Aside from cleaning my desk and drinking my coffee, the first thing that I do when I get to the office is to check my email. Checking emails and responding accordingly are how a VA makes sure that urgent matters for your client are accomplish first. Also, most inter-office communications, including announcements and policy changes, are announced through email.What's your workspace setup like?
Very casual. Xilium promotes self-reliance, so most of the time we decide how our workspace looks like. We do not have restrictions to what we can do and bring to our workspace but it is our responsibility to keep it clean and make sure equipments (laptop) work properly.Other than your phone and laptop, what else do you have handy at your workspace?
I have a notebook full of training details that I consider as my backup tool in case of laptop failure. Food - it is important to keep the body well-fed for the brain to work.What apps, software, or tools do you usually use for work?
I use the following tools:
Tunnel Bear: a VPN which allow us to access multiple accounts within a website without triggering issues Google Drive: For creating and accessing files that is shared with the team and clients. Microsoft Office Word and Excel: Used to create reports that we send to our clients. Notepad: for taking down notes GreenShot: for screenshots as well as editing images.How do you handle multiple tasks from your client(s)?
For numerous tasks, multitasking is key. Make use of the keyboard shortcuts if necessary. Also, learn to prioritize. A VA should know which tasks to prioritize over those which do not need immediate attention. This is the best solution to accomplishing multiple tasks.How good are you in working under pressure? What are your coping mechanisms when things get tough at work?
I can say that, I work best with pressure and knowing my deadlines. I cope by spending time with people, even just to laugh with them. Also, I like talking to me fellow VAs about tasks, so I can gain knowledge and suggestions which can help me do my tasks.What's the best advice you've ever received from a client? Why?
Do not take things personally, I believe, is one of the things which stuck with me. Most clients have their own problems. When they get pissed off, they may say hurtful things but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is directed you.What are your expectations and goals for this year?
My goal for this year is to enhance my skills further and be able to contribute to Xilium’s success.
I open my laptop.What's your workspace setup like?
Messy.Other than your phone and laptop, what else do you have handy at your workspace?
Well, there’s my bag, motorcycle helmet, water bottle(s) and lots of other stuff.What apps, software, or tools do you usually use for work?
I use Gmail, Google apps, Filezilla, Chrome, Programmers Notepad, MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, Apache, Mysql Database, Mysql Workbench, PHP, Java SDK and JDK.How do you handle multiple tasks from your client(s)?
I prioritize the urgent tasks and I learned that proper time management helps.How good are you in working under pressure? What are your coping mechanisms when things get tough at work?
I go on “silent mode” and focus on work, or I drink coffee and listen to music.What's the best advice you've ever received from a client? Why?
It's okay to go ahead and do the task without asking permission from your client first, than to waste time waiting. You can just ask for forgiveness later if this offended them in any way, rather than do nothing in their time allocation.What are your expectations and goals for this year?
This year I want to enhance my skills - to be better at time management, to improve my English proficiency, and to finish my TMA project. :).
I usually start my day at work by talking with the VAs, particularly with the web developer team about updates on some tasks, especially if there are some that need urgent attention. By the time the conversation is done, I have already relaxed myself from the tiredness caused by climbing 4 flights of stairs.What's your workspace setup like?
Everybody in the office would often call my space as the “dump site” because it looks like one, really. There’s a pile of things on my desk and another set under it. A cluttered desk doesn’t bother me at all; I can function perfectly in both messy and neat environments.Other than your phone and laptop, what else do you have handy at your workspace?
A lot of notepads and pens, a cup of water or coffee. I usually leave notes to some people so post-its really are helpful. Coffee is like a booster to me so I always have a cup beside me.What apps, software, or tools do you usually use for work?
A lot actually. Google Apps would definitely top the list as I use it most of the time. I sometimes use WordPress and Filezilla for some minor web development tasks.How do you handle multiple tasks from your client(s)?
I try to take on the priority tasks first, but if the situation requires me to do multiple stuff at the same time, then I don’t have any problem with that. I usually work with other people, so to accomplish more at a given time, I think the key is proper coordination.How good are you in working under pressure? What are your coping mechanisms when things get tough at work?
I try to stay calm and do what I can do given my capacity and time. Under pressure, I used to work on something too hard that I forget to stand up once in a while or drink water. These days, I have learned to just let things happen as they go and not think about being stressed at all.What's the best advice you've ever received from a client? Why?
The most unforgettable thing that I got from our boss, and that I share with all assistants, is that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. He wanted us to do things at our discretion, which I really appreciate because it gives me the freedom to do things my way. But I always make sure that how I do it does not affect the company at all.What are your expectations and goals for this year?
The only expectation I have for this year is that Xilium will grow into a much bigger company - more people to fill the space and more clients to serve!
Respond to emails.What's your workspace setup like?
Uncluttered - just the essentials.Other than your phone and laptop, what else do you have handy at your workspace?
Pens and paper and organizer. Coffee cup?What apps, software, or tools do you usually use for work?
Virtual office phone, EMR, other medical websites that my client uses for her patient’s to schedule appointmentsHow do you handle multiple tasks from your client(s)?
Time managementHow good are you in working under pressure? What are your coping mechanisms when things get tough at work?
I’m coping. Coffee always works for meWhat's the best advice you've ever received from a client? Why?
Every day is a learning process, do not stress yourself if you cannot perfect a task in one go. We learn as we go along.
Xilium started with only 7 employees in 2011, in a small apartment in Iloilo City, Philippines. Way back then, making it big was not a priority. Together with my colleagues - the pioneer team, I worked for a single purpose - to give my best in helping our clients with their businesses. And, even going as far as helping them with their personal lives.
2015 marked Xilium’s biggest milestone. I found myself talking to more prospects and clients who wanted to collaborate and work with us. It was becoming apparent to me that I needed to add more people into the team. My baby was growing. The 7 employees from before have multiplied to 30 and that number is still growing.
This may be considered small in comparison to the large multinational outsourcing companies operating in our area, but this has been a big step for our young company. Maybe we are keeping it small if it translates to contented clients and happy staff.
What has contributed to this growth? It’s the Xilium staff’s attitude and love of their work. Our Xilium assistants are reliable. Clients can count on them 100% of the time. What works for our small company, I guess, is the culture of trust and self-reliance that we have fostered since day one. Part of that culture in the team is self-management, where the Virtual Assistants are encouraged to try solving problems on their own before asking for help. They are also empowered to make their own decisions regarding their work. And they have the flexibility when they need it. Our families are important to us, so it always is number one. I believe that these values is one of the main reasons of our growth.
Secondly, we owe our growth to our clients who have been trusting us to work with them. We have clients who have been with us for the past 3 to 4 years and counting. If you are one of them reading this -- thank you for believing in us.
Growth comes with challenges and uncomfortable things. I will spare you from the details of the move to the new office. We all know how moving to a new location goes. Not to mention that, our new location was renovated from scratch. :) But as I have told Don, my mentor and business partner, I do not back down from challenges and tough decisions especially if it means for the good of the company. The rapid growth has especially been tough for me, but there is nothing like the good support of the whole company to bolster my drive. So last January, we moved to our brand new office.
Now, we are working on building a more solid organization where key persons are involved with leadership roles so the growth will be sustainable while keeping up with the sales and operations. As we grow, we want to maintain two things that has brought us this far - sincerity and dedication in everything that we do. We believe in honest work and honest relationships. We love our clients and we love our colleagues. We want to improve ourselves so we could be better for our clients and for the company, and ultimately for ourselves.
To end this, my personal commitment to all of our clients remains the same - that I will always be accountable of Xilium’s staff and services.
This past year (2015) was one of growth for us. We picked up new lines of business that foretell the changes to the world economy.
The sourcing and retail model in the US is showing the world how world-class logistics is set to bring convenience and scale to the retail market. This fits well with our mission, applying highly educated people to a range of complex processes.
The complexity is an advantage to our staffing in Iloilo City. Our model of teaching procedures and documenting processes allow us to train and scale staff as needed. It has the added advantage of scratching the itch the staff members are looking for: new skills, new training, independence and responsibility.
I spent the 2nd week of February at our new office in Iloilo at the Insular Life building and I was overwhelmed by the graciousness, talent and appreciation of the staff. I credit our own General Manager, Vanessa Estrella-Belleza, for designing and fostering these characteristics in every new staff member. Our turnover rate is very low and shows the loyalty and camaraderie of the office.
In 2016, we see at least equal growth while we invest in marketing activities with a goal of diversifying our client base. The small business industry is a large and varied group. To reach these businesses, we plan to improve communicating the Xilium value proposition. There are two sources for the small business clientele: 1. Business owners who already have back-office employees but wish to obtain better educated and more professional staff without the concerns of managing them; 2. Busy professionals who has never worked with an office staff.
Most of all, what I would like to say is: Thank you, Xilium staff, I am am proud of what you have accomplished. And to all our clients, thank you for choosing Xilium. ~ D
So, what exactly is a Virtual Assistant?
Like an echo of thought in my memory, the graduating students of Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT-U) filled the Ed Tech Center last Feb. 12, 2016. Students were gathering to attend the Career Orientation sponsored by Xilium Professional Services. Students of Information Technology, Information Management, Information System, BS Mathematics and Education listened to Xilium’s founders Don Wickelgren and Vanessa Estrella-Belleza, to understand one of the millenia's budding careers - Virtual Assistance
One BS Math student believed that the VA’s world is ideally for web developers, graphic artists and computer savvy techs. It is something that his chosen path does not fit in. “I think, you are like a call center agent,” he said.
With the growing number of BPO companies in Iloilo City, people often confuse Virtual Assistants as stressed-out-twenty-something call center agents who work on graveyard shifts. Contrary to popular belief, a virtual assistant does more.
“A virtual assistant is someone who helps a client online through the help of virtual systems, a computer and the internet,” clarifies Vanessa Estrella-Belleza, General Manager of XPS. “At XPS, we do administrative services, creative work, accounting, writing and many more..”
Guest speaker and XPS co-founder, Don Wickelgren inspired the budding workforce with his words. He shared how he started from rock bottom, struggling between jobs until he got his degree in Mathematics. By his own efforts, he landed a job with IBM, and now, he has his own business.
“When you speak and collaborate with people, you will always come up with far better results, than you sitting there with your head down…” Don, who believes in the importance of teamwork in a workplace, had shared. “This is where XPS comes in, having an understanding in building and working remotely with teams for several years.”
After the event, Don provided the students an avenue to ask him about Xilium, what entails to be an XPS VA— he even shared his talent to the young ones.
“Being a VA is more than just providing solutions (to clients). It’s about communication, versatility and be resourceful,” another student shared his thoughts about the industry after the talk. “Like what Don said ‘be yourself’ and I think that’s what matters most in this profession.”
Free jelly, a casual coworking event, is the idea of relaxation for Xilium's co-founder Don Wickelgren. Held at Dojo 8 (a local coworking space for professionals) last February 11, Xilium Professional Services hosted an event for Don to meet and mingle with some Ilonggo professionals who ranged from Rappler bloggers to online translators.
He vacationed in the Philippines last February 8 to 12 to get to know his ever growing staff and to exchange more business ideas with his co-founder Vanessa Estrella-Belleza. In that short visit, he was able to insert a couple of speaking engagements as a way of giving back for the company's success.
There comes a time when we meet people who help us see things in a whole new light. Something tells me that that is how Don’s visit to our country made a difference to the people who had the chance to meet him. I have to say that the words of wisdom that he shared not only benefits the entrepreneurs but also helps those who are developing their professional careers online.
One thing that I can never get out of my head is the sentence, “Get out of your comfort zone and go to where the magic happens.” Sometimes we inadvertently surrender ourselves to mediocrity. In so doing, we become complacent and therefore stop growing. Then, we whine and feel down because we feel like we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off. I believe this is something that business owners and online professionals should keep in mind as they go forward in their venture.
To climb out of the rut, as Don advised, we should assume the “Wonder Woman pose”, shove ourselves out of our comfort zone, do the uncomfortable thing and go to where the magic happens.
With this in mind, we should communicate with people - get to know them. Modern society has turned us indifferent, when we should really be putting ourselves out there to interact with people. Don emphasized that you should market yourself when you communicate with others. Talk to people and bounce off ideas with each other.
These days, we have to learn to cooperate and work with a team if we wish to advance in our career. Without question, it is better to have room filled with 10 dumb people working together than to have a room with only one smart worker. As the saying goes, “in unity, there is strength.”
Empathize. A true marketer can gain and retain more customers if he understands people. He should look beyond the task and think like his clients in order to meet their needs. People who score well on empathy can work well with others. This is a quality any business owner must possess if he wants to grow his business. By this I mean, employers should choose workers who can work with a team. If they can work together, more things get done in a short span of time.
Every business starts with an idea, but when one creates a product or service, one must make sure that it meets a need. Necessity, after all, is the mother of all invention. It’s good to think outside the box, but it should not become like an over-engineered monster.
By extension, when Don mentioned employer-employee relationships, it made me realize the employee loyalty comes from employer loyalty. He stated that when you do things to people who are important to you, you gain their loyalty. Loyal employees go the extra mile. They become happy and enterprising individuals who are more proactive and productive. For this reason, employers should find a way to incent their employees. It may be in the form of monetary rewards or even scholarships for their children.
I have to say that Don’s talk gave us a little push towards where the magic happens. It all starts with the first step. As Lao Tzu puts it, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
~Chad for Juvy
~Barbara for Sev
~Dr. Lewis & Dr. Ali for Levie, Sheryl and Alexa