I hope this short, 2:36 video is just the start of a more public conversation about hiring practices within the UX community. I hope it helps to define UX titles and terms, and I hope it helps UX teams break past unspoken practices in team dynamics and hiring. A video like this is a long time coming and covers one aspect of a topic I have been thinking about for the past few years.
The UX Unicorn Myth (Jakob Nielsen)
Summary: UX constitutes many different specialties such as researcher, interaction designer, and Information architect. Forcing one person to do it all is a prescription for mediocrity.
I was inspired by this post after someone sent a funny video about how a dev team solved a problem and the only woman was the “mean” project manager. Like a few other women who got the link to the video, I thought it was a little stereotypical. That is because as I’ve learned more about CSS and creative uses of CSS and web animations, I’ve come to notice that a few experts and thought leaders in creative CSS and SVG animation are female. There are obviously more than I’m going to list here, but this post is based on my personal experiences with what they’ve put out.
In the order of whose work I last interacted with:
I just finished Sarah’s course on Lynda, Advanced SVG Animations. It was originally produced by Frontend Masters, not Lynda. It’s more of an edited live course (with students in the room) than an online course, so the educational style is very different from Lynda. (I personally did not like this format for Lynda, but I think it would be much better as an in-person course.)
Sarah also made an appearance on The Coding Train, on YouTube. Here she is giving a tutorial on web animations and Mo.js.
I came across Val’s course, also on Lynda, where she teaches a course on CSS Animations.
Val was also a guest instructor on the Coding Train.
Val also teaches an in-person web animation course with…Sarah Drasner! Web Animation Workshops. These are one- and two-day courses, in multiple cities around North America and Europe (and possibly even further than that). Given that it’s now October, there aren’t many left this year. But, check out the website now so you can ask your boss for some funding for next year. They also have scholarships for underrepresented groups, if you happen to belong to one. You can sign up for announcements on new classes on the website.
Val also curates the UI Animation newsletter. The newsletter is how I found out about and joined, the Creative Coding Club. I feel terrible saying that I haven’t read many of Val’s UI Animation articles in a while. (Let’s be honest: I haven’t had much time to keep up with Creative Coding Club either. And let’s be even more honest and say I haven’t had time to keep up with much of my personal email, in general!) I might need to resubscribe with a different email address, because the links she shares are very inspirational and educational. And I want to keep up with what’s going on.
I am not quite sure when or where I came across Leah Verou’s work, but it was obviously while I was trying to figure out CSS gradients because I’ve had her wonderful site, CSS Patterns Gallery, bookmarked for a year or two. You can look at my own project sites to see that I’ve used her CSS background patterns multiple times on my own projects. I probably also came across her Cubic Bezier site, as well, most likely during a CSS animation tutorial. You can find more of her projects on her website, http://lea.verou.me/projects/.
As I’m writing this, I cannot remember all the things that made me think of Leah, except for the bookmarks to her CSS gradients page. I think that at one point in the semi-recent past, it seemed that every time I looked for some building block for some cool CSS thing-a-ma-jig, turned out she’d already built it. I really hope she teaches a class somewhere, someday, because she really seems to know her stuff!
To be fair, I have not signed up for any course with Rachel Nabors. Nor have I had much experience with her work. But, she does run a web animation Slack channel, called Animation at Work. Many of the discussions there seem a little over my head right now, but I want to keep involved and stay learning. She also offers a few online courses and has a book published by A Book Apart, called Animation at Work. She also runs a web animation newsletter, Web Animation Weekly. Check out the Archive if you’re interested in learning more. (As you’ve guessed, I am not really reading this newsletter either.)
Rachel is also an amazing Illustrator, and her animations look really good! You can find examples of her work, and get a sense of what I mean about her animation/cartooning skills, by checking out her website(s):
Many of her courses seem to cover a lot of topics as Val Head. But, if you’re interested in CSS animation, motion, and transitions, my experience has been that the best results come from learning from as many sources as possible. Sign up for both!
Shoutouts and More Ladies to Look Up:
Sarah Drasner mentioned Sara Soueidan (pronounced Sweden) a couple of times in her course. I looked her up and she seems like a pretty amazing front-end developer. She is on Twitter @SaraSoueidan. Sarah also mentioned Joni Trythall and Amelia Bellamy-Royds in her credits at the end of her course. I will have to look them up later…
Nat Cooper is the founder of the Creative Coding Club. Like Rachel Nabors, she has amazing graphics skills and comes up with some pretty sweet animations and keeps the group motivated every month. Find her on Twitter @natacoops and the Creative Coding Club (@artcodeclub).
Speakers and Notes from “Advancing The Careers of Technical Women (ACT-W)” New York 2017 Conference
Following up from my previous post about the very inspiring ACT-W NY conference with a write-up of my notes.
Unfortunately, I could not attend all of the presentations, but they were all interesting an inspiring. Below are notes from just a few of the speakers I heard.
Presentation One: Advice about promoting yourself, by Natasha Awasthi
Her advice came in two parts, due to being a speaker in two presentations at the conference. I liked what she had to say in the first one, I went to the second.
It’s not bragging to talk about your accomplishments. You’re earning trust:
I can completely relate with the idea of feeling like I’m bragging when talking about past accomplishments. So much so that I might avoid talking about what I’ve done in the past, even though it would be very relevant. Now that I can frame my past as a credential to build trust, I will be “bragging” about my past accomplishments as much as possible
Don’t network. Build a community:
As an introverted person, the idea walking up to people and introducing myself for the sake of “business connections” or “networking” is almost like a 4-letter word. It sounds so fake and manufactured; like you’re “using” people. But when framed as “community building”, that is a concept I can get behind. It’s not so scary. I can definitely do that.
Don’t get mad. Get what you want. (Create an action plan.)
Presentation 2: A story about diversity, by YZ Chin
Her advice was about diversity and the importance of being yourself. There were two main take-aways:
One:Diversity is important becauseif everyone is the same, it means they can all fail the same way. She went on to give an example about how, as a new member of the engineering team, she solved a critical error that all the other experienced team members failed to recognize. Her value to the team was her knowledge about their customers, not her skill as a software engineer.
Two: It’s important to be honest. In her example, she recognized that you’re not an impostor if you say you’re 2nd best. She again related a story where her manage told her that he didn’t hire her to be the best engineer. He hired her for her customer expertise.
Presentation 3: What she did well / What she wishes she done better, by Natasha Awasthi
In Natasha’s second talk, she presented a list of career aphorisms based on what she had done well vs things she wishes she could have done better. I think the first list mostly speaks for itself. But I’ll explain the second a little more, because I think it’s interesting and helpful.
What she wishes she had done better
Show don’t tell.
Seek to clarify before you criticize.
Find a kernel of truth.
Ask for help.
Have a board of people as advisors (not friends or family):
This is a group of professional contacts, that will give you difficult but critical feedback on your ideas, projects, career, etc. I thought this tied in really well with the point from her earlier presentation, about building community. People like this would be a great addition.
Working together means going slower.
What she did well
Act on little knowledge & lot of imagination.
Ask for help, twice:
What she means is, instead of getting angry and assume people have simply ignored your request for help, just ask again.
Declare your ignorance:
This is sort of like getting lost. Sometimes you just continue on the same path, thinking you’re going the right way and then realize you’re way off path. It would be better to just admit you’re lost and find out where you are and where you need to go, than to just start walking. Same here: rather than pretend you know the answer, admit you don’t and find someone who can help.
Make it easy to have hard conversations:
I’m actually quite bad at this, probably because of my desire to separate my professional and personal life. In her example, if you never talk to a colleague about anything, good or bad, that one time you’ve got to have a conversation it’s clearly probably about something terrible. So, take the time to get to know your colleague on a more personal basis and build up a congenial rapport.
Focus on what you want.
Follow your obsessions:
She mentioned that she was a writer, who wrote articles for Fast Company. She said she also taught classes at General Assembly.
Presentation 3: How to Tell Your Story / Personal Brand, by General Assembly
This talk was given by two people from General Assembly. I think their job was to help students find jobs, or help them find support. (Another example of working in tech, but not being technical.)
At first, I was really annoyed when this talk started. I thought it would be about building a personal brand, which is an area where I felt I could use help. Instead the dual presenters gave somewhat detailed stories about their backgrounds, which I was kind of annoyed by. However, they helped make it useful by talking about how to use your story to convey to employers how you can help them.
The Q&A and Summary section really clarified a few points from them, about what employers are looking for when it comes to the non-technical qualities of an employment candidate:
Employers want to know you have leadership qualities, which they described as seeking personal growth. I personally am not sure what leadership means to me, but I do know that I am growth-minded in that I am always looking to learn and expand my skillset. I want to know what I don’t know.
Employers want to know that you take criticism well.I suppose I always knew this, but it’s good to hear it spelled out like this. For me, trying to apply the improv “Yes, and…” technique might be a good way to accept criticism when I don’t want to accept it. “Yes, I see your critique…and X-Y-Z.”
Coming up with a story can be hard. So they suggested asking friends or acquaintances, maybe that board of advisors, to send 3 characteristics that they would use to describe you. And using that list to help guide your story.
In addition, in combination with YZ Chin’s story above, I came away with the idea that I should think of my story into tech as unique to me – and I shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about how I didn’t go to design school or study engineering. I’m not being an impostor by admitting that my path into the tech industry was a straight line. Some employers might find that meandering experience valuable.
Final Talk of the Day
My last talk of the day, I actually cannot remember what it was called. But it was about finding peace at work and learning to cope with difficult situations.
In this story, the presenter talked about how she created her own job, at her current company, after running into resistance and unhappiness in her previous role.
If you think it, you will say it. If you say it, you will do it.
They attributed that to Confucius but many people have said something similar.
A few more:
Move towards vs move away
Bearing down. (Sometimes you just have to work through difficult times, rather than run away.)
Crowd source advice from toughest critics. (Sound familiar? This theme is common, I guess.)
Wisdom from “Advancing The Careers of Technical Women (ACT-W)” New York 2017 Conference
Or How a Woman’s Tech Conference Saved My Butt
Kind of on a whim, I decided to attend the Advancing The Careers of Technical Women (ACT-W), 1-day conference. The purpose was to provide career advice for women in all parts of the tech world, not just for developers. Overall, it was incredibly inspiring and energizing, which I really needed. Job hunts can be very depressing.
In an upcoming post, I will share detailed notes from each speaker. But for now, I will share some highlights and how I’ve applied the advice I learned from attending.
Highlights of Wisdom, Summarized
build a community; don’t network
create an objective panel of reviewers
tell your unique story
diversity of opinions and experience is important
ask for help
Examples of how I applied the advice I learned by taking action:
1 – BUILDING A COMMUNITY
I immediately started applying the concept of community building. I got some business cards and names, from a few attendees, and I connected with them on LinkedIn and sent emails. I’ve even been reaching out to complete strangers on LinkedIn!
Coincidentally, this was kind of happening in real life, too, which made everything a little overwhelming but also provided another opportunity to try out these new ideas.
2 – ASKING FOR HELP
I decided to ask for help from people I haven’t tried before. For instance, I reached out to employers that rejected me for a job, to ask for help. Either to ask what they look for or to ask for career advice.
3 – BUILDING TRUST
I’ve been working on redoing my website (again) and this time, I included more information highlighting my expertise. Not to brag, but to build trust.
4 – TELLING MY STORY
As a part of redoing my website, I’ve included an About page. I’ve used part of that page to go into more detail into my background and how I got to where I am.
My next post will include detailed notes from the speakers.