Monday, November 24, 2014

Apparently, I Am an Event Planner Now



A little over a week ago, [Business School Employer] hosted it's annual International Night. Running this event falls under my job description.

The [Business School Employer] International Night is the only International Night event on campus and is open to the public, so it is actually a pretty large event. It is comparable to IU's World's Fare, which just so happened to be on the same night up in Bloomington. I think our event is smaller though. We had 10 booths representing nine countries and one larger cultural region (African American and African Culture), as well as four performances and two children's entertainers. Almost 600 people attended the event.

This is the largest event I have had to organize, given that in my previous positions when a large event fell under my purview there was also a professional event planner on staff who could organize all those important details that you never realize you need until it is happening (unless you are a professional event planner who thinks of these things).

Organizing the 10 booths was a little like herding cats...incredibly busy, full-time MBA cats. I quickly discovered that instructions I thought were sufficiently detailed (as the un-detailed information was clearly intuitive) were clearly not and that students never ever read those materials anyway. I was also working through intermediaries in many instances, as the leadership from a student organization co-organizes this event and were communicating with the booths. Logistics I had outlined in detailed instructions never made it to the intended recipients. Given that I was new to my position and the students were new to their positions, no one was really to blame as none of us knew who was really in charge of what.

The trickiest part of the event is the food approval. At IU, the event is hosted in the Union and no outside food vendors are allowed. The booths share recipes with Union catering and it is all done in-house. At [Business School Employer], each booth could contract with a restaurant or caterer to provide their food. First though, the vendor had to be approved by the Heath & Safety inspector, which included booths submitting (on time) vendor requests that included a copy of the vendor's city permit. We asked each booth to submit at least two vendors in case one was not approved. Only two booths did this. We had several booths with vendors with expired city permits and other booths that couldn't seem to supply the city permit. So that was a fun process that went down to the wire with some booths. Next, the food had to be delivered by the vendor. The students were not allowed to transport it themselves. Until one booth informed us just days before that their restaurant would not deliver, and we had to improvise a compromise with the inspector. Finally, before the event doors can open that evening, all the food must be at temperature when the inspector comes around. In past years, they have opened the doors up to 30 minutes late because dishes weren't hot enough. This year we failed to calibrate the thermometers we gave to the booths and they were actually reading lower than the temperature. So booths were thinking their food was not hot enough and not requesting inspection when in fact they were good to go. Luckily, we got that cleared up. We also had booths with cold dishes and no ice to cool it with at first. Somehow, we managed to open the doors only two minutes late.

I constantly marveled at this attention to detail with the food. At IU, during the great Ramadan debacle of GBI, I was picking up trays of food from Taste of Indian, loading them into the trunk of my jeep and trekking them over to the dorm each night, curry slopping all over the trunk. No one ever asked to see a city permit (though Taste of India was an approved vendor, so I assume someone had seen one at some point) or tested the temperature of the food or questioned the back of a jeep as a transportation method. I suppose it is a miracle we all didn't die of food poisoning.

Next year I am going to be the best International Night event planner ever.

Sara

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Remember that Time I Wore My Nightgown to a Fancy Dress Party?

Last weekend I was in Dallas. We have an MBA program for working professionals in Dallas, and my office was hosting four hours of programming Saturday evening. In addition, that evening was the program's annual Holiday party, since it would be the last class weekend before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving, schedules for working professionals who are also getting their MBAs get a little hectic. I was invited to the holiday party by the program staff. I was told the attire was cocktail / dressy professional.

I drove to Dallas and brought two dresses with me, thinking that one of them would work for the evening. I am a little weird about how to dress for fancy dress events. I want to look cute, but I am also uncomfortable in things with high hemlines or low necklines or tight clothing. It's hard to eschew all those features and not look dowdy though.


It's hard to tell in this picture, but it is the only picture that exists of me in this dress (that I am aware of).

One of the dresses I brought with me actually included a high hemline (well, above the knee, but not really that short), a low v-shaped neckline (I cannot even wear a bra with it), and it was tight. I've only worn it in public three times. A wedding, the closing dinner for the CIBER Business Language Conference, and Cale's SPROM (SPEA's winter dinner/dance). I pair it with a suit jacket to make it seem more professional. Cale picked it out, and to be honest, I look pretty damn hot in it.

However, I am not sure what I was thinking bringing it with me for this event. My new place of employment has turned out to be a little weird about clothes. My boss works from home on Fridays, so it was a month or so before she noticed that I had been observing casual Fridays (i.e. jeans). As it turns out, the MBA Program Office is staunchly anti-jean when school is in session.


This email actually came out not long after my boss told me about the jean situation.

There was no way I was going to be comfortable in my too-sexy dress at this event.

The other dress I brought, I haven't even worn yet. I got it at The Limited on sale (down to $30 from $100). And I thought it looked great in the fitting room, but when I tried it on for Cale at home, he (accurately) pointed out it made me look fat. Not exactly his words of course, but the gist. It is strapless and A-line. The cinched-in area just below the bustline fits me perfectly, but the bust area itself is too blouse-y and with the overall cut, it makes me look bulky. As I have frequently discovered, bigger boobs would solve this problem. There are a lot of problems in life solved by bigger boobs. Though if you ask the busty ladies, the bigger boobs bring on a whole host of other problems.

I put The Limited dress on and just couldn't bring myself to go to this event looking fat.

So there I am, standing in my hotel room in black tights wondering what I am going to put on over them. My options are limited, it needs to be in my suit case.

Which brings me to the nightgown. I had this big, flow, hippy coverup I bought at the tubing place when I needed to get home in a rental car and all I had was a wet bathing suit. It had become my housedress. Cale hated it with the fire of a thousand suns. So I had gone to Target and found something slightly more flattering. It was basically a giant gray tank top with a racer back. And I had that in my suitcase.

I threw the nightgown on over the tights, added my suit jacket, and voila, fancy dress party outfit.


Eh? That'll do.

Luckily, no one noticed I was wearing my nightgown as a dress. I think they were distracted by the fact that I managed to pour the second sip of my first glass of wine down my face and on to the floor.

Sara

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wild Texas Parakeets?

It's been unseasonably cold here in Austin. At least that is what the weather news people on the local NPR affiliate (KUT) tell me on my drive in to work. Weather.com tells me that the average high for today is 71 degrees with an average low of 51 degrees. Temps dropped below freezing over night last night and the high today was 47 - ten, TEN, degrees warmer than the high yesterday. Gross.

The cold weather has made our recent sightings around town of flocks of wild parakeets to be all the more surreal.

That's right, flocks of wild parakeets.


Source: Monk Parakeets of Austin, Texas

Imagine your driving through town and glance over at a cluster of your typical city birds. Some pigeons, some crow-like trash birds, and, wait, what? Parakeets? That's weird enough as it is, but with temperatures near freezing, tropical birds always look out of place. When we lived out in Spencer and drove into Bloomington everyday, there was a farm pond home to a large white egret that was there well into winter (snow on the ground, pond freezing over) and that was always strange too.

So, yeah, Austin (Texas for that matter) is home to wild parakeets. This article does a pretty good job of explaining.

Sara

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Texas Tidbits 2

Ongoing observations in Texas.

  • We have started to refer to them as the glorious highways of the great state of Texas. Texas, apparently, cannot have a road that it doesn't soar hundreds of feet into the air at some point. We want highways! We want them high!

  •  
    I haven't taken any good pictures myself yet, but this gives you an idea.
  • Will it rain this weekend? Who knows?

  •  
    In Bloomington, you could pretty much rely on weather predictions. Is St. Louis getting weather right now? Well, then we will probably have it in a couple of hours. You just had to look at the radar and watch the green sweep from west to east. It was pretty straight forward in Florida too. 2-4 pm? Hot? Probably going to rain for an hour. Done. In Samoa, other than the cyclones, I never paid too close attention to the weather. I don't even know if there was weather forecasting there. I paid way more attention to the USGS seismological website. I didn't care if it was going to rain; I wanted to know if it was going to tsunami. Even in Samoa there was some predictability. Weather moved from the south to the north. It never seemed to make it over the mountain. Was it raining at our house? Probably not. Would it rain when we went to the beach. Definitely. But here in Austin, the weather just makes no sense. The predictions are never accurate. When you look at the radar any green just sort of hovers around changing shape and size with out moving. I NEED TO KNOW IF I NEED AN UMBRELLA DAMMIT!
  • So the elections are coming up. I need to educate myself about the candidates on the ballot so I can make an informed decision. But what do I encounter in the very first race?

    Really? Spicybrown? Things are not looking good here. 
More later.

Sara

Rookie Mistake

It took more than a month for me to make my first in the job mistake. Given that I made the same mistake at IU just a month before I left, I suppose it's not that rookie of a mistake


Frequently rooms that you have reserved in campus buildings are locked when not in use, and you have to remember to get the key. When your event is during business hours, this is not such a big deal. You can just run down and get the key. However when it's 5:45 pm and it's just dawned on you that the room your 6:00 pm event is in is locked, you're a little bit screwed. 

I tried the door of the of the events room with a sinking sensation in my stomach and immediately rushed back to the office to ask my colleague (just three days back from paternity leave) what my options were. 

Tommy immediately went in search of custodial staff who may have a key to the room. Lucky for me Tommy is fluent in Spanish, as the first person we found was a Spanish speaker. She and Tommy had a engaging exchange, the only think I was able to takeaway from it was that there was a room downstairs. We all headed down stairs to find the manager's office locked and empty. Tommy translated for me that we needed to find Doug, the manager. The only clue we had was that he was somewhere in the building and Vietnamese. And so began the great sprint up and down stairs and up and down hallways in three-inch wedges. Each time I was on the third (I consider it the second) floor, I would poke my head down the hallway with the events room and tell the presenter I was still working on finding a key. Each time, the crowd of students waiting to get in grew.

We never did find Doug, but Tommy did find Sean. And Sean had a key. However, Sean was a little incredulous. He didn't seem like he wanted to let us into the room. Tommy was convincing him that we really did work here and weren't shady characters trying to break into a nearly empty auditorium space. At one point, Tommy even had his drivers license out of his wallet, I suppose to prove he was himself?

Luckily, Sean decided we were trustworthy and let us into the room and the presentation only began about 15 minutes late.

When I did the same thing at IU in late June, it was a Sunday and luckily the dean was attending the brunch we were hosting. I was able to get her to open the classroom we planned to have the students in after the brunch. Though it was embarrassing to ask the dean herself to open a room for you.

Sara 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Texas Tidbits

Typically, when we (I) travel, I will post tidbit posts. They are just a random collection of observations that don't really lend themselves to a post of their own.

I feel like I have gathered enough to warrant one for our time in Texas so far.

  • Texas really loves "Texas." I have come across many things in the state that don't necessarily need to be labeled as Texas, yet they are. The most prevalent ones for me are at work. So the MBA program here at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas isn't just an MBA or a McCombs MBA or a UT MBA, it is — officially — the Texas MBA Program - McCombs School of Business. And the evening MBA program is is the Texas Evening MBA Program. And the executive MBA is the Texas Executive MBA Program (though since the acronym for both cannot be TEMBA, this one is just EMBA). Because Texas.
  • I am in room 3.204 on the second floor of one building that is in fact in a second building connected to that first building which may or not be on the second or third floor of the second building. Make sense? The McCombs building is confusing enough itself, as it is actually two undergraduate buildings and a rhombus-shaped graduate building that have all been combined into a single building. However, even if the McCombs building itself wasn't so strangely shaped, the floor numbering system across the campus is confusing enough. Walk into any building on the UT campus at ground level and you are more than likely to find yourself on a floor labeled as the second floor. Add to that the fact that all rooms are numbered through a strange decimal system, hence the 3.204 for my office (the 3 supposedly referring to the floor, despite this being the second floor according to my math). I was baffled by this and the explanation has done nothing to alleviate that bafflement. Apparently, the entire UT campus in Austin uses the Acree Carlisle Room Numbering System, a room-numbering system so arcane or little-used that the only references to it also reference UT-Austin. Let me give you a little explanation: "'The main goal is a perfectly logical system of numbering, whose purpose is ultimately to help students get around the campus.'...Upon entering a building, a student walks past a door numbered 2.102 on her right, next past one on the left numbered 2.106...Levels are numbered beginning with the lowest level in the structure, without reference to ground or entry level...after the designated floor level, is a number indicating a hallway..." and so forth. Perfectly logical right? Confusing as all get out. Read more about this insane system here. And see a snippet of its implementation at UT here. And, bask in the wonder of literally everything in a building (from the corridors to the stairs) having a number in the system.


More tidbits to come!

Sara

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Power Pose


Source: The Independent 

I've had the new job now for two weeks, and I have been meaning to blog about it. But as it turns out, two weeks of getting to know your office job are not all that exciting or blog worthy.

One part of a new job is being introduced to everyone around the office. What this means is during the past two weeks, I would frequently find myself standing somewhere, being introduced to someone. Following the initial handshake, there is always some requisite chit-chat. Where were you before? What brought you to Austin? Etc. During this semi-awkward small talk, I would find myself hyper-aware of what I was doing with my body. Don't cross your arms in front of your chest, Sara. You want to seem approachable. Don't cross your legs at the knee like that, you've seen what that does for your hips in pictures.

Inevitably, my go-to stance is what I have since learned is often referred to as the "Wonder Woman." Hands on hips, legs apart, maybe a little hip cock (though probably not and also, haha, hip cock). However, I even found myself self conscious about this pose, as I felt (particularly when I was in a skirt) that it was not very lady like.

During some of the surprisingly frequent downtime I currently have with the new position, I was reading my news feed and came across an article in the New York Times. Research by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, shows an interesting effect the body can have on the mind. We already knew that people smile when they are happy and that forcing the face into a smile can also increase feelings of happiness. What Cuddy has found is that assuming "power poses" can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, basically making people feel more confident and powerful.

The Wonder Woman, you have probably gathered, is a power pose.

These power poses weren't just plucked from thin air, they come from nature and are the sorts of poses that powerful people naturally make. Or the poses people consciously choose to make when wanting to exert power.

Either way, I apparently, subconsciously feel pretty powerful if my go to stance is a power pose. However, I find it very interesting that I am also self conscious about this power pose because I feel that it isn't lady like. I am sure there is an entire master thesis somewhere on the implications of power feeling inherently un-womanly or inappropriate for a lady-like woman. But that's a tangent for another day.

I highly recommend you check out Cuddy's TED talk. It's pretty interesting.




Sara