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Ways We Work

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Amandah Wood

Creator of Ways We Work

Amandah Wood is the creator and curator of Ways We Work. She's also a full-time front-end developer and co-lead of Ladies Learning Code in Waterloo. She loves to travel, drink beer and has a small, secret obsession with terrariums. She also finds writing bios in the third person awkward but is doing it anyway. Photo credit to the multi-talented Cindy Perri, taken at The Bauer Kitchen.

What do you do?

A lot of different things. I created and run Ways We Work. Which means finding interesting people to feature, writing content, and making sure that content gets the eyes it deserves. There's always a lot of different stuff going on behind the scenes to keep the project growing. For the past two years I've been front-end developer and community manager for the Charcoal Group, but this April I'll be joining the HIM & HER team as their Front-End Developer. I also co-lead the Ladies Learning Code chapter for Waterloo, which means organizing and running workshops for women of all walks of life who want to learn how to code.

I really enjoy having a few things going at once but finding the happy medium of too much or too little has been a learning experience.

What do you find most rewarding about your role? Most challenging?

There is nothing more rewarding to me than building something from idea to conception. It's why I love building for the web and it takes it to another level when it's a project I own. Knowing you've created something that other people can connect to and draw inspiration from is the dream. I've also learned invaluable skills through running Ways We Work which often carry over into other parts of my life.

Most challenging is running the show alone. It's rewarding to know that all the work you've done by yourself has been successful but it also takes a lot of time and energy. I have great people around me to bounce ideas off of, but some days I do think it would be nice to have someone as invested in the success of this project as me. They'd just have to be okay with it not being a paid gig - yet haha.

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?

Getting out to events. There's a surplus of events, workshops and meetups happening around Kitchener-Waterloo if you look for them. Meeting up with people and having some quality face-time is key. It's the strongest source of inspiration and motivation for me.

Twitter and Medium are the other two main online sources for seeing what others in the industry are up to.

What are your top five applications or programs?

Buffer - I could go on at length about how much I admire this company in general. The way they share process and are so transparent is a big inspiration for Ways We Work. They have the best tool for scheduling and analyzing social media content. Plus an nice extension for Buffering things wherever you are on the web. I’ve tried many tools for this but they win at being a powerful tool without being overly complicated.

Todoist - I used the free version of this to-do list app for just a day before I bought the premium one. A month ago had I filled this out I’d have said I was still using notebooks for to-do lists. No app I’d tried in the past managed to do what I needed it to. I think it takes me 5 seconds to add a to-do, assign it to a project and set a due date. It’s difficult to explain exactly why Todoist works so well for me, it just works and is easy to use.

Evernote - I’ve only been using it heavily for the last few months. After reading Thomas Honeyman’s post on how he uses it, it’s become a staple. I love the simplicity of his system and I stick to only adding the best content I come across to save to my Reference notebook.

Pocket - This one is my catch all, opposite from Evernote where I only save the best stuff. I use Pocket to find and save great tools and articles for the Ways We Work blog. I also use it to just save stuff I want to read myself whether it’s related to Ways We Work or not and use tags to organize it all.

Mailchimp - The iPhone app is great for keeping track of when newsletters have gone out and it offers full analytics on how they’re performing. Mailchimp in general is a great tool but they’re so incredible at marketing you probably already know that.

The main thing all these apps have that makes them so successful in my workflow is that they have extensions for Chrome and integrate with everything else I use. I never actually think about any of them because they just work and keep things running smoothly.

Best way to stay on top of email?

In total I have around six email addresses but it doesn’t feel like much because all of them just come through Gmail and I can respond using either of them right in Gmail. I use the web app and the iPhone app for Gmail. Nothing else I’ve tried has come close.

In terms of managing the amount of email, there is never more than 10 emails in my Inbox at one time and this is thanks to Todoist and Streak.

Todoist is the best to-do app I’ve encountered. Again it hits the sweet spot of being powerful without being complicated. It has a Gmail extension where I can click a button and turn an email into a to-do, then I archive it and it’s gone. Todoist will link me right back to it when I’m ready to deal with it. Turning emails into to-dos with notes, deadlines and context has been huge for me.

Streak is another extension for Gmail that is a CRM right in your inbox. I can put conversations in boxes and move those boxes through a pipeline, this is great for managing interviews for the site. Having conversations grouped in boxes to access later also means I can archive away and get stuff out of my inbox.

What is your best time-saving trick?

A to-do list. There’s no way I’ll remember everything that is going on. Having a good to-do list means I know what I can get done when I’ve got a few spare minutes.

One non-tech thing you can’t live without?

People. It’s easy to get sucked into work and running Ways We Work. Making sure the numbers are going up, making sure there’s great content. Sometimes it can feel like you’re throwing stuff into a black hole and hoping it finds someone who will be inspired or intrigued.

Every time I have lunch or coffee with someone, or go out to an event in town and people give me great feedback on the project or suggestions or just want to talk about it, I get a huge burst of energy and motivation to keep making it better.

What does your workspace look like?

Realistically most nights it’s my couch with two cats nearby. Occasionally I use my desk. Really it’s wherever I’ve got my laptop and a solid wi-fi connection.

Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?

It's currently in the middle of a big change so it's hard to say, but structuring my days better is the one area I most want to improve in. I have a tendency to work on too many things at once and get easily distracted throughout the day. Again a good to-do list works well, each task is something tangible I can focus on until it's done.

Most weekdays I typically wake up around 7:30am and head into the office or wherever it is I need to be first.

I check email first and tend to build out my to-do list from the day based on that.

As a community manager I had content coming in from many different sources throughout the day so I would constantly flip between Gmail, Twitter and Facebook. On days when I need to work heads down I make sure content is taken care of in advance so I can turn these off and focus.

At night I go home and tackle whatever tasks need to be done for Ways We Work. Drafting up interviews, social media posts, writing blogs, email outreach, and setting goals.

Why do you do what you do, what motivates you and makes everything worth it?

I truly believe in the concept that drives Ways We Work. People sharing honest accounts of how they go about their daily work and doing the work that they love. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward, show off their best selves and their best work, but there is so much that comes out of sharing process and being transparent. I definitely believe that big reveals and exciting launches are important. I just think the mess and challenges that came before them are just as important and deserve to be shared.

I believe there is so much value in that and that's my motivation for everything.

What is the greatest piece of career advice/wisdom you’ve ever received?

Fake it till you make it. At a glance this seems a bit contradictory to the whole transparency thing but the concept behind it isn't. I don't think anyone ever knows 100% what they're doing and if they do they should push themselves harder. Learn by doing and muster up whatever confidence you've got while you do it.

Create opportunities for yourself by creating opportunities for others.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

The next person I'd like to see featured on the site is a young female entrepreneur. Someone who is truly hustling for something they believe in.