What I've Learned Along the Way
Multimedia Literacy for Educators, University of New Mexico
Monday, May 4, 2009
- I've worked as a web professional for 10 years
- Currently, I'm a Web Designer/Front-end Developer for Pitney Bowes Business Insight
- I develop and maintain public sites, intranet, electronic newsletters and emails for marketing campaigns
- I write about web design (and other topics) at A Blog Not Limited
- I'm currently writing a book about microformats, hopefully to be released in October 2009
What I'll Talk About
- How I got into the Web field and the core competencies that got me here
- My thoughts on current approaches to educating Web professionals and what needs to change
- My thoughts on women working as Web professionals and the associated challenges
- How I've leveraged social media to boost my career
- This presentation is a discussion of my personal perspectives and experiences working in the Web industry.
- I speak only for myself.
How I Got Here
- College, 1992-96
- B.A. in Psychology
- Editor–in–Chief of yearbook
- LOTS of writing
- First jobs, 1996-99 MORE writing
- Writer and editor for online news service
- Media writer for trade association
- Marketing coordinator for accounting firm
Foundation in communication, not computers or the Web
And Then I Met HTML
- In-house Web designer and project coordinator for family-owned software company
- Freelance Web projects
- Web design positions for government contractors
- Current job as a Web designer/front-end developer
Though the medium changed, the focus remains on communication
Challenge #1: Education
- Spent two years working on a Web Development Certification from George Washington University
- Biggest waste of time of my life
- Learned only a handful of new ideas/technologies
- The Web industry is one of the few where you can teach yourself better than most "traditional" education systems can
- The piece of paper was important for career opportunities and advancement … but so was my portfolio (maybe more so).
Overwhelming lack of quality, formal education curricula for the Web
Working to Change the (Sorry) State of Web Education
Focus on web standards and best practices to teach students the skills to be a web professional.
Give educators tools and information to properly instruct students.
Challenge #2: Gender Disparity
- A List Apart: The Survey for People Who Make Web Sites
- 2007: 16.1% of respondents are female
- 2007: 63.8% of respondents believe gender bias did not adversely affect their careers
- 2008: 16.2% of respondents are female
- 2008: 68.6% of respondents believe gender bias did not affect them
"Lies, damned lies and statistics" — Mark Twain
- Visibly fewer women in attendance at every single Web conference, workshop, seminar I've ever attended
- Overwhelmingly fewer women speakers/presenters
Are There Really Fewer Women?
I suspect the answer is no.
- Lack of visibility?
- Less interest in being active in the community?
- More non-Web responsibilities and priorities?
- Perceptions that the Web and/or technology isn't feminine?
- Turned off by sexism?
Challenge #3: Sexism
- Recent Ruby on Rails Conference presentation, CouchDB: Perform like a pr0n star
- "Dry" topic? Use pornographic images of women in the slideshow!
- Many people (men and women) were offended
- But many weren't, calling the presentation "edgy" and "funny"
- Smart, talented and high-profile women who choose to use their "sex appeal" as part of their "hook"
- My personal experience with sexual harrassment
The Web is no different than any other facet of life. Sexism exists.
Getting Past Gender & Sex
I don't have the solution. I just know what I'm doing is working (so far).
- Increasing my visibility
- Twitter and other social networks
- Organizing professional groups
Getting Past Myself
- Trusting myself and being myself
- Conquering personal fears
- Focusing on quality and what I love
All of these strategies are human. They are relevant regardless of gender.
Social Media: Leveling the Playing Field?
- Anyone can have a blog or be active on a social network
- Which means anyone can have a "voice" on the Web
- What you do with that "voice" dictates everything
- Quality communication
- Honest connections
- Being open
Case Study: The Power of Social Media
- June 2008: Started A Blog Not Limited
- I provided an RSS so folks could subscribe
- I sent the link to friends and family
- July 2008: Active on Twitter:
- I posted about the mundane things of life
- I made sure my profile mentioned my interest in the Web and a link to my blog
- Had a few followers and an even fewer subscribers to my blog
Case Study: The Power of Social Media (cont.)
- September 2008: Started a blog series about microformats
- I began promoting these articles via my Twitter account
- Started getting followers from all over the world
- Other Twitter users began promoting my blog series on Twitter
- A renowned web development site/blog, Ajaxian, wrote a short article on my series
- More and more followers … more people reading my work, learning from me, connecting with me
Case Study: The Power of Social Media (cont.)
- January 2009: Started a Twitter "conversation" with a well-known web designer
- Just answered a question he had about microformats and included a link to one of my blog series articles
- He promoted the series on Twitter, which led to many of his followers following me on Twitter and reading my blog
- His editor follows him on Twitter, so she read my series and my entire blog then contacted me about writing a book
- March 2009: I signed a contract to write a book!
- Even though it is a new industry, the Web suffers from many of the same challenges that affect all industries (not to mention society as a whole).
- But because it is a new industry, I believe it is possible to change, grow and improve as we continue to define ourselves.
- While talking about the issues is essential, debating without action gets us nowhere.
- As a facet of the Web industry (and technology), social media is inherently integral in communication and networking in this field (and countless others). Ignoring it isn't a good idea.
As educators, you have the unique opportunity to take action that can affect how your students perceive not only technology, but themselves and others.
The Web Is Wonderful
- Everyday I get the opportunity to create something or solve a problem. It is endlessly rewarding.
- I've met amazing and talented colleagues/friends from all over the world. Web professionals are a close and welcoming group.
- I earn a good living. The Web can be very profitable for quality professionals, including freelancers and small business owners.
- I get to live wherever I want. The Web is everywhere; location doesn't have to be a factor.
- I am constantly learning. Technology changes quickly. You have to stay up–to–date to be a quality professional.