Have a Job Offer? Consider these 5 things before saying yes

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Corporate culture may be the key to happiness at work. You can have an exceptional job offer, but if the culture is not a match, it could be problematic.

You deal with a lot—coworkers, the boss, and office politics. If you can’t succeed in a certain culture, you can’t succeed in the job.

Why Corporate Culture Matters

It is too simplistic to think that corporate culture is solely about mission and values. It manifests itself in other avenues, such as working overtime, availability of flextime and telecommuting, how people interact with each other, the dress code, benefits, professional development opportunities, how performance is evaluated, leadership style, and the decision-making process. In essence, everything is culture-driven.

When you have a pending job offer, primary consideration may be compensation, benefits, and perhaps the commute. Those are all significant factors, but when you are thinking about making a move, dig a little deeper.

Key Considerations Before Accepting the Job

1. How did you feel when during the interview?

It is normal not to feel completely at ease, but you should have some sense of feeling comfortable. During the interview, be a consummate observer—from the time you walk in until the time you leave.

Pay attention to the way you were greeted and how were you treated during the entire process. Were all communications professional, timely, and respectful?

If you hear a common theme in the questions the interviewer asks, that is a clue about what he or she will expect from you. For example: “Tell me about a time when your workload was particularly heavy. What steps did you take? “How do you establish priorities to never miss a deadline?”

Also observe how people interact with each other in the office—were they friendly or did you detect friction? Pay attention to how they act when their boss is around.

2. Can you thrive with the office vibe?

Is it a suit-and-tie culture when you are a business-casual person who loves jeans on Fridays? Is it the ever-popular open office space? I’m the quintessential introvert, and I know that an open office space would severely limit my performance. It is simply not how I work best. If that defines you as well, see if you can tour the office before you make a final decision. The physical space, noise level, and interactions with staff will all play a crucial part. There’s most likely not going to be a perfect environment, and all jobs will include some sort of give and take. The bottom line is to know your deal breakers so that your performance and satisfaction are not inhibited.

3. Is the company on firm financial footing?

Due diligence is the name of the game. If the company is public, you may be able to gather information on their financial stability from public filings and reports. If you are thinking about working for a government contractor, it is OK to ask about the length of the contract. If the contract is nearing an end, will they be able to place you elsewhere? You can also uncover information from a simple Google search and checking their social media mentions. You’ll be able to get a sense of whether there might be trouble ahead. Try to ascertain whether they have been adding jobs consistently or if hiring has been shrinking.

4. Will you be better off after taking this job?

Here is a million-dollar question: If you had to find a new job in the following year, will this job help you with your professional development? Before you start any job search, you should have a strategy. Accepting a new role should be a stepping stone that inches you closer to your career goals. By the same token, if you stay with this organization can you see a path of career development? Avoid exchanging one dead-end job for another one.

5. Can you respect and like the person to whom you will report?

Studies have shown that a significant number of people leave a position because of their boss. Having a great manager can make or break your work experience. When you’re in an interview, it is a two-way conversation. You owe it to yourself to ask questions. Find out how success will be determined. Learn as much as you can about your manager’s expectations beyond the job duties, as well as his or her leadership style. This will give you an indication of whether you’ll be working for a leader who is reasonable or one that will make you unhappy.

Author
Jan Johnston Osburn
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This scientist serves as a role model for native Hawaiian professionals

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Narrissa sitting at the desk witha white lab coat on

As a child growing up on Hawaiʻi Island, Narrissa Spies thought the classroom and beach were two separate and distinct places. Today, this 36-year-old fish and wildlife biologist—working at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—knows that protecting coral reefs is both her job and life’s passion.

“I grew up in a house that didn’t have electricity, so for us, going to the beach during the day was an amazing way to escape,” Spies said. “I didn’t realize as a child that I could do those types of things as a career, that I could investigate sea creatures, turn over rocks, as my job.”

Thanks to a $45,000 fellowship from the Kohala Center, a Waimea-based nonprofit, Spies spent the 2017–18 academic year finishing her doctorate on how coral are able to withstand multiple stressors resulting from human activities.

Bob Richmond, her faculty advisor and director of the Kewalo Marine Lab, said Spies is more than a brilliant scientist: She is a cultural practitioner who will inspire future ocean researchers.

“For many scientists, the coin of the realm is the peer-reviewed publication. They say, ‘Okay, my job is done, I’ve published the paper,’” Richmond said. “For Narrissa and her generation, that is no longer sufficient. ‘We’ve done the science, we’ve published the paper and now we have to put that knowledge to work.’ And that’s what distinguishes her from a lot of other people.”

Spies grew up in Hilo and Kawaihae, where her childhood aspiration was to become a medical researcher. She began her studies at Hawaiʻi Community College, graduating from UH Hilo with a bachelor of arts in biology and anthropology, and a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology and environmental science.

Spies spent a lot of time at the Kewalo Marine Lab, near Kakaʻako Waterfront Park, where she was on schedule to earn a doctorate in zoology in spring last year. She continued her research after receiving yet another honor—a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to engage high school students in the natural sciences as a career path.

By demonstrating her high level of success, this role model will increase the number of Native Hawaiian professionals with a cultural affinity for protecting fragile natural resources.

“I feel it’s important to educate students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) because these are our resources in Hawaiʻi,” Spies said. “And who better to care for these resources than people who grew up here and can understand how important they are to our local community.”

Source: University of Hawaii

7 Tips to Help Mentally Overcome an Employment Gap

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Woman working on her resume attached to a clipboard

Here’s advice on overcoming the mental roadblocks employment gaps create before they sabotage your job search, from those who’ve been there.

William Childs loves his new job. He is Marketing Director at Kitchen Magic, a growing national kitchen remodeling and cabinet refacing company. “This job is a creative person’s dream. The product, the people, the collaborative ideas we are generating, it’s totally amazing,” Childs says. “This is what I spent my 14-month employment gap searching for, and I am so glad I didn’t give up on my career goals.”

Employment gaps do not define you

According to a recent Randstad U.S. study, the average job search today takes about five months. When Childs was laid off late in 2017 from an executive-level marketing job, he did not anticipate a longer-than-average employment gap. He explained: “When my old job was eliminated, it was the first time in many years that I had no specific job to go to next. I had always benefited from people just knowing me and my work, so starting from scratch while unemployed felt pretty weird.” When a few leads at the beginning of his job search didn’t materialize, he felt a bit demoralized.

According to a 2019 Monster survey, 59 percent of Americans have had an unexpected gap in their career. For a lot of people looking for jobs with a gap on their resume, there can be internalized feelings of shame, says Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Ph.D., organizational psychologist, CEC-certified executive coach, and author of “The YOU Plan.” “Shame puts on a lot of added pressure to an already stressful time, which can lead to obsession,” Dr. Woody explains. “Don’t victimize yourself over a lost job or a failure in the past. It can be debilitating.” He advises readers to recognize their setback as just that, a setback — then deal with it and move on to better things.

Childs did keep moving forward. He designed an online portfolio and kept adding to it during his hiatus by taking on freelance work. He wrote for an online magazine and volunteered his talents to local non-profit groups. A year into his search, he took an advertising sales job as he continued to apply for positions. “The sales job was what I needed to do financially, and what I needed to do for my own piece of mind,” he reflects. “I was earning income, learning, and connecting with people. It helped me a lot.”

While he did not give up on finding an innovative executive marketing position, Childs needed ways to stay focused and positive on his continued career search. When it comes to overcoming the mental roadblocks employment gaps create, the following advice can help keep you more focused, motivated, and confident.

1. Honesty really is the best policy

Susan is happily employed in Reno, Nevada at The Slumber Yard, a specialty online clearinghouse of reviews, comparisons, and deals for mattresses and bedding products. Prior to taking the job last year, this mattress review specialist (whose name has been changed for this piece) had left the workforce to care for her young son after he was injured in a serious accident. When she was ready to re-enter the workforce, Susan crafted a very targeted resume and cover letter that succinctly addressed her employment gap. Still, the two-year pause in her career had her a little nervous. “I wasn’t exactly sure what the job market would be like for me,” she remembers.

“Her resume had everything we were looking for, and when she told me why she had a gap in her employment history, her honesty really impressed me,” says Matthew Ross, The Slumber Yard’s Co-Founder and COO. Ross immediately called Susan in for an interview. “Her experience and knowledge of our industry are what got her the job. But, the way that she explained her employment gap really showed her character, both as a person and as a professional.”

You can explain your employment gap without oversharing, says Dick Lively, Partner and HR Consulting Director at RAI Resources in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “On a resume or in a cover letter, saying you took time to care for a family member who was ill or that you relocated across the country for your spouse’s job should be enough detail. Keep it professional but not too personal,” he says. It is also OK to exclude a gap explanation from the resume altogether, so long as you are prepared to address it during the interview if you are asked. Just don’t make something up. “At the end of the day, the truth always comes out, explains Lively. “You don’t want to face a potential employer or a new boss and try to explain why you lied.”

2. Don’t stop networking

Your first instinct may be to hide away until you have a new job, but that will not help your efforts. In fact, it might even hurt them. Keeping your name and face out there can help you get an introduction to a hiring manager. Plus, it’s great practice for interviews. “For me, I talked about the creative process and exchanged ideas; it helped me formulate how to best present myself as a job candidate,” says Childs.

Lively suggests that you don’t wait too long after your last job ends to start networking: “It is not only important to get your name out there and to hear about jobs that may be coming up through the grapevine,” he explains. “You also need to talk shop and connect with people. The longer you wait, the less confident you may feel. Interpersonal skills need to be kept sharp, just like any other skill.” That said, it is OK to take a few days or even a couple of weeks after your last job ends to regain your composure before you start networking. The last thing you want to do is get emotional about your job loss in front of your professional connections.

3. Expand your network

As valuable as your tried-and-true network of professional connections is, Dr. Woody cautions that you shouldn’t always drink from the same well when you are trying to find a new job. “Always networking with the same group of people can put blinders on your job search or create an echo chamber where you keep repeating the same steps that aren’t working anymore.”

Expanding his network definitely helped Childs. “Learning about new businesses and how they do things and connecting with new people is very inspiring,” he says. Telling new people a bit about yourself helps remind you about your talents and experience. You don’t know what else is out there if you don’t ever mix things up.

4. Own your truth

“You can, and should, use a positive spin when talking about your experiences,” says Childs. During an interview or a phone screening, don’t try to hide what caused your employment gap. Don’t complain or point fingers either. Tell your story concisely and truthfully, ending with what you learned or what you have gained since. When Childs interviewed with his new employer, he was prepared to lay his cards on the table when the question came up about his resume gap. His honest, three-sentence elevator speech consisted of:

  1. I was laid off when my department was eliminated.
  2. I am now doing advertising sales. It’s not me, but it’s a job, and I am proud of the quality of work I do.
  3. I have learned a lot about customer service through this sales experience, and I can apply that knowledge to my next marketing and creative position.

Dr. Woody believes this kind of planning is invaluable: “Preparation builds confidence. Working on your narrative reminds you that you have talent and have a lot to offer an employer. Taking time to boil it down to a concise summary instills it in your mind. This is who you are.”

5. Keep up a motivating routine

For years, Childs has emailed daily “Thought Bombs” to colleagues and friends. These are quotes he has collected on creativity, inspiration, and business integrity. Throughout his 14-month job search, he committed himself to continuing this morning ritual. “It got me up and thinking, ready for the day,” he says. “On my worst days, I would tell myself, ‘All I gotta do is get out of bed and deliver the Thought Bomb,’ and it really helped me get moving.”

“I really love this,” says Dr. Woody. “He used this routine to get himself into the right mindset each day. He had a purpose that was of value to his mailing list, and the discipline it took to do this daily task set his whole day in positive motion.” For other people, the routine could be mediation, exercise, journaling, or some other daily ritual.

6. Concentrate on the connection

Childs kept himself well-versed in the current ideas and trends in his field. His knowledge and passion for his work inevitably crept into his cover letters and interviews. “People are much more engaged with stories that are filled with excitement, passion, and personality,” says Childs. “Bragging and standard-issue talking points get stale quickly, but if you can connect with someone about what truly motivates and inspires you, they won’t forget you.”

Coming across as arrogant or whiny is a red flag for employers, notes Dr. Woody. But sharing insights and understanding about your field is a way to help them envision working with you. It also helps them put your employment gap into perspective in relation to your qualifications and talent. He explains: “People remember more about how you made them feel than about the specifics of what you said.”

Continue on to Top Resume to read the complete article.

Facebook VP says this is an immediate ‘red flag’ in a job interview

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Julie Zhuo VP of Facebook poses seated on couch wearing an off white sweater and a mustard colored scarf

Julie Zhuo is the VP of product design at Facebook. After graduating from Stanford University in 2006, she joined the social media giant as an intern and quickly worked her way up to becoming a manager at 25.

In her 13 years at Facebook, she has interviewed many recent graduates eager to score an internship or entry-level position and says no matter how qualified an applicant is, there is still one interview mistake she’ll always see as a warning sign.

“I would say one red flag when you’re interviewing is to be too focused on status or prestige,” the author of “The Making of a Manager ” tells CNBC Make It.

Facebook is still considered one of the most attractive employers today, and Zhuo says she’s seen her fair share of candidates who only want to land a job at the company because “it seems like the right thing to do, or it’s the next step up for [their] career.”

Rather than hiring someone who only wants to add a prestigious name to their resume, Zhuo says she focuses her attention on the applicants who are interested in making a difference at the company. She says she looks for candidates who are ready to “come in and just do a really, really great job.”

She wants employees who’ll “continue to learn and grow,” she says, “and do what you know is going to help the team the most.”

Zhuo emphasizes that although experience and unique skill sets may help you land an interview at Facebook, they aren’t a top priority for her because “a lot of times people are still in the learning phase and that’s great. That’s OK.”

“What I really look for are people who love to learn and who approach the job with a sense of curiosity and productivity, and who are just really eager to do great work,” she says. “I think that enthusiasm really comes across in an interview, especially in the questions that someone asks and in their tone and body language when interacting with me.”

Zhuo, who is a firm believer that interviews should be a two-way street, adds, “I love it when [candidates] ask me a lot of questions about my team, the environment and the culture that we work in.”

Continue on to CNBC News to read the complete article.

Becoming An Influential Female Leader In Technology

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By Spandana Govindgari

The time is now ripe for breaking into technology as a woman. For the past 20 years or so, looking up to role models often meant emulating male leaders like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.

As a woman of color and a software engineer, I found myself in situations where I had nobody who looked like me among the tech leadership. As a result, I doubted my capabilities, skills and confidence.

This is when I first came across the Grace Hopper Conference. I was lucky and fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend the conference for free as a student. For any woman interested in software engineering now, the GHC is the go-to place for getting inspired, finding jobs and life-long mentors — along with similar conferences like the NCWIT Summit on Women and IT and the Girlboss Rally. After I met so many amazing women like me at the conference, I returned to my job feeling much more empowered to make changes to our recruiting pipeline to hire more female engineers.

Flash forward to today, and there are more women stepping up to become mentors, many women taking leadership roles to become role models for the future generations, and groups on social media are connecting women everywhere and helping them feel inspired and empowered to break into technology. I’ve noticed more and more workplaces are starting to recognize women in prominent leadership roles by offering them opportunities to mentor and enabling tough conversations about diversity and inclusion to take place at work.

It is truly the right time to be a part of this movement. As a female software engineer and rising entrepreneur, I would like to share some tips for women trying to break into the field of software engineering and ways to thrive at work by challenging the status quo.

Help People Without Any Expectations
You get what you give. Consider the skills or knowledge you currently possess in a specific area — for example, databases, bots, Java, Python and so on. You could share this knowledge through free courses on Youtube or Udemy. There are various resource groups on entrepreneurship, engineering, and design. One of the most famous is the Hackathon Hackers group on Facebook, and another popular one is Ladies Storm Hackathons. Consider joining a group and helping college students who need assistance with making career choices or advice on obtaining internships and jobs, or people looking for co-founders on a project.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Nearly Half of Young Professionals are Pursuing a Career in This Field

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iGen

The oil and gas industry is facing strong competition in attracting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent, with 44 percent of STEM Millennials and Generation Zs (Gen Z) interested in pursuing a career in oil and gas, compared to 77 percent in the technology sector, 58 percent in life sciences and pharmaceuticals, and 57 percent in health care –according to the inaugural global Workforce of the Future survey released by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

The survey was commissioned by ADNOC to examine future workforce and employment trends in the oil and gas industry, particularly as the industry looks to attract STEM talent and enable the 4th Industrial Age. This is in line with ADNOC’s Oil & Gas 4.0 mission to help meet the world’s increasing demand for energy and higher-value products – by fostering a dynamic and performance-led culture that cultivates talent and applies the latest technology to optimize resources.

The survey interviewed STEM students and young professionals aged 15 to 35 in 10 countries – across North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, representing a mix of significant global economies, and producers and consumers of oil and gas – and looked at their perceptions across multiple STEM-related industries, including oil and gas, and the skills they value and believe are required to succeed in these industries.

Key Findings
“Salary,” “work-life balance,” “job stability,” “on-the-job fulfilment,” and “a good work environment” are ranked the top five drivers behind potential career choices for STEM Millennials and Gen Zs. Young STEM talent also associate the oil and gas industry with high salaries and see it as an industry that is invaluable. “The industry pays well,” “the industry is crucial for their country’s economy and development,” and it is “an industry we couldn’t live without,” are ranked as the top three positive attributes about the industry.

What young professionals want, by industry
77% technology
58% life science/pharmaceuticals
57% health care
44% oil and gas

STEM Millennials and Gen Zs show the most interest in industries that they believe will be most impacted by new technologies. Globally, 42 percent say that new technologies will have a major impact on the oil and gas industry, while 56 percent say the same for health care, 53 percent for life sciences and pharmaceuticals, and 73 percent for the technology industry.

His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and ADNOC Group CEO, said: “The findings from the ADNOC Workforce of the Future survey show that the more STEM Millennials and Gen Zs associate oil and gas with new technologies, the more interested they will be in a career in the industry. “As we enter the 4th Industrial Age, we need to come together as an industry and – with our technology industry partners – better highlight the exciting opportunities our dynamic industry offers to young talent with strong technology skills,” he added. The results also show that STEM Millennials and Gen Zs appear divided on whether oil and gas is an industry of the future (45 percent) or the past (44 percent). The data also indicates a mismatch between what STEM Millennials and Gen Zs see as the most important skills to succeed professionally versus what they see are the most important skills for a career in the oil and gas industry.

“Information technology and computer” skills (37 percent) and “creativity and innovative thinking” (33 percent) are seen as the most important skill-sets for succeeding in the future, but only 18 percent see “IT and computer” and “creativity and innovative thinking” as important skills for a career in oil and gas. Similarly, while 26 percent say programing languages are key for future professional success, only 11 percent view it as an important skill in the oil and gas industry. The data also shows that some experience in the job market and a tertiary education in STEM subjects can help change perceptions positively toward a career in the oil and gas sector. While interest is low among secondary school-age STEM students (37 percent are interested in a career in oil and gas), this figure rises to approximately half (51 percent) of young professionals being interested in pursuing a career in the sector – representing a 14-point increase.

Out to Innovate™ 2019 Summit for LGBTQ People in STEM

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NOGLSTP presented its 5th biannual Out to Innovate™ Summit for LGBTIQ People in STEM on March 16-17 at the location of its first summit, the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, CA. 

These summits are meant to support and encourage the open participation of the LGBTIQ community in STEM activities. With this year’s theme, “Igniting STEM with PRIDE,” over 200 attendees participated in 20 workshops and 4 plenaries, increasing skill sets, broadening their knowledge, and making new friends.

Early arriving attendees attended a tour of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and in the evening NOGLSTP hosted a reception for workshop organizers, panelists, and exhibitors at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries where the NOGLSTP history and files reside and were on partial display.

The meeting opened with proclamations and greeting from the region, followed by Kei Koizumi, Visiting Scholar in science policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), gave an inspiring motivational speech, reminding everyone to pursue their dreams in STEM as LGBTQ people

Over the following day and a half, attendees participated in 4 breakout sessions containing 20 workshops covered a wide range of topics; titles from “Proposal Writing Workshop: Understanding the Federal Money Process,” and “Careers in Government and Policy for LGBTQ STEM people,” to “Out on the Academic Job Search,” “Forming Student Groups: Experiences and Organizing”, “a LGBTQ+ Health Initiatives”, “Queer in STEM Demographic Studies”, ”LGTQ Portrayal in Arts and Media” and “Intersectionality – Bringing All of Your Identities,” provided learning and discussion opportunities over a broad spectrum of issues and ideas.

Plenaries included an “Out and Accomplished panel”, where “out” panel members provided their perspectives on serving in industry, government, and academia. Saturday evening’s Gala Recognition Awards Reception and Dinner was held at the USC Town and Gown hall with keynote speaker David Bohnett, founder of GeoCities who spoke of his journey, from being a closeted undergraduate student at USC, the early days of the World Wide Web and founding GeoCities.  2017 and 1028 Out to Innovate™ Scholarship recipients (funded by Motorola Solutions Foundation), and poster session winners were honored at the dinner as well as 2019 Recognition Awardees: presented the 2019 Recognition Award Winners: Dr Benny Chan, Professor of Chemistry at the College of New Jersey (LGBTQ Educator of the year), Dr Arianna Morales, Staff Research Scientist at General Motors Global research and Development (LGBTQ Engineer of the year), and Dr Jon Freeman, Associate professor of Psychology and Neural Science New York University (LGBTQ Scientist of the Year).  This year’s Walt Westman Award went to Dr. Lauren Esposito, Curator at California Academy of Sciences and creator of 500 Queer Scientists website.

Amazon’s VP of Alexa Devices on Working in Voice Technology, Taking Risks, and Alexa’s Hidden Tricks

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Amazom's Miriam Daniel smiling and standing in front of a poster for Amazon Alexa

By Alyse Kalish

Let’s say you want to be a part of building something great in your career—something people can tangibly benefit from, something no one else has thought of, and something you can point to and proudly say, “Hey, I made that.” If that’s the case, look no further for inspiration than Miriam Daniel.

She’s currently the VP of Alexa and Echo Devices at Amazon. That means she and her team are the brains behind the imaginary woman who answers all the random requests you make, from “Alexa, tell me what the weather’s like” to “Alexa, set a reminder to pick up milk” to “Alexa, play ‘Baby Shark.’”

We sat down with Daniel because, quite frankly, her career path is pretty cool—from working as a developer to joining the leadership team at Intel (and staying on for more than 14 years) to transitioning into AI and eventually landing her role at Amazon. Besides joining Amazon at a time when AI and speech technology was just taking off, Daniel has had the pleasure of building a product from the start that can help people—especially those who are disabled—lead more efficient and happier lives.

Here’s how she broke into this creative field, how she balances being a tech leader and a parent, and what advice she has for aspiring innovators.

Tell us a bit about your career path and how you ended up at Amazon.

I spent the first few years of my career working as a developer in various service industries, and then moved on to work at Intel for more than 14 years. I started there as an engineering leader before transitioning to product and business roles, eventually becoming the Director of Innovation Strategy and Product Management.

Then five years ago, I received a call from Amazon. After going through a rigorous interview process and consulting with a couple of my mentors, I decided to make the move. Today, I lead a talented, multidisciplinary team that spends a lot of time thinking about customers—what they want out of voice-driven devices and specifically how Alexa can make their lives easier and more convenient.

What made you want to enter this field?

I started dabbling in speech and AI while running the innovation group at Intel. The power of voice as an intuitive and natural means of human interaction with technology fascinated me. When presented with the opportunity to lead the Echo product line at Amazon, I jumped at it, knowing that this could be a transformative leap in using voice as the ultimate simplifier, cutting through many layers of friction to access information and services in the cloud. I was also excited to be a part of an early-stage innovative product with the ability to shape it from the start. I was ready for a big challenge.

What gets you excited about your job?

I’m excited by the fact that I get to innovate every day. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a toy factory—I dive right into putting the puzzle pieces together to solve hard problems that in the end simplify lives.

Building an entirely new way of interacting with products through voice and visuals was an incredibly difficult problem to solve. When we started, this was a completely new means of interacting with machines, and to see how far we’ve come (of course, there’s still so much more to do) motivates me every day.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role? The biggest reward?

The challenge is that building an Echo device is about so much more than just creating a piece of hardware—it’s about designing an experience, and it’s an experience that’s getting smarter every day. There’s no playbook here or precedent to go off of—we’re exploring and innovating as we go. There’s no such thing as “done.”

The biggest reward is when a customer tells me that they love the products we’re building and how much voice technology has changed their lives for the better. We hear anecdotes from parents, grandparents, teachers, distant family members, and customers with disabilities all the time, and their stories are truly heart-warming.

What’s one thing people don’t know Alexa can do?

Alexa is always getting smarter and is now starting to do things for customers that once were considered science fiction. One example is a feature called “Hunches.” As you interact with your smart home, Alexa learns more about your day-to-day routine and can sense when connected smart devices—such as lights, locks, switches, and plugs—are not in the state that you prefer.

For example, if your living room light is on when you say “Alexa, good night,” Alexa will respond with “Good night. By the way, your living room light is on. Do you want me to turn it off?”

Continue on to The Muse to read the complete article.

Nipsey Hussle’s Work In The Black Community Went Deeper Than You Think

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Nipsey Hu$$le

Before his death, the rapper was involved in projects focused on revitalizing his South LA neighborhood and supporting STEM among black and brown youths.

When Los Angeles–based rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed on March 31 at the age of 33, his death plunged people in his LA community, as well as others all over the world, into resounding grief.

It wasn’t only that he was young and beloved or that he was a father of two who was in a relationship with actress Lauren London. Hussle (whose given name was Ermias Asghedom) was lauded through his life not just for his music but also for his service to the black community.

In the days after his death, there has been much talk about much he did for the black community in South LA, but most people didn’t realize how far-reaching his activism and entrepreneurship were:

He was an advocate for STEM among black and brown kids

Hussle was an investor in Vector90, a technology space founded by Gross. The center is home to a community program called Too Big to Fail, which serves as a link between young people in the inner city and Silicon Valley. The aim: to train underrepresented and disenfranchised black and brown youths in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Hussle and Gross reportedly had plans to expand the program across the country.

He was in the beginning stages of addressing gun violence with the LAPD

On March 31, LA Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff revealed that Hussle had a scheduled meeting with the LAPD the day after his death to discuss gun violence in the city. Hussle, a former gang member, spoke openly about his experiences with gang culture and his desire to focus on “giving solutions and inspiration” to young black men like him.

He was revitalizing the community with new real estate developments

In a bid to bring black-owned businesses and jobs to his South LA neighborhood, Hussle reportedly spent several million dollars on a strip mall property on Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue with several stores, including his “smart store” Marathon Clothing.

He had bigger plans in the world of real estate: In February he told Forbes that his goal was to work with black community leaders in other U.S. cities to create similar business and real estate hubs designed to benefit rather than push out the black community.The plan was part of an initiative called Our Opportunity, co-founded by Hussle and led by his business partner Dave Gross.

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Katie Bouman: the 29-year-old whose work led to first black hole photo

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Katie Bouman sitting at her computer with a smile on her face and hands up to her mouth in excitement

This week, the world laid eyes on an image that previously it was thought was unseeable.

The first visualisation of a black hole looks set to revolutionise our understanding of one of the great mysteries of the universe.

And the woman whose crucial algorithm helped make it possible is just 29 years old.

Katie Bouman was a PhD student in computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) when, three years ago, she led the creation of an algorithm that would eventually lead to an image of a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, some 55m light years from Earth, being captured for the first time.

Bouman was among a team of 200 researchers who contributed to the breakthrough, but on Wednesday, a picture of her triumphantly beaming as the image of the black hole materialised on her computer screen went viral, with many determined that Bouman’s indispensable role was not written out of history – as so often has been the case for female scientists and researchers.

The data used to piece together the image was captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile. Bouman’s role, when she joined the team working on the project six years ago as a 23-year-old junior researcher, was to help build an algorithm which could construct the masses of astronomical data collected by the telescope into a single coherent image.

Though her background was in computer science and electrical engineering, not astrophysics, Picture of a Black HoleBouman and her team worked for three years building the imaging code. Once the algorithm had been built, Bouman worked with dozens of EHT researchers for a further two years developing and testing how the imaging of the black hole could be designed. But it wasn’t until June last year, when all the telescope data finally arrived, that Bouman and a small team of fellow researchers sat down in a small room at Harvard and put their algorithm properly to the test.

With just the press of a button, a fuzzy orange ring appeared on Bouman’s computer screen, the world’s first image of a supermassive black hole, and astronomical history was made. In a post on social media, Bouman emphasised the collaborative efforts that had made the imaging of the black hole possible.

“No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work to develop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat,” said Bouman. While their discovery was made in June, it was only presented to the world by all 200 researchers on Wednesday.

Continue on to The Guardian to read the complete article.

WonderWorks Branson Providing Local Schools with In-Service STEM Educational Program

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STEM teacher showing two grade school children a nail and balloon experiment

WonderWorks, the indoor amusement park for the mind, is scheduled to open in Branson, Missouri in October 2019. They are teaming up with schools in Branson and Hollister County, to offer in-service educational opportunities.

These programs will begin the week of April 15, 2019. This is just one of many STEM activities that WonderWorks offers and focuses on using scientific methods to engage students in learning about both the principles of pressure and fingerprints.

“Since WonderWorks is under construction, we are happy to bring these great programs to the classrooms” says Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer at WonderWorks. “These hands-on programs provide them with fun STEM lessons that will engage students and expand their understanding of the topics.”

The interactive lessons that will be taken to the local schools include:

The Principles of Pressure: 

This program will be in-service at local elementary schools. It uses the scientific method to understand how pressure works and specifically how you can lay on a full size bed of nails and not get punctured. This is a two-part demo that includes understanding how much pressure it takes a nail to puncture something. The kids will work with the teacher to develop a hypothesis, conduct an experiment using a balloon on a nail, and then repeat the experiment using a block of wood. They will use math to determine the weight that can be on the nail before the balloon pops.

Fingerprints: 

This program will be in-service at local middle schools. Using scientific method and reasoning, the interactive learning program includes having students look at their fingertips through the magnifying lens and examine the patterns on their skin. They will learn how unique fingerprints are formed, they will make a set of their own printed fingerprints, and will compare their unique pattern with common types of fingerprints.

Both sessions will give students a hands-on learning opportunity that should boast their science interests. The programs offer opportunities for interaction, using scientific methods, creating hypothesis, and evaluating the outcome.

“We are excited that WonderWorks is entering the Branson market and bringing educational programs not only within their attraction but to the schools directly,” says Brian Wilson, superintendent at Hollister Schools. “They are committed to STEM programs and are helping teachers by creating an interactive learning environment.”

WonderWorks Branson will be the company’s 6th location. WonderWorks new home was the previous location of Baldknobbers Theater located at 2835 W 76 Country Blvd. The new location will feature the attraction’s iconic exterior – a grandiose house flipped upside-down. The unique façade is part of WonderWorks’ background story. According to legend, it was once a top-secret laboratory that was lifted and flipped on its roof by an experiment gone awry. From its exterior to its interior, visitors of all ages will enjoy a family friendly, out of this world experience, which will make for some amazing memories.

The interactive indoor amusement park offers STEM-focused activities for all ages. There are over 100 hands-on activities that are focused on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of the exhibits will include a bubble room, Professor Wonder’s adventure, interactive sandbox, illusion art gallery, and xtreme 360 bikes. For more information on WonderWorks, visit the site at: wonderworksonline.com/branson-coming-soon/.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, the upside-down adventure, is a science focused, indoor amusement park for the mind, that holds something unique and interesting for visitors of all ages. There are four floors of non-stop “edu-tainment,” with over 100 hands-on and interactive exhibits that serve a STEM educational purpose to challenge the mind and spark the imagination. WonderWorks has locations in Orlando, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, Panama City Beach, and Syracuse. For more information visit: wonderworksonline.com.