HR, career, jobs

Salary is more than just your Paycheck

There’s more to a salary than just a paycheck. Often perks and benefits are better than cash (and are generally tax-free).   Yes, the idea of another zero on the end of your salary is great, but company perks add great value to day-to-day life and ultimately lead to a huge difference in employee retention, productivity, and satisfaction.

One simple example everyone can relate to is lunch.  My estimated savings, because of employer provided catered lunch three days a week, really adds up in more ways than you’d think.

            $15 (daily lunch cost, not including meal & tax)
x              3 (days of the week)
            $45 (a week)

            $45 (a week)
x            48 (weeks of work)
            $2,160 (annual lunch cost)

            $2,160 (annual lunch cost)
+          $324 (15% tip for delivery)
            $2,484 estimated lunch cost

That’s a $2,484 (at minimum) tax-free addition to my salary!

The financial savings is great, but I also don’t have to buy as many groceries and deal with uneaten leftovers.  I no longer have to worry about planning lunches the night before or preparing something that morning; sleep is VERY important to me, so not having the “what do I make for lunch that’s tasty and healthy” on my mind all night is big relief.

Previous and current work in tech and human resources industries provides insights into the evolution of benefits companies offer.   Often perks are initially overlooked and don’t become part of the conversation until salary negotiations.  Talking about the full package—not just the salary—is something that both businesses and potential employees should discuss as part of the company culture earlier in the interview process.

Every company has their own take on what makes employees happy.  To retain the best talent in a changing and growing workforce means a continual and ongoing development of benefits.  I encourage both sides of the table to begin talking about the whole compensation package—salary, benefits, and perks—sooner can shed a lot of light on how a company treats its employees and how the culture is shaped.

Before and during your job search, think realistically about which perks and benefits would make a significant impact on your day-to-day (or year-to-year) work life!


Think about the bigger picture about how perks and benefits a company offers could impact your life rather than considering a new role based on salary alone.

Some fantastic perks and benefits might include:

  • in office kegs and other free alcohol
  • pet friendly offices
  • remote work
  • ergonomic furniture
  • couches and other non-desk work areas
  • sabbaticals
  • educational reimbursement
  • free food and snacks
  • and more!
  • Paid vacation time
  • flexible work schedule
  • pre-tax transit benefits
  • healthcare, dental, and vision, benefits
  • company swag
  • company events
  • gym memberships & discounts
  • cell phone reimbursement
  • paid paternity and maternity leave


jobs, life lessons, career

Hackathon Wisdom for a Non-Coder

In late April I volunteered for an all female hackathon--#SheHacksNYC**-- sponsored by Monarq at Trello's lofty offices in the Financial District, NYC.  Over 30 women had submitted project ideas, teams were created, and by Friday evening the women were grouped and talking shop.

I am a not a coder. I'm a trained painter, Stage Manager, and English teacher to small children. While I love and work in tech, my coding skills are limited to 8th grade HTML.

That weekend and these women have been inspiring.  I'm blown away with what they created and the lessons I'm bringing into my life.  Here are five key takeaways for a non-coder from a hackathon.

Friday late night

Friday late night

CINCO*: You don't have to understand the tech to get the concepts.  I'm only beginning to learn about APIs, full stack, tech-speak, and new coding languages.  But each moment I realize that I don't have to understand the technology to get the ideas and concepts.  These women are passionate, idea-filled, and conscious that their audience isn't always a coder.  This hackathon considered the importance of all sides of a new product including coding, marketing, design, business development, and pitching to potential clients and investors.

CUATRO*: Everyone is interesting.  Everyone has a story to tell. I heard about new projects being working after the traditional 9-5 work hours.  I heard tales about leaving multi-decade professions to pursue passions. It's been a joy and a privilege to listen to these women. Their stories have inspired me to get off my butt to take further actions on my goals.

Coffee orders on plates

Coffee orders on plates

TRES*: Simple gestures matter. I learned how and made many rounds of cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos this weekend. Beginning with the personal interaction of asking for orders and ending with a hot coffee delivery, my fellow barista extraordinaire Lydia and I fulfilled on caffeine promises. These women were unreasonably grateful not just the coffee but also the recognition of a need (the caffeine) and the follow-up ask.  Simple gestures matter.   Those gestures make a difference in that moment and moments add up fast.

Teams working to finalize presentations on Sunday morning

Teams working to finalize presentations on Sunday morning

DOS*: I could be a coder. I could learn and start working with a new career path in mind. I could be a designer. I could pick up Adobe Creative Suite or balsamiq. With passion, I could do just about any damn thing I want. The diversity of "how I got here stories" provides a wealth of future possibilities for those who are truly listening. No ceilings. No limits. There is no stopping me (or you)!  How exciting is that?

UNO*: A group of women working together--even if on separate projects-- is a powerhouse of potential. This was my first female-only tech event (except for some exceptional male mentors). This experience has far exceeded my expectations. Women, when brought together in a challenge like a hackathon, are a force to be reckoned with.

*At the hackathon we found that counting down backward in Spanish tends to be an effective tool to gaining the others attention. 

** #SheHacksNYC is hosting their second all-female hackathon this October.  Please find more information at

The teams working hard at Trello's office

The teams working hard at Trello's office

jobs, career, internships

An Unexpectedly Empowering Conversation with an Intern.

Today I had an unexpectedly empowering conversation with an intern.

She, lets call her Jane, contacted me a week earlier over Eko messenger and said, “I don't feel like I’m a good fit here.”  When asked about specific concerns that could be addressed in that moment, she deferred, asking to wait to talk in person.  I made an active choice not to read anything into Jane’s comments and to wait (albeit anxiously) for our in-person meeting the following week.

Seated in a small private conference room, I inquired what was on her mind, asking Jane to be as forthright as possible.  She brought up issues of compensation, not feeling comfortable with the possibility of other interns being compensated differently, and the lack of communication between the interns themselves about the topic of compensation.

The discussion of these topics did not catch me off guard.  What was surprising is the fact that of all my interns Jane was the one to address the subject directly. Jane is very productive and an active member of our intern community but her interactions with our full time staff members and me had been minimal and timid.


Pride and openness were my initial reaction to her comments.


I told her that whether or not this conversatio­n ends with achieving her desired outcomes, it is extraordinarily important that she advocated on her own behalf.  I told her how proud I was of her candor and ability to approach me directly.  She nodded and verbalized understanding while I underscored the importance of this skill, especially as a female, a millennial, and a woman working in the tech industry, and that a conversation is a great place to start.


“I shouldn’t be guilty for asking for more money, should I?” she asked.


I responded with a resounding no, also acknowledging that when asking for a raise or promotion, it is important to support the “why” with reasoning (the Human Resources side of me went into coaching mode).  After reviewing her current compensation and her ideal compensation, we left the conversation as ‘to be continued’ pending a conversation with my managers.

After the meeting, I walked back to my desk feeling proud and excited on Jane’s behalf.  She was comfortable enough with me as her manager to ask for a conversation and to speak candidly.  Jane asked questions seeking information, not just answers.  Most importantly, she took her life and career into her own hands for the better.

I am part of Jane’s career path and have cultivated an environment where her success is possible.  This conversation is part of both Jane and my accomplishments, present and future.

Through one conversation, Jane inspired me to do more and to be better.  Through one conversation she empowered herself and her future.

jobs, career

5 Questions to Cultivate Excellent­­ Interns: Part 3

This is the third installment in a five part series of how to cultivate excellent interns.

What does it takes to find an intern who’s a good fit and is interested in your company?




You’ll post the identical job description in 10-20 places and realize a grammatical error needs to be fixed.  Or part of the description needs to be altered.  Make changes on all postings and know it won’t be the last time changes need to be made.

Much like life, many factors affect the applicant pool.  Big factors like paying job vs. (unpaid or stipend) internship, graduate or current student, location of internship, and accessibility of posting greatly affect your applications outcomes.  The best job ads, best interviewers, best company to work for doesn’t always mean that the best interns apply.  Excellent internship programs take time and persistence.




There will be poor quality applications that provoke a “what were they thinking!?” response.  There will be unprepared interviewees who stumble through.  As the interviewer you smile politely (for your own sanity) and conduct a shorter interview.  Do not let an unqualified interviewee throw off your game.  Find clues from the application process that might improve the pre-interview candidate review in the future.

On the first day of an internship, often interns won’t have the right paperwork or will ask endless questions (that you’ve already answered).  Dumfounded looks, insecurity, and lack of awareness pepper those first weeks.  Remember, interns have a lot to learn.  Being armed with a sense of humor is the best way to diffuse various scenarios before they become more complicated situations.

Mistakes and Growth


As the company’s needs change so will the intern program.  Adapt job ads, modify the interview process, and evaluate placement of job ads.  Office changes like modification to seating arrangements or creating more meeting spaces for the interns can quickly show new productivity results.

Find the practices that work best for the company; don’t be afraid to change the program as frequently as needed.  The number of quality interns working for your company will increase as awareness of the program and company’s needs grow.


Interns bring passion, engaged interest, and fresh perspectives to any workplace.  Finding an intern who is a good fit for your company is a worthwhile mission.

The fourth installment of “5 Questions to Cultivate Excellent Interns” will focus on paid vs. unpaid internships.

career, jobs

5 Questions to Cultivate Excellent­­ Interns: Part 2

This is the second installment in a five part series on how to cultivate excellent interns.

How Do You Find an Intern?

Finding interns can be a daunting task.  Don’t have preconceived notions about where to advertise internship openings. Networking, contacting colleges, universities, and taking advantage of the social and digital space will begin the intern hiring process.


Interns at Eko Communications networking and mingling with the WeWork staff at a launch event

Interns at Eko Communications networking and mingling with the WeWork staff at a launch event

Networking: Talk with friends, family, and colleagues about internships they’ve had or companies they’ve heard have great intern programs.  Contact individuals in charge of the intern programs.  Have a conversation about how they find excellent interns and continually develop a successful program. Work with an intern consulting company who specializes in finding interns and development of intern programs.  Check out intern-based meetups or ones targeted at HR professionals (even if you aren’t HR). Create lines of open communication with previous intern experts.


Representing Eko Communications at NYU Wasserman Spring 2015 Advertising, PR & Communications Industry Expo.  I was giving away stickers of stickers that our interns have created

Representing Eko Communications at NYU Wasserman Spring 2015 Advertising, PR & Communications Industry Expo.  I was giving away stickers of stickers that our interns have created

Colleges and Universities: Hang catchy, colorful posters in high-traffic areas often used by students (think mailrooms and dining halls).  Post job ads online with college career centers.  Contact faculty and department chairs; they regularly interact and directly advocate on the behalf of their students.  Sign up to be an employer who recruits at internship and job fairs.  Ask to speak at student events and attends special campus events.  It is important not to limit the postings to one college or university.  Diversify the types, locations, and size of schools where internship ads are posted.


Social and Digital: Post ads online on internship websites like,, and other job board websites. Even craigslist can be a great place to advertise to pull in a more diverse set of applicants.  Tweet from your company (or personal) account, post on Facebook or company Facebook pages, and always write about openings on LinkedIn.  Be aware many digital sites have a fee associated with an internship job posting.


With the social connectedness of today’s society and job market, finding a multitude of interns isn’t difficult.  If struggling with getting applicants, readjust job descriptions and where they are posted. There are quality, motivated intern candidates everywhere!

The third installment of “5 Questions to Cultivate Excellent Interns” will outline what it takes to find interns who are a good fit for your company’s culture, mission, and objectives.

career, jobs

5 Questions to Cultivate Excellent Interns: Part 1

This is the first installment in a five part series of how to cultivate excellent interns

 Why Interns?

“Why do we want an intern program?” is the most important question to ask before developing one.  Defining how interns will help bring company success while simultaneously engaging them in new learning experiences will lead the way to an accomplished and successful program.


Company Benefits

Employees get a new challenge with the opportunity to directly mentor and have an important impact on growing minds.  Happy interns are advocates for your company and its mission.


Fresh Perspectives


Interns bring new ideas, modern and updated perspectives on old and outdated routines.  This benefits employees by improving skills and awareness of new technologies and practices. Interns are often students or fresh out of college, they are filled with knowledge and ideas waiting to be put to use.


“Real World” Education

Giving back by providing a “real world” education is rewarding in a number of ways.  Allowing an intern a glimpse into the boardroom, cubical, or tech startup allows them to make better choices for themselves in the future.  Helping them to figure out an area of interest to pursue powerfully affects interns’ future and those in it.  Lessons about deadlines, networking, and hard work are invaluable for any direction they may choose.


New Hires

New Hires

Often overlooked but a very important aspect of internships is a chance to test-drive a new hire.  While this could seem selfish, the intern should also be trying out your company.  Interns are a great way to network with new groups of people, organizations, and colleges and universities.


Employee Training

Higher-level employees have a chance to manage and engage a new generation, which improves management skills.  Human Resources gets a chance to interview more, learning about the best ways to present the positions available, talk about culture, and gather more information about how the hire a new generation of employees.


Why interns?  In short, interns benefit employers of all sizes.  They help to bolster and augment skills of current employees.  With high expectations, internships create win-win situations for all parties involved.  If this all makes sense, the real question is, Why not interns?

arts, career, jobs

How A Broadway Musical Can Get You a Job!

Indulge my inner theater geek for a moment and (using headphones) listen to this show-opener song from the Tony award winning musical Avenue Q.  The themes in this song—and the musical in its entirety—express the thoughts and emotions of those graduating from High School, or college, or any other time they’ve felt lost or at an end of an era in their life.  The show and song begins with:

What do you do with a B.A. in English,
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge,
Have earned me this useless degree.

I can't pay the bills yet,
'Cause I have no skills yet,
The world is a big scary place.

But somehow I can't shake,
The feeling I might make,
A difference,
To the human race.


The show Avenue Q, both in music and script, is light, bouncy, and humorous creating a conversation about important life challenges.  Like most literary works they can need translation to fully understand the “story behind the story.” The ideas and conversations, when “translated” apply to all areas of education.  So for this moment, this musical theater song is Shakespearian text interpreted from a HR perspective.


“What do you do with a B.A. in English,
What is my life going to be?”

“What is my life going to be?” Who will I be when I grow up?” Questions kids, high school students, and especially college graduates ask and continue to be asked throughout life.  Traditional educational standards ask you to define a major at 20 years old to determine a career path for a lifetime.  Graduates have the impression they’re already experts in their field and should continue down that path.

College graduates shouldn’t restrict themselves this way by letting ‘traditional education’ define a life or career path.  Straying from a defined plan can be daunting but use fear of the unknown to propel exploration of other interests and passions. What other areas were interesting in or after school?  Were you involved in the school newspaper? Maybe you created sets for the theater department.  Perhaps working in the local community made life more enjoyable?  Life’s potential is what you make it; look to interests and passions for clues to next steps for post-college life and career choices.

Start or continue figuring out “what your life is going to be” through your interests and passions; confront the fear that changing paths may bring.

“Four years of college and plenty of knowledge,
Have earned me this useless degree.”

Don’t despair! A Bachelors degree appears to have become the equivalent of what a high school diploma used to represent.  Still, new graduates always seem under qualified for all the interesting work opportunities.  Any degree or certification has elements that can be expanded upon once in the workforce.  Be proud of your educational accomplishments, wear them with pride, and find the best means to practice and hone your abilities.

Make your degree work for you!  Extract skills, conceptual ideas, research methods, and problem solving abilities that can be applied in a multidisciplinary context.

“I can't pay the bills yet,
'Cause I have no skills yet,”

There’s plenty one can do with a B.A. in English, or any other degree; the biggest challenge recent graduates face is how to identify, articulate, and practice transferrable skills gained while getting a degree in a specialized field.  How did working as a group leader for a final class assignment develop project management skills?  Where can one apply the lessons about the value of time, deadlines, and effective communication learned from writing for the school paper?  How can color theory skills best apply to websites, app design, and aid the user experience?  In what ways does a background in psychology lead to a better understanding of human interaction in a workplace?

From previous school and “real life” work, identify transferable skills and abilities you can apply to a variety of environments.


“The world is a big scary place.”

Yes, the world can be a big scary place.  In the workforce-job market-business world having the ability to network and process information is key.

There is potential for networking everywhere and in everyone.  Don’t know where to start?  Join meetups or groups with specific interests.  Meeting and connecting with new people becomes a simple social event; don’t worry if they aren’t in your current industry—everyone knows someone else who can help or is in your field of business.

The ability to process, rapidly digest, and understand information is important in any job.  In the Information Age we’re bombarded daily with data, commercials, people, webpages—information is seemingly constant and endless.


“The information age has brought the noise of the infinite to us in ways that seem deceptively manageable, but often add to the confusion of our daily lives.  Memory has both evolved and devolved simultaneously. Our ability to receive and assimilate a myriad of information on a constant basis has been enhanced through the Internet, smart phones, and other Wi-Fi connected devices.”

- Steven Pearson, Artist


Sorting, digesting, and understanding information is a skill often learned through research and writing papers and should be practiced in everyday personal and professional settings.  This skill allows one to better keep up with trends, current events, and be more knowledgeable in areas of expertise.

It’s important to take time to network for more opportunities and to sort and process an immense amount of information to take away key pieces that enhance skills and performance.


“But somehow I can't shake,
The feeling I might make,
A difference,
To the human race.”

Excellent.  Take passion, drive, energy, and channel it into tangible productivity. Maybe a decision didn't go your way or you didn't get that job offer; trace your steps back to what you originally wanted, regroup, and reassess to create a new game plan.

Be passionate, keep fueling the fire, and use that to pave your way.


This song and musical resonate with me as I work with the millennial generation.  Armed with a BA degree—a background in fine arts, theater management and Spanish language—I am uniquely prepared.   Figuring out how skills are transferrable to new settings is and continues to be the most difficult yet rewarding process.  As it turns out, a BA degree is a potential ticket to success and equipped with a willingness and excitement to follow your passions, to discover and put transferrable skills to great use in any field!