Humility

We all need to learn humility. Some more than others, but we all need it. I have provided below just a few places you can look to potentially step outside of yourself. Please keep in mind I am a straight white male, so I have selected these because they opened my eyes to some of my blind spots. I am not endorsing these as true, simply asking you to engage with them each assuming that people in them are speaking what they believe to be true And honest when they describe their experiences. Use this to gain some minor insight into their point of view. Your mileage may vary.

Note: Links in this post open to new tabs for those that want to read everything I have listed here.

This is Phil Fish (Internet Fame)

If you have heard of a game called Fez this will likely be familiar to you.  If not, I think this will still be interesting.  This was not done by Phil Fish, and even if you still think he is a jerk after seeing this, try to imagine what this experience was like for him and other internet ""celebrities.""

Dark Mode as Accessibility (Different Sight Constraints)

I never considered this an accessibility feature before.  I sometimes see floaters, but not nearly as bad as this writer seems to indicate.  Click the headline to visit the page.

The F-Word Panel (Women in the Games Industry)

This panel was held as PAX Prime in 2014.  I found this to be really interesting.  For a moment put aside any notions about #Gamergate or anything else.  Just consider for as long as you watch this video that these women are being truthful about their experiences and feelings.  Later you can decide if you agree or not.

Voice Over in iOS (Accessibility Features in iOS)

If you have an iOS device I recommend turning on voice over mode for a few minutes and see how it works.  There are people that need that to use their devices.  Some apps do it well, others really do not. Click the headline for iOS users and here is a link for those of you on Android.

Closing

I do not expect you to think that everyone else is right and you are wrong.  I do not know if you are wrong or not.  But I hope in a small way these help to open your eyes to what it might be like for people other than you and me.  Thanks!

Update (7 OCT 2014): I thought this talk by Anita Sarkeesian at XOXO in 2014 was in line with this as well.  Click here.

Job Hunting Tips

I have been blessed with a steady job the last 3 years.  In this job I have grown a lot in my consulting and general professional skills.  Recently I have been able to do peer level interviews on my company's behalf to add people to my team that come in near my pay grade.  This by far has been one of the most interesting parts of my job in terms of learning about people and realizing how little I knew in college.  So here are a few tips I have for people looking for work.  A few notes:

  1. I am a government contractor and work for a consulting company, if you are in a different industry please take my notes with a grain of salt
  2. I am not an expert, just a guy who wants to help.
  3. You can get a job doing none of these, but they each help increase your chances and you almost always need to improve your chances.

To start, during an interview process it is assumed that the resume, cover letter and your appearance and interactions are the best version of you.  This means that while there is room to make mistakes and be a human, if you look disheveled or have spelling errors it bring up questions about how you will be day to day.

Resume/Cover Letter and Preparation

Ok, to start if you have been in the industry less than 10 years keep your resume to 1 page.  Let me say that again, 1 page.  If it is longer than one page you either have lead an incredible life or have things you can cut and unless you have already cut half of your resume you are not the former.

Each job application should be catered to the job you are applying for.  So start by getting the job description from the website and reading it several times.  I recommend printing it out and marking the major bullet points the job description is looking for and then rewrite your resume to highlight how your past experience matches what the company is looking for.

When you are crafting your custom resume for this job use active voice.  If you do not know what that is Google it.  Googling (or DuckDuckGoing if you prefer) is always an important part of any knowledge worker (if you mostly work in an office and on a computer you are likely a knowledge worker) job these days so practice.  And while you need to be honest if you were on a team convince them you did something.  Often I have seen resumes where someone said they "learned" things or "were on a team."  While not a resume killer to use once or twice they want to see that you were an active role in the project.  They likely do not know you and this is your chance to convince them to talk to you.

Your cover letter is a place to do three things.

  1. Show you researched the company
  2. Highlight 1 or 2 things about yourself that should attract the company to you
  3. Share 1 or 2 things that you are excited to learn or grow in through working at the company further showing your understanding of the first two items.

Seriously, keep it short and on point.  This is not a time to show how good of a novelist you are.  Think Twitter but with good grammar than Facebook or Medium.  

Come to the interview ready to interview the company as much as they are interviewing you.  Think about questions you want to ask and stories you can use to illustrate any kind of question that might get thrown your way.

Interview Etiquette

This will be easier in a bulleted list

  1. Arrive 5 minutes early, no more, no less.  Practice the route to the company if you have to.
  2. Wear a suit or equivalent. It is better to be the best dressed person in the room than to be under-dressed.
  3. Have extra copies of your resume handy.
  4. Bring a notebook to take notes and bring prepared bullets for things you want to ensure you say and ask during the interview.
  5. Watch body language, look engaged, you can slump and dazed at the coffee shop after the interview is over.
  6. Say Mister and Miss, Sir and Ma'am until the interviewers invite you to use their first names.
  7. Always ask questions.
  8. Ask for a card at the end of the interview and send a thank you note. My rule is an email for phone interviews and a physical card for in-person and video interviews.

Questions to Ask

I recommend asking questions about the job, the company and the process.  So be sure to ask what the management structure is like, how a normal day looks and similar questions. It is also important to ask questions about how the company is doing, is it growing or shrinking for example, to see if it is the kind of place you want to work.  Finally you can always ask what the next steps will be.

These all show the interviewers that you care and have researched the company.

Pitfalls to Avoid

If you learn something in a previous interview or via the job description be ready to discuss it.  What I mean is if the company talks about what they do know a little about it, if they say you need to know a piece of software and you do not research it so you can speak to it and show your engagement.  Several times I have recommended one person over another because neither knew a critical piece of software, but one convinced me that they have already started learning it and know the underlying principles and the other barely knew what the software was. I think this shows more about the person than many people think when they are on the interviewee side of the table.

Do not be late. Ever.

Do not come 20 minutes early.  This makes us feel rushed at best and annoyed at worst and it does not set the stage well for the interview.  This is especially true in a small office like the one I work in.

Please spell check and grammar check your resume and cover letter and have at least one other person read them before you submit.  Spelling and grammar mistakes do not reflect well.

Finally, know what protected classes are and do your best to answer carefully to avoid giving out this information to employers.

Finally

All of this matters, but my number one recommendation is to prepare your stories.  You will always be asked what your strengths and weaknesses are and you will always be asked to give examples from your work.  I recommend writing out a list of stories from your work and what they illustrate.  If you need a few ideas, please use this list.

  • A time when you had conflicting demands
  • A time you had to deal with a difficult coworker or client/customer
  • A time you disagreed with a supervisor and how did you handle that situation
  • A time you had to repair a relationship
  • A time you made a mistake and how you rectified it
  • A time where you took a project from start to finish, what went well, what did not
  • A time where you had to delegate work to others

This is just a start, there are more, but I think this will get you on the right track.  I hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me on Twitter or via the contact form if you would like to discuss.

Good luck!

Update 2/26:

If you survived reading my ramblings, enjoy this video of puppets giving interview tips.


Cool Thing: LootCrate

I joined LootCrate in January and have loved it.  The basics are that for $13.37 + shipping (haha, 1337 get it?) you get a box shipped to you with a bunch of random things selected to meet a geeky theme.  Since I joined the themes have ranged from Heroes to Villains to "Attack on Titanfall" and everything in between just about. 

My first crate in January 2014

If you would like more information check out their website here.  If you want to help me get more crates for free please use my referral code and I will get $5 store credit.

They currently ship to the US, Canada, and several EU countries but prices vary.

Enjoy!

Depression

With the recent death of Robin Williams and the many other hard things going on in the world, I have seen a lot of discussion of depression.  I wanted to offer some resources to help people understand the condition a bit more.  First, check out the video below.

There is a lot of interesting work being done to understand depression, and options seem to change rapidly. The biggest thing to note in my mind is that the more we research the more we find that there is a biological component to this condition.

But it is not just a biological condition like a broken arm or cancer, it effects mood, personality and other aspects of what we would describe was "who people are."  The fact is, as people we cannot really understand a situation other people are in until we have had a similar situation.  We try to empathize, remember a time we were sad and what we did to get out of it.  But that only helps when the source is emotional alone, not emotional and biological.

Image from Robot Hugs. Click to be taken to source.

Image from Robot Hugs. Click to be taken to source.

Most other ailments do not impact the person's ability to be treated like depression does.  The very thing people need to do (talk to people) is the very thing they cannot.  It creates a cycle which is part of the reason depression is such a hard thing.  It is not a single issue.

  1. Biological Condition leads to,
  2. Psychological Condition which reinforces,
  3. Biological Condition which leads to,
  4. Social Condition which reinforces...

And so on.  For those of us that have no experienced depression it is hard to explain what it is and how it feels.  But here are a few places that have tried to not bring a solution, but simply attempt to explain what it is like

Hyperbole and a Half

This is a fun blog it its own right, but the author has two posts that I have found about her experience with depression.

Adventures in Depression

Depression Part 2

Depression Quest

This is an interesting text based game available here, that was discussed on Arstechnica. Though a story with decision points and depending on the level of depression, therapy and medication your current play through is on some options will be blocked or allowed.  I found it to be a really interesting attempt to help those who have not experienced depression understand just a bit of what people can feel.

But please be sure you are confident in where you are before playing, I would hate to see my recommendation of this game increase someone's struggles.

Final Thoughts

Depression is a complex thing. No one treatment plan, game, post or conversation will fully explain or fix it.  But please know that there are people at every stage of the journey, and we are here to help.

 

Thanks.

Backups, Seriously Backups

This topic is nothing new, but just about every month I run into someone who could benefit from this information so here it is.

We all have data that is hard to replace.  From photos of family and friends to tax documents if your computer spontaneously combusted right this second I suspect your heart would sink and immediately you would think of the one thing you know is lost forever.  Having a bunch of CDs or an external hard drive is a good first step but there are 3 major types of failures we need to mitigate to have a truly robust system.

There are 3 types of failures that need to be protected against:

  1. Device Failure
  2. Location Failure
  3. Data Corruption

Let's take these one at a time.

1. Device Failure

This is by far the easiest loss case to protect against.  Get an external hard drive and use time machine for a Mac or Windows built in backup system to copy all of your files from your computer to the hard drive.  Do this on a regular basis and you have nothing to fear from a device failure (I recommend at least monthly).

To be honest though, this is a big task.  Remembering to bring out the external drive day after day, month after month can be a bit of an issue.  Another thing you can do is keep documents that change often in something like Dropbox (affiliate link) or Transporter, these provide sharing services and off device backups.  Also if you have a high speed Internet connection for about $5/month you can get an account with Backblaze (affiliate link, my current solution) or Crashplan to back up all your documents to the cloud.  The primary advantage here is the automation of the process.  Now you really have nothing to worry about as long as you pay your internet and backup bills.  This plan also solves the second loss case, location failure.

2. Location Failure

When I say location failure I mean anything that can happen to the physical location your data is stored in.  Let's say you have the computer and the external hard drive, but both are at home.  Then let's say someone breaks into your house or your house burns down.  These are traumatic experiences and you do not want to compound them with loss of your baby photos or other important files.

There are two options.  If you like the local hard drive option you can store an additional hard drive at a friend or family member's house.  Preferably in a location that would not be subject to the same natural disasters your home could be subjected to.  Or you can use one of the online backup options I have already discussed.

3. Data Corruption

A form of loss that both of the options I have described thus far are subject to is corruption.  Over time files can be miscopied or damaged.  Unfortunately this is really hard for the average user to mitigate.  The systems I know of are complicated and require a basic comprehension of computer science that is beyond me for the most part.

So is there an option?  The simplest solution is ubiquitous backups.  Have more than one system at a time that you update differently.  Do you have an online backup solution? Then manually back up to a hard drive on occasion and store that in a fire safe or safe deposit box.  Do you have local hard drive backups? Try adding archival backups to your system and consider an online solution to assist with the automation of your backups.

If you think about these types of loss and create a plan, like the emergency plan we all have in case of emergency (right?), then if something does happen you can focus on the monetary loss and not the loss of information.  I have found this takes a lot of the emotion out of how I treat my devices and lets me deal with the loss and move forward quickly.

Resources (In no particular order):

Internet Based Backups: 

Carbonite
Backblaze (affiliate link - we both get a month free)
Crashplan

Local Backups:

SuperDuper!
Time Machine
Windows Backup

Sharing/Cloud: 

Dropbox (affiliate link - we both get an extra 500 MB)
Transporter