I Made a Site! SOS-AnimalRescue.org

Evident by the website you’re reading this from now, it’s clear that I dabble with WordPress websites. My first website class at Point Park laid the foundation not only for my portfolio site, but for other websites I’ve worked on thus far.  These skills have undoubtedly helped me throughout my career, not to mention it’s fun.

One of my best friends, Jess, approached me in the fall about her aunt’s cat rescue organization, and that she was looking to create a website. I jumped at the chance; why not do something to help sweet little kitties get adopted?

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The site has been up and running (and working) for a couple weeks. Check out my handiwork and adorable cats at sos-animalrescue.org. While it’s not the most amazing site ever, obviously, it does everything we need it to, and it looks way better than numerous other shelter sites I’ve seen. Dana, who runs the rescue out of her home, does a great job on social media. Because she’s so busy, I wanted to do my best to automate as much as possible. For instance,  since Dana already posts pets’ profiles on AdoptAPet.com, I hoped there was a plugin that could sync those profiles so she wouldn’t have to input information twice. Luckily, one simple plugin did the trick. Thank you, Chris Hardie.

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We were originally going to use the WordPress posts function as cat profiles, but since that was now taken care of by linking with AdoptAPet, we moved it to news pages. I taught Dana and Jess how to create posts on their own, and how to tag and categorize everything from events to success stories. I also created the featured pet sidebar at their request, which was really simple to do with categories.

While this site isn’t the most glamorous, and there are still a few kinks I’d like to improve, I think it gets the job done decently well. Plus, it was made of completely free plugins and themes. The base theme I used was Poseidon, which had a few really nice features, and the developer actually responded to my forum post for assistance.

I convinced Jess and Dana to let me do a WordPress site over a Wix or some other quick site-maker, and I think it paid off. Working with WordPress has taught me a lot about websites in a very hands-on way. It keeps me sharp. And I wonder, should I take my work freelance? Maybe once I stop considering myself an amateur (i.e., never).

 

My First LinkedIn Article

LinkedIn is slowly, but surely, becoming a better social media tool. I’ve noticed more of my connections posting and participating, and the platform itself is improving. While I’m still not browsing it as much as Facebook or Instagram, I find it to be the appropriate place to post an interesting article relating to my professional persona, such as this Atlantic article about why modern women have left careers for children.

Since I’ve been putzing around LinkedIn, I decided to draft an article.
Read it here. This stemmed from a recent late-night Facebook message to one of my company’s pages, when an ads salesperson sent a message at midnight, proclaiming that her magazine would love to write an article! After I followed up, the article was actually only in conjunction with an ad. So not only did she pitch a pay-to-play PR opportunity, but made first contact at midnight. So professional.

Like a lot of writing, my article was stemmed from frustration and experience, which can create a nice foundation. However, I spent a few days on it, realizing I couldn’t simply rant and call it professional. Well…it’s still a rant, but I thought about how it related to the scope of a social media manager’s job and how desperately we want to be remembered as people, not computer screens.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please send them my way. As a budding “professional,” I want to learn how to reign in my rants, but apply them to worthwhile conversations.

What’s Been Going On: Summer

And here I am, a whole season later, remembering I have a blog.

I’m not surprised at my lack of blogging; I haven’t had too much to say, really. Just work, home, and repeat. But, here is this website, showcasing me and my life, and I just want to write sometimes, all right? Ok.

This summer has been good, for a few reasons:

I traveled to a new place.
In my last post, I mentioned how my roommate was leaving for a job in Maryland/DC (who is enjoying it greatly, so I’m told). I visited her in July, stayed in her super nice duplex, and explored not only Annapolis, but DC for the first time as well. This trip was the highlight event of my summer, and I might have to write separately about it. Beer, seafood, and history make for a great long weekend.

I explored more of my current place.
I’m a homebody. This trait has been a part of me since childhood, as my mom had to beg me to go anywhere. But this summer, I got out and explored just a little more of Pittsburgh, trying new places. Ok, they were mostly bars, but still counts. I checked out Church Brew Works, Roundabout Brewery, and even had an expensive/delicious taco at Smoke Taqueria.

I have a new companion. *wink*
A.K.A, a new boyfriend. He’s accompanied me on the aforementioned explorations, and made them all the more memorable. As a native West Virginian who is inherently different from me, we’re alike and different in a lot of ways. I got to show him a bit of my town, and now he’s showing me his, since he’s attending law school at his alma mater, WVU in Morgantown. Thus far, I’ve discovered that drinks are cheap and strong, and students pretty much rule the town.

So we’re doing this long-distance thing now, and his leaving meant summer was winding down. Summer doesn’t feel the same when you’re out in the working world — there’s no anticipation for summer break — just better weather, and maybe the occasional day off or too-short vacation. And I got to experience a couple bonfires, thunderstorms, and cold beer — but it was infinitely better sharing it with him.

Spring, The Dynamic Season

Today is the first day of spring, though Pittsburgh didn’t get the memo. A light layer of snow is currently drifting down, dusting the grass that was just starting to perk up. I suppose that’s what we ‘Burghers get for reveling in the past few days of warm weather.

Over these past few years, spring has brought a lot of changes for me. I graduated from college in spring 2014, effectively ending my lifelong term as a student and getting pushed face-first in what it means to be an adult and survive. In spring of 2015, I landed my first full-time job at Millcraft Investments, where I am now. This spring, I’m facing some challenges, including losing my friend and roommate to a new job in D.C., the possibility of moving (again), and a review with my boss on Monday.

My life, I would say, has drastically changed and improved from this time last year. Finances are stable, my home is nicer, and after 23 years, I’m finally mobile with my own vehicle. Experience has been intense and worthwhile at my job, and I hope my work pays off into something more.

But gains aren’t without losses. I don’t see my friends as frequently, as distance, responsibilities, careers, and signifcant others take up time. The list of people I can hang out with is dwindiling away. My longtime boyfriend and I broke up last spring, and just about now marks the 1-year single point. My best friend and current roommate, got hired for a great job in Washington D.C. I’m incredibly happy for her and want her to go, but I’m out of a good roommate and an immediate companion. There aren’t many candidates that I would trust to move in, so living alone seems like the only option. This is going to signifcantly increase my living expenses, which have always been very moderate.

This leads to the question of what I can afford, and if I’ll be moving. With a pay increase, I could probably afford to live in my Carrick single-family home alone, albeit it would cost nearly a paycheck to afford all utilities and rent. I could look to move, but I estimate I’d be paying nearly the same living in a worse-off one-bedroom apartment. Plus, moving sucks.

Now, this leads to the pay increase. While I think this is needed regardless, it’s absolutely crucial now that my living expenses are changing. And I think I deserve it — I’ve been working hard, managing what I like to call “Millcraft Media Enterprise.” However, my hard work hasn’t been without stupid mistakes, ignorant misunderstandings, and misstepped words. I’m not always satisfied with my work, and want to know how to do better. I just hope that what I’ll be asking for is justified by what I have done well.

Spring. While I welcome your warm days and extended daylight, you’re stressing me out.

Key West and Back Again

It’s been one week since my return from beautiful Key West, Florida. Needless to say, I am sad and questioning my logic to return at all.

Hosted by members of Penn State’s scuba diving club, I joined by association via my friend, Tia, who is alumna. The annual trip invites any current and past members to join in a week-long diving and Duval Crawl experience while taking up residence at Sugarloaf KOA campground.

Yes, I went camping. No, I did not scuba dive. I am a landlubber.

This trip marks my first venture to Florida, and my most southern trip yet, appropriately coinciding with visiting one of the most southern points of the U.S.

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The buoy marker in Key West with my best friend and current roommate Tia. Tia and I made the journey down together from Greensburg, PA in my little Chevy Cruze.

Upon our arrival at the campground, Tia and I set up camp, took a much-needed shower, then joined the rest of the crew in Key West. I spent the first night drinking and devouring crab cakes in the true spirit of the Keys.

While everyone else scuba dived the next day, I relaxed alone on Key West’s Smathers Beach with little interruption. My sunburn was mild and minor for once, no joke! Thanks SPF 50, you’re my hero.

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Temperatures hovered at around 83 degrees most days, with consistent sun and a refreshing breeze. It was truly theraputic.

The next day I ventured to Bahia Honda State Park. I couldn’t do any beach loafing here, as the high tide brought an abundance of sea grass and Portuguese Man-of-Wars.

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The park offered unique views and foliage new to me, and a much-needed chance to get outside and sweat a little.

DSC05237The rest of the vacation consisted of drinking in the several legendary bars of Key West, delighting in delicious seafood, watching sunsets at the pier, cooling off in the campground’s pool and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. New Year’s Eve was interesting to say the least, and we got through it alive and mostly well. It’s not often you can spend an entire day gallavanting and consuming alcohol in open containers under the sun.

I can honestly say this trip was wonderful — affordable, great weather, and plenty of fun with new friends. My only complaints are the 100-some bug bites I received, and the drive, totaling two-and-a-half days of interstate travel. Fortuantely, my Chevy Cruze made it through with no hiccups, and we made it through with no falling asleep at the wheel…though just barely.

Will I be back next year? Hopefully, yes, with more bug spray and a look into flights and car rentals beforehand. I also didn’t take many photos — I was feeling lazy and wanted a break from technology. But perhaps a new camera would inspire me (cough, excuse to purchase large ticket item, cough).

And how do I feel now that I’m back in gloomy, cold Pittsburgh? Not great, though better than before. This is my first vacation in almost four years, and it was incredible to experience somewhere entirely new, slightly sating my itch to travel. No one is ever glad to return to reality, but I’ve got a spark for seeing some other new places. Where should I go? What states should I visit? Can I travel internationally this year? Should I just pack up and move to the Keys? These are the big questions.

What’s Been Going On (Work + Key West Plans)

My last post was in July. I should be embarrassed for the lack of posting, but since not much has changed since then, I can’t say I am. However, I feel an update is needed. Read on, avid followers (i.e., no one).

I’m still working at Millcraft, and it’s been crazy, to say the least. Between budgeting for the new year, researching media contracts, reviewing drafts for new print materials, commissioning branding for two restaurants, and several more items across the board on my agenda, it’s obvious work has been busy. Some days I cower in fear; other days I own it. I can see why it’s been difficult to maintain a consistent internal marketing department; the scope of work is enormous. While it’s intimidating at times, I’m glad to be doing different things every day, and becoming experienced in areas beyond my expectations.

But for an added level of frustration, I’m often pulled into doing basic tasks for Real Estate, like how I used to do at SavvyREAgent. “But you can do it in five seconds!” Well sure, but the interruption unfocuses me from the tasks I already have. It’s especially infuriating when it’s a task the agents are perfectly capable of handling themselves, like property searches or printing listings. In other words, the Real Estate department needs an assistant; I simply cannot handle both jobs, nor do I want to. I’m trying to move away from those minute tasks, hence the promotion to what I was trained for. I’m happy to help, but with marketing or tech, not assistant tasks. This is a trouble with being promoted, yet sharing an office with previous supervisors…

Rant aside, it’s great to be working. I even got a small raise without asking, which helps morale. It’s also the holiday season. Thanksgiving is Thursday. Guess who has a three-day work week?!

In more exciting, non-work news, I’ll be traveling to Key West, Florida with Tia, best friend and roommate, right after Christmas. We’ll be driving my car. Yes, to Florida. No, I’m not excited about the 24-hour drive. But we’re camping, making it cheap and frankly, a cool way to experience the beach. I’ve never visited a place so far south, or Florida for that matter. This will be my first vacation in four years. I think spending New Year’s on an island will be one to remember.

 

How It Feels to Work Full Time

…in a word, exhausting.

Don’t mistake this as complaining or whining. Well, maybe it’s a little bit of whining. I’m glad to be working full time and staying busy. It’s good to have consistency, in both schedules and paychecks. And obviously, I’m glad to have a job in the first place. But I have to admit, I’m having a hard time finding time or energy for much else during the week, and motivation for doing anything else but relaxing on the weekends. Which begs the question, how do people with children/dogs/dependents do everything?

My work day at Millcraft is 8:30-5 Monday through Friday. I usually get home around 5:30, eat dinner, watch TV, vegetate, shower and go to bed at a healthy 10 p.m. Rather lame for a 23-year-old, don’t you think?

However, with my new job, I’ve been able to afford something I’ve been desperately needing for a few years…

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Ah, sweet freedom.

Meet my 2012 Chevy Cruze. After much denial, I’ve come to terms with the fact it’s gold (gold mist metallic says Chevy). Gold is among the last colors I would want for a car — too old lady-like, and I feel that way enough. Luckily, it’s rather subtle. But despite my opinion about the color, it’s a nice car — especially nice for my first car. It drives easy, has some nice tech features, and is surely more reliable than the $5,000 cars I was looking to buy. My car payment isn’t too unbearable, but I want to pay it off sooner rather than later, so once I get a pay bump, I’d like to put more money (albeit begrudgingly) toward my ride.

While I don’t enjoy spending the extra money on payments, insurance and gas, getting a car has been long overdue. It feels great to finally be able to grocery shop on my own, visit friends and drive myself to work. Yes, no longer dependent on the bus! I also learned another great perk of Millcraft — free Downtown parking at River Vue, one of our apartment buildings. If it wasn’t for that, I might still be taking the bus most days, as parking in or near town could cost $6-18 per day.

So while I’m exhausted from working long days, lazy from sitting all day and even lazier by coming home to watch TV, things are…good. Busy, sometimes lame, but mostly good.

Every Graduate’s Dream: I’ve Been Hired!

As of Thursday May 28 2015, I am officially a full-time Millcraft Investments employee!

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Millcraft Investments is a prominent real estate developer in Western Pennsylvania, originating in 1957 by Jack Piatt. They have a hand in several residential, commercial and hospitality projects (and much, much more).

My official title is Marketing Coordinator, and my duties encompass many of the aspects of communications I studied, including public relations, social media management, website maintenance, research and organizing data. Additionally, I’ll still be supporting the real estate team, using the knowledge I’ve learned on that side to benefit everyone.

I’m nervous to be responsible for so much on a large corporate scale, but fortunately I’m working with folks from Acrobatique and Easy Street Promotions to assist and guide me. They’ve been awesome so far, and I will learn a lot from these media pros.

Of course, I wouldn’t have had this job in the first place if it wasn’t for my SavvyREAgent boss, Racheallee Lacek. With her smart move to Millcraft as a brokerage, she allowed the chance for me to find a permanent position in a growing company. Mark Jennings, the broker, has been an incredibly kind supervisor as well, with wise advice and great jokes. Laurita, our secretary, and Andrea, our other agent, have also been supporting me from day one. I also owe an apology to my parents and friends, as I’ve been an anxiety-ridden wreck since graduation, but nevertheless have talked me through the worst of it.

So it’s taken me a year to find a full-time job, and while  it’s been an extremely difficult year, financially and emotionally, I’m glad I finally have a solid starting point in my field. I know many of my peers face difficulties — slaving for poor wages, almost immediately going back to school for a new path or working in a different field altogether are very real possibilities. My goal now is to become stronger from this struggle, and hopefully begin enjoying life a little more.

I’m Moving! Again…

“A person in the United States is expected to move 11.4 times in his lifetime…The average 18-year-old in the U.S. will have only moved twice, but a 30-year-old will have done so six times,” says Mona Chalabi of FiveThiryEight.com.

That isn’t comforting — I’m already quite sick of moving as it is.

At age 22 (almost 23!), I will have moved four times, counting the dorms — and not counting when I was little, which was three times. Everyone probably has a unique moving timeline, so here’s mine.

I moved to Point Park University’s dorms my first and second year, and back home again. While I wasn’t moving much furniture, it was still two trips of boxes and junk.

After the move back home for a month sophomore year, my two friends and I moved into the beautiful Arlington farmhouse. That move wasn’t so bad; it was exciting to be moving into such a cool place, not to mention I wasn’t moving in any furniture myself — a new set was being delivered to the house. Great…until we had to move it out two years later.

Ah, my beautiful furniture set. My beautiful, cumbersome, easily-scratched furniture set (website picture, as my room is not this fancy/barren of junk).
Ah, my beautiful furniture set. My beautiful, cumbersome, easily-scratched furniture set (website picture, as my room is not this fancy/barren of junk).

Jess and I moved to the Brownsville Road apartment in Carrick, which is where I’m writing this now. It’s definitely been a downgrade from the farmhouse, but it’s also been cheap, which is something I’ve been grateful for this past year.

Now that Jess is moving to a house in White Oak with her boyfriend, I’m rooming with Tia, another best bud.  I asked if she wanted to look for a new place or stay. Nothing affordable or decent was coming up on the radar, but nearly at the last minute we found a home nearby that a couple just bought as an investment property.

The house isn’t bad, but definitely needs some TLC. An older man with Alzheimer’s was apparently the previous owner. Luckily, our new to-be landlords were open and flexible to some upgrades. Refinishing the floors, new counters and a fresh coat of paint are a few of the items they’re working on. Unfortunately, there are a few factors that make this house ok, but not awesome:

  • No closets. One very skinny one in the hallway, which we requested to be a linen closet. All of our clothes that need hung will have to go on racks in the upstairs attic room.
  • Small bedrooms. Not quite sure if all of my furniture will fit, as my room is a little tight now in the apartment — and the new room is smaller.
  • Teeny kitchen. It’s probably smaller than my mom’s in a single-wide trailer. Zero counter space for any sort of prep. Luckily, neither of us cook too often.
  • No dishwasher. A luxury I grew up without, but got used to since living at the farmhouse.
  • The price. $700 + gas + electric + water. We’re responsible for lawn care, as we negotiated down from $750. Ok, the price isn’t bad, but it’s going to be more than I’ve been paying in rent and utilities, as it’s a house, not an apartment. My living expenses have been a little less than half of my income — now I’m looking at closer to 2/3. (Answer: get a better-paying job, Celeste, c’mon.)
  • Moving, in general. I moved a year ago, and it was quite the challenge getting all that big furniture in and out. I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again. And this time, I hired guys off Craigslist to help me move the heavy stuff, as I don’t really have any burly friends at my disposal right now.

But let’s look on the bright side, shall we? Upgrades from my current living situation:

  • More storage space. We have a whole attic room and basement for storing, which we had zero space for storage at the apartment.
  • Washer/dryer. They’re kind of old, but hey, no more laundromat!
  • Outdoor space. We have a nice front porch, a little back patio and yard. Flower baskets, yes!
  • Off-street parking. This was something Tia really hoped for, as to keep her Magnum nice. There’s a little gravel pad in the back, which the landlords said they could add another if I get a car.
  • Windows. We had one giant one and one little one that opened in the apartment. I’ve missed you, natural light.

So I’m hoping this move will go well. I’m hoping my furniture doesn’t get destroyed. I’m hoping this house will not bankrupt me, and that these landlords will be cool (they seem like it). But most of all, I hope my quality of life improves a  bit. The natural sunlight should help.

Reasons Why You Should Hire Me

Recently, I’ve been assessing my self-worth. A difficult task for some, especially me. As a recent college graduate, I’m looking for someone to take a chance on me — someone who understands you need job experience, but you need the job first.

This site is the first result when you Google search “Celeste Begandy.” So far, so good. This is where anyone can easily find my resume, portfolio and rants. From my resume, it’s spelled out that I have a bachelor’s degree, proficiency in the Adobe Creative Suite, and real estate and IT experience.

Aside from all of these reasons anyone can read, I’m going to present some less-obvious, less-specific yet still important reasons why this young graduate (me) is great employee material.

  1. I don’t have a husband, children or other dependents. Honestly, I’m not ready for any of these adult things until many years down the road, if ever. I don’t even have pets right now. Because of this, I have the flexibility to stay late, work different hours and focus on advancing my work and the company’s mission. These lack of tie-downs also mean…
  2. I can relocate, travel, or not. I don’t have a lot holding me to Pittsburgh. Do I have friends and family here? Of course. But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to move or travel for new opportunities. (Unless you don’t need me to.)
  3. My style is basic. I look at this as more of a positive than a negative. My hair has never been dyed; my makeup is rarely anything but neutral; my clothes are of a basic palette and form; I have no tattoos. In other words, I’m not going to stand out because of pink highlights or an outrageous outfit. I blend into your environment with ease.
  4. Technology is ingrained in my work. Knowledge of computers, cell phones, the Internet and more flow through my young blood. Working intuitively and efficiently on computers, and solving problems when they arise is an added bonus to hiring me. And don’t be fooled, technological troubleshooting is not a natural occurrence in all people my age.
  5. I’m a very hardworking, passionate, loyal individual, when given proper incentive. I want to love what I do. Hopefully, I will be given the chance to fully love my job. It will show through my attitude and performance. But I also need to be paid what I’m worth — or at least enough to pay my student loans on my own and not simultaneously suffer (although those two might be anything but mutually exclusive). Given the right combination of professional fulfillment and monetary incentives, I will work hard for you.  It wouldn’t  be right if I didn’t.

I'm a dog and cat person.