Jillian Warren

Digital Project Management & Communications

Author: Jillian (page 1 of 8)

Studio Italiano!

Italian Beginning Part 1 Certificate

Io parlo italiano!

I’ve thought about taking an Italian class for a while now, and this winter, I finally did!

As a former French major, I’ve always loved learning a second language, and I already had a solid foundation in romance languages. Unfortunately, my level of French is too high for most continuing education courses and not high enough to fit in with fluent speakers, so I’d had to put my formal foreign language education on hold since graduation. Then, my thoughts began to drift toward Italian.

My visit to Il Colosseo in September 2012.

My visit to Il Colosseo in September 2012.

Why Italian? As a language, Italian is similar to French, and it is attached to a beautiful culture and country. It’s also the language of music, so I’d already inadvertently studied Italian vocabulary in piano and clarinet lessons. And, we all know Italian food! Then, when my husband (an Italian history buff) and I decided to visit Florence and Rome a couple years ago, I bought some Italian CDs to teach myself the basics. Although I hardly used my new-found language skills while we were over there, after our trip, I was hooked. So much so that we seriously considered a second trip to Italy this spring (but sadly plans have since changed).

When I saw that Wake Tech was offering a Beginning Italian 1 continuing education course that fit my schedule, I jumped at the chance! At first, I was nervous about being back in a classroom again after many years away, especially for three straight hours each week. However, once that first class session started, I knew I was back in my element. Fortunately, I had a terrific professoressa, and the other students were all in the same boat as me. The course moved at a very quick pace, but we started with the rules of grammar and pronunciation, and then built on it with practical vocabulary. I would highly recommend it!

Next up: Beginning Italian 2. The new semester starts today, and sono pronto!

I Ran the Chicago Marathon!

Chicago Marathon Finish Line

I just knocked a major milestone off my bucket list! I ran my first marathon, and I did it in my hometown – something I’ve wanted to do since high school!

I grew up with the Chicago Marathon. As a teen in the Chicago suburbs, I volunteered at the race with my cross-country teammates, cheered for my running relatives, and witnessed a world-record finish.

I ran my first half marathon several years ago, but I’d been plagued by injuries ever since. Two years ago I decided to get serious about running again. I joined Capital Run Walk’s Fit-Tastic 5K program and the Raleigh Galloway long-distance training program, with the goal of running the 2012 City of Oaks Half Marathon – and then, if that went off without a hitch, the 2013 Chicago Marathon. Read the full story of how I overcame injury to run a pain-free 5K and then moved on to longer distances. I made it through City of Oaks injury-free, and I successfully registered for the Chicago Marathon (despite the unexpected system crash that made registration nearly impossible!).

Wisconsin Half Marathon

I ran a sub-2:30 half in Wisconsin but injured my leg in the process.

I spent the spring training for the Wisconsin Half Marathon (another excellent race!), but unfortunately suffered a calf strain the week before the Galloway season started. I had to take 6 weeks off from running and spent plenty of time in physical therapy. Once I was cleared to run again, my PT advised me not to run the marathon this year. He wasn’t the only one. Coaches and friends also suggested I take it easy. However, I got a second opinion from my orthopaedic doctor (also a distance runner), who wrote me out a very specific run/walk interval plan to help get me to race day. He said that it was a very ambitious, and maybe crazy, goal — but it just might work. Instead of aspiring to finish the Chicago Marathon, my new goal was just to get to the starting line. If I could do that, I would have accomplished something that people said couldn’t be done.

Fast-forward through a sweltering summer of gradually increasing intervals and mileage in 100% humidity, returning to Galloway for Saturday morning long runs with the 12-minute pace group, and continued PT and constant foam-rolling. It soon became apparent that I might actually make it to the marathon start line! (I joked that everything after the start would be my “victory lap.”) About a month before the race, my tight calf muscles started causing problems for my knee on long runs, but I did everything I could to take good care of it.

Chicago Marathon Expo Entrance

I was all smiles (and nerves!) at the Race Expo.

My husband and I flew into O’Hare the Thursday before the race and spent a couple days at my parents’ house. Friday morning, we headed into the city for the race expo — which was unbelievable! The huge McCormick Place convention center was jam-packed with people, vendors, and race gear. It was overwhelming, and we easily could’ve spent half the day there. However, despite the magnitude of the event, it was the most efficient packet pickup I’ve ever experienced. In less than 5 minutes, someone scanned my pickup ticket, checked my ID, and sent me to a specific table where my bib number was already waiting for me. Next, we braved the Nike official race gear section. Although it was only Friday at 11am, it was as busy as the mall on Black Friday. The official merchandise selection was excellent, although overpriced. Once we cleared the Nike gauntlet, we wandered through booths for all the other major running companies — most of which had their own lines of Chicago-specific gear. Other vendors included races, charities, accessories, and even wine tastings. We spent Friday evening and Saturday relaxing before heading to a downtown hotel Saturday night.

Chicago Marathon Start Line

We had plenty of time at the start line. I didn’t cross until 50 minutes after the elite runners!

Sunday: race day! We lucked out and had amazing weather — 45 at the start and 65 at the finish, with sunny skies all the way. There isn’t much shade on the second half of the course, though, so it warmed up quick (and I got a nice sunburn to boot).

It was a 10-minute walk from my hotel to the starting area. Even with heightened security, I cleared the entrance gate in less than 2 minutes (I had to open the pouch on my water belt but that was it) and made my way to my start corral. Security, communication, and corral organization were efficient and easy to navigate. The first wave of runners started at 7:30am, and my wave started at 8… But my corral didn’t cross the start line until 8:20. I had plenty of time to make friends with my fellow Corral K runners.

I may be biased, but the course is absolutely fantastic. It’s flat (with a few minor hills), scenic, and one big party! It’s a giant loop that winds through 29 neighborhoods on the the three different sides of the city. Crowd support is constant and high-energy (although it is true that the first half has more spectators). There were cheerleaders in Boystown, a mariachi block party in Pilsen, Gangnam Style blasting down on the South Side, an Elvis impersonator in Old Town, a marching band at UIC, and countless church and charity groups rocking to music and waving homemade motivational signs along the way. I can honestly say I had FUN the entire race! It’s a spectator-friendly course, as well; my family “fan club” was able to see me at 6 different points along the race route. Also, the volunteers are amazing, there were tons of photographers, and there were so many well-stocked aid stations that I probably could’ve gone without my trusty water belt. I’m glad I had it in the end, though, because I needed my full stash of gels and snacks, and it was helpful to have extra water when the temperature warmed up.

My plan was to stick to 2:1 run/walk intervals until about mile 20, when I’d reevaluate based on how I felt. I started out nice and slow, determined not to get caught up in the high energy of the first half and go out too fast. I ran into a fellow Raleigh Galloway runner around mile 1, and we stuck together for several miles. We saw two other runners from our group as well! Around mile 10, I picked up the pace (hitting a 2:54 half split) and felt fantastic until 18-20, when the sun rose higher and the shade disappeared. I kept waiting to hit “the wall” (which I’d never done, since I’d been unable to run more than 20 miles in training because of my modified, doctor-approved schedule), but fortunately I never did! My knee held up really well, and I never had any major pains — just some very sore feet by the end.

Team Jillian Race Crew

My outstanding “race crew” met me at 6 different points along the course.

When I saw my family for the last time around mile 24, I told them that “I don’t feel ‘good,’ but I’ve felt much worse.” From there, I turned off my interval timer and switched to as-needed walking. I’d pick a building in the distance and decide that I would run until I reached that building, and then take a quick walk break. I remember thinking about things I might do differently for my next marathon… Which was exciting, because it means I never thought “I hate this! I’m never doing this again!” This was proof that I had trained well and was truly prepared. The months of sacrifice and hard work were worth it!

Chicago Marathon finisher's medalCrossing the finish line was amazing, but also strangely anti-climactic. Due to increased security measures, the general public was not allowed anywhere near the finish. You could feel the energy of the elated runners (myself included!) sprinting toward the finish, but it was such a stark contrast to the handful of spectators in the largely empty grandstand. The whole experience was a bit surreal. After crossing the line, we walked down a never-ending chute of blankets, water bottles, medals, photos, etc. — all while being watched over by medical staff. It was literally another mile before we arrived at the publicly accessible runner reunite area. It was packed, but I found my crew easily, and we headed home.

I achieved SEVEN big goals that day:

  1. I made it to the start line.
  2. I finished my first marathon.
  3. I finished the CHICAGO Marathon.
  4. I ran injury-free with a big smile on my face the whole time!
  5. I finished in 5:50:03 — under 6 hours.
  6. I ran fairly even splits, with a 2:54 half time.
  7. I beat my fundraising goal as a member of Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s Team Lemon and brought in $377 for childhood cancer research.

I will definitely be running this one again! Now, when’s my next race???

Team Jillian at the Runner Reunite Area

Check out all the photos from my marathon experience here!

A special thank you goes to:

  • My family, friends, and coworkers
  • Capital Run Walk and the Fit-Tastic coaches and runners
  • Raleigh Galloway, especially Cruise Control and the Kewl Runners
  • Impact Orthopaedics
  • Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s Team Lemon

I’m Joining Duke Web Services

American Tobacco Campus

Tomorrow starts my last full work week as an employee of the state. Starting in September, I’m moving to the American Tobacco Campus in Durham (shown above) to join the Duke Web Services team as its Project and Client Relations Manager.

Duke Web Services is Duke University‘s internal web design and development group, and it falls under the Office of Information Technology. I’ll be working with a great team on web projects for clients across the university. It’s an exciting opportunity to move into full-time higher education web work!

Although I’m looking forward to my new position, it does bring an end to what has been a wonderful chapter of my life and career. For the past year and a half, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the nicest folks in the state at the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. Together, we have done quality work and made great progress on key projects, and it has been my honor to serve the state’s Judicial Branch.

An Invitation to the Governor’s Mansion

State Internship Reception at the Governor's Mansion

This summer, I have been fortunate to be a supervisor for the N.C. State Government Internship Program, run by the Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office of the Department of Administration.

It’s a highly selective program – both for students and for government agencies. After an intense, months-long process of putting together internship proposals and interviewing candidates, we were matched with a terrific grad student (pictured with me, above) to help the content effort for our intranet redesign project. It turned out to be a great partnership, and I’m sad our intern’s tenure is coming to a close on Friday.

Invitation to the Executive Mansion

My formal invitation to the reception

The highlight of the internship program is a reception hosted by the governor at the Executive Mansion. This year, interns and supervisors were welcomed with cookies and cold drinks on a blistering hot day, and we were treated to an address by Governor Pat McCrory as he stood on the staircase of his home. He touched on his previous internship experience, the importance of public service, and a brief tour of the mansion.

Governor McCrory

The governor prepares to address the interns

Our intern definitely deserved such an honor for his hard work and achievements, and I’m sure the other interns are equally as deserving! It was a pleasure to take part in this year’s program – and a real treat to have my first visit to the Executive Mansion with the governor himself as the guide.

Check out the Governor’s Office’s coverage of the event:

Free Image Resources

Copyright infringement

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the guy who did a Google Image search, found an image he liked and posted it to his website, and then got a call months later that he had violated that image’s copyright and now owes hundreds of dollars. It’s not an urban legend. It really happens.

However, if you (like me!) are determined not to fall victim to accidental copyright infringement, here are some quick and easy ways to find images that won’t get you in trouble and that won’t cost you a pretty penny. I compiled this list as one of my first duties with the NCAOC. Being a government agency, we don’t have the luxury of a paid stock photography service, so we have to be resourceful!

NCAOC Free Image Resources

NCJC Safety Newsletters

NCJC Fire Safety Newsletter 2013

Did you know that June is National Safety Month?

A few weeks ago, the N.C. Judicial Center (NCJC) Emergency Planning and Safety committees asked my help to disseminate information to NCJC staff to mark the occasion. I sat down with several managers on the committees to listen to their needs, and these main themes surfaced: fires, high-wind events (tornadoes and hurricanes), and domestic violence and health-related emergencies. We took those themes and sketched out a month-long communications plan:

  • Include general safety articles in the two June editions of the NCJC Building Bulletin (BB) newsletter
  • Produce three weekly “special editions” of the BB that would each cover one of these safety themes

There was a treasure trove of information on each of our three themes, but it was not very well-organized. I combed through notes and draft articles provided by committee members, old safety announcements from the BB, the NCJC Emergency Operations Procedures policy, and other HR documents and policies.NCJC High Wind Safety Newsletter For each edition, I organized my notes into a series of articles, which I then laid out in our standard HTML newsletter template. I created all the images and graphics, as well. All this, on top of my normal (overloaded) workload! Whew!

Check out the final products:

Fortunately, though, my hard work paid off as this series of safety-themed newsletters has been exceptionally well-received by committee members, executive managers, and staff. For example, a copy of the High Wind newsletter found its way to the Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court’s office, and a request was made to send future editions to members of her staff.

NCJC Safety Information page

The NCJC Safety Information webpage is accessible by mobile devices during an emergency event.

Also, as part of the publishing process, the committees wanted to include links to the newsletters from our static HTML intranet website (which is behind a firewall and only accessible from computers on the Judicial Branch network). That part was easy. However, they also requested that the newsletters be readily accessible by smartphones during an emergency – which posed a problem, as smartphones cannot access our intranet. So, I quickly created a basic HTML page outside our intranet, which includes links to the safety newsletters, policies, and other information that could be important during an event.

For more details on my newsletter work, check out:

Choosing Penn

College Green at the University of Pennsylvania

“Where did you go to school?”
“University of Pennsylvania.”
“Why did you decide to go there?”

This is a conversation I have all the time. Here’s the long version of my answer to the Why Penn? question.

In high school, I realized I had a passion for journalism, languages, and the humanities. I didn’t have a dream profession just yet, so I explored schools with communications, journalism, creative writing, English, and French programs. Academically rigorous and distinguished programs rose to the top of my list. I also checked to make sure these schools offered the extracurricular activities that were most important to me"Activities can be a crucial part of college applications" Daily Herald article (check out this 2001 Daily Herald article featuring me and my extracurriculars).

Location-wise, I wanted to push my boundaries. You don’t get many chances to try living in another part of the country for four years with no strings attached. I would get to meet different people, experience another region’s culture, and further develop my independence. Ultimately, I considered a handful of Midwest schools but focused primarily on the East Coast.

Once I had a list of schools that were a match for me academically and geographically, I continued on the search for the best fit! My parents and I drove East during spring break of my junior year to tour several universities. Penn was not one of them. Although I remember receiving a Penn brochure in the mail that year, it didn’t click with me for some reason. However, after seeing other campuses and realizing that I preferred larger, more urban schools, my mom suggested we drive through Philadelphia on our way home. A traffic jam and pouring rain kept us from setting foot on Penn’s campus that day, but I saw enough from the backseat window to pique my interest.

Later that spring, I skipped my junior prom to accompany my dad on a business trip to Philly. When he wasn’t working, we headed over to University City to look around and take a campus tour. We both loved it. Everything about the campus just felt right; and the more I saw, the more I liked it. We brought Mom back to Penn in September to make sure it was the one for me, and we were all hooked. I came back to Illinois and started work on my Early Decision application right away.

My two application essaysUniversity of Pennsylvania Quad prove just how excited I was about the possibility of attending Penn. The first is my response to the famous “write page 217 of your 300-page autobiography” prompt, and the second discusses why I was interested in Penn.

Even years later, I am still absolutely confident that Penn was the right choice for me.

Sponsor My Marathon!

Jillian running the 2013 Wisconsin Marathon

Alex's Lemonade Stand Team Lemon

I’m training for my very first marathon (Chicago 2013!) and have joined Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s Team Lemon! Please sponsor one of my 26 miles to fund pediatric cancer research and help families going through tough times.

I’ll be running for about 5 1/2 hours that day, so I’d like to raise enough money to fund at least 5 1/2 hours of pediatric cancer research ($275). Any and all donations will be greatly appreciated and will help get me closer to my goal.

Only 5 months until race day!

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Click here if form does not display properly

Digital Communications Project Manager

I’ve spent the past 15 months working at the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts as an Information and Communications Specialist – but no more! That boring, straight-out-of-the-box job title hardly describes what I do for the organization. We just received word that HR has approved my title change: I am now the Digital Communications Project Manager.

Yes, it’s still a bit of a mouthful, but it gives a better picture of my job responsibilities and differentiates me from other Communications Office staff who have vastly different job descriptions. My primary job function is to project manage the redesigns of our websites, although I also do everything from newsletter editing to graphic design to public relations.

It’s nice to finally have a custom job title that really fits!

Digital Marketing for Business Conference Recap

Keynote by Gopi Kallayil of Google

Put a couple hundred of the brightest minds in digital marketing in one room, and… Go!

That was the scene at last week’s Digital Marketing for Business Conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. This inaugural, locally organized conference featured a lineup of mostly local marketing professionals covering topics from social media to content marketing to storytelling. I spent two days alternating between sessions in its two tracks: enterprise and small business.

For me, these were a few of the conference’s highlights (in chronological order):

  • Keynote by Gopi Kallayil of Google (featured in the main post image above): I’m still not sure if I’ll ever embrace Google+ for my own personal use, but Gopi helped me see that it’s more than just a Facebook wannabe. He shed some light onto why it’s worthwhile from a business/brand perspective and where Google hopes to take us in the future. Plus, Gopi works at Google, so he’s clearly fascinating :)
  • How The Pit BBQ Used Social Media to Make Magic Happen: This downtown BBQ restaurant has always had a cult following on Twitter, and now I know why. It was part of a deliberate strategic plan to target locals and turn them into brand evangelists. This was a good case study of small steps one small business took and how they are ultimately paying off.
  • Video for People Who are Terrified of Video: As a former television editor, I didn’t learn much here that I didn’t already know… But, I did get a lot of pre-packaged golden knowledge nuggets that I can easily turn around and present to my coworkers in my ongoing uphill battle to bring video to the Judicial Branch.
  • Slide from Gregory Ng's DMFB Keynote

    This slide from Gregory Ng’s keynote shows that data-driven marketing is where the CMO, CIO, and analyst collide.

  • Keynote by Gregory Ng of Brooks Bell: One of my biggest takeaways from this, other than that Greg loves 80s cartoons, is that as technology evolves, so must businesses. Your chief marketing officer and your chief information officer need to be closer than ever… And don’t forget the importance of your analyst!
  • Content Marketing Art of War and Is Content Marketing the Future?: “Content marketing” is clearly this year’s trendy marketing buzz word. But, these presentations reinforced that content is here to stay. The first presentation took us through some successful case studies, while the second was probably the most interesting panel I’ve seen in a while (panels tend to bore me).
  • Social Media in a Big Brother World: Everything about this presentation spoke to me. Although Quintiles is in a different type of heavily regulated industry than my government employer, we face many of the same obstacles, and it was interesting to hear how they navigated the red tape and managed to plan and execute a successful social media strategy.

It always takes me a while to recover from a good conference. The intense concentration and high energy levels they require are exhausting, the mountains of work waiting for me back in the office are overwhelming, and the list of big ideas to explore and genius advice to implement is pages and pages long. So, with that said, I’m definitely still processing a lot of the big conference takeaways, but I hope to use them for good in the near future! I would definitely recommend this conference for anyone in the digital marketing space.

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