Another Reason to Get Straight to the Work World

I’ve discussed in previous posts some reasons you should get a real-world job either before or instead of going to college. For one thing, college has an extremely high opportunity cost, in both time and money. For another, the purpose of college has become muddled to such an extent that the reasons people tell you to go are almost entirely desynchronized with the actual reasons you may want to go.

Today, I have another reason that you should at least take a gap year to work a bit first. And this one applies even if you’re 100% sold on college.

When I took a marketing job, I expected to do, well, marketing. Yeah, the job was in San Francisco, so I expected (and wanted) to do marketing for tech companies, but that didn’t change my fundamental assumption. My job title was “Digital Marketer” and so I thought I was going to do digital marketing.

As I found out over the course of the next few months, an employer will use any skill you have if they can find a use for it. By the four-month mark, I had done everything from graphic design to sales to web design to JavaScript programming.

This isn’t just because I work for a micro-company, although this probably happened faster and more thoroughly because of that. Any company will do this. And that’s the key distinction between the work world and college.

If you sign up for a college class in marketing, you won’t accidentally end up programming in JavaScript or creating website wireframes. You’ll do the coursework – nothing more, nothing less. When you go to college, you get exactly what you sign up for. When you get a real-world job, your responsibilities may start out as what you expected, but eventually you’ll probably end up doing a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t in the original job description, based on a combination of what the company needs and what you can do.

In short: College is static; the work world is flexible.

Often, the fact that college works this way feeds the harmful “that’s not my job” mentality, which will poison your career and dampen your options. If you’re reluctant to take on any responsibility beyond the bare minimum of what you were hired to do, you’ll never be given any additional responsibility. Even if you avoid this mentality, getting some real-world work experience early on will serve you well, in or out of college.

If you’re in the sort of profession where you need a college degree, or you’ve otherwise decided you’re Going To College, consider taking a gap year, or getting a part-time job in your field early into your degree. The flexibility you acquire from doing real work is worth its weight in gold.

12 Things I’ve Learned from My Apprenticeship So Far

…In approximately chronological order.

I’ve learned a lot about jobs and the work world from my Praxis apprenticeship thus far. I could just keep this knowledge to myself, but why would I? I can make no guarantees that these insights are generalizable, but I’ve tried to explain them.

  1. Pay attention to the vibes you get off the people interviewing you. Vibes/auras/senses/whatever are just other words for “thin slicing”, when your subconscious knows something based on a well-trained intuition that you simply don’t know consciously yet. You don’t get much time in an interview and you need to take every opportunity to understand your potential future bosses. Knowing whether you’re going to like a job starts with knowing whether you’re going to like the people, and knowing that starts with thin slicing, aka, vibes.
  2. Interviews are a two-way street. At the same time that you’re being interviewed, you should be interviewing. Come up with your own sly interview questions that get your interviewer to tell you more about the job and the company than the simple words they say, just as they’re asking you sly interview questions to get you to reveal more about yourself than you say. At the same time that you’re making yourself look more appealing to them, they’re making themselves look more appealing to you. Know this and use it to your advantage.
  3. That ‘welcome lunch’ is not just a friendly gesture. In fact, this is another interview with a slightly different purpose: gauging your interpersonal skills. Nobody wants a new hire who doesn’t get along with the whole team, and that’s what this lunch is for. Understand that purpose and ace this test.
  4. The only way to survive at a startup is to train hard and train fast. The best way to thrive in any company is to do the same. The quicker you bring yourself up to speed, by actively asking questions, by reading job materials in your off hours, by immersing yourself fully into your role, the quicker you can become indispensable.
  5. Don’t speak, just do. I read in one of many brilliant business books that a great leader never has an off day. The same is true of any great employee. Even if you have off days, you’re tired, you’re achy, you don’t feel great, you’re stressed, you don’t say anything about it. You buckle down and you get the work done and you say nothing to anybody about how hard you’re working. They will see the results and it will be worth more than a million words.
  6. Always be “on”. An actor is “on” from the instant they step into their character. A gymnast is “on” from the instant they begin their routine. And an employee is “on” from the instant they step into the office. In all these areas there is an energy that you must project, and the act of projecting that energy is what us performers call being “on”. You deliberately cultivate this energy – it doesn’t happen naturally. It’s tiring at first, but you get used it; it’s a muscle like any other and you have to use it to improve it. Presidential candidates are absolute beefcakes in this area: they’re “on” nearly every minute of every day. Fortunately for you, all you’ve gotta do is be “on” in the office.
  7. The “I’ll do it myself” mindset is just fine, but avoid it while training. “Doing it yourself” while you don’t know what you’re doing is a huge waste of your time and your company’s. Take the time to learn, then do it yourself correctly.
  8. Your boss isn’t always right, but pretend they are. This is especially true if your boss is insecure, which some are. If, for example, your boss throws a hissy fit over a remark you made, don’t defend yourself: just stop doing whatever it was that pissed off your boss. Your second quickest ticket out the door of any office is a pissed-off boss. (Your quickest ticket is a pissed-off client.)
  9. Your clients aren’t always right, but they’re right more often than you might think. At least in marketing, there’s this idea that we marketers know better than everyone. And we do – about marketing. But most of us know jack-shit about programming, which makes our technical clients furious sometimes. Cut your clients some slack when they correct your usage of their industry jargon. Also, make super ultra sure it never happens again.
  10. Nobody should ever have to correct you in the same way twice. The single most frustrating thing on the planet is to have to tell somebody something multiple times. It’s an incredibly silly idea that everyone could pay enough attention to everyone else all the time to always remember everything they say, but we all have such inflated egos that we can’t help feeling like that’s the way it should be. Your boss and your clients have this feeling too. Humor them. Never forget anything they say and never need to be corrected more than once.
  11. Humility isn’t a mere confession of your fallibility; humility is actions taken in anticipation of your failure. The only useful declaration of fallibility is the one followed immediately by action. Preparing for your failure will make it way less sucky when you succumb to being a normal human and failing at something at some point.
  12. Your career path determines how hard you work at your job, and vice versa. If your plan is to advance in your role, work super hard at that. If your plan is to move into another role, perform to a solid level and spend your spare time moving toward your next career step with as much vigor as you can muster.

These are the things I can give handy advice for; there are of course some things I haven’t sorted out yet. I hope that given another three months I’ll be able to give handy advice for those, too.

A Photo Timelapse: Month 3 at Upgrow, Inc.

I cannot believe it has been three whole months out of my six-month apprenticeship at Upgrow. It’s so cliche to say this, but I have honestly learned so much, grown so much, and become (it feels like) a totally different person.

Because, as the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m posting pictures of this ridiculous journey, in honor of this halfway point.

On top of living in an absolutely gorgeous city and taking pictures with my phone that could go on postcards, I have published nearly ten blog posts to clients’ blogs and edited hundreds of web pages to optimize their SEO. I’ve learned more about marketing within three months than years of college classes could teach me. And I live in the universal locus for technology, where everyone is smart in the very specific way that means they will be excellent connections for my career path.

I can only hope my life continues to be awesome going forward – for the next three months of my apprenticeship as well as in the more distant future.

How to Write an Article for a Client’s Blog

One avenue of digital marketing that is simultaneously time-consuming and rewarding is writing optimized articles for your clients’ blogs. This is time-consuming not just because writing polished articles takes a while, but because doing it correctly requires significant background knowledge of your client’s industry. Still, there isn’t much that will benefit your clients’ organic search rankings more than well-optimized, relevant, regularly posted blog content.

Do Background Research

In order to get started with this process, you’ll need a significant background of knowledge. What does your client do? What is the problem they solve? How do they solve it differently than their competitors (both those they would name in response to the question “who are your main competitors” and also those who rank higher than they do for their core keywords; otherwise called “named” and “organic” competitors)? Who are their customers? How do those customers use their product or service? What is the jargon in their industry? You’re writing these posts on behalf of your client, so you had better be, if not an expert, at least very knowledgeable about their product, customers, and industry.

Once you have this information and have decided what keywords it would be best for them to rank for, you can do a content gap analysis to see what kinds of topics your client doesn’t have articles or blog posts on that their named and organic competitors do. There are a handful of tools which can do this; my favorite is Ahrefs.

If you work for a marketing agency, you probably already have both of the above pieces of information on file.

Pick a Title

Once you have all the background info, the first step in content writing is to pick a title, topic, and format. These can and should go together: if the title doesn’t clearly tell your readers what the topic and format are, then it’s not that good a title. Reading the title “Top 10 Tips for Painting with Oils”, I expect a bulleted list, possibly with pictures. Reading the title “How to Write an Article for a Client’s Blog”, I expect a medium- to long-form article, or possibly a video, telling me how to write articles for clients’ blogs. By contrast, “Introduction to Programming in Python” is a subpar title because I have absolutely no idea what kind of content I’m getting. That could just as easily be a podcast, an article, a video, or even a book.

Since you can convey all three important aspects of the content with a well-written title, this is what you should present to your client. Once they’ve approved it, you can move on to the next step: running a Clearscope report.

Run a Clearscope Report

Clearscope is perhaps the single most important tool for optimized content writing that there is out there. Given a keyword, it will search that and related terms and scan all the top results for those terms for the most commonly-used keywords and other phrases, then output these results into a report. In the Clearscope report, you’ll find specifics on what competitor articles they found, what rough level of complexity those results have (in terms of a elementary-college grading system), how long the results’ content is in terms of word count, and what keywords they found were most relevant to the one you started with.

But the most important thing that the Clearscope report will give you is a nifty editor, similar to that in a CMS like WordPress, with a list of keywords and phrases on the right-hand side.

You will be using this editor, along with your previous keyword research, to write your content. Clearscope, while useful, is not a substitute for thorough keyword research. Without keyword research, not only do you not know which report to run, you’ll likely miss out on all sorts of great keywords if you use it by itself. All Clearscope gives you is a list of phrases—not keywords, just phrases—that are common in organically competing content. That’s it. So, keep your keyword list on hand next to the Clearscope editor while you write.

Write Awesome Content

At this point, you’ve taken all the measures you need. You know what kind of content your audience probably expects given their query, you know what pages are already ranking for that keyword, and you know how to make up the difference. Now, it’s time to write what Moz calls 10x content: content that’s 10 times better than anything out there right now.

As you write, you’ll notice that Clearscope is politely highlighting relevant phrases you’re including from its list, as well as giving you an updating word count, readability level, and “content grade”. The content grade is based on how many of Clearscope’s relevant phrases you’re using. Its suggested minimum of B- is a bit low for my tastes—I tend to go for A- at a minimum, with most of my content at either A+ or A++— but you should never optimize your Clearscope content grade at the expense of your user experience. After all, your customers will never see the former, but most (if not all) of their knowledge of your company comes from the latter.

Publish It

Now that you have your 10x content with a nice high Clearscope content grade, you’re ready to publish! Before you do, though, make sure you’ve got three pieces of meta nicely optimized: title, description, and URL slug.

The meta title is shown in the browser tab and as the clickable link on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page, the “ten blue links”). Your CMS will probably auto-generate one for you (frequently in the form [h1 title][separator such as – or |][blog name], but that need not be the one you use. For an example, see Split’s homepage: the h1 tag contains the phrase “Split powers your product decisions with a unified solution for feature flagging and experimentation.” But the meta title tag is “Split: Continuous Delivery, Feature Flags & Experimentation”.

You only have about 50-65 characters to work with in your title tag before search engines will cut it off with an ellipsis, so you only have room for the page’s core keyword in your title, assuming you’re also including your brand name (which you should). Think of your title tag like a billboard, designed to attract your prospect’s attention in a concise, intriguing way.

The meta description is shown as the blurb of text below the link on the SERP. (At least, when search engines decide to put it there. Sometimes, in order to answer the user’s query better, they’ll take a section from the page’s body text and use that in place of the meta description.) This is useful as an additional, slightly longer pitch to your users. Some SEO tools will tell you to keep it under 160 characters, but a lot of the time search engines will index up to 320, and unlike the title tag, where an ellipsis can be annoying, an interesting meta description cut off with an ellipsis can increase suspense.

The URL slug is the part of the URL that signifies the specific page: https://www.example.com/articles/this-part-is-the-url-slug/. It should be descriptive: a good rule of thumb is that a human should be able to look at the URL and know what the page is about. Many CMSs will auto-generate a slug for you based on your h1, but like the meta title, you need not use this. For example, this incredibly interesting article has the h1 title “The Dark World of Affiliate Marketing, Black Hat SEO, and…Mattresses?” but the URL slug is /the-world-of-affiliate-marketing-black-hat-seo/.

You’ll want all three of these elements—title, meta description, and URL slug, in that order of importance—to contain keywords. But your primary goal with all three is still to provide the most relevant, interesting, and useful search experience to your prospects and customers. Your end goal is sales, not search engine rankings alone.

And Then You’re Done!

You’ve got excellent content containing keywords and phrases your organic competitors are ranking for, and all your meta info is optimized for both users and search engines. That’s it!

Working Overtime and a Pesach Away from Home: Week 6 at Upgrow, Inc.

I think my perception of time may be getting out of whack. The weeks go by so quickly, I feel like I write one of these updates every day. I wonder what makes time seem like it goes by so quickly—if I had to venture a guess, it would involve the percentage of time that we spend fully conscious of our surroundings. Childhood is spent in this state in perpetuity, adolescence sees it notably less, and adulthood allows it rarely if at all. If that’s the case, is this a necessary evil that comes along with becoming an adult? Or—and I admit this search for an alternative is motivated by a desire to believe this is a possibility—is there a method to slow time back down again?

I’m not sure. If the root cause is indeed a lack of awareness of grounded reality (as opposed to the abstractions which so often fill modern adulthood), a possible solution would be to systematically cultivate this awareness. But while I’ve done this by accident while intoxicated, the idea of doing it deliberately while not under any external influence is heretofore untested by me. I’ll have to update you on that next week.

I bring this up because of what I mentioned previously – about overcoming akrasia. The issue is that when I was in school, I would sit about, actively procrastinating on an assignment and knowing I was doing so. This was the form of akrasia that I thought I might be dealing with again, perhaps unknowingly. But not so; this new akrasia comes as thinking “I’d like to do this thing tonight” while standing on the train home, then coming home and eating dinner and then suddenly four hours have passed and where on earth did that darkness outside the window come from, oh I guess it’s bedtime now well maybe I’ll get to do the thing tomorrow.

So the problem of overcoming akrasia as a college student was solved by getting so overwhelmingly angry with myself that I had to either get my work done or go crazy, but the problem of overcoming it as a working professional seems to necessitate slowing down the perceived passage of time, or if that’s impossible, learning to get more done faster. (Ideally, it would involve doing both.)

Besides my difficulties with getting extra work done in my downtime, I’m doing very well at my actual job. Last week I worked a few hours overtime getting important projects done on very short notice, and my bosses seem to be very happy with me. I’m assisting in the management transition and taking on as much work as I can, which extends beyond my job description into some agency marketing work, including proofreading blog posts for the company blog.

My old boss had a few odd aspects to his workflow: for example, he always had way more projects than he could feasibly finish, he never assigned due dates or deadlines to anything, he rarely specified goals or provided scope specifications, and he was basically never completely transparent with the rest of the company. My new boss is exactly the opposite of all these things, which seems to be working out a lot better. I hope that, whatever company my old boss decided to work for, that it’s a better culture fit for him. He did say it paid a lot better.

The biggest thing I think I need to do at work is not get complacent with my current success. Life has demonstrated numerous times that it can turn on a dime and I need to be prepared for that possibility; and also, mere adequacy has never really been my style anyway. I need to keep taking on more responsibilities and getting even better at the ones I already have.

We have a contract writer who works on the SEO team with me, and I think I just got about as good as he is at writing articles. Now I think it’s time for me to start blowing his stuff out of the water. There’s not much better you can get for SEO than an A++ grade on Clearscope, but there’s plenty of room to improve in terms of rhetorical quality and speed. In every area, I need to make these sorts of improvements.

Outside of everything work-related, Passover (Pesach) was this past weekend, and this was the first time I had one away from home. I had my birthday away from home as well, but I was in the middle of moving in then, and I’d had very little time for any kind of real ceremony. I ate some cupcakes with friends in the community center and my fiancé bought me a stuffed rabbit. But Pesach… that’s a pretty big deal, the kind of thing my parents typically make a big fancy dinner and bring the extended family over for.

Really, Pesach is more “Jewish Christmas” than Chanukah is, despite the fact that the latter happens around Christmastime. (Other cultures have no obligation to stick their major religious holidays around Christmas, y’know.) So if you’d like, you can say this was sorta like my first Christmas away from home.

I didn’t sit around and mope, don’t worry, I’m not that much of an introvert. In fact, I went to a ceremony that was in fact much larger than my family’s—and I have a big family. There were perhaps thirty people there, a good ten percent of which weren’t even Jewish; they just decided to “come in and make Passover”, as the Haggadah says. And speaking of that, we used a rewritten “rationalist’s Haggadah”, which was equal parts tear-jerking and hilarious. After we ate a nice meal, we told a bunch of stories, sung bad parodies of songs from Hamilton and Portal (which were in fact a part of the rewritten Haggadah), and then hung around in a cuddle pile on beanbags in the living room, telling stupid jokes well into the night. I have a few drawings of this night that I think I’ll post here whenever I get around to finishing them.

The next morning I opened some care packages my parents had sent my fiancé and I, which included a lot of candy and chocolate, pancake and hot cocoa mix. (Why hot cocoa in the late spring? Why not? It’s California, it never gets below 50ºF here. Now’s as good a time as ever.) And I hung around being mostly out of it for most of the day, for some combination of the alcohol, the weed, and the staying up five hours past my normal bedtime, eating chocolate in my PJs. The only problem was that I fell off a motor scooter later that day while running an errand. Still, all in all, a pretty good first-Pesach-as-a-grownup.

What is a Feature Flag?

As a digital marketer, I wind up writing a decent number of articles for clients’ blogs. And as always happens when writing about a topic, I’ve learned a decent amount about these clients’ products. Our current biggest writing-focused client is Split, which is a B2B SaaS company selling feature flags as a service. But hold up, what on earth are feature flags? Well, I’m about to tell you.

A feature flag is a piece of conditional code that you wrap around any new feature, which links that feature to a dashboard. From this dashboard you can turn off the feature, release it to only a subset of your userbase, and generally manage all your features so you can see which ones are in use.

Now, how exactly is this useful? To start with, imagine a pre-existing codebase for a currently-working app. You don’t always start with this—one of the ways to implement continuous deployment is to start with a blank canvas—but this is usually how it works and is one of the most common feature flag use cases. Now, imagine a dev team working on a new feature to add to that app.

Without feature flags, this looks like a number of things, all of which are sub-optimal. You end up releasing only a few times a year because you need to do endless testing to make sure things aren’t broken before you push to production. You get crazy long-lived feature branches that take forever to merge back to trunk (“master” in Github terminology) and make a huge mess when they finally do. Or, worst, you accidentally break something but don’t realize until after you’ve already pushed to production, and you have to do a painful rollback to the previous version to fix the bugs, then re-release afterwards, and deal with the fallout from

With feature flags, the scenario looks much better. Instead of testing with your staff before pushing to production, just test in production on your real users—starting with just a select few of them, who have perhaps opted in to be guinea pigs. Instead of making branches which may or may not outlive their welcome and/or create a merge hell when you try to get them back to trunk, you can do everything straight in trunk. And if you break something anywhere in this process, you can just turn the feature off, no rollback required.

Beyond simply making development less of a headache overall, there are some specific things you can do with feature flags that are much harder otherwise. Some notable examples include continuous integration/delivery/deployment, canary releases and phased rollouts, and dark launches.

Continuous integration is the process of constantly and deliberately merging every code change to trunk (/master). Continuous delivery is constantly pushing each change to a production-like environment where there’s only one step of manual testing before it goes to end users. Continuous deployment is similar to continuous delivery, but without the manual testing: automated testing is the only step between the code deployment and the end users.

Canary releases and phased rollouts are similar in that they both involve releasing new features to only a subset of the userbase at first. With a canary release, the userbase subset is chosen and targeted to be test subjects, and they act like a canary in a coal mine, letting developers know whether the feature is safe to release to the broader public. With a phased rollout, you begin with a subset, which you then slowly ramp up until you’ve released to your entire userbase.

Dark launching is, literally, the process of launching a feature while keeping your users in the dark. Specifically, you use all the portions of your real infrastructure that would ordinarily be used in serving the feature, but you don’t actually show it to users. Feature flags can make this happen by letting you restrict access to only internal users, which lets the developers activate the feature in absence of a real code deployment.

There are a bunch more uses for feature flags – some of which are detailed on Split’s or FeatureFlags’s use cases pages, others can be found on Martin Fowler’s blog.

Priorities, Talks, and an Entirely-Un-Asked-For T-Shirt: Week 4 at Upgrow, Inc.

This week, as I promised I would do last week, I made a priority-ordered list of what needs to get done outside of work. Or, more properly, I decided on the One Thing that I’m going to do as much as possible for the next month, then laid out a rough timeline of the priorities for the rest of my apprenticeship.

In short, for the next month, I’m going to continue focusing on improving my Adulting On My Own skills, both in and outside the workplace. That means making sure I’m financially stable for the long haul, cultivating good relationships with my housemates as well as my coworkers, working on improving my marketing skills, and—this is the hard part—maintaining connections I made while I was staying at Reach.

I also got done a handful of other things which I didn’t plan to do in the last update but which are nonetheless very important. First off, I’ve started having weekly meetings on Friday evenings with Yitzchak, my Praxis pal who finally arrived in SF to work at the office in person about two weeks ago. This past meeting, we discussed humanism, religion, morality, and all other kinds of very fun deep topics.

That’s not all, and this last one surprised me too. After work on Tuesday, I was researching one of our clients in the hopes of understanding their industry better, and I ran across an industry talk the next day that the client was hosting at their office! I could not believe my luck and signed up for the talk right away, telling my advisors at Praxis that I couldn’t make the weekly Wednesday call. After work, I took a leisurely walk down to the office, had a nice dinner at a nearby burger place, and went to the talk. There were all kinds of cool people there, and the actual talk itself was about all sorts of cutting-edge time series database related stuff. I got to see a dashboard for a software that won’t exist until September! (No, I can’t show it to you, you perv. Wait till September like the rest of the public.)

After the talk, I chatted with a bunch of different people with the express intent of getting LinkedIn connections, because I’d eat a burrito with a fork before I’d walk away from a social event without making online connections. Turns out, one of the people I ended up talking to was the person on the client staff who hired our company in the first place! We had a super nice chat, discussed tech and marketing, and at the end she not only told me to help myself to the company-branded stickers they were handing out, she also grabbed me an entirely exclusive t-shirt and branded socks! I was literally so stoked. Nobody else got a t-shirt or socks! What did I do to deserve this privilege?? They’re really nice socks and I actually haven’t even taken them out of the packaging yet because they’re so awesome, although I did wear the t-shirt to work on Friday.

Anyway. It has officially been a month at this new job! Month 1 of 6 complete, and honestly it’s going pretty well. I’ve got a cheap and small but nice room in a group house with a signed lease and a security deposit, a relationship with my boss that’s moving in the direction of amicable, weekly discussions with a coworker that I’m becoming very good friends with, and some sweet company swag (and an open offer from my boss to maybe go to other client events to gather intel? what?). Next week, I’m going to work on doing a little bit more of all my stated goals, since I didn’t actually get around to making them in the first place till Wednesday and so I only had half a week to start implementing them. We’ll have to see how that goes; stay tuned!

The Importance of Perseverance and Umbrellas: Week 2 at Upgrow, Inc.

This job is getting very difficult, but not for the reasons you might expect. Yes, marketing is itself hard, but it’s actually been harder acclimating to the work environment. Not just the startup environment, though that definitely contributes, but my interactions with the people there. I made a few stupid social mistakes early on, and I have a few personality clashes with my direct supervisor which I need to work on.

Some of the most important things I’ve learned from this job so far, then, have actually been about how to work through such problems. I am learning a ton about marketing, because my supervisor is ridiculously good at what he does. But I could have learned marketing from any expert marketer: having an expert marketer that I don’t naturally get along with very well is an additional level of challenge, and I’m learning a lot about the social rules of the white-collar workplace as a result.

I would be lying to say it’s all sunshine and roses: actually, I seem to have brought a rare rainstorm to sunny San Francisco. But like the umbrella that snapped in half on the first day after I moved here and left me to walk soaking wet for miles, these difficulties are teaching me perseverance, as well as the importance of having a good umbrella.

As to the actual marketing work, it’s incredibly interesting. I never realized SEO could be so complicated: the last time I checked, keyword stuffing and cloaking were frequently-used tactics. Now, it’s all about knowing your audience and getting voluntary backlinks from reputable sites.

One of my recent projects I’ve been working on for a handful of clients is that latter, we call it “link building”. This encompasses many things, from posting useful answers on forums to giving helpful information to reporters, but what I’m currently working on is getting links from individual peoples’ blogs. Basically, the process is that I figure out some people who blog about the thing our client does, and I see if there’s a place on their blog where they’d improve their content by linking to our client. Then, I send an outreach email, asking for the link.

Outside of work, my life is less difficult and more surreal. Living with rationalists, I keep having very interesting conversations. Interesting, both in the sense of intriguing and strange. People here regularly use phrases like “terminal value”, “cached thought”, “operational definition”, and “cognitive dissonance”. Everyone knows the ANI/AGI/ASI distinction. I have only met one other person who is not currently working as a programmer. And yet, we have these discussions laying about on couches, playing stupid card games, and drinking wine out of boxes. I went for cheap Chinese with some dude who works for Google.

Since I’m living in a community center until I can move into my permanent residence, there are all sorts of people and events which come through here. I’ve learned about the YIMBY movement, about animal rights activism and the clinically proven benefits of meditation. It’s so interesting learning about so many different points of view and political movements that I’d never heard of in any great detail before.

California has, in general, been a healing force for me, mostly due to one of the first friends I made here. No later than two hours after landing in CA, I met an absolute ray of sunshine who helped me through the rain, and continues to do so. He’s made awesome, healthy food that I’ve been able to take in for lunch sometimes, led some of the best meditation sessions I’ve ever attended, and generically made the whole environment and experience very positive. We’re both moving out of the community center soon, but I very much hope we can stay in touch after we’re no longer housemates. This friend, along with my fiancé and my mom, have been my umbrella.

I dearly hope this metaphor made sense.

Where Did I Disappear To? Week 1 at Upgrow, Inc.

To anyone who doesn’t follow me on social media, it may seem like I’ve just up and abandoned this blog. In truth, what was happening was a very frantic cross-country move, and my first week at a brand-new job at a digital marketing startup in San Francisco, California. It’s a trusim that one can either explore or exploit: that is, one can find new opportunities, or utilize the ones one already has. There is a third option, though: explain. So in all, you can either find new opportunities, utilize the ones you’ve got, or write about what you’ve learned from it all. At present, I’ve done my exploring and am exploiting as best I can, but that doesn’t leave a lot of time to explain.

So from here on out, since I do like documenting stuff, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about what I’m doing at my job, how I’m living in California on a crazy low budget, and as always, general stuff about life, the universe, and everything. Y’know, this blog’s usual content.

Today, I’d like to explain what I’ve been doing in my first week at Upgrow, that marketing startup I mentioned. I’ll talk about my finances in a later post, write about a really interesting guest speaker we had on our weekly Praxis Wednesday call this past week, and maybe I’ll also write about the process of moving cross-country in ten days.

Our office is in a co-working space in downtown San Francisco. The room only has seven desks in it, two of which are presently empty. (One of these will be filled by my Praxis pal Yitzchak, who decided to move on a longer timeline and work remotely in the interim.) This small office means that there’s no complicated structure of meetings that needs to happen: to communicate something company-wide, all we need to do is say it, or post it to the general Slack channel.

The biggest thing I’ve learned this week is how hectic startups can be. Last week—my first week—I took on projects for three of our SEO clients; this week, I’m adding the other three. I’m running as fast as I can just to keep up. As I was just starting Praxis, an alum talked about how starting his apprenticeship felt like drinking from a fire hose. Now that I’m here, I understand the sentiment.

On top of working, I’ve been completing some marketing certifications, reading up on the industry software, and generally making myself a more valuable employee. My direct supervisor is big on trying to make sure that we don’t have to take work home, but I enjoy watching marketing videos as I get ready in the morning. I’ve never much liked the idea of “work-life balance” anyways: if you care enough about either one, you’ll figure out how to fit them in. My mom worked rigorously at multiple startups while pregnant with me; ’nuff said.

The project I’m most proud of from this week is the one I did started on my very first day. One of Upgrow’s founders, Ryder, asked me to take over the LinkedIn marketing for one of our clients, a lock and security company called ASSA ABLOY. I created all the posts for this week for both of their campaigns (which works out to one post per day), and on Friday I made the ones for the next week. Turns out, I don’t even need those till the week after (that is, starting next Monday, 3/25 instead of 3/18), so I’m ahead of schedule.

This week, I’m continuing the projects I’ve already been assigned (they include suggestions for blog categories, keyword research, and local marketing with Google MyBusiness) and adding several new ones, for clients including Seal Software, InfluxData, and Mercer Advisors.

As a final note: after I get settled in this role, I’ll be resuming my study of machine learning and add more PDP updates, but I want to make sure I’m doing well at this new job first.