Apprenticeship Week 13

Alyssa shares what she’s been working on this past week, both at work and outside it.

I mentioned in my post last week that I was halfway through my apprenticeship. I learned as a result of that one sentence that my blogs have not gone unnoticed. Herb asked if I was planning on leaving at the end of my apprenticeship. It was a fair question.While, yes, I am halfway through my Praxis apprenticeship, and only 11 weeks from graduating the program, I am not planning on finding a new job at that time. I’m slowly working towards my freelancing and general writing goals, but I also don’t see myself coming to the end of my apprenticeship learning all I can from my role at Original One Parts.

Projects

Original One Parts

I had that conversation with Herb, which was unexpected, but obviously not bad. For that reason, this week I want to look at the work I’m doing and some of the other places I’ve seen that I can create value and learn a lot.

APS Reps/Action Alerts

I’m still very much drowning in this project.I’ve logged all the visits and shops for July. I’m starting to log August. I finished June and most of May for one rep, and I’m halfway through June for all the reps.

I still haven’t even started the action alerts.

When the project needs managed and I’m not spending all of my time around calls and orders on it, I will count it as finished.

Other Work

On Thursday, Parts Trader stopped working. This time it wasn’t our autoquote system or on our end, it was Parts Trader. At first it was busier than normal, but manageable. In the afternoon it started piling up. When I left, there were nearly 400 overdue quotes. When Herb came in the next morning, there were over 1300. It was a huge mess, but once Parts Trader came back on and started working properly we were able to knock out the remaining quotes and get it back to normal.

Everyone else in the office was doing follow up calls to accounts who haven’t ordered in at least a couple months. I took care of some of the call backs. Herb assigned me to one customer who wanted a specific sales rep to talk to for parts.

I learned how to take wheel orders, and now I have the email of the person we go through to process those. I have to get information from the customer about the vehicle and the wheels to send to the guy who gets us the information about the price and if we can supply a wheel. Once I get the information about pricing and availability I call the customer back to let them know if we can supply the wheel and what their cost will be. For both of the requests I took, our price was too high, but I couldn’t go low enough because of our cost to get the wheels.

Potential Future Work

I mentioned in some previous posts that I want to help with some marketing work for Original One Parts. Kyle is the whole marketing team, and he’s talked about having too much to do and getting random work put on his plate. If I get to a point with my own work where it is possible, I want to take on some of Kyle’s excess work.

In that same vein, Herb was talking about how we should have different content for LinkedIn that is better for the business-work nature of the platform. He specifically said that articles about the automotive industry that connect to our business but are also informative for people working in the industry would be a good choice. That most definitely caught my attention, and when I catch up with the APS rep and action alert project, I plan on talking to Josh about writing articles for the company LinkedIn.

Personal

From July 8 to July 26 I wrote every day, then I also wrote July 31. All in all, I wrote 21,055 words from July 8 to July 31. That’s 24 days, giving me an average of just over 877 words per day. I’m hoping to beat that this month. So far I have 3584 and it’s only August 4. So far that’s an average of 896 and I haven’t finished my writing for today.

Poetry

I wrote a few poems over the last couple weeks, but I have been neglecting my poetry collection. I still need to add all of the poems into the document so I can start organizing them.

I want to be writing poetry every day, but I’ve only written anything 5 times from July 8 to August 3.

Adventures in Meldrick

This is the card game I am developing.

I paused working on this for a very long time, in favor of other projects. Then a close friend of mine was over a couple weeks ago and we were talking about some card design. She’s volunteered to help with some of the design work and she’s helped me beta test the game some too.

After we hung out and had been talking about it, I wanted to start working on the game again. I played the game with my younger brothers a couple times, introduced some new cards, and experimented with the rules to make the game more playable.

The main problem with the game right now is that it takes too long to finish. None of the games I played were ended because someone won, it was always because we ran out of time, someone got bored, etc. Before I can even think of publishing the game, I need it be realistically playable. I know some of what I need to do for that to be the case, but then I have to rigorously test it.

Freelancing

I have not been hired. The Fiverr gig is active, and I have views and page visits, but I haven’t had any customer communication.

I haven’t shared the gig again yet, which I am planning to do. I didn’t want too much of the content on my social media to be advertisements for the same gig.

I talked about starting a couple other gigs but I haven’t done it yet. I have two ideas:
1. Social media graphics for blog post featured images. The base package would be for an image sized for Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. The upgrades would include versions for more than just one platform.
2. Poetry collection organization. I have experience organizing and formatting a poetry collection from when I self-published Inside a Writer’s Head. I could help someone else do that for their collection. I’m holding this one for now because I want to finish the organization of my second poetry collection before I do someone else’s.

Conclusion

Life is, as always, moving at breakneck speed. There’s a lot happening, but I’m setting my pace to reach my goals in my own time – but also not in a procrastinating, wasteful manner.

Apprenticeship Week 10

How has it been another week? Less than a week since my last post, even! And I turn 19 in two days!

Projects This Week

I got back into the swing of things and I’m getting motivated again! I had a rough couple weeks but I’m coming back with a vengeance – towards obstacles to getting work done.

APS Rep Project

This week I made some good progress on the project Josh assigned. I described some of the specifics of the project in the posts about the previous couple of weeks.
Each day I’ve been dealing with new incoming emails from the various reps. This allows me to keep the visit log up to date so it can be used for decision making as far as which reps to keep. As per Josh, that’s why we’re logging all the visits. Which makes sense. We get a monthly report from each rep for the market they manage, but if we can see at a glance how many visits they made as well as how much money they made us, we can make better decisions. I make sure to stay on top of the incoming emails so when I finish the old emails I can manage the project instead of being constantly behind.
I feel like I’m drowning in the project now, but I don’t want to stay drowning when I should learn to swim. Additionally, when it comes time for someone else to take over the project for any reason if there’s only upkeep, it will be far easier and more seamless.

I finished going through the emails for another rep. I still have a lot of markets to go through. I made a graph/checklist thing to help me stay motivated by having a visualization of my progress on the current phase of the project. It’s maybe silly, but filling in a little box for what month the emails were from when I finish going through them is satisfying. I plan to make more graph/checklists for the next phases of the project, too, since it’s helping with this one.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I have a notebook with three sections, lined, blank, and graph. I should take it to work. Once I use up the legal pad I currently have it could be useful to have the graph paper and the lined paper.

Writing Projects

I’ve been using Blurt to write. It’s a really awesome tool. It has word-processor features but it’s built to be a place that facilitates writing. You can blur the words so you can’t read what you’ve written until you’ve finished writing, which can help you keep your brain in create-mode and prevent you from switching to editing mode. This task switching can kill creativity and make writing so much harder than it needs to be. If you can’t keep it from happening yourself, using the blur feature could be a game changer. (There’s also a free website that just blurs your writing while you write so you can’t edit it.) Then when you’re done writing, you can turn on the editing help, which points out sentences that may be difficult, words that could be overly complicated, adverbs, and passive voice. (If you want this feature for free, try Hemingway Editor.) I like that you can set writing goals for various projects and have email reminders to write on every writing day.

I’ve made three projects in Blurt.
One of them is for blog posts, and right now the goal is every Friday. Every day I write 500 words in this project, I reach my writing goal and add to my writing streak. Any Friday I don’t write, my streak resets to zero.
The other projects are my personal journal and the novel I just started. Both of those are set to daily goals. I have to write every day for the streak count to go up, and any day I miss resets the count. Today will be day 5 for my journal and new novel, and day 2 for blog posts.
I’ve started tracking my daily writing, because Blurt tracks the days I met my goal but not how many words I wrote on previous days. So far I’ve written over 5000 words since Monday!

Conclusion

I had a rough couple weeks, but things are looking up. I’m starting to form good writing habits, and based on past experience that will pick up into an upswing of good habits in other areas too. I’m making progress on my work projects and tracking it to keep myself motivated. Motivation has been most of my trouble recently, and I have it again.

Apprenticeship Week 9

A snapshot of some mental health from the last couple weeks as well as some project updates and announcements.

This is late. I should not be writing this on Monday, but here I am.Not a lot happened last week. I don’t know if that’s a skewed look at the week, but I think it is. I’m going to do something I haven’t done in these posts so far. And that’s discuss some of the more mental side of things. I don’t have a lot to say for how I tangibly spent the week, but I do know that I spent it.

Work and Mental Health

I’ve talked about struggling with mental health here and on Over the Invisible Wall (which has sadly died). What I haven’t done is give a glimpse into its affectations in the present. Everything I’ve previously discussed wasn’t so now.

For the first month, I was on an emotional “I’m getting my life together!” high, and it was fantastic. I was sad to leave Panera because of the friends I’d made, but I was also moving forward.The last couple weeks have blurred and have felt the same. I feel disjointed, almost, seeing the positives of the steps forward but also feeling like I’m standing still. I see the work I’m doing at Original One Parts, but then a cloud obscured my motivation. It doesn’t feel like drudgery, exactly, but it appears like a huge, monstrous project to slog through. I see the paradox of what I’m writing. That it isn’t what it is. And maybe that’s me trying to stay optimistic. Because there’s definitely trends to suggest that’s been a struggle of mine.

And these last couple weeks have been new instances of the same old winds.

Personal Projects

This weekend I decided to start my next poetry collection. Coincidentally it is one presenting a lot of the darkness I went through, mostly not super recent. The darkness lately hasn’t been as dark or as long lasting, for which I’m thankful. It’s going to be a sensitive, difficult collection both for me to make and for people to read. I think it will be good, though, to publish it, because it could help shed light on what it’s like to be depressed and even suicidal. It’s not pleasant, like Inside a Writer’s Head, but by being able to see and start to understand the darkness, it could make it easier to help people who are struggling with it.

The second project I only just settled on last night. It was a difficult decision, but I’m putting Mystical Warriors on hold. I’m going to start a new novel. I am not going to share what it’s about yet, though. This one will be a surprise.

The main worry I have in starting a new novel is that I will run into the same problem I’ve always had, which is that I get tired of the idea. I managed to fall in love with Mystical Warriors, become “obsessed” with my own world and story enough to spend time writing. I got over 30k words. But then I didn’t write for a long time, and I feel disconnected from the story. I’m going to combat this by writing every day in Blurt. I’m not going to write the story in order, because that has proved difficult. Rather, I’m going to write short bits and pieces and scenes as I desire to and sort of cut and paste them together later. Almost like a collage. If it works, I plan to take this approach with Mystical Warriors when I return to it, too.

Apprenticeship Week 8

I’m constantly amazed by how long I’ve been in my apprenticeship. It’s the end of June already?
Crazier still, my birthday is in two weeks, so I’m almost 19! It’s almost time for another post reflecting on the past year, like I did when I started my blog last July. Tuesday marks this blog’s anniversary.
I have two months at Original One Part, 10 months into my Praxis experience, two days shy of a year blogging, and two weeks shy of 19 years I’ve been alive.

Projects This Week

Last week Josh assigned me a project tracking APS representative visits to body shops. I have to put reps’ recent visits in the sheet so we can see the average number of visits and decide which reps to keep and which reps are not worth the money. (The reps send month-end reports and do tracking with us to ensure we’re getting our money’s worth, too.)
Additionally, I have to make sure the account information is up to date in Salespad, Hubspot, and also listed in the market shop lists. In the spreadsheet document with the APS visits tracker, there are sheets with lists of all the bodyshops in that market that have or are being visited by the reps.
Right now I’m focusing on recording all of the visits from reps that are not already logged and ensuring every shop they visit is on the market shop list. Once that is complete it’ll be easier to go through Hubspot and Salespad and have up to date account information on all sides.
So far I’ve gotten through all the emails from three reps, excluding any emails that came in for this coming week. There’s still countless emails to go through and it’s crazy tedious.
There’s a second part of the project that I haven’t even started, Action Alerts. There’s a whole email folder to go through for that. I have to ask Josh what to do for that, because it’s unclear to me from looking at the emails what I’m supposed to do with them. I still have so much of the first part that I haven’t talked to Josh about this yet.

Challenges This Week

On Tuesday our systems went down for a couple hours. We couldn’t use Salespad or the customer service portal, and the program on Parts Trader that does our auto quoting went down. We had to manually write quotes on Parts Trader using the inventory from our website. The phones still worked, so we had to use old order history to get pricing for people over the phone. We couldn’t give Ted, the warehouse manager, hand written or printed our orders because he couldn’t find the parts to pull with his scanner. Once everything was back up I had three or four orders to put in from Parts Trader, and total we had about fifteen orders go in the log all at once.

Apprenticeship Week 7!

This was not supposed to come out before the post I’m writing about week 6/FEEcon. But here we are.Last week I only worked two days and the rest of the week was spent at or preparing for FEEcon. This week I worked about 8:40 or 8:45-5 and today I worked 8:40ish to 6.

Projects:

I have some work and “personal” projects happening this week and going forward.

Work:

Before I went to Atlanta I was assigned a project inputting old customer feedback into the Salespad CRM tab. There were probably close to 300 lines in the spreadsheet. Now there are about 10, all instances that I couldn’t find the account it went to. I searched using the name of the body shop first, but some, like Fender Mender, Caliber, Service King, and ABRA have too many shops to find with the main part of their name. Then I tried searching the invoices using the shop name and looking at the invoices from around the time of the feedback. Nothing matched. Everything that did match is up to date and recorded.

Today the main manager, Josh, showed me a new project he needs me to do. It’s massive and will take me quite a while to get through. He connected me to a folder in his inbox containing lists of shops that APS representatives visit in the various city-specific markets we’re targeting. I have to record the number of shops visited in the market on the specific day and update the information we have about each shop in the APS spreadsheet, Salespad, and Hubspot.

I’ve decided to tackle the project in what is hopefully as efficient a manner as possible.

  1. I sorted the emails by sender so I’m only dealing with a certain set of markets at a time. I check if it’s a days list or a weeks list of visits. I count the number of shops and divide by the days if necessary. I put the number(s) in the correct box(es) on the APS visit count sheet.
  2. Then I go to the sheet with the market’s shop list, find each of the shops from that email and check them against Salespad for information. I’m not creating the missing accounts yet.
  3. I categorize the email in Outlook with the green “Complete” I created as well as the market label. If/when someone else becomes the owner of this project in the future, it will be easier for them to see what was put in the sheet and which market the information belongs to. The Complete label also prevents me from forgetting which emails I’ve already processed the information for.
  4. When I finish the emails about APS visits and possibly the other emails that I need to ask about Monday, this will be the next or last step: Go through each of the market shop lists and make sure there are matching, up to date Hubspot and Salespad accounts for them.

Personal:

I realized the other week when the creator of Blurt, Corey Gwin, was the guest speaker for the Praxis Wednesday call that I needed to get back to writing regularly.

Then at FEEcon, I lamented the fact that I had not been working toward my writing goals while taking notes in the Creative Track breakout sessions I attended. (More on that to come in my post specifically about FEEcon.) I also got an idea for a new blog. I haven’t talked about my idea for that blog with anyone yet, so while I definitely plan on starting it, I want to get some feedback first.

I’ve also decided to take a different approach to writing my novel — I want to try writing a bunch of short stories that take place at various points of the story and then stitch them together. With this I could either publish it as a sort-of-disjointed-but-connected set of short stories or use this to circumvent the problems I’m having with what comes next. I have some idea what needs to happen, but I’m struggling with the immediate next steps for the characters. This would allow me to skip to wherever I want to write and come back.Basically, I will be getting back into writing.I’m probably going to do some design work for a media business my dad and cousin are trying to start. They have a flier my cousin paid someone on Fiver to make, and I told my dad about Easil. Once I get a hold of making writing a habit and becoming more productive, I want to practice design again by making my own blog post images.

Other Updates:

I found out on Friday that my car totaled so I’ve been taking the MetroLink to get from IL into St. Louis almost right next to where I work. I learned today that it’s more dangerous than I realized. I knew there were some questionable stops, but at the station nearest my work, someone was shot recently. So I will definitely not be taking the Metro any longer than I need to. Because I was rear ended a couple weeks ago, I’ve had to learn a lot. I interacted with insurance, an ABRA from a customer side, applied for a loan, looked for a car, and tomorrow I’m going to look at some cars I found.

Conclusion:

It’s been a really crazy week, but it’s been good. A lot is happening, and while it can be a mixed bag sometimes, I’m enjoying the ride and looking forward to the adventures that await.

Apprenticeship Week 5

It’s been a month and two days at my new job!

Current Projects:

I’m still working on adding Kayce’s old call notes to the Salespad CRM tab. I’m almost caught up with when she sent it to me.

Yesterday we had a meeting and next week Josh is going to show me APS so I can make sure all our contact information is up to date. We’re looking to expand our marketing efforts to include an email list, and I’ll be helping get the necessary information to make that possible.

Things I Learned:

Don’t convey uncertainty to the customer! We can figure out details on the back-end to ensure a great experience for the customer. We should not give them reason to doubt what we’re saying.

I had one call with a customer where I was explaining why we issue parts on a Net30. I mentioned that part of that was to make any returns easier. This made the customer uncertain about using our parts. Going forward I didn’t mention that and only said it was to make things as easy and smooth as possible for the bodyshop.

In a different call I mentioned that we LTL some engine cradles because of the weight. Herb told me to tell the customer we could get it to them 2nd day like our website promises and we can pay more for shipping to meet that if necessary.

Apprenticeship Week 3

It’s already been three weeks that I’ve worked at Original One Parts.

Projects this Week

Early in the week I finished the Hubspot/Salespad project I was assigned my first week. I have no more paperwork from old orders to deal with!

After I finished that, I was asked to sort a spreadsheet with all of our part numbers and descriptions indicating the type of part it is. Ever single item sku and number code was listed. I had to delete all but one of each letter code and change the description to just have the part that letter code refers to. There were over 1000 rows in the sheet initially and now there are fewer than 200. They were also all in lowercase, so I learned how to use =upper, =lower, and =proper in Excel to change that.

The next day, I was assigned a spreadsheet of Kayce’s previous calls to go through. I have to add the date, her initials, and her call notes to the Salespad CRM tab. When I finish this it’s possible I’ll do the same for old daily call logs but I’m not sure.

Things I Learned this Week

I’ve gotten more comfortable answering the phone and feel confident in doing so. This week I learned how to get information to process a return, pay an invoice, and send pictures of surplus parts.

Other Updates

Thursday on my way home from work traffic was backed up and it was very stop and go. I stopped in an exit lane to get from one highway to another, and the car behind me didn’t slow down fast enough. I got rear ended. No one got hurt, but the front of their car got bent up pretty bad, and my rear end needs replaced and the exhaust is rubbing.

I didn’t go in Friday so I could talk to my insurance company and the body shop that will be handling my repairs.

Next week because of Memorial Day I will be working Tuesday through Friday.