Case Study: work in the Project Unit and motherhood combined

Three years ago, Anastasiia Krekoten made a radical shift. An international economist, she attended Beetroot Academy courses for refugees from Donbas and received her first job offer on the second week after graduation. Nastya is a WordPress developer at Beetroot now.

She talks about the power of multitasking, her inspiring Project Unit experience and how to get back to work with an infant in your arms.

Anastasia Krekoten, WP Developer at Beetroot

The Project Unit is an internal Beetroot team that works primarily with WordPress, PHP, and JS frameworks.

By the way, there are several open vacancies in the Project Unit: WP developers are wanted. Maybe it’s you we are looking for?

All of a sudden, a WP developer

I never thought that I would be a WordPress developer. But here I am! This feeling, when you create something from scratch, is incredible. You eventually turn a set of characters into a properly working site. It’s a kind of magic!

I’ve started working with WP using ACF, Visual Composer and Slider Revolution plug-ins. Next, I learned how to use WPML, BuddyPress, Woocommerce, later on – Google Analytics, AMP and Optimizely. At the same time, I learned PHP, JavaScript, jQuery library. In the past few years I worked on different projects – from corporate sites to online stores, on projects developed from scratch and support for ongoing ones.

In my profession, every day is a new challenge: you must to be a fast learner here! And the easiest way to learn is to practice. Fortunately, at Beetroot I have both practice and support: there is always someone to help you out, advise or assist. On a colleague’s recommendation, I am reading Fullstack React. The Complete Book on ReactJS and Friends – a useful book for my new project on React.js.

Project Unit — no “big boss”, no pressure

Generally, in Beetroot’s Project Unit there is no concept of “subordinates and superiors.” Developers are responsible for the result and are free to manage their working hours at their will. This is very convenient: instead of having a “big boss” who’s in charge of everything you have a stable and friendly relationship in the team.

Of course, we do have a Team Lead. He may wonder if we need help, ask for updates on a project as a whole, but he will never ever put pressure on us or baselessly criticize us The only thing greater than that is direct communication with the client. That helps us avoid Chinese whispers a lot.

Beetroot Work

WP for USA, Kuwait and Sweden

We had a pretty good relationship with clients from different countries. And I never faced any stereotypical problems that are usually attributed to foreigners. But, I admit, some cultural specifics did exist.

For example, we had a real project-shifter from Kuwait. As you probably know, Arabic writing, unlike ours, is inverted – from right to left. While working on the website, I had to ensure that everything in both the Arabic and English language versions worked properly and that all translations were correctly uploaded. This task was a tough one, and at one point I caught myself trying to read a book backwards

In addition, the clients in Kuwait were tempted to put three dots at the end of each message. And what in the world would that mean? Americans, on the contrary, used another form of nonverbal expression and often wrote messages in capitals. Only with the Swedes did I not have any inconveniences – we found a common language from the very moment the conversation started.

It’s been hard to go and hard to come back

I have a little son now. Throughout the pregnancy I felt so comfortable at work and absolutely did not wanted any breaks. I worked till the last day. Literally! I did take maternity leave… and after three days welcomed my firstborn.

I really wanted to come back to work ASAP, but oh, how little I knew about working while taking care of this little gentlemen! Especially with no relatives anywhere around to help out. A colleague of mine managed to get back to work three months after giving birth – once a week she even worked from the office in order not to lose the skills and socialize. I was able to start working remotely only after my son was six months old. Fortunately, my client easily agreed to my “special” working conditions.

On my return, for the first two weeks I tried to refresh my memory and find some rhythm. It’s hard to get on track after such a long break. I felt stiff. Now I work from home at a 75% load: when my son is sleeping or playing, if possible, I can work for an hour or two. When he’s awake or needs attention – I’m there for him. I’ve spoken to my Team Lead and client and we decided to give it a try. So far, everything is going great.

I had the experience of simultaneous work on several different sites before. Perhaps that’s how I’ve learned to efficiently switch between tasks. I know that for some people, working from home or multitasking is not an option, but for me it works just fine. I can concentrate on a task and be productive even if it’s only for an hour. I can get into the flow.

We have an article about that phenomenon of “flow”. Click here to give it a quick look!

My experience proved that “impossible“ is just a word! You need a strong will to start something new without fear of change and complexities. Yes, at the very beginning of the journey, it may seem too hard. Try not to give up; ask for support if things are getting tough. Maybe you are on the very turning point?

Everyone who dares to leave their comfort zone has been where you are now. For you, the choice is to overcome the challenges and push yourself further to the exciting Unknown. Or go back to your roots. I chose the first. And I have never regretted it: now I have a great job that gives me a lot of positive vibes and also friends who are just as passionate about their profession as I am.

Vacation or Work-ation: find your balance during holidays

Sunny beach, cocktail with a straw and … your urgent work tasks. This trio coexists peacefully only on stock photography. Right before the holidays hit, we want to share a piece of advice from our psychologists and colleagues: how to accomplish a smooth exit and reentry on work after a long vacation. No stress and grumbling.

Before you leave

Make a list

This will help you prioritize. There will definitely be three “somethings” in this list:

  • something to be done after the return;
  • something that to delegate;
  • something to fulfill before you go.

Start working on the last two points in advance. That’s your only chance to spend the day before the flight collecting swimsuits and inflatable flamingos, rather than panicking in front of the computer.

Anna Dobrovolskaya, Digital Marketing Manager at Beetroot, says: “Delegating my work was a big challenge for me. I thought no one would deal with it as good as I did. So going on a vacation was the same as being reckless.” However, there is always somebody who can help you out. Just maybe you need to delegate different tasks on different teammates?

Notify your team

“I’m gonna spend next week vacationing!” Saying that on a coffee break is not how you should announce your impending absence to your colleagues. Include your vacation in the team’s calendar at least a month ahead, and then set a reminder for team members a week before you leave. Most likely, your message will be completely forgotten and someone will be caught by surprise with your absence in the office. Therefore, remind them of it as often as possible.

Find vacation and work balance

Set your devices to “stunned”, or at least “out of office” mode

Another way to remind somebody you are on vacation is to create an automatic reply to messaging and voicemail. Mention the date when you will be available again. On addition to that, let your colleagues know who they can turn to while you’re offline or how they can reach you. Just in case of emergency.

Medical psychologist and Full-Stack HR consultant for Beetroot Volodymyr Vovk recommends to take a small neat notebook with you and write down some bright ideas about work improvement. “We believe”, he says, “that when we do not force our brain to work, and it can regulate mental activity, and the chance to come up with really good ideas or finding brilliant insights grows significantly.” So don’t push yourself to rest if your brain wants to work.

Put gadgets aside

To reboot your mind and body, you need to take a vacation without gadgets. Well, or at least stop scrolling the newsfeed and turn off the Internet: “I spent 10 days without a laptop, and even a smartphone!” Anna says. “Already on the third day, I even stopped thinking how things are going at work. I rewarded myself with some time off and enjoyed having a vacation with my family. Of course, after returning, some tasks were red-hot, but nothing I couldn’t solve really.”

“To make a vacation without gadgets work, everyone in the office needs to be prepared not having you online.” says Volodymyr Vovk. “Warning your colleagues also will help you realize the decision to be totally disconnected and get rid of feeling guilty for leaving your colleagues. Even for a short time.”

After the vacation

Have a buffer day

It’s clear why you want to lengthen the vacation for a day or two. But having an extra day at home before coming back to office will give you the space to get back to normal with minimal pressure.

Anna Dobrovolskaya decided that her first working day after vacation would be Friday: “It allows you to deal with all incoming messages, find out about updates on the project and make a plan for the next week that will begin without stress and panic.”

Come to the office a bit earlier

Try to go to bed early and come to the office an hour before you usually do. Think about it: no heavy traffic, some free time to clean the workplace, relax, drink your morning coffee and set a plan for your first working day. Sure, you still can be blue for no longer being at Sri Lanka. But some extra time will help you find a positive vibe and prepare yourself to work.

vacation and work balance

Do not overload yourself right away

The best option is to have no important meetings on the first day. Volodymyr Vovk advises to ask colleagues that helped you out during the vacation for updates. Please, do not try to manage everything that you missed in a last week or two. If the Apocalypse did happen while you were unavailable, calm down and determine actually urgent tasks. Often some business needs are not as important as they pretend to be.

Discover time management techniques

It is unlikely you will be 100% productive in the first 2-3 days after your vacation. Take it easy: you need a little more time to deal with the post-holiday blues and maintain your work life balance.

You can try the POMODORO technique or set the usual timer for 20-30 minutes: this is the amount of time you continuously work on solving one task. No chats, no other tasks or coffee breaks. Concentrate only for 20 minutes. Then take a 10-minute break and start again your 20 minutes of productivity.

A few sessions like this will help you focus and set the pace for your first day at work.

If even after all we’ve told you the only thing you can do at work is check whether it’s time to go home, do not map yourself. Let the body still have a little rest for one more day or so. But if this apathetically inactive mood drags on, read this article: “How to beat procrastination?“. We know how to deal with laziness, apathy and fatigue at work! 🙂

Do’s and Don’ts of entry-level CVs

When in the middle of radical career shift, people usually get frustrated about how to tell a prospective employer that they have little or no experience. The same thing happens when looking for a first-time job. We asked our recruiters about the most common mistakes of entry-level CVs to help you avoid them. Use this article to fix your CV or make it good-looking from scratch!

Our recruiters pointed to a set of common errors, including:

Click on the links above to go straight to the most interesting section of this article.

Structure

The common mistake is to write your life story instead of writing a CV. Do not confuse CV with an autobiographical essay (like the one you’ve done at school) – these two styles of self-presentation are for different purposes.

Do not overload your CV with information: the recruiter is looking for candidates with specific skill sets and goals. Highlight these qualities and prove you’re the right person for the job. The structure will help you do it even better.

Classic CV usually consists of seven sections (try to fit this information into one sheet of paper):

  • Name and Surname
    city of residence
  • 2-3 lines about your key skills, points of interest within the project and motivation to determine your readiness for this job.
  • Skillset
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Hobbies (if relevant)
  • Contact information

You can compile personal data for a CV using one of Canva’s templates or other web-resources: it will help keep the info organized, good-looking and easy-to-read.

File format

Yes, in the XXI century you still can use a regular text editor for writing your CV, but really why would you? Formatting sometimes crashes and turns your resume into chaos. If you still want to work in a text file save it as .pdf after you finish. Please, forget about PowerPoint presentations. There are better ways to show your design skills. If you do programming too (or someone can give you a hand with that), stand out from other candidates by creating a presentational web page.

Just don’t forget to add a “Download my CV” button somewhere – the recruiter will thank you for that.

The filename is another important detail. “Junior-designer Ivan Popov CV”, “Ira Kruchko Ruby CV” – writing your full name, the position you want to have or your core skill will help you to be identified among the dozens of files named “2.txt”, “cv.pdf”, or “resume.docx”.

The clichés

Imagine how many “communicable”, “stress-resistant” and “responsible” candidates the recruiter sees every day? These clichés are a total waste unless you’ll support the statements with specific data. We mean you can mention “I’m attentive and pedantic” but if double spaces, autocorrect fails, extra commas will pop up in your CV here and there, it’s going to be a fiasco.

Instead of describing yourself with clichés tell about your experience. If you want to point out your reliability and conscientious, don’t say “I am a responsible person”, let the facts tell more: maybe you were a class president, volunteer or some kind of event-manager?

The same thing goes when talking about your skills. Compare “I was taught Javascript on courses”, “I’ve been learning WordPress” and “…my graduation project is written in Javascript (link)”. Better tell the recruiter where you’ve already applied your knowledge.

Exaggeration

Look through the required skills. If there is anything on that list you are not happy about, don’t pretend to be a 100% match for the job. Tell the truth, or do not mention skills you do not have at all. There is no point in exaggeration: you can’t even imagine how simple it is to catch the candidate on blabbing. Bad English is the classic case. “One candidate wrote that he has advanced English,” says HR-contractor at Beetroot Halyna Vorona. “But at the interview, he refused to speak it without preparation, which is suspicious, you know.” Another one rated his English at 4 out of 5 stars, but it turned out he was too shy and insecure to mention his excellent TOEFL!

HR specialist Natasha Dmytrenko believes that if there is a 50-60% relevance to the requirements, you can try to submit for the vacancy: “Send the CV even before you are totally ready for the job, otherwise you can lose time on waiting for the result. Do not be too critical to yourself – employers don’t expect professionalism from an entry-level candidate.”

entry-level CV

Creativity overdose

If you can think outside the box, make a good design or smashingly code, let the examples of your work speak for themselves. Natalia Dmitrenko advises: “It is better not to go from one extreme to another: candidates sometimes write that they are ready to work for food, or “your company is so lucky to have me!” – and it pushes me away.”

If you want to express yourself – add a cover letter to the resume. This is an informal text, a short story about your motivation for working in this company or project. Take up to 200-300 words to tell smth relevant and good-to-know about you. Keep a neutral tone of voice and not get too comfortable talking about yourself: recruiter is not your best fella (at least for now) and familiarity is not a good choice for making the first impression.

Photos

Candidates are not required to attach photos from ID’s (sometimes it’s better not to show them to anybody at all, agreed?). However, if there is an option to add a photo of you to the resume, be wise. Natalia received quite strange pictures with the CV: “One candidate was in a T-shirt on a photo, with his hands raised above his head and crowded train on the background. Another time I get a photo of a girl, she’s bent over the keyboard, so you see only the top of her head, with the signature: “This is how I look almost always because I’m a workaholic!”. Catchy idea but not a 100% good decision.”

Experience

If you have no commercial experience in a new specialty (didn’t have previous official employment in IT), it does not mean that you have nothing to tell. Inna Chernova, an HR consultant at Beetroot Academy, advises never to say: “I do not have a CV because I have not worked anywhere yet.”

Maybe you were attending conferences, studying at art school, taking part in FLEX or AIESEC, were volunteering somewhere? If just graduated from IT courses, show your graduation project – that’s already something!

Another mistake is to write all your jobs and activities in a row. Even if they do not relate to IT. Recall two or three recent or most revealing of them: where you worked for the longest, what position did you had, what duties performed, what results achieved.

Here’s a good example from HR Consultant (Full-Stack), Beetroot, Volodymyr Vovk:

Software Engineer at ***. August 2016 – present. Technologies research and developing new functionality.

Achievements: designed and developed completed microservice, implemented a set of build scripts, made infrastructure wrappers for 3AWS services.

Environment: Scala, Finagle, AWS, Guice, Git, Akka, Docker, Flatbuffers, SBT, CircleCIand IntelliJ IDEA.

Replace “Software Engineer” with “accountant”, “manager”, “decorator” – or what you’ve been doing before – and describe your experience and competencies using this scheme.

If your hobbies are somehow related to the vacancy, give a few words about them. Better to be brief about embroidery, singing karaoke, collecting postcards and other irrelevant to your new occupation activities.

entry-level CV

Dialogue with the recruiter

Even if you wrote an amazingly brilliant CV, it’s still unlikely that someone will send you a contract for signing right away. The whole employment process takes about a month: ~ 2 weeks for reviewing the resume, then the interview with the recruiter, fulfilling the test task, a few more technical or client interviews. The point is do not expect that the recruiter will answer you immediately.

The rule of good manners in HR is to answer all the CVs. Even if the candidate does not meet the requirements and must get a negative response. Only after two weeks, if your mail is still empty, tactfully recap: ask if they did get your CV and read it. It’s better to send the request in the same thread.

If you received a negative response, you might still benefit from it: ask the recruiter the reason for the refusal and what skills should you improve to get the job next time. It’s totally OK, as well as asking HR-manager to contact you when a new vacancy opens.

Spam

Juniors have a sneaky tendency to send the same CV to all the companies, thinking that this increases their chances of getting the job! Well, it’s not the wisest thing to do: a recruiter can determine if the person is motivated to work on this particular project, or just looking for any kind of work anywhere. Even if you have to pay the bills for the apartment, spamming a template-like CV to every IT company out there is not an option. Do not be too lazy to write a new CV for each vacancy that interests you (or re-write yours considering project characteristics). At least you can try to find a temporary work so you’d have resources for waiting for your dream job to come up.

To sum up

Don’t write a CV in a rush. Give yourself some time: sit in a quiet place and make a plan, structure the resume today, add some extra information tomorrow and give the text to someone the day after. When you’re working on smth for a long time you can miss obvious mistakes, it’s easier to find and correct them just asking another person to look through the text.

Remember, when a company opens an entry-level vacancy, they do not expect you to be an extraordinary professional. Most likely, they are looking for a flexible candidate with a good basis in technologies and good soft-skills to become such a pro inside the team or particular project. Look through the requirements: if you have at least 60% of the core skill set, apply! If not, look through the list once again: it is a right vector for self-development and future learning!