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.
It might not be easily noticeable from this blog, but over the past few weeks I’ve updated my main website. I tend to do this a few times a year, as I gain feedback, or learn what works and what doesn’t work. Hopefully this change will stick around for a while. This post is documentation of what I did and why.
Over the past several months, I have been trying to get a better understanding of what UX managers look for when they view a candidate’s portfolio. There were a few resources I looked at that helped inform my opinions in this regard. After reading a few articles and slideshow presentations, reviewing websites, and gathering feedback, I had a few ideas. Here are a few points and screenshots demonstrating my ideas and how they affected the design.
I. Overall Design and Home page
One way or another, I ended up looking at a few portfolio pages from designers I’d met in-person or came across online. Despite reading several of those “10 UX Portfolios To Admire” articles, what I’ve discovered is that sometimes simple is best. And that translates to a template site, often paid.
Paid subscription services are anything from $6-$8 or more each month. I don’t think someone should have to pay a monthly fee in order to apply for a job. That meant I’d have to create it myself or use a free service. I’ve used Carbonmade, Coroflot, and even Behance (barely), which are all free. But their designs are limited and my research showed that managers will evaluate candidates on the usability of their portfolio, even when it’s hosted by a third-party.
Reviewing both free and paid sites, the ones I liked best were made by the paid services Squarespace or Wix, using remarkably similar templates. Essentially, that template was a site with basic navigation, a grid of projects on the home page, project pages, and a simple About page. Following that template, I came up with a basic grid for my home page. But I jazzed it up a bit with some fancy CSS throughout the site.
II. Presenting an Overview
In previous designs, I assumed that managers would read. But, my research showed that they might spend 30 seconds reviewing a portfolio, for the first time. I also came across numerous resources insisting that candidates outline role, problem or goal, and outcome when presenting their work.
So you can see in the screenshot below how I’ve outlined this information right at the top, next to an image.
II. Fast Scanning
Another consideration was the amount of time a manager spends reviewing a portfolio. My research showed that managers only spend 30 seconds on a portfolio and review 12-50 portfolios for a given position. I used the process/approach section to break up information into digestible, one-sentence long chunks.
III. Tell a Story
The word “storytelling” is thrown around a lot, especially in relation to self-promotion. I think “storytelling” is overused and cliche, and I’ve written about storytelling a few times. However, for the redesign, I thought about the concept of beginning, middle, and end. Thinking through these part of a story, I ended up with the following sections: overview, a process/approach section, documentation, and outcome. Outcome really helps “sell” it as a story, because it provides a conclusion.
Having talked about outcome, what now?
One idea I thought of, as I was writing this, was to shrink the size of the thumbnails on the home page to show more information on the screen. But, I think the “hero” image/section is what takes up most of the space, vs the size of the thumbnails. This is one change though; I have a running list of updates and ideas on Remember the Milk, where I can also track priority.
I plan to ask more friends for feedback and maybe get feedback from a few connections on LinkedIn. It was fun, I learned a lot. I look forward to adding more projects and the site evolving over time. Or until I redesign it again!
OK, XYZ Foundation is not really the name of the organization. But I really was asked to complete a UX challenge for a job application.
Since it helped me get through to the 2nd round, I thought it would be nice to share it. The challenge description (from them) and my submission (from me) are indented and given a different color.
Kudos to them for choosing a challenge that had nothing to do with the company itself. They don’t have anything to do with food or supply distributions.
Scenario We are building a tool to connect restaurateurs and chefs with food and kitchen equipment distributors. We want both groups of users to have the capacity to search for one another and set requirements in order to get their needs met. Also, each set of users should have the capacity to record and broadcast their needs or resources so that other users can browse through them.
Task We’d like to see a plan for how you would go about assessing the needs of the various users, collecting and studying similar projects and potential competition, and designing and testing the experience of this tool’s users. We are expecting a roadmap for what steps will be involved in conceiving, developing, and testing the design of this tool.
My only clarifying question was what “record and broadcast” meant. They estimated this to take 1-2 hours, so I didn’t try to go into too much depth.
I wasn’t really sure who would be reviewing this, or how it would be used. Ostensibly, this was just for them to understand if I really understand usability. But if this was real, and I had been asked to create a plan, I wasn’t sure if they would use this as a formal plan or as a general outline.
So, like going to a party where you don’t know the dress code, I decided to go a little more formal with a report using a Google template.
New restaurateurs and chefs expanding or creating a new restaurant need kitchen equipment to stock their kitchens. Kitchen supply distributors (KSDs) want to be able to find restaurateurs looking for kitchen equipment.
1 – Restaurateurs need to be able to search for equipment and post requests for quotes.
2 – KSDs can search for restaurateurs and send quotes.
Online exchange where restauranteurs can search for supplies, as well as post request for quotes from participating KSDs. KSDs can search for restauranteurs and send quotes. Perhaps a Craigslist for restaurant equipment. There may also be a weekly newsletter with new requests.
Below are milestones that would be part of the design process for this tool. In the real world, constraints such as the budget and release date would have a bigger impact on the functional scope and timeline. Also, the actual process might not be this clean, or steps might be skipped or combined, as needed.
1. High-Level Process Map / High-Level Research
Create a basic high-level map of the process, to get a fuller picture of the scope of the problem. High-level research of kitchen supply distributors, to get a sense of what they do and offer. (See example, below.)
2. Stakeholder Interviews
Interview 2-4 restaurateurs and 2-4 distributors. Analyze finding and create personas if needed.
3. Research kitchen equipment distribution sites
What do these sites do well, what do they do poorly. How are their times organized and catalogued. Probably will return to this list often.
4. Create list of tasks tool should support
Decide on the scope of the tool. Don’t need to work on everything at once, but have a sense of the bigger picture. This is also a time to figure out the overall information architecture.
5. Create workflow for first task(s)
Pick one section of the tool, and sketch or list out a more in-depth workflow. For instance, what is the post process for chefs? What is the search and reply process for suppliers.
6. Create a draft of wireframes for task(s) – repeat
Sketch wireframes and create a first set of wireframes for whichever tasks were identified in part 5. Use these documents to meet with internal teams regarding feasibility, scope, business strategy, research, and timeline.
7. Refine designs / Prototype
Use feedback from internal meetings to refine wireframes, as needed. Progressively getting more detailed. Create a prototype, if possible.
8. Usability Testing
Return to earlier users, or sample of users, to test prototype or designs. Update design based on feedback. Could also try paper prototypes, between step 6 and 7.
Example: High-Level Process Map / High-Level Research
1 – Chef wants to open a restaurant. 2 – Thinks about his needs.
3 – Option 1: Goes online and searches for supplies. 4 – Pays for items. 5 – Items are delivered.
6 – Option 2: Chef fills out a form or posts needs online. 7 – Distributors get or view the request. 8 – Distributors create bids/quotes for chef and send them. 9 – Chef reviews options and picks a quote that works. 10 – See 4. 11 – See 5.
This overview can be digitized, if it needs to be shared out.