I've been profiled as a contributing writer and industry expert in Fast Company, Bitly, AMEX Open Forum, Time Out New York, PR Week, Grub Street, New York Times, New York Observer, Mashable, and Media Bistro, among others.
As Technically Media’s first Client Success Manager, I am responsible for event sponsorships including this year’s Philly Tech Week. I also project manage Technical.ly’s advertising studio called Technically Creative, which offers sponsored content as a means for organizations to directly connect with local technology communities through engaging storytelling. I spent nearly ten years working with media companies back in New York and hope to share some key learnings on what sponsored content means, where it came from, and why your teams should invest. I want to make this media topic fun and approachable not scary or overwhelming. Hopefully I’ll achieve that.
OK so, what the heck is Sponsored Content and why are there so many different industry terms?
Mark Duffy aka Copy Ranter at Digiday pokes fun at this trend:
“advertising is now, also, “storytelling,” which better be “authentic.” “Marketing is also no longer marketing. It’s “engagement.”
Here’s how the industry is defining this new media shift.
Today, Sponsored Content falls under what is called Native Advertising. Think: advertising experiences that match the look and feel of a site. Or, content that is written in the tone and voice of those editors. Sponsored Content is when an organization pays for a piece of content. For example, Technically Creative is our answer to sponsored content where we act as a digital agency to produce custom content for clients who want to reach local, niche technology communities. Sourcing and production is all us.
Branded Content is a bit different. That’s when a brand takes that process in-house and creates their own custom channel to present that content. Think: Marriott’s own travel site, ‘Travel Brilliantly’.
Content Marketing is when a brand leans on content to drive readers down the purchase funnel. Think: starting a blog with a series of articles that talks about your product, educates readers about your product through interactive content to entice readers to sign up and use your product. Buffer’s blog is a great example of this strategy.
Advertorial is the one we may be most familiar with but the term is rarely used and outdated. So, don’t use it.
Content has always been a part of native advertising, dating back to consumer goods featured in publications as early as the 1600s. Long copy, customer testimonials, product features and pricing were early examples. Then in WWII long copy took the style of narratives making emotional appeals and later the creation of brand personalities surfaced. In the 70s and 80s, we saw a rise in celebrity and sports endorsements. Don’t forget out-of-home direct mail had ads too!
Fast forward to the internet age where digital and social are leading content consumption and dollar investment. Readers spend time with content online (desktop, mobile, and tablet) through a mix of media platforms we all know and are obsessed with today. Here’s a glance at that digital content mix from both a reader perspective and business perspective.
PRs, marketers, and advertisers want their brand in front of readers that consume content where there is contextual relevancy, value, and most importantly engagement. That’s where sponsored content comes in. You need to be well versed in Content Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations Strategy, and Digital Strategy to win here.
Here’s how Technical.ly discloses sponsored content, in which clients pay us to conceptualize, create, and promote a story that lives on the homepage as in-feed units and then amplified across social.
Here are other examples of sponsored content across social media. Instagram ‘Takeovers’ are the new version of sponsored content where brands tap influencers to create original visual content with a mention of the brand in the post. I like that Allegra leveraged The Onion’s humor for a sponsored Facebook post, and Philly Voice took to Twitter to craft a custom sponsored message with Rowan University directing followers to their sponsored content. Quartz keeps it simple with a sponsored content label atop an article.
Don’t do this.
Sponsored content can provide the resources to do more ambitious content and drive brand awareness as long as you follow the rules. Keep in mind these four:
Sponsored Content is:
Editorially driven - written in the tone/voice of writer but puts the brand at the center of the story
Native to the site - behaves like other editorial content of the site (in-feed)
Transparent - clear and appropriate sponsorship language should always be included
Ends with a strong call-to-action - drives reader engagement and makes an impact
When done right, sponsored content can shift brand perception AND enhance the value of an overall web experience.
iab research shows credibility is at stake, relevancy matters, and expertise in a topic counts. These are crucial indicators of success.
So why pay for sponsored content?
For one, sponsored content removes the hassle of pitching editors and waiting for a response. Instead, sponsored content is a guarantee that your content will be managed from start to finish and be published in a timely fashion. One way to position sponsored content is part of a larger campaign timing, like an upcoming event or marketing initiative. Have a specific date in mind? Ask your partners what that turnaround process looks like and work together to meet those deadlines.
Authenticity is key. Collaborate internally to find people within your organization, or loyal customers, or community members that could be the main characters of the sponsored content much like a story. Work with publishers that have a credible editorial voice that readers love and trust. By the way: creative content studios are available at growing media companies with teams that are smart and nimble. Journalists, writers, editors, designers, marketers, videographers, and strategists all work with you as a client to guide you on the best sponsored content product.
In the end, you can see what sponsored content worked and what didn’t. When a piece of editorial coverage hits, analytics aren’t part of the deal. In sponsored content, analytics are. Get a report, regroup with your teams, and analyze your investment.
Assemble a team
Remember: audience first
Trust in point-of-view
Get creative with multimedia
Establish thought leadership
Measure and optimize
Set up sponsored content for success. First: identify who can be the point people at your organization to lead a sponsored content campaign with the right partners. Whether you hire a PR agency, or work directly with a publisher, communication between all is critical.
The best sponsored content tells a story. Like I mentioned before, trust in your partners (most likely the edit team you’re working with) to leverage their expertise and craft story angles that will achieve your goals. Contribute brand assets like hi-res visuals and creative to make your story pop.
Let editors know what you can speak to: what does your product or service do best and how can that translate as value to a reader? What key talking points or takeaways should the sponsored content serve? This is how you establish thought leadership.
Lastly, work closely with your partners to analyze performance and make changes along the way if need be. Explore KPIs early on and lean on editorial analytics to learn what worked best, or what could improve performance.
It is sunny and nearly 70 degrees today in Philadelphia so my hopes for taking in spring time activities are at an all-time high. Cold breezes and wet rain have been bringing me down and with a back patio constantly teasing me any bit of sunshine and warm weather is much needed.
Here’s what I’m looking forward to this spring in Philadelphia
Follow my #visitPhilly and #whyIlovePhilly adventures on Instagram @makeshiftalisha
Window shopping up and down Passyunk Avenue
South Philly is a cultural hub in and of itself, and I find weekend afternoons are most enjoyable when I take a leisurely walk along Passyunk Avenue. The Ave, as the cool kids call it, is lined with boutique and antique shops, award-winning bars and restaurants, and fascinating stores. On most weekends you can find me at a corner dive bar or inside shops like Occasionette or Jinxed, stocking up on goods for my row house.
Touring inside City Hall
I am constantly amazed at the architecture in Philadelphia, and no building do I favor more than City Hall at Broad and Market. For only $6 you can go to the top of the tower and say hi to Billy Penn himself, or take in 360-degree views of Philly from the top of the newly-opened Observation Deck.
Skyline views from Le Bok Fin
Philadelphia continues to stretch its borders, and one of the most surprising views comes from an old technical high school turned into a pop-up space in deep South Philly, called Le Bok Fin. Le Bok Fin opened the school’s terrace to the public last summer with a makeshift beer garden and rooftop restaurant, with more upgrades still to come.
People watching along the Schuylkill Banks
Philadelphia is stepping up its public green space game, and Schuylkill is a great example of this. An excellent way to take in the sights is to walk, run, skate, or bike the riverfront along the Schuylkill River. In the summer, I enjoy admiring families and couples who picnic on the lawn before taking a roundabout walk home in the evening when the lights sparkle along the river.
Bike rides up Kelly Drive
For a bonus warm-weather outdoor adventure, I highly recommend taking the 1.2-mile bike ride from the Schuylkill River Trail up north to Kelly Drive. Enjoy the scenery, lined with beautiful boat houses, gardens, fountains, and historical mansions.
Day tripping to the ‘burbs
Serious bikers and joggers travel the breadth of Kelly Drive all the way to the northwest to the neighborhood of Manayunk. Here, small-town charm comes in the way of local beer and grub at Manayunk Brewing Company, Victorian storefronts, and even better riverfront views.
Philly is a big arts town. One of the 30+ reasons why I love Philly is because you’re surrounded by stunning art everywhere you walk in this city. On cold, rainy days I opt to hide away indoors finding solitude among paintings and figures I may not quite understand.
Here’s how I spent my first spring weekend in Philadelphia where First Fridays and First Sundays ruled:
Open art galleries during First Fridays
This past Friday, I toured Old City modern art galleries where friends, drinks, and stopped by Indy Hall Arts to check out their latest exhibit ‘Spirits and Beasties’, an imaginative take on monster-like creatures that roam inside local artists’ minds – and inside the entrance to one of Philly’s most popular coworking spaces. From there it was off to Arts in the Age, a Warby Parker annex slash retail outlet fit for an outdoorsman. I often visit this shop to collect unique objects that either end up on my keychain or plastered on my walls. This time I walked out with a one-of-a-kind Philadelphia print.
More on ‘First Friday’s’: Soak in the Philadelphia’s arts scene with more than 40 open house art gallery shows around Philadelphia’s coolest creative ‘hoods like Old City, Callowhill, Fishtown, and Kensington. Every first Friday of the month, starting at 5 p.m., art galleries open their doors free to the public with crowds flowing and local artists showing off their latest pieces, such as interactive digital and visual arts, drawings, sketches, and performance art.
Pay what you wish during First Sundays at Philadelphia Museum of Art
Every first Sunday of the month is the best excuse to get off your couch and get cultured. A must-see collection that forced my lazy Sunday habits to take a hike was the Philadelphia Museum of Art paintings of Christianity inside the European Art section, which feels like having entered an ancient monastery.
I always find this collection moving and surreal.
More ideas for soaking in arts and culture when visiting Philly
Hang out after hours at the Barnes Foundation
Over the winter I found myself spending a Friday night with friends at a VIP-esque Barnes Foundation event. Picture a classy, dressed up party inside one of the country’s finest private art collections, with young single people eyeing each other in between sips of expensive drinks – plus Picasso and Matisse sketches line mansion walls and a live cover band plays on stage. This is a real thing that happens frequently. Get tickets for the next event.
See a live show at the Kimmel Center
Though I lived in New York for over five years, I never saw a live Broadway show (I know!). Leave it to me to wait until I move to Philadelphia to gain a soft spot for the ballet, opera, and jazz. On the docket this year is seeing the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, singers from the MET Opera, and even comedian Brian Regan do stand-up!
Recognized as the 6th best food city in America by The Washington Post the number one best city in the U.S. by Lonely Planet, Philadelphia should be at the top of your must-visit list this year. Get your stomach ready, because there’s a lot to eat in this town, starting with my favorite dishes below.
Whiz wit at Jim’s Steaks
400 South St, Philadelphia
Fun fact: Philadelphians rarely eat cheese steaks. It’s what tourists do. Having said that, I firmly believe you should try it once, and do it right at Jim’s on South Street: a long Italian roll, thinly sliced juicy beef, a slab of cheese whiz, and diced caramelized onions helped on top. Just don’t mess up your order: say ‘whiz wit’ at the counter and move along.
Nashville-style hot chicken at The Fat Ham
3131 Walnut St, Philadelphia
Among the reigning chefs of Philadelphia is Chef Kevin Sbraga who owns The Fat Ham, home to my favorite Southern fried chicken in the city. The ‘Top Chef’ winner takes the best of Nashville style hot chicken (60% cayenne pepper is the trick) and serves it up piping hot and crispy over a bed of sliced white bread and silky ranch dressing. Try it as a slider for happy hour next time you’re near 30th Street Station.
Mt. Vesuvius sundae at Franklin Fountain
116 Market St, Philadelphia
For ice cream lovers, there is no better spot to treat yo’ self than at old school parlor shop, Franklin Fountain in Old City. The Mt. Vesuvius is a chocolate lovers dream: chunks of chocolate brownie under hot fudge ‘lava’ that is topped with malt powder and whipped cream, all served under a mountain of your choice of chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
‘Hot Fresh’ donuts at Federal Donuts
Grab donuts hot off the fryer at Federal Donuts. Chef Michael Solomonov has blessed Philadelphia with several top restaurants, and luckily for us, his fried chicken and donut chain is available throughout the city. For less than $1.50 you can have your pickings from Vanilla Lavender, Appolonia, or Indian Cinnamon-dusted hot and fresh donuts, or, for a buck more, upgrade to a “fancy” donut like Blueberry Mascarpone.
DiBruno Bros cheese
Since I moved to Philadelphia I have lost count at how many dollars I continue to spend (totally worth it) at the legendary DiBruno Bros specialty foods shops. If cured meats and cheese are your thing, drop everything you’re doing and go to one of their six locations now. They do not skimp on free samples!
Truffled egg toast at Tria
It’s the little things, right? I’ve discovered the little thing that keeps me coming back to Tria, a stellar wine and cheese bar, time after time: the Truffled Egg Toast with Fontina Fontal. For egg sluts like myself, there is nothing better than this dish which features a jello-like egg yolk atop a cheese-melted slice of densely toasted brioche. Drool.
Philadelphia is seriously having a moment right now. In 2015 it was named America’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, thanks to the historical significance of Independence Hall, and in the same year, named the num. 1 city in North America for live music. To top it off, The Washington Post recognized Philly as the 6th best food city in America. Oh, and Lonely Planet recently named Philadelphia the num. one best city in the U.S. But while you might not need anymore convincing on why to visit, you probably do need some recommendations on what to do. So that’s why I’m here, to show you the best things to do in the city I now call home: Philadelphia.
I’m learning to tolerate business travel. Traveling for work is a relatively new experience for me, one that I’m slowly adjusting to and finding appreciation for. But I think I’ve figured out how a fiercely independent globetrotter like myself can make the most of strict group itineraries with minimal downtime. The key: managing expectations.
Thanks to a big-budget project at work, I’ve been invited on a multi-city technology conference series that brought me to Denver, Colorado (and next, Chicago, one of my favorite cities in America). As a fan of visiting small regions off season, I was excited to fly again (it had been a year since i was last on a plane!) somewhere new. On my to do list was a few small musts: snap a picture of the Rockies, go skiing, find the Topo Designs flagship store, and taste Colorado beef. Unsure of how jam-packed my schedule would be, I limited myself to making a short but realistic “hit list” of Mile High City musts.
STAY, WORK, LOUNGE
Gear Patrol magazine never fails to deliver. One of my go-to travel sources, I looked up their Denver recommendations and discovered Hotel Teatrodowntown. I immediately alerted our makeshift travel agent (aka our Events Director) to book us a stay. Luckily the hotel fell within our budget and our rooms were booked.
I immediately fell in love with the boutique hotel. For one, the entire staff was incredibly warm and inviting our whole stay. My former New Yorker anti-social attitude still is shocked by the genuine pleasantries offered by strangers. Now as a Pennsylvania resident, I’m getting used to having my guard down – and I have to admit, it’s nice. Second, Hotel Teatro hosts a cafe inside their lounge where you can hide yourself in an oversized chair or snag a table by the fireplace to read the morning paper. Third, and my favorite, is their courtesy car concierge services. Hotel guests can score a free ride anywhere within a two mile radius, any time, day or night. Convenient!
EAT, DRINK, PLAY
Union Station came recommended by my colleagues who had previously been in town. So my boss and I took a stroll through downtown in part to please our inner history buff and to take in some Denver culture.
“Without railroads, Denver would be too dead to bury,” said railroad executive Thomas Durant in the 1867. The city’s Union Station was built in 1880 and received a massive renovation in the last five years that made its inside a certain kind of glamorous, from horse town to urban chic.
Union Station is a marvelous meeting ground. Reminiscent of New York’s Ace Hotel, I found myself feeling comfortable sitting at a picnic-like table with a locally-brewed Kolsch beer from the adjacent Terminal Bar reading the latest editions of Conde Nast Traveler and Afar magazines. Inside Union Station you’re surrounded by the beautiful old-school style Crawford Hotel, business men and women taking conference calls and meetings, folks playing shuffleboard, and quirky storefronts and eateries. Shortly before my beer and magazine break I stuffed my face with a breakfast burrito from Snooze just a few steps away. This was my happy place. I didn’t want to leave.
SHOP AND WALK
On my last day in Denver I managed to squeeze in a few hours of downtime which allowed me to kill time at Tattered Covered Book Store and Topo Designs.
I’m a sucker for bookstores and will always seek out the best one in any city I visit. So I was really excited to step inside Tattered Covered Book Store to find a much-needed adult coloring book. Walking around the Tattered felt like being in a library with books filled top to bottom and book junkies nose deep into pages. I even sought help finding a book at a computer like one did back in the day!
For adventurous travelers, Topo Designs Flagship store is a must when in Denver. Shop here if you are a fan of heavy duty travel gear like multi-purpose backpacks, outdoors-ready apparel, and fleece-lined laptop sleeves. Their products are environmentally friendly, all American, and just fucking dope. I am slowly stocking up on everything they sell and have been a loyal fan for years. I suggest getting on board.
Denver in a word was delightful. Though I only got to see the Rockies from a highway taxi drive and I didn’t get to go skiing, I left with the impressions that I’d be back and the city would receive me with open arms. Next time I’ll be sure to drink more local beer, eat a burger, and ski those slopes. Next time, Denver!
Here’s what I’ve learned about traveling for work and what tips you can practice if you ever have to take a business trip:
Go the extra mile to book cost-cutting amenities, like courtesy car services, whenever possible. This will save you (or whoever is handling expenses) money on taxi’s, including Ubers and Lyfts.
Despite how busy with work obligations you may be, find one spot to sneak in solo hang time. Perhaps find a cafe to duck into before your work day starts, or sneak in a bubble bath back at your hotel room. The important part is to integrate even the smallest bit of solitude so you don’t stress out while on the road.
Befriend the local bartender. They will know what’s up and tell you the best secrets of the place you’re visiting.
Find a work buddy to unwind with. If you’re traveling for work in a big group this should be your excuse to bond with a friendly colleague and make the trip more fun.
Bring petty cash. Cover your ass (and have fun spending it!). I always strive to have $100 just in case.
Find the central area you’ll be staying throughout your trip and build a “play” list within a few blocks. Chances are if you’re in town for work you won’t be traveling far from your hotel so research bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops to check out nearby when free time does pop up.
AMA on Branded Content Friday, February 5th with Technically Media
Whether you call it native advertising, content marketing or advertorial content, Technical.ly calls it sponsored content. These are reported stories with input from brands like Comcast, Longwood Gardens, Microsoft and Citi Bike that live right in the Technical.ly news feed, in front of a growing audience of people who care about local impact.
Learn how we do it. Why we do it. How you can get involved. Join us on the Technical.ly Slack for an AMA on Feb. 5.
It’s been nearly six months since I left New York for Philadelphia. I have truly loved the transition and have worked non-stop around this city and then some with Technically Media which has left me exhausted but also anxious to make new connections. Back in New York I was part of several wonderful networking groups which I now dearly miss, so in an effort to make new friends, meet new people in the industry, and just get back into the swing of things, I am teaming up with Leah Kauffman of Rad-Girls to host a new morning meetup series called #RadGirlsinTech in Philadelphia.
#RadGirlsinTech is about convening women in the local Philadelphia tech community. Our goal? Expand what it means to identify as a woman working in the tech industry. We want to make connections between techies (coders, programmers) and non-techies (content creators, marketers) to foster collaboration – and even friendship!
What to expect? Leah and I will provide fun ‘prompt cards’ to make introductions and further purposeful networking. Grab a coffee, say hi to your neighbor, and have business cards handy!
What about the “unbanked” (those who do not have proximal access to banks and other financial services) or those with little financial assets to begin with? What if you face disparity in income, your opportunities for upward mobility are limited, or transfer of wealth like inheritance and 401Ks doesn’t include you? In today’s fickle American economy, making the right financial decisions can be daunting. Even worse, for some Millennial minorities how your family handled money while you were growing up can make or break your chances of financial stability as an adult.
According to a 2010 Yankelovich MONITOR Multicultural Study, the majority of Hispanics — 77% — agree with the statement, “I wish more financial institutions would offer products and services with Hispanics in mind”
Hispanics earn $16,353 a year less on average than their colleagues who are not Hispanic, while Blacks make $3,656 less than whites, according to a report from the American Institute for Economic Research
If you are a Latina woman it’s even tougher: the national average is 56 cents to every dollar paid to a white man
According to an iQuantifi survey this April, only 29 percent of young workers have looked to professionals for advice, suggesting that while Millennials have goals, they lack a comprehensive financial plan
Despite all these cultural issues, four female entrepreneurs are taking matters into their own hands.
Tackling Cultural Norms in FinTech
Nichelle Stephens at KeepingNickels.com: “We [minorities] are not used to money and want to splurge when we should save,” she comments. “I used my fluctuating freelance income as an excuse to splurge when a big check came and starve when income was low.”
Ginger Dean at Girls Just Wanna Have Funds: “Our unique challenge is that we don’t make money management, entrepreneurship and long-term financial planning a priority in our homes,” Dean claims. “This is where the behavior is modeled for our next generation. We need kids to learn from a young age what it means to make, spend and invest money wisely.”
Jennifer Velasquez at BrooklynPlans.org: “There is a feeling like you already need to have your finances in order before going to a planner, so the industry fails to meet us where we are,” she claims. “If we have unpredictable income or need to earn more the advice might be, ‘you need to make more money.’ Okay that’s great, but how do I do that?”
Ramona Ortega at My Money, My Future: “Building wealth is a process – and financial literacy is really about understanding the lingo and then understanding how all the products fit together to get you to financial security,” Ortega says.
Change Your Money Habits With These 6 Tools
Level Money is a smartphone app for budgeting and tracking with an estimate of spending money for the day, week and month.
Even is a new app designed to help people with irregular income work out an average monthly income, save, and/or cover expenses when there’s a surplus.
Kiddie Coins Kids is a book series and soon-to-be mobile app educating children on the basics of money management skills.
PocketSmith is an all-in-one suite that provides vital information (like cash flow) along with long-term savings projections.
Digit is a fun and simple way to save automatically based on your existing income.
Robinhood helps you learn how to trade in a low-cost, low-risk way.
So what can millennial minorities do to improve their financial game plan? All four women agree: ask questions, get educated on digital banking versus traditional banking, and seek support.
Share Your Opinion:
Has your family history impacted the way you manage your money?
Madison Collective has asked me to be a guest ‘storyteller’ at their first Culture Code event on July 7th in New York City! I will be sharing anecdotes of working as a Latina in media and the ‘lost in translation’ moments that sometimes occur when your colleagues don’t realize you’re a person of color. Speakers like myself will share the do’s & don’ts of cross-cultural interaction through an evening of funny, light-hearted storytelling.
I’ve joined forces with My Money, My Future to raise awareness about the unique cultural challenges Latina millennials face when it comes to personal finance. In this new series, I divulge personal anecdotes about having a negative relationship with money across my personal and professional life, reflect on my mistakes (and hopefully learn from them), and provide tips to help women of color become financially savvy adults. Below is the series of articles to dive into:
Thanks to the team at ADDISON Yacht Charters for selecting my budget travel tips on Uruguay as part of their new vacation travel guide! Learn 3 ways to make the most of South America’s coolest little nation, and enjoy a stop-over in Buenos Aires while you’re there!
Last week I interviewed Conan O’Brien about his hilarious trip to Cuba in March 2015. Learn how the trip came to be, how he translated his improv roots to connect with Cubans, and if he’ll be taking Team Coco on the road in the future.
As many of you know I returned from a dream trip to Uruguay this past winter. I’m a Uruguay fanatic. I believe it’s special because nobody goes there.
Uruguay is an underrated destination. Montevideo in Uruguay—that’s to a great extent undiscovered. Everyone from Argentina knows how cool it is because they fill the place up during the season, but other than them, the rest of the world has yet to catch on. It’s a very laid-back place, the people are really nice, the beaches are incredible, and there’s great food. Tough country for vegetarians, though. - Anthony Bourdain
I think Uruguay is the most underrated vacation spot in the world. But I don’t want everyone finding out about it and ruining it either. As a traveler who believes in being culturally immersed into every new place I visit, I encourage you to do the same: visit Uruguay with your eyes, ears, and noses wide open.
Uruguay is a relatively unknown nation snug between Argentina and Brazil. Though widely visited by vacationing Latin Americans with money and affluence, Uruguay is also welcoming to budget travelers. Many backpackers think of Uruguay as a stop-over from Buenos Aires or Patagonia, but I’m here to tell you it’s worth devoting an entire vacation to.
During my three-week getaway, I loved experiencing many facets of Uruguayan life – starting with a leisurely afternoon in the serene town of Colonia right off Rio de la Plata, then spending a week walking Montevideo’s cobble stone streets, and then escaping to the north, beach bumming along the coast. Everywhere I went I met the nicest, warmest people eager and passionate about sharing Uruguayan culture with me. Plus, the weather (our February is their peak summer) brought much-needed hot temperatures. Extended sunlight with cool winds in the evening were perfect for attending a parilla (BBQ) outside with new friends. I found Montevideo in particular to be a great walking city that also provides speedy and cheap transit options for traveling in and out of the city. I rode buses everywhere with the help of friendly locals. As a Spanish-speaking tourist, I must admit it was much easier for me to navigate throughout my travels and practice my native tongue, but rest assured many Uruguayans I met spoke English and were happy to practice doing so.
Below are my tips for vacationing in Uruguay (with mention of Buenos Aires) on a budget:
Book Early Through Buenos Aires
I booked my overnight flight via LAN Airlines (after months of stalking travel alerts) for $1,031.53 USD which is under the market average ($1,200+ USD) for a roundtrip flight in and out of Buenos Aires. I’m a travel alert hoarder and if you play your cards right, you can score amazing deals and getaways too. I use a mix of travel sites to keep an eye on budget-specific alerts including Hipmunk, TravelZoo, Sky Scanner, and Airfare Watchdog. Pick one or a few, set your parameters, and pay attention to your inbox. When you find a deal you like, act quickly!
After hanging in BsAs (short for Buenos Aires) for a week, I booked a ferry via Colonia Express from Buenos Aires to Colonia then a bus from Colonia to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay ($29.95 USD). On my return trip from Montevideo back to Buenos Aires, I splurged for the express Buquebus ferry which turned out to be a lovely ride ($87.82 USD).
Stay With Locals on AirBnB
For this particular trip, I wanted to stay with locals who could offer up a private room or home for an affordable price. I knew very little about Uruguay and desperately wanted to connect with locals who would welcome me into their home and share a piece of Uruguayan life with me. I knew hotels would not offer that local experience, and hostels aren’t my scene anymore. Enter: AirBnB. I booked AirBnB rooms for roughly 1 week each in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and outside of Punta del Este (Uruguay) for a total of $666.00 USD, an average of $31.71 USD per night. I loved every place I stayed at, I made friends with all my hosts, and each room was fully furnished. I also lucked out with convenient AirBnB locations which made going out and coming home relatively safe and easy. An overlooked luxury of booking an AirBnB is having a kitchen to cook or bring leftovers back. I even went grocery shopping a few times to save money on meals.
Order Meals from the ‘Menu Ejuctivo’
Similar to their sister European countries, both Argentina and Uruguay offer special menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that often promote affordable meals accompanied with a few sides. Breakfast specials range from $75 Argentine or Uruguay pesos ($2 - $8 USD) and typically include coffee, juice, a pastry, and/or egg dish. Lunch can run $300 Argentine or Uruguayan pesos ($11 USD) and include a glass of house wine, soup, and/or salad. Dinner will cost upwards of $500 Argentine or Uruguayan pesos ($18 USD) depending on what you’re craving and the type of dining experience you’re after. Note: Uruguay doesn’t do “fancy” so many restaurants are casual, laid back, and filled with locals. I found that to be quite a relief after trying to dress to impress whilst in Buenos Aires. Bonus: sometimes my meals were so big I had leftovers which spared me from dining out and spending more money! Fill up on steak and Tannat wine in Uruguay, it’s the best. See my foodie’s guide to Uruguay with my favorite dishes.
Ride Public Transit in the City
This should be a no brainer no matter where you travel. As a New Yorker, I believe in walking everywhere until my feet fall off. I take pleasure in walking and wandering about as much as possible. However, when the time comes that my feet can take no more, I want to feel comfortable hopping on a bus or metro nearby to return home. Luckily, Montevideo has many local buses to flag down. In Montevideo the local buses are called Ómnibuses and charge $22 Uruguayan pesos a ride ($0.83 USD). The easiest bus to take follows Avenue 18 de Julio (the main strip) from the main bus station (Tres Cruces) to the Plaza de Independencia (just before entering Ciudad Vieja) which costs $15 Uruguayan pesos ($0.55 USD).
Though I traveled during Carnaval season to Uruguay (February), there were hardly any tourists which made dining out easy, and especially great for meeting locals. Uruguay also offers a wide variety of vacation perks including beautiful vineyards boasting delicious Tannat red wines (for fans of strong, earthy Malbec), sleepy beach towns that stretch from the cityscapes of Montevideo across to Punta del Este and up the riviera to the tiny town of Jose Ignacio (home to the best beachside restaurant on the planet) and beyond, and lush greenery that makes up its rural gaucho (cowboy) country. I’m happy to report I was able to experience all of the above.
Here are additional resources to plan your Uruguayan vacation:
Paul Brady is the only other Uruguay-obsessed travel writer I know. He was and has been my concierge for all things Uruguay for years now. This post is a tribute to one of his favorite places on earth and I highly suggest booking a stay here if you’re into being off the grid. There’s more hotel coverage on Uruguay he’s contributed over at CNTraveler.com.
This was one of the most exciting pieces I read on Uruguay as I began to research my trip. Here, the New York Times proves you don’t need two weeks to see the best of Montevideo, you can make it a weekend destination if you’re pressed for time. Book an overnight flight so you don’t miss out!
Thanks to the shortage of Uruguay travel guides – both in print and online – for American travelers, this blog run by a British expat fills the gaps. It became my bible, answering so many questions I couldn’t find elsewhere. The site is updated daily and the author owns an amazing guesthouse you can rent.
During my recent sabbatical I’ve taken the time to reassess my personal and professional priorities, leading me to join several eye-opening conversations along the way. It’s become apparent that my peers and I want more out of our careers, but the common thread amongst our struggle to find a company that values our goals surfaced: company culture is broken.
Diversity Recruitment as a Solution
I recently attended a panel addressing this topic led by top media staffers who shared their tips in creating and maintaining a healthy, diverse, and productive company culture. Job seekers (like myself) in the audience leaned on these panelists’ answers in choosing the right work environment, and though there were a few insightful moments, it was clear that shaping company culture is an ongoing challenge. However, many see diversity recruitment as a productive solution. I took it upon myself to weigh in on the issue through the #letstalkculture and #askmemás hashtags on Twitter which received support from fellow attendees, and drew attention from minorities in tech.
When hiring… do not go the easy route and simply hire from your own personal networks. Reaching out to different organizations and doing the work to find other communities that are not like you is crucial to ensuring your job postings will have a diverse set of candidates to choose from.
Visibility of Current Diversity
One panelist admitted he and his company could do better in recruiting people of color, while another panelist felt minorities don’t make themselves visible enough. I was shocked, disappointed, and felt it imperative to share the resources as a Latina in tech as a rebuttal. Minorities in tech are in fact present, and equally qualified for jobs their peers are offered. To boast, there are communities actively providing resources (see descriptions below) to raise visibility for people of color, specifically women of color, and encourage anyone in charge of hiring or on-boarding staffers to tap their communities for talent. I can speak to the fact that working on a diverse team brings out the best creativity, different points of view, and collaborative success. When you bring on talent with diverse backgrounds – race, gender, sexuality and especially career paths – you have an opportunity to create a unique learning environment. Yes, it’s hard to achieve diversity – but – it’s rewarding if done right. Diversity is a great thing. Diversity is what sets you apart from competitors. Diversity is the key to successful company culture.
Interview Questions to Discuss
It can be uncomfortable bringing up diversity throughout the hiring process. I try to make it a point to integrate the question of diversity as part of a larger company culture dialogue. Here are several questions that can help you steer that conversation:
Describe the communication style amongst your team. What tools do you use to effectively communicate cross-functionally? What are the best and worst examples of communication styles you’ve seen implemented?
How is the team dynamic currently and what structure has worked best for efficiency and productivity?
Can you describe the growth of the company and what type of candidates have seen the most success?
What other platforms are you using to source talent? How have candidates found you?
What is the typical career trajectory for a person in this position?
What would you say are the top three personality traits someone needs to do this job well?
Challenge: without saying beer, coffee, snacks, ping pong, or happy hour, describe some of your favorite team bonding experiences that have added to positive company morale.
Follow up: Why do you like working here?
I know this company prides itself on X and Y, so what would you say is the most important aspect of your culture?
Does the company offer continued education and professional training? What does the on boarding process look like for new hires?
What communities or organizations outside this company are employees involved with?
But this is just the beginning. There are more resources out there. Do the research. Invest in the future of your team. I’m ready, willing, and able to aid in the innovation needed to improve recruiting efforts and would be happy to lend my advice and connections to help do so. Just ask how.
Below I’ve compiled some of my favorite communities that I feel are doing the grunt work in shaping the career paths for minorities in the digital workforce. I encourage job seekers and hiring managers alike to explore these communities, reach out to them, and set aside time to hold candid conversations about making diversity recruitment a top priority. I also encourage readers to expand their definition of “tech” beyond coding and engineering. There are plenty of non-techies who work in tech (eh hem, me) who are essential for a growing digital company. Think: content/writing/editing, marketing, public relations, accounting, for example. These professionals can complete a well-rounded team and often work alongside designers and developers to see projects through.
Once you hire dynamic people with awesome, diverse points-of-view, make them feel welcome. Do away with the stocked liquor cabinets, free beer/coffee/snacks, monthly happy hours, and ping pong tables. Instead, focus your energy on making them feel included in meaningful ways. It might come as a shock, but not all new hires want or care about how much free food they get while working overtime. They care about getting work done in a healthy, pleasant, and inclusive environment.
Today, more than ever, employees seek out inclusive work environments that make them feel appreciated and valued. Just ask around. A great first step in retaining new hires is to create a welcome kit complete with a proper on-boarding process, one that provides training, sets them up with a buddy, and allows them to contribute to their team with small test projects/accounts/assignments. Not sure where to start? I recommend reading the pop forms blog which has fantastic resources on leadership and team building.
From there it’s up to you to instill trust and flexibility that allows talent to grow and hopefully turn employees into company ambassadors. Allow a safe space for them to speak out, share ideas, and get their best work done. As my friend Stacy-Marie once said, don’t be the reason people quit.
After nearly five years of dreaming about visiting South America’s coolest little nation, this past February I took the plunge and hopped on a plane to Uruguay to celebrate my birthday. I’ve talked extensively about my love for this country - thanks in part to Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ episode and an entertaining World Cup match back in 2010. I’m thrilled to have experienced Uruguay’s cityscapes, lush beaches, and quirky art walks in between meals of meat platters and Tannat red wine.
Arriving to Uruguay from Buenos Aires by ferry meant I had time for a quick stop over in the adorable coastal town of Colonia. I was speechless upon arrival, unable to believe that I had finally landed in this place I had dreamed about for so long. With a few hours to kill and a map in tow, I decided to wander about and find a cafe recommended to me by my Buenos Aires AirBnB host: Lentas Maravillas (slow wonders).
The cafe was a perfect introduction into Uruguayan life: peaceful, slow, and magical. I sat at a small table facing Rio de la Plata (the largest river in the world, separating Argentina and Uruguay) watching families playing in boats along the shore, and listening to birds chirping in the trees. I ordered a beer in a frozen mug (custom among Uruguayans) and watched the world go by.
The next day I celebrated my 29th birthday in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city. My hosts surprised me with a wake up call to visit the neighborhood farmers market, where we scouted ingredients to make my birthday lunch.
Here I explored produce I’d never seen before, witnessed locals bargaining with vendors and bought some of my very own local faire to bring back home. Later we cooked homemade fried fish with salad and broke bread together.
That night I decided to walk Montevideo’s 25 kilometres of unbroken promenade along Rio de la Plata on my own. I was greeted with a breath-taking sunset and people watching, constantly amused and delighted to see so many Uruguayos enjoying their evening mate (tea). It was the perfect setting to take in Montevideo’s city scape where I got a peek into its main drags, night life, and riverside scenery. I rarely look forward to my birthday because northeaster winters in February are particularly brutal. But this year was special, and I had the entire day to myself to enjoy a leisurely stroll somewhere new, strange, and unfamiliar. This was my day to make new memories I’d remember the rest of my life. As the sun set on my first day in Montevideo, I let out a sigh of relief and sported a giddy smile that probably left people staring. I was finally in Uruguay.
With a cross-disciplinary work history that spans 7+ years in tech, PR, and advertising, I’m pursuing agnostic roles in:
Content Creation & Social
Web Content Writer
Social Media Manager
Digital Content Strategist
Digital & Interactive
Digital Media Manager
Digital Marketing Manager
At my core, I’m a writer and ideas gal: I can write, edit, strategize, and produce digital content that directly contributes to revenue. In my last sales support role, I helped bring in $3.58M+ in won business, with a majority of deals rooted in branded content campaigns like this one. In March 2015, I crafted copy for Edelman Digital ad campaigns spanning PR, digital, and design in submission for the Cannes Lions Awards. I get excited about leading brainstorms, strategy sessions, communications outreach, and thought leadership events for startups and global media brands alike. I’m comfortable being in front of stake holders as much as I am working behind the scenes. See past speaking engagements here.
I’m also a seasoned marketer who knows how to develop integrated, multi-platform campaigns that resonate with audiences. This spring, I owned the WIRED Insider social channels to create, amplify, and promote WIRED Business Conference digital content to an audience of 60,000+ forward-thinking technologists. Through engaging real-time live coverage of panels on social media, I sparked conversation online and #WIREDBizCon became a trending topic on Twitter the day of the conference.
I’m experienced in client services and account management, serving as project lead for agency clients in fashion, beauty, travel/hospitality, CPG/QSR, and finance. The diversity in my skill set has allowed me to stay agnostic, nimble, and ahead of the curve while also bringing a holistic business perspective to the table. Just ask any of my references.
I’m a rigorous organizer and a ruthless prioritizer who can impose (or maintain) order on an entire organization’s process. I believe in transparency as a communications tool. I’m passionate about understanding a problem and offering best-in-class solutions, and I can pass that enthusiasm on to those around me.
I also understand the technical end of things. I know my way around a CMS like WordPress because I taught myself how to read and edit HTML code, allowing me to build sites alongside designers and developers. I’m also a big fan of email marketing platforms like Mail Chimp, Tiny Letter, and SailThru. Analytical tools like Sprout Social, Google Analytics, Quantcast, and comScore are in my toolbox as well. I’m obsessed with Bitly, IFTTT, Product Hunt, and Slack.
Working at a profitable forward-thinking company that values diversity (female leadership please!), culture (more than free coffee/beer/snacks), and growth (mentorship, training, on-boarding) is a must. I’m a strong believer in collaboration. I have a knack for getting coders, designers, and data nerds to pull together to deliver exceptional programs that span web, mobile, social, email, and experiential.
I also need to be challenged. I’m eager to learn new skills and flex new muscles. I’m particularly interested in the following areas:
paid vs. earned media
Get In Touch
You can download my resume here. Better yet - email me if you have an opportunity for me.
It took nearly five years but this February I finally made it to Uruguay. My winter escape to the coolest little nation in South America was filled with the kindest people, sun-kissed skin, and heaping plates of meat, fish, wine and beer.
I had the pleasure of sharing my culinary travels through Uruguay with everyone back at home thanks to Parlour Magazine, an online community for women of color who love to travel, who invited me to take over their @ParlourMagazine Instagram feed for a week. From hitting the streets of Montevideo, to hiding away in the country side of Balneario (Punta del Este), I set out to eat and drink like “un Uruguayo.”
Estancia del Puerto - a meat lover’s paradise that takes form as a rotating parilla (barbecue stand) in Montevideo’s Old City port. As a huge Anthony Bourdain fan who immediately became obsessed with Uruguay after watching the “No Reservations” episode, I couldn’t pass up the chance to grab a seat at the bar and order my own plate of grilled meats. This stand is by far the most popular parilla inside Mercado del Puerto (market of the port) which is filled edge to edge with your choice of restaurants and tourist shops alike. While this place may be the most “touristy” spot in Montevideo, it’s beloved by locals and the energy is insatiable. So, I took my seat at the bar and eagerly awaited for my order of “el plato mas chico” or the smallest dish as I knew by looking at my neighbors’ plates, I was in over my head. Thanks to my friendly bartender’s recommendation, I nabbed two servings of rump steak topped with garlic chimichurri sauce and a side of french fries. This lunch was my first introduction to Uruguayan meals: simple and delicious.
Cafe Brasilero - a quintessential Uruguayan bar full of old world charm. I spent many afternoons in Montevideo walking aimlessly to people watch and window shop. I loved Montevideo’s bar scene because the patrons are down to earth and the venues are unpretentious. Plus, I always follow my travel rule of hanging at old man bars because those are the most entertaining. Often times I’d step inside to take a quick break from walking in the sun to enjoy a beer (get the Patricia in a frozen mug whenever possible) and plan my next move with my guidebook.
Museo del Vino - I came to South America with a love for dark, earthy, strong red wine. Luckily Uruguay delivers in the form of Tannat wines which carry a punch but also make for good pairings to so many meat-heavy dishes. In the neighborhood of Barrio Sur which faces Rio de la Plata, you can enjoy Tannat wine at Museo del Vino (museum of wines) while locals gather for weekly tango performances and classes. By far the best choice for a night cap.
Cafe Bacacay - One of my favorite appetizers in the world hails from Spain as patatas bravas, delicious paprika spiced cubed potatoes fried to crispy goodness with aioli sauce drizzled on top. With a large European influence and once under Spanish regime, it’s easy to find popular dishes like these in Uruguay. To me, there’s no better way to enjoy an afternoon snack than sitting al fresco. On this particular day I marveled at the colonial architecture surrounding me as the sun shone high.
El Tinkal - no trip to Uruguay is complete without stuffing a chivito in your face. Another Anthony Bourdain favorite, the chivito is a national treasure: a steak sandwich on a toasted baguette slathered in mayo and layered with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and if you’re feeling up for the challenge, a fried egg on top. Best enjoyed beach side with a soda.
La Huella- If you want the number one culinary reason to visit Uruguay, book your tickets now and head to the beaches of Jose Ignacio to eat at La Huella, easily one of the most beautiful and lively restaurant experiences I’ve ever had. After a week exploring Montevideo, I needed to dip my feet in sandy beaches and go off the grid to see the famed beaches that line past the Punta del Este coast. My only wish was to book a table at La Huella in the tiny town of Jose Ignacio. This beachside bungalow is where Latin America’s rich and famous line up for hours, drooling over the wait staff and owners who themselves have become celebrities. In 2012, Bon Appetit called La Huella the best beachside restaurant on the planet, and I honestly have to agree. I spent almost eight hours here in one day alone, wining and dining alongside Brazilian aristocrats and making friends with bartenders who were all too happy to answer the dozens of questions I threw at them. I walked around taking photos of friends huddled over wooden tables digging into the catch of the day. I lingered over the chefs manning the sushi counter and the waitresses dancing with each other to the DJ’s playlist as the sun went down. I fell in love with their mojitos but most of all with this dessert: molten dulce de leche cake with vanilla ice cream and oatmeal raisin cookies. As my fork broke the just-out-of-the oven cake, a flood of silky dulce de leche spilled on to my plate. Sweet, rich, decadent, and absolutely worth waiting for. If you don’t feel like waiting, may I suggest baking one yourself?
Puerto Luna - the perks of having a whole beach house to yourself is the ability to walk a few dirt paths down to fish shacks across from the ocean. I spent one week in the small village of Balneario Buenos Aires, thirty minutes from the Miami club scene of Punta del Este, giving me the luxury of being one block from the ocean and surrounded by nature. Spending all day beach bumming meant I was ready for fish and luckily I found Puerto Luna which serves flash fried chunks of white fish with fries and beer. Like I said, Uruguayan meals are all about simplicity and deliciousness. A perfect treat.
Punta del Este Terminal - I traveled a lot in Uruguay, taking day trips on jitney shuttle buses up and own the coast and hopping on and off buses to criss cross Montevideo. An easy way to get my mornings started was with a light breakfast: toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and a cafe latte. Cheap and quick!
Parilla Sur - my experience being in Uruguay was only made memorable because of the amazing people I met. Above, my last night in town dinner at a neighborhood parilla with my AirBnB hosts who made me feel like family even before I arrived. Without their hospitality, I couldn’t have made this trip a dream come true. And to me there’s no better way to say goodbye than by sharing a traditional meal right in your own backyard.
Thanks to Parlour Magazine for sharing in my belief that the best way to get to know a country is to taste it. I love traveling for food and hope the meals I had inspire others to give Uruguay a shot.
Causes like #AskMeMas that pop up on social platforms mean that more women like me are vocalizing their purpose. I have become increasingly passionate about joining those conversations. I want people to recognize my ethnicity and the diversity I bring to the table, in a good way.
Greater visibility in the form of having my expertise called upon by mainstream media outlets is one way to gain visibility in my profession and in society at large.
This was the year of self-realization for me in the workplace. I owned my career by negotiating a kick-ass salary for the first time ever. I was vocal about what I believed in, most importantly myself, and my talents. I gained new allies and showed many people who’s boss. I read everything on feminism, and became obsessed with diversity and company culture. I closed out a year of work with no regrets but tons of lessons learned.
“I am introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend… Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole. Depending on your career is like eating a cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later." — Amy Poehler, Yes Please
Below, my favorite pieces that made me yell (sadly) YES! I’M NOT ALONE in the suffering, but also inspired me to do and be better, and provide solutions (albeit temporary) to surviving the industry I chose to work in. In sharing these video clips, articles, and podcasts, I hope more females will not only realize their strengths but also call out those who are destroying them.
2015 watch out; future lady bosses are coming for ya!
One of the proudest moments of my work this year was selling through female-led editorial concepts in partnership with legendary liquor sponsors. As a female working in advertising, it can be very challenging to change the mindsets of traditional media buyers, especially when it comes to gender-biased product decisions. So, leaning on audience insight and market research, I was able to prove on more than one occasion that females are an important target as they have high purchasing power and are increasingly active in drinking culture. Case in point: the team behind HonestlyWTF.com and HonestlyYUM.com.
Leveraging their editorial influence, I ideated a multi-platform campaign rooted in the Absolut and Dewar’s brand messaging to generate excitement around the launch of their limited edition bottles - and - provide consumers fun, easy, and inexpensive gifting ideas for the holidays (check out the reader comments in the links below!). You’ll notice that each featured image within the posts are easily pinnable on Pinterest where users can create their own Honestly-inspired Pinboard, or repin at their leisure. To boast, each editor amplified their posts across their social graphs for additional social reach. In addition to custom content, I worked with the creative studio to design custom ad experiences that syndicated and distributed their brand assets across a network of millions of users on desktop, mobile, and tablet.
Below, the complete series of editorial integrating the limited edition Warhol vodka bottle and Dewar’s 15 into holiday gifting through the lens of fashion, lifestyle, and entertainment:
Ladies, have you ever been reprimanded at work for being too aggressive over email? Or have you been accused of not being engaging enough in meetings? Has a male manager given you performance reviews solely based on your non-verbal communications? I have. More than once.
I have always loved books. Going to the New York Public Library after work to pick up books I’ve reserved online is a regular joyous event. Luckily I don’t have to even leave my neighborhood now to get some new reading material. The wonderful people at Little Free Library have set up shop right on my street in Park Slope where neighbors practice “take a book, leave a book” with each other.
In its most basic form Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. It is one of the best ideas to make up today’s sharing economy, creating local “book swaps” around the world. Proof of the movement is everywhere like the tiny free libraries set up in public parks of Colombia.
Every day I walk past the Little Free Library stoop and peak inside to check what books have been added and which have been taken – it’s a fun little rush to see if any will become my new favorite! I have discovered a Russian cookbook there which I quickly snagged and I’ve also dropped off a number of books that I felt were ready to giveaway. All the books I’ve donated have been picked up by my neighbors, which is comforting that someone out there now enjoys a book I once loved as well! I will continue using Little Free Library on my block. I can’t wait to see what trades will be made as the winter season ramps up!
I’m not the only one who delights in popping their heads in to paw through the assorted stacks. The Little Free Library post is in front of a family’s house so occasionally in the morning I see a mom with her baby looking through for new treasures, always a cute sight. It is fascinating to see the joy Little Free Library has given our block as I see kids and adults discovering reading materials from Lord of the Rings trilogy sets to Lonely Planet guidebooks to children’s stories. Retreating home with a new book from Little Free Library has only added to the appeal of never wanting to leave my block.
You can check out Little Free Library in Park Slope at the corner of 11th Street and 4th Avenue, or visit another Brooklyn location at St. Mark’s and Park Place in Crown Heights. For more information, visit littlefreelibrary.org.
I have been for a couple of years now. I saw the Uruguayan soccer team play in the World Cup on a TV back in 2010 and recalled “Uruguay, that’s a fun (country) name!” and since then, I’ve been obsessed.
But why Uruguay?
Ok fine, here’s why:
Uruguay, the second smallest country in South America, is about the size of Washington State and snuggles between Argentina and Brazil. Its name, which originates from the Guarani language, means “river of the painted birds.” Each of Uruguay’s 19 sections, called departments, embellish the coastline like charms on a bracelet, possessing a unique personality, but somehow fitting in with whole. Rolling plains and fertile farmlands merge seamlessly into white sandy beaches and coastal fishing towns, and large, vibrant cities have pathways to the tranquil river. Uruguay pleases the historian, the cultural aficionado, and the antique or craft and art collector. Foodies and gourmands take delight with Uruguay’s hormone-free farming practices, rich local wines and organic vegetables. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy surfing, fishing and para sailing. - BootsnAll
The appeal of Montevideo lies not in novelty but in its timeless backdrop of fin-de-siècle architecture, shady plazas and riverside promenades bordered by sandy beaches—places where laid-back residents indulge in life’s simple pleasures. - New York Times Travel
In other countries, men would weep, priests would renounce their gods, children run crying to their mothers, but in Uruguay it is beloved, revered. It is, in fact, the national dish… - Anthony Bourdain
Uruguay has made some news lately — all of it indicative of a country that wants you to enjoy yourself. First, Uruguay beat out Argentina as the highest per capita consumer of beef, a real victory for the smaller country in this meat-loving part of the world. Last year, The Economist named Uruguay Country of the Year, partly for legalizing same-sex marriage and partly for becoming the first country to legalize the production and the sale of marijuana, saying that those actions have “increased the global sum of human happiness at no financial cost. - New York Times
All these ridiculously beautiful South Americans, eating incredible yet simple food, mostly cooked over fire, drinking caipiroskas, with good music in the background, right on the beach. You just can’t help but fall in love with it all. - Fathom
Uruguay is a small country nestled between Argentina and Brazil. It’s South America’s version of New York’s Hamptons - beaches, wine, rich estates - but better. Uruguay has meat bars (no, really.). Uruguay has penguins (my favorite animal!). Uruguay has cowboys (called gauchos). Uruguay’s President is super chill. I’m sold.
No one talks about Uruguay. An email blast to some of my closest travel biz pals proves no one knows much about the country I haven’t shut up about. Some recall wonderful meals beachside, others can’t recall much other than taking a ferry from Buenos Aires. The closest connection I have to Uruguay aside from the stories I constantly share online are a distant friend who shares my passion for Uruguay who has not returned in years and a Uruguayan native now turned New York Times Travel writer who I sometimes follow online. I also scored a press pass to this year’s New York Times Travel Show just to meet the guy manning the Uruguay Tourism booth. He wasn’t excited to see me. Needless to say, planning my dream trip to Uruguay has not been easy. That won’t stop me.
I am going to Uruguay for my 29th birthday.
I plan on drinking a lot of wine, making friends with chefs who grill seafood beachside, venturing inland to hang with gauchos, pulling up a stool at a meat bar, and eat my weight in chivitos. I want to get back to my journalism roots, sharing stories in hopes to spotlight Uruguay the way it deserves to be.
But first maybe a stop over in Buenos Aires or Santiago for a Chilean hot dog…
Travel Magazines & Uruguay Tourism Board: Here’s Why You Should Send Me To Uruguay
I speak Spanish
I love meat and wine
I travel well on my own
I make things buzz worthy
I will write tons of content for you
Have travel tips to make my dream trip come true? Or, want to simply wish me luck? Send me a note!
Cool Hunting | Home & Office: California Shopping Diary
If you know me in person you know one of my not-so-secret obsessions is stationery. I’ve always been a stationery nerd; back-to-school shopping was my absolute favorite time of year as a kid because that meant new notebooks, trapper keepers, pens, pencils, and book bags to sport. Come visit me at work, and you’ll see my desk is precisely set up to show off all the above, and if you’ve worked with me before, you know I am particular about which pen to use for which notebook, et al. This is serious stuff, people.
So, you can imagine the excitement as I traveled around California discovering a plethora of beautiful boutique retailers with locally-sourced home and office supplies that quickly became a part of my growing collection back home. Below, a round-up of my favorite shops (including but not limited to stationery) from my trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco:
Abbott Kinney is one of my favorite streets that define Venice Beach (here’s why). It is a shopper’s dream filled with indie retailers that sell everything from bungalow beach house furniture to vintage knick knacks. I stumbled upon Tortoise as its clean minimal aesthetic design drew me in and kept me window shopping for way too long. Their shop features curated goods for professionals everywhere from high-end ball point pens to itty bitty staplers and paper clips to keep you organized. I fell in love with their grid-lined notepad which instantly became my new writer’s pad that I used to chronicle my travels around the west coast.
I’m a sucker for this new trend of hand-made leather fashions. I popped into WILL for a peek at their beautifully-woven sandals which reminded me of the embarrassing footwear my family proudly wore back in Puerto Rico; except WILL has made them a fashionable come back (I’m still debating whether I want a pair or not). WILL also had colorful travel pouches from places like Oaxaca which caught my eye as they’d make a perfect accessory on the road. Luckily for me, WILL also has a location in SoHo so I will be visiting soon!
I discovered Firely a few years back on my first LA visit and knew I wanted to return. Last time I was there, I bought a set of vintage post cards, a buddha statue and lotus flower stand, and other goodies. If we’ve been pen pals before, chances are you’ve received a postcard from me from this set. This time I came back in search of a planner. Instead I got distracted with the store’s abundance of quirky novelty prints like these:
Spencer even picked up a few recipe books to up his cocktail game.
Lundeens took me by surprise with its vast collection of items I’d never seen anywhere else. I was in awe sifting through aisle by aisle, shelf by shelf finding amazing gifts, cards, and books my wallet couldn’t keep up with. Located on the main drag in Culver City, the store has gifts to fit every person in your family – including babies! I picked up a set of old school multi-color retractable pens for myself, remember these?!
One of my absolute musts in pre-trip routines is stocking up on gear at Flight 001. This shop is all about efficient traveling, which I and everyone should come to appreciate – this store makes frequent travelers’ lives easy with practical accessories that are also super cool and unique. I still get a kick out of walking in and finding new gadgets and essentials to steer my next journey. Funny enough, by the time I arrived in San Francisco I realized I needed some additional items to keep my bags organized so I stopped in to grab a toiletries pouch. Check out Flight 001’s exclusive Carry-On Quart Bag which is TSA approved for all your carry-on liquids. You can travel at ease knowing your stuff won’t be questioned at security!
Californians have design on lock. Everywhere I went I marveled at the architecture both inside and out of homes, shops, and restaurants. I started imagining what my dream home would look like, taking in bits and pieces of California aesthetics with me. I would research interior design patterns and city guides on Remodelista foolishly thinking I could afford such a life of luxury back in the wallet-squeezing city that is New York. Alas, I have not made any of these dreams come to fruition, but I had a wonderful time exploring Thread Lounge, a mish mash of Indian-inspired household objects and interior decor.
Care for new reading material to kill time on your flight? Hit up local favorite, Dog Eared Books. I love a good book store, and Dog Eared Books has everything an indie book store should have: off-beat obscure awesome reading material and really weird wall art. It’s a very San Francisco vibe in there and I ain’t mad at it.
UGH, I love this store so much. I’m pretty sure I freaked out the cashier when I slowly opened the door with the giddiest smile on my face. This store was basically my adult stationery wet dream come true. Those retractable pens, the graph paper journals, the cardstock, the markers, I want it all. But, I was good and only walked away with a pen. Someone please go here and get me a gift certificate.
My boyfriend loves pirates. I’m not entirely sure why but I feel like all guys go through a pirate phase in their life. If you have a guy who’s into the badass sword-swinging, round-the-world ship sailing life of a pirate, send them to 826 Valencia. It’s amazing. Listen, I love Hook as much as the next guy but this store is pretty much that movie in real life. There’s an actual pirate ship built in the store. There are library-like catalogs with clues and taxidermy everywhere. They have apothecary and pirate “garb” so you can dress up like the real deal. You can even book a birthday party there. Incredible. My boyfriend will probably celebrate his 30th there. You’re all invited.
Now, usually when I travel I like to keep an eye out for mementos to share with friends either back home or friends around the world. It’s one of the best things you can do to make someone’s day. On this west coast trip I found myself thinking of my pen pal Hen over at RAD AND HUNGRY, one of my absolute favorite online mashup shops: travel and office supplies. RAH’s approach is unique: Hen travels the world non-stop curating kits of lo-fi home & office goods reminiscent of that destination she’s visited. It’s awesome, plain and simple. As I frolicked from store to store in California I couldn’t help but think of how much Hen would get a kick out of experiencing these stores herself so I mailed her my own curated west coast kit. To my delight and surprise, Hen returned the favor with a curated kit full of my favorite pieces from her shop when I got back to New York.
Receiving a care package from RAH was exactly the welcome home gift I needed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and thank you for allowing me to swoon over my nerdy obsessions. For more pics and recommendations from my trip to California, check out my Foursquare page and Instagram feed @makeshiftalisha.
Want to become stationery pals? Have a place you think will feed my fandom? Send me a message!
Photo Essay: Pacific Coast Highway - Malibu City Limits
One month ago today this was me frolicking in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Today it is a chilly, windy 50-degrees Autumn day in Brooklyn. I thought it fitting (though a bit torturous) to post my favorite photos from my first time seeing the Pacific Coast. If you are planning to visit the west coast, put the PCH on your to do list. It is by far one of the most beautiful, scenic views I’ve ever witnessed traveling.
Earlier this month I took a much-need vacation on the West Coast to absorb what I call “California chill vibes.” I’m one of the few people i know who believes in taking time off every few months to hit the reset button, and California sunshine was just what I needed.
California was amazing. My trip was a completely delightful surprise filled with road trips, window shopping, and of course plenty of delicious food and drink. Luckily for you all, I obsessed over everything I fell in love with using the #mydayinLA tag on Twitter and Instagram, originated by L.A. Times City Beat. Below, a collection of photos from my favorite experiences in SoCal.
Kicking off my excitement to be on the other side of the country was the view from Phoenix to L.A. My jaw dropped as I stared out my airplane seat to see such stunning landscape from above. The Southwest region is unlike any other place I’ve seen!
Last time I visited L.A. I fell head over heels for Venice Beach, so I knew I wanted to return. My first full day in L.A. my wish came true as I hit the road with my travel hubby Spencer Spellman to Abbott Kinney, a boulevard lined with cute design-inspired boutiques like Will leather goods and Aviator Nation Cali wear, happy hour restos like Oscar’s Cerveteca, and beach-side bungalows. My favorite shops were actually home & office furnishings at Firely and Tortoise which made for a stationery nerd’s heaven.
I highly recommend checking out Abbot Kinney if you want a laid back afternoon window shopping near the waves and like the hippie feeling of retro cool.
As an East Coast-er it’s hard not to poke fun at Angelenos so I figured I’d have some fun taking on L.A. stereotypes. One classic L.A. activity I was told about is doing a morning hike up Runyon Canyon Park, which offers vast views of the city’s grid as well as optimal views of the Hollywood sign. I decided a little exercise wouldn’t kill me so I strapped on my sneakers and hit the ground.
After hiking Spencer took me for a drive weaving in and around the hills that make up Hollywoodland which was incredible. So many mansions on the hillside!
For some added L.A. quirk, we set out to a roadside attraction called Nick Metropolis which houses an impressive lot-filled collection of Hollywood props like game show signs. If you know and love Billy’s Antiques here in New York, you’ll definitely want to poke into Nick’s. Be prepared to laugh but also be scared at what you find…
The biggest bucket list item for my visit to L.A. was seeing the Pacific Coast Highway. I had never seen or been in the Pacific Ocean but when I stumbled upon this feature on Gear Patrol, I immediately made it the top of my to do list. So we hopped in the car, turned up our California playlist, and drove out to Highway 1.
On our route we drove through Beverly Hills and the Pacific Palisades, quick to call dibs on our future house. After about 30min on the road we entered the Malibu city limits where I could see surfers riding out waves and cyclists taking on the seemingly never-ending road ahead. Best of all, Spencer spotted some of his favorite off-the-beaten-path spots including The Rock at Point Mugu which offered a serene break for us to appreciate how gorgeous California truly is (watch for a video upload shortly). From there we explored El Matador Beach and Zuma Beach (aka Baywatch) to dip our toes in the sand and people watch.
I was blown away at how beautiful PCH was. I can’t truly put into words how I felt smelling the salted air and hearing the waves crash upon the cliffs of Malibu. I was born on an island and spent many childhood years frolicking around the beaches of Puerto Rico, so to be back near beautiful blue water sent me into child-like joy. I loved ditching the car and making our way down to the water so I could feel the sand on my feet and the waves wash over me. I even took a break to score some tanning time and run around in the ocean as well. One of my all time favorite travel memories for sure.
Driving around L.A. can be a nightmare I’ve been told, but I think the California chill vibes gods were with me as I got the chance to drive myself downtown (DTLA if you’re a cool kid) on my last day in L.A. I was determined to taste Egg Slut in all its glory at the Grand Central Market. What is Egg Slut you ask? Let Katherine Spiers answer that for you in this video. If you watched like I did, then you are drooling and dying to stuff your face with a Fairfax sandwich, which, I did!
I loved the variety of vendors at Grand Central Market – pupusas, tacos, cuchifritos, sausages, candy, juice, mole sauces, and a dozen more stands were packed by hungry, patient patrons. Overwhelmed at where to start, I opted to take a caffeine boost with G&B coffee – smart choice if I do say so myself. I picked up a bag of candy for my sweet tooth boyfriend then proceeded to devour an egg sandwich at Egg Slut. Do yourselves a favor and go to Egg Slut. NOW. Trust me.
I could not leave L.A. without trying to find my soul mate Larry David in Santa Monica. So after scarfing down delicious food from the Grand Central Market, I headed down to Santa Monica Pier to see if I could find LD. As luck would have it, he was nowhere to be found. BUT! I did take in some final sun and people watching that made for an entertaining afternoon. Couples strolled along the boardwalk hand-in-hand, teenagers dived on their boogie boards to ride out waves, dogs ran around chasing frisbees, and tourists mobbed the bars and restaurants that lined Colorado Avenue.
What a lovely way to say goodbye to L.A.
Special shout out to Spencer for using so much gas driving me around and making all these photo opps possible. You can see more from my L.A. trip on Instagram @makeshiftalisha.
Portugal on a Budget: Highlights from 7 days in Lisbon
As a bilingual speaker, my travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful Spanish speaking countries in the world. However, I wasn’t sure if it would help me out when venturing into Portugal. So with some pocket change, a carry-on bag, and a quest for learning a new language, I set out for Lisbon.
Head to EuroCheapo for my roundup of low-cost activities to do during a seven-day stay, and a collage of photographic memories.
This week ended with a delightful surprise: my new favorite podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, answered a dilemma I’m experiencing: work self vs. internet self. Take a listen on this week’s podcast to get advice from two lady biz heroes of mine, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, on “soul searching” in the workplace.
Here’s the question at hand: how can we maintain personal blogs without fear of losing our jobs because of its content? (Read: Questions on Growth)
Have you experienced similar situations? What advice do you have for me and other women?
Sometimes the best way to explore the world is simply through collecting knick-knacks. To this day, there are several items friends have gifted me or that I have brought back home that capture memories of a world away. Those have the most sentimental value, keep me inspired, and put a smile on my face. Below, mementos that line my bedroom walls from places near and far:
Above: ceramic mug & berry necklace from Project Bly, mini Dutch clogs (gifted), Indonesian scarf (gifted), elephant buddha, lotus statue, and postcard set from Firefly in Abbott Kinney (Venica, CA), and a Scratch Map
Recently, I read the story of Nellie Bly, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe solo in 1889. Her career as an investigative journalist along with her bravery, independence, and wit immediately resonated with me and spawned a cult following within (checkout Bio.com’s celebration of Nellie Bly for more info). As a fellow solo female traveler, I desired to have the same guts and glory that Nellie was able to achieve as a young woman. Luckily, I found a site called Project Bly which has enabled me to carry a piece of Nellie Bly around with me every day.
It is with Nellie’s spirit that we at Bly set off on our own journey. Dedicated to marrying travel with design, we shop the world’s markets—from Bombay to Bukhara, and everywhere in between—curating collections of interesting objects, textiles, art and jewelry. – Project Bly
Inspired by some of my favorite cities I have yet to visit, I bought a mug from Oaxaca, Mexico and a necklace from Mumbai, India. Now, drinking coffee and wearing jewelry has a whole new meaning for me.
In 2010 when I moved to New York City, I found myself without a job and too much time on my hands. I began documenting all my city explorations on my personal blog, but wanted to do more. A friend recommended I become a volunteer with Big Apple Greeter, a non-profit that matches visiting tourists with local New Yorkers for friendly neighborhood walks. One of my first walks was with a Dutch couple who requested a walk through the West Village and Brooklyn. One of the coolest parts about BAG is that you (the local) get to create any itinerary you want, and chances are, the tourists are more than happy to follow along. This couple came out in the middle of a January weekend with their heart set on seeing the Village and the Brooklyn Bridge so I delivered just that with a few added routes along Prospect Park just for fun. By the end of the day we were so exhausted and cold but so full of joy, it was hard to say goodbye. As a kind thank you, the couple gifted me a set of Dutch clogs, which now sit in front of my window, greeting me every day when I wake up and fall asleep. It’s that generosity that fuels my passion for showing people around the city I love.
Receiving gifts from around the world is always exciting. Several years back I was asked to dog sit for some friends who were off to Bali for a wedding. Despite some serious challenges in dog sitting, as a first time newbie to that responsibility, my friends returned grateful at my favor with a gift in hand: a hand-made scarf from Indonesia. A small gesture that I wear when I want to feel extra special these days.
I’m not someone who shops for souvenirs when on the road but there are rare occasions in which I like to spoil myself with a piece of memorabilia from the destination I’m visiting. With a love for Indian culture, I just couldn’t stop myself from stopping in a Venice, California shop called Firefly located in the uber charming street of Abbott Kinney. Here, I found a lotus flower dish and elephant buddha statue that immediately caught my attention.
Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions.
Discovering this Buddhist meaning, it’s no wonder that they rest at my desk, reminding me to stay positive no matter what I go through. This is also where my stack of postcards live that I still use to this day to send notes to friends all over the world.
Returning home from each new journey is always bitter-sweet but one of the activities I always look forward to is marking my scratch map. Here I get giddy scratching off a new spot off the globe, checking it off my ever-growing to do list. Though I have a long way to go til the entire map is left copper red, it’s always a wonderful feeling to know I’ve made a dent in the world by traveling.
Mementos like these are what keep me going, what fill me with pure happiness and remind me why I love to travel.
Do you have a room filled with travel mementos? Share your story with me in the comments!
I get asked this question a lot. As a curious enthusiast residing in Brooklyn, I am constantly in search of unique experiences to make my own. Five summers ago when I first moved to Brooklyn and had nothing but time to kill, I would walk aimlessly around the borough, amazed at the changing neighborhoods and making an ever expanding ‘to do’ list of bars, restaurants, and cafes that piqued my interest.
One day, I walked all the way from my apartment in Crown Heights down to Red Hook. That’s where I fell in love.
Red Hook is special – an impossible to explain special. A kind of special you can only truly feel until you spend time there. A special that is all mine. I call Red Hook my happy place. It is where I often take my bike for a ride, stop for a beer and a bite, and get lost on the cobble stone streets. It is my favorite neighborhood in all of Brooklyn. It is where I often take visitors – friends I’ve known for years, friends I’ve just met, friends from around the world who know nothing about Brooklyn, let alone a little 'hood tucked away along the river. When Hurricane Sandy hit, Red Hook was the first place I volunteered to help get its people back on their feet. It is where I recently was asked to talk about my obsession on camera, for a future documentary (details TBD).
There is plenty to see and do and eat and drink in Red Hook and no matter how many times I visit, I always seem to find a new place to try. I love the camaraderie of the bars, restaurants, and boutique retailers along Van Brunt Street. I love watching the East River waves brush up against the piers that wrap around. I love peaking into the seemingly abandoned brick buildings that have turned into art museums and manufacturing shops. I love stopping at the Red Hook fields for a pupusa while watching families cheer on a soccer match. I love grocery shopping alone at Fairway on a late weekday night. I love everything about Red Hook and am always thrilled to see the smile on people’s faces when they fall in love with Red Hook too.
Below, my guide to Red Hook:
If you are not a biker and don’t want to be as ambitious as me by walking to Red Hook, take the F or G to Smith-9th St stop, and transfer to the B61 bus towards Downtown Brooklyn, which will be right outside the subway station. It’s about a 10/15-minute bus ride to the Van Brunt Street stop, which is the main lifeline in Red Hook filled with bars, restaurants, and retail shops.
Eating & Drinking in Red Hook
I love starting my Red Hook visits at Fort Defiance. It’s one of the few places that offers up true counter culture – sit at the bar inside or stroll up to the window for a drink and a bite. Every meal is a knockout and the drinks are packed with a punch. I often stop in for brunch, or go for early evening appetizers and a cocktail. Whatever time of day you end up here, you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re a dive bar fan, head to Brooklyn Ice House. Enjoy over 100 beers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches amongst working-class heroes, all under $10.
For those who appreciate nostalgia and true classics, skip the awful Brooklyn Crab Shack, turn 'round the corner, and head into Sunny’s on Conover Street. This bar has been in Red Hook for over 100 years. It’s a local favorite with its blue grass live music – a very New Orleans vibe – and knick knack-lined walls. Inside Sunny’s is a trip back to simpler times where the bartenders are warm and kind, the customers are artists and musicians, and the prices are just right.
Sightseeing & Playing around Red Hook
One of the coolest activities I’ve enjoyed in Red Hook is kayaking. Thanks to the wonderful people at Red Hook boaters you can have a day of free kayaking at Valentino Pier. It’s very simple – just show up. Red Hook boaters provides all the gear and kayak equipment you need. Plus, they’ll instruct you on how to kayak, so if you’re a first timer, you won’t have to worry. It’s so much fun to be out in the New York Harbor!
I’ve got a sweet spot for tiny boutiques. Erie Basin and Kempton are my favorite places to shop in Red Hook. The antique jewelry Erie Basin collects is one-of-a-kind beauty, and the prices are unbelievably affordable. I’m not a diamond ring kind of gal, but Erie Basin taps into my girly side! On the other side, my tomboy side, I’m head over heels for Kempton & Co.’s designer bags for men. From beach bags to laptop bags to totes, Kempton sells premium leather and canvas bags that have me risking my bank account every time.
Pop up shops have become a staple part of Red Hook. I love visiting Nat Sherman cigar shop purely for entertainment. There’s always a group of older men sitting outside the shop laid back in their chairs, smoking away. They just seem so cool and relaxed! I only wish I knew someone who enjoyed smoking cigars to buy them a souvenir!
Red Hook is a neighborhood dependent on water. I love walking around and seeing all the boats and buoys that surround the waterfront. For the history buffs, go check out the Waterfront Museum to learn more about Red Hook’s history and how it’s changed over the years.
Last but not least, I would recommend ending your day in Red Hook with a long walk up Van Brunt Street to Atlantic Avenue’s Pier 6. The view of Manhattan is breathtaking, and at night it is the ultimate romantic spot. The lights shine, the air is crisp, and it’s one of those ultimate New York moments.
These are just a few of my favorite places, but there is plenty more. I hope you’ve enjoyed my Red Hook recommendations and if you have more questions, please reach out!
I’m not a soccer fan at all but one of the most exciting reasons to follow the World Cup is the chance to root for any country around the world you want. For me, rooting for countries I’ve traveled to is the most fun, and to see some of my favorite countries climb the charts this year has been an absolute thrill. Particularly, when Colombia is doing so well. Tomorrow will surely be a hair-raising event.
I’ve shared numerous chants for Colombia throughout this World Cup and with each celebration, people continue to ask me “Are you Colombian?” Sadly, I am not, but I have a passion for Colombia given my trip to Bogota back in 2011. With the World Cup championship at stake, I enjoy taking the opportunity to talk with people about why Colombia is so great and the experiences I had traveling through Bogota and near-by cities.
Here, a quick recap on why Colombia is so special to me, and why I encourage others to travel to Colombia with an open mind:
Please note: this is a personal site. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.
Fellow advertising friend, Aaron Grando, wrote a wonderful piece in response to yesterday’s post. Aaron is a tech/creative for an advertising agency and has more experience than me on client-facing situations, as well as what it takes to lead a team, and fight the good fight in producing quality work. Below are my favorite excerpts from his post – I think they are helpful to all:
If you know a deliverable is too quick, say so. Ask why the deadline is set like it is; sometimes you can find some wiggle room. Most timelines are created as ideals, not as realities.
With trust, people will understand that when you say something takes X days, it actually takes X days, not X-1 or X-2 days, or worse.
[Culture is] it’s the air of the place. It’s how things get done, how you feel when you get in, leave, and stay late. And it’s the shared history that you and your team mates are contributing to. Culture happens, it’s not created or molded. It’s the day-to-day feeling of things, not team-building exercises or company retreats or happy hours. The best thing anyone at any level can do for their company’s culture is to be a good, open, honest person.
At work, don’t make it or take it personal. No shitheads, remember. Professional disagreements and head-butting happen, but that’s how work gets done.
Sooner or later, after building up some trust and experience, you’ll have influence on it. That’s a big benefit of sticking around. It’s something to look forward to.
I look forward to reading more of your responses. Have questions or topics you’d like me to address? Shoot me a note in the Ask box, email me, or simply tweet @makeshiftalisha.
Please note: this is a personal site. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.
Even the most seasoned professionals burn out sometimes.
With only a few months til my one year anniversary at my current job, I am facing that familiar “now what?” debate of where I stand. I have discovered I go through phases in any position I’m working, and perhaps you do too:
First three months = the honey moon phase. In the beginning, everything is the best thing ever. Processes are fascinating, people are fun, it’s all about observing and learning, and you’re the new kid on the block who gets to use the “but I’m new” excuse to pass over the big projects that come in.
Six months = crap, this job is hard. Here’s where you roll up your sleeves and join your co-workers in the trenches. Changes happen more times than you can count. But it’s okay, because you love your job, and you can reap the rewards soon enough.
Almost one year = question everything. Is this really what I want to be doing? Is there a better way? Do I really want to keep working with these people? Am I just a lost soul again? Can I stay afloat while everything and everyone is whizzing by? Should I shut up and deal with the fact that this is just the industry we’re all in?
I’m currently in this last phase. Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows I march to the beat of my own drum. My Twitter bio best sums it up (h/t Louis C.K. for the quote) -
I don’t like when I’m prevented from doing things the way I think they should be done.
So it’s no shock that I struggle to get beyond the daily grind to keep the bigger picture in mind. With that, three big questions have been on my brain, and I present them to you all to think about and answer as well:
1) How do you conquer the speed vs. efficiency challenge at work? Today’s digital-centric career calls for creative ideation and execution at an insanely rapid speed – from client responses to project deadlines, I’m having a really hard time finding a balance of producing quality work at shorter timeframes. How can we better manage these expectations?
2) What are your favorite examples of great office/work culture? What do you look for in a team? Do any companies stand out? How can us “little people” (i.e. low/mid-level employees) shape better culture in our own offices?
3) How do you hide your personal attitudes in the workplace? If/when you find yourself in disagreement with a coworker or client about something, how do you (literally) save face? I always joke and call myself the "Larry David" of the office because I can’t fake nice and can’t hide my emotions. However, this is not good for professional development. What practical tips do you use in the workplace to get through these situations?
4) What's the key to longevity at a company? As I mentioned before, I seem to grow out of my honeymoon phase after a short time, then I get stressed out, battling to maintain that happy, positive outlook anymore. How can we stay in the game for the long term and not throw in the towel?
Best of luck to all of us navigating these waters.
In my continuing search for the best ‘work hacks’ I have come across 'Make My Week’ app – a simple and fun way for people to think about what matters to them and find new ways to get more out of the time they spend at work.
My days are rarely slow-paced, which means I don’t have much down time to think about or chase side projects that have no deadlines attached. Though I make it a point to design my ideal day every morning or evening (with the help of this amazing planner), try as I might, my clients and projects simply have other plans.
But I will not be easily defeated! I’ve earmarked Fridays as days to reclaim as my own. A day where I aim to knock out the most important deadlines in the morning so I can get to the fun stuff in the afternoon, maybe even leave at 5pm if time is on my side. That’s where 'Make My Week’ comes handy. I love the simplicity behind the tasks they’ve designed. Most of all, they are practical and realistic goals anyone can take on at their own pace. Take a look –
Approach someone you admire inside your organization.
Ask if they’d mentor you towards a specific goal or if you can shadow them for a day.
Make it your business to know your teammates’ personal goals.
Look for win-win outcomes in team projects.
Look at recent customer feedback.
Think of 3 ways your team could help with the customer’s biggest pain point. Bring it up in your next team meeting.
Keep a notebook or app handy. Make a separate page for each work challenge and note ideas as they come to you. Look at each page at least once a week. Is there a continuous improvement program? Join it, or talk to your manager about creating one.
Make yourself known as a subject matter expert, by sharing relevant articles or posts with your colleagues.
What are you working on?
What time do get up each day?
What do you wear each day?
How do you feel in your clothes?
What does your calendar look like?
What are you doing all day?
What do you do after work?
What kind of meals do you eat?
Who do you spend time with, or talk to on the phone?
What time do you go to bed?
Do you read any books or watch any TV?
How do you feel at the end of the week?
What did you accomplish?
I love that these questions challenge you to think about how you’re spending your time and what you can do to optimize that time. I challenge you all to take this list and run with it – see what happens, and tell me about it!
Please note: this is a personal post. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.
It has been a while now since I’ve switched career paths from solo tech freelancer to full-time digital media planner working in advertising. I can’t say I would have ever predicted the switch but now that I am here, I’ve noticed something: advertising is broken.
A recent train ride home was fueled by episode 35 of The Broad Experience, a podcast I’ve come to rely on as it discusses pivotal movements and issues of women in the workplace. This particular episode talked at length the obstacles women still face in the media industry. This episode and the women leading the conversation hit home especially hard. Here’s a few reasons why:
Madison Avenue has a long way to go with respect to not only female, but diversity in its truest form. My dream would be we really do reflect, especially here in the US, the American experience, which is not white and male, dominantly.
…another challenge for women in advertising is getting them to believe their opinion matters, getting them to speak up, getting them to put their face out there, getting them to enter their work in awards shows. And then mentorship. You just can’t downplay that you need someone – and sponsorship - you need someone to see the talent in you and open doors for you
If you really want to create great work for your clients that’s going to be motivating to consumers you would not run your agency the way you do. And I think if I were a client today and I knew what my customer base looked like, and chances are it’s mostly female, and I knew that by demanding something to be done in a crazy turnaround kind of crash and burn, and that meant the female creatives at the agency would be less likely to be able to service my business, why is that a worthwhile trade? I think it’s actually lunacy.
People say, well, that’s just the way it is, and I think wow, if that’s how much the agency culture is cemented in people’s minds…I don’t know, maybe I’m enough of an outsider, maybe it’s because I live in Silicon Valley and work with a lot of startups, and I’m trained to think differently and ask questions, but I don’t think it’s working
As my professional career took off in directions I couldn’t imagine, I became ever so aware of my gender and my ethnicity and the roles they play in my ability to grow in a saturated industry. Though I’ve had wonderful success in countless jobs, I’ve also experienced workplace obstacles in extreme ways: I was once bullied by a female coworker (not only emotionally but nearly physically), was sexually harassed by a manager, displaced in meetings and projects by male colleagues, and not to mention downright insulted via social media for being a young woman – especially a non-white woman – working in a man’s world. I began to see the under belly of media in ways I never had before. So, listening to the women on this podcast talk about these every day issues, I felt compelled to form my own response.
One huge problem this all stems back to is lack of diversity. Diversity is a hot button issue as everyone (and by everyone I mean those who want to see real change happen) is quick to point out where diversity needs to improve in order to pave way opportunities for all: race, gender, sexuality, background, etc. Just to give you an example of how far diversity has yet to come, do yourself a quick test: run a Google Images search for “young teenage guy with friends” and then do a Google Images search for “young teenage spanish guy with friends” – notice any differences? Part of my day-to-day is to create highly visual proposals to submit to clients. This means I rely heavily on Google Image search results to fill in the visual representation of a client’s target audience. I sometimes spend hours rummaging through these search results trying to find a non-offensive photo that accurately represents a certain demographic, to no avail. It’s disappointing and frustrating when I’m looking for photos of women of my ethnicity and all I can find are young girls who are pregnant, or even beaten or maybe even incarcerated, in these photos. It’s a disgrace.
Thankfully, I have found a temporary solution: these Getty Images stock photos of real women in contemporary professional and personal settings. Finally, an accurate and positive depiction of women at home and at work that I can feel confident using in my proposals. Finally, real diversity I can get behind. I take this one step further by going through proposal templates within our team’s wiki and replacing images of women who are predominantly white with a variety of those Getty Images photos so that the more proposals we send out with diverse women featured, the more our clients will make the connection that women are in fact from other backgrounds, not just Caucasian but even perhaps “multicultural” as some of our clients like to describe. I dare you to take small steps like these in order to create diversity amongst your peers.
I also speak out, a lot, about what matters most in my job and I make sure those in leadership positions understand this. I don’t come from the traditional media path, I don’t come from the agency world, I come from the startup world where you have to collaborate and be a creative thinker to win clients and projects. I find that in advertising, as much as collaboration and creativity are advocated, it truly isn’t happening. I see a lot of pencil pushing and monotonous administrative tasks being delegated, which delays real productivity and solution planning. I see a lot of “over promise, under deliver” tactics that result in loss of trust and more importantly, loss of business. I see a lack of mentorship and motivation from internal teams. I see a step backwards in time to segregate teams and hierarchies when there should be a movement towards integration and knowledge sharing. I actively bring up these observations in meetings with decision makers so that they take into consideration company culture fixes. Without a progressive-thinking company that cares, these changes will never happen. I suggest you do the same.
The advertising structure is bigger than I will ever understand, but I hope by encouraging others to step up and call out its discrepancies, we can come to work in a space that aligns with real values, real change, and real output.
If you’re a fellow lady working in media, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ve worked towards fixing this broken system.
With a huge career transition under my belt from PR to Advertising in the last year, I’ve had time to think about the meaning of my work. Luckily, I’ve discovered others who are also re-evaluating their worth amidst the digital landscape and have even provided practical tips for staying afloat, getting ahead, and creating meaningful work environments.
One of my favorite newsletters that do just this is idonethis. Written by the talented Janet Choi, idonethis offers a real perspective on the everyday grind and how companies can motivate their employees to do better – from productivity to culture to leadership. I love their transparency in what works versus what doesn’t work, because let’s face it, we all need a reality check in the workplace.
If you’re in a similar boat and questioning your career, I highly recommend subscribing to idonethis and rebooting your motivation.
The Mechanism is growing its development team in New York City. Interested and qualified candidates should be digital natives, immersed in the technology world, as well as open to learning new skills and tools of the trade. As a developer, you should be knowledgable in the following:
Must be available to work on site
MySQL Setup and Administration
Ability to communicate clearly with management and clients about solutions, options, strategy, dependencies
Familiarity with Drupal and other open source CMS platforms
In addition to technical capabilities, The Mechanism is interested in bringing on developers who are comfortable communicating with clients, assisting with project management, and presenting their ideas with the team. This job is as much about web skills as it is people skills. This position is full time and the candidate should be able to start immediately.
Interested? Email me here with the subject line: Developer Recruitment.
Now that you’ve done your homework and practiced my tips (hopefully) it’s time to keep your name in the game. This can mean a few things:
write, write, and write some more
create an online portfolio
go to events or host your own
meet new people, always
I just happen to do all of the above. It’s crucial to my career that I constantly do these so that I always have new opportunities knocking at my door.
We females are experiencing an interesting time in the digital age. The feminist movement is pretty much back in full effect (reasons why I wanted to write this post) which means our voices are ever so important. Now it’s up to us to take back media time from the dudes, create our own work, and make things right, or at least fair and equal. One way to do this is to write about it. Keep up that blog, pitch more pieces, write in your journal, or start a newsletter. Express yourself and make it known what you value, what your goals are, and what matters to you as a professional. However you want to write - via pen and paper or digitally, get it out there.
With that, you should also have an online hub. I’ve always and will always vouch for Flavors.me as a great website to build upon. And of course I have Tumblr to vouch for. Seek out what platform makes sense for your work. Create a home online, build upon it, keep it updated, and make it grow. People will find you and connect with you from there.
Once you’ve got a good site/blog/portfolio going, meet people in your field. I have hosted many networking sessions, panels on technology and media, and career workshops because I believe in the power of being a connector. I like connecting people of value, who can exchange skills and ideas, and collaborate on mutual goals. It’s important that you seek out people who are friendly and genuine and who can be your buddy as you carve out your own career path. Never take advantage of that.
This concludes my lessons in lady biz careers. Hopefully I was able to help you navigate the waters of our modern work places.
Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here.
If you’re like me, then you are an organization freak who wants to know what’s going on in all facets of your life. The same is true about my career. I am one to document just about everything I’ve ever worked on and made it known the value that I bring to the table when I enter a new gig. I would advise you do the same.
One small step you can start at: create a document (or write this in a notebook) called “What is my job?” List out everything you do on a daily basis, no matter how big or small or mundane or complicated it is. Then compare this list to the job description you’re applying to or already working at. Are you doing more than what you’re being paid for? Less? What are some new areas of expertise you’re building? What do you need help conquering? Communicate these things to peers, friends, and colleagues you trust. Get their perspective and decide if it’s time to approach your supervisor/boss/manager about a promotion or raise. Or, perhaps it’s time to change directions entirely.
Are you a freelancer juggling multiple gigs? Get a tool like Evernote to organize and prioritize your projects. Start a log with all your clips. Create templates for your portfolio that you can always use when something new has to be submitted or updated. Know what you’re working on and what’s down the pipeline at all times. This will help you clarify your role in future employment.
Tomorrow’s tip: Stay relevant.
Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here.
I have always been one to “wing it” when it comes to job opportunities. I was naive to think the most important factor of my work was that I was having fun; the money would come later and everything would be fine. What an idiot I turned out to be.
I cannot stress enough how much you need to research your future employer before making a decision. Google them, check out their LinkedIn page, find out where their offices are, who and what kinds of people work for them, or search latest news. Anything and everything will help as you collect information about a job you’re thinking of applying to.
Young women, listen up: know the facts and approach every career decision like a business woman. The more you know, the smarter you’ll be at taking up a job offer. Check sites like Glassdoor and Indeed for company reviews and salary ranges, know tax deductions and benefits packages, learn how much of your pay check will go towards these taxes and benefits so you know your potential true income at the end of the day.
Dig deep and discover yourself. Ask yourself what type of worker you are. What kind of office environment do you want? How would you fit in? What are you awesome at? What do you suck at? The more you know about yourself in the work place, the clearer your answers will be.
Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here.
I really really really wish while I was wrapping up my college days that someone told me to stop for a second and think about the impact of my decisions. I was ever so confident about my game plan when I graduated, I even lucked out with securing a job only a few weeks after I left campus. i took so many internships and went after so many freelance gigs so quickly, I didn’t stop to think financially and professionally what my future would be. I wish I had been smart enough to take the time and seek out guidance and advice from a mentor at that time.
Looking back at my professional career, I can see so many mistakes I could have avoided had I had a mentor or a career coach. I’ve learned my lesson though - I’ve made mentorship a top priority in recent years so that I can always have people surrounding me with positivity, encouragement, and a shared connection that has guided me to making better decisions. I view my mentors like my fairy godmothers: I treat them with respect, admire their work ethic, and show the love back for they will watch over me every step of the way as I climb the ladder. Even more so, get a mentor that will be honest with you and present facts about opportunities you’re pursuing from a research and experiential standpoint.
Mentors can be people (get a woman on your side!) you work with. Is there a co-worker who really stands out for you that’s always super helpful or goes out of their way to welcome you in every project? Reach out to him/her! Mentors can be someone you know through your online universe. For me there are plenty of people that I consider mentors who I only know from their online identities: be it their Twitter feed, their blog, or articles they share. The content they are constantly pushing resonates with me and I can always go to their sites for more advice. However you find one, grab them and never let them go.
Stay tuned for my next tip: Do your research.
Have a question or topic you want me to discuss? Shoot me a note on Twitter @makeshiftalisha or send it here.
If you have been following my Twitter feed in recent months, you may have noticed a stronger tone of opinion. I’ve become openly vocal about practices, policies, and experiences in the work place and beyond that have deeply affected not only my own career outcomes but many of my peers and colleagues. Many of the issues I’ve faced are directly related to being a gender and race minority in this industry. But instead of focusing on the negatives, instead of coming from a place of “no”, I feel inclined to pay it forward to those of you who perhaps are entering the workplace or looking for a new way to up your career game. Really, I want this post, like many others to be words of wisdom.
Before I begin my advice piece, I want to personally thank thesetwo women for fighting by my side as I continue to climb the career ladder. I have worked in just about every role in digital and it’s through their mentorship that I grow into a stronger place in my career.
Below are my tips and lessons for career-focused ladies:
Get a mentor
Do your research
Write it down
I will be posting one tip a day over the next 5 days so make sure to check back for more info.
Next up: Get a mentor
Have a question about lazy biz lessons? Tweet me @makeshiftalisha or submit your question here.
Marketing and Advertising | Greater Philadelphia Area, US
Alisha Miranda is a digital content strategist who has helped CEOs, small business owners, and media brands develop their marketing and revenue opportunities. When not working on media campaigns, she writes food and travel stories that inspire young people to see the world.
From 2010 to 2012 she managed her own digital consultancy shop (alishainthebiz) to oversee content, marketing, and community engagement campaigns for startups in food, travel, and lifestyle. This led to self-produced events in partnership with Social Media Week, Skillshare and innovation spaces, as well as contributing articles on business, entrepreneurship, and digital media, making her a sought-after thought leader. As a result, she was hired as a contractor for select projects by: Thrillist, 2U, Astrsk PR, Digital Undivided, among others. Through her freelancing and consulting, she has acquired client, account, and project management skills to successfully and creatively own sales development and marketing roles leading media planning/buying, content marketing, and optimization efforts of multi-channel publishing campaigns.
She has been profiled as a contributing writer and industry expert in Fast Company, Bitly, AMEX Open Forum, Time Out New York, PR Week, Grub Street, New York Times, New York Observer, Mashable, and Media Bistro, among others. She is passionate about producing strong and visionary digital programs alongside businesses who value diversity, culture, and authenticity.
Get to know her and the work she loves below.
2015 - Present
Client Success Manager / Technical.ly
I'll be heading up a brand new department focusing on sales development and product marketing for clients across the Mid-Atlantic region with a focus on events and sponsored content packages - more details TK!
2010 - Present
Digital Strategy Consultant // Freelance Writer / alishainthebiz
Secured early-stage startup clients (food, travel, lifestyle) through successful partnerships at Sosauce to consult on PR, marketing, social media, and event production. Hired as independent contractor and freelance writer for select media outlets
Client Roster: Prezly Mi Dinero, Mi Futuro Biography WECREATENYC Brandman Agency Big Apple Greeter
Accomplishments: + Produced thought leadership events on personal branding, social media networking, and career mapping for aspiring entrepreneurs in partnership with Skillshare and Social Media Week + Secured contributing editorial roles writing 40+ articles on budget travel, solo female travel, and culinary travel for publications: UpTake, NileGuide, Not For Tourists, EuroCheapo, City Path, World Nomads + Profiled as an entrepreneur and industry expert in Media Bistro, Mashable, Time Out New York, Fast Company, and other publications
Content Producer / Masthead Media Company
Freelance editorial partner providing full-service content creation and strategy for various publishing clients
Accomplishments: + Managed Edelman Digital’s copywriting efforts including research, storytelling, and production phases for case studies on Samsung TV, Flextronics, Trojan Condoms; resulting in awards consideration for Branded Content & Entertainment, Cyber (Online/Social Video), and Public Relations categories + Managed WIRED Business Conference live coverage and follower engagement on official WIRED Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Tumblr channels, resulting in 213.2K impressions through viral #WIREDBizCon tweets, becoming a Twitter trending topic
Solutions Planner / Say Media
Senior integrated sales planner responsible for media planning efforts, and conceptualizing custom integrated marketing initiatives across display, mobile and native platforms
Accomplishments: + Successfully managed relationships with media buyers and agency partners, resulting in 24 sponsored content and social activations directly contributing to $3.58M in sales revenue + Researched, developed and presented go-to-market collateral including product copy, creative design, and cross-platform ad products to bring in new business
Digital Sales Planner, TheWeek.com & MentalFloss.com / Dennis Publishing
Campaign manager responsible for supervising digital sales operations to strengthen media planning and buying process, and leverage digital solutions for display, email, social, content, and mobile campaigns
Accomplishments: + Trained 3 junior staff in core digital sales process including media planning, collecting ad creative, and reporting resulting in 2 full-time hires at Mental Floss + Strategically project managed RFP/IO campaign life cycles and the restructuring of digital sales process that resulted in more efficient team collaboration and workflow
Assistant Program Facilitator / The LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project)
Co-developed on-site teaching program for an education-based non-profit focused on creative services, personal branding, and social media
Accomplishments: + Aided in job and internship placement opportunities through professional mentorship and training + Led weekly teaching sessions of quality digital portfolio resources 4x/week for 6 weeks to 15+ students
Account Executive / Astrsk PR
Hired as employee #2 responsible for managing and supervising public relations tactics, maintaining client relationships, and successfully garnering top-tier media and blog coverage for technology startups
Accomplishments: + Secured press coverage across TechCrunch, Business Insider, GigaOM, and The Next Web through successful media relations tactics including pitch emails to personal contacts for the in-market launch of client products + Client Roster: BodeTree, Karma, MusicPlayr, Material Wrld, Pop Tip, Signpost, and Skillshare
Speaker Coordinator #FOCUS100 / Digital Undivided
Hired as contractor to play a key role as part of the conference production team responsible for the coordination of a variety of speaker-related activities and responsibilities, including booking black female technology leaders as speakers, panelists, and mentors for inaugural #FOCUS100 conference
Accomplishments: + Secured 60+ high-profile speakers, panelists, and mentors for the first-ever Digital Undivided conference + More than 150 female founders of digital/tech/media startup ventures attended + #FOCUS100 event hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter in U.S. reaching 52,000 Twitter accounts and 92,000 impressions through 30 top contributors
Social Media Manager / 2U
Hired as contractor responsible for building editorial calendars, social strategy, and audience development in support of planning, building, and revising growing digital academic content.
Accomplishments: + Assisted in shaping the launch of teach.com + Spearheaded growth of education-focused blog at nursinglicensemap.com
Social Media Intern / Thrillist
Hired as direct report to Head of Marketing responsible for day-to-day social media management across 20+ Thrillist brand accounts with end goal to drive sign-ups and social influence, and produce rewards/incentive programs with advertising partners.
Accomplishments: + Produced first “go to” internal social media guidebook to train junior staffers on best-in-class practices
Marketing Manager / Social Sauce
Department head responsible for concepting, developing and executing brand marketing and business development strategy for travel startup.
Accomplishments: + Successfully grew user membership to over 20,000 + Secured press coverage and event sponsorships with Budget Travel, AFAR, EuroCheapo, Not For Tourists, and other travel brands
Editor / Music Resource Group
Staff editor for yearly edition of print magazine, The Musician's Atlas and event/PR assistant for annual CMJ Music Marathon Showcase
Communications, Journalism, and Related Programs
Activities: Student Entertainment Council
Lambda Pi Eta Journalism Honor Society
Content Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Branded Content, Strategic Planning, Design, Project Management, User Experience, Technology, Editorial, Publishing, Social Media, Branding, Web Analytics, Audience Development, Public Relations, Event Planning, Digital Media, Digital Campaign Strategy, Media Literacy Education