Mike Barrett: [00:00:10] Hello there. This is Mike Barrett, along with my brother, Patrick Barrett.
Patrick Barrett: [00:00:13] Yeah!
Mike Barrett: [00:00:14] Well, feel free to jump in. Anyway, we are here to tell you the truth about testing, education and careers, because we believe that in order for you to get the most out of your future, you need access to accurate information for people who’ve really been there.
Patrick Barrett: [00:00:30] And we haven’t been almost anywhere, but we know people who have, so we try to find them and ask all of the most useful, hopefully most useful questions that we can to get whatever information they might have that could be useful to you as you try to set out and make the best choices you can in your education and career. So I think we have the perfect first guest for this podcast.
Mike Barrett: [00:01:00] Yes. This is, by the way, the first episode of the podcast. I don’t know if you, listening to this, will know this or not. Yeah, we have no idea what we’re doing.
Patrick Barrett: [00:01:08] We don’t, but, we’re going to find out really soon.
Mike Barrett: [00:01:09] Yes.
Patrick Barrett: [00:01:10] So, yeah, I think that our first guest is optimal because we want to talk about a lot of different kinds of jobs on this podcast. And some of them are going to be wacky off the wall, unusual jobs. But we definitely want to cover what people think of as like “normal” jobs. So our guest today, Alex, is a person in corporate America, which really is a huge umbrella term. That could be, you’re in sales, logistics, accounting, human resources. That covers a lot of different topics, really, and a lot of different kinds of jobs. Yeah. Exactly. You think “corporate America,” but that could be so many things. That could be an entry level position, you know, where somebody is fresh off an internship or right out of college or that could be, you know, a top V.P. somewhere. So, so many people are in this world and there’s so many different experiences there. And it also, to me, sounds super boring, like not fun or interesting or exciting.
Mike Barrett: [00:02:16] To me now it sounds way more interesting because I’m older and I have had people that I know go through those kinds of–
Patrick Barrett: [00:02:21] Yeah, but all your first impressions of it are like ugh, corporate America–
Mike Barrett: [00:02:24] Well, right. When I was in school, for me personally, the idea of anything that involved like a nine to five and putting on a suit or whatever, I sort of thought I was gonna have to do that.
Patrick Barrett: [00:02:32] Yeah, like that’s the only option. There’s a lot of TV shows and movies and things, and people are just in cubicles.
Mike Barrett: [00:02:37] Yeah, like The Office, kind of the whole point of The Office as a show, or Office Space, right, is “this type of career is not that fun.”
Patrick Barrett: [00:02:44] It’s just drudgery.
Mike Barrett: [00:02:44] But that people can be fun while they’re doing it. Yeah, absolutely. And they really emphasize like, like it’s the same grind every day.
Patrick Barrett: [00:02:50] And those jobs are out there for sure. It’s not that they’re not out there, but that’s not the only version of it. And yeah, I feel like this particular interview is a really interesting opportunity to change that perspective, basically. And sure to get a different look at it.
Mike Barrett: [00:03:07] Well, put it this way, I wish that I had heard an interview like this when I was planning out my life, I would have thought differently about this sort of job.
Patrick Barrett: [00:03:11] Right, it completely changes the way that you see this. So I’m really, really excited about this first episode and having Alex as our first guest because we’re tackling a whole class of job, basically. And we walked away with a lot of insights that we didn’t have in the beginning about how interesting it can be, how you can be excited about it, how you can be good at it, how you can engage with it.
Mike Barrett: [00:03:37] And some interesting tactical things like how to find mentors, how to change your career path within a company if you don’t like it.
Patrick Barrett: [00:03:44] Yeah, model yourself after people in the company that you want to be like.
Mike Barrett: [00:03:47] Sure, all kinds of things and sort of how, we want to give too much away now–
Patrick Barrett: [00:03:50] Yeah, there’s there’s a lot going on there. It’s definitely a situation where you can be way more proactive about your future and your path than I would have realized. And yeah, I’m really, really excited that we had a chance–.
Mike Barrett: [00:04:03] Yeah. We got super lucky that she was the first one.
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:06] We did! I know.
Mike Barrett: [00:04:06] Not–if you’re one of the other people that we interviewed I don’t want you to be listening to this and be like “oh, they didn’t like me–
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:10] Every I mean, everyone has done so far has been amazing. But I didn’t really know a lot going in about what her job was. I just kinda knew generally she was in the corporate world.
Mike Barrett: [00:04:18] Right. She worked in an office.
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:21] Yeah. “An office, you say.” So, yeah, I–We are very excited, I think, to to share this with you guys; we hope that you get a lot out of it.
Mike Barrett: [00:04:30] Without further ado. You I think your voice just cracked. But I’m not going to point it out.
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:32] No, no. It definitely didn’t. Oh no. So yes, without giving any more away, or wasting any more of your time, let’s jump right into it, and you can hear from Alex herself.
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:46] We are here with Alex Bialik.
Mike Barrett: [00:04:50] Whose name rhymes.
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:51] With whom I went to high school.
Alex Bialik: [00:04:52] Yes.
Patrick Barrett: [00:04:52] Many, many years ago and, yeah–can you–I have a vague sense of what your job is, I don’t actually know what it is. So in your own words if you’d like to just give a brief introduction of who you are and what you do in as much detail as you feel like.
Alex Bialik: [00:05:07] Sure, so I work for a global consumer goods company. It’s called RB. I’m actually on the RB health side of the business. So we make products that you may be familiar with, like Lysol, Mucinex, Cepacol, Clearasil, Durex, KY.
Mike Barrett: [00:05:20] No, I’ve never heard of those.
Patrick Barrett: [00:05:22] What are these things?
Alex Bialik: [00:05:24] Yeah, so, yes, big, big brands that we’re all familiar with. And so I am actually a sales director. And so my team, across the country supplies all of our, does sales for all of our broker managed business, all of our grocery, mid-tier grocery customers, the entire convenience channel and the entire military channel. So if you go into any of those stores and you see any of our products–
Patrick Barrett: [00:05:48] Man–a lot of stuff.
Alex Bialik: [00:05:50] A lot of stuff–then it’s somebody on my team has helped to sell those products in, has helped to educate the stores about why things are where they are. You know, when you see something on a shelf in a certain place, my team helps guide them as to why we want it here and not six inches away.
Mike Barrett: [00:06:08] We know the word planogram, is that–
Alex Bialik: [00:06:16] Yup, that’s a planogram. My team does planograms, which are just like the pictures of what goes where on the shelf and why, there’s a science behind why.
Patrick Barrett: [00:06:22] I can ask you, we can ask you about that for easily, like, six hours, like the psychology behind it–I’ve heard a lot about it, like in a general sense–well, it’s a fascinating concept.
Mike Barrett: [00:06:32] So, yeah, several things. We have a list of questions here that you may be able to see, which I think don’t we’re ever actually going to ask.
Patrick Barrett: [00:06:40] Emergency backup questions.
Mike Barrett: [00:06:41] Yeah. Several things that you just said, I think are going to be phrases that, frankly, our audience has never heard before, such as mid-tier, broker-managed, you know, those kinds of things.
Alex Bialik: [00:06:53] Yeah, definitely.
Mike Barrett: [00:06:53] And I would like to explore those in a second, but first–
Patrick Barrett: [00:07:00] Did you know that the kind of literary interpretation your English teacher might love to hear in a classroom discussion will actually lead you to wrong answer choices to Reading Comprehension questions on tests like the SAT and the ACT? To find out more, look for our SAT Prep Black Book, Second Edition, and our ACT Prep Black Book, Second Edition, on Amazon.com.
Mike Barrett: [00:07:20] How did you in a more general, in a more broad sense, how did you even come to acquire that vocabulary and when you started in whatever position eventually led you to this position, what was the learning curve for that–were you specifically trained on those things or did you pick them up from just being around them, how did all that work?
Alex Bialik: [00:07:36] Yes. By no means did I come by that on my own. I was very fortunate to have found mentors early on at all stages of my career. And that happened very unofficially–like at no point did people ever say, like, “here’s your mentor.” Yeah, like it was people with whom I connected or who found me at any stage in my roles. And then I would just stay asking them questions and all that sort of thing. So that is some way that helped me probably pick things up quicker than I would have picked up if I would have waited for the regular training session to come my way.
Mike Barrett: [00:08:11] Can I ask you–sorry–again, it’s gonna be hard to like, balance all these questions I wanna ask–but would you say, do you think, and this might be a silly question, but if we were to speak to those people that you’re calling your mentors, would they say, “oh, yeah, I was her mentor,” or did they not even necessarily realize that you were viewing them in that kind of way?
Alex Bialik: [00:08:28] I would strategically at some point make it a point to tell them I looked at them as mentors to keep them.
Mike Barrett: [00:08:37] And you probably mentor people now and you’re like, oh, this person looks up to me–
Alex Bialik: [00:08:45] Yes, and it makes it harder for them to stop answering my questions. Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [00:08:54] That’s so interesting, like even that one little piece of advice–“call that person a mentor.”
Alex Bialik: [00:09:00] It worked well for me.
Mike Barrett: [00:09:01] Did you ever have it not work? Did you ever try to get that kind of relationship with somebody who just turned you away?
Alex Bialik: [00:09:08] I think at the point–nothing explicitly–but I think at the point that you find that that relationship isn’t mutually beneficial, that you almost just can tell. You can tell that it’s just uncomfortable. Like there is no, like, magic behind it. You just know, like, all right, I’m not getting the answers that I need or I’m not getting additional support. So there will be other people who will be there and be supportive. So kind of just a lot of it happens a little organically, and then you just force some of the, like, mentorship stuff where you, like, ask them to lunch. Or you ask people to be a part of your day who might not otherwise have been. And I was also very fortunate that somebody early on taught me to be brave and ask people, regardless of the level they were. So very early on I had the guts, I guess, like I was scared, but I had the guts to ask, like, VPs, you know, vice presidents to like, mentor me and like go to lunch with me. And I’m sure they probably hadn’t had a lot of people asking them. So they loved it. And a lot of them were more inclined to do it because nobody was–less people are bold enough to do that when you’re–especially earlier on.
Patrick Barrett: [00:10:16] Just by doing that, you’re demonstrating–like initiative is real–it’s a valued thing and it’s hard to have, and it’s intimidating. Yeah.
Alex Bialik: [00:10:22] And it was. Yeah. But the payoff was great because I made amazing relationships, many of whom I’m still connected. And I also learned a lot from people who were much further along, which taught me to think about things five, ten steps down the road, not just what’s next.
Patrick Barrett: [00:10:40] Yeah, beyond the current project or whatever.
Alex Bialik: [00:10:43] Yeah.
Mike Barrett: [00:10:43] Could you give an example of a time when one of these conversations or relationships over time led you to make a specific decision? Where you thought, “wow, if that person hadn’t done whatever, I would have gone this way instead of that way.”
Alex Bialik: [00:10:56] Totally. I have the perfect example of that. So when I first started right out of college, I was working for the Hershey Company, and I was in a retail sales role. And what that is, is I was a person who wore like khakis, carried a box cutter in my back pocket, and I would go to stores and help build displays for Halloween with product.
Patrick Barrett: [00:11:13] Like grocery stores?
Alex Bialik: [00:11:13] Like grocery stores, Wal-Mart. I would go into whatever store was on my list and I was not very good at that job because I was short. I wasn’t strong. I still am short, I’m still not strong.
Mike Barrett: [00:11:28] Neither of those were the things–I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
Alex Bialik: [00:11:29] So I was kind of starting from behind, even though the job itself was an incredible job and very rewarding. But some of the basics to just do some things were a little bit tougher for me. So I felt like I had to work a little harder. So the job was–and I enjoyed it. I got to go to stores constantly. But I went to a meeting one time and there was a guest speaker and he was in this world called Category Management and used all these words like I used a moment ago when I had no idea what the words were, and I thought it was all German, and it was so unusual to me because I just didn’t know it. And I went out of the way to introduce myself to him after the session and found out that he lived in the general region. So that was my connection. He lived in Florida and I was in Florida and I asked him if I could learn more about his job through talking to him. He quickly said, have you ever heard you know, have you thought about going into Category Management? I hadn’t, because I didn’t know that world existed. And he shared with me that that was the analytics side of the business, the thinking, the problem solving, the crunch–looking at data and finding a story. And so he said–yeah, so I didn’t know that that existed. Because I was packing out cases and displays on shelf and I didn’t know. So he said, if you want to go into that job, that’s not the normal route, after this job, but if you want to go down that path, you should probably start thinking with that kind of thinking cap in today’s job. So as you build displays, you should be telling your store managers, “hey, here are the numbers, here’s how the display worked, and it sold more Hershey kisses, or it didn’t, or here’s why you should do this versus green beans.” And so it unlocked for me this world that I didn’t even know. So I approached my current job differently. And then it also helped me think about, like, what was next, because I–I would have just kind of taken the path that was set out. That HR would normally say, “here’s what normally happens.” And that wouldn’t have been it. And then that turned into several years in Category Management, which is really, again, the science of how and why people shop the way that they do. And I loved it. So that was a very pivotal moment for me, especially since I wasn’t good in the sales role. The sales rep role.
Mike Barrett: [00:13:38] That’s really interesting. And you, just parenthetically, are a fantastic first podcast guest. I almost feel like we’re wasting you. So how did you come to have the retail job that you felt like you weren’t great at? How did that even happen?
Alex Bialik: [00:14:03] So I at the time, actually, when I was in college, I interned with a completely different company. I interned with CSX, a railroad company. And I was there for years and truly enjoyed that as well. But in my mind, I thought I wanted to kind of go different places and do different things. And so in school, I was a part of a group which is now called Enactus, and it’s like, you know, building projects and problem solving and helping bring, you know, opportunities to businesses and people. E-N-A-C-T-U-S, Enactus. It used to be SIFE. S-I-F-E, Students In Free Enterprise. So it used–so with that group that I was in college, amazing organization, I would recommend it to college kids everywhere–but that organization that I was a part of, they had this massive career fair.
Patrick Barrett: [00:14:55] Could anybody join this group?
Alex Bialik: [00:14:56] You know, yeah, sure. As long as there’s one at your college.
Patrick Barrett: [00:14:59] It’s not for a certain major or something.
Alex Bialik: [00:15:02] No, and that’s the beauty of it is when I was in that organization, I, because one of the projects we did was in Africa, I had the chance to go travel to Africa as part of being in that group. I had the chance to do project work within local schools and in the community, like it’s really, it’s a cool kind of community service-based organization, but that provides economic opportunity, and helps like, be kind of mini-consultants when you’re in college which is really cool. So I went to this massive career fair and I found Hershey, or they were a part of it and we found each other, and then they were like, “well, the way that you join is through this retail sales role.” And so it was kind of like the only path, but I loved Hershey, I loved the values that they had. Everybody loves Hershey. Yeah. And so that’s how I ended up in the role. And then it’s kind of like the one way to get in, or at the time, it was the way to kind of get into the role. So it worked out perfect.
Mike Barrett: [00:15:55] Wow. Cool. And how did you move from–did you go from Hershey straight to your current role? Or were there things in between?
Alex Bialik: [00:16:03] Yeah, so I first was in sales rep, I was actually down in like the South Florida-ish area. And when I got that big jump to category management, again, luckily I had had the good fortune of speaking with mentors who helped get me prepared–and even in that process, by the way, I was a little early on in applying for the job, that I ended up getting, but it was only because I had my manager was a great mentor to me, he had a buddy who connected me and did mock interviews with me and prepared me and took–it was very useful because I don’t know that I would have been as prepared had somebody not given me clues of what to–how to answer questions, how not, and so really by this unofficial network of mentors, I was very fortunate and got that job. And so I moved up to Hershey, Pennsylvania. I was there for several years in different category management functions that progressively had more responsibility. And then I joined RB in 2011 I Joined RB–
Patrick Barrett: [00:16:59] Are those different–is it like a parent company or a different company?
Alex Bialik: [00:17:01] No, it’s a completely separate company.
Mike Barrett: [00:17:03] Chocolate, Lysol. Which, if you’re managing categories, two very different categories.
Patrick Barrett: [00:17:09] Exactly. That’s like day one. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [00:17:13] These are things you can eat, these are things you can’t eat. Come back tomorrow. I’m sorry. Please go ahead.
Alex Bialik: [00:17:20] So, and what I will say is, for anybody who like, as they think about building a career, even probably at high school/college level, like LinkedIn is how this company found me. So a headhunter, a recruiting company, was recruiting for a role to fill in Florida. And because I had my–the college that I went to is in Florida, because I have roots in Florida. They found my information and they reached out to me and asked me to interview. So having a LinkedIn profile helped people reach out to me, which ultimately help me find this job–this company.
Patrick Barrett: [00:17:54] Yeah. So–for LinkedIn, I mean, is it straightforward, just fill out a profile, keep it up to date. Like, nothing special or fancy?
Alex Bialik: [00:18:02] Mine isn’t even fancy. Mine just has job titles, the school or whatever you studied, or even interests–like if you like data, or whatever. But I think probably most importantly, especially early on, is following companies that you’re interested in. So, LinkedIn, like any kind of social media platform, you can follow companies that pique your interest. And what’s great is if you want to go into consumer goods, or you want to go into the finance industry or whatever industry, or maybe you don’t know where you want to go, if you start following all these groups, you might actually–you kind of get a sense–yeah–and then you start hearing the language and then you start to kind of hear the language, speak the language before you even have to do it. So you’re a little bit more prepared, which helped. So then I’ve been at RB ever since. And then in progressively different roles since I joined almost eight years ago.
Mike Barrett: [00:18:51] Cool. How similar or dissimilar is your current role to the first role that you had at RB?
Alex Bialik: [00:18:58] So very different because I–my role has a lot of people management in it now. There’s a few layers of people below me. So it changes. I went from being an individual contributor, somebody who I really just had my own to do my own priorities–certainly that impacted other people, but I just had my own responsibilities.
Patrick Barrett: [00:19:17] Is this the first point in your career where you’re in that position of managing people?
Alex Bialik: [00:19:19] Yeah. And it was wonderful. And it was the best training ground to be able to prepare myself for having good habits, doing the right things. So now as I manage people, I can speak to what I did before and know what the good and bad habits I had and maybe still do, and try to correct them. So my role now is very much a function of people management. I before used to be more on the category analytical side, which is like the data; I now am more on the sales side of the business. So I interact with a lot of the customers, and the customers would be grocery accounts or military or convenience accounts. So I interact at a business-to-business level, more now, than I did before. That’s probably some of the main differences.
Mike Barrett: [00:20:05] Were you trained by the company to be a manager of people, or to what extent is that something that you’ve come up with on your own? And to what extent is it something that they kind of laid out for you, to do?
Alex Bialik: [00:20:14] So, there–different companies have different things. So within our company, we do have a lot of–what are they called, like webinar-type things, which will help you with kind of soft skills–what you can and can’t do. But there’s never been for me anyway–might be tattling if I should have been going to something. (Laughter) There’s never been a Manager 101. And what I will tell you, the best training ground has been things I’ve loved and have not loved about my past managers.
Patrick Barrett: [00:20:47] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Your own experience, being in that position.
Alex Bialik: [00:20:51] Yeah, even if you think about, like, relating it back to school. There are some types of teaching that you really enjoy and some that you don’t. And so, yeah, and every student is different. So for me, I try to remember that everyone on my team has a different style and they care about different things, which forces me to flex and act differently, and tailor things differently, motivate differently. But yeah so no, no class, although I’m sure that’d be interesting. But it’s hard because they’re probably isn’t a one size fits all.
Mike Barrett: [00:21:23] Sure, sure. Do you use any kind of personality tests or anything with your teams?
Alex Bialik: [00:21:27] Yes.
Mike Barrett: [00:21:27] OK. Which ones?
Alex Bialik: [00:21:29] So we recently did–gosh, I didn’t know I was gonna be put on the spot. We recently did one where we all have colors. I can’t remember the name, but it was actually a really great session. The company orchestrated it and it was a really amazing session where it was very interactive–like you found out what people’s conscious and subconscious, you know, who you are outwardly and then who you might be when no one else is around.
Mike Barrett: [00:21:55] And that’s an interesting thing, too, that I think maybe a lot of our our audience will probably otherwise never have someone say explicitly. The “you” that you think you are–
Alex Bialik: [00:22:05] Yes.
Mike Barrett: [00:22:05] –and the you that everyone else thinks you are–
Alex Bialik: [00:22:06] –might not be the same.
Mike Barrett: [00:22:08] Generally not, because, you know what’s going on inside your head.
Patrick Barrett: [00:22:11] There’s stuff that you know and assume about you that other people have no way of knowing.
Mike Barrett: [00:22:15] And that goes for strengths and weaknesses because you might think that you don’t have a strength that everyone else thinks you’re very good at; you might be very aware of a weakness that no one else has realized you have.
Alex Bialik: [00:22:22] So it can be humbling. It can be very humbling to think your strengths are one thing and then maybe you find, “oh, OK, externally, maybe they don’t–aren’t perceived that way.” Or more importantly, it helps you say, “oh, I’m really great at these things.” And so that’s how I can make sure the things that maybe aren’t my favorite parts or maybe I’m not wonderful at or maybe I still need to learn–it helps you find the other people who are good at it, and fill in the gaps.
Mike Barrett: [00:22:46] And that’s an important thing, too. It seems to me–I don’t know if you would agree–that a successful company or a successful organization doesn’t have like a whole bunch of people who are all basically good at everything. That doesn’t even really exist. Right. You have people who have specific things they’re good at, right, and you build a team.
[00:23:02] Totally. Yeah. So my team in particular, the folks who are especially in my immediate team, everyone is very different. And it’s funny because you–you kind of know everyone is different, but to see it plotted out on paper. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [00:23:17] “I always knew that guy was like that.”
Alex Bialik: [00:23:19] “Nailed it.” (Laughter) One thing I learned about myself, my personal style is I’m a very direct person, which could be good or bad.
Patrick Barrett: [00:23:29] Seems to be serving you well.
Alex Bialik: [00:23:38] Yeah, I suppose. And so for me, for example, the subconscious and conscious, those actually happen to be the exact same spots for me, which was a little bit more rare within our total organization–there’s only a few people who are like that–but it was great because our H.R. people, they did have classes on like, okay, “how can you make sure that you maybe don’t come off as direct all the time,” you know? So there–you know, that, those kinds of classes probably were the most beneficial. We’ve done a lot of those. We’ve done fun ones, too, that you can get free online. Like 16 personalities is a cool one that you can do for free on inside. And so those have been beneficial.
Mike Barrett: [00:24:14] How often do more people join your organization group? Like what should I call the people that you’re in charge of?
Alex Bialik: [00:24:20] So my team. So I actually just have two people who are new who just started. Both of them will be around at least a year. They’re actually entry level, kind of around college, just right out of college, this is either their first or third job right out of school. And they’re in analytical roles, so they’re actually going through training now. And that’s probably about the extent of it every year or two. But the folks who are in some layers below that, it could be as often as six months or it could be, I have some people on my team who have been in roles for 20 years. You know, so it’s very different. There isn’t a perfect formula.
Mike Barrett: [00:24:59] With that flux of people coming and staying different periods of time, when you are hiring–I don’t know if you make direct hiring decisions–
Alex Bialik: [00:25:07] Yeah.
Mike Barrett: [00:25:07] Okay, so when you’re doing that, are you thinking to yourself, okay, we’re filling this role and this person just left that role, and they were that kind of personality, I have to find somebody just like that kind of personality–
Alex Bialik: [00:25:18] No, I mean, I will think about what was that personality and more than the personality–because everybody has, like, their quirks–like, I don’t know that you would necessarily want my personality for everything, but my strengths and my opportunities are probably what matters more. So I would think about what strengths did that person bring and probably most importantly, what gaps were there in that region or what gaps were there. And then how do I find a way to make sure we don’t have those gaps again?
Patrick Barrett: [00:25:47] You have an opportunity to address that.
Alex Bialik: [00:25:47] Yeah, yeah.
Mike Barrett: [00:25:48] And again, it’s not, I think–please correct me–it’s not that gaps are bad. Everyone has gaps.
Patrick Barrett: [00:25:55] Awareness of them lets you react to them.
Alex Bialik: [00:25:58] Totally. Like, I have gaps and I strategically hire people who don’t have those gaps. So like, for example, I, you know, when you guys were coming here today, I barely gave you directions, like at the last minute of like, “oh, here’s how you get in the building.”
Mike Barrett: [00:26:13] That’s perfect for us, all of our life is lived that way.
Alex Bialik: [00:26:19] That might not be my strength, but I fortunately have some folks on my team who are amazing with that sort of thing. So it’s just like with the mentor kind of relationship–in any relationship, lateral or otherwise, to lean into the people around you, because you just can’t do it all. You know, and even if you can, it’s not sustainable.
Patrick Barrett: [00:26:38] Yeah, it’s not a solution to be the person who does everything.
Alex Bialik: [00:26:39] Yeah. Your network is incredibly important. Genuine relationships in your network help.
Mike Barrett: [00:26:46] Most guarantees for test prep courses make it sound like you can get your money back if you don’t like the course. But if you actually try to exercise that guarantee, you’ll probably get an unpleasant surprise. Most companies use tactics like requiring you to document your scores before and after their course to prove that the course really didn’t help you. Or even just rejecting your claim if you don’t attend every single class session in the course. In some cases, even if they do actually honor their guarantee, all that actually means is you get to take the same course over again–the course that failed to help you the first time around. But at Quest Prep, our guarantee is much simpler. If you’re unhappy with our online video course for the SAT or the ACT, all you have to do is let us know within 30 days and you get every single penny back. You don’t have to prove anything to us or jump through any hoops; if you don’t like the course, then we don’t want to keep your money. To learn more about the other unique attributes of our courses, stay tuned to the end of this episode, or just head over to QuestPrep.com and click the “Courses” tab.
Mike Barrett: [00:27:39] Sorry–when you were talking about your, your gaps and you mentioned earlier, good habits and bad habits–which I’m kind of going to lump those together, not exactly the same thing–did your mentors ever, or even non-mentor managers or co-workers, were they ever the ones who brought something to your attention?
Alex Bialik: [00:27:55] Yes. (Laughter) So, because–one of my, I guess–this is like the typical interview question and it sounds like it’s so contrite and not real–but one of my greatest strengths is also a terrible weakness of mine in that I am an insane perfectionist–like I want everything to be perfect.
Patrick Barrett: [00:28:19] That does sound like the–
Alex Bialik: [00:28:23] Yes, but it truly can, can be paralyzing for me. It can be paralyzing for me because I want everything to be perfect. And sometimes–
Patrick Barrett: [00:28:30] It can be hard to act because everything’s not lined up–
Alex Bialik: [00:28:33] Especially with data, like there’s what we call in this in this world, and probably a lot of industries, analysis paralysis. Right. Where like there’s so much opportunity to analyze everything and then you just, like, freeze. You just can’t actually get anything, or you go down rabbit holes. So very early on–actually, when I joined this company, especially–one of our core values, which I think they’ve since rebranded–but one of our core values, which was really challenge for me, was “speed over perfection.” And that may not work in every type of role, but it was really good for me because somebody had to sit me down, a boss of mine, and say “speed over perfection.” It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect. Get 90 percent of the way there, So that way you at least get feedback.
Mike Barrett: [00:29:18] Yeah. That’s something I was gonna add.
Patrick Barrett: [00:29:20] Most things are like an ongoing process. Like you’re gonna go back and adapt things and change things.
Alex Bialik: [00:29:22] Like everything’s not final.
Mike Barrett: [00:29:25] It’s almost never final. Nothing is, really.
Alex Bialik: [00:29:27] So for me, I was so worried about how it would look. Is it–is it going to be perfect? Are you going to judge if it’s–and like, they had to just say “just turn it in so I can even give you feedback and tell you it’s great or it’s terrible or it’s on track or it’s not.” So you don’t waste your time kind of going down a rabbit hole. That was really good feedback for me.
Mike Barrett: [00:29:46] I never really connected these ideas until now. And maybe there isn’t a connection. But I wonder if part of why a lot of people feel that kind of analysis paralysis might have to do with school and education. It’s very rare that you have a project that’s done in like 10 phases. And the goal is just get the first thing done today. Normally you’re driving yourself crazy having everybody, you know, look at it and maybe the teacher gives you like one or two sessions of “yeah, this is good” or “change that.” And then you turn in. I wonder, do you think there’s any connection, between those two things?
Alex Bialik: [00:30:17] Totally. Especially because one of the other things I learned early on that was a challenge for me was the time management and priority management.
Mike Barrett: [00:30:26] I’m awful at all of these things.
Alex Bialik: [00:30:27] Yes, and I do think that it can be kind of awful for everybody initially, especially in any new role, because you don’t know what’s the most important.
Patrick Barrett: [00:30:42] You don’t know what’s important yet.
Mike Barrett: [00:30:43] That’s true. How can you manage priorities when you don’t–yeah.
Alex Bialik: [00:30:44] Yeah. And, and then you also don’t know the dynamics of different people, and who’s whom, and, and how impactful is this versus the next project. So until you know how to traverse and navigate your way around the people in the landscape, you don’t even know what is important. So I early on got a planner at the time and I still use a physical planner, but I know people have gone to digital planners.
Mike Barrett: [00:31:09] Wow, Stone Age. Can you indicate with your fingers, like how thick, what are it’s dimensions?
Alex Bialik: [00:31:13] It’s, it’s like this, it’s like… this. (Laughter) But I also have a notebook with me, I like, I always am, you know, have that stuff, only because I just didn’t know. So I would do an exercise with my, one of my first bosses in Category Management where I would tell him all my priorities. And then he would say, “those aren’t your priorities.” (Laughter) And when I struggled with time–and he would also, I would have to put the due date. And he would also say, well, when–how long did it really take you? And then I would say, “oh, exactly as much as I thought.” So what I learned was the next week he would say, “how much did you actually get done, and how long did it take you?” It eventually turned into–how much, how–“I think Project X, this planogram, this whatever–is going to take six hours.” Well, then next week I would revisit it and realize, “oh, it actually took twelve hours.” My priorities-setting and my time management’s maybe not where it should be. So I had to kind of force myself to look at how long do I think something is gonna take versus how long it takes. And then it helped me be better at managing my time and priorities. Because otherwise–
Patrick Barrett: [00:32:23] You have a more accurate picture of what you’re really doing–which is hard to have–
Alex Bialik: [00:32:27] It’s very hard if you don’t take the time to assess “did it actually take me the time.” And it–yeah, I actually thought that was an exercise that felt very tedious. And “well why would I have to estimate the time?” I, still, whenever I have new analysts start, I now make them do that same process.
Mike Barrett: [00:32:44] And do you tell them, “hey, I used to think this was stupid too, but now I know it’s important?”
Alex Bialik: [00:32:48] Yes, 100%. I’m, again, very direct, sometimes too direct, and I’m very transparent. Like, I, you know, the two people who are starting this week, they’re in similar roles, and I’m sharing with them like “this is the tool that I use” actually I just did, and I said–especially one of them, he laughed at me when I gave him a notebook to start the job. (Laughter) Because he said, quote unquote, “writing is (laughter)” he just was like “writing is like in the Stone Age.” Alright, thank you for that. (Laughter) But it is–I told him, like, even though everyone is moving to phones, he at one point, he said this week, or last week, “let me write that down.” And he pulled his phone out and started to message it.
Patrick Barrett: [00:33:31] Mike does that.
Alex Bialik: [00:33:32] Yeah. Which, sure, is very normal. But I think a great lesson to remember is that not everybody is used to that. So it can be easy to think you’re just like playing a game on your phone. So sometimes we have to check ourselves.
Patrick Barrett: [00:33:47] And even if you’re not playing a game, it’s easy to start. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [00:33:52] And that’s another huge thing, I think, for the people who might be listening to this, and Hopefully there will be some–(Laughter)–which is that right now, you know, you guys are–I just turned 40, so I’m not going anymore–but you guys are pretty young–
Patrick Barrett: [00:34:06] “You guys got some good years left.”
Mike Barrett: [00:34:10] But there’s a tremendous difference between, say, the experience of you and a manager or boss who is 10 years older than you, versus someone who’s ten years younger than you. It’s like six generations of change from one employee to another. And I think that a lot of our listeners may not realize, to somebody else at your age or older, how totally off putting and rude it seems that they’re looking at a phone–they might actually be deeply engaged in research that’s super important to what you’re talking about–but it doesn’t feel that way. It always feels like–
Alex Bialik: [00:34:41] Or it’s Angry Birds. (Laughter) I don’t even know if that’s a thing that people look at anymore.
Mike Barrett: [00:34:45] I don’t think it’s been Angry Birds for a while. (Laughter) Yeah, but that’s, I just, I just wanted to call that out because it’s a really good example of that.
Alex Bialik: [00:34:57] So I–so, with that, just being aware, like especially since I’m in sales, like you always have to know your audience. You hear that all the time. But I think that especially translates not just into the people to whom you present, but it translates with the people who are in a room with you. Like, how do you not offend everybody by pulling your phone out–and also because it not only is being considerate of them, but we also, you know–not everybody has the same resources available to them, not everybody has–so it’s just to be about being considerate because we don’t know, you know–you don’t want to make an assumption about any group that you’re around or presenting to or working with or whatever.
Mike Barrett: [00:35:37] That’s really interesting, too. And something I think I have come to believe–I don’t know if it’s something that’s widely believed or not, but–you know, there was a period of time where I think a lot of people tried to multitask and believed that multitasking was like actually a possible thing, which I don’t really think it is–so, you know, you see, if you as a manager, a leader, you see someone on a phone, even if in their mind they somehow are listening to you completely and doing whatever they’re doing, it doesn’t look that way, right. You don’t feel that that’s what it is. And on some level, I’m sure it’s a little bit like “why do you not think I’m important enough to listen to.”
Alex Bialik: [00:36:12] Oh, yeah, and then for me as a manager–and, again, very direct–but as a manager, I’m going to think now–I guess the best example, there is a long time ago that I was a waitress and I loved that job, by the way, really–
Patrick Barrett: [00:36:22] Where does that fit into the whole timeline we’re building, so is that college…
Alex Bialik: [00:36:25] I was in college, so while I also worked at the railroad. So I did waitressing, yeah. So–so in, I was a waitress at that time and I always wrote the order down when they gave it to me because I didn’t want to make a mistake because I can make mistakes. Now as a, as a customer, if I sit down and we give you a long order and you don’t write anything down and you mess it up, I’m going to be upset because I knew you had the opportunity to write it down–it’s not like you wrote it down and, like, maybe it got translated wrong and like, it wasn’t legible. No, you had a chance, and you didn’t. So now translate that to my day job. If I’m talking to you, and you’re on your phone, and I don’t know what you’re doing–you had a chance. And so now I’m gonna maybe be more upset if you don’t meet the mark.
Patrick Barrett: [00:37:12] Whereas you’re demonstrating effort if you’re at least doing it–if you get it wrong it’s like “well–
Alex Bialik: [00:37:16] “I tried.” But I think the optics are important, as anybody is in a new role, in changing roles, or in their existing role, optics are a lot of it, too. You want to show people that you care as much as you actually care.
Patrick Barrett: [00:37:29] You’re kind of making small impressions all the time, like with the whole importance of the mentor situation, like you mentioned–that could be a huge thing, the difference between, you know, somebody is talking and you’re looking at your phone, or someone is talking and–you know what I mean?
Alex Bialik: [00:37:39] Totally. Big difference.
Mike Barrett: [00:37:41] And something else kind of along those lines, which I think might be a new idea for a lot of our audience: when you are out here in the real world, you’re like playing for keeps. It’s not like, you know, if you had a college assignment due or something, and you got a C on it. That’s just–you know, that affects you only, really, for the most part. But when you’re building this team, if there are people on the team who aren’t doing whatever it is that they need to be doing and how you’ve laid everything out, the livelihoods of the other members of the team are affected. The company is affected. You know, it’s, it’s–I would liken it to being on a professional sports team. If you have one of the athletes who just isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do.
Patrick Barrett: [00:38:21] Other guys can get hurt or–
Mike Barrett: [00:38:25] Right, exactly, so it’s not just write this down because I want to feel like writing it down, it’s write this down because like–this matters, it’s super important.
Alex Bialik: [00:38:34] You know, like that whole thing of “you’re only as good as the weakest link.” It really does–it really does resonate. I mean, in my world, with sales, especially, but in every industry, a lot of what you do–it’s kind of like group projects. Remember that group project is the grade that everybody gets?
Mike Barrett: [00:38:50] That used to drive me crazy. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [00:38:53] And I did not love group projects, but I didn’t realize that there was nothing that prepared me more for the corporate world than group projects. You don’t get to decide who’s in your group, and even if you do, you often make bad choices because what you think about somebody who is not necessarily–
Mike Barrett: [00:39:09] Sorry, I just had a massive realization just now, because let me tell you what I used to do for every group project, from college on, I would just go to the people and say, “is it okay if I do this whole project? And then I would. Huh. Anyway, please continue.
Alex Bialik: [00:39:26] So–case in point. So, I think that was the best–like, in retrospect, I now see the value of those projects that were really a challenge, but there’s no better training ground than doing it there were like you said, it really mostly only affects you. Maybe you’ll get a particular grade, but that’s the time in school to learn how to deal with personalities, how to have tough conversations where people are or not, you know, picking up their weight. So that way, when you get into the real world, no matter what type of role you do or what industry you play in, you will be in a massive group project every day.
Patrick Barrett: [00:40:04] Life is the ultimate group project. It seems like the ability to just talk to someone, work with people, interact with them, communicate, like be direct–it’s such a huge thing and it’s–I think it’s probably hard to teach or learn, but I think it’s more that it’s not–nobody’s really giving it a shot. I feel like we’re–people are more and more isolated with phones and whatever, and you can, you can message someone instead of calling them, or you know what I mean, you can avoid the actual moment where you’re finally just talking to someone. You can choose to avoid that. And I think that the more people don’t make that choice, especially in the corporate world or, you know, you make these really important connections, and you kind of have a–we’re at a time where that’s more unusual, maybe more difficult to do, but you kind of make yourself stand out more probably by actually just doing it like–
Alex Bialik: [00:40:52] Agreed. I have a rule, with my own rule, and that I try to encourage other people on my team to do. If you can see them in person, go walk over to them and say it. If you can’t go walk over to them, then call them. If you can’t call them, then you may email them. If you cannot email them–
Patrick Barrett: [00:41:06] That is the exact opposite of what everyone else does!
Alex Bialik: [00:41:14] Right, like text should be your last option after instant message. Like, you should–
Patrick Barrett: [00:41:17] It’s that granular. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [00:41:18] But it is because the more you get into the back and forth, the more chances to misinterpret what somebody said. You don’t hear tone, you don’t know if somebody’s serious–and actually when you get into especially corporate settings, it doesn’t matter whether your tone is a joke or whatever. We go through legal trainings in my world. And so every year, you take legal–it’s serious. Like you cannot put something on email or text that you don’t mean, regardless of tone. You know, so it’s a little bit different than kind of the other setting. So if you can do it in person or on the phone, that’s always–even though it feels so archaic, it’s a good way to also connect with people. And I’ve made a lot of really great connections just from that. And then people are more willing–once you meet somebody or talk to them in person–
Patrick Barrett: [00:42:07] It’s easier to approach them later about other stuff.
Alex Bialik: [00:42:08] It’s easier. And then you learn their motivations, like you mentioned. You learn what’s important to them, so you then maybe address your request differently next time. And sometimes that’s the difference of getting, you know, the support you need or the support that you can help somebody else with.
Mike Barrett: [00:42:22] Yeah. When you mentioned hard conversations, what percentage of the time, roughly, would you say a conversation that you have falls into the unpleasant category?
Alex Bialik: [00:42:35] Probably–I guess it just depends on the type of role that you’re in. Probably a small percentage. And I think the more you do the right things consistently, the more you avoid getting into a bad situation, like the more you try to connect with people, the more that you’re, like trying to connect with them and not do e-mails and IMs all the time, and the more that you find a way to get to know the people and what you’re doing and take time to set objectives, then the less you find yourselves in situations where either you’re the subject of a tough conversation, or you’re handing one to another person. And that’s where feedback is important, too, is, if you are a manager or you are an individual contributor, you should constantly ask for feedback. And like there should never–you shouldn’t wait just till halfway through the year when it’s usually standard at the end of the year, you should say, “is this good? Are you OK with this?” Like, “am I on the right track?” And it’s OK. They might say “no,” but if you don’t ask them, how will you know if you did it right, or not?
Patrick Barrett: [00:43:34] And you’re demonstrating “I care if I’m doing it right,” you know, like “it matters to me whether I’m sitting here wasting time. I know this is important.”
Alex Bialik: [00:43:42] And it’s a lot harder to be upset or bothered or disappointed in somebody’s work when you know that they care enough to ask if it’s right. Very rarely will people be bothered with taking time to make sure you get it right. Very rarely.
Mike Barrett: [00:43:58] Do you find as you sort of progress upwards through the levels of your career, do you find that people the higher up you get are generally more competent, empathic, understanding or less? Or that there’s no correlation?
Alex Bialik: [00:44:14] I think there’s probably not–depending on the company that you’re at–there’s probably not a guaranteed correlation. I think there’s probably a correlation between success at those levels and acceptance and people wanting to be a part of those people’s teams. But quite frankly, some people are in roles because they inherited a role from another place or because it was an obvious transition or because they have the right skill set and maybe they’re not that good at the interpersonal stuff. I do think there’s a relationship with their ability to get a team to follow them and to believe and to be excited about coming to work. But there’s not necessarily, like you have to be that way. I do think that you can be more successful more quickly and be–and enjoy what you do if you harness that.
Mike Barrett: [00:45:02] Which is another part of it, like the enjoyment. Everyone’s happier. Helps productivity. Plus it just makes your life worth living.
Patrick Barrett: [00:45:09] This is your actual life.
Alex Bialik: [00:45:14] Yeah, you should enjoy it though.
Mike Barrett: [00:45:16] Yeah, absolutely. One thing that I’ve been struck by as I become an old man–
Patrick Barrett: [00:45:21] Rapidly.
Mike Barrett: [00:45:25] Aging before your eyes, I have friends who are in more corporate roles. (Laughter) But, you know, people who have risen to impressive levels, such as yourself, you know, in their organizations. And one thing that I really didn’t understand was the case at all is the extent to which you kind of can–like the higher up you get, and the more people you have that you’re in charge of, the more you can actually shape your team. So it’s not as though the company that you work for says, “okay, every manager has to do things exactly like this, you know, and everything has to always be the same.” And then here’s your marching orders and you do it. That’s kind of what it’s like when you’re an hourly employee in a lot of, like, customer-facing roles, I think, right? But the higher up you get, the more you have the–not only the option, but you must, like you have to–like you said, there’s no Manager 101.
Alex Bialik: [00:46:26] Yeah. I think some of that is inherent with the company culture. So it sounds very like the thing that you read when you’re practicing for your first interview is “what’s the company culture?” And you don’t really know what that means–and what I will say, I have thoroughly enjoyed my company now, and also enjoyed RB, and even CSX–all three of them had very different cultures. And how I would have been a people manager at each place probably would have been very different. Different companies give you different autonomy, or the ability to flex and have independence, and, and at different stages. At this company that I’m at, It’s very much about ownership. Again, going back to those original values that were in place when I was hired, that I think they’ve rebranded, it was team spirit, not teamwork, as an example. It was like “think about the team, but get your job done.” So which is a little bit different than at Hershey where they were–again, not a good or bad–but it was more about like the handholding to reach something, at the same place, the decision together. So here, for example, like if I want to add people to my team, maybe that might be something that I would have to get bigger approvals because there’s a financial implication. But within the budget that I have, or within the constraints that I have, I can take my team on big trips, I can, you know, do fun things for my team. We recently were customer team of the year out of all the teams in the country. That will only happen maybe once so I have to put it out there and let it live forever. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [00:47:59] “This is going on the Internet.”
Alex Bialik: [00:48:00] Yes, the worldwide web now knows. So but, but with that, like, you know, if you get like a little bit more discretion and a little bit autonomy, to like go reward your team and do things like that. So there is a lot of autonomy even in just people motivation. And then also I get to decide within my team how everything works. I think that’s a good caveat, though, like I say that, I could just go in and say, “you’re all going to do it this way.” For me personally, though, I’m constantly surveying the team and I’m constantly asking how everybody would like to do it, just to make sure that it works for the most people, because if nobody’s buys in–and getting their buy in–because if I don’t get their buy-in, initially, then it’s going to be a lot harder to get their investment of energy and time. And I do the same when I sell to customers. I try to preview what I’m going to sell to them so they have some buy-in and they’re excited, so then when I go in and sell, kind of, they’ve already seen a preview and they’re more inclined to be interested.
Mike Barrett: [00:49:01] Do you think that your waitressing career had any impact on how you do things?
Alex Bialik: [00:49:04] 100 percent. I really feel like I’m just like opening up this can of worms. Also in college, at one point, I did telemarketing. I’ve done a lot of things to get to this place, but all of them had a very–probably shouldn’t hit the table–noises! All of them had a very similar thread which was just selling, and instead of it just being selling, it was just this genuine belief in a product. Yeah. Like when you’re a waitress, you don’t sell, like, meat loaf if you don’t like meat loaf. Right, because you can’t stand behind that–
Mike Barrett: [00:49:34] Or if you saw it that day and you’re like–(Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [00:49:41] “Not my favorite, but what my favorite is…” And so I think waitressing was an amazing job because every single time I got the chance to, like, change my pitch. Every single time I got the chance. Nobody liked strawberry lemonade. All right, I’m going Arnold Palmer next table. (Laughter) Or I also would test myself and we would have like competitions within our team, either formally or informally: who could sell, you know, bagels, faster, or muffins faster, or whatever. And so it is a good training ground if you want to get into sales. whether you think about it or not, because sometimes in my world you get one shot once a year with some customers.
Mike Barrett: [00:50:16] Really good point.
Alex Bialik: [00:50:18] And if you miss it–(Laughter)–like if you said strawberry lemonade and you should have gone Arnold Palmer–you might not make it. So that’s why like the research and the prep work and all that stuff is important.
Mike Barrett: [00:50:30] I think too a lot of people would have had those roles those telemarketing roles, waitressing roles. I was a waiter myself, so I feel like you always feel like a kinship to other people who have–
Alex Bialik: [00:50:41] Totally! Totally.
Mike Barrett: [00:50:41] But I think a lot of people, certainly before they’ve gone into the real world, they might look down on those kinds of entry-level positions. I really think, though, if you take the time, you put the initiative into, just notice what’s going on around you and to say to yourself “well I am waiting tables today–whether it’s what I wanted to do with my life or not, here I am–how can I do the best possible job? How can I learn? And then it carries you.
Alex Bialik: [00:51:08] Absolutely. And I, I really, genuinely loved waiting tables.
Mike Barrett: [00:51:11] Yeah, me too, it was great!
Alex Bialik: [00:51:13] And I got, like, money every day as opposed to having to wait a long time.
Mike Barrett: [00:51:17] And also like the exercise, because you’re constantly moving around.
Alex Bialik: [00:51:20] I genuinely liked the role. And in telemarketing, a lot of people hated it, but I liked it because I’m not as afraid for somebody to tell me “no,” because nobody tells you know, like getting calls and being hung up on constantly. So you learn to build a little thick skin and not necessarily take everything personally. And all of those things prepared me just for like–one of the things again in all this like preparation of going to the real world, you hear about elevator pitches. You know, that idea of like having a short thing to say quickly to people, you know, to tell them what you’re working on, who you are, whatever. There’s no quicker elevator pitch than like, “hi, welcome to the restaurant, like, here’s our special.” Or, “hi, I’m trying to sell you on phone service,” which was landline–also dates me. (Laughter) “Long distance calling is only so much money.” That was a thing, Google it. So there’s no better way like–every role, regardless of what you want to eventually do, whether it’s that or something else, like there is application. The retail sales role, that I wasn’t wonderful at, like I learned a lot in that role. And I, I had to meet a lot of people constantly, and like deal in those kinds of things.
Mike Barrett: [00:52:35] And how many people would have sat and listened to the presentation by the guy who became your mentor, and just been like “oh, well, it doesn’t really apply to me.”
Alex Bialik: [00:52:41] Everybody else. (Laughter) In fact, one of the reasons it was easy for me to go up and talk to him was because he was just kind of standing there.
Patrick Barrett: [00:52:55] That’s amazing to think of you. Like if you could have followed the path of every other person, like, up to today.
Mike Barrett: [00:53:00] Who may have all gone to do incredible things–but very different.
Alex Bialik: [00:53:03] But a different path.
Patrick Barrett: [00:53:05] Yeah, making that choice of approaching that person or not. So here’s the thing I was going to say before when I almost had the chance. So I feel like a common theme here is being direct and assertive, and having, like–being engaged with like what you actually want, and the idea that you’re progressing to the next thing or whatever. And I feel like a lot of that is a certain mentality–like you said, when you were a waitress, you think, oh, “can I sell these drinks? Can I do this?” You know, and where–certain people–you know, there’s a spectrum, certainly, but there are people with more of an attitude of like, “I’m just going to show up at 5:00 p.m. and leave at 1:00 a.m. from this restaurant” or whatever I have to do versus, you know, “I’m going to see what I can get done today, I’m gonna change my pitch,” or whatever. And certainly that can be the person’s attitude, it could be the way their boss is, if the boss is, terrible and you just hate being there or whatever. So there’s two divergent things I want to ask about; I’ll go with this one. So do you–and that can be applied obviously to a restaurant, it can apply to any company–do you have any sense of… like if someone feels like they’re in a company where they don’t have the chance to be in a good culture or, you know, make progress or work and be rewarded for their work or whatever, is there any way to kind of, if you were applying for a job, to think like–you said, you loved Hershey’s, so did you know you loved them already when you started working there because you were able to do some research? Or was it like once you started the job, you got a sense of like “oh, this feels like a place where, if I put in my effort, I’ll get it back, what I’m putting in,” you know? How do you find that, do you think?
Alex Bialik: [00:54:41] I, I really appreciated the people with whom I interviewed, just as a starting point. I loved that I cared about ENACTUS, the group that I was in, and they cared enough to go there and recruit from there. So I knew that my values were at least aligned at that level. The things that I thought were important to me, they at least–.
Patrick Barrett: [00:54:59] They kind of met you there.
Alex Bialik: [00:54:59] So they met me there. So that was very helpful. And then the people with whom I interviewed–I ended up leaving where I was to go to Hershey, and it wasn’t even the best job from a salary perspective–.
Patrick Barrett: [00:55:14] Was that CSX you left?
Alex Bialik: [00:55:14] So I left–and I had been at CSX for three years, and I loved them, too–very different culture, but I really liked them–and I, the Hershey job was even less money. So it wasn’t even money that drew me. It was the connection to the manager that interviewed me.
Patrick Barrett: [00:55:29] The individual person?
Alex Bialik: [00:55:30] The individual person. He personally sold me on it. I knew I didn’t want to go–I knew that I wasn’t probably going to be good, like I just had a gut feeling that I probably wasn’t going to love that job.
Patrick Barrett: [00:55:41] This is the retail thing where you were short and not strong enough?
Alex Bialik: [00:55:46] Yeah–in fact, to do the interviews, how I knew that I wasn’t gonna be great at it is, Hershey tries to prepare you for it–
Patrick Barrett: [00:55:52] Your performance in the combine? (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [00:55:53] They actually tried to avoid that situation. Because they take everybody on a field day while you’re interviewing. So you do the job. So you see it for yourself. And I have these great ambitions, but I also in the back of my mind was like, “how do you reach the top shelf?” (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [00:56:16] That’s not a metaphor–that actual shelf.
Alex Bialik: [00:56:20] Like, do I carry a step stool? I feel like I might not be ready. (Laughter) But, what I would say is in the interview, my final interview, and I had this roomful of people and they asked me, like, how did you feel the day was, I just like, used as–I was still nervous, it was a panel interview, it was me and several people, I used that as an opportunity, they’re like “and what did you not like about the job?” I was like, “well this might be more of a me thing than a Hershey thing–
Patrick Barrett: [00:56:45] “This is kind of my burden to bear.”
Alex Bialik: [00:56:48] But it also helped like, the way that we’re laughing, they all laughed, because that wasn’t a normal answer. But it was an honest answer. And not everybody has to be direct and assertive, but being honest and being genuine is probably the underlying thing.
Patrick Barrett: [00:57:05] Because you’re going to stand out. If you can be direct and pleasant–
Alex Bialik: [00:57:08] That’s even better.
Alex Bialik: [00:57:08] You’re very quickly sorted into another pile.
Patrick Barrett: [00:57:15] Interesting. So, and then the other direction I was thinking of going in was–like, you seem–and it’s funny because we went to the same high school, we weren’t like directly in the same circle of friends, but we were like friendly, you know, and I had an impression of you as like a strong, sort of like direct kind of person, you know, even then. What is that–I think a lot of people feel like they’d like to be that way, like that it would be useful, but they’re like, quote unquote, just not that way, right, already. Like, is that something that you ever cultivated? Were you kind of raised that way? Do you have, like, a memory, you know, earlier in your life of, I kind of started down this path of like, I’m going to, not be afraid to talk to people or–
Mike Barrett: [00:57:54] A similar thing, if you could work this into your answer too (Laughter) and I’ll take my answer, out of the room–no, when was the first time that you specifically said to yourself, “I am an assertive, direct, honest person?”
Alex Bialik: [00:58:10] I don’t know that there was ever a time in my life it was a question. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [00:58:12] As soon as you knew those words you were like “that’s me.”
Alex Bialik: [00:58:19] I think I was bothered at the idea of Type A when I learned what it was, because I was so annoyed that people call themselves Type A, and they were like nowhere near what I really thought Type A should have been. (Laughter) I was like “the only thing that’s worse than Type A is like people pretending to be Type A. That’s worse.” So I think it’s twofold, and I’ll answer both questions, I think it’s twofold. Yes, I think there is something that’s just in me personally, and that’s kind of my personality, which has both its pros and cons. But I do think you can cultivate it. So from who I am and like when, kind of that–when I knew, like at a very, very young age, I was very, like, there was no question. There was a time, one of my favorite stories was at four years old, I was at a daycare and the tea–we went home and tattled because something was not great. And the teacher pulled me and my sister aside and said, “well, why did you go home and tattle?” And my answer was, “well, if you didn’t give me anything to tattle about, I wouldn’t go home and tattle.”
Patrick Barrett: [00:59:13] Nice, wow.
Alex Bialik: [00:59:13] So, like, I’m basically the same exact person thirty years later, I am the same human. So some of that is who I am. But what I’ve cultivated is a sense of tact and–a semblance of it–
Patrick Barrett: [00:59:29] It’s like your internal self and your external self, like “how do I present this in the most successful way?”
Alex Bialik: [00:59:37] I learned how to do it with a sense of other people, how it will impact other people.
Patrick Barrett: [00:59:42] That not everybody has that exact same–
Alex Bialik: [00:59:44] And it is off-putting. Like it can be off-putting, and probably mostly is–not just can be, it probably is off-putting. So I have to remember that, like, for me, a lot of things are very transactional, and–or can be very transactional–
Mike Barrett: [00:59:57] Sorry by transactional you mean–
Alex Bialik: [00:59:59] I want to get something done, make it happen, “this is efficient, so obviously, since it’s the most efficient, we should all agree that this was the way we should do it, five minutes ago. Why are we talking about it?” But then I have to remember that people might have put–people did put time and energy into the decision-making. My way is not always–yeah, you have to take into account other people’s feelings, and other people’s like, effort and energy they put into it. So how do they cultivate it if maybe they aren’t–if they don’t flex that today, I think is like taking the time to constantly think about what their objectives are and ideas with people on my team.
Patrick Barrett: [01:00:37] And so, like–of course you have to do that and a lot of people are just like–it doesn’t–I think some people don’t have the sense that they can get to whatever those goals are, so what’s the point in thinking about it.
Mike Barrett: [01:00:46] Right. If you don’t believe that you can reach that place, you’re almost torturing yourself thinking oh, someday I would like to do this.
Alex Bialik: [01:00:56] That’s like a great example. Like on the weekend, if you know you have X, Y and Z to do, you will try to build your weekend around it because you only have two and a half days to get it done. And you think with the rest of your life, if you know that you want to accomplish XYZ goal, like think about it and how closer and faster can I get there, whether with the people who help me, or the resources I’m choosing to use, and taking the time to carve it out. Even with my team today, I’m constantly reminding the team, how do we make sure we know what the objectives are, and tell people “this is my objective.” Because a lot of times people at work will ask me, “can I get these sales numbers?” And instead of me just giving the number, I will say, “why do you need the sales numbers?” Because they might think that’s what they want. But then when they tell me what they’re actually trying to achieve, I can give them this–
Patrick Barrett: [01:01:43] That’s like your mentor. “These are my priorities.” “No, those aren’t your priorities. I see where you thought that.”
Alex Bialik: [01:01:50] So I tried to take the time to not just tell people what I want, but why, and then ask other people.
Patrick Barrett: [01:01:56] Then maybe you’ll find out that you don’t really want what you thought you want.
Mike Barrett: [01:01:58] Yeah, that’s true, because you yourself might be in the position of thinking you need the sales numbers or whatever.
Alex Bialik: [01:02:02] And that might not even be it.
Mike Barrett: [01:02:02] And it’s actually not even the right question.
Patrick Barrett: [01:02:03] It’s interesting because you’re in the position right now–because you’re not like the entry level–where you’re simultaneously the person who’s also trying to advance her own career and have her own–find her own mentors or whatever, and also doing for other people, and, like you said, you need to be a good manager, you’re trying to think, “well, what was it like for me when I was that person?” That’s an interesting kind of–like, both sides of it.
Alex Bialik: [01:02:23] And I think it’s always important to think about how the people laterally next to you, the people below and above you, are taking every situation in, you know, into account–whether or not you’ve been there or not, like you should think about “how might they process it? How might they think about it?” And “can I make it easier for them?” Or “can I make it simpler to have this exchange be efficient, but also pleasant?” I think that’s very helpful.
Mike Barrett: [01:02:48] Sorry, that reminded me of some things that I wanted to circle back to, because it is kind of a sales thing, too. “How can I make this a thing that you can say, yeah, let’s do that?”
Alex Bialik: [01:02:55] Totally.
Mike Barrett: [01:02:56] And you mentioned something that I think I would also like to sort of highlight, because I think a lot of people, when they are in a high school/college time period, they’re sort of turned off by the word “sales.” I think a lot of people think of something that’s unethical, or whatever. And what you said about believing in a product, that to me is the key differentiator between ethical sales and not. If you really know that the thing you have is actually useful–and on top of that, it almost kind of sells itself at that point.
Alex Bialik: [01:03:31] And you use the product, you know, or you use the service or whatever. But I think that goes back to even–before you’re looking at companies that you want to join you–there should be a constant reflection, not just on your priorities, but like, “what are my values, what’s important to me?” If, an environmentally sustainable thing–if I try to live waste=free, I should probably not go work for a company that is not waste-free. But, you know, my company has a carbon footprint plan to decrease their carbon footprint. That’s something that resonates with me. So that’s important. If my company, you know, does philanthropic things–if those things are important to you, you should find companies that have them. There’s a company for everybody out there. Don’t, you know–and it’s OK if you end up in one place first and you work your way to what–it doesn’t have to be the perfect spot to begin with, in fact, in my opinion, you only find that great place to call home after you found some not-home places.
Mike Barrett: [01:04:29] It’s a bit like the speed over perfection thing. Like if you don’t get out there and start doing stuff, how are you going to know?
Patrick Barrett: [01:04:33] And then meet people, and then develop maybe those mentor relationships. Get your LinkedIn profile filled out.
Alex Bialik: [01:04:40] Yeah. And following other people to, so you kind of a pulse on what else is out there. And what jobs are out there too I’m big–like I’ll go on LinkedIn, I’ll see a job title that I’ve never seen before, and then I just Google it.
Patrick Barrett: [01:04:53] Yeah. Spend the next 20 minutes becoming an expert on whatever that thing is.
Mike Barrett: [01:04:56] That’s a really good point, too, because so many people, when they’re in the education phase, if you ask them like “name all the jobs you can name,” they could probably think of like 20 jobs, tops. Doctor, engineer, you know those ones, that’s it. But right, in one space, in one company, one team, you can have dozens of job titles people never heard of before.
Alex Bialik: [01:05:13] Totally. And sales gets a bad rap, but I will say I’m pretty positive, like at this stage, it’s just to keep other people out, because sales is amazing. I love sales, and there isn’t anything that you do in your life where sales wasn’t a part of it. Like, every single thing that you have, absolutely.
Mike Barrett: [01:05:37] Also, I think a very useful thing when you have done sales in any capacity–and waiting tables for me certainly is a great example of that–you can also tell when someone else is trying to sell you. Which is a very useful thing to know. It doesn’t even mean that it’s bad necessarily, but you can tell, like, “oh, this person is trying to get me to believe something that maybe I wouldn’t believe on my own.”
Alex Bialik: [01:05:56] It changes all of your interactions, like it changes when you call the cell phone company and you’re trying to, like, change a feature and they’re like–
Patrick Barrett: [01:06:04] And they’re trying to stop you–
Alex Bialik: [01:06:05] And you’re like, “I can almost read the script,” like, “I see it.” So it just changes all of your interactions. And it helps you, for me, it helps you think about what could come next, and like think about patterns before they happen. So you’re ready to even interact with your friends in a different way, because you already, you’re thinking about things–I love sales. It gets a bad rap!
Mike Barrett: [01:06:27] It gets into the psychology of marketing and all that stuff and building a team, leading a team–it’s not technically sales, but it is exactly the same stuff at work.
Alex Bialik: [01:06:35] Absolutely, it’s all part of it.
Patrick Barrett: [01:06:38] So do you like–it’s funny because you said earlier with the personality test thing that like the conscious and unconscious things for you were like–you knew what you’re doing. So when you were in high school, did you have any, did you think, like, “I’m going to be like a corporate–like this–you know, are you in the position you thought you were gonna be in? Did you have another vision?
Alex Bialik: [01:07:03] No. I was gonna go into go into political science. Like, I actually–
Patrick Barrett: [01:07:05] In high school?
Alex Bialik: [01:07:07] Yeah. I was certain I was going to do political science, I would go maybe into law, or become like a community advocate or something. I would go into some public service like that, something like that I thought that I would go in to. And when I went in to start to learn about political science and asking the questions and realized, “oh, wait, your entire world is on display,” like there’s like–you don’t have a lot of personal, private stuff.
Mike Barrett: [01:07:31] And that’s–you were realizing that before, like Instagram and stuff. It has only become way worse.
Patrick Barrett: [01:07:37] Listeners–there was no Facebook. I didn’t even think of that. Unbelievable. It was too public for you before–before everything was public whether you wanted it to be or not. Even this is too public. So, when you said you did that research, was that while you were still in high school, or was that once you got to college and looked into it?
Alex Bialik: [01:07:53] College. So I was still in my–those like general kind of classes, those first, like–there weren’t even a lot of general classes. But I was just like asking questions and–
Patrick Barrett: [01:08:03] Oh, the general–poli-sci-specific, but the early ones.
Alex Bialik: [01:08:05] Yeah, yeah. Like general education, I don’t know. So I just was asking questions very early on, like, maybe first semester, I realized–oh well, you know what would be good? Marketing is good, because marketing is like selling yourself but by way of a product. So I can still do it–like I realized that that was like my pivot.
Patrick Barrett: [01:08:28] A more like flexible lifestyle, kind of thing.
Alex Bialik: [01:08:30] And I figured, like, I didn’t want–I still want to be involved and learn and do all those things, but I really just got excited about the idea of being in sales, and like–and not even sales, like, marketing, is what I thought is what I wanted to be in. Like I was going to be a marketer. I was going to, like, do all the marketing things. And I didn’t even know what meant. (Laughter) But I was gonna be a marketer. But it sounded flashy. I liked it.
Mike Barrett: [01:08:55] Well, it’s such a good blend too of the soft skills plus the data part, you know all the–
Alex Bialik: [01:09:00] I didn’t even know that. (Laughter) I just thought marketing sounded like a good major in like the College of Business. But then because it didn’t have enough of the data, I ended up doing like a lot of the quantitative logistics stuff. So that was very–because I was at CSX, the railroad, and they had a lot of logistics, so–“Oh, I’ll just pick this up, too.” But I really didn’t know. I didn’t know where I would land. And luckily I just asked a lot of questions and had people guide me.
Patrick Barrett: [01:09:31] It sounds like you’re doing the stuff that I hope that the high schoolers that I hope are listening to this will do, which is to research, to find out, you know–like there’s so much information; there’s way more information–.
Alex Bialik: [01:09:43] We didn’t even have the same level of Google.
Mike Barrett: [01:09:47] Which is a good thing and a bad thing, because the good information can be drowned out by not-that-great information.
Patrick Barrett: [01:09:54] But yeah, the opportunity to just find out, like, “what is this actually like?” You know what–“what am I kind of signing up for?” And “might there be something that, that makes more sense?” So when you were in high school, did you–know we do–a lot of the people that we talked to, obviously, we get people ready for standardized tests–so they got that on their minds, you know, they’re thinking about test scores and admissions and all that stuff. So do you remember a period around high school where you were, like, stressed out about that? Like, were you worried about testing or worried about admissions?
Mike Barrett: [01:10:26] And can I, sorry, I just want to offer this one interruption–
Patrick Barrett: [01:10:26] Oh, please! (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:10:37] Do you–please feel free–actually I don’t even have to say this because you’re so direct, like we’ve been talking about. But if the answer is “yeah, I worried about that. It’s actually not that important,” please feel free to say that. Don’t feel like you need to–
Patrick Barrett: [01:10:50] For real, because I think a lot of people that we talk to… it’s like life and death.
Mike Barrett: [01:10:54] For them–they think it is.
Patrick Barrett: [01:10:57] And one of the things you want to express is like: it’s good to like, meet this challenge head-on, do your best, but–don’t operate on the assumption that if this doesn’t go how you think it should go, your life is gonna be a catastrophe. So, so was it something you worried about, was it not, like what was, what memories do you have of that period?
Alex Bialik: [01:11:12] Yeah. So education was very important for my family. My mom was the first person to graduate high school in her family. So already if I could just make it through, I was in a pretty good spot. My mom went back to college when we were younger and only for the–for a lot of reasons, but especially to drive home the importance of us going to college, even though she had lived an adult life without college you know. So my sister, three years older than me, she went to school. Nobody told her, going into school, that–get a degree that’s connected with a job you might want to do.
Patrick Barrett: [01:11:46] Absolutely. No one tells–I mean, I think people are just starting to do that–
Alex Bialik: [01:11:47] Nobody tells you that. (Laughter) So she became a philosophy major with no intent to teach. So, like, she’s a great philosopher. (Laughter)–
Mike Barrett: [01:11:58] Which–is something I admire. But it’s not commercially viable.
Alex Bialik: [01:11:59] It’s amazing. But she’s in financial management now. So, like, things, you know–
Patrick Barrett: [01:12:10] So she found her way towards a technical thing, and she learned like a body of–.
Alex Bialik: [01:12:13] And, but her philosophy has helped her tremendously, but–for her, knowing that, it did change kind of the way that I approached testing, and it changed the way–because I knew, “OK, well I need this test, because this test–my admission is predicated on this test, and what I end up going after is predicated on me doing well on this test–”
Patrick Barrett: [01:12:33] Yeah. And I guess your perfectionist tendencies, I’m sure, led you to really–
Alex Bialik: [01:12:37] Totally. But we didn’t have the resources to do a lot–or I didn’t even know. Since my mom didn’t go through that, the traditional kind of high school-to-college, I didn’t even know that like test prep was a thing.
Patrick Barrett: [01:12:51] Yeah; you take the test and what you get is what you get.
Alex Bialik: [01:12:53] You just–that’s what you get.
Mike Barrett: [01:12:54] It almost feels like the point of the test should be that you can’t prep for it. (Laughter) That’s not how it is. (Laughter).
Alex Bialik: [01:13:07] In retrospect, yeah. So there was a ton of pressure, because there was a lot of pressure because it was like for us it was my opportunity to change the setting that I was in. It was my opportunity to kind of change the trajectory of where I would go.
Mike Barrett: [01:13:24] Did you feel like familial–like did your family explicitly say “this is of importance?”
Alex Bialik: [01:13:28] Yes. It was like so explicit that it was implicit. Like it was so–(Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:13:35] It just goes all the way around.
Patrick Barrett: [01:13:36] “We don’t even have to talk about this, because everyone knows what we would all say if we were gonna talk about it.”
Alex Bialik: [01:13:41] There was no contention, no, like, discussion; it was just understood. So there was a lot of stress–like, pressure–but I think by the virtue of the type of school that we went to, too, that kind of was like inherent in everything. But regardless of what anyone tells you around you, like you–I personally had to, like, find that motivation. Like, only you wake yourself up, hopefully, you know, to get ready and go and like–bring the pencil, or whatever you bring now, I don’t even know. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:14:09] Your retinas.
Mike Barrett: [01:14:09] It’s a hologram, it’s all hologram-based.
Patrick Barrett: [01:14:09] VR goggles.
Alex Bialik: [01:14:17] So there was a lot of pressure, but for me it was just another step because I knew I had to do it. Like I knew that I had to do it because I planned to go to college.
Mike Barrett: [01:14:27] And so you did it without preparation, right?
Alex Bialik: [01:14:29] Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [01:14:30] And were you able to, you know, reach whatever and you had decided I should–you know, I wanna get?
Alex Bialik: [01:14:35] No, because I’m a perfectionist, and I still remember what score you got, and I know that it’s not what I got. (Laughter) And it’s been 18 years!
Patrick Barrett: [01:14:42] “So, was there like anybody at your school who got, like a better score than you?” (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:14:44] Yeah, at least eight people who got perfect scores, I was not one of them. And the twenty three who got National Merit Scholar, also was not one of them. So–not that I’m thinking about it, you know, for years.
Mike Barrett: [01:15:01] But here you are with this very accomplished career, here. People looking up to you, that you’re molding their lives, and mentors who invested their time in you; no one stops to say, “hey, before I meet you for lunch, did you break 1500 on the SAT?” You know, like no one cared about that, more or less.
Alex Bialik: [01:15:18] No. Nobody–nobody did. I think it would have maybe changed my starting point. It could have changed like the conversations earlier on. Maybe like, maybe different companies could have been interested. Or maybe I would have been on a different list that had my picture in the hallway like you did, (Laughter) which would have served a great purpose for me.
Mike Barrett: [01:15:37] I didn’t know until now that you had your picture in the hallway. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:15:44] I had forgotten, actually.
Alex Bialik: [01:15:44] I didn’t, because–
Mike Barrett: [01:15:46] In my day they wrote our names on a plaque. You probably walked by the plaque all the time. I’m kidding.
Alex Bialik: [01:15:51] I might have. (Laughter) Either way, sore subject. So, it would’ve been good to have had a mentor, share that there is a way that you can tackle it without being so intimidated, because I was very intimidated by it still.
Mike Barrett: [01:16:11] Did you–I always feel like I have to discuss this very carefully because–so, with like the guidance counselors or whatever those kinds of situations you may had available to you, I often find, speaking to clients, that they don’t really get what I would consider to be effective counseling. I want to emphasize it’s not really because the guidance counselors aren’t good at it or don’t know what’s doing; it’s more a question of overwhelm; there isn’t enough time for a counselor to know each kid. Also each kid, you know, you’re 15. What do you know about what you want to do?
Patrick Barrett: [01:16:40] And do you even know that you’re allowed to just go make an appointment with that person a lot of the time?
Alex Bialik: [01:16:46] No. I didn’t know.
Mike Barrett: [01:16:47] So there are many, many things that keep it from being, I think, as rewarding as it ought to be. But I want to ask, was it rewarding for you? Or did you, did you utilize those resources, did you feel that they were helpful, did you–you know, how did that go?
Alex Bialik: [01:16:59] I did not personally utilize a lot of those resources because it was probably so intimidating, and you have a million other things, and I was in all these other projects like–
Mike Barrett: [01:17:07] Also, you are assuming that, you know–like you think you know you gotta to do this, so why go ask about it.
Alex Bialik: [01:17:11] If they haven’t told me it’s not a thing, then like I guess I won’t show up that random Thursday.
Mike Barrett: [01:17:15] “Why are all these pictures in the hall?” (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:17:16] Right. They did tell me that was important, but nobody’s, like–I personally didn’t have, like, a sit-down of, you know, “what college do you want to go to?” and “here’s some paths that you could take.” Probably would have been beneficial knowing that, like, two people before me had never gone, and it wasn’t like a very long history of that. Probably would have been very beneficial, but I didn’t have that. And–but luckily, because I, you know, I always had some kind of job–like I, I still was able to look around me and kind of see the people who valued that versus they didn’t. And, you know, did it play out in their life or whatever. But that wasn’t my personal experience to have. The school was so, our school was so, just, focused on that anyway, that you kind of–there was enough focus in your regular academics that you were probably going to make it there, whether or not somebody sat you down and talked about it.
Mike Barrett: [01:18:07] That’s a good point.
Patrick Barrett: [01:18:07] Everyone was kind of being pushed in that direction anyway.
Alex Bialik: [01:18:07] So I didn’t have that one on one touchpoint, but we were all kind of moving that way.
Mike Barrett: [01:18:11] Yeah, yeah. How did you ultimately decide which school to attend and how many didyou apply to?
Alex Bialik: [01:18:17] So, very candidly, I chose not to apply to one school just because I felt like everyone was going there. And I didn’t want to go where everyone went. Probably you guys went there, I don’t know. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:18:31] I don’t know. It sounds like it. Just statistically, we probably did.
Alex Bialik: [01:18:36] I knew that I didn’t want to go there. I initially like, because this was so new to me, I was like, “well, I’m going to go to–” looking back, it feels very silly, but this was like real world for me. Looking–I wanted to go far away, and I thought, like, I would go up north somewhere. And I was in the process of doing applications to go anywhere up north, I don’t know. Even–I even looked at an all woman’s college at one point, which probably wouldn’t have worked for me. And I went to do that, and then I had a trip up north to visit family, and I felt snow (Laughter) and I was like “glad I didn’t spend application money on that.” So I retracted those applications–that is not how you should make decisions. (Laughter) But for me, like I knew that my quality of life would be important to me, and I didn’t have, like, a heavy coat. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:19:31] Or no way to acquire one.(Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:19:33] How do you reach the top shelf; where do you get a coat? (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:19:33] I know my limitations and I flex where I am strong. So my sister was at UCF, and so I applied at UCF and got in. Was there for a year–it was not for me. I was not–because it was huge. Wasn’t good for me. I got lost, like I didn’t–like it was not, I was–I didn’t love. Great school. My sister, my husband, they both went to UCF. Swore by it, love it. I transferred.
Mike Barrett: [01:20:01] Well and that’s another important thing too. There is no one size fits all for schools. The fact that one person doesn’t like it doesn’t mean everybody is going to not like it or vice versa.
Alex Bialik: [01:20:09] Yeah. I didn’t love it. She loved it. And I’ve since like encouraged, you know, my cousin to even look at it, like, but it wasn’t for me. But I ended up transferring back to University of North Florida and I loved it. I think I liked that there wasn’t a football team, because I wasn’t really good at participating in those sorts of activities. (Laughter) So I appreciated that I didn’t have to like pretend to know what was happening. (Laughter) And so, and it was a smaller school, so there were smaller classes, and I know that for me, like I wasn’t as good at doing some of what was new then, the digital classes? Like watching class on a TV– that I would have picture in picture watching Netflix. Not Netflix because they were still sending us DVDs.
Mike Barrett: [01:20:57] Oh yeah, Netflix did exist then–
Patrick Barrett: [01:21:01] I saw a thing–somebody online recently was like “I just told a 20 year old that I used to get Netflix in the mail, and I think he thinks I was making it up.” (Laughter) I forgot that was how that used to work.
Alex Bialik: [01:21:11] Yup, that was a thing. So–again, aged ourselves. So, I just liked UNF. So that’s how I ended up choosing where I went, and I absolutely loved it. Didn’t apply to a ton of schools; in retrospect, I probably was maybe putting all my eggs in a few baskets, maybe I should have thought that through but–but it worked out.
Mike Barrett: [01:21:32] That’s good.
Alex Bialik: [01:21:33] And I also wanted to stay in Florida because I had Bright Futures.
Patrick Barrett: [01:21:36] That’s such a huge thing! Yeah, not every state has–but there’s a lot of programs that you know, reduce tuition or whatever if you stay in-state.
Alex Bialik: [01:21:42] So that was a huge–especially knowing that, like, I–we didn’t have a ton of extra financial resources to be able to just pay for, you know, just anything. Yeah. So and I–and I–didn’t know enough about student debt, but I knew that I didn’t want a lot of it.
Patrick Barrett: [01:22:00] Yeah, it doesn’t sounds too great. (Laughter).
Alex Bialik: [01:22:07] Yeah, the “debt” part scares me. So I ended up at UNF, graduated from there, and loved it.
Mike Barrett: [01:22:11] That’s really cool. And how many times has the fact that you graduated from UNF, as opposed to UCF or any other school–has it ever explicitly come up in your life, since then?
Patrick Barrett: [01:22:23] If you’re applying for a job, or discussing a promotion, does anybody ever say “where’d you go to school?”
Alex Bialik: [01:22:26] Yes. Yeah. They always ask and then they’ll always go, “Oh, the gators?” And I’ll go, “No–(Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:22:34] “U N F”
Alex Bialik: [01:22:34] UNF is “University of NOT Florida.” It’s actually University of North Florida, but it’s also not Florida. Not the school you’re thinking of. Think of every Florida school you know, and it’s none of those. (Laughter) And so, I will say I was a little nervous that I went to a smaller school that didn’t have some of the same notoriety, especially because it didn’t have the same athletics, but, I used–I was then determined to find out what “were they good at.” So then if anyone asked, “oh, well, you know what we are good at?”
Patrick Barrett: [01:23:03] They’re the Ospreys, right?
Alex Bialik: [01:23:06] Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [01:23:06] And they have a decent.. basketball team?
Alex Bialik: [01:23:08] I think. I don’t know, I don’t know. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:23:11] We interrupted the osprey pantomime. Could you–? (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:23:16] So, yeah. So–I, I was a little nervous because I think, especially the high school that we went to, there was like a lot of, like, “if you don’t go to–
Patrick Barrett: [01:23:23] Absolutely!
Alex Bialik: [01:23:25] “Harvard or Yale or become a doctor–”
Patrick Barrett: [01:23:26] And there’s even more of that probably now.
Alex Bialik: [01:23:28] It’s so stressful, and like–that’s–I probably wasn’t gonna go to those schools, I didn’t even–
Mike Barrett: [01:23:33] Well it was cold, for one thing. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:23:33] Yeah exactly, I wasn’t going where it was cold. (Laughter) The irony is I ended up moving–
Mike Barrett: [01:23:39] Now what if they kept the coats on the top shelf? (Laughter) Anyway, sorry, the irony–
Alex Bialik: [01:23:45] I ended up moving to Pennsylvania eventually. So I–yeah, I, it definitely came up, but in my head I kind of thought that one school or another could be discounted or favored more, but at the end of the day, like, my work ethic and my skillset and my desire to learn, even if I didn’t always know all the things, probably got me way further than the five second conversation about like exactly what school you went to.
Patrick Barrett: [01:24:13] And also, the person’s like “oh, the Gators?” They don’t even know–(Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:24:16] That’s true. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:24:19] Yeah, whatever. A school in Florida. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:24:21] Yeah, that’s the one. (Laughter) Believe it or not, there were a lot of those conversations though.
Mike Barrett: [01:24:31] Sorry, I just noticed we are not, like, super-close to the time that we have, but at the rate that we are speaking, which is a good thing, I kind of wanted to shift towards a couple things I wanted to make sure we’ve covered before–
Patrick Barrett: [01:24:42] Well, by all means, let’s cover your things.
Mike Barrett: [01:24:43] Is that okay? This feels like a natural–(Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:24:44] Oh this is super natural, yeah. We should just stop everything and talk about–(Laughter) “This feels very natural.” (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:24:47] No, I mean–(Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:24:47] Go for it. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:24:55] So I wanted to address the role of technology–which is obviously a very broad topic–but how have you seen that shift from the time–we’ve already mentioned a few different ways as consumers, you know, that Netflix and Google and whatever didn’t exist in their current forms. How have you seen that shift within your own career at all of these different companies? And are there specific–well, I’m getting ahead of myself, please go ahead.
Alex Bialik: [01:25:22] So, great example. If I were to be a retail rep today, I might like it a little bit more, because when I was a retail sales rep, we didn’t get iPads
Patrick Barrett: [01:25:29] I thought you were gonna say eye patches. I was like “where is this going?”
Alex Bialik: [01:25:32] No, we didn’t get those either. (Laughter) But if they’re giving those out! (Laughter) We did not get iPads. So think of all the stuff you can fit on an iPad. Imagine getting all of that in two three-inch binders. So every single store that I had to go to, I had to carry these massive binders, with my little Hershey polo on and carry these binders. I would like put it in a shopping cart. And when I’m already, like, trying to carry boxes I can’t carry, it was a lot to think about. So simple things like that, to–also then a lot of it was just based off of, you know, me saying “these are the stores I went to, this is the info we did.” Now, technology allows us to find out, like, how long call times are at the stores, how quickly they’re moving in and out, where in the store they’re at at different times. There’s so much information; it helps us analyze the data. For example, in my job today, it helps me analyze how people are shopping, why–we have some studies where we can see where people’s eyes move.
Mike Barrett: [01:26:34] Eye tracking, yeah!
Alex Bialik: [01:26:36] And so, or, we have, it used to be just heat maps where we would look at where people walked, and you could like, kind of take a heat gun. Now, there’s stuff that’s in all of the corporate offices who do things like we do, they will have these massive virtual set rooms, which looks like like a real store. And then they’ll bring people in and say, “OK, you have 20 dollars, go spend it.” And so technology allows us to do things faster and think quicker. And then on the tail end, though, that means we have to be faster with Excel. I mean, I’m like–I use Excel all day, every day; you have to be faster and like, you know–computing that information and analyzing it and sometimes having so much data can be a little overwhelming. So it’s like constantly thinking about what am I trying to get to–the objective–so I can take all that data and make something useful out of it. It’s changed a lot. But the underlying theme is still the same of like, trying to sell stuff, or trying to make a good experience for the customer, or whatever, whatever it is.
Mike Barrett: [01:27:34] Where did you learn to use Excel? Was it something you did in college?
Alex Bialik: [01:27:37] So I actually was fortunate enough that I had a couple Excel classes, but there was no–
Patrick Barrett: [01:27:42] In college?
Alex Bialik: [01:27:44] In college. But there was no training, like, on-the-job training. Because even though I had Excel classes, I very, very vividly remember my first true Excel project at CSX. And I was doing this project with, I don’t know, a few thousand rows, and it involved sums, and I was clicking each individual cell. Well turns out there are formulas and they do that for you. (Laughter) And I had a notebook on the table next to me and was like computing it with a calculator on a notebook because I–I had had these classes, but I didn’t practically use them. And even though we did–and you do exercises. And you do them, you type some, and you do it–but it’s not the same as when somebody gives you a project and you know it’s tied to real life money. Or it’s tied to real life work. So let me just make sure it’s right, because I don’t actually trust this Excel thing. (Laughter) I don’t know if they vetted this. (Laughter) So, and I remember, early on in my career, like this was still my internship at CSX, my boss had said to me, like, “it’s, it’s taking you a lot longer than I thought it was going to be taking you, like, what do you think” and I said, “well, if you don’t mind, I can show you at my desk.” And he’s like, “oh, no!” (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:29:01] But that’s such a better answer than, “oh, I’ll go faster.” Like you didn’t try to cover it up, you were just like–come watch me.
Alex Bialik: [01:29:06] No, I just was like, I think I’m doing–and this was also before, we didn’t have laptops, we had like the tower, so he had to come to my desk, because I couldn’t bring him my laptop.
Patrick Barrett: [01:29:13] When technology used to be plugged in to something. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:29:14] Right. (Laughter) And you had to stay there. So I just remember thinking that “I’m summing it, yeah, of course I’m summing it. Obviously I’m adding… a thousand rows? (Laughter) Do you want to see my notebook?
Patrick Barrett: [01:29:26] “I’m the girl with the notebook, I don’t know if you remember me.”
Alex Bialik: [01:29:30] So but I just–it was just like this thing that clicked for me. So now, even–you know, I was just teaching somebody something in Excel recently, like: general rule. This is Excel in everything else. If something seems like it’s taking too long, there’s a better way.
Mike Barrett: [01:29:44] Right! Someone has run into this problem before–
Patrick Barrett: [01:29:48] Yeah, and they invented Excel and now– (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:29:49] And it’s probably on YouTube, actually, like–legitimately, there are–
Patrick Barrett: [01:29:54] Which we also used to get in the mail. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:30:00] No we didn’t. (Laughter) So that was kind of like a big “Aha” for me early on.
Patrick Barrett: [01:30:04] I feel like so many people are terrified to ask questions. Because asking questions by definition is an admission that you don’t know something, and people feel like protective and defensive–
Mike Barrett: [01:30:13] And–you and I have talked about this a lot, and I’m curious to know if you’ve seen it in the people who are younger than you. But so many people come up through the education system now and they are literally afraid not to know something. It’s horrible. It’s a huge reflection on you as a failure, yeah, if you don’t know something.
Alex Bialik: [01:30:29] Totally.
Mike Barrett: [01:30:29] Which, I think, tell me if I’m wrong, but you’d quite rather the opposite, you’d rather that a person is like “hey, I don’t know how to do, whatever.”
Patrick Barrett: [01:30:34] Because you know for sure that people don’t know things. It’s just a question of if they’re going to learn what they’re supposed to learn.
Mike Barrett: [01:30:38] Yeah, because you can’t fix it if you don’t know.
Alex Bialik: [01:30:40] Quite frankly, I think it happens at almost every stage. Like I have people–I have worked with people at levels above me who also didn’t know, but because they’re above me and they don’t know, like you can almost see their reluctance to admit too. I think it happens at every level. And I think that’s why, more than anything, it’s so important that, especially when you’re new to a role or new to assignment, you ask all the questions. That is the one time it’s fair game, like for everybody. It’s super, super fair game. It’s always good, but especially in the beginning. And get them all out. And then later on, if you didn’t ask it, someone will go “well, they did ask a million questions, so it’s fine that they missed this one.” (Laughter) So much of it is just, make an effort. Even if it’s not the right effort. Just make the effort. Ask the questions. Even if they sound, what you think is silly, it’s probably a good chance somebody else asks the same one.
Mike Barrett: [01:31:30] And I think you can almost tie this–I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately actually–you can almost tie that back to academic pursuits like science and math; if you study the history of those things, it was just people asking very clumsy questions for a very long time. And then they started to realize, “oh, actually, you can kind of like formalize this and now we can get somewhere and now we have slightly better questions to ask, you know, but that’s that iterative process. I was just thinking about that because a lot of people, I think, dismiss the idea that there’s any value of academics for like a business, but I don’t think that’s true at all. That’s a really good example of one way that it’s not true.
Alex Bialik: [01:32:00] No, I think some of the–it goes back to even like group projects, like even the function of group projects and how school are mirrors the function–like some of it is just about like the way that you think or the way that you problem-solve. You know, when you had a math test, you only had so many resources, you know, and so, like, that’s what you use. In this world, in my world in particular, I only have so many places that I can find sales data. So I have to go back to that sales data–you have what you have in front of you, and you still have to solve a problem. So I think academia still finds its way everywhere, even if you don’t want to admit it or you don’t recognize it or validate it.
Mike Barrett: [01:32:39] Do you–if I could go back to Excel for a second–do you use other Microsoft, like, Office kinds of products as well? And do you guys ever use, like any of the other kind of competitor things to Excel, do–I’ve noticed that there’s like a, kind of an age break, below a certain age everyone uses Google, above a certain age everyone uses Microsoft. Have you seen that, or is that not accurate?
Alex Bialik: [01:33:00] Yeah. So we use–so we use PowerPoint, like, everybody uses PowerPoint. And then also when you get to a certain level of using PowerPoint, you don’t even call them PowerPoint presentations, you call them decks. (Laughter) That’s real official, like doing a deck. So we use decks, which is PowerPoint, we do a lot of that. We do a lot of linking Excel to PowerPoint, so you don’t have to do the same work twice. Real, real fan of, real fan of efficiencies. Word, obviously, use a lot of that. Lately I’ve been working my way into using OneNote. I actually very, very vividly remember when I was given a CD on UCF campus to try OneNote.
Patrick Barrett: [01:33:44] I remember that too! Yeah, they were pushing that on everybody.
Alex Bialik: [01:33:45] They were like “try this new thing, OneNote.” And I remember trying to be like, “ew,” (Laughter) I don’t know. I have a notebook.
Patrick Barrett: [01:33:54] “I got all of the notes.”
Mike Barrett: [01:33:57] So much of those note-taking things hinges on the ability to carry a device where you can enter a note when you think of it.
Patrick Barrett: [01:34:00] It’s the connectivity! And back then, you would just run back home–
Mike Barrett: [01:34:03] Write everything in your notebook, get back to your computer–
Patrick Barrett: [01:34:07] Mail it to yourself. It’s so easy!
Alex Bialik: [01:34:10] So I’ve recently been adapting it because there is so much, and within my team I have a bunch of sub-teams, and there’s so much going on. And I have, you know, downstream priorities, I have priorities coming from upstream, so like–the ability to ctrl-find a word in a bunch of text that is way easier than, like, looking through 3,000 pages.
Mike Barrett: [01:34:26] Sure. That to me is the biggest thing. And they can also work with hand-writing recognition; they can scan written things, and it can find–
Alex Bialik: [01:34:31] So I’m like, or like one of my–I’m very visual, so if something comes up and I just want to like, draw it. I’m like one of those annoying people that’s like “let me draw it for you.” (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:34:40] I am also like that.
Alex Bialik: [01:34:41] I can do it on like an iPad and then send it to you, so you remember my drawing. (Laughter) That’s right. “Did you have my drawing from six months ago.?” So, so OneNote, a lot of people are using that more. I see that to be more common because then you can take screenshots from meetings, from decks, and like put it all in a pretty place. And then outside of that we use a ton of other third-party-type things. Other than Excel, I have worked with companies–and our company does in different departments, not in mine, like Tableau and different like Excel-type–
Mike Barrett: [01:35:19] Which is a data visualization–
Alex Bialik: [01:35:20] Yeah, it’s like a visual, kind of–there’s several others that people use that are kind of like Excel, but like make it pretty, info-graphic-type. I don’t personally use those; I have in past jobs, but I use a lot of syndicated data, so like Nielsen and IRI that tells what people shop, how they shop it. You kind of think about it like what the ratings are for TV’s, it’s the TV shows or–I don’t even know if they do it for Netflix, but (Laughter) probably similar. But it’s the same thing, like everything you, everything you purchase at a store, believe it or not, goes into this massive database and people like me and my team will analyze it to understand your buying patterns. So we use a lot of stuff outside of Microsoft Suite, but the Microsoft Suite for sure.
Patrick Barrett: [01:36:04] So we’ve heard a lot at like educational conferences and that sort of thing of companies being less interested in like four-year degrees, necessarily, or, you know, those are obviously still very important in a lot of areas, but there’s starting to be a shift in certain, certain industries where there’s interest in, like being, having some kind of a Microsoft Office like certification, or some other–
Mike Barrett: [01:36:31] Or like a demonstrated skill set in a particular thing.
Patrick Barrett: [01:36:33] Yeah, so as opposed to a degree from a college, that has to do with, you know, Gen Ed and everything else, something that’s just “can you use this software, are you familiar with this system” or whatever. So is that something you encounter a lot, like when you’re looking for people to join the team, you know what I mean, do you…?
Alex Bialik: [01:36:47] Yeah. So my team in particular, I tend to have more people who are mostly more like tenured in their career. So for us, I’m–at this stage, a lot of it’s not necessarily as much education-based, but experience-based. So, you already kind of have tried-and-true results. You don’t necessarily need to see the certifications, although it’s a bonus, certainly, if they have that sort of thing. I think what can become a challenge–and you would just have to look at this for any of the new applicant-tracking systems–like when you go to apply for jobs online, which is different than how we even did it when we were applying for our first jobs–so many things are all digital and online. So now whether you check a box of this certificate, or this degree, may mean the difference of making it to the next stage. So good, bad, or indifferent, it’s kind of a filter. So all I would say is, like, if it’s one thing, and it’s a certificate, make sure you click through and make sure you can click on the certificate, and show it.
Patrick Barrett: [01:37:43] That there’s a box for it, basically.
Alex Bialik: [01:37:45] Just go look for it, because if you click onto the next button and you haven’t looked for it, or you didn’t put it in the notes, they might not know that you had it. So, sometimes don’t–the systems limit us, and limit our abilities to show all of our good stuff.
Mike Barrett: [01:37:59] Which is, I think, also just a general problem, enterprise-wide in software solutions.
Alex Bialik: [01:38:04] Oh, I’m sure, it’s gotta be.
Mike Barrett: [01:38:05] Software doesn’t always reflect the reality of like, what can actually be done by anybody. Do you, when people are coming out of college or out of an internship into your company now, or any of the companies that you’ve worked at before, what–what is it expected–what did those companies expect that the person would know? Just broadly? Like were they supposed to know how to use all the software already, were they supposed to know what category management meant–
Alex Bialik: [01:38:31] No.
Mike Barrett: [01:38:31] What were they–what were they supposed to be able to do?
Alex Bialik: [01:38:34] When you’re coming in and joining a company, it is understood that you have whatever education or vocational experience that you have; you are not going to be an expert. That’s why you’re being hired often for some level of entry-level job, and entry-level does not–is not negative. It’s just earlier on. It’s the first step. And so, in most companies–and everyone that I’ve been a part of–those first jobs, they are well aware that they are going to assess what your skill sets are, and then help guide you after that. Like, there are very few chances where you’ll be somewhere and they’re just like “you’re on your own for the rest of your career.” (Laughter) That’s it. You apply for that job, that’s it. Forever and ever, that’s your job, period. So, no, I don’t think there’s an expectation. I think a lot of companies, if you are not necessarily sure and you have a general idea of where you want to go, a lot of companies have grad programs or, you know, like management training programs, or training programs that help show you a slice of every part, and that’s very helpful if you kind of are not sure. Or even if you are sure, but you just want to validate it. So I don’t think there’s any, ever an expectation that you know it all. And it’s totally okay that you don’t, because you won’t.
Mike Barrett: [01:39:48] Are there core skills–you mentioned, for example, soft skills, which is like interpersonal–I mean, you know that, I know that, but they might not know–
Patrick Barrett: [01:39:54] Some other guy out there. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:39:55] “Somebody else might not–” Yeah, so, the sort of soft interpersonal skills are certainly something that you’ve mentioned. Are there other, say, broader skills like writing ability or hygiene or just like, those kinds of things that you like– “OK, this person coming out of college doesn’t know how we do stuff, but I do hope that they can read a 500 word email and get me back something that’s like intelligence.” Is that kind of something that’s an expectation?
Alex Bialik: [01:40:23] Yeah. I would say the number one thing is really just the ability to listen to what people are saying around you. Like, if you start any role–and this kind of just is in any situation–like you should never go in with–you going into a new situation, you should never go in with the assumption that you know more than anyone around you, even if you might. Like, never go in with that assumption, assume that you don’t, and listen. And observe. And ask questions. Because if you’re listening, it might–and I write questions down, or type questions out, whatever anybody is doing these days, but like I prepare questions ahead of time that I might have in my head. And then as I’m listening, like I will constantly cross them off. So like, listening is super important, and it will help you think about what might be next, or whatever your next question is. I think beyond that, it’s just really constantly just checking back and reflecting. And this is for anybody in any role, like the ability to have the skill to, like, think, “OK, what am I doing, what am I accomplishing or what’s my task at hand?” That’s super important. Believe it or not, the hygiene-type stuff, I think what’s more important is like the professional disposition and like–look around your area, and see like attire, for example. Like how are the people around you–(Laughter).
Mike Barrett: [01:41:39] Sorry, you’re just–
Patrick Barrett: [01:41:39] “If you’re gonna go interview somebody, there’s gonna be a camera.”
Mike Barrett: [01:41:40] Like “don’t just wear a gray shirt, for example.” (Laughter) Anyway, please go ahead.
Alex Bialik: [01:41:47] I think that it is something that’s a little nerve wracking. So like if you’re about to start a new role and you don’t know, “do they were Polos at the office?” Or “are they wearing like V-necks or, like, jackets?” You should either ask–and it’s OK to ask and not know–but then also, like, look around you. And if what they told you was different than what you notice, then just observe. So, so much of it’s just observing. And it could be something simple, like attire, but it can go, you know, as far as to like, avoiding being in an awkward position where you’re asking questions that were just answered. Like you don’t want to be that person.
Mike Barrett: [01:42:19] I’ve done that so many times; it’s the worst. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:42:19] I have too!
Patrick Barrett: [01:42:20] The other important half of asking so many questions is to listen to the answers, and remember them.
Alex Bialik: [01:42:29] Yeah. And write it down or notate it, however you do it.
Mike Barrett: [01:42:31] You mentioned earlier the idea that there weren’t like a ton of role models for you, specifically with respect to higher education, because it was like a new thing in your family, and you weren’t sure, but the school was pushing you in that direction, but beyond like that, the details you weren’t really sure. Did you have similar issues when it comes to–for example, when I think “professional disposition,” I have an idea of what that means now; it’s very different–I mean, I’m not doing it–(Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:42:59] It’s not this, I’ll tell you that. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:43:00] But it’s very different from what I would have thought it was, you know, at an earlier time. And honestly, if I think how I kind of came to my current idea–which may not be accurate–of what professional disposition means, a lot of it’s, like, TV shows. (Laughter) Like if I saw a character who really seemed to have it together, and I was like, “hey what’s she doing?” (Laughter) You know, like I can take parts of it in, and you sort of build that model for yourself. Where did your idea come from? Was it influenced by mentors? Obviously looking around was part of it, but like, where–if you break down what you think of now as that, where did the pieces of that come from?
Alex Bialik: [01:43:34] Yeah. So I had one mentor in particular, and she was a vice president of Human Resources. And everyday she wore a jacket. So I was like every day I’m gonna wear a jacket. (Laughter) And it sounds so simple, but I do think–and I think at that time it’s like–I don’t know, I was 19, 20 years old–at that time, my other peers weren’t wearing jackets. And so, it sounds so silly, but because I wore a jacket, I sat straighter, and like I was less–
Patrick Barrett: [01:44:00] Even if it’s only purely for you.
Alex Bialik: [01:44:03] It was in my head. And it was, it was for me.
Mike Barrett: [01:44:04] And this kind of goes back to sales, and auditioning, too–if the person who’s always asking questions and working hard also is visually distinct, like, “oh, she’s always wearing the jacket. The jacket girl always asks the questions.” Like, that’s actually pretty useful, right?
Alex Bialik: [01:44:17] Totally. And what I will say is like, it became like this terrible running joke within my own family because like, every time they saw me, I was buying these collared shirts that didn’t fit me, these ugly jackets that, like, I was like much more petite than I am now, so they didn’t really fit, this whole, like, jacket that’s like pulled, like, this didn’t exist then. So, like, all my jackets were long, like I, I–it might not have been great, but like, I was at least attempting. And I was trying.
Patrick Barrett: [01:44:41] And again, even if it’s just your own, like, reinforcing your mentality, “this is important to me, I want to be like this person.”
Alex Bialik: [01:44:47] Totally. And I eventually realized, OK, it isn’t about the jacket, it isn’t about the shirt. But it helped put me in the frame of mind if, like, once I started modeling what Isabelle was wearing, then I would say, “OK, how is Miss Isabelle acting in meetings?” Or like, “what is she doing? How does she command respect?”
Mike Barrett: [01:45:03] You start to notice stuff like that. And you realize things. For example, a big thing I realized, the most influential people in the room are often the quietest ones.
Alex Bialik: [01:45:11] Totally. And she always was. And I wasn’t. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:45:15] It’s something, if you didn’t you stop to look, you would never think that that’s how it is.
Alex Bialik: [01:45:18] Totally. So I really would find myself–and in that case, it was attire, but then it eventually became how she handled meetings, and how she spoke with the people who reported to her. But I really did pay a lot of attention, and I still connect with her–only on Facebook now, but I still connect with her because I have a lot of respect for her, and I learned a lot from just watching her.
Mike Barrett: [01:45:39] Do you think she realizes how much you patterned…?
[01:45:41] I eventually, years ago, went out of my way and sent her and–I had, I don’t know, I think I watched a TED talk and I just was like (Laughter) I need to go tell these people, I like sent a lot of e-mails out, did not get a lot of responses (Laughter) but I sent a lot of messages out. But it’s cool because you just never know. Like one of the people who I used to have regular lunches with, he’s now the CEO of United Airlines. Yeah, like it’s, it’s pretty crazy. And I remember, this was a guy who, he was involved in the interns at CSX, and I saw him, and saw an opportunity, and like asked him–like the worst that could happen is they tell you no. He did allow me to go to lunches with him and vice versa, and so it was really nice. And then years later, I’m on a plane and like, hear these announcements, and I look at there’s an email, a letter from Oscar Munoz. And it’s like, wait, he was over technology at CSX, that’s crazy! (Laughter) I know this dude! And it’s like, so you just never–and it’s not about like the people, but you just never know, you know, what kind of influence somebody could have on you, and so kind of going back to these thoughts of what to do, it is really nice to let people know later on, like the impact that they make, if you have the ability to tell them. And I have told people like Isabelle.
Mike Barrett: [01:47:04] That’s great.
Alex Bialik: [01:47:04] And, you know, the fact that we’re Facebook friends, I’m pretty sure that cements it. (Laughter) Maybe not for the younger generation, but it’s–
Mike Barrett: [01:47:11] It’s a very personal decision, for someone of our advanced age. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:47:14] That means something. It’s not just following–we’re friends. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:47:17] We’re friends. We like things. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:47:22] That’s really great though, that is really cool. And I–
Patrick Barrett: [01:47:25] So I–well, you had a follow up thing and that I have something I just want–
Mike Barrett: [01:47:28] I didn’t.
Patrick Barrett: [01:47:29] Oh, he doesn’t. You’re selling it really well.
Mike Barrett: [01:47:30] Thanks.
Patrick Barrett: [01:47:33] So I do also, in the interest of–before we run out of time here–at some point, I wanted to ask what is just, like, a normal day like for you. Although it’s funny because as I was trying to schedule this you we’re like, “well, I’m in Iceland for eight days, and then I’m going to go–” you know, so, you are all over the place. So I don’t know if “normal day” is the best way to phrase it, but what is, you know, a selection of normal days?
Alex Bialik: [01:47:57] So that was vacation. So that was beautiful, and it was not work, but that was vacation. But a normal day, so, it’s, could be anything–like today, for example, I have some new analysts in, so it’s a little abnormal. But it could be working with getting, you know, training some of the teammates to be getting to the place where they need to be, or to learning things. This week, I’ll be going to a customer in St. Louis, a customer called Schnucks, and it’s a grocery retailer. And so this week we’re preparing the presentation or the deck. And so I’m having meetings, talking about the presentation, like, “are we telling them what the objective is?” “Are we following through with the information?” So we’re having meetings. We’re looking at financials. We all manage our own profit-and-loss statements, P&Ls. So we’re looking at the P&Ls we’re having a lot of meetings, a lot of conference calls, lots of meetings, but they’re very impactful and they help us get to where we want to be. And then this week I’m going to travel there, and I’ll present it, and I’ll have a conversation with their directors about the investment that we make as a company. And then we’ll get follow-ups from that, and next week we’ll be working on those follow ups, and we’ll be preparing for the meeting I have on the West Coast for state–or, SSI, which is a West Coast account. So it’s kind of like a lot of the same things, but different. So building presentations to help people decide what items they should be carrying, where they should carry it, why they should carry it.
Patrick Barrett: [01:49:16] Do you make a presentation like that once a month? You know, twice a month, or what’s, how often do you…?
Alex Bialik: [01:49:21] So on average, each category that we manage–so a category would be like cough, cold–
Patrick Barrett: [01:49:27] Chocolate Lysol. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:49:28] Yeah. So on average, they, those–most of our accounts have one or two every year. So within my team we have more than 100 accounts. And within each of those accounts we have about 20 categories. So we’re constantly doing this. But then within that, just like with everything, we have priorities. And everybody is super important, and every account is super critical. But sometimes we have to manage our resources the way that line up with–yeah.
Mike Barrett: [01:50:01] And that’s something that’s come up several times in the conversation, but also something that I was totally unaware of as a teenager that I now see is extremely important–there’s a finite amount of time, a finite amount of money, a finite amount of people, brainpower, all that stuff. You can’t, in some cases, do everything. That’s just the way it is.
Alex Bialik: [01:50:17] Yeah. I did have to learn early on, because there was–I, I do think there’s a tremendous value in like putting in extra hours, and losing a little bit of sleep to get the job done. But at some point you also have to listen to your own, you know, body.
Mike Barrett: [01:50:30] You can’t lose all your sleep.
Alex Bialik: [01:50:34] There has to be a balance.
Patrick Barrett: [01:50:34] There’s only so much sleep to lose.
Alex Bialik: [01:50:34] You have to sleep. So sometimes you do have to know what the fine line is, and know yourself to know, you know, whether you’ve reached the point–is it gonna be there tomorrow, you know.
Patrick Barrett: [01:50:44] Is today it? Yeah. So would you say that most of what you do is centered around like these presentations–preparing for them, evaluating afterwards, is that kind of what you’re–
Alex Bialik: [01:50:54] Yeah. So that’s–the team mostly does that. I’m in the role that I’m in, especially with people management, like I’m able to make sure that the team is staying on track, or help them see the greater strategic vision. Or if something happens at this account, how can I then help them change their presentation to bring in other examples? And then, of course, managing people is a full-time job, and just making sure that everybody is kind of working and then managing expectations as a total team across all those accounts. I have one financial statement, and I, in sales, have goal–not goals, but I have, like, forecasts that I say that I’m gonna sell, my team is gonna sell–hopefully I sell it.
Mike Barrett: [01:51:34] And that’s based on your awareness of the data, the trends, all that stuff.
Alex Bialik: [01:51:36] Yup, the history, what’s going on, and I have to be prepared to speak to it, even though I’m not personally as in tune with a hundred-plus accounts, I have to trust that my team is, and I have to trust that they can give me that information and I can relay it up, or down, or sideways, or whatever.
Mike Barrett: [01:51:51] If I remember correctly, you–because I’m thinking of like eight things while we’re doing this, I’m sure we all are–you referred to that as serving before, like you’re serving this team. And I like that idea.
Alex Bialik: [01:51:59] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it’s, everybody constantly is, within one another. And if you’re not, then maybe it’s too self-serving. You know what I mean? We constantly have to be thinking about how it serves others, and those best-in-class examples, or what you’re doing at one account may be a best-in-class example for somebody else. Or a model, or it might give them the data to tell them why you should do it.
Mike Barrett: [01:52:22] Or could it be a negative point, too?
Alex Bialik: [01:52:24] Or it could be a non-example. We often show non-examples. Very often shown non-examples. And it’s a great way to say–and the data will be there one way or the other, and hopefully you show it and help them understand it so they can make educated decisions.
Patrick Barrett: [01:52:39] Yeah. So would you say most of your just, like, in your normal day to day life, mostly it’s meetings, or calls, or talking to people, or working like, answering emails, being on a computer doing something, like what is the–
Alex Bialik: [01:52:51] It could be–it could be anything. Like I could be on a plane for eight hours because I’m going to Minneapolis and there isn’t a direct flight, and so I’m on email the whole time. And then as soon as I get off, I’m on like phone calls. There are some days when I’m on to back-to-back phone calls and never talk to a customer. There are other days when I would be customer meeting, customer meeting, customer meeting. That’s why I love sales, because in every role that I’ve been in sales, there hasn’t been a single role that’s been the same thing every day. Even in the entry level roles, it’s been very different. There’s a lot of–we call them fire drills, you know, a lot of things that come up that need to tackled immediately. So–very different than like a fire drill in school like people–(Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:53:32] Which isn’t really about creative problem solving so much.
Alex Bialik: [01:53:40] Right. Little different; feels similarly intense.
Patrick Barrett: [01:53:41] So the variety is a big part of the appeal for you, you said you like the–
Alex Bialik: [01:53:45] Lot of variety, yeah, because at the root of it is consumer behavior. And the way that things change–behavior does change, you know, with digital we were talking about, and like–you know, everything changes enough that like, you know, or if there is a recall of a product and it happens to affect something that you sell, or maybe it doesn’t, or if there’s hurricanes–when I used to sell Lysol wipes on that side of the business, whenever there was a hurricane, you would see huge spikes in Lysol sales. Cough/cold season, we’re gearing up now for, we’re going into cough/cold season, which you guys probably only think of it as like I get a flu and–like, so much of what we do is predicated on, “OK, are we ready?” “Are there going to be displays on the floor?” Like when you go into a Publix, and that’s not my account anymore, but if you go into a Publix, are you going to walk into a display which makes you go, “hmm, I do need this.” Or “have we fought to get the item on the right space on shelf?” So when you have a sick kid and you go in, you can find it exactly where you need it and you choose our product and not our competition. So, so much of what we do could be rooted in that. And like, it is constantly changing. So it’s, it’s never exactly the same.
Patrick Barrett: [01:54:51] And that’s–fits your personality. Seems like that’s what you like about it.
Alex Bialik: [01:54:55] Yes. I love it. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:54:55] I fully believe that. (Laughter)
Alex Bialik: [01:54:59] But it’s also, it can be like exciting, like stressful exciting, but I like it. Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [01:55:01] So is there–it’s funny, you sound in a lot of ways like you’re right where you should be–
Alex Bialik: [01:55:05] Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [01:55:08] So I want to ask, you know, is there an aspect–maybe not like your job itself, but like the lifestyle, or something that is more difficult to deal with, or not your favorite or like the downsides?
Alex Bialik: [01:55:18] So I travel almost every week. Which is–it can be exhausting. Like as soon as I sit down and want to do some administrative stuff, like the stuff that you just kind of have to do, like priority-setting, or like cleaning out my inbox, my emails, so I don’t have a thousand emails. It’s like I get on another plane. And I mean–that’s a tough lifestyle to keep up with. It’s easy to like personally let your life, like, kind of go in a different direction. You know, it’s tough if you have a family, like–so it can be tough. So I’ve had to be very conscientious in making good decisions about my travel and saying, “OK, well, when I go travel places, I’m going to try to do something fun when I go there.” I’m going to like, look up, you know, Minne–I haven’t been yet, but in Minneapolis, there is the Spam museum. Like I intend to go see the Spam museum because who can say they’ve done that?
Mike Barrett: [01:56:08] Right, not a lot of people, I don’t think. You’re the first one for me.
Alex Bialik: [01:56:09] You know what I mean? Like, at least they’re not bragging about it. (Laughter) But there’s that! Something to look forward to. That probably wasn’t a seller. (Laughter) I think travel can be good and bad. The, the bad is that like, it can take a toll on you. The good is when we go on trips, when my husband and I go on trips or my family goes on trips, we often have a lot of frequent flyer points and hotel miles. So we’re able to like, afford things we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s kind of cool.
Patrick Barrett: [01:56:50] Do you–do you have sort of a–I mean, I know the answer to this question–do you have a vision for the future? Do you know, like, where you want to be in a year, or 10 years, or whatever?
Alex Bialik: [01:57:01] So it’s funny, my–I before thought I was certainly going to be somebody’s CEO. Like I knew–I knew I was going to climb the ranks, and like be all the way at the top. But I think there are some personal, quality of life sacrifices that happen at different stages; there’s definitely been one in this role versus my last one. And I don’t know how many sacrifices I–at some point, I have to just accept, like maybe I don’t want to make as many quality of life sacrifices.
Mike Barrett: [01:57:28] And that’s also resource management, in a sense. This is your life; what you want to do it?
Alex Bialik: [01:57:29] Yeah, because, you know, eventually I, you know, will want my own family, you know, outside of my husband. And so it’s a lot tougher to leave constantly, and be gone, and on the road if you have things going on back home. You know, like in a different, like, more consistently. So that’s a little bit of a challenge. I would like to do more things, but I don’t necessarily need to be the next vice president or… like, I want to keep, I want to stay doing what I’m doing, as long as it’s rewarding, as long as it’s challenging. Because if I’m bored, I’ll be miserable and probably everyone around me will be too. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:58:04] “I’ll make sure everybody else is too.” (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [01:58:06] We only have a few more minutes, and I had one more question I wanted to make sure we covered–
Alex Bialik: [01:58:10] Let’s, let’s end on me saying “everyone will be miserable.” That’s a good place to end. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [01:58:16] Just a quick follow up on that–so it sounds like you kind of; you’re aware of the opportunities that might come up, but you don’t have a concrete like “I want to do this next,” or–you’re just trying to be aware of the balance of–
Alex Bialik: [01:58:29] Totally. For my company, to do much else, I would have to move–probably. I would very likely have to move. I’ve been able to, like, not move in eight years of being here, almost eight years, and that’s been an anomaly. So I personally, like, I’m not trying to–my husband as a business here, like I’m not trying to move. So, you know, I’m aware there are opportunities, and if something could be more flexible as technology changes and I could keep doing things from Tampa, then yeah I would do other things. But I also really love my role, and I haven’t fully maximized it. There’s a ton of stuff I haven’t even touched.
Mike Barrett: [01:59:03] That’s a really good point.
Alex Bialik: [01:59:03] And I don’t know that I could master it even in two years if I wanted. There’s so many things that I just haven’t done, and the team is capable of doing, and–you know, we’re still, you know, we’ve worked together for almost two years in this role, and there’s so many things that could be done.
Mike Barrett: [01:59:19] Cool. And it’s good to be aware of that. I think like it also shows, as everything else does, you’re looking around, you’re constantly, head on a swivel–
Alex Bialik: [01:59:24] Yeah.
Mike Barrett: [01:59:27] This kind of touches on what you just said a little bit; if you were going to guess what types of technological changes–thinking about things like automation, more data, more analytics, more artificial intelligence even, VR, all those kinds of things–do you have any guess what your field might look like in 5 or 10 years?
Alex Bialik: [01:59:47] Yeah. So stuff is actually changing now. We’re constantly–some of the analytical roles, instead of people just delivering data, there are like bots and programs that are just delivering it in these beautiful dashboards. It requires some people to do some work up front, but now stuff is being delivered in seamless ways that 10 years ago I was like building and formatting and creating–
Patrick Barrett: [02:00:10] Delivered, sorry, digitally? Or–
Alex Bialik: [02:00:11] Yeah, digitally, so like, reports. So we have dashboards or reports like, you know, constantly of how sales look. And so before it used to require somebody going in manually, doing it, formatting it, and making it look one way. But now there’s all these systems where you can just–doot doot doot–you know, and then somebody does it. It gets–there’s some architects who sit in a room and make it look pretty, and then it just spits it out.
Mike Barrett: [02:00:32] By architects, you mean like data architects that–
Alex Bialik: [02:00:35] Yeah, you know, really more just like in my mind–it’s usually, it’s usually just like people who are in the roles who like think with their hats on, but like, they’ll call themselves architects. (Laughter) It’s like, it’s like “how can we sit along a room and like talk about ways that we’re gonna take pieces of your job and automate it?” (Laughter) So there’s a lot of that. There’s some stuff that my team does today, like forecasting, which is “what do we think the sales will be for this year?” And we’re now introducing a new system, the company is, that’s rolling out, that’s going to help A.I. build out: this is what your forecast should be. So we have a little bit of that at play now, but we’re going to, our demand planning team–the people who are producing the product–are now going to lean into those forecasts, where before they trusted ours. So there’s some interesting things like that, you know, that I think happens in every industry. So we’re trying–all industries I think are moving a little bit closer to that. So what I say to my team, especially the analysts, that’s more reason why you have to take the data and build a story around it and think about it and create the anecdotes that a robot or A.I. can’t do. Right. Like you have to be thinking like, “walk the store, see what’s going around, and that experience from retail that I didn’t love.” I, believe it or not, I walk retail stores constantly just seeing what’s happening, because those are the tidbits that you’re not you get in an algorithm. Yeah. So it’s already changing, it’s constantly changing. And the more data and the more that people use, you know, digital apps and the more that you’re like interacting with–in the digital space with any customer–any like grocery store, convenience store, whatever, all that information is just being data mined and taken back, so it’s constantly changing how we sell. Which is different, because people being able to purchase on their phones wasn’t a thing when I started. So it’s totally different.
Mike Barrett: [02:02:30] It’s a pretty big thing now.
Alex Bialik: [02:02:30] Pretty big. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [02:02:33] So if–sorry, can I ask?
Patrick Barrett: [02:02:37] No, you’re fine.
Mike Barrett: [02:02:40] If you were giving advice–which you kind of are–to someone who’s 17, 18, 19, 20 years old, who’s listening to this and is thinking “oh, this like, this general direction sounds very interesting to me.” Is there any particular technical skill set you would recommend that they at least look into, possibly related to Excel or A.I. or any of those things that you would throw out?
Alex Bialik: [02:02:59] Yeah, so I would say Excel is always a great one. But even more than that, I think whatever industry you’re into, like set up Google Alerts on your phone. This is so basic, but set up Google Alerts. So every day you get, or weekly, you get a digest in your email about what’s going on in the financial world, or A.I. if you’re even interested in that specifically, you’d get a lot for that. But, you know, set Google Alerts for specific things that you care about, because you’ll learn more from that which will then tell you what maybe you should look into. Because Excel is big now, but who knows, right? Like, who knows what it will be. So I’d hate for anyone to hang their hat on just one thing. But just like listening on the LinkedIn, on Google alerts or whatever, that probably goes further–that probably goes further than any one thing, because that one thing might not be the answer by the time they get out of school. Yeah.
Mike Barrett: [02:03:52] Awesome.
Patrick Barrett: [02:03:53] Yeah. (Laughter) You’re like the perfect first podcast guest.
Mike Barrett: [02:03:58] You did a way better job at this than we did. (Laughter) So thank you.
Alex Bialik: [02:04:05] My pleasure.
Patrick Barrett: [02:04:05] Do you have any–I mean, you kind of just closed on it, but sort of general advice related to somebody interested in your field?
Mike Barrett: [02:04:13] Is there anything that you think we should have asked?
Patrick Barrett: [02:04:14] Anything we left out?
Alex Bialik: [02:04:17] It’s so important to know that, like, if–if you feel nervous or intimidated or, you know, if you’re not sure, you’re not going to get yelled at. You’re not going to get yelled at for just speaking up and asking for help, or asking for support. And if you don’t do that, then people will just assume you’ve got it together. So–and that’s a bad place to be in, because then you better have it together. (Laughter) So just don’t be afraid to ask questions; it’s served me incredibly well. And, you know, my peers it’s served well, too. So ask questions, learn as much as you can, take notes–whether it’s on your phone or notebook–take notes and just, you know, soak it all up and learn from people around you. Because every single person, if they’re in roles, or even if they’re not and, you know, they’re in a different type of role, they have something to, to lend to the conversation, so.
Mike Barrett: [02:05:09] Awesome.
Patrick Barrett: [02:05:09] Makes a ton of sense.
Mike Barrett: [02:05:09] Thank you so much.
Alex Bialik: [02:05:10] My pleasure.
Mike Barrett: [02:05:13] So, once more, really want to thank Alex for her time, and I think that she laid out a lot of ideas that are very, very important, if someone is in the early stages of a career, or is even just sort of considering what kinds of careers they might be interested, and might be thinking along the lines of like a retail sort of thing or anything with–
Patrick Barrett: [02:05:30] Yeah, kind of anything with people, which is sort of everything. I really feel like there was a lot of kind of wide-reaching, not ground rules exactly, but just really, really good information about how to deal with other people, how to be direct, how to approach people and not be intimidated–
Mike Barrett: [02:05:48] And also, especially if you’re going into, or planning to go into some kind of a corporate environment, or a large company kind of environment, especially, I think–but like you said, for anything, but especially for that.
Patrick Barrett: [02:05:58] Yeah. A lot of just–the kind of thing that you wish was taught in school, and I guess it may be taught to some people, like indirectly, but–
Mike Barrett: [02:06:05] Right. It was not taught to me.
Patrick Barrett: [02:06:06] Yeah, exactly–not explicitly taught–those really valuable interpersonal skills, yeah, that can be kind of hard to put your finger on–but to hear someone who is obviously really good at it just kind of explain how it works, can make you feel a little more comfortable–yeah, and to realize, like, you know, it feels a little funny to look up, you know, how to contact an executive or some important person in your company, and even it feels funny for her, but, you know, she’s sincere, she’s honest–
Mike Barrett: [02:06:34] Yeah. Well that, for me is one of the biggest takeaways from her–just everything she said really–is it’s OK not to know stuff, it’s actually good to admit that you don’t know stuff because you’re going to–
Patrick Barrett: [02:06:47] Because you can’t avoid it. Every single person has stuff they don’t know.
Mike Barrett: [02:06:51] So to be honest about that, and to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, to think about how that fits together with a team–whether you’re on a team being managed by someone else, or you’re managing your own team at some point. And just her idea about taking initiative, actually caring about how well you’re doing, and doing everything that you can, you know, to move forward, to find mentors. I really thought the information–I really thought her thing about having mentors and sometimes they didn’t even know they were her mentors at first and then eventually she–am I saying that weird? Mentor, mentor, mentor… anyway, whatever.
Patrick Barrett: [02:07:23] Now you are. (Laughter) No, it was totally normal til a second ago. (Laughter).
Mike Barrett: [02:07:30] It’s one of those words, you say it over and over again–
Patrick Barrett: [02:07:31] Yeah. “Refrigerator” was like that for me I feel like for all of third grade. (Laughter) It was like “there’s no right way to say this.”
Mike Barrett: [02:07:40] So luckily she didn’t mention that, but yeah. So, mentors–it still doesn’t sound right–yeah, more importantly, to have some sort of person who gives you guidance and counsel. And that you can pattern yourself after other people; they don’t even necessarily have to know that you’re doing it, but that at some point she was like “if I could, I would solidify it with them and say “by the way, I think of you as a mentor,” which is smart.
Patrick Barrett: [02:08:02] Because a lot of people probably feel like, “oh, I’d love a mentor, but I assume that person will just have to fall in my lap or I’ll never get one.” And for her, it was like, “I’m going to walk down the hallway and these people are gonna be my mentors. Somebody out here is gonna do this.”
Mike Barrett: [02:08:14] Yeah. And that also kinda goes to her thing about having a thick skin, you know, from sales and telemarketing, if you ask–
Patrick Barrett: [02:08:21] Some people are not going to go for it.
Mike Barrett: [02:08:22] Sure. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask somebody else.
Patrick Barrett: [02:08:24] Yeah, yeah, exactly. Another thing. Sorry, you were just mentioning mentors… oh, yeah. Like patterning yourself after someone; she even mentioned, like, dressing like certain people–like it’s almost like “don’t overthink it.” Like “don’t assume that you know what the secret sauce is.” If they wear that jacket, and you feel like you’re going to feel more like that person if you wear the jacket, like, go for it like, you’re–it’s part of a pattern of behavior, it’s not like that’s the one thing that’s going to make the difference, but it’s, it’s part of a mindset. And, you know, if you’re kind of dedicated to that, it makes sense, it all kind of fits together. One of my favorite little anecdotes that I think is telling is when she described selling drinks in the restaurant setting, you know, where she was like, all right. How many lemonades can I–I’m going to make–somebody at this table is going to buy a lemonade, you know, like, something like that. Just that mentality, because a lot of people–and it’s understandable, if your boss isn’t awesome, and you’re working at a restaurant and you think “I don’t care how many of these I sell,” you know, but it’s more about like–for you, like, can you do this? You know, and it’s not like I’m going to thrill my–maybe you have an awesome manager or an awesome boss and you do want to wow them or whatever, and that’s even better, but even so, it’s just–for you, like, can I overcome this thing? Can I interact with this person in this way?
Mike Barrett: [02:09:41] Well and also, you’re working that shift anyway, you might as well try to–
Patrick Barrett: [02:09:43] You’re there anyway! Exactly. Like this can be practice for later in your life. Like, whatever job you have is likely to involve talking to people, trying to convince them of something. You know, you know, “last week I sold four of these, can, you know, can I do five this week?” Or “last table did this, can this table do that?” And just see what happens.
Mike Barrett: [02:10:00] And I would imagine even if it doesn’t work, you’ll learn something from that, too.
Patrick Barrett: [02:10:03] Yeah, it’s like a telemarketing thing, too. It’s just, A minute later, there’s somebody else, and you try it again, and you see what’s different, and–just that kind of self-motivation is huge, and I don’t know how you teach it, but I think part of it might just be–
Mike Barrett: [02:10:14] I think all you have to do is listen to a podcast about it, so I think everyone hearing this–
Patrick Barrett: [02:10:18] I think so! Lucky you guys. So–but I mean, I do think it’s less about teaching and more like if you could just demonstrate like, this actually has value, people would be like, “oh– like I didn’t realize it would matter if I did that. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [02:10:27] That was a big thing I mean, in my early jobs, I just thought of them as, “I’m here for a certain number of hours I gain a certain number of dollars per hour, right–I wish that someone had just woken me up to “hey, try to do this better. You’re here, why not? Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [02:10:41] And there you know, there could be–and certainly there are settings where you’re not going to be appreciated, the people above you are not going to notice, but–you know, I think two things we learned here, one is you can keep working that job while you find another one that seems to work. And Alex mentioned looking for companies where the culture matched with what was important to her. You know, you can… obviously… it’s the 21st century, you can go on the Internet, without visiting all these places you can find out a lot about them. You know, do they donate to causes that you care about? Are they involved in sports stuff or whatever it is that you’re–.
Mike Barrett: [02:11:14] You can go on, also sites like, I think it’s glass–
Patrick Barrett: [02:11:15] Glass door I think?
Mike Barrett: [02:11:18] Why don’t I know the name of it? Yeah, yeah, whatever, these types of sites and see what people are saying about–
Patrick Barrett: [02:11:22] Exactly, you can do that kind of research, and you can think, “how could I get there from here?” I’ll keep working this, you know, maybe thankless job now, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing that I’m actively trying to make it better. So there’s the whole “you can seek out a better arrangement where your efforts should be more appreciated” if you feel like they’re not being appreciated right now, and the other side of it is, regardless of who’s appreciating you, like look at it from your perspective: as we said, even if you’re just trying to practice for yourself, trying to better yourself, even if you feel like you’re in a thankless spot now, in addition to looking for a better one, you can still be practicing whatever it is that you’re doing each day, you know, talking to customer service people can you, you know, if you’re the customer service person, can you solve their problem? Can you be there for them, you know, how they need you to be there? Can you sell whatever you’re trying to sell? You know, all that kind of stuff. There’s, there’s so much that you can do if you can decide, like, “just for me, I want to see how well I could do this.” And if nobody appreciates me here, then one day I’ll be doing it somewhere else. But for now, you know, I’ll, I’ll do the best I can. That seems to be one of those things that isn’t really taught. It’s hard to teach. But, you know, in this interview and other interviews that we’ve done, we’ve seen it time and again. Just that, that self-motivation where the people above you, the people around you, everybody can tell, like “this is a person who’s really trying to do it right.” And I think that’s also a really important thing; we didn’t exactly get into this with Alex, but I feel like it was sort of implied. I’ll go ahead and say it was implied. Don’t blame her for that if I’m wrong. You know, she mentioned reaching out to the higher ups in companies and trying to have lunch with them. I think a big part of that is you have to be credible too. Like if you’re the guy who’s always showing up late, and then you’re trying to have lunch, you know, like it comes across–it’s all part of one thing, it’s, if you–it’s all–sorry, that was weirdly phrased–but it’s all, it all goes together, as you said. You know, you have to be sincere in what you’re doing. And if you, if you don’t just, like, “oh, I’ll have lunch with a VP and I’ll get a raise next week,” or whatever–if you’re trying to do your best work, then that’s part of it, and if you approach them, and instead of telling them how to do their job, maybe you’re asking, you know, “I’d love to be doing this later in life, later in my career, you know, do you have any advice for me,” asking questions, yeah.
Mike Barrett: [02:13:30] Because that’s another thing too. When you are in those kinds of higher positions, I think most people that I’ve ever spoken to who are in those kinds of positions understand that the company, in order to continue to thrive, needs talent and dedicated people; they’re on the lookout for you, right, if they know what they’re doing.
Patrick Barrett: [02:13:45] Yes, there has to be an upcoming generation. Absolutely! Their life is better if they can connect with younger people or people younger in the company, you know, coming up.
Mike Barrett: [02:13:51] But also, again, if you’re asking to have lunch with those people and you never show up on time and you don’t do your job well, that’s not great.
Patrick Barrett: [02:13:57] Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Mike Barrett: [02:14:00] Now something–I just hit the microphone by accident–something kind of similar to what you just mentioned, but a little bit of a different direction–also very, very important to me, I think, from what Alex just said–was talking about how from the very beginning of her career, kind of, or this, this part of her career with these consumer-directed goods, was the manager or the supervisor who told her about the importance of tracking like the analytics of what was going on around her. “Okay, you set up this display, how many people came and took the thing off this time? And was it the same last week? And does it matter if it’s over in this part of the store, or that?” And how that sort of through-line of analytics and data, thinking about all that, how now that’s coming up later in her career in different ways. She mentioned the artificial intelligence, all of this kind of forecasting that’s being done by software now instead of by people; that’s not going away, probably. So anybody, yeah, who’s going into this field is going to need to be sort of at least conversant, vaguely comfortable, at the beginning with Excel, and dealing with data, yeah, all of those kinds of things.
Patrick Barrett: [02:15:03] Yeah, absolutely. And at the same time, that is also–you know, it’s one of those things where you don’t have to go in knowing all about it. But you have to be ready that that’s gonna be important.
Mike Barrett: [02:15:13] Right. You’re not gonna have a job in this field and not at some point ever have to deal with that.
Patrick Barrett: [02:15:17] Yeah. And if you aren’t comfortable going in, and you know you need to be, then, that’s a time to talk to the people above you.
Mike Barrett: [02:15:22] And that goes back to the other thing–to know what you don’t know, or to try to be aware of things you don’t know, and work on closing those gaps when you’re aware of them.
Patrick Barrett: [02:15:29] Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Barrett: [02:15:30] Yeah. So she said a lot of other very interesting things, of course, but for me those are sort of the major things that I would want somebody to take away if I were mentoring someone myself. Those would be some of the things for me.
Patrick Barrett: [02:15:43] Another thing I think, too, before we close out, was she–I think one of her bosses at one point asked her to track the time she actually spends on things.
Mike Barrett: [02:15:53] Yes, the time management.
Patrick Barrett: [02:15:55] And that kind of aligned her perception of the way she spends time with the reality of how she spends time, which I think we all, absolutely, you know, it’s hard to be in touch with that almost you pull out a stopwatch, and time it. (Laughter)
Mike Barrett: [02:16:07] You can’t see this, podcast audience, but Patrick is giving me a meaningful look. (Laughter)
Patrick Barrett: [02:16:12] “There’s a lot of people who have trouble knowing how much time things take.” (Laughter) But that is, I mean, it’s you know, when do you ever take out a stopwatch and time yourself? Almost no one does that, you know, for, for normal tasks. You think, “oh, that took ten minutes.” And it was thirty five minutes, and you didn’t know it. And you know, time is something we have a finite amount of, you know, each day, and making the most of it is a pretty huge deal.
Mike Barrett: [02:16:35] And I also thought it was interesting how she then took that, among other things, and, when she was a manager, she had other people do that because it’s a useful exercise, and it also shows the importance–
Patrick Barrett: [02:16:42] Absolutely. That’s the best endorsement, is “You did this for me, and now I’m doing it for my, my people because, you know, it’s a valuable lesson.”
Mike Barrett: [02:16:50] Yeah.
Patrick Barrett: [02:16:50] So, yeah, I think–honestly, at the end of this, I felt like I was ready to just charge into any corporate environment, and like, take charge–
Mike Barrett: [02:16:59] Yeah, I learned a lot from this one, definitely going to listen to it more times.
Patrick Barrett: [02:17:02] This was really, really interesting and full of like, very applicable–
Mike Barrett: [02:17:07] And also, like all of these different interviews we’re doing, even if you, as a listener, don’t think that you would ever want to go into this sort of environment: A, maybe from listening to someone who succeeded it, you might have a different picture of it now, and B, even if you don’t go into it, just sort of knowing how those types of organizations and companies work will allow you to steer yourself, just in your daily life, will allow you to have a better picture, kind of, of how things are functioning around you, even if you’re not directly involved in them.
Patrick Barrett: [02:17:33] Yeah, absolutely. There are themes that have definitely popped up even in these first, these early interviews that we’ve done that just keep coming up, whether it’s, you know, corporate America, or small businesses, or whatever, where just talking with the people around you and being able to be kind of functional in that environment, and working with those people, and being on time for things and communicating well, and all that stuff is super important. And one more thing that I remembered that I wanted to talk about earlier, that was another huge takeaway–
Mike Barrett: [02:18:00] So huge you couldn’t remember–
Patrick Barrett: [02:18:02] Yeah, so enormous, that it just blocked out my memory completely, was, early on, Alex described how she had that job, where she was going into stores and setting up displays and doing that kind of work–
Mike Barrett: [02:18:15] Is that the one where she wasn’t tall enough to reach the shelf? That was fantastic.
Patrick Barrett: [02:18:17] That was the job, yeah, which was awesome. “It’s not a metaphor; I can’t reach that top shelf.” So I think somebody gave a presentation, or there was some kind of training thing where she got exposed to a different part of what the company does–
Mike Barrett: [02:18:31] That phrase, “category management,” was that the–
Patrick Barrett: [02:18:33] Yeah, I think so, and she talked to somebody and they said, “oh, you know, you wouldn’t normally be on the path to go–”
Mike Barrett: [02:18:38] Right.
Patrick Barrett: [02:18:38] “You know, there, but if you want to, then this is what you would do.” And just the way that she, like, took charge of the path she was on, I think is so cool, because so often people feel like, “oh, well, I’m here, how can I get there?” You know, like what’s–you throw your hands up in the air and, and that’s it–and it’s understandable to feel that way, but you may as well ask somebody if you can find out that there’s a way to get there, then maybe there is–and as we said before, especially if you’re able to get with a company that seems to value people who take the initiative, and to our earnest, and are getting the work done and everything else, if you can find a person who looks like they could have a future with your company and they’re enthusiastic about this other thing, and they’re not doing it now, but you can get them into the training for it or something like that–
Mike Barrett: [02:19:20] Yeah–you mean if you’re someone–Alex’s supervisor in that situation–
Patrick Barrett: [02:19:21] If you’re someone who is a higher up person–exactly–and you hear that someone like Alex really wants to get into that. I mean, that’s great. Like. You’d be so thrilled to find someone who is motivated to do that kind of work.
Mike Barrett: [02:19:33] Because again, the future for your company depends on there being these kinds of people.
Patrick Barrett: [02:19:35] Exactly. So, so yeah, I thought that was a really, really important lesson. And again, it’s one of those things: every single company won’t react as well to that as every other one; you don’t know, but if it comes down to just, “hey, you know, I really think this sounds like a cool area to get into. I’d love to go down that path.”
Mike Barrett: [02:19:52] Sure, raise your hand, and take a step.
Patrick Barrett: [02:19:52] Yeah. “Who would I talk to? How would I go about doing that?” You might be very pleasantly surprised. You know, for Alex, obviously, it seems to have worked out really well, because it was a major turn that she took in the path that she’s going down. And it seems to have gone really well. So that’s another… and–
Mike Barrett: [02:20:07] Sorry. One last thing from me–
Patrick Barrett: [02:20:08] There we go!
Mike Barrett: [02:20:10] Speaking of paths and things like that, another very, very common thing for any adult, whether we’ve interviewed them or not, but especially the ones we’ve interviewed, is this idea of sort of a winding path. The place that Alex is in now, professionally and personally, is not at all what she describes thinking she was going to be getting into when she started college–
Patrick Barrett: [02:20:28] Politics, remember?
Mike Barrett: [02:20:28] Right, yeah, absolutely. And this is very typical that people have those kinds of “I think I want to do one thing when I’m 18, and then I turn out I actually really like something else–”
Patrick Barrett: [02:20:37] Yeah. “Once I actually did that, I hated that, or I found out this other thing–”
Mike Barrett: [02:20:39] Right or “I found out it’s not what I thought it was,” or, or whatever it might be. And I think–but I think, just from my own experience–my reading and also dealing with the clients that we’ve dealt with directly–so many people who are in high school or college maybe don’t recognize the large percentage of the adult population who thought they’d be doing one thing when they were 18, and turn out to enjoy something else way more. When they–and to be better at, perhaps, something else, way more later on. So I just wanted to point that out, that that’s–for me, a major part of her story, and a major part of many people’s stories, but something that’s easy to overlook if you haven’t been through that kind of change yourself.
Patrick Barrett: [02:21:17] Yeah, yeah. I’d say, I mean, it’s hard to quantify across an entire population, but in my experience, it’s more the norm than not, that something–
Mike Barrett: [02:21:24] Oh, overwhelmingly.
Patrick Barrett: [02:21:24] Yeah, actually, I believe it’s gonna be our next episode that we’re talking to somebody who actually laid out a path early in life and he walked down that whole path, just how he thought he would.
Mike Barrett: [02:21:34] Yeah. Yeah, that does happen.
Patrick Barrett: [02:21:36] Which can happen, yeah, it’s not like it’s bad if that happens, but if something along the way, either–whether it’s your choice or it’s not, causes you to not go down that path, you know, you are in good company with just about everybody else. That’s a very normal experience, and certainly–especially if you’re at a high school age, a lot of what you’ve done up to that point, you know, you sign up for classes, it’s predictable. It’s, you know, the whole year is kind of laid out in front of you each school year, like everything is very structured and predictable. And then when you get out into the post-high school world and post-college world, that certainly changes. Yeah. And it’s understandable that that would freak out–a lot of people out, and, and be a cause for a lot of stress and worry. But we just–yeah, this is a great example of how it’s super normal to find yourself doing something that you didn’t think you’d be doing.
Mike Barrett: [02:22:24] And just, once more, to bring it all back, maintaining this mindset of “how can I get better or what can I do?”
Patrick Barrett: [02:22:30] Yeah, if you take that with you into whatever it is you’re doing, you’re going to be in your best situation.
Mike Barrett: [02:22:32] Right, let me find that mentor and cement that relationship and learn from that person. Yeah. That’s applicable.
Patrick Barrett: [02:22:37] Absolutely. So thank you, Alex. Even though you are not here right now, that was so informative. Hopefully for you guys, certainly for us. I feel enlightened in like all these areas now. So that was excellent, and I think we are finally out of things that we want to add to the end of this.
Mike Barrett: [02:22:55] I mean, I could keep going. It’s going to be twice as long.
Patrick Barrett: [02:22:56] We could, but I think we are officially out of them, before you hear the whole thing over again by way of us.
Mike Barrett: [02:23:04] This episode was hosted by me, Mike Barrett, and by my brother, Patrick Barrett. Our guest was Alex Bialik, whose name rhymes. Every musical element was created and performed by Parker Haile Hastings. A grizzly bear’s bite is strong enough to crush a bowling ball.
Mike Barrett: [02:23:18] Our online video courses are different from other test prep options because we strive to teach you every single thing you need to know to beat the test as efficiently as possible in a format that’s as convenient as possible. We know you’re probably very busy, and the last thing you need to worry about is spending untold hours of your precious youth trying to fit an in-person SAT or ACT class into your schedule. And that’s especially true given the fact that most of those courses, unfortunately, are not very helpful for most of the people who end up taking them. So our online video courses are available in their entirety from the moment you sign up. You can watch them on any connected device at your own convenience. And of course, if you feel like you want to spend more time on particular parts of the course, you can easily go back and do that. Once you learn our techniques from the training portion of the course, you’ll then be able to see hundreds of videos in which we put these techniques into action against real official test questions. The SAT course includes a set of walkthrough videos for every single question and an entire real SAT, And the ACT course also includes a set of walkthrough videos for every single question and an entire real ACT. Now, our courses don’t come with their own practice tests, but there’s a reason for that. It’s very important that you only ever practice with real official test questions written by the actual companies that write the SAT and the ACT. Now, don’t worry, you can get plenty of free practice tests online for either test. So there’s never actually any need for you to buy fake third party tests written by us or by any other company. In fact, we don’t write them, for that exact reason. Now, here’s another critical thing that sets our courses apart. A lot of test prep companies try to prepare you for the SAT or the ACT in the same way that someone else might prepare you for a math test or an English test in high school or college, because they don’t seem to understand how different standardized tests are from regular high school and college tests. For example, in English class, your teacher probably rewards you for being able to interpret literary texts and find hidden meanings and symbols that are not plainly stated on the page. But that is exactly the sort of thing that will lead you to a wrong answer every single time you try to do it on the SAT or the ACT. And your math teacher probably rewards you for learning lots of different formulas and theorems and things and knowing exactly when to apply them when you see a question with a predictable format like the questions you probably work on in your homework sessions. But most standardized test math questions aren’t like that at all. They don’t use predictable formats, and you’ll find that a lot of them can’t even be solved using any kind of formula whatsoever. They use your knowledge of those standards to find the right answers to every single official SAT or ACT question that you’ll ever see. And here’s yet another thing that sets our course offering apart. If you decide to sign up for either course, the SAT or the ACT, you’ll automatically get unlimited lifetime access to both courses. So, if you sign up for the SAT course, you also get permanent access to the ACT course as well, and vice versa–if you sign up for the ACT course, you get permanent access to the SAT course. And permanent access, by the way, also means that your siblings or any other people in your household can use your account to prepare for the SAT or the ACT now, or years down the line. And here’s one more big difference, and then I’ll let you go, because I’ve been talking about this for a while now: if you try out the courses and you decide they’re not for you, you can just let us know within 30 days and we’ll give you back every single penny of your purchase. There’s no catch and no fine print; just let us know within 30 days. If you don’t like the course for whatever reason–which, again, you don’t have to tell us what the reason is–but if you don’t like the course, we don’t want to keep your money. It’s as simple as that. So, thank you very much for listening to this. If you’re interested in signing up, head over to QuestPrep.com and click on the “Courses” tab. Thanks.