Uncovering Ostomy with about.me

Guest writer Jessica Grossman is the founder of Uncover Ostomy, an online campaign focused on raising awareness towards the ostomy and defeating the negative stigma surrounding the surgery.

What do you think of when you hear the word “ostomy”?
Yeah, “ostomy.”
Have you ever even heard that word before?
Don’t worry, neither have they.

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An ostomy is a surgically created opening from an internal organ such as the intestines or ureters to an external point in the abdomen where waste exits the body into a special bag is worn on top.

Ok – so an ostomy has never been the most glamorous of things. In fact, it is often stigmatized in the media and by the public. Those is need of ostomy surgery often refuse to have it, fearing how others may think of them knowing that the stigma exists. As someone who was facing death head-on at only 13 years-old due to severe Crohn’s disease, however, I have quite the different opinion. My ostomy saved my life and I couldn’t be happier.

I created the online awareness campaign called Uncover Ostomy to show how grateful I am to be alive after ostomy surgery. I’ve used different social channels to bring up discussions on the topic and use my about.me page as a hub to bring them all together. The campaign features a blog where I write about living life like everyone else; trying to build a career, having crazy romances, and even losing loved ones. It also highlights some pretty racy pictures that show that the ostomy can still be sexy.

Uncover Ostomy also wants to show that the idea of ostomy surgery doesn’t have to be so serious. We actually launched a pretty funny new video where you can see first hand how few people actually understand the surgery and it’s necessity. And, there’s an iguana. Watch, laugh, enjoy, and please share it with everyone you know.

I’ve met some amazing people and have had some incredible experiences related to ostomy surgery all because of my about.me page. I was even flown to Italy to be a keynote speaker at a conference from an organization who found me through it! Check out a few more pages raising Ostomy awareness.

Win with Grace and Efficiency

Ryan Sagawa is a third year digital arts major and communications minor student at the University of Oregon from Hilo, Hawai’i. 

It’s over?! That’s the only thought that comes to mind right now while in the last few weeks of my internship with the AOL corporate events team. This internship has been the best learning and work experience of my life. Whether it was setting up for an event or doing a venue search, I’ve enjoyed doing it all. When I look back on the past few months I still can’t grasp everything I’ve been able to experience.  I’ve been to a Yankee game, saw the AOL Dulles headquarters, visited high-class restaurants, took the train from Virginia to New York, went to Las Vegas for the first time, and walked through every district of Manhattan. New York City and AOL has treated me well, and it’s unfortunate that it has to end so quickly.

Invites that I designed and were used for Patch Camp in Chicago.

Aside from the work and being in the city, I got to work with the nicest and most hardworking group of people. I don’t think most people know how much work and dedication goes into planning the events that help spread the word about the AOL brands. They are responsible for every detail imaginable in an event from the beginning stages of searching for a venue to the last stage of cleaning up after the event. Not only does it include set-up and take down they are also constantly thinking of innovative ways to present the brand through different events. Having first hand experience working with them one thing I quickly learned was that being a pro at multitasking is a must have skill being part of this team. I found myself working on 4-5 different events each day and each team member is also working on multiple events. But because we worked together as team and are able to freely ask each other for help, every event becomes a success.

Event Coordinator Izzy and I admiring our AOL themed candy bar we put together for an event.

One of their keys to success, and one thing I’m taking a way from this internship is their work ethic of “winning with grace and efficiency.” I first learned of this phrase in a meeting with the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Jolie Hunt.  It basically means to give it your all and work hard at what you are doing and to do it with a smile.  Being with the events team and AOL as a company I learned that they are working hard around the clock constantly thinking of ways to grow, but are the nicest people while doing it.  This phrase made me realize that it’s the work you put out that gets you noticed, but it’s the personality and presence that makes you memorable.  Which is why I think this phrase is genius, because in five words it reminds me always to work hard and be a person that others what to be around.

To everyone who voted in the early stages of the about.me contest I’m so grateful and appreciative to you all. Big thank you to Lauren Bloch for being the greatest recruiter and answering all my questions. Another huge thanks to my parents for supporting me through this internship. Lastly, the biggest thank you to everyone on the AOL Corporate events team. I could not ask for a better group of people to work with and you all made my internship one I will never forget. It’s because of you all that I’ve had the best summer vacation of my life and will be leaving here a better person. I congratulate you on all the successes you will have in the future and will see you all again.

Front row L-R: me, Elizabeth Hillmann, Stacy Lambatos, Christina Green, Trista Myers,
Back row L-R: Karina Payton, Brandee Simoncini, Brian Virgo, Jennifer Feeney, Christopher Shebat.
Camera Shy: Ting Wang

The AOL Corporate Events Team! This is the greatest group of people that I had the honor to work and get to know over the past two and a half months.

Lessons from my HuffPost internship

Sahaj Kohli was born and raised outside of Richmond, VA where she is currently finishing a degree in Psychology.

My internship at The Huffington Post has winded down to an end. I’m sad to leave though I have an intense feeling that I’ll be back after graduation. The experience I’ve had during the past ten weeks has been absolutely invaluable. I’m an adventurer but at the same time I’m always scared of trying new things. I wanted to pass along some advice that I’ve taken away first hand from submerging myself in an entirely new environment.

1) Have self-efficacy and be confident. I came into this internship so fearful I was basically paralyzed. I’m not a journalist. I’m not a reporter. What the heck are they going to want from me and what in the world am I going to contribute? After putting myself way down, I finally picked myself up. I am a creative writer who is enthusiastic to learn. With the right attitude about my capabilities I was able to confidently and efficiently take on new tasks. I was also more confident enough to pitch ideas and contribute my perspective to rising projects.

2) Introduce yourself to everyone. Not just your fellow newbies or the people on your team. I mean everyone. I met Arianna Huffington, Tim Armstrong (CEO of AOL) and made connections with a variety of other employees in different verticals. Not only was I able to create a substantial network at HuffPo but also I was able to demonstrate that I want to be a very integral part of the community and not just another summer intern.

Arianna Huffington (in the middle) and some fellow interns (me on the left).

3) It’s okay to be afraid. It’s completely natural to fear inadequacy and incompetence when you are diving headfirst in to something you’ve never experienced before. The key, as all the clichés say, is to not let the fear stop you from making the most of the experience. I hesitated a few times in pitching ideas or respectfully voicing opinions. When I finally got the courage to speak up, I was more respected and appreciated by my team. I realized that the fear will be there but it’s overcoming it that opens new doors.

I wasn’t the run of the mill, average journalist intern that HuffPo has seen. However, I believe wholeheartedly that that’s exactly what made my experience much more rewarding. I was able to learn the everyday skills as well as contribute ideas from a unique perspective. It was a give and take and I hope that HuffPost took half as much from me as I did from the experience with them. I’m anxious to see what’s next for me but I wouldn’t be surprised if coming back to HuffPost was part of the plan.

Regardless, all of these points I mentioned are lessons I’m going to take with me wherever I go in life and I hope that they can also help ease your next transition into something new. Remember: being new is fine but being isolated because you’re new is not.

A summer to remember

Sarina is a junior at Marymount Manhattan College majoring in Communication Arts and minoring in Journalism.

When I first started at AOL in June, I was anxious about what the experience would be like. I was worried like a kid on the first day of school. Would I fit in and make friends? Am I capable to handle the responsibilities that will be thrown at me? What if I say or do something embarrassing? Needless to say, I had nothing to worry about. In fact, this has become a summer to remember.

From company outings to lunch breaks to team meetings, every little twist and turn has been a new point of growth. I’ve learned everything from how to communicate within a team and office setting to how to handle assignments on my own. I think the number one thing people forget about an internship experience is that not only are you learning the ins-and-outs of your future career, but you’re also learning and growing yourself.

The things I will cherish the most are the ones that didn’t necessarily have an assignment attached to them, but had a pivotal moment of challenge and accomplishment. On days I was tired, I committed and pushed on. On days I felt a little less excited about an assignment, I would switch up how I go about it and find new ways to accomplish my goal. In the end, it not only got the assignments finished, but help me find more confidence and a part of myself that I didn’t know existed.

Photo Credit: Kelly Mahan, AOL

A major highlight of my summer was winning the ACE Intern Award. I really was not expecting that at all and I was blown away my team nominated me. Reading over the reviews on the award made me realize that all my hard work was appreciated and how lucky I was to be in this experience with such a great team. I can’t thank them enough for helping me with everything along the way. They’ve graced me with the ability to laugh a little bit harder and push myself further than I imagined. And for that, I am eternally grateful. However, we are just one team among several teams here at AOL. I can’t thank the others here that have also helped me throughout this experience and the amazing people I’ve met and communicated with along the way.

To sum up this experience into a few words would be impossible. The amount of knowledge I’ve gained along the way about myself and my future career path is too much to put into words. The people I’ve met and this experience has been something that is along the lines of a dream. I can’t give enough thanks to About.Me and AOL for this experience. And lastly, to all my co-workers who believed in me and helped me create a summer to remember.

Raheem Nelson: Using about.me to promote your ipad book

My name is Raheem Nelson and I’m an iPad Cartoonist and Illustrator based in New Haven, CT. About.me is the best service I’ve signed up with all year. It unifies all of my services like Bēhance, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As good as it is I am always trying to come up with new ways to increase visibility through social media. Linking my  page to things like my WTNH Interview, YouTube channel and my Cafe Press store give me clout and show prospective clients the extent of my capabilities. I always try to update regularly when I have something noteworthy to share.

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A summer at The Huffington Post

Sahaj Kohli was born and raised outside of Richmond, VA where she is currently finishing a degree in Psychology.

I can’t believe that I’m already more than half way done with my internship at The Huffington Post in New York City. It’s been an amazing experience ever since I got the great news that I won the about.me contest. I was born and raised in the safety net of the suburbs in Virginia but am definitely a city girl at heart. As soon as I stepped foot in the city, the journey began.

It’s quite an understatement to say that I was intimidated and overwhelmed when I started about five weeks ago. Unlike everyone I work with (or at least know at HuffPost), I had absolutely no journalism experience. I’ve had to ask more than a few questions and often spent extra time at my desk, but it’s beyond amazing how friendly and willing to help my editors and coworkers have been. Although I’m still acquiring the skills needed to write strictly news stories and find myself frantically looking up lingo (why would you call anything a nut graf?), I am finding that I have a place and a perspective to offer to the heart of my verticals, HuffPost College and HuffPost Women.

I am a passionate blogger on love and relationships as well as the phenomenon known as the quarter life crisis. I quickly found that having no journalism experience allowed me to share and inspire my editors with ideas that could be labeled as too “creative” for the news industry. After three weeks, I helped launch the Quarter Life Crisis project on the HuffPost College page – a page where readers can submit their personal stories on crises or struggles. My blog is also cross-published on it weekly. For HuffPost College, I have also taken my social media skills (which actually landed me this internship through the about.me contest) and helped substantially increase social referrals for the vertical. For Women, I have been given the opportunity to take what I would usually write for my Love Blog and write posts to be published on its page.

A year ago, I never would have imagined myself in this internship. I have only been blogging for 10 months but have found that if you do what you love and follow what you want with all of your heart, there will always be a place for you. Working at HuffPost has solidified my belief in myself, in spite of my lack of certain qualifications. It has also taught me to speak up, nurture and protect my personal voice and shape up my adaptation skills.

This internship has been a valuable and positive experience. I’m very happy that I’ve been given the opportunity to learn and actively practice another style of writing than what I’m naturally used to. I’m not your average journalist but by pursuing my passion for writing, I broke into a new field and am excited to still have a month left here (maybe a little bit because of the ping-pong and foosball tables).

From beaches to skyscrapers

Ryan Sagawa is a third year digital arts major and communications minor student at the University of Oregon from Hilo, Hawai’i. 

Here I am 5,000 miles away from my home Hilo, Hawai’i in one of the most famous cities in the world, having the experience of a lifetime with the AOL Corporate Events team.  For me it’s more than just being able to intern for a great company like AOL, I’m fulfilling my dream of living in New York City.  So, let’s start with how I fulfilled my lifelong dream.

This internship could not have been possible without the strongly convincing Facebook post of my good friend Brady Smith.  He posted, “Check out my about.me, it’s actually a really cool website and you should probably make one if you know what’s good for you.” After reading that last phrase I instantly made one.

It took me about a week to realize that there was a contest for one of five internships with AOL.  Again thanks to Brady Smith, he came up with the great idea of creating a Facebook group where we invited all our friends and asked them to go vote for our pages. For a month I was constantly sharing my about.me page link to my Facebook wall, and posting status updates to go vote.

One tactic that worked was setting a goal for the amount of votes to reach by the end of the day.  I would screenshot the amount of votes I currently had in the morning and then share it saying “Let’s reach this amount by the end of the day.”  When twenty more votes were needed to reach the goal I would screenshot and share again.  I think it got people excited to vote, and by saying “let’s” made them feel more attached to the contest itself.

After all the pleading for votes I passed the first round, and then came my first ever phone interview.  Before the interview I just told myself, just smile the whole time while speaking and try to be as professional as I can be.  Thankfully the atmosphere was really casual and throughout that 25-minute interview I think 10 minutes of it was me laughing and saying “It’s just exciting.”   Two days after the interview all the doubts and me over-analyzing the interview set in thinking I probably wouldn’t get it.  In my mind at the time I was already picking out summer school classes.

Then, two weeks later I wake up to the cheerful AOL Corporate Events team calling me and saying I got the internship.  I literally had no words, one because I was half asleep and two simply because I got the internship! I was so shocked that I had to call back to confirm 20 minutes later, when I was fully awake and it hit me what had just happened.

I’ve been with the AOL Corporate Events team for about three weeks and I absolutely love it.  I just thought it was amazing how they had me working and running errands in the first three days of interning.  By the third day I was taking a taxi uptown to grab chocolates for guests, on location by myself loading passengers into a van, and staying in the office till 11:30pm helping setup an iPad wall.  I wouldn’t have wanted my first few days any different.  To make things even better, my events team members and co-workers are the some of the nicest and most down to earth people I have ever met.

Not only does this internship give me hands on experience in large scale event planning, but I also get to tour NYC at the same time.  I’ve been able to eat breakfast at the famous Balthazar Restaurant, see the Crosby Hotel, view the whole 5th Ave in a taxi while on an errand, go to Dylan’s Candy Bar, and even attend a Yankees Game!  On top of that, being able to see Arianna Huffington, Tim Armstrong, Jordin Sparks, and the rest of the AOL Executive team in person is just amazing.  I love being able to walk through Soho everyday after interning while going back to my apartment.  Already this internship has gone beyond my expectations, and my dream of experiencing city life has been fulfilled.

Thank you again to everyone that voted throughout the contest, Lauren Bloch, the whole AOL Corporate Events team, and my parents for letting me spend my summer across the country.  If it’s one thing I’ve come to realize after being here for three weeks is that I’m not looking forward to the day I have to leave my internship with the AOL Corporate Events team.

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