My Greatest Lesson from 2018: Perfectionists Finish Last

By: Jaden Baron

Much of my identity has been shaped from my experience growing up in a Caribbean household with type A parents. More specifically, a mom who constantly pushed me to achieve success in all arenas of my upbringing - academics, extra-curriculars, social interactions, you name it. My mom even put me in school at the age of 3, which I am grateful for, but sometimes I wonder if she made a mistake. Nevertheless, since I started 2018, I have been working to unlearn my focus on external accolades for internal validation.


If there's one thing I learned from my Principles of Marketing class this semester, it's the concept of paralysis by analysis. When making strategic decisions, many companies spend too much time analyzing a problem without taking any action. This process, while seemingly productive, is actually worse in the long run. Adopting a "do it, fix it, try it" approach is more effective, evidenced by many companies' increased focus on agile management. As a very futuristic person, I often find myself hyper-extrapolating conclusions about my life (i.e. my grades and career), even if they may be decades from the present moment. While I acknowledge that it's reassuring to know what's coming in the future, it's also exhaustive. In the words of Artie Shaw, "perfectionists finish last." Sans the innate competitive assumption in his words, Mr. Shaw paints an accurate picture of what can happen to us when we engage in paralysis by analysis in our own lives.


Today, I am happy to say that I am finding outlets that I enjoy for their intrinsic value, rather than their transactional benefits. Reading, dancing, and even drafting this article during finals week, are things that energize me. I wouldn't say that I am proficient in the latter two, but I would call them my "strengths." I know that sounds contradictory, but let me explain. During one of my internship trainings this past summer, I participated in a session about strengths and weaknesses. We framed our dialogue around strengths and weakness as being activities that either motivate or drain us, respectively. I didn't quite understand what that meant until this semester, when I discovered some of my strengths.

I'm going into the New Year with a new focus on finding outlets and activities for their own intrinsic value. More importantly, I'm excited about the self-discovery that I'll find along the way.

Thanks for reading,


Jaden Baron is a sophomore and a current member of FLA Class XV. He is working towards a B.S. in Finance with a minor in economics and is interested in opportunities within the retail, technology, or management consulting industries. In his free time, you can find him exploring Gainesville's local food scene or dancing as part of UF's GatoRaas Indian dance team. Feel free to contact him at

5 Easy Steps to Start Your Podcast & Build a Community of Listeners

By: Madison Ross

The Cheddar was a podcast started by my dear friend Katie and I, stemming from the fire in our bellies to empower women in technology and spread awareness and related issues. As part of our mission of empowering minorities in tech, we're sharing our best practices learned from pressing record. We can't wait for you to tune in!

“Wait, why did you name a women-in-tech-empowering podcast after cheese?”

Start with your purpose and passion, the why behind making a podcast.

Having internal benefits and external benefits for starting your podcast are both equally important. Visualize internal benefits: conducting research, starting a personal project, and spreading awareness about an important issue, to more the external: building a community of listeners, collaborators, and potential fame. This process shapes what your target market should look like and what you'll really gain from recording. When Katie and I started The Cheddar, the most important thing for us was to conduct personal research on gender bias in tech and spread awareness while building a community (whether large or small). We made sure not to make it a “number’s game”. We would be ecstatic with a couple of listeners, because we knew we could deeply impact those lives.

TLDR: Make sure you are making a podcast for the right reasons. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

The name behind your podcast.

This is step #1 of creating your brand. Our’s is The Cheddar. We find it helpful for people to ask questions like, “wait, why did you name a women-in-tech-empowering podcast after cheese?” It sparks curiosity to keep the conversation going, as we connect the dots between our name and purpose. We also named our podcast The Cheddar as to not dig ourselves into a content hole — we wanted a name that allowed us to branch out into different areas if the demand was there. The Cheddar is synonymous with “the good stuff” or “the money” and delivering this caliber of content was what we wanted for ourselves and our listeners. People love stories, you give em’ a good one with your name.

Have an accountability partner!


This is by far the most important and the reason for our initial success. Whether it’s a co-host, a friend, or a roommate, tell someone about what you’re doing. It may seem silly or impractical, but having someone excited to hear your content and see your progress is what kept us on task and excited to produce quality content moving forward. Tell them how often you plan on making episodes (per week, biweekly, per month, etc.) and that way they can provide feedback. You’ll get excited that you at least have 1 listener out there waiting for your latest episode to drop.

Brand the heck out of your podcast.

As business students, this part came the most naturally for us, but we still faced some challenges. In our first 6 weeks, we rebranded 3 times! Once we knew we had found the right fit, we blasted it on social media EVERYWHERE. Start now by drawing logos, creating color schemes, making social media accounts for your podcast, and asking your friends for feedback (see #3)! The best way to know what you want is to start following social media accounts with a similar theme or message. Create something similar until you find your own flavor. Use your branding process as an opportunity to network and connect (think LinkedIn!) with individuals in your target audience. This is how you start building your community beyond your family and friends.

There’s never a “good time” so start recording ASAP.

Our podcast is certainly a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean listeners can’t gain valuable information from it! We find it exciting to see our progress from Episode one to Episode five. It encourages us to get better and keep creating content, adapting as we go along. Nothing is perfect and you’re never going to be ready. Take that jump and HIT RECORD.

What podcast are you creating? Be sure to tell us on Facebook or Instagram @thecheddarcast. Want to tune in to The Cheddar? You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Overcast, and Anchor.

Your Cheesy Gals,

Mads and Katie


Madison Ross and Katherine Sutton graduated from FLA Class XIII.

Madison Ross is studying Information Systems and was on the FLA Historian Committee during her sophomore year. She is interested in technology's impact on society and aspires to establish a support system to encourage more women to pursue careers in tech. On her free time, you can find her recording episodes of her podcast "The Cheddar," recovering from her first half marathon, and competing in hackathons nationwide. Feel free to contact her via email at

Katherine Sutton is studying Information Systems on the combined MSISOM track in the Warrington College of Business. She is interested in using technology to better our everyday lives. On her free time, you can find her recording "The Cheddar" Podcast to increase women's representation in the tech industry, reading biographies about influential entrepreneurs, and continuing her lifelong search for the best buffalo wing. Feel free to contact her at

Product Management- The Best Job No One in College Knows About

By: Harrison Tool

Every time someone asks me what my job is, and I tell them I’m a product manager, they look at me as though I’ve started to speak another language. Their eyes glaze over and from then on, I know that most of what I say will be in one ear and out the other. While I was at UF, I never heard anyone so much as mention the role of product manager. Little did I know, it was the job that I had dreamed of my whole life.

At UF, I studied Finance and minored in Computer Science and Engineering. Ever since I started school, I wanted to find a business focused role that still let me work in the exciting, fast-paced world of technology. I considered myself more of a generalist than an expert in any one area and because of this, I was nervous I wouldn’t hold my own in strict finance or development. Luckily, once out of school, I stumbled into product management and it ended up being exactly the role I was looking for.

What exactly is Product Management?

Product management is one of the fastest growing and most important roles in the modern world, yet somehow, almost no-one knows what a product manager does on a day to day basis. Very few universities offer a product management course, let alone an entire field of study and most students never consider product management out of college.

A product manager is responsible for almost every aspect of a single product within an organization. They are, for the most part, the CEO of their own product within a company. A product manager works alongside development, design, project management, marketing, sales, pricing, and almost every other department to help guide the strategy for their product. This isn’t to say, however, that the product manager has explicit authority over other contributors. Instead, the product manager provides the customer’s perspective in conversations and helps guide the other groups and subject matter experts to the right conclusions.

Product management was originally conceived as part of the Agile development strategy that many technology companies leverage today. The best known example is probably the Spotify Model (yes, that Spotify) that organizes teams into “tribes” and “squads”. Today, product management has grown from being primarily used in consumer facing tech products to be an integral part of many traditional company’s strategies. The key tenants of product management (cross discipline collaboration, open dialogue, design) can be applied to almost any situation. According to an article from McKinsey’s website (, the growth of data, design, and complexity around business decisions and products has led to this expanded focus on comprehensive product management.

At this point, I want to quickly mention a trap that I see a lot of people fall into. It is easy to confuse product management with project management. They are even similar in that you can spell one role by switching two letters in the other, but that’s about where the similarities end. Project management is concerned with tracking a single customer project or implementation and ensuring that the work is delivered on time. It is usually a reporting and communications role. Product management, on the other hand, is more concerned with creating a comprehensive product strategy.


What does a Product Manager Do?

At this point you may be thinking, “OK Harrison, but what does a product manager actually do? What are your day to day job responsibilities?” And, as clichéd as it probably is, no two days are ever the same. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy product management as much as I do. I will try to distill the key aspects of the role down to the most important parts.

If you were to look at the generic elevator pitch for what a product manager does, it would probably mention collecting requirements from customers and communicating those requirements to development so that they can create compelling product features. And while managing customer requirements, prioritizing those requirements, and communicating requirements to development is an important part of the job, it is much more complex than simply managing a feature backlog. For every customer requirement, there must be a business case that clearly defines the value of the product feature to both the customer and the business as a whole.

For example, imagine you are a product manager for a car company. More and more customers are coming into your dealership and asking if they can purchase your car in neon pink. Should the company invest in the process and development changes that it would take to provide pink cars? What is the market like for pink cars? How would this affect the brand perception of your product? Who would these pink cars be marketed to and how would you reach those customers? Are there any legal ramifications of putting neon pink cars on the road? Answering all of these questions would be the responsibility of the product manager.

In order to answer these questions, the product manager will spend a lot of time with customers doing discovery activities, listening to feedback, and understanding customer pain points. The product manager then brings all of this information back to internal teams and helps guide the direction of the product.

What are the Most Important Skills for a Product Manager?

It takes a unique type of individual to be a product manager, but there also isn’t one type of person that always makes a successful product manager. Some product managers are more technical and some are more design oriented. Some product managers focus primarily on dealing with development while some are “jack of all trades.” Companies will traditionally hire certain types of product managers. For example, Apple tends to hire product managers that are more design oriented while Facebook hires more technical product managers. It is usually a good idea to research what type of product managers work at a company before applying.

While there is no “normal” product manager, there are some incredibly important traits that a product manager must possess. Here are what I consider to be the three most important attributes of any product manager:

Customer Focus – First and foremost, the product manager is a customer advocate. It is the responsibility of the product manager to be able to provide the customer’s voice in any conversation. As such, it is pivotal that the product manager knows their customers, industry, and market inside and out. Product managers will usually spend the first portion of their day reading the latest news on the industry and other competitors. When in conversations with other teams, the product manager will then use this customer knowledge to make sure the conversation never strays too far from the ultimate goal; doing what is right for your customers.

Ability to Learn – Like I said earlier, the product management role is one that covers a wide array of topics from legal to financial matters. When starting as a product manager, it is safe to assume that you won’t be an expert in every single field that you interact with. That said, it is pivotal to a product manager’s success that they keep an open mind and are willing to learn about these subjects. Often, the product manager is asked to make decisions or support decisions that deal with how their product interacts with these fields.

Also, as mentioned in the above section, the product manager is an expert in their industry and market. It takes time and effort to learn this valuable information. As a personal example, I work in healthcare, a field I was never exposed to before starting at IBM Watson Health.

Hard Work Ethic – I don’t include this topic on the list to be pretentious or to suggest that I work more than any of my other recently graduated friends. But if you’re the type of person that likes to work 40-hour weeks, leave work at the office, and won’t commit, then product management certainly isn’t the right role for you. There is as much work to do as a product manager as you want to do. There is always an opportunity to have more conversations, evaluate competitors and the market, and continue to learn more about your product.

Why Become a Product Manager?

Product management is an incredibly exciting, challenging, and rewarding field that is clouded in mystery and poorly understood by many college students. If you are a hard worker, love challenges, are willing to constantly learn, and like to deal with people, product management is a wonderful field to consider.

If that’s not enough to peak your interest, product managers are increasingly being looked at for promotions and management roles. As a product manager, you learn almost every aspect of a business, your customer’s wants and needs, and how to make a product succeed in the market. Who would you rather have running your company than someone who has spent their entire career learning this valuable information?

I hope this quick dive into product management has made you more curious about the field. If you’d like to learn more, I’ve included some resources that I found to be useful. Feel free to reach out with any questions or to chat. Best of luck in FLA and beyond!


Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Mary Cagan (Amazon -

Forbes: Product Management Lessons from the Front Lines -

The Product Management Guide – Aha!

Roman’s Product Management Framework


Harrison Tool is an Offering Manager for IBM Watson Health’s Value Based Care Initiative.  He was a member of FLA Class X and graduated from UF in 2016 with a BS in Finance and a minor in Computer Science. Harrison was also involved with the International Case Competition Team, CAP Mentors, and other Heavener organizations.  In his free time, he enjoys cycling, reading, and trying to convince himself that moving to the freezing north wasn’t a terrible decision. He can be reached at

How to Harness Your Inner-Present Potential: A Review of "You are a Badass"

By Michelle Kunz

- A recent graduate’s review of Jen Sincero’s, “You are a Badass” -

You r BA.JPG

I always knew that graduating college was going to be a weird feeling, especially combined with the fact that I did it early. As a freshly graduated college student, I couldn’t help but experience this overwhelming feeling of “What now?” Sure, I have a full-time job lined up and vacation time void of any commitments (finally!), but being the overachiever I am I knew I was going to struggle with just relaxing for two and a half months doing virtually nothing. During this time, I came up with the idea that starting with the New Year, I was going to read at least one book a month, completely by choice. After all, they don’t just claim that the world’s top readers read four to five books a month for nothing.

With that, my first book of choice was one that had been sitting on my shelves for a good six months called “You are a Badass.” Not only did the title intrigue me with a persuasive claim that it would show me “how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life,” but reading the introduction was like looking in the mirror and watching myself read the book out loud. It was written exactly how I speak; I was sold.

Having finished the book now, I wanted to share my top three takeaways from the variety of lessons this book has now instilled in me. These definitely doesn't sum up the entire book, but will hopefully give you a taste of what the 27 bite-size chapters look and sound like.

1. Getting to the Root of the Problem

I know I don’t speak for myself when I say that hitting your twenties is almost like hitting a mid-life crisis. There is an unforeseen pressure from our parents, peers, and society as a whole to not only have our life together, but to have everything else that we want in the future, all figured out. I knew that if I wanted to start this new and exciting part of my life, I first would have to overcome the things that might be holding me back from doing so. The author, Jen Sincero, announces in the first chapter of her book how most of our beliefs and preconceived notions are rooted deeply in our subconscious mind, and are often things we have no control over receiving and planting there. However, this doesn’t mean we have an automatic excuse for not addressing them head on. The first step to accomplishing this, is to become aware of these limiting subconscious beliefs. This is because if you’re not aware of them, you’ll keep working with your conscious mind to solve a problem that’s really buried even farther beneath the surface in your sub-conscience. In fact, the way Sincero describes it is as if you’re unable to enjoy sitting on your front porch anymore because of a foul smell. While there are temporary ways to solve the problem like setting up fans, blaming the dog, lighting incense, etc. Until you realize that something has crawled under your house and died, your problem is going to continue on, stinking up your life.

2. Raise Your Frequency

Those familiar with the Law of Attraction will already be acquainted with this phenomenon, but for those who’ve never heard of it, this takeaway might just change your life. No matter your religious beliefs, it is still a fact that the universe is made up of constant energy that is infinitely in cycles of interaction and flow around other energy. Now keep in mind that whatever your chosen belief system and what you call the higher power in your life: “God, Goddess, The Big Guy, Spirit, The Force, The Mother Lode;” it’s important to acknowledge that in some form it does in fact exist. In the book, this presence of energy is referred to as “Source Energy,” but what it really highlights is the fact that each and every one of us has interactions with it. In fact, you can think of your specific energy in terms of frequencies; one that is as unique to you as your fingerprint. Whenever you feel stuck in your current state, doubtful of where your future is going, unable to achieve happiness, whatever it is that’s holding you back, you are operating at low levels of frequency. What this eventually does then, is it signals to the Universe that you are not operating at a high frequency (where all of the magic happens). Therefore, you are telling it you are not ready to change your frequency to reap the rewards of the life you actually want and already have (stick with me on this until the next takeaway). So, in order to really be successful in achieving the things you ultimately desire, you first need to raise your frequency to the levels where these changes are actually happening.

3. Everything You Want is Already Yours

When I first read this statement, I felt like Chandler on the first episode of “Friends” declaring, “And I just want a million dollars!” after Rachel walks into the coffee shop following Ross’ verbal wish to be married again. I thought, okay sure, because the reason I want everything that I do is because I already have it, right? Hear me out. One of my favorite statements by Sincero in the book is when she says “Your job isn’t to know the how, it’s to know the what and to be open to discovering, and receiving, the how.” Because when you think of it, if you already knew the “how,” then wouldn’t you have it already? The reason, she says, is because “You must keep your frequency high and your belief in limitless possibility strong to manifest your dreams and goals. When you level up your idea of what is possible, and decide to really go for it, you open yourself up to the means to accomplish it as well.” In other words, in order to receive and live the life you truly want, you have to already be thankful and filled with gratitude for it, without actually having it. Mind blown.

While this might sound crazy at first glance, it does a good job of highlighting the relationship Sincero harps on between gratitude and faith. Gratitude, by definition, is the emotion we express when we have appreciation for something that we already have, and is an affirmation of goodness to ourselves about the gifts and benefits we have received. In comparison, faith is the complete trust and confidence in someone or something without any proof of evidence to be so. Therefore, the way these two concepts work together in the Universe is by one having such strong faith in their future manifestation that they are already grateful, or filled with gratitude, for what they have yet to receive. Because in their mind, they already have it. Personally, in my own life, I have experienced the power of gratitude for the un-received while I was searching for my full-time job last semester. I had no physical proof that I would land the exact job I wanted, in the exact city I dreamed of working in, and receive an offer at the exact time of my preference. However, every day throughout my search, in my head I would visually articulate all the things I wanted in a career and then spend every hour of my search then manifesting what it is I truly wanted. Most importantly though, I never gave up faith, and was constantly filled with gratitude over the opportunity to be in such a position to apply to my various “dream jobs.” Then precisely two and a half months later, my manifestation came full circle and I received and accepted my offer.  


Oh, and one more thing. After making it through the entirety of this book, it quickly became clear what Sincero’s underlying key to living an awesome life was: to love yourself. Because when it comes down to really being able to make an active change for the better in your life, you first have to love the badass within yourself that you already are and will continue to become. Now go get’em!  


Michelle Kunz, a member of FLA Class XII, graduated in December 2017 with her B.S. in Marketing.  Michelle will be joining Macy's in New York City in their Executive Development Program later this year.  Feel free to contact her at .

The Other Sixteen Hours of Your Internship

By Michael Cizek

What do you do when you get off of work at your internship?

Do you work out? Do you call home? Do you curl up with a tasty dinner and settle in with a binge-worthy Netflix show? I’ve been known to do all three.

But after a while, I began to wonder if there was a better way I could use my time after work. I’m in a new place, with new people, and have a completely different schedule. How can I make the most of these formative summer weeks?

I signed up for an internship to grow both personally and professionally; to equip myself with the necessary tools to be successful with a full-time position in the near future. But this growth mindset ended when I walked out of work each day.

It was time to shift my perspective. I began looking at my internship not as an 8-hour job, but a 24-hour development experience. A summer spent growing and preparing for the unknowns of the future.

Now, I needed to figure out how I wanted to spend the other sixteen hours of my internship.

Below are some of the best ways I’ve found to maximize growth as a summer intern:

Pick a Summer Hobby

Whether you’re at home or far away, it is important to have an activity you can look forward to doing. I want my hobbies to reflect the region I live in; something unique to the area.

After work in Portland, OR, the other interns and I would often quickly change our clothes and drive 30 minutes to go hiking in the nearby Columbia River Gorge. Authentic Portlandia.

I decided to learn how to surf this past summer while in Jacksonville, FL. I’ve been able to get out in the water a couple times a week. While the summertime waves are often small, I made some new friends and have had a spectacular time!

Picking a summer hobby is a fun way to stay socially active while making the most of the region you’re living in. Having something unique to do has made for great conversations at work, and helped make me feel more like a local. Not sure where to start? Check out this extensive list of hobbies.

The Columbia River Gorge after work

The Columbia River Gorge after work

Keep Up with Friends and Family

“The mobile phone acts as a cursor to connect the digital and physical.”

― Marissa Meyer

Distance makes relationships increasingly digital. Before Facebook, “stalking” anyone might have been considered a crime. But to maintain our analog relationships in an increasingly digital world, we’ll have to pick up the phone and make a call to make a human connection.

Like a backyard garden, relationships must be kept up, or they will wither and disintegrate. I have intentionally kept up with people by giving them phone calls throughout the summer. It doesn’t take much, but just calling to see how your friend is doing, or what your mom is up to will build good will and keep the relationship flourishing.

The relationships I keep with my friends and family are my most valuable assets; it is important to keep up with these VIPs.

Continue Your Faith

Working in a new internship can be all kinds of uncomfortable; you’re pushing to learn and grow daily. But when it comes to faith, I have observed many interns don’t bother to continue learning and growing.

I get it. Being in a new place makes it difficult to feel comfortable going to a new/temporary place of worship, especially if you’re alone.

But if religion is where our values and a sense of security are derived, why do we tend to schlep it off when we need it the most? With so much change going on around you, wouldn’t it be nice to have an unchanging aspect of your life?

As a Christian, I can attest that my faith is an important part of my life. My faith gives me life, a better perspective, and hope for tomorrow.

In both of my internships, I’ve struggled feeling comfortable at churches and finding community; but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for. In Jacksonville, I found community by going to, a Christian Surfers Club meeting, an organization I learned about on Facebook. There, I built friendships and found a church. Continuing my faith through the summer has given me peace and courage.

If you signed up for a summer of growth, why let it stop when it comes to faith?

Get Enough Sleep

I don’t mean to sound like your high school health teacher, but sleeping enough is important. If you’re older than 18, then you need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. It’s true, look here or here. If we sleep enough, we lose a third of our day. If we don’t sleep enough, we lose our entire day. Prioritizing sleep is difficult, but doing so makes everything you do more efficient and fun. Plus, who likes having a coffee addiction?

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Last spring, I mentored a group of five sophomore leaders in FLA. Before leaving for summer break, I asked them to create a list of goals for the summer. We made use of the S.M.A.R.T. goal-making strategy; goals that were Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. We made these goals in both a personal and professional sense, and shared them with one another for accountability.

I encouraged the group to do this because of how easy it is to waste time in the summer. If left unchecked, I know I would squander time where I could be progressing into a better leader, young professional, and person. To see progress and hold myself accountable, I consistently recheck my goals each week. Having written S.M.A.R.T. goals has shifted the way I approach the summer.

My spring 2017 my opinion, some of the Florida Leadership Academy’s finest leaders

My spring 2017 my opinion, some of the Florida Leadership Academy’s finest leaders

Get into a Routine

Want to know how to make the most of the other sixteen hours? Get into a routine. You know the drill: wake up and go to sleep at the same time, eat on the same three intervals throughout the day, and exercise consistently each day.

But why is this important? During the school year our schedule is often too varied to have any sort of regularity. When we get into a pattern of using time, we become efficient and can put our time towards more important matters. For example, at the beginning of my internship, it took me fifteen minutes to make my lunch. Now that I have a routine in making my lunch, I can make it in just four minutes, giving me the extra eleven minutes to read my Bible each morning.

As leaders, time is a currency we must spend wisely. With a routine in place, we can best divvy out our time to what matters.

Get Chores Done

“My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”

—Erma Bombeck

Certainly not the most exhilarating thing to do, but important if you don’t want to live in a pigsty. During my first internship, I lived with six other interns (that’s seven total people!) in a small unfurnished three bedroom apartment. Talk about lots of dirty dishes and smelly laundry. Cleaning was a way of life.

As interns, we are learning how to juggle the not-so-fun activity of chores with a full-time work schedule. We must master juggling the rubbing and scrubbing of chores now as interns, or we will be doomed to a grubby home in the future. Your future spouse and children will thank you for learning how to do this now. And while you’re at it, why not have some fun?

Explore the Area

Whether you’re at home or thousands of miles away, exploring the area you live in is always exciting. Simply walking around has given me a better understanding of a city’s vibes and of the people who live there. I’ve gotten great recommendations for places to check out from employees at the internship; wanting to explore makes for an easy conversation starter.

But what specifically to do? Try checking out popular local restaurants, or pull out the map and drive a couple hours away to see something spectacular. One time we drove two hours from Portland where we hiked a volcano to play in the snow in July. Or, another time, we drove to the beach to drive ON the beach.

No matter what you do, exploring will get you out of your comfort zone and doing something new. Who knows what you’ll find?

“The Pacific waved at us, but we didn’t wave back”

“The Pacific waved at us, but we didn’t wave back”


As leaders, we are called to be ahead of the curve. Reading offers us a new lens to see the same world. Whether it be laziness or ignorance, it is pretty easy to find excuses to not read. A big distraction for me is the television. But in my observations, TV only offers mindless entertainment or past-oriented programing; comfortable shows to watch. Reading is about being uncomfortable; it’s about growing.

Even if it is just an article every day or a book for the summer, start reading something that will help you grow. Some of my recent favorites are John C. Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Jon Acuff’s Do Over, and Jimmy Collins’ Creative Followership.

Make the Most of Lunch

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”

―Orson Welles

Ah, we can’t forget about the sixteenth hour: lunch. Right in the middle of the work day, it’s your opportunity to do as you please. How can you best utilize lunch as a leader?

  • Ask people you work with to eat with you; it’s an opportunity to build relationships and network
  • Go for a walk outside to explore the area around the office; stretch your legs and find something new
  • Read a book. This is an easy way to escape from the office; you might even learn a thing or two
  • Eat at a local restaurant; you support local businesses while trying new foods, it’s a win-win
  • Run errands. This is a good way to be a good steward of your time; it frees you from doing it later


The Bottom Line: Look at your internship not as an 8-hour job, but a 24-hour development experience. Be intentional with how you spend your time each day, and you’ll grow because of it.


Michael Cizek is a senior and was a member of FLA Class XII and is currently the Chief of Staff for FLA Class XIV.  In December, he graduated with a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Leadership, and is now working towards an M.S. in International Business.  Michael is interested in opportunities in sales, marketing, entrepreneurship and/or management consulting.  In his free time, you can find him biking with friends or driving his beloved 1986 Toyota 4Runner.  Feel free to contact him at

Life at Cisco

By: Gabriella Tedesco

My first week at Cisco


As I nervously walked up to Building 11 on the RTP campus, following in the footsteps of many eager interns before me, it still hadn’t quite set in that what I had been working toward for essentially the last nine months of my life had finally became a reality. Sure, I went through the process of accepting my offer, subleasing an apartment in Raleigh, and sending in my I-9 form, but it still didn’t feel real yet, even as I walked into that lobby and saw the giant “There’s Never Been A Better Time” banner. 

It began to feel a little more real as I checked in and received my employee badge, adorned with what is probably the most awkward headshot I have ever taken. And as I walked into the conference room, received my Cisco backpack, water bottle, and laptop, it really began to sink in. I was actually going to have to be a “real person” for an entire summer, and work at one of the leading technology companies not just in the United States, but in the world… and that’s when the panic set in.

There I sat, in a room full of brilliant, experienced, students wondering how I could have possibly made it to this point. As I listened to the other interns around me chatting about their amazing experiences, I doubted that I belonged here at Cisco. Having just finished my sophomore year in college, I fall on the younger side of most of my peers, and I couldn’t help but feel inferior for my lack of experience, both in the work force and the classroom. This bout of “imposter syndrome” was slightly terrifying, and I began to seriously question how I was going to succeed here for the summer.

Now, with only one week at Cisco under my belt, I wish I could go back to that first day and tell myself I had nothing to worry about. One of the most attractive features about Cisco that led me to pursue working here in the first place was the supposed corporate culture of care, fun, and giving back. I’d heard it from past interns and the recruiters themselves, but nothing could have prepared me for how truly amazing this company is. Cisco stands true to their values and their culture, and this has been reinforced through every interaction I’ve had with the people that work here. From the cafeteria worker who made my sandwich today at lunch, to my manager and coworkers, to the other interns, the people I have met here are some of the smartest, nicest, and most caring people I have had the opportunity to know. 

My fears of inadequacy have been eased by the reassurance and kindness I’ve been shown by each and every person I have worked with. I feel genuine excitement from everyone to have me this summer. Everyone wants to help me get the most out of this internship, and are dedicated to investing in me, and that is so important to feeling like I actually belong here.

Of course after just one week I don’t feel like an official “Cisconian” as they say, but I can certainly see myself becoming one. Until then, I’ll try to stop getting lost on the way to the cafeteria and keep performing Test WebEx calls until I can finally get it right. 

Midpoint Reflection: Interning at Cisco

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but I didn’t expect it to fly this fast. It seems like half of my internship with Cisco has flown by in the blink of an eye. With five weeks in RTP and one week in headquarters in San Jose under my belt, I have learned and grew more than I ever thought possible. There are so many important lessons I have learned over the past six weeks, but here I have narrowed it down to four that I feel are the most important to reflect on as I pass the halfway mark of my internship.

1.    Networking is Real

I know, I know. My gut reaction to the word “networking” is to cringe too. But hear me out here. I’m not talking about the fake, schmoozing, shaking hands and forgetting the name of who you just talked to type of networking. I’m talking about forming relationships and getting to know the people in your company to learn from a diverse group of people that have so much to offer. Different professional organizations I have been a part of at school have always stressed the importance of networking and in the past I’ve brushed it off. One of my strongest values is authenticity, and I honestly thought that there was no way that this could go together with networking. However, during my time at Cisco, I’ve realized my values are what have made networking so valuable to me. One on one meetings with anyone, from a director to a person in an entry level position, mean so much more when you go into them with genuine interest and authenticity. I’ve found that people have such a positive response to my transparent enthusiasm and passion for Cisco. This has shown that by being myself, networking doesn’t have to be something to dread. In fact, I now look forward to it.

2.    People and Culture Matter

In a company as large as Cisco, I think it’s easy to feel like a faceless worker in the crowd. However, the reality here at Cisco is that it’s almost impossible to feel this way. As I alluded to in my last blog post, coming into my internship I was nervous and doubted that I would find a place here. It’s surreal how quickly this feeling faded away. I can walk into work every day truly content, knowing that I am surrounded by kind, like-minded individuals who are passionate, intelligent, and fun. But it’s not just the amazing people, or even the Creativity Zones scattered around campus that make me admire Cisco’s culture (although they are definitely a plus.) The culture of giving back is what stands out the most to me. During my time here, I have had endless opportunities to volunteer with the Cisco community. During my second week, my roommate and I participated in a Sort-A-Rama with Cisco to give back to a local food bank. Working side by side in the huge fair grounds with coworkers from all walks of life, who took the time out of their busy work days to give back to the community around them was an invaluable experience I will always be grateful for. Yes, Cisco is an industry leader and a technology innovator, but what matters the most to me, and what will keep me coming into work every single day, is the people and the culture.

3.    How to Deal with Stress and Negativity in the Workplace

It happened. I finally had my first stressful week at work. For the first time I felt overwhelmed and wasn’t quite sure how I was going to follow through on all of my responsibilities. I could have let myself get overwhelmed and intimidated by my workload. I could have complained to anyone that would listen, and let the negativity that was starting to creep in consume me. This was such an easy trap to fall into, and I admit that more than once I felt myself starting to give in. However, there was one thing that kept me from falling into this trap- perspective. It was on an after work run actually, that I realized all I needed to do was view my stressful work week as an amazing opportunity. An opportunity to learn about myself, how I work under pressure, how I react to huge responsibility, and how I can turn a negative situation into a positive one. I chose to be grateful instead of stressed. I worked so hard to get this internship. I spent hours reviewing the company before recruiting at Career Week, and even more hours studying before my interview. I attended (some might say stalked) every single session that Cisco held at my school so I could learn as much as I could about the company and how I could work there. I have never been so happy and felt as accomplished as I did when I got my offer to work here. So why would I ever waste even a minute being ungrateful for this opportunity? My team was trusting me with important work, and instead of being freaked out, I relished in their trust. It was scary and it was intimidating, but facing the challenges of a huge workload with a positive attitude completely changed my experience, and I wouldn’t have learned or grown as much as I have if I didn’t.

4.    Cisco is Truly One of a Kind

Sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley at Cisco Beat on Wednesday morning, I think every person in the audience could feel it. I had goosebumps- and not just because I was completely star struck by the number of executives that surrounded me. The energy and the passion that employees at Cisco have for the work they are doing cannot be replicated anywhere else, and it’s contagious. With the launch of Cisco’s latest and greatest network, we are continuing to innovate and stay ahead of our competition, and it is such a great feeling to be a part of that ride. Having executives that take the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to discuss openly the direction of the company is something that truly sets Cisco apart. Furthermore, having a CEO that would take the time to stay almost an hour after the Beat ended just to take pictures and talk to interns is incredible to me. I could not have imagined before my internship that I would even get the opportunity to be in the same room as our CEO and CMO, let alone get a picture with Chuck Robbins at Cisco Beat and have a Happy hour with Karen Walker in downtown San Jose. Having such approachable and transparent leadership completely changes the experience of an employee, and I am so thankful that Cisco has shown me this. 


Gabriella Tedesco is a third year student and was in FLA Class XIII.  She is currently pursuing a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Communication Studies while also working towards a M.S. in International Business.  Gabriella is passionate about mentorship, building relationships, marketing and using her creativity for content creation.  In her free time, you can find her with her head in a book, or hanging out with her three sisters.  Feel free to contact her at

Showcasing My Vulnerabilities

By: Sabrina Chiu


“Can I tell you a little more about myself?” This is what everyone starts off with when they speak to a recruiter at the University of Florida’s Career Showcase. Everyone knows how daunting Career Showcase can be. For me, I felt anxiety, loneliness, and a sense of urgency; I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. 

A week before Showcase, Derek Guffin, the Assistant Director for Employer Relations & Career Education in the Heavener School of Business came to the Florida Leadership Academy (FLA) to speak on how to prepare for the daunting career fair that lie ahead. The Florida Leadership Academy is a program that provides the top 100 sophomores of the college with professional development opportunities. We learned how to improve our LinkedIn profiles, elevator pitches, and mock interviews. Before the presentation, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But throughout the presentation that day, my eyes were opened to how unprepared I was. I was so overwhelmed that I had an anxiety attack. 

After the session, I met with my mentor Gab to schedule a one-on-one. I knew she had been to Showcase before, and might offer some helpful insight. But when I saw Gab, I was so full of anxiety about Showcase, I burst into tears. She pulled me outside, comforted me, and reassured me everything was going to be fine. She told me that I had plenty of time to prepare and would help introduce me on where to start. 

Later, during our one-on-one, we did mock interviews and researched companies. She showed me how to take notes and use specific websites to gain more insight on companies; compared to a normal Google search. Gab has helped me through the hardest time in my journey at UF. She taught me how to approach Showcase and career week with total confidence and a smile on my face. 

Growing as a sophomore has left me challenged and overwhelmed. This year I learned to express my vulnerabilities with others so they can help. Showing my vulnerabilities is scary, but by sharing it with trusted confidants, I’ve been able to grow more than ever before. By showing my weakness, I’ve been able to grow my strength. In the end, I didn’t receive an internship from Showcase last fall, but I now understand what it takes to properly prepare. 


Sabrina Chiu is a sophomore at the University of Florida. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with a minor in Retailing. Sabrina is interested in opportunities in sales, marketing, and retailing. In her free time, you can find her exploring new places, petting dogs, and taking pictures. Feel free to contact her at

Mentorship that Fosters Community

By: Jacqueline Ojeda

Throughout my first three years at UF, the leadership programs in the business school have inspired me to reflect deeply on personal and professional matters. I have been able to grow and learn from the support system around me, including the amazing mentors I’ve been lucky to have. Mentorship has been a crucial part of my college experience, as my first mentor set the tone for my growing passion of mentoring others.

Cassidy and Jackie at the FLA induction ceremony in 2016. 

Cassidy and Jackie at the FLA induction ceremony in 2016. 

As a freshman, I joined the Business Undergraduate Mentorship Program here in the Heavener School of Business. During the Fall, I was often home sick and didn’t feel like I was making a real impact on campus like I used to in high school. Most of my peers felt the same way during their freshman year. Meeting my first mentor changed all of that. I was lucky to be paired with Cassidy Haack, who at the time was on the FLA advisory board. We became close friends, and she encouraged me to continuously engage in different opportunities on campus. Having a mentor as supportive as her brightened my outlook about college life, and got me more involved. This made me feel a sense of community within the business school, which I am so grateful for, being 5 hours away from home. 

BUMP was my jumpstart to learning about mentorship. Soon after joining, I applied to FLA in hopes of being one of the 100 mentees selected in the organization. I was lucky to go on to have Maddy Segal and Michelle Kunz as mentors my sophomore year. My mentors have been selfless with their time, advice, and friendship. They have studied with me, kept me on track, and widened my network. I am thankful I have these great role models to look up to in the business school and in life. 

This year as a junior, I am so proud to still be a part of both BUMP and FLA as a mentor. It gives me great happiness to give back to the clubs that have invested so much in me, and experience what it’s like to help others on their journey. So far I’ve had six mentees. Each bright with their unique ideas, creativity, and personalities. I am honored to have had the privilege of being their mentor.

Jackie and her FLA mentees on the last Fall FLA session of 2017.

Jackie and her FLA mentees on the last Fall FLA session of 2017.

Mentorship is a two-way relationship of trust that benefits both the giver and receiver. The mentee has someone who wants to help them grow, and the mentor benefits through the fulfillment and friendship that comes along with mentoring. Mentorship involves listening closely to the goals of your mentee and providing helpful ways they can accomplish those goals. It also means having someone you feel comfortable relying on to ask tough questions when you are faced with adversity. Finally, I believe mentorship is whatever you make it, whether it’s a professional, formal, or informal relationship; It all depends on the goals of both parties and how much effort is put in. 

This semester, I plan on using my past knowledge and experience to be the best mentor of my ability to my new mentees. I recently met them at the FLA Spring Retreat, and I am thrilled to begin new relationships with each of them. Peer mentorship has added a plethora of value to my life, and I hope to have that kind of impact on my mentees!

Jackie and her BUMP mentee after the Fall 2017 BUMP award ceremony. 

Jackie and her BUMP mentee after the Fall 2017 BUMP award ceremony. 

Michelle, Jackie, and Maddy at a social event.

Michelle, Jackie, and Maddy at a social event.

Jackie and her FLA mentees at the Spring 2018 Retreat.   

Jackie and her FLA mentees at the Spring 2018 Retreat.



Jacqueline Ojeda is a Junior from Miami, FL who was in FLA Class XIII. She is now an FLA Class XIV mentor, getting a B.S. in Management with a minor in Leadership. Jackie is interested in opportunities in sales, management, hospitality, and the tourism industry. On her free time, you can catch her going on a run, walking on the beach, or spending time with friends and family. Feel free to contact her at


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