In 28 days, I built an operations tech stack from the ground up.
I’ve been interested in the field of operations almost ever since I started the Praxis program. I’m detail-oriented. I love systems, strategies, and making things better. I’ve managed projects and teams in the past and am confident in many of the soft skills needed to be successful in operations. However, I’ve never worked with many of the common applications someone in operations may encounters, so I chose to teach myself the basics of a wide variety of these applications.
Most of these applications have a number of popular “peers”—other applications that perform similar tasks. By diversifying the applications I chose to learn, I was able to grasp what these applications do and how they can be applied in a business setting. Even if I haven’t learned the specific application a future employer uses, I’m confident that my understanding of these applications will enable me to learn similar applications faster.
At the start of this project, I had a list of 7-8 possible applications to learn. As soon as I tackled this project in earnest, it became clear I wouldn’t be able to learn them all, either due to time constraints or because the free trials were difficult to navigate. In the end, I learned five:
- Autopilot – marketing/email
- Hubspot – CRM
- TextExpander – productivity
- Trello – task/project management
- Zapier – workflow automation
Each week this month, I wrote a blog post detailing what I’d accomplished throughout the week.
Project Outline post
Finished Project post (you’re here, now)
I used Scapple, my favorite mind mapping tool, to create a visual representation of the project. This allowed me to see both the relationships between each application as well as the steps needed to accomplish each video.
I made the slightly meta choice to use Trello to manage this project—and to use this project as my example project for my Trello tutorial video. Though I like creating systems, I’m not a detailed to-do person by nature. At least, I don’t tend to write out my personal to-do lists in a detailed fashion. However, I know that this is a skill I will use often in whatever field I’m in, so I made a concerted effort to keep my Trello board up to date throughout this project. I used the bullet points I created in Scapple (see above) as the foundation for my Trello cards and checklists.
In addition to each of the applications I learned, I used several other tools and applications throughout this project.
- DaVinci Resolve, for video editing. In the past, I’ve used iMovie and (a very long time ago!) Windows Movie Maker for basic video editing. While I probably could have edited the videos for this project in iMovie, I wanted the flexibility that would come with a more powerful tool. DaVinci Resolve was the most comprehensive free application I could find—and my respect for film editors has increased exponentially throughout this project!
- Kap, for recording screen captures. Initially, I planned to use Loom, which is a great screen recording tool I’ve used in the past. It allows you to record both your screen and your webcam. However, all the videos are first processed and uploaded onto the Loom website, which then gives you the option of downloading them. However, this upload/download process takes a lot of time, and for most of this project I only had access to internet that was one step above DSL. The Loom upload/download process simply took too much time, so I went searching for another tool. While Kap doesn’t record your webcam, I hadn’t planned to use that functionality on Loom for this project anyway, so Kap ended up being the perfect lightweight screen capture software.
- Quicktime, for recording voiceovers. Not only is Quicktime free, but it was already installed on my Mac.
- Lapel mic, for recording voiceovers. I’d used this for a couple other videos and been very pleased, but I didn’t realize just how helpful it was until I experimented with the mic on my Apple EarPods. It was astonishing how much more background noise the EarPods picked up than this lapel mic.
In my initial project outline, I mentioned I was hoping to create a bonus element of this project, an outline of the system I used for creating these videos that anyone could replicate to achieve similar results. However, due to working on this project in December, in the middle of holiday preparations and celebrations, my system ended up being much looser than I’d anticipated. While it worked and I am pleased with the results, I’m not sure it was the best system.
Here’s what I did do:
- Record screen recordings for each video. These were rough, and the voiceover was just me talking to myself. Most of the time, I did this before I even drafted a script for the video. Since my videos are mostly walkthroughs of the basic elements of the programs, following a firm script wasn’t essential at this point; I let the natural flow of the program be my guide.
- Replay screen recordings and draft script.
- Record any additional screen recordings.
- Create additional graphics for videos in Keynote. I also used Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer for some graphics.
- Record voiceovers.
- Drop everything (screen recordings, graphics, and voiceovers) into DaVinci Resolve and edit.
Since this is the fast track to an operations tech stack, I wanted to keep these videos short but informative. Basically, I wanted to provide enough information to get viewers started and curious about learning more.Zapier
What Worked Well This Time
After a couple attempts at longer recordings, I began recording all my voiceovers for each video in a series of smaller recordings, generally a section at a time or a couple paragraphs at a time if the sections were longer. This eliminated hunting through long recordings for usable pieces.
What I’ll Change Next Time
Due to time constraints, I created most of the screen recordings before writing a script for any of the videos. This worked—and enabled me to complete the project on time—but in the future I want to start with the script.
If you’d told me when I first started Praxis in September that I would voluntarily create a series of video tutorials a few months later, I would have said you were crazy. I’ve never been comfortable on video, or, frankly, liked the sound of my own voice. However, Praxis threw me in the deep end almost immediately. With each video, my confidence grew. By the end of this project, I was looking forward to creating the next videos.
In addition to becoming more comfortable with video production, choosing to create these tutorials meant I first had to learn them well enough to teach them. As Benjamin Franklin possibly said (but probably didn’t), “Tell me, and I will forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will learn.” At this point, I know these tools well enough to confidently add them to my tech stack.