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.
Sure, the fact I can build a set is probably not relevant to most of the jobs I’ll apply to, but it can be spun as teamwork! Remind me to tell you the story of the time I built The Forge set at TechSmith.
Check out that awesome brick wall. I knew that my minor in theater would somehow be useful.
As a generalist, you can roll with the flow and make changes easily. You can adapt to changes in company culture and structure, as well as more easily move up in the work force. Project managers have to have innate knowledge not only of how to lead a team, but also of the various skills of their team members. Being able to dynamically adjust is something all companies look for in a future employee.
The era of the specialist is over.
In 2012, Harvard Business Review published a blog about the end of the era of specialists, and the beginning of the era of the generalist.
Expertise means being closer to the bark, and less likely to see ways in which your perspective may warrant adjustment. In today’s uncertain environment, breadth of perspective trumps depth of knowledge.
—Vikram Mansharamani at HBR
Being single-minded and adept to one thing, no matter how great the knowledge is, means there is a lack of perspective and possibly an inability to come up with new solutions. Having a wealth of knowledge and various skill sets makes your chances of coming up with solutions for change much greater. Not all employers may know this off hand, but being able to communicate your value in this regard can be extraordinarily beneficial in future interviews and cover letters. You can sell yourself as a professional who draws from different backgrounds and experiences to bring fresh insight to a company or team.
One example of generalists companies are currently seeking is a “full stack developer.” It used to be commonplace that developers were great at one, two, or maybe three languages. They were segmented into front-end and back-end, knowing how to develop strictly for desktop or mobile. Now that line is blurring and companies expect their employees to be able to do it all. This may often mean the team is smaller and more focused on seeing a web product through from start to finish.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek expertise.
Just because you’ve got a large set of skills doesn’t mean you should constantly be seeking out small bits of knowledge about every last thing. Instead of being good at 100 things, try to be great at 10. Furthermore, try to be excellent at three.
When figuring out “what is it that I actually enjoy doing,” you can try out various different projects. Though this may seem counter intuitive to the idea of being a “generalist,” it doesn’t mean you should give up on having greater depths of knowledge in certain areas. You can be excellent at email campaigns, but still great at knowing how to write a press release. Don’t stop seeking knowledge in specific interest areas, as long as you maintain your other skill sets, too.
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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).
Sometimes, I find it hard to make it out the door knowing that I have to go, be “on,” and collect business cards and contacts. Sometimes, it just feels kind of slimy. The idea of people in business suits, all just trying to get ahead. I’m competitive in board games, but the idea of competing for contacts is a major turn-off.
However, this is a necessary evil. There are so many opportunities out there that will be unknown to you from internet searches or staying within your small circle of friends and family. Building a large network can open the door to new job opportunities, VIP events, and so much more. Read the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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’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 the rest of this entry »
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.”
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
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 the rest of this entry »
Last New Years Eve, I met a wonderful girl named Alexia Attwood. We were both staying in the same hostel in London, without friends, and decided we would venture out together. She told me she was a journalism student in Australia, on a pit stop before headed to the Carribean for an internship. I told her I was a recent graduate from Michigan State, on my last hurrah before moving to the Big Apple. We had a wonderful night, watching fireworks over the London Eye while standing on the Millenium Bridge.
My first reaction thought was, “Wait. I’m pretty sure real people do not win these competitions. Companies just want to gain information to market to you.” My next thought was, “Oh my god, I’m going to Poland. I’M GOING TO POLAND.” I may have started crying and spinning around in my chair at work from excitement. This was two months ago. Read the rest of this entry »
Early in August, I saw a retweet from Erie (head of Tech LadyMafia) of CNN Money Producer Erica Fink. Erica was looking for people who had used Airbnb to interview in the NYC area. I happened to have used Airbnb in June 2012 with my friend, Melissa, to stay in a lovely coast-side apartment in Connecticut. I decided to tweet her back.
This led to emailing back and forth and setting up a time to be filmed in my apartment. Her assistant producer, Spencer, ended up coming in to film after Erica was called away to film a Facebook story (how cool is that?).
After about 30 minutes of filming, including an interview and a lot of b-roll, I only ended up in the final cut for about 5 minutes. However, the overwhelming awesomeness of being on CNN’s website more than makes up for time usage.
It is a shame that they use a flash video player. Come on CNN, HTML5 video. It’s the way of the future.
On Saturday, I participated in my second hackathon: Hack’n Jill. Hack’n Jill was created due to a gender imbalance often present at hackathons, inviting 50 men and 50 women developers and designers to join together and develop apps with the theme of Hack Your Summer.
My team was fortunate enough to have three developers and three designers. We designed Why Don’t We, a fully functioning iPhone app designed to highlight events nearby to cure summer boredom. Every member of the team was essential to creating and promoting a fully functioning product. It was an absolute pleasure to meet them and hopefully we will be able to collaborate in the future. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s Social Media Week in New York City, and I am quite excited to celebrate it with a ton of great events. Due to work, I haven’t been able to attend most of the daytime events. However, I have been able to go to a few of the evening events. A recap so far:
I entered to win VIP tickets to COMMON Pitch NYC in Brooklyn, with the notion of “who actually wins these things!?” Well this time, I won. Myself and 15 others were transported on a party bus from the Big Fuel Headquarters (at 23rd and 6th) to the Brooklyn Bowl on Wednesday evening. That’s not to say the ride was our entire prize. Oh no. It was so much more.
The trip began with a stop in Big Fuel, where several blogging and media stations were set up, an abundance of Heineken, popcorn, and Popchips were available, and some of the greatest people were working. I met Amelia of The Next Web and waited for the other winners to arrive. I was introduced two several of the sponsors, CEOs of various companies, and other fantastic individuals. Ming and Pino, the two Nokia sponsors, were introduced and on the bus ride as well. I met Ben Scheim, Director of Social Media Week and VP at Crowdcentric, who was our personal escort. Read the rest of this entry »
In just 15 minutes, I’ll be hopping in the car to head to the airport for the adventure of a lifetime. I’m heading to Europe for 25 days, traveling by myself through Paris, London, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin.
I’ve dreamed of this trip since I was a child. I may be the most excited just to walk along the Seine and sit at a cafe with a cup of coffee. I hope to find a little more about myself and what I can handle. It’s time to push the limits and try new things.
Follow along my European adventure on my travel blog. I’ll be sure to post photos of the cities and the stories of people I meet.
I’ve finally uploaded all of my photos. Phew! You can check them out on Google+ or on Facebook (Paris, London & Oxford, Vienna & Prague). Sadly, my camera died early in Prague and I didn’t have the chance to capture many photos there or any in Berlin. Alas, the memories will have to do it justice along with the blog.
This is a difficult question to answer. There are so many facets to explore, all coming back to the choices made by the author for their audience.
This piece was created with non-expert, digital natives in mind. I used a program called Spicy Nodes, which allows me to create granular pieces that are all a part of digital rhetoric. Take yourself on a self-guided journey through the ideas of digital rhetoric. Navigate to any node to learn more about a specific part of my definition. Each node will lead you to smaller sub-sections, all adding to an overall understanding. Read the rest of this entry »
According to Michael Lazerow, founder & CEO of Buddy Media, those of us involved in social media are all manufacturers of verbs.
Remember back in the early days of Facebook, before brands were involved or even those outside of school, all status updates involved the verb “to be.” A status update was formatted as “Alexandra is…” and it was up to us to fill in the blank. Now, status updates (soon to be known as Timeline updates) are in first person using whatever action you feel like. It’s not always a statement of feeling or action; it can be announcements, pontifications, or other utterances. Our updates have evolved. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I started my series about “owning” creative works. Today will be a much shorter complimentary entry that will help explain your rights when it comes to copyright as well as some basic best practices.
Rights & Responsibilities
In the US we’re given certain affordances. For example, when we create works of art expressly for ourselves, on our own time… we own the copyright. This is essential in the digital age, when many artists are posting their material online without going to register their copyright at the U.S. Copyright office. If we want to use others’ copyrighted materials, we are responsible for asking the artist for permission. The only way to navigate against asking for permission is when a work is used under the guidelines of Fair Use.
Ok, so what is fair use?
Ah yes, the age old question. Fair use is the use of copyrighted materialwithout express permission from the copyright owner for a limited/”transformative” purpose. Standford University breaks down fair use of copyrighted materials into two categories: 1) Commentary/Criticism or 2) parody. Why are these two items allowed? Read the rest of this entry »