Virtual Training Camp Diaries: Leena Chen

Hi, I’m Leena. I’m a VFA Philly fellow and a recent graduate of Barnard College that’s originally from San Jose, California. My VFA claim to fame is being the first to suggest the mascot for 2020 Training Camp’s Credo House #1 – the one and only Barry B. Benson, star of Bee Movie.

My daily alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time, and Training Camp begins at 9 a.m. sharp. That leaves me just enough time to get ready for the day, walk my dog around the neighborhood, scarf down breakfast, and get settled in front of the computer with coffee.

The required “core hours” of virtual Training Camp are shared between both East and West Coast fellows’ schedules, so there are well over two hundred participants in this Zoom call – all with video on and mics off. The day kicks off with fellow “credos,” or personal testimonials about why one of the five VFA credo statements matters. It’s inspiring to hear my peers speak about their lived experiences that ultimately led them to VFA, and their stories help create a warm sense of community, even on such a large conference call.

Next, we pick up some practical skills from crash courses taught by invited speakers. Before and after a fifteen-minute break that’s just long enough to rest your eyes and just short enough to tempt you to nap, we frantically scribble down notes on WordPress and on your choice of either analytics or SEO. We push through, ignoring our overheated brains and overheated laptops, knowing that a longer break will follow immediately after.

After a luxurious half hour to grab a snack and actually experience sunlight, we’re back in front of our screens. Virtual Training Camp is undeniably exhausting, but it’s also an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. In this session, we hear from a VFA alum about a mindfulness technique that we can apply to our lives and careers. We learn how to distinguish between what belongs within our external versus internal locus of control, and how to respond accordingly. The core hours for today conclude with another round of fellow credos, and another fifteen-minute break.

My challenge teammates and I unanimously decide to sacrifice our last break of the day in favor of a little more last-minute preparation for our client interview. We know that we need to make the most of our time with our client so that we can build a website that accurately represents her brand. We have a very thorough list of questions prepared, and the hour passes quickly.

We have exactly twenty-four hours between the start of our client interview and the deadline for our deliverable submission the next day. Aside from two optional electives on branding and social media, which my teammates and I decide to divide and conquer, the rest of our day is unscheduled work time. This short deadline motivates the longest Zoom meeting I’ve ever been in, but also the most focused and productive as well. Despite our occasional light-hearted banter about pineapples on pizza, all five of us are in the zone, independently and collaboratively working on our client’s website. It’s crunch time.

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