We asked five Praxis participants to give their answers to five questions on a single theme. This edition’s topic will focus on what it’s like to do an apprenticeship with one of our business partners.
5-on-5: The Praxis Apprenticeship Experience
1) Describe the kind of work you do/did at your Praxis Business Partner?
Michael Gaines, Praxis Participant: I’ve worn many hats at GlockStore. No work is beneath me, and that’s what I’ve shown to my boss. If there’s a need and I can help, then I’ll do whatever’s required to move the company in the direction desired. Because of this, I’ve moved from working on various administrative projects and ideas to managing the Receiving department to heading HR. Now, I’ve been trusted with handling the duties of Business Manager. It’s a big responsibility and I’ve only gotten here because I’ve proven myself elsewhere first.
Olivia Donaldson, Praxis Participant: I work at a managed service provider called Ripple IT. My position currently is roughly half marketing work and half admin work. At the moment, this includes researching clients and building personas, planning and learning marketing techniques, touching up old content from a company Ripple recently acquired, and entering client checks into Quickbooks.
Ryan Matlock, Praxis Alumnus: I am the video marketer/producer on the marketing team. I film and produce event, instructional, and promotional video content as well as assist with graphic design and overall short and long-term content strategy planning.
Lydia Hodgson, Praxis Participant: I work for Go Realty, a real estate brokerage, development, and management startup, which is based out of Pittsburgh, PA. I personally manage their marketing and communications, as well as their short-term rental properties. It’s a fantastic place to work. They’ve been my business partner since February, and I was recently offered a full-time job at my 90-day review.
Charles Porges, Praxis Alumnus: During my apprenticeship at GuildQuality, I led a team of over 10 freelancers to grade and append over 60,000 leads in Salesforce. After I finished that project, I transferred to sales full-time, and I’ve since been promoted from Sales Development Rep to Sales Executive.
2) What were you most nervous about before starting your apprenticeship and how do you feel about it now?
Michael Gaines, Praxis Participant: The culture. Not knowing anyone. I was worried that I’d never integrate well with the business, left idle to drift alone in my office. Most new employees will experience this anywhere, especially in a business of close to 100 employees. It took time, but I used every opportunity I could to get to know the people I’m working with. I joined the company ping-pong tournament early on and got my butt kicked, but I built relationships with everyone involved along the way. I still lay claim to the title of Worst Ping-Pong Player at the company.
Olivia Donaldson, Praxis Participant: I was nervous about not being qualified and not knowing enough to get the job done. Now I realize that the people I work with at Ripple are aware of this and hired me despite it. They do expect me to learn quickly and get the job done, but they also have a lot of grace and are willing to answer any question that I have.
Ryan Matlock, Praxis Alumnus: Originally, I thought my apprenticeship would be in New York or Texas. Then I had an interview with Autopilot where he was so impressed that he said, “Can you be here in four weeks?” Finding a place to live close to the heart of San Francisco in a safe neighborhood that wasn’t a scam was a struggle. Things weren’t looking promising, but I kept looking and having people keep an ear out, and eventually found a place through a friend of a friend.
Lydia Hodgson, Praxis Participant: I was most afraid of failure, of doing something that would reflect poorly on myself and/or Go Realty. However, that mental framework was stunting my ability to create and actually DO my job. I was too nervous of appearing ignorant or stupid to ask necessary questions. Fear is useful if it’s harnessed for the purpose of discernment. Otherwise, it’s a roadblock to personal growth, professional creativity, and productivity. By staying hungry and hardworking, I’m trying to make fear work for me rather than against me.
Charles Porges, Praxis Alumnus: The only thing I was nervous about around that time was whether I would regret dropping out of high school. I overcame that fear after my first week of work; something about it kicked the fear right out of me.
3) What’s been the most exciting project you’ve worked on at your Business Partner so far?
Michael Gaines, Praxis Participant: I had the opportunity to attend the SHOT Show in Las Vegas early on in my employment. I spent a week in the city waking up early to man the booth and make sales. There was no lack of activity or excitement as seemingly every corporation, small business, and startup in the Industry interacted and transacted their way through the week. It served as a crash course introduction to the company and our products that left me brimming with excitement to be working where I am.
Olivia Donaldson, Praxis Participant: I’m getting the opportunity to help completely build a marketing plan from scratch, then execute and perfect it. Ripple hasn’t had anyone in a marketing position for about a year, so I’m really getting to dive in and get my hands dirty alongside someone who knows what they are doing. It’s an experience I’m lucky to have.
Ryan Matlock, Praxis Alumnus: Aside from the video where I went skydiving my first week at Autopilot, the most exciting project has to have been the promotion I made for our big launch of Autopilot Insights, a powerhouse of conversion data and analytics for Autopilot customer journeys. In it, I got to gain more experience with motion tracking, as well as find creative ways to convey core information about the product.
Lydia Hodgson, Praxis Participant: Learning how to personally manage half a dozen short-term rental properties. I field all inquiries, communicate with all our guests, coordinate cleaning and repairs. I’m the person our guests call when the furnace breaks on a cold Pittsburgh night. It’s exciting, challenging, and forces me to be creative to solve problems while communicating with and appeasing a wide demographic of people.
Charles Porges, Praxis Alumnus: Since being promoted to Sales Executive, I’ve had to create my own opportunities, monitor all my leads, and close my own accounts. It’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.
4) How does your apprenticeship differ from other jobs you’ve worked?
Michael Gaines, Praxis Participant: Previous work I’ve done has always involved being handed a set of duties and performing those as told. I could make small, stylistic changes to the method I used to complete those tasks, but I never had the opportunity to make any real changes. With my Business Partner, I’ve been expected to do the opposite. They’ve handed me a multitude of different operations and asked how can this be better. I’ve taken what’s been standard operating procedure and improved upon it in whichever ways I can. Often it’s a small change, other times I’ve re-routed an entire department. Whatever the task now, I have the freedom and opportunity to create valuable changes to the way our company works.
Olivia Donaldson, Praxis Participant: Unlike any other job I’ve worked, Ripple fundamentally cares about people. They make it a point to not only put humans first in every single client interaction, but also in every interaction within the company. It’s a great culture to be a part of and produces results. There’s also an expectation to do good work. In other jobs I’ve worked, doing a thorough, efficient job would be to go above and beyond what’s expected. Here, it’s the norm.
Ryan Matlock, Praxis Alumnus: I’m learning to work within an approval-based process. Being a thought-leader in the industry, Autopilot wants to get things right with content they release. That means there are more checks and balances to get through before we finish, but it also often means higher quality. When I was freelancing, I had more freedom to get stuff done at a quick pace, yet there was less collaboration. That aspect of collaboration here has shown the quality that can come from combining the efforts of many with unique skills.
Lydia Hodgson, Praxis Participant: Being respected as an adult, and having great trust instilled in me. I’ve been blessed to work with Andrew and Shannon Reichert, who are two exemplary individuals. Although this is my first full-time, professional endeavor, I was welcomed onto the team immediately, trusted to do my work and ask for help as needed. I don’t have to check for permission or approval before doing every single thing, and I certainly don’t have to ask to use the restroom, like some of my peers are still expected to do in classrooms. I’m encouraged to use my judgment and make decisions.
Charles Porges, Praxis Alumnus: It’s entirely results oriented. So long as you’re getting done what you need to get done, nobody cares when, how, or how much you’ve worked.
5) What’s your funniest or most inspiring story from your BP experience?
Michael Gaines, Praxis Participant: We have a wide range of ping-pong player skill levels at the company and I’m firmly at the bottom of that range. It has become a competition of sorts to see who can “Skunk” another player, meaning shut them out in a game. My mentor has taken to making this his goal against me. He’s gotten psychological on me to the point where he now calls me Pepe, short for Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon skunk in Loony Toons. I’ve come back to my desk with print outs of Pepe occupying my keyboard and monitor. Least to say I cannot let this happen, as I would never live it down.
Olivia Donaldson, Praxis Participant: There’s this ongoing joke about Yasso bars. Everyone loves them. Some people love them too much. Don’t know what a Yasso bar is? Look it up. You’re missing out.
Ryan Matlock, Praxis Alumnus: A month ago, my BP hired me full-time. One of the first major events after being hired full-time was the launch of their new software feature, Insights. Years ago, they’d put together a teaser promotional video to show at a conference booth. That is, it was very flashy, but offered little information. Three days before we were set to launch, I was in a marketing meeting when our CMO Guy Marion mentioned the video, saying, “I wish we had a better video for Insights, but it doesn’t look like we’ll have one by launch.”
Without hesitation, I said, “I’ll take care of it.”
“In three days? You can do that?”
“I’ve got this.”
Three days later, I gave them the finished product. They loved it! It took a lot of hard work and extra hours, but now they had a better way to promote their product and inform our customers. Here’s the takeaway: Being a valuable asset to your company means fulfilling your duties and responsibilities way before people ask you to. Because when someone says, “I wish we had the resources to do ____”, you want to be the one who can save the day. I once told someone that I typed up a spreadsheet for someone because I knew they’d need it after our meeting. When my co-worker brought it up, I pulled it out immediately. “What?!?” My friend replied. “You should have waited a day, then given to them. Now they’ll give you more work.” They don’t get it.
Be the person people can depend on in a lurch. Don’t slack off because you’ll have time later. Do the work now so that when later comes, you can lighten the load of the team. Do this, and you’ll be well on your way to providing value that the company can’t live without.
Lydia Hodgson, Praxis Participant: During part of my first week, my bosses were out of the country with very limited cell reception. I got a call one night from a guest saying that one of the houses hadn’t been prepared properly for their arrival. Knowing I needed to make a decision or they’d leave a negative review. I gave them a partial refund and I immediately brought them what they requested. Part of me was nervous that my boss wouldn’t agree with my decision, however, I knew I could handle the worst possibility and reimburse them personally. Andrew messaged me later telling me he appreciated how quickly I responded and they deferred to my judgment. This set the tone for my role. I rely on Andrew and Shannon for mentorship and guidance and they rely on me to do my best.
Charles Porges, Praxis Alumnus: For the length of an afternoon, I thought I had misplaced $10,000 of company money. When I was leading the team of freelancers, I was responsible for paying them for the work they did, and I was given a budget of $15,000 to grade all 60,000 leads. Toward the latter end of the project, I decided to create a ledger to track all of my expenses up to that point. I kept somewhat of a running total in my head, and I figured I had spent about $12-$13,000 at that point.
I created a spreadsheet and logged every transaction from the accounting software. I totaled up all the expenses, and my jaw dropped: nearly $25,000. For the next several hours, I was in a panic. I re-checked every transaction, I dug for errors, and I even called the accounting software company to see if there was some mistake – there wasn’t. I called my Praxis advisor and we came up with a plan for bringing this up to our CEO who oversaw the project. I even called my dad, and we talked about how I would handle such an enormous mistake. I felt irresponsible and embarrassed, and I thought I had lost my job. I sent our CEO an email and asked him to meet with me the next morning.
Then, after several hours of dread, I had a thought. I re-read the transaction history, and I figured it out – the software counted when money moved into escrow AND when it was payed out to the freelancer. It counted both trips that the money made, so the sum of all of those transactions was DOUBLE what I had actually spent: which ended up being around $12-13,000.