Five job interview tips you must follow

30 November 2015, in Miscellaneous | Add a comment »

Almost five years after I wrote Stand out from the crowd, I find myself surprised at how some of the candidates my colleagues and I interview fail to follow basic interview practices, so I guess it’s time to share some tips with anyone trying to do well at their next interview.

These tips apply to face-to-face interviews: Skype and Google Hangouts are fundamentally different. Except for my number one tip, which is:

Be on time

Account for traffic, public transport meltdowns, too many red lights, slow tourists walking in front of you, getting lost, doing a pee, and at least 5 minutes to get through reception at any medium to large building.

Bring your portfolio

Do not assume the person who will interview you will have a laptop or tablet at hand, or even reliable Wi-Fi access. “But how can a respectable business not be supplied with reliable Wi-Fi access?”, you might ask. That is true, but unexpected cuts do happen, and you might just be unlucky enough that it happens at the same time you need to open your website.

Don’t be a lazybones. Bring your laptop or a tablet loaded with examples of your work in a PDF, or running locally. The sight of a good old-fashioned printed portfolio, while quaint, is also quite exciting.

Listen, do not interrupt

Interrupting is okay in very few circumstances. Be polite, wait, and listen carefully. When you don’t interrupt, and wait before you start talking for a second or two, the person who is conducting the interview might speak a little bit more, giving you precious cues on what they want to hear from you.

Let yourself be interrupted

Build pauses into your speech. Being stuck in a room with someone who will not stop talking can be anxiety-inducing. Don’t assume the people you are meeting have all the time in the world. They might be hungry and only have 10 minutes to grab lunch before their next meeting, or they might have to get back to their desks and do some super urgent work right after talking to you. You might have gotten off-track and be talking in circles. Let them stop you without it being awkward.

You can practice doing this with anyone you have to talk to. Pay attention to the way you speak, and add subtle pauses to your speech at key moments.

Make sure you understand the question

This follows on from the previous point. Ask the interviewer if you’re answering the question they’ve asked you, or if they meant something else, when you’re not sure. And even if you are sure, sometimes you understood things incorrectly, so, again, if you build pauses into your speech, it will be easier for them to swerve you in the right direction.

The other side

I would say that these tips apply not only to the candidate, but also to the person conducting the interview. If you are the one running the interview, on top of the tips above, I think that making sure you know what role the candidate is being interviewed for, and taking the time to read through their CV and look at their portfolio are pretty basic requirements.

Final words

There are so many more things you want to make sure to avoid during an interview, like being completely distracted or looking at your phone, but I guess if you go that far, you’re probably not interested in the job.

For me, the tips listed here are no-brainers. Surprisingly, candidates repeatedly fail to follow them, sometimes forgetting about more than one or two in one go.

Did I miss anything important? And what about golden rules for someone conducting an interview? Let me know in the comments.

(By the way, as usual, we are hiring.)

Podcasts I like

10 November 2015, in Inspiration, Life, Resources, Reviews | Add a comment »

A few months ago, while I was still on maternity leave, I asked on Twitter for podcast recommendations. My son was getting more and more mobile, and we were going out more, so watching everything there was on Netflix while he napped on me was no longer possible, and the only podcast I was following was about being a parent, so I needed some ideas.

I got many good replies and I subscribed to all the podcasts that were suggested. My plan was to give each suggestion at least one listen, and remove it if I didn’t like what I heard.

Fast forward 8 months, and here is what I have on my podcast app:

Parenting podcasts

  • The Longest Shortest Time: This is the parenting podcast I was already following. It was recommended when I attended a friend’s dinner party with a two month old baby in my hands. Each episode usually tells a parent’s story, their struggles, their insights. It can be emotional at times.
  • Slate’s Mom and Dad Are Fighting: I tried a few different parenting podcasts and apart from The Longest Shortest Time, this is the only other one I get something out of. It’s presented by a mother and a father with separate sets of kids. They talk about a different topic each episode, answer listener questions, interview experts, etc. It’s cool.

Crime podcasts

  • Criminal: Each episode presents a story about someone with some kind of connection to crime or the criminal system. I find it soothes my addiction to anything vaguely CSI or murder-mystery related.
  • Serial: Does Serial need an introduction?
  • Undisclosed: The State Vs. Adnan Syed: If you liked Serial and miss it, and want to listen to hours on end about every single legal detail about the case, you should follow this podcast.
  • Slate’s Serial Spoiler Specials: Not much has happened since Serial Season 1 ended, but these Slate Specials were rather entertaining, especially while you were waiting for the next Serial episode.

Film and television podcasts

  • Slate’s Spoiler Specials: As the title suggests, these reviews are full of spoilers. I don’t listen to all Slate’s Specials episodes, only the ones I’m interested in, such as True Detective, House of Cards or Downton Abbey. I will also listen to episodes about movies I’m certain I won’t see myself, like 50 Shades of Grey, and will usually nod in agreement throughout.
  • Filmspotting: Movie reviews, usually with a main review of a recent release, followed by a top 5. Filmspotting can be very lengthy, sometimes just under 2 hours long, so I must confess I do a lot of fast forwarding when I’m listening, namely during sponsor announcements, musical acts and Massacre Theatre (I’m sorry).
  • Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit (SVU): Filmspotting’s spin off podcast, focusing on movies and TV shows available on demand and on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Entertainment podcasts (I can’t think of a better title for these…)

  • Roderick on the Line: I had no idea who John Roderick was, but it doesn’t really matter. Roderick and Merlin Mann have candid conversations about anything, from the best kind of food flask to the superiority of crows over other birds.
  • Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin: I did know who Alec Baldwin was. Apart from his acting skills, Baldwin is also a candid and relatable interviewer. Go through this podcast’s archive to discover a never-ending list of celebrity interviews that will keep you busy for a while.
  • Mystery Show: Currently on a break, but very entertaining, each episode of the Mystery Show tackles a single mystery that you can’t get an answer to easily on the Internet.

Subject-specific podcasts (I’m running out of title ideas…)

  • Radiolab: ‘A show about curiosity’. About an hour in length and very well edited, topics can cover things like the way Candid Camera changed reality television, how killing endangered species contributes to their own conservation, or the story of a mother who tracked down the institutions that received her late son’s organs and found out what they did with them. A must-follow.
  • Reply All: Similar to Radiolab, but shorter and focused on stories about the Internet.
  • 99% Invisible: Doesn’t everyone follow this podcast? 99% Invisible is all about design, be it of buildings or election ballots. It combines two things I love in podcasts: good future conversation topics, and being quite short (usually just over 15 minutes).
  • Philosophy Bites: I’m still on the fence about this podcast. It’s super interesting, but I tend to find myself drifting off to my own thoughts during most episodes. As the title explains, it’s about philosophy (latest subjects include social deprivation, power, and Buddhism) and the episodes are short.
  • Planet Money: Planet Money tends to be one the first podcasts I listen too when I’ve got a bunch of different ones to catch up on. Again, a clearly titled podcast, with very short episodes. Some of the more interesting installments include subjects like dinosaur bones, open salaries, paying patients, and the power of free. I almost always learn something new, and it’s quite entertaining.
  • More or Less: Behind the Stats: More or Less dives deep into the numbers and statistics that we see everyday in the media. I find it fascinating to know how numbers can so easily be misleading, deconstructed and modelled to convey whatever you want to convey. The podcast is currently on a break, so it’s a good time to catch up on the latest episodes.

News and current affairs podcasts

  • Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4: Sometimes I don’t have time (or patience) to watch the news, so I’ll trust the News Quiz to keep me up to date. It’s also good if you do watch the news, I must say.
  • On the Media: On the Media covers current affairs, and sometimes it also covers the coverage of current affairs. It’s a good way of getting a different perspective on the news and catching up in weeks where I might have been a bit more distant from what’s going on.
  • The New Yorker: Political Scene: With The New Yorker staff. My kind of episode length: very short, and I feel clever listening to it.

Work-related podcasts

  • The Boagworld Web Show: I’ve been listening to this podcast for almost 8 years now, with only a few breaks now and then. It intruduced me to a lot of people that I greatly respect in the web industry and the interviews can be quite illuminating.
  • The Big Web Show: Both The Big Web Show and The Web Ahead (next), have the same 1 to 1,5 hour interview format as Boagworld. I think this is a good format with the type of guests these shows have, as we can hear a lot about their expertise and their ideas. I have only recently started listening to this and the following podcast, but I’m certainly pleased.
  • The Web Ahead: See The Big Web Show’s notes, above.

Final words

Thanks again to everyone who’s made a suggestion. And if you think I’ve missed any super interesting, super entertaining podcasts, do let me know. What do you listen to?

In Portland soon

10 October 2015, in Events | 2 comments »

Next month I’ll be speaking at View Source Conference. I’ve never visited Portland, or spoken at a Mozilla event for that matter, so when I was invited I jumped at the opportunity, and I can’t wait!

My session will be focused on how to go about planning and working on a responsive retroffiting project when you’re super busy and can’t start from scratch. This was a big challenge for us when we decided to convert the fixed-width ubuntu.com into a mobile-first, responsive site, so my hope is that some of the things we learned in the process, the hard way, can be useful to other teams going through the same job.

If you’re interested in attending the event, you can grab a ticket now. And bring your questions along, I’d love to discuss this topic with other people, get some insights into how other teams work and learn a few things myself.

My husband and son are coming along, so we’ll have a few days before the conference to explore the city — any recommendations on where to go, stuff to do, where to eat, where to drink, coffee shops, weather, etc., would be greatly appreciated. We’re thinking of renting a cargo bike for a couple of days, so we’ll be relatively mobile…

It’s also our first time in the US for Halloween — although it’s not my favourite holiday, it’s going to be exciting. We have a toddler we can dress up as we please, so any costume ideas would be most welcome.

Edward Scissorhands scars by mgibson3. This is not my son

386 days later: returning to work after maternity leave

7 October 2015, in Events, Life, Miscellaneous | Add a comment »

On August 19th this year I returned to work after being on maternity leave for over a year.

It didn’t feel weird. I think I was lucky: I knew my team was looking forward to my return; I knew I’d have plenty of things to catch up on but I also knew the ropes. Things change in one year, but a lot of things stay the same.

I wasn’t scared, or sad. On the 18th, I mostly worried I’d forget I had to go to work the following day.

My son was (and is) at a stage where he moves about a lot, but needs constant supervision, distractions, things to play with. It’s important for me that he meets other babies and broadens the number of people he knows. I felt excited for both of us. And particularly excited that it was up to my husband, and not me, to do the settling in at his new daycare — that wasn’t so easy.

Looking back

I had big plans for my maternity leave, most of which I didn’t follow through.

Firstly, the three weeks I had planned to hand over my work vaporised when my son decided to be born 6 weeks prematurely: no hand over document, no final catch ups, no farewell lunches. Also, no time to even get a hospital bag ready, or make those final purchases you won’t have time (or brain) to think about once you’re handed a newborn.

I decided eventually to put my Open University Creative Writing module on hold until the following year. They make you write. A lot. Every day. Several times a day. I would wake up every morning already feeling frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to do my module work for that day. I hadn’t gotten out of bed and I was already procrastinating. (You’re supposed to write for a few minutes upon rising everyday… Yeah.) Just a few months before, I was debating whether I should sign up to two modules: I was going to be off work for a whole year, what else would I be doing, right?! But it felt good to quit. When I told my husband about my decision, it was like a dark cloud suddenly stopped hanging over my head.

I did somehow managed to complete a few Code School courses over the last few months. It felt good to learn something.

On top of things

I must confess I kept my work inbox clear — that’s how I roll. I’d frequently delete or archive emails I knew someone would have to deal with immediately, and kept the ones I thought might still be relevant when I’d come back — there weren’t many of those. If you wait long enough, requests have a tendency to go away.

For some reason, I received several invitations to speak at events during that year. When I was 6 months pregnant I spoke at Responsive Day Out. In May this year I spoke at Front-Trends, in Warsaw. Last month I spoke at London’s Generate and Oslo’s makingWeb. Next month I’ll be at View Source, in Portland. In January I’m going to Awwwards, in Amsterdam. And more.

It wasn’t super easy to prepare for these events, but the sense of accomplishment was, and is, great once you’re done.

Final words

I can hardly believe we’re now approaching Christmas 2015. I’m back at work, my son is in nursery, and my year off has come and gone. It was extraordinary to have had this time with him, and with my husband, when he could. And I’m also very happy to be back at work, and to settle into a new routine.

I find it interesting that I don’t see this topic mentioned amongst our industry (are we calling it ‘industry’ now?). I follow several parents on Twitter, Facebook, but rarely I see accounts of how being away for a few months or more has affected them (mums, dads, and other carers). I would like to know what other people’s experience has been. Did you keep in touch with work? Did you tune everything out? Did you cancel personal projects? Did you read a lot? Did you watch the news? Did you do freelance work? How did you pay the bills? I’d like to know everything and there’s so little out there that is specific to us.

Responsive Day Out 2

18 July 2014, in Events | Add a comment »

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at Responsive Day Out 2, in Brighton.

My talk focused on the work that we’ve been doing at Canonical in the process of retrofitting our main site, ubuntu.com, to be responsive. We thought it would be cool to share our process, as we had a feeling that, like us, many designers and developers don’t have the luxury of being able to start responsive projects from scratch.

We’ve written in detail about the project on the design blog, and hope to keep writing as we improve the site and learn new things.

You can listen to my presentation on Huffduffer:

And do listen to all the other speakers from this and last year.

Architect’s myopia

22 January 2012, in Design, Resources | 2 comments »

Before I get to my main point, I must mention (once again) the phenomenal quality of the hand-picked articles that are featured on the Give Me Something To Read website, the source of the piece I will be referring to in the following lines.

The article “The Architect Has No Clothes“, by Michael Mehaffy and Nikos A. Salingaros, explores why modern architecture feels so cold and inhospitable and how that might be easily explained by a phenomenon called “architectural myopia”. The authors describe how this consequence likely has its causes in how architecture is taught and how the methodologies used in the classroom deprive future architectures from any empathy with those who will in the future live and use their creations.

It’s not my goal to provide a summary, as the article does a much better job at explaining this fascinating theory. But I started thinking about whether it would be fair to conclude us web designers might sometimes suffer from a similar malady. I also found it interesting that this profession I hear mentioned so many times as so established and as the ideal model to follow is, like our own, still finding its own ways.

The Pastry Box Project

22 January 2012, in Inspiration, Miscellaneous, Rants, Resources | 1 comment »

I wanted to call your attention to The Pastry Box Project, which started this year on 1st January, and aims at collecting thoughts from 30 individuals that are “influential in their field”, one thought per day — I can say I’m happy to have been asked to participate (and do visit my thought’s page).

After a restless start to the year, I finally had time and head to sit down and read through the first few weeks of thoughts. Some are longer than others, but invariably there is something alluring about diving in so quickly and for such brief a moment into someone else’s mind.

The Mechanical Revolution, DIBI conference (video)

21 August 2011, in Events, Speaking | Add a comment »

Last June I gave a presentation at DIBI Web Conference, in Newcastle. For those who weren’t there, or couldn’t make it to the Design Track sessions, here’s the video.

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The wonderful calc() function

13 June 2011, in CSS | 37 comments »

Sitting right at the top of my CSS wishlist was always the implementation of the calc() function. With it now being supported by not only Firefox 4 but Internet Explorer 9, I think it’s time for a quick overview on how useful calc() can be and why it would be great to see more usage of it.

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Stand out from the crowd

11 February 2011, in Work method | 30 comments »

Lately I’ve been going through lots of CV’s, as Canonical, the company I work for, is hiring a multitude of visual designers, user experience architects, front-end developers, etc.

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