A Master of Multitasking

This Berkeley grad works for Sun Microsystems by day, and moonlights as the co-founder of an online media company for young professionals

By day, I am marketing manager in the global communications group of Sun Microsystems (SUNW), a high-tech industry leader focused solely on network computing. As the youngest manager in my organization—at 23—I help roll out public relations efforts and make sure the organization has the operational support it needs. I have an interdisciplinary business degree in marketing and strategic planning from the University of California at Berkeley.

By night, I am executive director and co-founder of TheCulturalConnect.com, an online media publishing company that puts out four (soon to be five!) weekly magazines for young professionals who want to be connected to and inspired by others within their cultural communities. We have readers in more than 100 countries and are close to approaching 3 million hits in just eight months of operation. I'm responsible for managing strategic direction, editorial content, marketing, operational strategy, and the 17-member staff.

When I launched TheCulturalConnect.com, I didn't know what I was getting into. I didn't ever think I was going to be an entrepreneur—instead a frustration of mine turned into an idea, the idea pitched to my co-founders Raymond Rouf and Kaiser Shahid became a magazine, and the magazine spread and grew. We had many sleepless nights to get everything out by our launch date. No matter how easy it was for us to push it back, we stuck to it like glue. A lot of people have commended us on doing something many young people don't when they have a good idea—act on it (see BusinessWeek.com, 7/5/06, "Self-Employed—And Wearing Many Hats").

Luckily, both companies are very flexible. At Sun, I can sport Friday jeans every day and don't have an angry boss who follows me around. The fact that I'm responsible for making my projects a success drives me to work harder. At TheCulturalConnect.com, the team meets virtually and everyone has the luxury of working in pajamas if they want.

Here is a typical day in my life:

5:29 a.m.—My body is so in tune with my alarm clock—and annoyed by it—that I wake up about a minute before the buzzing begins. I get my laptop from my nightstand and check my e-mail for both jobs.

6:30a.m.—I'm out the door to catch the train to San Francisco. I could easily drive into the city but would like to get a head start on my workload. I'm more productive on the train with my laptop than I am in my car listening to the radio.

7:45 a.m.—With coffee and a bagel in hand, I'm ready to start my day at Sun. On the top of my list of things to do is write a To-Do list. Without it, I'd be lost.

8:00 a.m.—I sort through thirtysomething e-mails—press releases that have gone over the news wire, product updates, event updates, and undoubtedly notes from my superiors.

9:00 a.m.—If I could only get one major project out of the way today, what would it be? The quarterly marketing presentation I'm creating for my vice-president wins the game.

10:00 a.m.—My first conference call of the day is with the manager of our National Business Press team. We discuss the logistical changes that need to be made with a technical tool that was created to help understand ongoing press relationships. Without these changes, the tool proves to be ineffective, so I have to expedite this.

Noon—After cracking through several more e-mails and quick phone calls, I realize that now is my opportunity to grab lunch. I normally eat at my desk but at least once a week try to sit down with a co-worker or friend.

1:00 p.m.—I jump on my Global Communications conference call.

We discuss the status of the quarterly marketing report I'm developing, the Dutch media tour, network computing event in Germany, and an HTML invitation that needs to be created and sent out to the U.S.-based international press correspondents for an upcoming San Francisco event.

2:00 p.m.—Third call of the day. This one is with a third-party vendor we use to retrieve numbers to analyze public relations and marketing efforts.

3:00 p.m.—After checking e-mail for a half-hour, I'm on to conference call No. 4 with a technical communications guy about our new online media center.

3:30 p.m.—I receive an e-mail asking to reschedule an in-person meeting at 4. Do I mind? Not at all. This wasn't super-urgent, and now I more time to make phone calls and respond to 20 more e-mails that have come in.

5:30 p.m.—I usually try to get out the door by 6, but today is a little different. Once a week, I work as a mentor with an amazing nonprofit, BUILD, to provide an education in entrepreneurship to underprivileged high school students. My team, the Young Sprouts, is made up of five 14-year-olds and a co-mentor from Google (GOOG).

7:00 p.m.—When the clock strikes 7, calls from my family begin to pour in. They know I'm heading home and that it's the best time to reach me. They all have their own cell phones, so I often get more than one call from them at the same time (even though they live under one roof).

7:30 p.m.—My business director and I have two phone interviews scheduled with people interested in joining TheCulturalConnect.com staff. The first is an undergrad at theUniversity of Illinois who wants journalism experience and the second is a Duke University grad interested in networking.

8:00 p.m.—I get home and change gears. I go for a 2.5-mile run, not because I enjoy it but because I've been sitting in a chair all day.

8:27p.m.—I hit the showers, chow down on dinner, and go through 20-plus e-mails for TheCulturalConnect.com.

9:00 p.m.—Our business director/co-founder and I check in with each other.

9:15 p.m.—I have to get started on the publication that will get issued tomorrow morning. I'm working on uploading our Young & Professional profile.

10:00 p.m.—Test e-mails begin. We have to make sure this e-mail looks perfect tonight so that our IT director can send it out first thing in the morning.

11:00 p.m.—I review a few e-mails from my siblings.

Midnight—I check to make sure profiles have come in for our Latin publication, update statistics on the home page, and send e-mails to the staff.

1:00 a.m.—I think about my day tomorrow and go to sleep.

In my business, you need to be connected and learn to not burn bridges. It seems like everyone knows everyone in marketing. Make sure you have people that can vouch for you as references. When you first get out of college, it's important to play the field as much as possible and do as many informational interviews to learn about many companies.

I've learned through my work experience that it may be important what your job and responsibilities are, but it's even more important to be at a company with a good corporate culture. If you get along with everyone, those connections will easily help further your career later.

Kazi can be reached at: sumaya@theculturalconnect.com or sumaya.kazi@sun.com

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