I said goodbye to Michigan State’s theater program five years ago. I quit acting and designing costumes, except for a final tour of a children’s show that allowed me to get my minor. I never thought that when I moved to New York, I’d end up working on shows, let alone one that was so incredible. It has been a taxing but very rewarding experience.
Just some of the amazing press we received, if you’re not already convinced:
“The American Play part of the New York International Fringe Festival takes audience expectation wraps it up in beautiful and innovative stage pictures, adds in a twist of horrendous tragedy, and then lands you exactly where you know you’re going but don’t want to be.” –Times Square Chronicles
“The American Play is honest and frightening because of how recognizable these college students are, influenced by consumerism, media, and the desire to belong.” –StageBuddy
“It’s very possible to say that The American Play was perfectly cast. The three young actors that comprised this play fit their roles to a t.” –Theater in the Now
Often when we create our WordPress themes, they come with a small theme options page built using the Settings API. This page could have inputs for everything from social media handles to uploading a new logo or picking a homepage layout. Having these options makes it easier for non-developers to make important changes to their websites, or give it minor refreshment.
Here’s a pretty straightforward example of how we use it on Chasing the Dream. Administrators can update the links for social media icons, enter the unique Google Custom Search Key, pick a homepage grid, and even update the footer text.
Having a theme options page is a good way to set global options, such as a font or accent color. Instead of having to find all of the places within the CSS every time a client wants to try a different shade of blue, instead they can have the power to update it themselves. Read more
Back in October of 2014, I had a bit of a dry spell at WNET. There weren’t as many new projects coming in, and I was still green to the way our more complex web properties work. Instead of sitting around and reading the various internet news aggregates, I decided to attack a problem I knew about even before starting my job that August.
The Interactive Engagement Group (IEG) website was a flat, two-page piece of brochure ware. It was built to appease the powers-that-be, but was in no way indicative of the type of amazing work that the department was capable of doing. I wanted to take this project head on and lead the way to a beautiful, responsive, and informative website that would not only show off what we could do, but show off the expertise of our team. To do this, I needed buy-in from my boss, head of the technical team, and from the head of our department.
To Get Buy In, I Came Prepared
Though I talked about why I thought it was important with my boss and with the developer team, I knew I would need a lot more than a “good idea” to get department funding to build the site. I put my professional writing skills to work and wrote a content strategy. Read more
I learned to count binary on my fingers while sipping an egg cream in a New York institution, Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery. A friend of mine was explaining simple hardware setups and said he had a cool trick he used at nerd parties. I practiced over and over on the subway ride back to Brooklyn, until counting became a fluid motion. Now, I can easily count up to 1,023 on my hands (though, I’ve yet to find a concrete reason I’d need to do so).
What are Binary Numbers?
The binary numeral system, otherwise known as the base-2 numeral system, represents numeric values using just two symbols: 0 and 1. It is used by almost all modern computers and in circuitry design. Just because it is the foundation of computing does not mean it wasn’t being used before the 20th century. Binary existed even in the ancient world, having been encountered as far back as the 9th century B.C. in China. Read more
Two weeks ago I was presented a new challenge: build a bingo card for Antiques Roadshow that randomly populated with icons on refresh and on-command (by a “refresh” button), make those icons clickable, indicate a win if five in a row are selected, and last but not least, allow the user to share if they do indeed win. The bingo card was released today, just in time for tonight’s episode.
This was the perfect opportunity to build a WordPress plugin. If done right, bingo could be played in multiple posts at the same time, instead of just played for a one-off event.
The plugin itself is fairly straightforward. Content administrators add two shortcodes to the post they hope to Bingo-fy. 24+ randomized images should be uploaded to that post (not including the image for the free space, winner images, a bingo header, or anything else). All additional images used should be uploaded to the media library but not attached to the post.
The first shortcode, [bingo_gallery], adds the images to a hidden div within the post. This will allow the shortcode [bingocard] to refer to said images to populate a table, as well as to a set freespace image, winner image, and header image, all of which are set on the Bingo Settings page. The actual order of these shortcodes within the post doesn’t matter.
At the moment, the plugin is built for three posts with Bingo cards but can be scaled up depending on the user’s knowledge of PHP. I hope in version 2.0 I can more easily add up to ten bingo cards in the back-end so that PHP/jQuery knowledge isn’t necessary for those wishing to add more bingo cards.
Back in November, Jeanne Brooks (fellow member of Tech LadyMafia) reached out to me to ask for me to speak at an upcoming hackathon for Fusion RiseUp. Though I’ve spoken at events before, for the most part it had been through JCC Association and JCC events. I had never been asked to speak as me, as a professional.
To be honest, I was surprised. I couldn’t help but wonder, in the pool of amazing women that we belong to, why would she ask me? Of course, that may have had something to do with a bit of my own confidence issues in the moment, but what came back was a list of reasons as to why I was indeed more than qualified.
As nervous as I was, I said yes. This was not an opportunity that I could miss. And boy, am I glad I did.
Instead of speaking about development or hacking in a traditional sense, I spoke about building community. Back in November 2012, I attended NASA Social Final Journey of Atlantis. As you may (or may not) know, even getting to Orlando was an adventure (thanks Hurricane Sandy). Community building carried on long after the event ended, and there is now a group of individuals that are a part of my extended network with a shared love for all things space. Read more
I’ve done a lot of freelance work in the past few years, but nothing has been more fun and more enjoyable than the work I did for free. I’ve built wedding websites for friends and a site for my roommate’s feature documentary, Sanskriti.
There are a number of reasons I think I enjoy this. Partly, I am giving it as a gift. I love giving gifts more than anything, finding that perfect item for a person I care about, and watching their eyes light up when they receive it. Sometimes, that’s homemade cookies. Once, it was a personal travel journal where I hand wrote best places to visit in the United Kingdom and printed subway maps. But one of the best gifts I can give someone is the time and effort to give a website that is better than any generic template they could find, or a free service provider with ads. Read more
Two years, six months, and seventeen days ago I got off a plane at LaGuardia Airport with a backpack and two giant suitcases. I got in a taxi and we sped (well, probably no more than forty miles an hour, but you get the point) towards Brooklyn. I moved to New York less than two months after college, two weeks after returning from traveling abroad solo, to start my first job as Digital Marketing Associate at JCC Association.
After two years, six months, and three days as a working professional, I hugged my colleagues goodbye and took my cubical decorations and paperwork home. The very next day, I took my Michigan oven mitt and a three legged chanchitos figurine (thanks Alex, Sarah, and Tom) to my new job at WNET (also known as Channel Thirteen). I accepted a position as Associate Web Developer (sometimes in official paperwork known as Web Engineer), beginning the day after I left.
Over the past year, I had decided I really loved building for WordPress and wanted to focus on becoming a better developer. That being said, my resume still spoke volumes to my marketing and community management abilities, more than my technical skills. While I decided in the spring to start looking for a new position, I decided I would apply on both sides of my skill spectrum. I knew my next position would probably help steer the rest of my career, which was extraordinarily nerve wracking. I knew what I wanted, but I also knew that without a computer science degree or a host of previous developer roles I was at a huge disadvantage. Read more
I was recently asked by a friend of mine, an extraordinarily smart and talented young woman who I met while at a hackathon in Boston, to contribute a story about what it means to be a woman in tech. She gave me no parameters, no length requirement. The only request was that the story focused on a time I was a proud to be a woman in tech.
Let me start by saying for the most part, I’ve been pretty fortunate. I can’t speak to how my childhood influenced my career decisions (I went from dreaming of Harvard Law to becoming an actress to becoming a professor to… well, what I do now). I never thought of myself as someone who would build websites, though I always thought it was cool in concept. I thought I was sneaky when, in my sophomore year, I made my knowledge of CSS seem much more in-depth by using a template website. Read more
When I graduated from Michigan State University (was it REALLY two and a half years ago?!), my resume felt like a jumble of skills. I can build you a website AND write your tweets AND write instructions for using software AND build you an elaborate stage set. I have the skills to design a basic logo AND create communications strategies.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers suggests it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert (though a recent study disagrees). So how can one call themselves a specialist in something or an expert if they focus on so many different things? How do you communicate your expertise?
Take pride in being a generalist.
There’s a huge benefit to having a list of skills that are related. Particularly when going into a non-profit or a smaller company which may not have segmented out certain responsibilities, being able to say, “I can help you with your web communications AND your print” is hugely beneficial. Being “the best” can be nice, but tout your other skills as an added bonus. Read more
A friend of mine recently posted an article from The Atlantic, “A Eulogy for Twitter”, questioning the validity. I spent time reading and rereading, thinking about what this article meant. Was it true? Is Twitter the next MySpace? I thought I’d share my response here, in a more pubic forum.
While good points are made, saying that Twitter is entering its twilight seems awfully extreme. Platforms grow and change, and then immediately people balk and say, “We are leaving. We don’t like it anymore. It’s different. We hate change.” That being said, it has grown exponentially in the past few years. It’s become common place for professionals to be expected to have one and for businesses to have a presence.
Is Twitter overrun with spammers and bots? Yes. Is there a lot of noise and hateful negativity? Also yes. Can you choose to tune that out and still have meaningful conversations? I guess it depends on how big your audience is. Maybe not for the Justin Biebers of the world who have millions of followers (and let’s be honest, probably isn’t having meaningful dialogue ANYWAY), but for the average joe, yes. Read more
I was first assigned the task of “build a website for JCC Camps” back in July 2013. When this happened, the talk was mostly emulating our existing directory website for JCCs, DiscoverJCC.com. That website was built before my time, using a software from our Preferred Vendor, Accrisoft. My boss would take the lead on the design, and we would create a modern website that tested the limits of our brand standards.
My goal was to create a customized directory profile that was broken up by lots of small pieces of meta data, with a lot of possibilities for searching. My boss created two mockups: the homepage followed the trend of the single page website, with four sections, and the inner profile page highlighting various pieces of information. It was my task to realize this design.
The Building Process
I began building a custom WordPress theme for the JCC Camps website in August 2013. The most arduous task was creating a filtration system that not only worked, but that was actually useful for our intended audience, potential parents of campers. There was no point in having eight different options for searching, if parents only cared about location, type of stay (day or overnight), and specialized activities. Read more
I’m going to start this conversation with a bold, inflammatory statement: I hate networking.
People who know me often respond to that sentiment with, “But you’re so good at it! You’re friendly, and you talk to everyone. How could you hate talking to people?”
I’d say I’m halfway between an extrovert and an introvert. I love parties and events where I know people in the room. It’s invigorating to be in a space where I’m comfortable, and talking about the things I care about. But the moment I step into a room where I don’t know people and the room is full of experts in my field, I’m intimidated. It can be exhausting to have to be “on” for several hours, trying to meet new people and either make friends or business contacts (or ideally, both). Read more
For the past four weeks, I’ve spent most of my spare time working on the production of Hallowed Ground, an exploration of text, produced by The Dirty Blondes. This is the second production I’ve done with The Dirty Blondes, first being a 24 hour festival, Deadline.
Before I discovered Professional Writing or even thought about a career as a web developer, I was sure I would be working in the theater. I acted in plays and musicals through high school and college; I single-handedly costumed Michigan State’s opera for a production of Susannah; I helped stage manage a rather elaborate production of Tommy the Rock Opera. After signing up for two many events and working with a few rather difficult directors, I took a break from the stage. My last production was acting in Reefer Madness in January 2010, and I finally took a breath.
This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. I’ll be honest: I knew little to nothing about Lean Startup practices and their terminology before I hopped on the plane from New York this past weekend. Now, I’m a convert. I’ll go back to my office, and hopefully be able to get some of the practices going within my department.
A bit of background, for those of you also unfamiliar with Lean Startup. Lean Startup is a business and product development methodology developed by Eric Ries (co-host of the conference). His theory is that through experimentation (think the scientific method for business), iteration, and early customer interaction, businesses can reduce risks and initial funding costs. This is based on lean manufacturing, production practices streamlined by Japanese automakers. There are a lot of big buzz words thrown around to help the concepts sink in to measurable action:
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)‘s are versions of the end-product which allow maximum data collection with the least amount of money/time. For example, starting with a landing page of a website to gage interest and find out if your hypothesis is correct before building out the entire database.
Continuous Deployment of code, so that small changes are adopted quickly. Why spend hundreds of hours on a huge single launch? There’s a greater opportunity for failure and to not know what piece of the puzzle didn’t work.
Actionable metrics versus vanity metrics. I’m perfectly guilty of subscribing and using the vanity metrics (the numbers that paint rosy pictures but may not reflect accurate engagement) for certain documentation. But, the actionable metrics are the ones that can paint a better picture and lead to smart decision making. Read more
I really, really enjoy traveling. In September, I was on eight planes, two trains, and an uncountable number of subway cars. I can’t help myself, and I take every opportunity I can get to go some place new. This time, I decided to go on a ten day trip to Europe with friends from high school.
When I was a child, I used to prance around the house speaking in what I imagined to be a perfect British accent. I dreamt of going to boarding school in London, spending time wandering the various castles, making friends with princes and princesses. Everyone dreamt that, right?
This was my second trip to London, and it did not disappoint. I went to many of the places I had been on my last trip, unable to stay away. The city is gigantic and there are many things to see and do, but I wasn’t ready to take a step back from the major historical landmarks. Well, that and my travel companions hadn’t been before.
We took Sandman’s New London tour, which I highly recommend if it’s your first time going to a new city. We took a Sandman tour in Amsterdam and Paris, too, each better than the last. The tours are free, and you can choose to tip your tour guide whatever you feel your tour was worth. And trust me, it’s worth it. Read more
About two months ago I started to get that itchy feeling. No, not the “Oh my god, it’s the dead of summer and there are a million mosquitos” itch. The “it’s been so long since I’ve gone on an adventure” itch. My last adventure was to Seattle in March, and though I had traveled a few times since, it wasn’t quite fulfilling my wanderlust. Going to Bubbi’s isn’t exactly going to a world full of opportunity (though it is generally full of delicious foodstuffs).
One of my best friends from college, Kathleen, got a job as a web designer down in Memphis starting last June. Every time we spoke, she told me about how cool it is (and how cheap it is compared to NYC). I saw her apartment over Google Hangout, a beautiful apartment in a house built in 1910, with chandeliers in every room. I haven’t spent any real time in the South, other than a stopover at the Atlanta airport last October. I was born in Florida, but not “Southern” Florida, which pretty much only constitutes the panhandle.
By late June, I decided it was time for a change. I knew I’d have a ridiculous amount of days off for the Jewish holidays in September, and figured now is the time to go on adventure. Memphis ticket prices went down, and I took it as my sign to “Buy buy buy!” Read more
As you may (or may not) have noticed, I’m not a frequent updater of this blog. I post when events relevant to my professional life are happening. I also use this blog to write about my travels and other adventures. But, this is not the only place that I write on the web.
A friend from Professional Writing, Ashley Haglund, suggested to several of our fellow alumni that we write a blog together. She called it “Grammar. Style. Life.“; it’s a space for all of us to write about being a young professional as well as various other important life moments. So far, it’s been a great experience. It’s a great excuse to make our semi-regular Google Hangouts into a regular conversation. We certainly won’t cover all of our personal lives within the blog, but a lot of conversation is continuing outside of it. We maintain a group Facebook chat just to keep up.
That’s just one of the spaces I contribute to. Occasionally, I write alumni posts for Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures at Michigan State University. I write blog posts on JCC Association’s extranet, JCCA.me, related to marketing and the web with a JCC perspective. I also have taken to write pieces that are a touch more personal on Medium. Each blog has it’s own tone, but all are just different partitions of my voice (hat tip to Chelsea Beck for this great infographic that explains the difference).
About eight months ago, I decided I wanted to fund a kickstarter project. I knew I wanted to fund something to do with either tech or baking to get in on the ground floor of an exciting project. I decided on helping to fund Make Cheese Inc. I chose the mascarpone kit thinking, “I’d love to make cannolis for the holidays!”
It didn’t quite work out like I planned. The kits were delayed repeatedly due to the high volume and then to being held by Canadian customs. I didn’t receive the mascarpone kit until last Friday.
I was so giddy, I could hardly contain myself. What’s a girl to do on a Friday night but make her own cheese, right? That’s totally normal, right?
As you may have noticed, my portfolio got a facelift! It’s been a long time coming. I created the actual design mockups last February, in the midst of a creative brainstorming quest at my neighborhood coffee shop (it helped that the internet was shaky and therefore I kept on task). I created a beta website, and began re-mobilizing the custom portfolio I had built in 2011.
I had several goals in my redesign.
Create a responsive design that not only adjusted to different sizes, but looked good in the process.
Refresh the homepage from “I’m a recent college graduate” to “I’m a working web professional.”
Re-design the custom post type I built for my portfolio pieces, re-imagining the purpose and the display.
Make an overall more aesthetically pleasing color palette and design.
I was very happy when I launched my site in September 2011 and had fantastic feedback. However, it was important to me to rejuvenate what was built to make the site work for 2013 standards.
I spent a lot of time researching web design professionals and their portfolios. I dug deep into the pages, looking at the overall concepts as well as the tools they used to build it. In the end, I stuck with WordPress and chose to adapt HTML5 Boilerplate and the 1140px Grid to make my site responsive. I spent a lot of time thinking about how the content would layout, what sort of white space I was interested in using, and how images would be displayed.
It’s been about three weeks since the new site went live. There are still a few kinks here and there, a few images that need to be re-adjusted. But I feel so much better when I share my website. It feels great to say, “Hey. I built this. I made this happen.” And isn’t that what it’s all about?
As you may remember, last October I spent multiple days trapped on an island due to Hurricane Sandy. I was stuck until I managed to escape just in time for NASA Social. This was not my first experience with natural disaster. In fact, as a child I lived in cities where natural disasters were frequent. I hid in the hallway of our family ranch home in Miami during Hurricane Andrew. I was even in the Bay Area for the Loma Prieta Earthquake (otherwise known as the World Series Earthquake).
I once took a class called Natural Hazards & Disasters, where we spent our time learning that we would never really be safe. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, landslides… these can happen at any time. Some can be predicted; some cannot. If Yellowstone goes up (and it will at some point in the next 60,000 years) no amount of preparing will save us. Even if you’re out of the immediate danger zone (Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming would likely be completely inhabitable), there’s still the danger of ash flowing throughout the country. We’re talking major climate change and millions of people dying.
I’m not saying panic. Seriously. There’s only a 0.00014% yearly chance it will happen. Read more
I’ve been very fortunate to spend a lot of time visiting different places. To say I have wanderlust would be a mild understatement. Almost every day I’m checking flight prices, trying to figure out what new and exotic location I will go next. All of my spare change goes to adventures (on the upcoming shortlist is Turkey and Russia). I’ll stay in hostels, eat cheap food, travel with my handy-dandy Osprey Porter backpack full of only the clothes I need to get by.
Last December, I decided it was time for another adventure. Yes, I had just been to Poland over Thanksgiving. But one can never start planning too soon for the next trip. Read more
I recently read an article on Inc titled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” Let me start off by saying that yes, I did read the generalization pardon. Yes, people shouldn’t be hired just because they are “really good at Facebook” (that’s how my parents describe what I do, because they’re not social media saavy). No one should ever be hired “just because.”
That being said, “just because” someone is a new graduate doesn’t mean they are ill-equipt to work in the professional world. I would bet that it’s these types of generalizations that are helping keep the unemployment rate up for new graduates. Read more
Yes, that’s two #msupw folks – Mike McLeod, faculty, and Alexandra White, alum – with a space shuttle. This happened because we were both selected to attend the NASA Social Atlantis – Celebrate the Journey event to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis be permanently retired from service and share that experience on social media. We attended this event first as unabashed space nerds, but we managed our nerdery well enough to strategize our writing to document the experience for ourselves and for our audiences. Here we’ll reflect on the rhetoric of the event, our social writing strategies, and shamelessly geek out over space. Read more
First off, my apologies for the lack of photographs. WordPress on the iPad is not so conducive to multimedia posts. I will populate the blog with images as soon as I have a chance back in the States. In the meantime, you can catch some live-action tweets and photos on my Twitter feed. I’ll try to keep updating as much as possible.
It’s been quite a real first day in Krakow. We started off bright and early with breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. There was a large spread of cheeses, meats, eggs, yogurt, and pastries. It felt very Polish but with a hint of the American attitude towards food. Neither my brother or I could complain. It was good we had a big breakfast, with several hours of walking ahead of us. Read more
Two and a half months after finding out that I had won the Life’s Ultimate To-Do List contest with Hilton Garden Inn, I finally made it to Krakow. I get to spend Thanksgiving 2012 with my brother in the country that could have been our home, had World War II never happened. I feel pretty lucky to have this opportunity and to share it with him.
On Wednesday, I met my brother at JFK (he flew in from Detroit) to take our overnight flight to Frankfurt. We were the first passengers to board, going first class. Once you fly internationally on a first class flight, you will never want to fly economy. This is my third trip abroad, first being Israel in January 2011 and second being my Europe trip in December 2011/January 2012. Flights in both directions were long and without sleep due to little room to move and people sitting in front of me who decided to lean their seats all the way back. In first class, this problem does not exist. The person in front of you does not affect your journey in the least, and your seat can flatten almost entirely with 60 inches of extra room in front. It’s still not easy to sleep with jet engines loudly spinning outside, but it’s significantly more comfortable.
7 and a half hours of Delta bliss. We enjoyed four course meals and wine for dinner. It truly felt like we were flying in the 1950s instead of 2012 (minus the ability to smoke, thank goodness). Philip and I both sat at window seats, watching the sun rise over the United Kingdom and Brussels. It was truly a wonderful journey. Read more
It was another bright and early day for NASA Social, with our arrival at the rocket gardens at 9AM. The theme of the day was saying goodbye, having the last few moments to explore Kennedy Space Center and then spend some serious time with the shuttle. This time, however, we were joined by several thousand more people.
I could droll on and on about the logistics, but really it was a day spent with the shuttle. One great moment before we got to Exploration Park (where we could see the shuttle being moved) was a special appearance by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. He came aboard the NASA Social bus to say “Hello!” and answer a few questions. Read more
It’s hard to come back at the end of the day and remember all of the awesomeness that was NASA Social. Even harder will be breaking it down to a blog post that not only makes sense, but has some value to you, the reader.
Warning: This WILL be full of geeking out and general nerdery.
At the start of the day, we introduced ourselves via Twitter handles, names, and an interesting fact. As last in the circle, my two stories had been told (the journey to Atlantis and the last shuttle launch). I declared that I am probably one of the luckiest people, and that I was so happy to be a part of a group of people as geeked about space, shuttles, and social media as I am. We quickly moved in towards the rocket garden for a group photo before we saw Kennedy Space Center, learned about NASA’s old and new programs, and had general nerd out sessions.
I was going to write a blog post about the epic adventure that was yesterday’s Journey to Atlantis. But I decided, why not use the bits of data and writing that have already been created through social media.
To say this weekend has been a doozy would definitely be an understatement. With Hurricane Sandy, I held little hope of being able to get out of NYC and to Orlando for my first NASA Social. My flight out of Laguardia was officially cancelled yesterday by 4:30PM, when they decided not to reopen it due to massive flooding. JetBlue eased the pain by writing a blog about the situation and sharing a few photos.
That looks like a place that no airplane wants to be. That being said, what’s a girl to do? No flights out of LGA, limited (and completely booked) flights out of JFK, and no busses out of the city to get to other airports in Philadelphia, Hartford, Boston, or Baltimore. Read more