Angela May

Exploring Product Design

October 2015

Abundance Mentality

A reading-focused week, been working through this Abundance book by Diamandis and Kotler. It’s not exactly what I was looking for (in terms of what a post-scarcity economy would look like and how to micro-implement it) but it’s a really interesting book so far. I’ve been taking a lot of notes on topics for further research. The fundamental premise is that technological growth is exponential, and certain exponential technologies are going to change everything and soon. The exponential technologies that are explored in the text are Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, Computational systems, Networks and sensors, Artificial intelligence, Robotics, Digital manufacturing, Infinite computing, Nano materials, and Nanotechnology. I’m still working through it, but I’m learning a lot.

This week I also attended a Conscious Business seminar, where I met others who are interested in conscious business practices. It was fairly introductory but I found a number of terms I’ll be looking into in more detail in the future.

On Wednesday my coworkers Div and Taylor presented a lunch and learn about Python. It was mostly an introduction to the syntax, but I did learn quite a bit about an IDE called PyCharm that I’ll be looking into, and it helped to clarify some of the points that were still confusing to me. Dylan made an interesting point in how remarkable it is that all of these IDEs, libraries and even Python itself is completely free and open source. Everything coming back to abundance…

Today will be more chunking through the Udemy Python course, away we go!

Posted: October 23rd, 2015
Categories: Journal
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Dream Jobs are as Unique as Candidates

(archived from Medium)

I wrote a post recently on what it takes to write an application for a competitive job post. A lot of people resonated with it — because it is hard and you gotta grip every edge. But others found it disheartening. If companies are only ever hiring the best, where does everyone else go?

I hear this. I’ve been there — it is scary trying to find a job these days, and landing anything is a challenge. But I do want to make clear that my posting was about applying for an extremely competitive “dream job” in an innovative small team. The companies pushing the boundaries live with inherently more risk. Staffing decisions can make or break these companies, so they need to be much more selective.

Writing Applications for that Cut-Throat Dream Job
The world is becoming more competitive. Want to work with an innovative small team? Recognize that a lot of other…

I believe those tips would help you in any application, but I’ve also done hiring for larger corporations. Large companies can withstand the risk of hiring someone and training them to suit, or replacing them if it doesn’t work out. There are also smaller companies out there where a match between your current skillset and their current requirements will be possible. There are great jobs out there that aren’t “cut throat dream jobs”! I’ve learned something valuable in every single position I’ve ever been in. If it really is your dream… wouldn’t you be willing to fight for it?

What to do today…

When imagining your “dream job”, don’t imagine a logo on your business card. Imagine the type of culture where you think you will thrive, and the types of skills you’ll need to take you to the next level.

Accept that it takes time to find the right job, and accept that just because it isn’t happening now doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Accept where you are now, and do your best to showcase those skills. Build the best portfolio that you can today.

Search out your dream job, and be aggressive. Look at the postings they currently have open, and make note of the requirements on those job posts. If you can’t find an open posting, try to find the names of people who work there, and find what they list as their qualifications. Use that information to build your own education plan — turn yourself in to their dream candidate. And build a portfolio that proves it.

Posted: October 23rd, 2015
Categories: Advice
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Plodding through this Udemy course. So far it seems much more applicable than the Coursera course, and it moves at a fairly brisk pace so that’s nice. Slowly chipping away at it a little at a time.

Otherwise at lunches I’ve been reading the next Tufte book, Envisioning Information. A lot of overlap with the previous book, the Visual Display of Quantitative Information, but still a good read, some really interesting examples so far from Tokyo.

Denis linked to a really interesting article I’ve been chewing on about what the author termed the “Post Capitalist” society. I’m not so sure about the author, but I am interested in the idea of exploring the inevitable outcomes of a major upheaval in our working society. Preliminary research has led me to this youtube channel, which is ok, still updating. If possible I’d like to break away from theory written by old white guys because I feel like the solution is going to come from somewhere else. Getting data is tough, because other societies don’t tend to get the respsect in academic circles that they deserve. May become an anthropology exercise, we’ll see.

Started a new initiative at work where we try new methods every Friday, working out well so far!

Posted: October 16th, 2015
Categories: Journal
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Python Sloggin’

I want to get back into journalling my progress in an effort to keep a bit more focused on ProD.

Awhile back I did a bunch of soul searching. I spent quite a bit of time on this. I was trying to answer: what should I pursue to get to the next level? What skillset is valuable, but naturally complimented by my existing skills? How can I become more of an asset to my current team? I didn’t think that duplicating their skillset would be the way to go, and I decided to pursue something a bit more uncommon.

Data Visualization is something that I eventually settled on. I’ve always been fascinated by graphs, and I think communicating information clearly is going to become an even bigger challenge going forward. This leverages much of my existing skillset (my technical background, some programming background, as well as good experience with excel and illustrator). I started researching Data Vis – what methods people were using and which tool would be the best to become familiar with.

I started with an OSU course through iTunes U which was very good, but was mostly focused on R. (more info)

Then I read a few books to give a broader context and get an impression on best practices for data vis. In order to select these books I did a lot of internet searching and collected the most-often recommended books, as well as scouring the Amazon ratings. My selections included The Quantitative Display of Visual Information by Tufte which I LOVED and immediately went out to buy his next two books in the series. I also read Visualize This which was interesting but more tutorial-based… I might check back with it later.

The two languages most often cited for Data Vis were R and Python, with an honourable mention to a couple of other languages including PHP and JavaScript.

R looks achievable, and I may still go back to it, but I decided to pursue Python instead, mostly because of its broader flexibility and usefulness in my field of work. So the mission became learn how to program in Python.

After floundering for a bit trying to teach myself this (there is a lot of conflicting information and lot of easy stuff to slog through before I get to what I actually want) I bit the bullet, enrolled in and completed this Coursera Course from Rice. It was okay. I found it very easy to keep up with, and I’m now confident I have fundamentals of the language, but the whole thing took place in this walled garden of a web-based development environment that has all these shortcuts… in actual real life I’m going to need to learn to do all that (installing an IDE, managing libraries, dealing with broken imports blah blah blah).

So my NEXT tactic is THIS course from Udemy:

And I’m going to try to apply what I learn to the data exports in Harvest, because that will be handy for the team :)

Posted: October 9th, 2015
Categories: Journal
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Advice: Writing Applications for that Cut-Throat Dream Job

The world is becoming more competitive. Want to work with an innovative small team? Recognize that a lot of other people will be gunning for the same position as you. Small teams don’t have a lot of openings, and they have to hire very carefully because each new member makes a HUGE impact. I work for a small engineering design firm. I read a LOT of resumes on a regular basis. I have a list of requirements, and I’m looking for PROOF that you meet those requirements. Here’s what I look for:

I will google you. Make sure the top results are what I’m going to want to see. (or at least, not what I DON’T want to see). If your name is very common, this is what I’m usually going to search:

  • [Name] + [City]
  • [Name] + [Career/Title]
  • [Name] + [Name of the last company you worked for]

LinkedIn profile — have one. Being a ghost (unsearchable) is NOT a good thing.

A portfolio — have one. This is going to be the key way you will PROVE that you have the skills I’m looking for.

Don’t be a jerk on the internet. Actually, just don’t be a jerk in general. If it’s online I’ll find it and dodge that bullet, but we’re a tightly integrated team and we don’t have time for jerks. We’ll figure it out QUICKLY. EVERYONE on our team is smart and plays a critical role. Respect that.

Writing resumes

Think of it like this: Anyone can say they’re a motivated self-starter who learns fast and can thrive in a fast-paced environment. Your resume is a list of FACTS that PROVE you’re the right candidate.

These are the top things I’m looking for when I read a resume — IN THIS ORDER:

What’s your degree in, when did you graduate.

If you’re an undergrad, what year are you (second year, third year) and when will you graduate? I don’t care how many calendar years it’s taken you to get there — what level of study are you at, and how many more “years of study” do you have to go?

If you’re self-taught or have a degree that’s different from the requirement listed… just say that so I don’t have to work to put those pieces together myself. If you have the right chops I’ll be able to tell. Sometimes degree matters, sometimes it doesn’t.

Can you use the software I’m hiring for.

I like when this information is in a bulleted list near the top of the resume.

Usually the posting will state 2 or 3 types of software that you must be familiar with. I absolutely need to see those at the TOP of a capabilities list. I’m SCANNING for these, don’t make me work to find them. I actually don’t care too much about the software I’m NOT hiring for, so it doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list. If you’re an engineer I’m going to assume “good with computers” comes with the territory. If it doesn’t… you’re in trouble.

Hours of experience, certifications or some indicator of level of proficiency (3/5 stars or whatever) helps.

DON’T LIE. We test on this.

What are you trying to achieve, and why should we hire you over everyone else

I like reading summary or purpose statements at the top of resumes. Imagine where you want to be in five years and tell me how our job connects those dots. Don’t lie, it’ll come out in interview and I will be mad because I had to turn another candidate down to interview you — keep it SHORT and SNAPPY. It also helps to have a highlighted statement along the lines of “You need X, I can do X because [compelling statement of proof]”.

Your work experience — what have you done so far?

Ideally, I want to see that you’ve done the type of work we’re asking about in our posting.

The structure of “action word first, simple statement of what YOU did at your job”… it actually works very well when I’m reading a ton of these. Use bulleted lists, and use a good linespacing between the bullets. Walls of text are hard to read.

If the bulk of your experience is somewhere else, tell me in your cover letter why you want to make a shift and you’ll need to prove those skills another way. Don’t have relevant work experience? Fill this space with PERSONAL PROJECTS. Initiative counts for a lot, and it proves you’re self-motivated.

Some demonstration of passion or personality.

We don’t just hire engineers, we hire people who are passionate about engineering. I’m often more impressed by personal projects than work experience, because I know how much drive it takes to do something in your free time. A lot of luck and circumstance goes into your job history. Your passion and drive go into personal projects.

Coop student? Put (extracurricular) student team work and personal projects ABOVE course-mandated technical projects. Guess what… every single CoOp candidate has the same technical projects on their resume. Boring. Make yourself different and don’t hide the difference.

Interests and hobbies count! (Usually a short list at the bottom of the resume.) Don’t be afraid to be weird, but DO be afraid of being boring.

Use consistent design but don’t make it so fancy that I can’t read the thing

  • Pick a clean sans-serif font (google it)
  • Use a few weights and sizes of that font but only that one font
  • Be very careful about line spacing and margins. I’m reading these FAST, make it easy.
  • EXPORT YOUR RESUME AS A PDF and make sure it exported “cleanly” with no errors.
  • Don’t make me work to find the information I’m looking for! Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has to scan through a pdf with 100 merged pages of application. That is the life of someone who is trying to hire you.

Cover letters: I read these!

I read every single cover letter very carefully and I read it more closely than a resume!!! I’ve read a lot of posts that say the cover letter is dead and this is NOT TRUE. In my opinion it’s more important than ever.

This is what I want to see in your cover letter:

You actually want the job.

You care enough to have read our website/done your research on what we’re up to lately.

Show some friggin’ personality.

I don’t want coworkers who are dull as toast!! Fit counts for more and more these days. A resume is a data sheet, your cover letter is where you’re actually able to demonstrate some humanity. Take advantage. Writing is a key method of communication, and communication is SO important in your career. Show me what you got!

Recognize that I’m reading a billion of these and I’m going to be so SO bored by the time I get to yours. Don’t be aggressively casual, but you don’t need to be AS formal as the resume. I pick up on wit. Be someone I will be excited about meeting, just because I think it’ll be interesting.

I can tell when you’re using overly poetic language to fill space because you actually don’t know anything about our company…… Don’t do it. I will laugh… but I won’t flag your resume.

Tell me why you became an engineer. Tell me why you’re inspired to work on the problems we focus on. Tell me about some challenge you’ve overcome that explains gaps in your resume. Just don’t be boring. Please. PLEASE. (Noticing a theme yet?)

Don’t currently live in the city the job is in? Tell me about that. What do you know about our city, have you ever been here? Why are you interested in moving here? Our city is HARD to live in, and we lose more people to homesickness than anything else.

How are you going to solve our problem?

Many cover letters focus on how WE can help YOU in your career goals, which is great but it’s also critical to spend time on how YOU can help US in OUR goals. Why are you going to be a valuable member of our team?

Spelling counts.

I dock a letter grade per spelling/grammatical error in my ranking of candidates. When I have twelve A-rank candidates, that matters. Typos happen, and it sucks (I’m sure there are some in this post, I wrote this fast) but if you are telling me you desperately want this job but didn’t bother to proof-read your cover letter a few times? Hm. I noticed.

Formatting counts.

Copy your cover letter into the email, you can also attach it as a pdf so I can send it to someone else. It’s a little thing, but if your format is wacky it’s annoying.

What about grades?

You’ll notice I didn’t mention academic grades. If you are a coop student, grades come with your application, and I do scan them. I’m not looking for A’s and B’s… I’m looking for your D’s and F’s and what courses they’re in. If the courses are core to your field of study and/or our field of work… that could knock you out. A’s don’t get you hired, but D’s can cause you to get screened out. Your application (especially a portfolio) will have to kick so much ass to make up for it, but it can be done. Recent grads may supply grades, but once you’ve had your first job, they no longer matter. Experience is everything.

One last point…

The perfect job doesn’t make you the perfect candidate, or give you a perfect life. It’s COMPETITIVE. Get the best job you can, but don’t think that you’ve “failed” if you didn’t get the one you’re gunning for. I have learned something valuable at every single position I’ve been in. No time is ever “wasted”. Be strategic. Use the time in your “not perfect” job to acquire the skills you need to be the best candidate. BUILD YOUR PROOF. The planets may align sooner than you think, you need to be ready to jump when they do. You can do it!

Archived from Medium:

Posted: October 7th, 2015
Categories: Advice
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