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Day in the Life: Meet Kevin

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Every day is a different alarm. I have one for each Metra train into Chicago, and depending on the next day’s workload, I decide what time I should be at work the night before. This ranges from as early as 4:37am to 6:02am (I prefer to work early). When I work from home, sometimes I’ll sleep in until *gasp* 6:30am. Scandalous. 

I live in the far west suburbs. As a result, Sonoma’s “SWEET” program is my favorite perk. It allows me to work from home or the office on the fly. I’m usually in the office 2 days per week, sometimes 3, depending on the necessity for face-to-face meetings.

When I’m in the office, I’m usually there by 6:45am, hook up the MacBook Pro to the massive 27” external monitor and proceed to the kitchen for breakfast. I grab some water, brew my first cup of coffee, and head back to my desk with some fruit and dry cereal. Frosted Mini-Wheats “Big Bite” has long been my favorite, although Kellogg’s made an incomprehensible decision to discontinue production, so I now resort to Cheerios. Tragic.

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At this hour, it is quiet in the office – the perfect environment to hit the ground running. I plan out my day, respond to any urgent emails, and focus on tasks that benefit from a lack of distractions (review of detailed requirements, conceptualization of wireframes, etc.).

By 8:30 am, co-workers are trickling in every few minutes. It’s a different mix of people daily, and since many will choose to work from home, the office is usually only half full (or half empty?).

In any given week, I am working on 2-3 projects, all in different stages, and usually for different platforms or CRM systems. For example, it could be a series of mockups that define how non-native functionality will work within Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce, a custom design for a Universal Windows Platform or iOS application, or simply illustrating how a native CRM interface is the solution that best addresses a client’s needs.

As 9:00am arrives, there tends to be an uptick in meetings and internal communications. Weekly “stand-up” calls (taken while sitting, ironically) are an opportunity for a project’s team to discuss the latest status updates and plan next steps.  Rarely are there any surprises, and like Palpatine everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.

I interact heavily with Project Managers and Tech Leads throughout the day. In the early stages of a project, we collaborate to ensure the proposed functionality and wireframes adequately address the user’s objectives, can be executed within the project timeline, and fall within the client’s allocated budget. This is no easy task, and I have nothing but respect for Project Managers tasked with creating this balance – even if it means scaling back a heavily-customized design.

Lunchtime. I usually bring a sandwich to the office or select a random assortment of pantry items if working from home. On rare occasions, I engage in a lunchtime endeavor with co-workers, but more commonly I eat at my desk and continue to plow through the workload. This isn’t a result of being overworked, it’s simply because I am 100% “J” on the MBTI personality scale – I work before I play.

Time to shine. When a project reaches a point where we are ready to present wireframes or design compositions we usually present our creations via screenshare. I walk through the screens step-by-step as the user would interact with the interface. Depending on how the presentation is received, this can be the most gratifying or deflating moment in a project.  More often than not, the presentation ends with minor tweaks and an impressed client. I’m not being egotistical, we simply tend to be awesome.

Mid-afternoon. By now, I have already consumed my second cup of coffee and am debating the ramifications of having a third. Do I really want my mouth to feel as if a dead animal had crawled inside? I decide to brave the drowsiness and consume an apple instead. It must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays. Thanks, Mr. Adams.

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I do not have a manager in the traditional sense, I have a coach. At Sonoma, the employee-coach relationship focuses on mentoring and collaboration as opposed to direction and management. Every week, we touch base for a half hour to discuss ongoing or upcoming projects, company news, personal events, or even our fantasy football teams. The conversations always vary, but the underlying premise is simple: do I have what I need to be happy and successful at what I do?

As projects progress, my involvement turns from conceptualization to execution. I finalize the high-fidelity design compositions, generate image assets, create an interface specifications document and sometimes write HTML/CSS before passing it along to a developer. As the project nears completion, I eagerly test it to verify everything looks and functions as envisioned. I pat myself on the back. Or maybe I had an itch. Either way, it feels good.

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There is one more component of my day-to-day life at Sonoma Partners. Almost every month, I travel to meet with a client for a series of “ride-alongs”. This is an opportunity to observe the client (sales representative, administrator, etc.) in their own working environment to better understand their day-to-day responsibilities and objectives. This experience helps to align our proposed solution with the client’s needs. Afterward, I create a ride-along findings document that is heavily referenced as features are conceptualized and wireframed.

As the day draws near to a close, it’s important to note that every day is different. Some days I switch from billable work to internal projects or sales initiatives. Some days I interview UX and design candidates as we continue to expand our team. Some days I’m glued to a specific project and others I jump from one priority to the next. Variety – it keeps me ticking. That, and coffee. Am I sure I don’t want a 3rd cup? Yes, go away, stupid temptation.

Depending on how satisfied I am with the day’s progress, I tend to close the laptop anywhere from 4:22pm to 5:52pm (there are specific Metra train times involved). I try to resist the urge to check my work email in the evening, usually fail, and peek into tomorrow’s outlook. Nothing crazy… good, now I can rest easy.

Looking back at my day, I consider it a success. Did I finish everything I aimed to finish? No, but I typically set an impossibly high target for myself. Did Sonoma provide me with everything I needed to give it my best shot? Absolutely. That’s how it is with Sonoma. The degree of your success is limited only by your own ambitions.

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Topics: Careers at Sonoma

Day in the Life: Meet Melanie

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6:30 AM: Wake up and start the day!

Because we have a casual office environment at Sonoma Partners, getting dressed in the morning often involves the selection of jeans, a v-neck or a blouse (if I'm feeling fancy!), and either sandals or flats.

7:45 am: I'm out the door.

The Chicago office is in a primo location on the western edge of the Loop. I live in the northern part of the city and take the 'L' downtown. I hop off at Washington & Wells and it's a short walk from there to the office.

 8:45 am: COFFEE!

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By the time I get into the office, two hours have passed since I woke up and it's time for coffee. After dropping my bag at my desk, the kitchen is my next stop. In the office kitchen we have a Keurig machine and a great variety of coffee. I usually go for a medium roast, but the developers in line ahead of me usually have a dark roast in hand.

After my coffee has finished brewing I grab a breakfast bar or I pour myself a bowl of granola. The kitchen at Sonoma has over 20 different varieties of granola bars, 6 types of granola/cereal and all of the milk options you could ever want; cow's milk, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk!

9:00 am: E-mail and catching up.

Before I hop into meetings I scan my email and make sure that nothing requires my immediate attention. With co-workers and clients all over the US, a lot can happen between the time I sign-off and 9:00 am Chicago time.

During this time I probably spend a half hour responding to emails, instant messaging with various project team members, and catching up on the posts in our internal news feed.

9:30 am: "Always go into meetings with a positive attitude. Tell yourself you're going to make this the best deal for all parties." - Natalie Massenet

If my meetings don't start at 9:00 am, I'm usually on the phone by 9:30. Typically, I work on 2-3 projects at a time, each of them in different phases, so the content of these meetings varies greatly. 

When my projects are coming close to a milestone my morning calls are with the client. My project team and I will review the progress we've made and will work with the client to make any adjustments.

I also have weekly stand-up calls with my internal teams at Sonoma. With resources working in different locations, these calls are integral to keeping everyone informed and the project on track.

I report my progress on the latest bunch of features in the functional spec, how many configuration items I was able to close last week, and what tricky techy things are holding me back from completing all of my work. I also answer any business process questions our developers and quality assurance analysts may have.

11:00 am: Quality time with my coach.

Every week I take a break from my project and client meetings to sit down with my coach. Coaches at Sonoma are essentially managers, but at Sonoma, the manager relationship is more personal and has a greater focus on mentoring and collaboration, so we call them coaches.

My coach and I will talk about the projects I'm supporting, the type of work I'm doing, and the feedback he's received from my team. If there are any office announcements my coach will share them with me. Sometimes we'll discuss what can be improved internally, and sometimes we won't talk about work at all! Like I said, the coach relationship is supposed to be more personal. Sometimes we'll chat about Chicago sports, running, vacations, family, etc. 

11:30 am: More email.

Life moves fast at Sonoma. Before lunch I'm checking my email, responding to messages, and troubleshooting any build issues that may have come up.

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12:00 pm: Lunch club.

Typically I bring my lunch to the office and eat in the kitchen, on busy days at my desk. In some offices this would be a very lonely experience. But in the Chicago office, even if you didn't bring your lunch, you order take-out and join everyone in the kitchen. We have two long tables that seat 10 each and it's not uncommon for both to be full.

12:30 pm: In the thick of the jungle.

After morning meetings when all of the hustle and bustle dies down, I start tackling the tough stuff. If we're in the early stages of a project I'm sitting down after lunch to write a functional spec. Throughout the process I'll drop instant messages to my teammates, get clarification  requirements, look for technical expertise from a developer, or meet with one of our principal consultants to see if a particular design is technically possible. 

If a project is further along, I'm spending time in CRM configuring the system. We have amazing internal tools at Sonoma to help keep features and items organized. With my dual monitors in front of me, I am constantly checking the list of items I have assigned to me on one screen, and actually building them on the other. 

2:00 pm - One more meeting.

Around 2 or 3 in the afternoon I usually have my last formal meeting of the day, whether that be with a client on the West Coast or with one of my Sonoma project teams to review an outstanding issue. After the meeting ends, I take advantage of the brief lull to run to the kitchen and grab a snack. If I am sticking to my diet, I'll opt for some grapes and a handful of almonds or pistachios. If not, I'm reaching for the Twizzlers in the candy drawer or a snack pack of chocolate chip cookies. I never forget the La Croix to wash it all down. 

3:00 pm: Home stretch

After my last meeting of the day I'm back to writing functional specs, fine-tuning other documentation, and knocking out some configuration items. The project manager of one of my projects may call me to see what the status of a particular item is, or I may call our tech lead to work out a solution to a specific business requirement.

Depending on how hectic life is, I may swivel around in my chair and chat with my desk mate about the Blackhawks or how we're both doing in the office fantasy football league.

5:30 or 6:00 pm: I'm outta here!

People start filtering out of the office around 4:30 or 5. I prefer to sleep in a little in the morning and stay a bit later at work so I head out around 5:30 or 6. Then it's straight to the gym or the lakefront trail for a run.

8:00 pm: One last check-in.

Right after dinner I'll check my email one last time. I'll take care of anything that needs an immediate response and then I sign-off for the night. I'M OUT!

 A day in the life by the numbers:

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Are you a Salesforce Consultant or Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant looking for a new gig? Take a look at our current openings and contact us about a future at Sonoma Partners.

Topics: Careers at Sonoma