Learnings from the VA Seminar

Got an email invite regarding the VA Success seminar by Marge Aberasturi (seminar title: My VA Success Blueprint: A Re-Run). After giving it thought, I signed up. It is a paid seminar but I don’t really mind playing around and adjusting my budget to pay for anything educational. Also, the seminar was a whole day event so I personally think the payment was worth it.

My main reason for attending is that I want to know how others started their online gigs and what they are doing to sustain it, to network with like-minded individuals, and to draw inspiration from others who were successful in it.

Things I’ve learned: (I’m writing this days after the seminar so out of the many topics covered, these are the things retained in my memory)

  1. You have to set goals in every aspect in your life. Your goals have to be clearly defined. Why? Because these goals are supposed to inspire you to keep on going every time you feel like giving up.
    2. Virtual assistance is a lifestyle. Once you embark on this journey, it becomes part of your life.
    3. You have to transition from an employer-employee mindset to a professional-client mindset. Why? Because your clients are technically not your employers. You are not under their Payroll. They get your services to take care of some parts of their business operations, hence you are a vendor providing VA services and they are your clients.
    4. VA is not all about having an internet connection and a computer. It entails a lot of work to be good at the craft.
    5. In relation to #4, there are a lot of tools you need to learn to be successful in this area. Personally, this is my next goal – learn the tools.
    6. There are general areas and specialized areas of being a VA. You have to have the skills to become one. If you don’t have at the moment but you really want to become one, then learn some skills. You should also know at what area you want to focus on.
    7. Working space is important. While it is nice to have a home office the moment you transition to working at home, the lack of it for the meantime should also not stop you from transitioning. Marge shared that she started with only having her desk at a corner in their living room. Others from the audience also shared that they have the same setup and it’s working for them.
    8. Your online office/presence is also important. It is advisable to have a website with your own domain where you can showcase your portfolio. It’s the first step to getting yourself out there. It also becomes your brand so make sure it is something that clients will be attracted to.
    9. In relation to #8, be careful with what you put in your social media. Employers or potential clients nowadays tend to go to social media for their background check of potential people they aim to work with.
    10. There are different types of pricing. Know your worth and don’t go below your rate just so you can get clients. There are online communities of VAs in the Philippines and they are trying to establish a standard pricing for all.
    11. Know your value proposition. What can you offer your client that others can’t or won’t even think of doing?
    12. Make it your business to learn your client’s business so that you can do your job with as much error as possible, and you can do more than what you are expected to do, hence you leave a good impression to your client.
    13. Be reliable, trustworthy and committed when doing business with your clients. It goes a long way.
    14. It is possible to achieve your goals while working from home. Marge shared that she was able to become part owner of a science high school in their province out of her earnings as a VA.
    15. There will be good days and bad days. You may experience a love-hate relationship with your clients but just strive to keep things on a professional level. For Marge, one of her long-time clients already considers her part of their family. She would occasionally receive emails from her client or his wife expressing how much they appreciate her for all that she does to help them in their business.
    16. Your family’s support is important. You have to communicate with them all that entails working from home. Set rules and boundaries. On shared that she trained her kids to stay quiet during her work hours, so every time they see Mommy on her headset, it’s their queue to avoid making noise. One of her kids is 2 years old and he’s able to follow so don’t underestimate the ability of kids to comprehend what’s happening or what needs to happen at home. Others may also be new to this setup and they may think that you have all the time since you are just at home. They have to understand that you are still working, only at home.
    17. One of the perks of working from home is that you are able to dictate your time. Create a timetable that works for you and the family but make sure that it is flexible enough to accommodate changes. If you’ve allotted 15 minutes to do a household task, then stop the task either completed or not, after 15 minutes. Continue with it when the next 15-minute schedule comes. This is to ensure that you don’t jeopardize missing on deadlines related to your work. As Marge said, it’s ok to have a messy house. BUT, one of her tips is to always clean your own work space so it becomes more inviting and inspiring to work.
    18. The work at home setup allowed Marge to home-school some of her kids and allowed her to not hire a helper.
    19. Share what you learn.
    20. While not related to VA, Marge also shared that you can earn from your hobbies. One of her hobbies is doing crochet. She just started this because her daughter got interested in this and requested for lessons as her birthday gift. So along with the lessons, they also bought yarns. But just like any kid, her daughter changed her mind and became uninterested in the craft. Left with too many yarns, Marge took the lesson, and now, she’s selling some of her finished products. I am personally amazed because heck, I’ve learned to do crochet back in grade school because of required projects but never had the mindset of earning from it and then here comes Marge, who just learned the craft recently, and now earning from it. The most valuable lesson I learned from that story? I guess if I truly want to shift to entrepreneurship, I should start training my mind to think of a potential business opportunity out of ordinary things.

It’s a long list but I know there is more. I’ll update once I consult my notes.

From the Backyard to the Dining Table: Camote Tops

Thanks to APEC, Manila has 2 additional special holidays, November 18-19, 2015. I took advantage of it and decided to spend it at my sayote kingdom a.k.a home.

Yesterday’s viand for lunch was camote tops, which I got from the yard (thanks to my brother who planted it). One of my goals is to someday serve food at the dining table harvested from the yard, just like the old times. Yes, old times, because my family’s main source of income was planting vegetables. And if you are a farmer, it’s basically what you plant is what you eat. While I didn’t appreciate it very much back then, I realized years later that I was lucky to have that kind of setup. Now, how I wish I could do it in Manila but space is limited, plus the weather is different. But urban gardening is also encouraged these days so might as well look into that option.
camotetops1 camotetops2Funny thing was, since I know my brother is not at home, I dropped by the grocery to pick up some stuff to sustain me while there. My siblings have their own lives, I have my own home, and since my mother died, there’s no one to ensure I have food at home, courtesy of her sari-sari store hehehe. Anyway, I picked up some canned goods, and I grimaced while doing so and again while typing this hahaha (I’m trying as much as I can to avoid all things processed now, that’s why). But since the camote tops are I think enough for the meals that I have to take at home, looks like the canned goods will be for my brother hahaha. Swap kami 😛 . Plus, tita and her family is visiting this weekend so they will bring more vegetables.

Note: While the camote tops in the picture doesn’t look appetizing enough to some, it’s how I want my vegetables cooked-plain and just sauteed in little oil with a dash of salt.

Work Tales: Please Answer the Questionnaire

questionnaireWhile searching for an email that I knew I sent 2 years ago, I came across another email from a colleague, asking me to answer a questionnaire for her niece’s school requirement. Mid this year, I also learned that my friend from another team hired someone and mentioned that she is the niece of that colleague. I then asked my colleague if that niece who was in school before is the same niece who is now working for the same company as ours. He said yes. Small world. And happy for her because she was able to find a job that’s related to her course after college :).

And I just had to look for that questionnaire I answered 2 years ago because I honestly can’t remember what my answers were. Baka pala nagkalat ako non hahaha! Pero buti na lang hindi because I take these seriously…as in kinakarir ko ang pagsagot. Here’s the last question of that questionnaire and my answers (emphasis on the s haha!).

Question: As Information Technology students, what advice or tips can you give us in building a good and proper attitude towards becoming a Systems Analyst?

  • Analytical thinking is critical
  • You should have at least a basic understanding of the concepts of development. Know the difference between web and client apps. Which one is appropriate for what problem?
  • At the very least, you should know about databases.
  • You are between your client and the developers. Learn how to speak both languages. You will often find yourself explaining to clients how a system works. A hardcore programmer will always be technical when doing explanations making your client more confused. You as the analyst, should be able to translate technical jargon to simple English that your clients can understand.
  • Do not assume. Always ask the client. Validate and re-validate some more. Ensure that you are both in the same page.
  • You should be not afraid of dealing with people. If you want to become an analyst but you are too shy, work on your shyness. There will be a lot of people interaction.
  • Always know how and when to ask the right questions. There are several ways of getting requirements. Make Google your friend :).
  • Know when to be firm, when to meet halfway with the client or when to give them what they think they need. Be their devil’s advocate if you think they are not on the right track.
  • Always remember that whatever solutions you provide, it should always be aligned with the company objectives. At the end of the day, higher management will just care about its financials. They are willing to invest as long as they see a return on investment over the course. Hence, as the systems analyst who recommends solutions, your solutions should contribute to what’s important to management.

Now that I read it again, parang mali ata sagot ko kasi attitude ang tanong nila pero skills ang mga sinabi ko hahahaha! Huwell, anyway, ayan, graduate naman na so keri na rin siguro hahaha. Koloka!

Update: According to my colleague’s niece, she got a high grade on that project. Good to know haha!

* Image from here *

Work Tales: Zero-Defect UAT

zero-defectsI got news tonight that our internal client was happy with the outcome of the system that we implemented recently. And I was a little surprised to hear that from her knowing that it’s not really her nature to give such kinds of feedback. Specifically, she and her were team happy and surprised that there were no findings during their user acceptance testing.

I’m happy to learn that the team’s hard work paid off, especially so that it was not a bed of roses during the journey. We were not able to meet the original timeline that we committed to our clients due to multiple projects being handled by the same resources, hence causing some delays in the completion of tasks prior their testing. I have underestimated the timeline for my own testing. It took me longer than my estimate. My findings were showstoppers so I had to wait for the Dev team to resolve the issues.

The moment I was not provided with the test site on the day that I should start my testing, I knew there was a chance we can’t make it to the deadline. When I was finally able to do a quick test of the basic functionalities of the system and got major findings, I knew we really will be delayed. I toyed with the idea of just handing over a buggy system to them just so we won’t be tagged as delayed. However, my other self, who have always believed that we can have a bug-free system by doing thorough testing, was against my initial idea. My other self won. And so I talked to the client’s team member working with us, told her that we were not going to make it to the original timeline, presented a new timeline based on where we were at that time and silently prayed that she would just accept the fact that we were delayed and agree to the new timeline. She was ok with it. One down. Composed another email to be sent to the project owner, project manager, and my boss, again with a silent prayer that they won’t have any violent reactions. I must be lucky that day because I did not recieve any replies from them haha.

So off we went with the client’s testing, and while they were doing theirs, I still continued with my own because while I was more confident with the finished product that we handed over for their testing, I still wanted to make sure that I did not miss anything. Good thing that I did beacuase I had one more finding and it happened prior them testing that specific module. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have zero defect haha.

We were delayed for 4 days and a delay is still a delay no matter how short or long it is. So you see, I really can’t help but be surprised with the news. But thank you anyway.

On the other hand, I’m happy to have made that decision to accept the delay even if at the time, I did not feel good about it at all and has caused me too much stress. With this experience, I learned that it’s better to just face the music head on and just be transparent about things. However, as a note to myself, delays should only be because of valid and acceptable reasons. This way, everybody happy. 🙂  Cheers!

* Image from here. *

Family Saga: Decision Concerning my Niece

At the time I shared this, I really didn’t know what to do next. The next day, I went ahead and paid for her balance even though I wasn’t sure yet whether I would like to continue to support her or not anymore. But I told her that she will need to pay me back because it was not part of what we agreed upon prior her school. And I did not talk to her after. And I was still disappointed with her behavior after I have paid for her tuition.

When I went home for All Saints Day, we did not talk. I deliberately avoided talking to her because I still don’t know what to do with her.

After much thinking though, I decided to give her one more chance, her last chance that is, if her grades were ok. I texted her to ask what her plans are. She said she would still like to continue her studies if there’s a chance. I told her to email me her grades and the total amount for her second semester then I’ll decide. She did, and fortunately for her (and a little relief for me), she had good grades. Her lowest was 87. And so I told her to go ahead and enroll. This time, I’ll just be the one to deposit her tuition and maybe I’d have to do that every month. But I’d rather go that route than be stressed again later on should she decide to spend it elsewhere. Also, lesser temptation for her. And while I’m still mad at what she did, I will again take this risk with the hope that she has learned her lesson and all I’m asking from her is to take this chance while I still can help her so that she’ll be able to stand on her own soon and provide for her and her daughter.

As for her parents, I’m not sure if they knew about it. Haven’t asked them because I knew I would still be emotional and I don’t want to do that with the whole family present. Plus, I don’t want to confront them, especially my sister because I know I can be harsh to her and for sure, what I’ll get will just be silence. Dagdag frustration.

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