I struggled for weeks on what to write for my first blog post since 2009. It’s undeniably hard to come up with blog topics, even more so with any degree of regularity. Since I’m a user experience architect and my company is about to release the second mobile app I’ve designed, should I begin with a related topic? Do I talk about my progress in redoing my master suite? Do I talk about my search for a new camera?
I wrote, deleted, wrote again. Today, I finally decided to dive in head-first with an explanation for my long silence online.
Back in 2005, I received what I now recognize as very bad advice: avoid anything personal on my blog.
According to the advice I received, potential employers would penalize me for mentioning I’m a gamer. Mentioning my pets would mark me as a “crazy pet lady.” Any mention of a social life would apparently indicate I wouldn’t be reliable. Employers supposedly only wanted to see that you’re the most vanilla, showing only enough to demonstrate your worth as a potential hire. Allegedly, anything even remotely perceived as “negative” would hurt my employment chances and that list was exhaustive.
Bad Advice + Desperation
To say I was desperate is probably a gross understatement. A recent Michigan graduate in an IT-related field, I faced an uphill battle. I can’t speak on whether this remains the case, but there wasn’t much diversification. Michigan had always been very heavily reliant on manufacturing and when that hit a decline, I encountered yet another issue. Many of those laid off from manufacturing jobs went into job retraining, which included web design. Rather than use portfolios, I found many potential employers asking for higher and higher levels of education to “prove” their abilities.
In those days, I was writing and rewriting my resume in an effort to land that interview. Portfolio redesigns. Pro bono and spec work in an effort to make a name for myself. It did online to an extent, but not locally and certainly not in the form of much-needed employment. Nothing helped. I wondered if it was something else. Enter the bad advice.
The result of this bad advice culminated in me splitting my blog and portfolio. I hid my blog posts under pseudonyms; permissions set so only my closest friends saw anything real. My portfolio was limited to strictly work-related posts. Together, there wasn’t enough to keep either site fresh and active and eventually, I gave up on updating any of my sites.
I instead focused on my relocation from Michigan to Texas, relegating my portfolio to Behance.
To this day, I remember walking into an office for my first interview in Dallas and finding it full of framed Iron Man and Avengers posters. It was a startup and the CEO was a huge geek. His infectious energy and passion for his work was palpable and invigorating.
Ever since, I’ve found most of my employers and coworkers are as geeky as I am. My Superman t-shirt has had executives squealing in elevators. Mentioning a video game has resulted in a business card swap. Reading a UX book on the commuter train has been the catalyst for networking opportunities. I’ve found myself mobbed by my fellow geeks because I played the trailer to the latest super hero flick.
I realize geek and nerd are in no way negative labels for a User Experience Architect to have. In fact, more often than not, I’m in good company.
And thus, moving forward this is both my blog and my portfolio. I’m going to talk about my passions, be it DIY projects, photography, my pets, or user experience. I’m going to be true to myself and truthful to you, my readers.