Rock the Internship, Part One: Get the Interview

Do you want to be a leading lady, just like the women we celebrate here at Levo? If you’re just starting out in the world, having at least one good internship in your resume is most definitely a step in the right direction. However, if you’re just like every college girl out there, internship application season almost always equates to stress and nervous breakdowns.

I just finished a six-month internship myself, and let me tell you something: getting an internship and acing can feel both impossible and cakelike all at once. Allow me to share with you a few tricks and some lessons I learned along the way. I hope you find them useful.

Read more at Levo League.

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Project Management: A Roundup

I apologize for being MIA the last few months. I started my masters this January, and I have yet to find the right balance between work, school, and a life.  (I have no excuse for the weeks prior. Ha.)

Anyway, one of the classes I am taking at JHU is Management of Systems Projects. The class gives us really great resources for future work as project managers. I thought I’d list them here.

(I plan to keep this document updated, and if you have suggestions, I’d love to add them here.)

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure
MIL-STD-881C, by the DoD, everything you need to know about the WBS, compliant to Federal standards.

Creating Statement of Work / Statement of Objectives
NPG 5600.2B, NASA’s guide to writing SOW
MIL-HDBK-245D, the DoD’s guide to the SOW. I like this one better since it also covers the SOO.

Earned Value Management
Systems Engineering Guide from MITRE
NASA’s guide to the EVM, complete with tutorials and a reference card!

PMP Handbook

Websites, Etc.

PMPodcast
ProjectManagement.com (previously gantthead.com)
PMHut.com
PMTips.net
projectsmart.co.uk’s articles

Specific to Software

How To Keep Your Startup On Track With Project Management

Experiences and lessons on
outsourcing: Optimizing Outsourcing
keeping talent: Retaining Startup Engineers

All about software schedules: Evidence Based Schedudling
The ultimate basics and books to read:
How to be a Program Manager

What happens inside Facebook Engineering: How Facebook Ships Code

Fog Creek Software’s MBA reading list (which I am…slowly but surely, making progress on…) and the Making Better Software video training series. You have to buy or rent it, but it’s REALLY GREAT CONTENT!

Book Summary: Designing the Obvious + Designing with Consitency

This is a great book, a light read that has powerful lessons in design. I love it that is not overwhelming for someone new to the topic. Thankfully, it does a good job of listing down what makes great applications, well, GREAT, in the first chapter.

So without further adieu, I will list them, verbatim, for you (with some of my comments), below:

Great Web-based software, in my experience, has some or all of the following qualities:

  1. It conforms to the way users interact with the Web, but focuses on the activity instead of a specific audience. (activity based planning)
  2. It has only those features that are absolutely necessary for users to complete the activity the application is meant to support. (But be careful.)
  3. It supports the user’s mental model of what it does.
  4. It helps users get started quickly so they can become intermediate users as soon as possible.
  5. It makes it easy to recover from mistakes and difficult to make them in the first place.
  6. It has uniformly designed interface elements, but leverages irregularity to create meaning and importance.
  7. Reduces clutter to a minimum.

Let’s focus on #6.

Here are my takeaways from the chapter: “Design for Uniformity, Consistency, and Meaning”

1. First impressions, just like in life, are very important. 
The impression users have within the first 50 milliseconds are very similar to their long-term impression of the site.  Make the first one great!

2. Be consistent in hierarchy, colors, typography, and spatial memory.
Leverage the visual hierarchy HTML already naturally supports (especially now with HTML5). Make sure your styling builds on this hierarchy (headers vs body vs paragraphs vs footers).
Remember that content is the most important part of any app. Minimize chrome (look and feel), maximize interaction elements, and increase your users’ productivity.
Some rules on typography: Never use different fonts from page to page. Choose different typefaces for headers, etc. vs regular body content, but make sure the difference is obviously intentional. Use no more than 2-3 fonts. In summary, less is more!
Spatial memory is the “ability to recall where physical objects are in relation to other objects.” This is the exact same concept as to why we can hobble around in a dark room we are familiar with  This means make your app’s layout similar from page to page so that users will be able to navigate with ease.

3. Being consistent with the rest of the company’s other products is important as well.
If you do, your company will be able to easily convert users of one app to buy a new one. There will aslo be less dev time due to reuse. If you don’t, you will risk your company looking un-focused, and you will make users unhappy as they have to relearn what they already know.

4. Know the power of design patterns.

Yahoo’s 59 design patterns.

Designing Interfaces’ patterns

UX’ movement’s 4 best design pattern libraries

“Design patterns are the glue that holds everything in an interface. They help useres learn new applications based on what they already know.”

Which leads me to this interesting fact I read from somewhere else. The company that originally built Visio (before Microsoft acquired them) built it to look like it was Microsoft’s precisely to increase their usability. I mean, everyone knows how to use MS office apps, right? (Bonus: which is also a big factor into why Microsoft acquired them!)

5. Know when to be inconsistent. Usually, to bring more importance to an element of a page.
But, be very careful. Knowing when to comes with experience, so err in the side of consistency when in doubt.

Remember the following:
Colors: 1-2 additional is ideal. You can use lighter/darker versions as well; just be sure not to overwhelm.
Dimension: more space usually means more importance.
Always make the differences obviously intentional.

6. Use bananas.
Bananas are guideposts that help the user along with what they want to do. It goes back to making it impossible for the user to fail, by designing the page to focus on what the user should be doing, and nothing else.

The idea behind Set Godin’s “banana” principle is that user’s will follow giant, clear signposts about what needs to be done on a page, just like monkeys will follow a trail of bananas. Surfacing the bananas in an application screen is as simple as determining what’s most important on a page and then making it stand out by displaying it differently than everything else…

Keep in mind that some apps do not benefit from bananas, such as portals, where the aim is to give as much information and choices as possible.

Book Review: Clean Code

“Test code is just as important as production code. It is not a second-class citizen. It requires thought, design, and care. It must be kept as clean as production code….It is unit tests that keep our code flexible, maintainable, and reusable. The reason is simple. If you have tests, you do not fear making changes to the code! Without tests, every change is a possible bug. No matter how flexible your architecture is, no matter how nicely partitioned your design, without tests you will be reluctant to make changes because of the far that you will introduce undetected bugs.”

Why a CS major would want an MBA

Today, I was so excited to be asked by Femgineer.com to do a blog post! My first ever (as opposed to being syndicated)… Anyway, I would like to share this special milestone with you guys!

I was initially a management major, but my college required one CS class during our first semester. It was in that class, amidst loops and pointers, that I fell in love with programming. Soon, I switched my major to computer science. Now, I’m about to graduate as a software engineer, and I love what…

Read the rest here!

Roundup: An Obsession over Startups

In the last few weeks, I have become obsessed with startups. So I thought, hey, even though I can’t start one, I could still very well post about it. So here I go…(If you find duplicates, please forgive me…went through 9 hours of classes today, and my brain is almost mush.)

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1. Here is a roundup (within a roundup! yay! ) on startup culture and development by Foursquare’s Head of  Talent.  The best part is that the articles she listed have conflicting ideas, so you get to really *think* about what you should or shouldn’t do.

2. Evan Williams, co-founder of Pyra Labs and Twitter, has a post on the rules for a web startup. It’s an insightful “10 commandments type” of list on things you know you should do/be, but didn’t know exactly how to go about.

3. The list of all lists! Stanford’s Chuck Eesly has a master list on everything tech + entrepreneurship. It’s a goldmine of presentations, articles, and books on lean startup concepts, business models, product management, business development, public relations, recruiting, clients, fundraising, etc. His free class on tech entrepreneurship is also starting soon, and if you want to join, head on over to http://venture-lab.org .

4. If you don’t have as much time to commit (The class on #3 involves teams and projects), head on over to General Assembly’s pioneer online class,  Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship. Topics include branding, recruiting, and design.  (I swear, the first thing I’m gonna do once I find myself in New York is to take a class. They’re seriously awesome, I heard.)

5. As a software developer, I appreciate the value of feedback. On that note, as a startup, feedback can improve your product exponentially. Here’s how to find the testers you need.

6. In class a while ago, my professor said he went domain name shopping. (If that isn’t geeky…) That led me to two debating articles. One said a domain name is your best investment, and the other says it’s not as big a deal as it once was.

7. The founders of The Levo League, my favorite startup (Empowering women! By women! Can’t you tell I’m in love?) talks about choosing investors. They ought to know what they’re talking about — The Levo League is backed up by Sheryl Sandberg and  Gina Bianchini. On a side note, if you are an ambitious, smart, go-getter woman, stop reading this post and  sign up for The Levo League now! They are building the community and job search platform of the century. It’s like your superstar career genie married Linked In and dressed their baby in Louis Vuitton. Anyway, if you want to know the particulars, read this article on Levo by the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Bonus!

I just remembered this, and it must not be missed. My favorite career advice author has a two-part series on funding your / investing in startups. It’s a comprehensive, but quick,  guide to your investment options.

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Roundup: Stuff on Programming, the Software Business, and Design

Someday, when I am stuck on a desert island and don’t have my to-do list with me…I will get through all of this. By the way, all the courses here are free, through endeavors such as iTunes U and MIT Open Courseware.

For the programmers…

~Multi-core Programming Primer (course)
When PSN was down, I was so happy because I had my guy all to myself. If you’re dating or have dated or are a gamer…well, now you can say you’ve programmed on the Play Station 3 development platform.

~Stanford’s iPhone Application Development (course)
One of the most popular courses in iTunes U. I’ve worked with Android before, and currently developing an app using Appcelerator Titanium, but I’ll definitely check this out.

~Ruby
Funny, I’ve worked with most major languages, aside from Ruby and Python. So this month, Ruby it is.

For the techno-preneurs…

Lectures on the business of software (courses). These might be helpful whether you are starting your own crazy-awesome startup (I bow down to you!) or you are working for a company whose business is software ( I mean, you gotta understand how the behemoth works, right?).

~The Software Business

~Generating Business Value from Information Technology

~Corporate Entrepreneurship: Strategies for Technology-Based New Business Development

~Symantec: Achieving Growth in Enterprise Software

~SpikeSource: Software Strategy and Open Source

~Hummer Winblad Venture Partners: Trends in Software

~Microsoft: Product Innovation in Software

For the designers…User Experience and other “More Creative” Topics

~Creating Interactive Multi-media (course), a crash course on interface design.

~Stanford’s seminars on Human Computer Interaction  (course) (There are actually a few of these, but I watched the Winter ’11 one, and I loved it.)

~Mastering Tech-Artistry, a collection of TED talks, focusing on the intersection of software engineering, new media, etc. and the creation of digital art.

~Joel Spolsky’s reading list  for software designers…here’s a few of my faves:

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