‘Keeters Sound Off: Flex That Passion

Editor’s Note:

It has been one whole year since our workforce went remote to help reduce the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus. While there have been many bumps in the road as we learn how to be a remote company, one benefit Terakeet offers stood out as a real MVP of the last 365 days — the flex work schedule benefit. 

Our flex work schedule benefit allows our employees to craft their day according to their individual needs. Of course, ‘Keeters communicate openly with their teams and work together to make sure deadlines are met and customer/team needs are seen to, but this benefit allows our employees to tailor their time in a way that allows them to seek out passions, volunteer services, and interests that make life, especially quarantine life, interesting and fulfilling. Read below for what these ‘Keeters had to say about their special interest! 

Q1: How has Terakeet’s Flex Scheduling helped you cultivate your hobby and can you tell us a bit about that hobby? 

Jake Etoll (Sr. Digital Outreach Specialist): 

As COVID put a temporary pause to normalcy, sport was always an outlet. As the fall 2020 school sports season approached for many kids with understood uncertainty, I was offered the opportunity to be the boy’s JV Soccer Head Coach at Westhill, the school I graduated from and the program that gave me a platform to grow and develop myself as a person. [They also helped develop me into a] college-level [player] as well as a professional. On a personal side, it’s also the program where my Dad is the varsity coach and he had the unique chance (challenge) to coach my youngest brother, Owen, along with his friends.

When the opportunity arose to make a positive impact on the next wave of talent, it was a no-brainer. At any other company, I don’t think a hobby like this would be so supported, heck, possible. My work friends understood that passion and actively asked how things were going. The ability to work a flexible schedule and make those practices and games made the opportunity a reality. After working 7:30am-3:30pm it wasn’t uncommon for me to head straight to the high school to catch the bus to an away game or begin setting up for practice and returning well past 8pm.

Having something other than work is good for balance in any condition, but especially after the year we all experienced (to varying degrees). Working with these kids gave me a different perspective and appreciation of soccer and life that you can’t understand unless you coach. 

As a coach, you quickly realize soccer is the fun part, but what you are truly doing on a daily basis is refining character, learning more about yourself and others than you ever would [elsewhere]. 

Continuing my education and growth as both a coach and player today gives me the ability to “break” from work and lend those lessons I learn to what we do at Terakeet. At the end of the day, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for working at Terakeet, where we aren’t only allowed, but actively encouraged to pursue personal passions outside of work for self-fulfillment.

Jake leads his JV team in a game.
Jake Etoll uses flex time to lead a JV soccer team!

Collin Kohberger (Digital Outreach Training Manager):

I’m a huge nerd. Since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with superheroes, video games, board games, fantasy novels, and everything in between. About 6 years ago or so I came across this little Livestream on Twitch called “Critical Role.” I and about 2,000 other people were watching and trying to figure out what the heck this thing was. We only understood that it was amazing. Critical Role has gone on to become the flagship Dungeons & Dragons show on the internet, pulling in hundreds of thousands of viewers every week. My love of this show sparked my own love of the game and its potential for storytelling & incredible amounts of fun with friends. 

No one I knew, however, played or even knew how to play. I eventually learned so much about the game that my first time ever actually playing the game at a table was to run the game myself as a game master. My wife, my cousin, and her husband sat at my kitchen table and started a hobby that we instantly knew would be with us forever. They slayed goblins, saved a town, collapsed a mine, rescued prisoners, and all kinds of other shenanigans that this game allows for.

I don’t think I could spend the mental resources needed for D&D, designing my own board games, or any of my other nerdy ventures I’m in, if I didn’t work for an organization that is so focused on its people. Through flexible work hours, PTO programs, and just the basic valuing of a work-life balance, Terakeet clearly wants its people to be happy. We understand the employer can make decisions about the workplace that resonate in our employees’ homes. Terakeet continues to allow its people to come to work, crush it, and then be able to unplug to focus on other areas of their lives. It’s the best.

Dani Marzouca (Digital Content Specialist): 

Throughout my career in the non-profit space and as a freelance journalist, I’ve been searching for the right balance between skill and career development while being able to contribute to the social justice movements I care so much about. I am enthralled to be part of a company that intentionally uplifts its own community. While I’ve never been to Syracuse and am unfamiliar with its needs, working remotely and flexing time allows me to bring the same energy to the Los Angeles community.

Every Wednesday, I get to sign on at east coast hours along with my team, satiate my curiosity and grow my skill set at the intersection of UX and SEO writing, and sign off with the satisfaction of contributing to an agency that’s cutting through the clutter of content marketing. Then, I get to drive to downtown LA and bear witness to revolutionary words of the Black Lives Matter visionaries like Dr. Melina Abdullah, Baba Akili, Albert Corado, and Janaya the Future. I get to shout, “No estas sola,” to the Spanish-speaking mother recounting the grief of losing her child to the Police State. I get to hop on a call with an organizer to create an emergency flier for a vigil. 

Because of Terakeet’s flex policy, and its culture of community building, I get to feel like my whole, best self—both intellectually and morally fed. All the while, feeling supported by and gratefully challenged by my manager to ensure our clients are receiving inclusive, top-shelf writing. I can honestly say that I feel I’ve finally found that elusive work-life balance I’ve been seeking for so long. 

Dani Marzouca uses flex time to be active in social justice and equity movements like Black Lives Matter!

Stephanie Katz (SEO Analyst): 

Throughout my life art has been a constant. In my early childhood years, I strongly recall gluing pipe cleaners together to form the wings of a butterfly during art classes at our local YMCA, and the myriad of supplies strewn about our basement floor. From vibrant watercolor figure drawings to playful mosaic flower pots, my enthusiasm for the arts is contagious and usually involves those near and dear to me and my community. With each decade my artistic style, inspiration, and technique may have changed – however, my inquisitive nature and expressive tendencies remained. 

Concurrently though, as a lifelong learner (and data enthusiast), my passions stretch beyond the creative realm. Thanks to Terakeet’s emphasis on work-life balance, half my day is dedicated to search engine optimization, data analytics, and solving problems — all of which bring me joy — while the other part of my day is dedicated to channeling my creative side. Rather than feeling drained after an 8-hour shift, I feel energized and excited about my work. That’s why it’s easy to shift gears. It’s just a matter of changing into paint-splattered clothes and pulling out a brush. 

Stephanie Katz uses flex time to pursue artist expression — solo and with friends!

Jim Razza (Director Of Information Technology): 

It’s funny, but I didn’t consider making BBQ a hobby until after I spoke with my brother, about 6 months ago.  [We] were having a conversation about keeping busy and active over the past year, to which he said “yeah, I need a hobby, like you and your grill stuff”.  Of course, as my brother and twin, I had to quickly correct him that “grilling” and “BBQ” are two very different things. 🙂 And that leads us, I guess, into my hobby of making good BBQ.   I’ve actually been (trying) to make BBQ for the last 7 years. Starting with an entry-level cooker, leading up to my 1,000-pound smoker (more on that later). To help clear up any confusion out of the gate, “BBQ” by definition is food cooked low-n-slow (around 250 degrees) for many hours, normally over a wood fire or charcoal.  Crock-pot champions, sorry, though delicious, do not qualify. 🙂  “Grilling” is cooking hot-n-fast, normally on a grill over direct heat (like steaks, burgers, dogs, etc).  I’ve read a few books (like Aaron Franklin’s book) and I have watched enough Youtube videos to appreciate and understand that (1) BBQ just takes time, you cannot rush it, and (2) as cliche as it sounds, BBQ does bring people together. I consider myself a perfectionist and growing up in an Italian family I guess I’ve been pre-programmed to always cook too-much food and continue to offer people food until they concede and take it. Well, BBQ allows me an opportunity to feed more people. In fact, we have Terakeet’ers that are willing contestants to try my BBQ and I have brought in BBQ into the office a few times.  Like I said in point #2, BBQ brings people together and you cannot just make a single chicken breast when cooking or 10-12 hrs … you have to fill the cooker up with as much food as it fits. That is why I have plenty of leftovers to bring in.  I gotta say, my VIP customer is (Office Manager) Martha Cumings — very honest, direct, and great feedback on Razza BBQ Ribs!  My favorite quote from Martha when we regrouped on some BBQ feedback was, “Jim, I ate ½ the rack of ribs you gave me before I could get them out of your tin-foil and into my fridge!” Score! As we talk about bringing people together, I’ve had friends come over during the summer and winter, and there is nothing better than just talking around a burning fire and checking the pit (“pit” = another word for BBQ cooker) and socializing. For example, only through BBQ did I know that (Project Manager) Sidney Ziverts adheres to a gluten-free diet. So when I make my ribs, brisket, or chicken, and bring them into the office I would say “Sidney, salt and pepper only, you’re good!” As I round this out, circling back to point (1) of being (trying to be) a perfectionist, BBQ forces you to deal with [unforseen challenges]. Trying to burn full logs of wood (or charcoal) over 10, 12, or 14 hours while maintaining a steady temperature is not easy.  To that, I say, I accept that challenge, BBQ Gods! I strive to meet that challenge, and maybe that is why making good BBQ is so much fun, and my hobby. Not everyone can make BBQ, either due to equipment, time, or just inclination — but I’m glad I have the opportunity to do so and having my 3 young children (at times) help me work the pit, I feel this is something they can learn. To that end, I currently have 2 charcoal grills, 1 gas grill, and a 1,000 lb off-set smoker planning to be delivered in April. Being home during the pandemic didn’t exactly fuel this new hobby, but perhaps getting a chance to just be around immediate family and decompress, while waiting for a cook to finish up, is something I appreciate more nowadays, as time and family is something I may have taken for granted.

Jim Razza uses flex time to cook up some mean BBQ!