Onna

Onna works at a startup as an instructional designer. Find out why she’s prioritizing saving for an emergency fund over paying off debt.

Transcript
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My name is Onna Nelson.
I am 28 years old.
ONNA, 28
INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER, BIG DATA COMPANY

I'm an instructional designer
and I make 90,000 dollars a year.

MapR Technologies makes
software to help people

manage and analyze big data.

So, an example of that would be
if you're a bank,

and you want to process
all the credit card transactions

that are happening right now.

That's thousands or millions
of credit card transactions

that are happening right now.

So, that would be an example
of a big data application.

An instructional designer
makes material

so that people can learn
how to do something.

In my case, I make materials
so that people can learn

how to use the product
that my company makes.

So, I make lab materials
so that people can practice
ONNA’S JOB INCLUDES:
CREATING EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS

using the technology.
LAB MATERIALS

I make PowerPoint slides,
and documentation to explain
PRESENTATIONS
DOCUMENTATION

how the technology works.

I write glossaries,
different study guides.
GLOSSARIES
STUDY GUIDES

I also monitor the forums,
and the social media
COMMUNICATING WITH STUDENTS
FORUM
SOCIAL MEDIA

so I have direct communication
with our students online.

So, anytime a student has a question,
or they find a bug in our classes,

they let me know, I address the issue.

So, I'm writing emails,
so whenever you sign up
EMAIL

for an online class,
like Khan Academy,

you get that email that says,
“Oh hey, great job learning.

keep going with this next thing.”

So, I write a lot of those emails.

Instructional design is
at a lot of tech companies,

especially because technology
is constantly changing.

So, you have the how to use
this version of the software,

and then a new version
of the software gets released.

And so now you have to
create another new tutorial

that says, well,
how do you use the new version?

And how is it different
from the old version?

And so, every time
a new version gets released,

we have to update our courses.

So, a lot of tech companies
do have instructional designers

for that reason.

But a lot of other companies
have instructional designers too.

So, a lot of instructional designers

will teach people
how to do their jobs.

So, you have to learn
a new email tool when you

start at a new company,
or you have to learn

whatever process that
other company uses.

Instructional designers help
with the onboarding

of new employees as well.

It all happened at once.
HOW DID YOU GET THIS JOB?

In that it kind of ...

Bizarre mesh of oh, my God,
I need to change my career,

I'm not happy in the career I'm in,
and then I fell into this role.

So, before I became
an instructional designer

at MapR Technologies,
I was a graduate student

in a PhD program

at The University of California,
Santa Barbara,

studying linguistics
and cognitive science.

And I realized that ...

About four years into the program
I realized that academia wasn't for me.

That I was on a path
that wasn't right for me.

I was headed towards becoming
this professor and researcher

and that's not what I wanted.

I wanted to be more
involved in teaching

and fostering relationships
with students and so ...

I also wanted to do something
that was more fast-paced.

And I know that the tech industry
is very fast-paced,

whereas the academic world
is very slow-paced.

And that just was not right for me.

So, I took classes online
in data science,

and I knew that I wanted to
be involved with education

and data science in some way.

And so now, I'm an educator
at a data science company.

I studied data science on Coursera.

So, I have a certificate
in data science from Coursera

through Johns Hopkins University.

I think I was very lucky
in this position,

because my manager
took a chance on me.

I don't have a degree
in instructional design.

But I had designed courses before.

I don't have a degree um ...

I don't have a
degree in computer science but

I had built projects
and put them on the web.

So, I had ...

I didn't have the certifications
that are typical,

like a degree in instructional design,
or a degree in computer science,

but I had a lot of the skills,

and a lot of the proof that
I have been able to use those skills,

which I think, a lot of times,
is more important.

You don't necessarily need
a degree in whatever,

in order to get a job in that thing.

So, when I was hired,
I was hired at 90,000 dollars a year.
HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE?

I'm currently making that,
but I'm scheduled

to get a raise, very soon,
of around 4 to 5 percent.

So, every quarter we have
a quarterly review,

so every three months we talk about
what we accomplished,

and what our goals are,
and we do get a bonus based on that.

My last bonus was around
three or four hundred dollars,

and so you get that four times a year.

If you're going to be
an instructional designer,
WHAT IS THE CAREER PATH FOR
AN INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER?

especially in the tech field,
you have to like learning new things.

Because you constantly have to
learn something new

in order to teach it to other people.

So when you're a
junior instructional designer,

you have a manager,
or senior instructional designer

helping you with
your work all the time.

And then, when you're
an instructional designer,

you have a lot of independence,
but maybe not a lot of authority.

When you're a
senior instructional designer,

you have a lot of independence,
and you're just expected

to be able to do the job
without anyone helping you.

And then you might even be
expected to help others as well.

Beyond senior instructional designer,
would be, a management position,

or possibly a move
into a different role.

So, maybe I don't want to
be in instructional design.

I want to work more in
curriculum development,

or maybe I want to work more
in interactive design,

so there's a lot of
lateral movement as well.

I think everyone I work with
has at least a college degree.

Some have master's degrees,

but all of us came from
different backgrounds.

So for example,
I have a degree in linguistics,

another one has a degree in physics,
another has a degree in math,

another has a degree in fine arts.

So, it's not like you need
a degree in computer science

to work in the tech industry.

I'm very lucky to have
a very flexible job.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK-LIFE
BALANCE LIKE?

As long as I log in
during working hours,

whether or not that log in
is at the office, or at home,

or at a coffee shop,
the important thing is that

we have core working hours
where everybody has to log in,

check in, have meetings.

So, you can't just do all your work
in the middle of the night,

and then not log in during
the time everyone else is awake

and doing meetings.

But, I do have a very flexible
working hours,

and very good work-life balance.

I think the most important
career advice is to always

want to keep learning.

No matter what your career is.

I think if you wanted to become
an instructional designer especially,

being in the education field
means constantly learning

so you can constantly teach.

But, any field,
your education doesn't stop

after high school, or after college.

There's always going to be
new technologies, or new, you know,

whatever it is, to learn.

So being open-minded,
and being willing to accept

new chances and try new things
is really important.

My name is Onna Nelson.
I'm 28 years old.
ONNA, 28
INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER, BIG DATA COMPANY

I'm an instructional designer,
and I make $90,000 a year.

My financial situation
is a lot better now

than it was five years ago.

Five years ago I was taking out
a lot of student loans

I was in a lot of debt.

I was living month to month
on every paycheck.

I was not paying any money
towards my loans.

I was not able to save any money,

and I was earning less than a quarter

of the salary that I am now.

When I finally left graduate school,

I had something like $72,000 of debt.

Some percentage of that was
accumulating interest

while I was in graduate school.

So, even though I wasn't required
to pay those loans back,

they were still earning interest.

So, they were growing every year
that I wasn't paying them.

Then on top of that I took out
a car loan to buy a new car.

Once you quit or graduate school
you have six months

before you have to start
paying your loans.

So, I waited for those
six months to expire,

and then I refinanced my student loans.

I was able to bring them down
from a 7.8% interest rate
REFINANCING IS A GREAT WAY TO
CONSOLIDATE DEBT AND REDUCE
INTEREST PAYMENTS.

to a 4% interest rate.

I also renegotiated the terms.
A SHORTER PAYOFF PERIOD MAY MAKE
YOUR MONTHLY PAYMENTS HIGHER,

So, rather than taking
10 years to pay it off
BUT YOU PAY LESS INTEREST OVER TIME.

I now have to do it in seven.

That increased the amount
that I have to pay,

but it's also less time that
I'm gonna have this burden.

My loans now are down to $55,000.

So, $90,000 a year
ONNA’S BUDGET:

comes out to I think $7,500 a month.
MONTHLY SALARY $7,500

Of that, about 20% goes to taxes,
TAXES AND OTHER DEDUCTIONS $2,900

and another maybe 5%
goes to things like 401(k),

healthcare benefits,
Social Security, Medicare,

all those other little expenses.

So, my take home pay ends up
being around $4,600.
NET TAKE HOME INCOME $4,600

So almost three grand
goes to just taxes

and other benefits like that.

Of that $4,600,
almost $2,000 goes to rent
RENT $2,000

because the housing prices
in California are extremely high.

I used to have roommates,
but this is the first time

that I've lived without roommates,

so it's a lot more expensive
to live on your own

not sharing the rent expense,
but I'm making it work.

Another $900 a month
goes to my student loans.
STUDENT LOANS $900

About $100 a month goes
to pay for my cell phone.
CELL PHONE $100

Another $40 to $50 a month
goes to pay for electric.
ELECTRIC $50

I don't have TV, or Netflix, or cable,

or any of those
other expenses like that.

I probably spend about
$200 on groceries,
GROCERIES $200

maybe $50 a month on cat food,
cat litter, things for my cats.
PET SUPPLIES $50

There's a few hundred
dollars of free money
REMAINING $1,300

that I can spend going out to bars,
or buying things for hobbies,

taking day trips, saving for vacation,
saving for emergency fund.

Currently I have about
two or three months

of an emergency fund.

At my highest point I had
around six months,

but then I had to move,
and my living situation

became a little complicated,
so I lost some of that money.

I'm currently trying to build it
back up to six months.

I think it's very important
to have six months

of living expenses
in case I lose a job,

in case you know there's
some kind of medical bill,

or you know if I got
into a car accident

and needed to buy
a new car tomorrow,

you know, I don't have that money.

I think saving for an emergency

is more important
that paying down debt.

Right now, I feel pretty comfortable
about my financial situation.

I make enough to pay my rent,
pay all my bills,

pay my student loans,
put a little into savings.

I wish that I could put
more into savings,

and more into paying my loans.

But for now I'm comfortable.

It's all about balance.

You can get really caught up in
“Oh I have to pay off all my debt,

and I have to save as much as I can.

I have to live with 12 roommates
to make my rent cheaper.

I have to you know just eat
Ramen noodles all day

so that I don't spend money.”

At some point you're
not living your life.

It's okay to spend some money
on your hobbies.

It's okay to have some expenses
that maybe it's not the cheapest,

but it's the right one for you.

It's really easy to get
stressed out about debt,

and I know I have been
stressed out about debt

and about savings,
but that doesn't mean you should be.

My name is Onna Nelson.
I am 28 years old.
ONNA, 28
INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER, BIG DATA COMPANY

I'm an instructional designer
and I make 90,000 dollars a year.

MapR Technologies makes
software to help people

manage and analyze big data.

So, an example of that would be
if you're a bank,

and you want to process
all the credit card transactions

that are happening right now.

That's thousands or millions
of credit card transactions

that are happening right now.

So, that would be an example
of a big data application.

An instructional designer
makes material

so that people can learn
how to do something.

In my case, I make materials
so that people can learn

how to use the product
that my company makes.

So, I make lab materials
so that people can practice
ONNA’S JOB INCLUDES:
CREATING EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS

using the technology.
LAB MATERIALS

I make PowerPoint slides,
and documentation to explain
PRESENTATIONS
DOCUMENTATION

how the technology works.

I write glossaries,
different study guides.
GLOSSARIES
STUDY GUIDES

I also monitor the forums,
and the social media
COMMUNICATING WITH STUDENTS
FORUM
SOCIAL MEDIA

so I have direct communication
with our students online.

So, anytime a student has a question,
or they find a bug in our classes,

they let me know, I address the issue.

So, I'm writing emails,
so whenever you sign up
EMAIL

for an online class,
like Khan Academy,

you get that email that says,
“Oh hey, great job learning.

keep going with this next thing.”

So, I write a lot of those emails.

Instructional design is
at a lot of tech companies,

especially because technology
is constantly changing.

So, you have the how to use
this version of the software,

and then a new version
of the software gets released.

And so now you have to
create another new tutorial

that says, well,
how do you use the new version?

And how is it different
from the old version?

And so, every time
a new version gets released,

we have to update our courses.

So, a lot of tech companies
do have instructional designers

for that reason.

But a lot of other companies
have instructional designers too.

So, a lot of instructional designers

will teach people
how to do their jobs.

So, you have to learn
a new email tool when you

start at a new company,
or you have to learn

whatever process that
other company uses.

Instructional designers help
with the onboarding

of new employees as well.

It all happened at once.
HOW DID YOU GET THIS JOB?

In that it kind of ...

Bizarre mesh of oh, my God,
I need to change my career,

I'm not happy in the career I'm in,
and then I fell into this role.

So, before I became
an instructional designer

at MapR Technologies,
I was a graduate student

in a PhD program

at The University of California,
Santa Barbara,

studying linguistics
and cognitive science.

And I realized that ...

About four years into the program
I realized that academia wasn't for me.

That I was on a path
that wasn't right for me.

I was headed towards becoming
this professor and researcher

and that's not what I wanted.

I wanted to be more
involved in teaching

and fostering relationships
with students and so ...

I also wanted to do something
that was more fast-paced.

And I know that the tech industry
is very fast-paced,

whereas the academic world
is very slow-paced.

And that just was not right for me.

So, I took classes online
in data science,

and I knew that I wanted to
be involved with education

and data science in some way.

And so now, I'm an educator
at a data science company.

I studied data science on Coursera.

So, I have a certificate
in data science from Coursera

through Johns Hopkins University.

I think I was very lucky
in this position,

because my manager
took a chance on me.

I don't have a degree
in instructional design.

But I had designed courses before.

I don't have a degree um ...

I don't have a
degree in computer science but

I had built projects
and put them on the web.

So, I had ...

I didn't have the certifications
that are typical,

like a degree in instructional design,
or a degree in computer science,

but I had a lot of the skills,

and a lot of the proof that
I have been able to use those skills,

which I think, a lot of times,
is more important.

You don't necessarily need
a degree in whatever,

in order to get a job in that thing.

So, when I was hired,
I was hired at 90,000 dollars a year.
HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE?

I'm currently making that,
but I'm scheduled

to get a raise, very soon,
of around 4 to 5 percent.

So, every quarter we have
a quarterly review,

so every three months we talk about
what we accomplished,

and what our goals are,
and we do get a bonus based on that.

My last bonus was around
three or four hundred dollars,

and so you get that four times a year.

If you're going to be
an instructional designer,
WHAT IS THE CAREER PATH FOR
AN INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGNER?

especially in the tech field,
you have to like learning new things.

Because you constantly have to
learn something new

in order to teach it to other people.

So when you're a
junior instructional designer,

you have a manager,
or senior instructional designer

helping you with
your work all the time.

And then, when you're
an instructional designer,

you have a lot of independence,
but maybe not a lot of authority.

When you're a
senior instructional designer,

you have a lot of independence,
and you're just expected

to be able to do the job
without anyone helping you.

And then you might even be
expected to help others as well.

Beyond senior instructional designer,
would be, a management position,

or possibly a move
into a different role.

So, maybe I don't want to
be in instructional design.

I want to work more in
curriculum development,

or maybe I want to work more
in interactive design,

so there's a lot of
lateral movement as well.

I think everyone I work with
has at least a college degree.

Some have master's degrees,

but all of us came from
different backgrounds.

So for example,
I have a degree in linguistics,

another one has a degree in physics,
another has a degree in math,

another has a degree in fine arts.

So, it's not like you need
a degree in computer science

to work in the tech industry.

I'm very lucky to have
a very flexible job.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK-LIFE
BALANCE LIKE?

As long as I log in
during working hours,

whether or not that log in
is at the office, or at home,

or at a coffee shop,
the important thing is that

we have core working hours
where everybody has to log in,

check in, have meetings.

So, you can't just do all your work
in the middle of the night,

and then not log in during
the time everyone else is awake

and doing meetings.

But, I do have a very flexible
working hours,

and very good work-life balance.

I think the most important
career advice is to always

want to keep learning.

No matter what your career is.

I think if you wanted to become
an instructional designer especially,

being in the education field
means constantly learning

so you can constantly teach.

But, any field,
your education doesn't stop

after high school, or after college.

There's always going to be
new technologies, or new, you know,

whatever it is, to learn.

So being open-minded,
and being willing to accept

new chances and try new things
is really important.