Update 2017: Skills and Things I do

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Time to do a quick post to reflect on what I’ve been doing at work…

Designing

At ClearGraph, I’m the only designer thus it falls to me to make designs for lots of things.

  • App Design: Flows, interaction and visual design for our main analytics app. One challenge is trying to define our brand yet also building in the flexibility to white-label or embed our app. Some of the more daring design choices can’t be used because it won’t meld with another company’s visual identity. I primarily use Sketch and InVision.
  • Motion design: We need to do product videos to help sell our product. I use Premiere and After Effects to edit the videos with Pond5 stock music to go behind our voice-over.
  • Hard goods: business cards, t-shirts, stickers, trade-show backdrops, pricing sheets. I am a sucker for Moo’s spot gloss.

Writing

I’m a bit surprised by the amount of writing that I do as a part of my job. Since marketing has become one of my responsibilities, I’ve been forced to substantially increase the amount I write. (Previously, I couldn’t tell the difference between marketing and sales. Now I think of it as: Marketing = effort to get people to hear about and contact us. They’d become a “lead”. Sales = effort to take leads and then convert them into paying customers.)

  • Essential communication: email, chat (Slack), code review, project descriptions (task management)
  • Product Blog posts: public feature announcements/walk-throughs in the ClearGraph Blog
  • Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, email newsletter. Basically have to notify people that a blog post has happened.
  • ClearGraph Website, App, and marketing materials: It’s interesting how difficult it is to write error messages with good tone. (I dislike “Oops” in errors – makes light of an error and doesn’t come off as empathetic)
  • Help Center: Gotta give help for all the things. FYI – Support articles should be short, clear and accurate.

Programming

This year I’ve done a lot less programming. We’ve been doing a lot more back-end, infrastructure work so the front-end stuff I’d hop in to help with is a lot more limited. That being said, I still try to keep up by learning a few new skills in the code-world.

  • SVG: lots of cool things going on here. Working to move away from icon fonts to SVG. Also doing more animating SVG using CSS.
  • D3: Starting to finally tinker with D3 as a way of visualizing data in svg using js. Specifically looking at the tree graph and force graphs.
  • CSS: I’ve been working a lot with SASS, but I’m keeping a really close eye on the compatibility charts with CSS grid and CSS variables (oh and position: sticky!). As soon as there’s strong coverage across the board, we’ll put those properties to use.

Teaching

I stopped teaching at Academy of Art University. I had fun guiding students, but I felt too pressed for time regarding homework review and updating class materials. My last semester was interesting though – I tried using github and cloud9 for editing and turning in. There were some hiccups like filesize limits on github pushes, but overall was pretty successful as a free platform setup for coding.

On another note, I’ve gotten a couple of interview requests from early UC Davis design students. I love helping out students, but I also wonder what kind of things they’re looking for. I wish I could offer more entry level jobs to help them along.

Self Evaluation – October 2013

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While thinking about my career, it’s important to reflect on my current skills and interests to gain visibility into where I want to go.

Progress

I’m super comfortable with CSS and layout. I’ve made a lot of progress this year. Box model, margin vs padding, absolute vs relative positioning, overflow and scrolling, :hover and other pseudo-elements, line height, all of these I feel are pretty well handled.

I’ve learned a lot about agile and project management this year. Through book club, I’ve read several interesting books and discussed how this applies to our work. I’ve learned the differences between Scrum and Kanban. Also I’d be careful on how Lean MVP is left to interpretation and some pitfalls in version testing.  I’d recommend the following books: Phoenix, The Goal, The Lean Entrepreneur, Tribal Leadership.

To improve

I want to better understand Javascript binding, scope and timing. I started programming from C++ and PHP, then Java, then ActionScript and THEN JS, so by now I’ve got a bit of scattered understanding of correct program flow. I should get JS nailed down better.

I need to be more comfortable working within MVC frameworks. I understand the concept of why you’d want to use them, but I’m still pretty slow when matching up a concepts to application. When it comes to comparing frameworks, I’ll get hung up on the syntax. In addition I want to be familiar with the differences between the frameworks such as backbone, angular, bootstrap, spring etc.

Website preview

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I think I finally have a site design that I can live with. I tried to go for a clean look with a bit of texture. Other influences include apple’s reflections and adobe lightroom’s overlay style panels. I really wanted to include a large teaser image from my portfolio, but I couldn’t make it work without being distracting. The second pic is the previous draft. (Yes, I see the spelling error)