My Praxis Experience
This piece was originally posted on my blog.
For over ten months, you’ve heard me talk about Praxis, a unique apprenticeship program that led me to opt out of college and dive head first into my professional career. Since completing my apprenticeship on Monday, I’ve been busy catching up on some much-needed sleep, hanging out with college-bound friends, planning my first Instagram giveaway (@aquinnahbree), reading and, all-in-all, digesting the past six months of my life. I think it’s finally starting to sink in, which makes this a great time to write about my Praxis experience.
The Application Process
I applied to the program in late spring of 2017 and was accepted several weeks later. After applying to four different colleges, I found the Praxis application refreshing. It was sent to me in stages, beginning with a basic contact form. From there, I was asked to complete a series of short answer questions about myself and my work experience, as well as a one-way interview. Each question was straightforward and made it clear that the Praxis team was interested in one, distinct piece of information: how and where did I create value in the past? They didn’t ask me about my grades or my standardized test scores. Why would they? Test scores aren’t an accurate indicator of workplace performance.
I was then interviewed by one of the Praxis advisors before receiving my acceptance email. I’m almost positive that there were more stages in the application process, but I don’t remember them off the top of my head. What I do remember is how impressed I was by the advisors’ (I worked with two) response time. I was an endless stream of questions throughout each stage of the application, and they were patient and knowledgeable every step of the way.
The Pre-Program Module came as a surprise but being that my summer was wide open, I had plenty of time to work on the requested deliverables before my October Opening Seminar. I finally broke down and got my first non-ballerina-esque headshot taken, learned the ins and outs of professional email communication, requested a couple of recommendations, got myself on LinkedIn, built the first draft of this website and crafted a PowerPoint to pitch myself to Praxis’s business partners (a.k.a. a Pitch Deck).
And then, out of nowhere, it was October, and I was sitting in front of my computer, waiting for the Opening Seminar to begin. CEO Isaac Morehouse and Education Director T.K. Coleman, along with a bunch of program advisors, spoke to the October 2017 cohort about getting the most out of our Praxis experiences and slaying our apprenticeships. I went through about eight pages of notes, stressed, remembered that I’d already survived the Pre-Program Module and felt a lot better.
Over the course of the next four months/modules, I wrote this blog post, built this swipe file, completed a 30-day blogging challenge (I didn’t even skip Christmas!?) and read so many books, I thought my head would explode. I also had bi-weekly sessions with program advisors (who, by the way, are all super awesome). None of it was easy, but every bit of it sent a quiet message to me: You can do this.
You might be wondering why I needed to affirm my own abilities when I’d already been accepted into a program with a uniquely rigorous application process. Valid question, my friend. And here’s the truth: Praxis is not an artsy program. It works with tech startups, not jewelry-makers. I, on the other hand, am not a techie. I also can’t make a necklace to save my life, but that’s beside the point. When I started working with my business partner, my #1 technical skill was my ability to create a decent spreadsheet. Even now, I know that I was spared many a technical headache due to the role I landed with The Mission. But more on that later.
The Placement Process
Here, I should mention the most elusive aspect of the Praxis curriculum, the placement process. Placement is never the same from one participant to the next, but mine was certainly an adventure. I was connected to and interviewed with several other companies before accepting a Staff Writer position with The Mission, which you’ve also heard a lot about. But we’re not quite there yet either.
The most important thing to note about my placement process is how flexible the Praxis staff proved to be when I realized that, due to prior commitments in Colorado and other personal reasons, I would be unable to move out of state for my apprenticeship. The placement team immediately doubled down to find me a remote position. Seriously, somebody get these guys an award.
During my fifth month in the program, I received my manuscript back from my editor. This led to an email thread with the Education Director, wherein I pitched a long-term method of going about Module 5. I would spend the next 30 days cranking out edits, fully believing that this book (most recent update here) will create value for thousands of readers upon publication. He fully supported this departure from the curriculum and gave me some ideas to document my process.
Much to my surprise, I was hired by The Mission just a few days later. I remember being in a particularly sour mood because it was Superbowl Sunday, and the Patriots… well… lost, and all of a sudden, I was starting a new job, and editing my debut novel, and holy crap, it was just a lot for my brain right at that moment.
But I woke up on Monday with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and a lot to learn. I spent the day tying up loose ends, and on Tuesday, I started my new job.
As I mentioned earlier, Praxis works with tech startups, and The Mission definitely qualifies. During my six months with the company, we launched two beloved podcasts, The Story and The Mission Daily, among many other influential projects. I consider myself very blessed. Through it all, the techiest task I was asked to complete was some basic graphic design in Canva. Other than that, I was doing what I love: writing.
I was the one-woman show, as my supervisor once put it, behind drafts upon drafts of scripts for The Story. Later, I became an SEO copywriter, cranking out a max of three articles per week. And during my last month with the company, I was the face behind The Mission’s Medium publication, publishing submissions and sending the daily newsletter. There’s something I never thought I’d say, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I also handled a lot of the social media scheduling, done on Thursdays. This was a challenge for me, so I started treating myself to sweets of some kind once a week, just for surviving that.
Everything I know about tech startups, I learned in a hands-on environment at The Mission. My apprenticeship was easily one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. While churning out podcast scripts and SEO articles, I had the opportunity to work with one of the most incredible teams on the planet, all from my home office. I mean, c’mon. How cool is that?
And now, I have to give a humongous shoutout to my apprenticeship advisor, Amanda Kingsmith. Amanda, you are the real MVP/Wonder Woman, and I am beyond grateful for your constant enthusiasm, patience and grace. I would not be the person I am today without your joyful spirit and thoughtful advice. Thank you for every email, call, tip and book recommendation and for inspiring me to live every day with an open mind and heart. What. a. gem.
I know that was a lot of information, and if you’re anything like me, you probably have a zillion questions, so I’m going to make a quick bullet point list for you here. Feel free to contact me with any other questions here! I love talking about Praxis (clearly).
- How long does it take to complete Praxis? When I started the program, the bootcamp/apprenticeship took an average of nine months to complete. It has recently become a year-long program, though I finished in ten months. Timeline definitely varies from participant to participant.
- How does the placement team find the perfect apprenticeship for each participant? Magic, duh. Actually, they take the time to get to know you and your strengths and match you up with a business partner accordingly.
- How do I land an apprenticeship? You’ll have to interview with potential employers, just like anyone else currently hunting for a job. You, however, having been through the Praxis bootcamp, will have proof of your skills and a full recommendation by the placement team. You’ll also be fully briefed on the company in question and have the opportunity to complete a mock interview in preparation for the main event.
- Did you have time for a social life over the past 10 months? Crazily enough, yes. I had time for weekly dance classes and piano lessons, as well as regular meetups with friends and even the occasional Broadway show. This program requires expert-level time management, but it’s totally possible to balance your professional and personal life.
- But you said you needed to catch up on sleep. Yeah, that has more to do with my overactive brain than anything else. Why else would I be tweeting at 2am? #amwritingfantasy
- What the freaking freak is a one-way interview? Good Q. Basically, you receive a series of questions, one at a time, and get one chance to record a video of yourself answering each one. Yes, there is a time limit. Yes, you can do it.
- You seem kinda hostile toward standardized tests. You bombed the SAT, didn’t you? Actually, no. But as a human being who knows some human beings, I firmly believe that standardized tests are a poor indicator of intelligence, which seems valid since there is no such thing as a “standard” human. (Pro tip: Don’t say that to your college admissions officer. Turns out, they hate that.)
- The Pre-Program Module sounds *cough* intimidating *cough*. Amen, peep. I stand by an assessment I did this week that says it’s the most challenging part of the program. But never fear. You’ll have unlimited access to the Praxis advisors at that point, and in case I haven’t said it enough, they’re freaking awesome.
- Are you a stress case? I try not to be.
- Why, oh, why did you force yourself to read on top of everything else? Did I forget to mention Personal Development Projects here? PDPs are projects that you design by yourself/with an advisor to help you achieve/move toward one personal goal per month of the program. Most of mine involved reading a non-fiction book. I don’t dread them anymore!
- So, you get to pick your own advisor? Yes! You can schedule a call with any of the Praxis advisors. Your apprenticeship advisor is assigned to you by the education team, but again, they’re all awesome, so WIN.
- Are you telling me that the Education Director supported your pitch to change the curriculum? Mhm. This is a program about your professional development. I believed that a slight alteration to the curriculum would help me, personally, create value, and I could back up that belief. Simple as that.
- … You’re a Patriots fan. Why. I moved to Colorado from Maine, baby. Enough said.
- Can I keep my job once I complete Praxis? Absolutely! Praxis apprenticeships lead directly to a full-time job with your business partner.
- Let me get this straight. You were hired as a Staff Writer, but you were running social media pages? Here’s the thing about startups: they move fast. Your one job is likely to morph into multiple jobs over the course of your apprenticeship. By the end of my six months, I was still a “Staff Writer”, but I was writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, running a publication and keeping up with the graphic design for three separate social media platforms. It was tough, but so are the people of Silicon Valley.
- Girl, shut up already and give me an application. You can apply to Praxis (and learn even more about the program) here. Cheers!
So, what did I get out of Praxis, if not a degree?
Career-wise, I’ve earned something much more valuable to me than a piece of paper: proof. Through the projects that I completed during bootcamp and at The Mission, I’ve proven to myself and potential employers that I have joined the ranks of the top 1% of young professionals in the world.
Life-wise, I’ve gained something that many individuals spend their entire lives searching for: freedom.
If you know anything about my debut novel, you know that freedom is one of its central themes. The ability to live without chains has always been and will continue to be of utmost importance to me. Through Praxis, I’ve learned that I don’t need a degree to signal my skills and competency, and I certainly don’t need to spend four more years in a classroom to discover my passion. Everything I need to succeed is already right here, within me.
To quote every infomercial ever, “BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!” I’m so grateful to have made lasting relationships within the Praxis community, beginning all the way back in pre-program. As I write this, I’m looking forward to welcoming the September 2018 class during their Opening Seminar later this month. This cohort is packed with fiercely talented individuals, and I know they’re going to kill it during the program.
And what about me, you ask? Well, friends, I have a novel to publish, a freelance business to start, about a million places to see and ten times as many books to read (wish me luck). Every day, I’m learning who the real Aquinnah Bree is, and it’s thrilling and happy and a little scary. But mostly happy.
A huge thank-you to Isaac, T.K. and the rest of the Praxis team. This program changed my life, and I’ll never get over that.
Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash
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