My Summer Fling

This summer I decided to have a fling — with long fingernails. It all started innocently enough, but I'll take it from the top.

My nails were so hot (pun intended).
My nails were so hot (pun intended).

Earlier this year, my nails were particularly brittle and I personally was feeling a bit run down. A couple of health professionals I saw recommended taking vitamins, which I started doing (of course, only the gummy kind would suffice). Being that I am interested in becoming pregnant in the next 5 years, they said it would be good to get into the habit of taking them.

Many women who take vitamins regularly report shiny hair and strong nails. I didn't have either. After chopping off my hair (I was due but my hair stylist decided to take off a little bit more than normal!), I did some research about my nails and came across a woman who recommended jojoba oil but overall proposed the point that the true foe to happy, healthy nails is water. Purportedly, the jojoba oil penetrates the nail and keeps the water out. She also recommended putting base coat on the underside of the nail to protect against water in day to day life. Continue reading "My Summer Fling"

A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers

The other day, my husband decided to share a trailer for the latest Gran Turismo game that was unveiled for the Playstation console at the latest E3 events. I remember playing Gran Turismo games with my little brother way back when on the original first Playstation! I also really enjoy, now as an adult with a driver's license, having the opportunity to drive high performance cars from time to time; though, most of the time, I'm rolling around in a compact car with good fuel economy thanks to Zipcar. All that said, we watched the trailer together and were in awe of the beautiful graphics that made sleek sports cars look even sleeker.

However, while the game graphics look fantastic, I noticed a small omission in the trailer I watched. Let me explain.

At about 45 seconds into the video, multiple world flags appear circling the globe with some text overlayed that says "Driving is for Everyone." I thought that was cute and chuckled softly to myself. Yes, driving should be for everyone because, personally, I find it fun and convenient for getting across this giant country we live in.

By about 2 and a half minutes in, they start presenting images about live tournaments they'll be running regularly. I think to myself, "How the hell are they going to manage that?" but I'm sure they've figured out some way to automate it so that people can play in these tournaments online and it works fairly seamlessly.

At 3 minutes in, the screen now reads "Open to all ages, anyone can enjoy" but all the faces I see feverishly playing the new game are men. Eight seconds later and I think I've spotted ONE woman deep in the background at this tournament event they are showing footage from. Another six seconds go by and I see a crowd of people clapping for the game, not sure if they are fans or journalists but it is fairly clear that they are also ALL men. By 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the video, it is still a sausage fest with a group of male victors celebrating.

By 3 minutes and 50 seconds, I finally see a woman in the foreground and she is congratulating a winner, who is of course male. Continue reading "A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers"

Career Day

The word "career" is loaded with so many expectations.

Over the past year and half, I've really wrestled with the significance of this word. I started my career knowing that I definitely wanted to learn and grow as a developer of technology. I was always striving to learn how to develop in a new language or learn a new facet of how the sausage gets made, so to speak. To that end, I spent a good ten years dedicated to developing web-based experiences. I was pretty confident that I could do this — and more — and so I embarked on a new phase of my career.

I decided to transition away from the familiar world of entertainment and execution into strategy and an industry I've never worked in before. While I've enjoyed the fact that my technology background has allowed me to dip my toe into various industries, it's been truly eye-opening working in the financial services industry. The amount of regulation we are subject to (and that I must now be aware of in my day-to-day work) and the volume of outsourcing (across all kinds of functions) is pretty staggering. I've also come to find that I miss the good ole days when I knew what I was doing from one day to the next. Being in a more strategic role means that as strategies change, so does what you are doing; there's definitely less exposure to that volatility at the developer level (or at least, maybe you don't feel the ambiguity as ultimately someone is always telling you what to build).

That said, I recently created a small web application and I felt like I was back in my element. I created the app for my husband to be able to update his podcast feed on his own; there are definitely services that do this but since we have the means, I figured I would build this myself. It's nice to have a compact finished product; this reminds me of a previous job I held where I did get to make a lot of decisions on product direction but I was also directly involved in building the interface to support those decisions. Today, it takes a village to get anything done at work. This is great when it works but frustrating when it doesn't. It can definitely trigger a feeling of impotence when you go to work day in and day out but have little output to show for it. Continue reading "Career Day"

A Serious Commitment: Co-Watching TV

We are living in a golden age of television.

Seriously, how great is it to be a television fan? What used to be relegated to HBO and Showtime (and sometimes Starz) has now been extended to all methods of consumption. There are great long-running shows that first aired on cable like the dramatic Mad Men and the often ridiculous It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Then there have been amazing shows on Netflix like the addictive House of Cards and the adorable Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And don't get me started on all the programming on network television! Shows like Flash and New Girl come to mind immediately, but there are many others.

And, on top of all the great programming that has been developed, we have more ways to watch than ever. Netflix and chill is a thing because pretty much everyone has Netflix. And since a lot of people have Amazon Prime membership, Amazon Prime Video is also a thing (it doesn't hurt that they have the entire HBO back catalog — now I can watch Six Feet Under and The Wire!). Finally, there's also Hulu which amazingly has carved out a niche for itself with original series content as well.

With so much great stuff to watch, it's often hard to find the time. What can make it even harder is if you are part of a couple that co-watches. My husband and I typically try to watch shows together because we enjoy talking about them when we aren't watching them, but also because it's another way to spend time together. And you know that co-watching is a real cultural phenomenon when even the New York Times devoted some space to it, touching on how it impacts real relationships.

And, while I fully acknowledge this is a total first-world problem, co-watching can be really challenging! My husband, Anthony, and I want to watch things together but sometimes I'm at Muay Thai class late or he's off covering a soccer game. The reality is that because we are two fiercely independent people, our schedules don't always line up. We don't always watch the same things, but when we do, it can be something that we literally need to schedule on our calendars to ensure we can watch together.

But, this can put a strain on a relationship and cause a partner to stray — and watch TV shows without their partner (instead of patiently waiting for a co-watching opportunity). I've often said that Anthony has "cheated on me" with a particular program that we wanted to co-watch. Like most things in this day and age, thankfully, there's an app for that!

Screenshot of Phones from SeriesCommitment.com
Screenshot from SeriesCommitment.com

Continue reading "A Serious Commitment: Co-Watching TV"

The Pink One: Designing for Women

Inc Magazine published an amazing piece by Jen Alsever in 2014 outlining how companies should market tech to women. In short: Houston, we have a pink problem!

I have no idea where this came from but there appears to be some prevailing logic among marketers (perhaps mostly the male decision makers? I digress…) that women will buy something as long as the item in question is pink. Perhaps the worst (and simultaneously best!) example of this is when BIC, the company that creates writing implements, decided to create "BIC for Her." The marketing for this pen — which, by the way, was just like their other pens except pink on the outside — seemed to imply that women had been waiting eons and FINALLY the good folks at BIC created a pen for the ladies! Needless to say, Amazon reviewers have had a field day with this.

Today I discovered that KOSS, a brand that creates affordable headphones that I happen to really like, has a rather unfortunate filtering criteria on their shopping website.

forwomen

Within the "earbuds" category, KOSS' filtering criteria tells me that in the "For Women" category there is only one option. Who on earth decided that of the 20 earbuds listed on their shop, only one pair was appropriate for women? And furthermore, who decided that the "FitBuds" (which come in colors like Coral and Mint!) are exclusively for women? Do men not enjoy colorful earbuds? And, while I can acknowledge that maybe some women have smaller ears, surely having small ears / ear canals is not a problem exclusively faced by women. That said, I own earbuds from KOSS; the ones I own are not in the "For Women" category which begs the question: why even have a "For Women" category at all? How about filtering criteria based on scale (large buds / medium buds / small buds)? Or filtering criteria based on color (colorful / printed design / black)?

Not only is the KOSS approach lazy but it's also insulting and demeaning to women. While brands probably do not intend for this to be the result, they are making assumptions about a market they are trying to reach. These assumptions are simply validating that they know very little about the market they are aiming for and have done very little to educate themselves. And I say it is lazy because, per Alsever's second point in the Inc article, "women" is pretty broad as far as being a segment you are looking to target.

In the past, I came down on the Coach handbag company for this but it seems like their website has evolved! Their marketing used to infer that their beautiful leather totes and briefcases were only of interest to men. Their web shopping experience used to put all of these bags under the "Men" heading. Now, I'm happy to say that under "Women" they have a "Business Bag" category which includes many of the fine leather bags that are gender neutral. They also have a "For Everyone" header which is nice to see for gender identities that aren't so black and white.

In short, I've reached out to KOSS on their Twitter account to implore them to fix their filtering. Given that I do really enjoy using their products, I hope they will consider making some efforts to avoid pink-washing their marketing.

The Value of Computer Science

I read an article today on Read Write Web decrying the Computer Science degree as something that may no longer be necessary for a fruitful career in technology. I don't agree with this statement. Well, at least not entirely.

I admit, I learned a lot of the web development skills that come naturally to me simply by being on the internet beginning at a ridiculously young age. And with the plethora of online learning tools available now (from technical blogs to iTunes University offering free videos of classes at Stanford), you can really gain a lot of knowledge online and at little to no cost. Definitely cheaper than my degree at NYU, anyway.

Also, sure, GPA at a top school (or any school, for that matter) is not a clear indicator as to whether a given person will be successful in a particular role. I know lots of folks who flunked (read: drank) through their first year in college and ended up turning things around, graduating and becoming responsible and accomplished adults.

And then, of course, there's the value of experience. Experience, in my opinion, is the best instructor you can ever have. Banging your head in front of a computer screen for hours because you forgot one (ONE!) semicolon in your code will teach a very valuable lesson. Doing freelance work or gathering a smattering of industry jobs will definitely also help you gain experience as you go.

But…

I've been seeing a disturbing trend. I've met people who say they are proficient in JavaScript, for example, but really only understand abstracted frameworks (like jQuery and etc). I've come across people who know all the right buzz words to use but don't really understand how logic works. I've been in "bootcamp" classes where pre-requisite programming knowledge is required (CS 101, basically), and people don't know what a "variable" or an "object" is.

Look, I'm not saying that I'm the best programmer in the world. I'm also not saying that obtaining a Computer Science degree will make you better than someone who doesn't have one. However, what a Computer Science degree did for me was give me a world within which I can frame problems and solutions. I understand that most programming languages contain similar constructs so the only barrier to entry is just getting the syntax and best practices down (that's the stuff of experience). Plus, I got to spend four years immersing myself in all that. It is hard to find this long of an uninterrupted chunk of time outside of college.

I was at a conference last week Friday (GothamJS) and Tom MacWright said something that really resonated with me.

"Use abstractions for efficiency, not ignorance."

That's exactly the problem I'm seeing with new programmers. They rely on abstractions to just get the job done which unfortunately results in them not REALLY LEARNING ANYTHING. Whether it's leaning heavily on jQuery or other framework when vanilla JS would've been sufficient or (RAGE!) copying and pasting solutions directly from StackOverflow or some other tech solutions site, I see it far too often from novices.

It makes me really sad. I love to encourage people (especially ladies, if you are reading this) to get into coding. I've done career day at various middle schools in the area telling kids that coding is a way for them to gain some control in their lives — for once they can tell something what to do! — but with that great power comes great responsibility. You have to be responsible for the code you push out into the world. This was also something that was echoed at GothamJS. If you don't understand what you are creating, how can you possibly take responsibility for it? Also, if you don't understand what you are creating, how are you sure it is solving a problem? And how are you sure it is solving the RIGHT problem? And how are you sure that you aren't introducing MORE problems (especially performance-related problems)?

Now, that said, I think there's a lot of "real world" stuff for which my Computer Science degree didn't necessarily 100% prepare me. But I have a feeling that's pretty much college in general and a much larger problem to solve. I've always felt that Computer Science degree programs should offer "tracks" that can help students gain more marketable specialized skills. I was always interested in web development so I took EVERY web development class offered at the higher levels. But, if you are interested in networking, for example, your "track" should be specialized so you end up taking all the networking classes offered and etc. Seems to me akin to how you don't just major in "Engineering," but rather you might select Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering. Perhaps Computer Science needs to be a smidgen less broad, at least at the undergraduate level, to better prepare students for life after college.

And, conversely, "learn to code" bootcamps may need to incorporate a little more theory into their offerings. My experience has been that "breadth" of knowledge — knowing how to discover solutions to problems that may not exist yet! — can be a great complement to "depth" of knowledge.

To leave you with a very real life example, consider Flash. Flash (and ActionScript, the language that powered it) used to be a coveted skill for a web professional to have. Since the proliferation of the iPad and emergence of client-side methods for simple animating (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript frameworks), the demand for Flash skills has diminished. If you focused on learning Flash but not truly understanding the underlying programming concepts that made ActionScript work, for example, you might be shit out of luck right now. However, if you learned basic programming constructs as you learned ActionScript, you might be finding success applying those same concepts to JavaScript (or some other scripting language) with great success.

The moral of this story? Understanding the LOGIC behind WHY things work the way they do, by whatever means you get there, is the REAL must have skill.

On Being an Adult: Handling Conflict in Professional Settings

There's a story of some weight unfolding around some people in the tech community who were fired as a result of some offensive-leaning comments made at PyCon. I won't go into too much detail but basically a woman, Adria Richards, overheard some comments which she deemed to be offensive. She tweeted about them and included in said tweet a photo she snapped of the men who made the comments. The men's identity was eventually confirmed by the conference organizers and not only were they booted from the conference but they also lost their jobs. Richards, who tweeted about the behavior that she deemed to be offensive, has also lost her job. Reactions to the story have been mixed. Should the guys have made the comments? Should the photo have been posted on Twitter? Were the comments blown out of proportion? Should anyone have been fired? Everyone has their own opinion and, for better or for worse (I hear Richards is on the receiving end of threats of bodily harm), the right to express that opinion.

I don't want to fan any flames here so I won't go into my opinion on the matter. To be honest, the issue is not black and white so I'm sure we could discuss that for hours on end. My objective is to talk about something that never really gets discussed as much as it should: conflict resolution in professional environments. Continue reading "On Being an Adult: Handling Conflict in Professional Settings"

What's the deal with Warby Parker?

As many of the dozens of you who read my blog know, I wear glasses pretty much daily. On a rare occasion, I might break out the contact lenses, but like I said, it is rare. I find that contact lenses put a huge strain on my eyes during the course of a normal work day where I generally sit in front of a computer screen most of the time. And I'm still very scared of laser surgery where they slice open your eye (!) so, yeah, I wear glasses.

I've been wearing the same frames for years now. I originally found them for sale on ebay and purchased them something like 5 years ago. After years of wear, they started to get old so I decided to do a search for new frames again. I looked around and didn't see much I liked. I ended up buying the same frames again but in a different color. These are the frames that I'm wearing now. I really like them, but they are starting to age and it might be that time where I decide to get new glasses (especially with insurance…score!).

My first thought this time was to try a different sort of online purchasing experience. Warby Parker (warbyparker.com) has revolutionized the purchase of glasses by taking the whole experience, with the exception of the eye exam, online. You send them your prescription, pick glasses, and BEHOLD, you have new glasses shipped to your door. Also, they are a company committed to good. For every pair of glasses you buy, they send a pair of glasses to someone in need. I'm a sucker for a good cause. Continue reading "What's the deal with Warby Parker?"

Where did all the cowgirls go?

I recently read a blog post by Clay Shirky about the difference between how women talk about their own abilities versus men. He wishes that more women would stand up and exert their influence because women are just as talented, smart and capable as their more effusive male colleagues. I wish for this, too.

In fact, many other women wish for this as well. COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg has given many a talk aimed at women. She says that women should take a seat at the table and not count themselves out by default because they want to have a family. Sheryl is living proof that it is possible to maintain a family and still be successful; and she acknowledges the challenges that come with that.

However, she also touches upon the big elephant in the room that many who talk about the disparities between men and women fail to acknowledge. A man who goes for the gold is assertive. A woman who does the same is off-putting at best, and at worst simply labeled a "bitch." Often when I say this, people roll their eyes; Sheryl present a famous Harvard Business school study that proves this is not simply "women getting easily offended" or "being emotional" (which, by the way, is another topic for another day).

It's an issue that permeates regardless of industry. In politics, Hilary Clinton was often given that label. Her wardrobe of pants suits and "attack dog" stance during her campaign gave her a harsh exterior in the public eye to both women and men. Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live commented on the whole thing and turned it into a positive with the saying "Bitches get shit done."

I love that sketch because I sympathize. I am good at my job. I get things done. If that wasn't true, I wouldn't now be earning nearly triple what I was offered upon graduation in 2006 (in a "bad economy", to boot!). However, as a result of my focus on process, keeping on schedule, and GSD (getting shit done), I am sure that there are many colleagues, past and present, who think I'm a bitch. In fact, I can name them (and there are, unfortunately, women among them).

And the truth of the matter is, I'm not a difficult person to work with. Despite going to school for Computer Science, I'm self-taught at a lot of things, lousy at some others and definitely still have quite a bit to learn. This invigorates me to learn more but also terrifies me at the same time; being in technology, I sometimes feel the need to know everything and be on the cutting edge. This isn't necessarily true, but motivates me to keep on my toes and at the very least stay relevant in a few things (and, given current trends, looks like my decision not to dive head first into Flash development wasn't so bad after all).

But the point of writing this wasn't to brag about myself. The point is that yes, women need to step up to the plate more to brag and take credit — myself included. Often times, we shy away or defer to others when we know what the right answer is. This is a problem of self-doubt and wavering self-esteem that perhaps everyone has at times but tends to be more evident among women. However, the flip side of that is let's call a spade a spade. When a woman steps up, do we encourage it? Or do we add to this doubt — do we doubt her abilities because of predisposed notions? Continue reading "Where did all the cowgirls go?"

Magazines and Women

I'm a big fan of magazines. While I usually stick with fashion magazines, lately I've been reading some other more business oriented titles. This year, Anthony and I started our own company for our personal pursuits and I felt really lost throughout the process. So when I got the opportunity to redeem some points for magazine subscriptions, I decided to go with a few titles that would help me wrap my head around our business needs. I subscribed to Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.

I've really enjoyed my subscription to Inc Magazine. I find their articles to be super informative and their interviews, like recent ones with execs from Tumblr and Kid Robot, to be truly inspiring. And, for what it's worth, I appreciate the attention to detail in the graphic layout of the pages themselves. I love that it's a happy marriage of helpful content and creative design. I also like that the magazine is not written for a particular gender. Women and men alike can pick it up and get something out of it. This is not to say that every magazine should do this, but it's nice that a magazine marketing towards small business owners does not discriminate.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Entrepreneur. Now, working in technology in various industries, I've realized it's a boy's club — not that that's entirely a bad thing! I've worked with some pretty talented men and learned a lot from them (most notably that the lack of women in their midst is mostly an oversight, not intentional). I also happen to like a lot of things men typically like more than most women (sports, fried foods, gadgets) so it doesn't really bother me to spend time in the company of dudes. Continue reading "Magazines and Women"