At Mary Washington, I mainly work with students on WordPress, which makes up the majority of the domains. That’s a different story at Reclaim.  There are multiple applications that access the file manager (which is like the file manager on your computer). I’ve had a couple of tickets where clients needed help with two applications that have access to the file manager: Omeka and Drupal. So I decided I would set up my own subdomains for each application and learn as much as I could. I figured this would help me more when clients need support on those applications.

Drupal:

Drupal is a content management system similar to WordPress. The Interface looks very similar to how you would navigate WordPress, and even add content. But it definitely is not WordPress. Drupal looks a little rudimentary to WordPress but it gets the job done. I spent some time adding test content, pages, themes, and plugins as well. Drupal mainly operates through the interface itself so it does not use the file manager but it’s still very useful to learn since people still use the platform to create content.

Problems I ran into: I struggled when trying to install some themes. There is a specific file type you need to use when installing the specific one I found.  Drupal’s main website has tons of themes and I found it hard to pick just one. When it was time to install the theme I had to download the file to my computer then upload it to my Drupal install. Pro Tip: Don’t use the .zip form of the theme, use the .tar.gz part of the file. That’s where I hit a road block. For a while, I wasn’t able to install a theme and I couldn’t figure out why. Now it really seems obvious that I needed to use that specific file type, but now I know.

 

Omeka:

Omeka is another content management platform where you can create posts for specific items to document them. The items can range from specific historical artifacts to pieces of artwork, and really any item you’d like to document. At Mary Washington, the history department utilizes this tool more than any other department. Omeka mainly uses their interface to create their own content through the back end of that specific install. But Omeka uses the file manager to install and manage themes and plugins. This is a little different than expected but it was very easy to get the hang of. Reclaim has a great documentation website where I was able to look at how to add themes and plugins through the file manager.  I had one support ticket where she needed help with the file manager. After looking into how to use the file manager it takes just a little bit to get used to but it’s useful to have the themes and plugins held in a separate area on the file manager. Using Omeka is very intuitive, the interface lays out all of the options you will need when posting an item.  When you customize the space as well Omeka gives you all the options for customizing the theme around all in one page.

 

All in all both applications are good options for content management. But if it were up to me, I’d definitely recommend using WordPress over anything else ?

Continuing on the Learning Curve

These past two weeks have flown by! I’ve just completed week three at Reclaim Hosting and I have to say it’s been really enjoyable. Things on support tend to be a little slow while I’m working which is good and bad. Good because that means things are running smoothly for clients but also bad because that means I don’t have much to do! I’m still in the learning phase for sure but I’m getting the hang of things. This week I was able to solve a few tickets on my own!

So in this post, I wanted to talk about a few things that are going on in my internship. 1. Some things I’ve learned in these past two weeks while filling out support tickets. 2. The current projects I’m working on or going to work on in the very near future.

Support tickets! A lot of people asked me when I first got my internship: “Why support?” “Why would you want to handle all the problems people run into?” And for me, the answer was really simple. I like helping people. My on-campus job at Mary Washington is to tutor people on digital projects at the Digital Knowledge Center. Students come in who need help with their websites, mainly WordPress, domain management, video projects, audio projects, and image projects. A lot of the time when they come in for help it’s really just the basics of getting set up with a domain name or even installing WordPress through Installatron. After working at the center since it first opened back in 2014, I’ve learned a lot about the ins and outs of WordPress help and was able to take those skills to my own website.

^^The office does not look like this at all. But it would be really cute if it did!

But support at Reclaim is very different. I don’t think I realized this at first and I was surprised to see the wide range of topics each support ticket covered. And I have a lot of new topics to learn. I started looking through the documentation that Lauren wrote back when she started at Reclaim and that is extremely helpful. I’m a very visual learner so I learn by actually completing the tickets as well. But it’s also really weird to try to complete the ticket because I’m not sitting right next to the person like I would be at the DKC. That was a major adjustment I am still getting used. Sometimes people will submit tickets with not a lot of information on their problem and I just want to jump through the screen to see what they see on their computer screen.

Another major learning curve is with applications. Since I mainly tutor on WordPress, that’s the application I know the most about. Reclaim supports a ton of other applications, though. At one point last week I was trying to help someone upgrade their Drupal install to the most recent version and I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. Luckily Google was on my side for this ticket and I was able to quickly find the solution to the problem (or at least find a tutorial to help the person through it). The same thing happened with Omeka. Now I know a little more about Omeka because some classes in the History department at UMW use it. But I don’t know much.

I’ve been talking with Tim this past week about things to start working on when support is not so busy. We came up with a few projects I could start working on. I am going to start working on my own Omeka and Drupal installs on my own subdomain to learn all I can to prepare for potential support tickets. Tim also suggested that I start learning SSH, a command line language to navigate around the servers efficiently.

So stay tuned for the next couple of weeks to see my progress and how the internship is going! I’m excited to keep learning all I can!

Reclaiming my Internship

Hello everyone! I haven’t posted in a while. But I’m really glad to get back to the blog! You’ll see a lot more posts from my this semester because I am blogging for two major things happening as I begin to finish up my time at Mary Washington. I can’t believe I’m set to graduate in May! I have bunch of exciting projects coming up as well so stick around to hear more about those.

Reclaim’s logo

So this post is going to be about my internship! I’m currently working for Reclaim Hosting, a web hosting company based here in Fredericksburg. They currently host the all of the University of Mary Washington’s websites through the Domain of One’s Own program, which is where I was able to get this website. Reclaim also hosts numerous other schools websites as well, some of those schools use the same program that UMW has.

My first day was on Monday and I have to say it was so much fun! I’m tackling the support side of the company, so I will be helping clients with anything they need help with. That could be something as simple as giving them more information about the products Reclaim offers, to domain migration, and broken websites. And that doesn’t stop there. There’s a ton of things that could potentially go wrong. Way more than I thought.

It’s a little overwhelming at the moment because I really have no clue where to begin when a new support ticket comes in. But I’m taking it one ticket at a time and Tim is so helpful when I have a question. Jim and Lauren both work remotely and they also help out so much when Tim is unavailable. The group is very supportive and I’m very grateful for each of them.

I’m currently working my way through some online documentation on the Reclaim website to learn more about how to solve the potential problems clients could have. I’ve been going through previous support tickets as well. It’s a lot of research! I have a little bit of experience through my tutoring job at the Digital Knowledge Center but its more support for what the client sees. I work directly with WordPress, and cPanel. Reclaim is different in the sense that we work one level up through the servers to provide support. I had a few flashbacks to my sophomore year starting at the DKC and having absolutely no clue what I was doing. But I’m genuinely enjoying the work at Reclaim, I like helping people through problems and teaching them how to use specific parts to their account.

But one thing I definitely want to work on in the coming weeks, I need to get better at writing descriptions and I need to proofread before sending out the correspondence. I find I tend to repeat phrases multiple times within a ticket. So that is one thing I want to improve in the next few weeks.

So that’s it for this post! Keep checking back here throughout the semester. I will post regularly to document what I learn. I’m excited to continue learning more and more while working with Tim, Jim, and Lauren throughout the course of the semester!