deekapila.com

Aug 14

The most frequent question I get from students in my classes is “Are we really going to build a portfolio? What can we possibly put in it when we’ve never had any clients or been paid for work?”

It’s a great question and one that merits lots of thought and discussion. What can beginners include in portfolios when they’re learning and just starting out? For starters, everyone in our Blueprints courses has access to loads of great projects to complete in class. All of these are great inclusions in a portfolio because they are focused prompts that aim to bring out each student’s individual creativity and unique approach to solving problems.
But there are plenty of types of work you can showcase in your portfolio besides the traditional projects or jobs that first come to mind. You can literally invent “fake”, imaginary, DREAM projects just for your portfolio. In fact, you don’t need to be a beginner to do this – experienced web designers and developers do it all the time to keep up with skills, try new things and provide fresh solutions to problems. Daniel Mall has talked about this extensively, Skillcrush friend and designer Katie Kovalcin swears by it. And our friends at Funsize.co frequently reimagine dream clients’  products.

“Put the work YOU want to be doing in your portfolio, not the work you think others want to see.” Says Kovalcin. ” If you make fake projects, the trick is to make it look real. Put in context: print it out and photograph it, mock it up however you need to as if it were really a finished product and not just comps/ideas.”

What I’m about to suggest to you is a framework of porfolio project categories that aim to showcase a wide range of your skills. you can do all of these without a client or previous experience. A few considerations:
Make sure you are transparent in interviews and on your actual portfolio about the work you’re presenting and the processes you used to get to the final product.
	Challenge yourself to approach one actual client – a friend who needs a blog redesign or a mom and pop business. Offer to create something for them for minimal pay or for free. However, if this is too intimidating or you just don’t have the bandwidth, focus on creating and refining the projects below and give them context, like Kovalcin suggests
	Place an emphasis on process – don’t just focus on your ideas and execution. Use this time to go through the processes involved. Considering everything from research to user personas to briefs and wireframes. These are the types of deliverables that really make your work stand out, and showcase the life cycle of your project.

Okay, now that we’ve taken a few things into consideration, on to the main event, the projects!
SAMPLE PRETEND (but still real) PROJECTS

1. The DREAM client website – A dream client website allows you to showcase how you think in terms of scale. I once interviewed a self-taught developer who learned to code over the summer and had redesigned the New York Times website on his portfolio. It was amazing. He thought through every detail – how it looked on tablets and mobile phones, what the app experience was like, how comments and threading worked in his solution and lots more. It was the only project in his portfolio – but of course it was so thorough and thoughtfully presented, it was all he needed to get the job.

2. The non profit or mom n pop website – A great project to include in your portfolio is the design or redesign of a small local non profit or your favorite neighborhood take-out restaurant. One of my favorite to-go haunts is a delicious Mediterranean place named Sarah’s. I’d love to redesign their website, giving it a completely modern feel (no flashing pointing hands for the special of the day) while staying true to the family’s wonderful sense of community and humor.

I’d also love to design an html menu page because right now the only way to view their offerings are by downloading a PDF (a pain on my iPad and iPhone bc I have to take 3 steps to download & view it). It also looks like they started working on a meet the chefs page – I’d love to see this through. It would be great if newcomers visiting the site could meet the chefs - they’d be so taken by their personalities & warmth they’d never be able to resist a visit (the chefs are a married couple. Whenever I walk in they look at me & gasp and jokingly ask “Deepina you are hungry AGAIN?” It’s hilarious & their joie de vivre really comes across in the spices in their food).

3. Your twist on an icon set – This is a pretty standard project, but its a great way for you to offer something for free to the visitors on your website and go include a project of a completely differently scale in your portfolio. An icon set might seem ubiquitous but if you do it well and use it as an opportunity to define your aesthetic (think Project Runway!) you could really wow people in an interview. Check out Dribbble for examples of icon sets done differently. Or what if you designed a few of your own emojis to add to the next set of releases? Very topical, fun, and creative!

4. Improved mobile product UX – Focus on mobile UX to show how you would improve the experience for an existing client or brand in the mobile landscape. This is a project that allows you to be creative inside some very specific constraints. Do some research here. Perhaps you love a website but think the mobile experience needs an overhaul. Work towards its reinvention and create ux deliverables every step of the way.

5. Redesigned newsletter template – This may sound like a snooze fest, but I did this for my first portfolio while applying for my one of my first jobs in tech. One of the administrative duties of that job was to redesign and send out newsletters about events, interviews, breaking news and other timely items so before I applied, I spent half a day redesigning the org’s newsletter, creating 3 samples and including it all in my portfolio. Needless to say, they were impressed. I got the interview (and two follow ups) AND the job.

There are many other cool projects you could make up and include. The above are my suggestions because they are things I get excited about and LOVE seeing when I’m interviewing developers because they will likely be working on these types of projects once hired. Have additional project ideas? Tweet us your thoughts @skillcrush or post them in the comments below!

This post is Part 2 in a series of posts about portfolios. You can read Part 1 here.

The most frequent question I get from students in my classes is “Are we really going to build a portfolio? What can we possibly put in it when we’ve never had any clients or been paid for work?”

It’s a great question and one that merits lots of thought and discussion. What can beginners include in portfolios when they’re learning and just starting out? For starters, everyone in our Blueprints courses has access to loads of great projects to complete in class. All of these are great inclusions in a portfolio because they are focused prompts that aim to bring out each student’s individual creativity and unique approach to solving problems.

But there are plenty of types of work you can showcase in your portfolio besides the traditional projects or jobs that first come to mind. You can literally invent “fake”, imaginary, DREAM projects just for your portfolio. In fact, you don’t need to be a beginner to do this – experienced web designers and developers do it all the time to keep up with skills, try new things and provide fresh solutions to problems. Daniel Mall has talked about this extensively, Skillcrush friend and designer Katie Kovalcin swears by it. And our friends at Funsize.co frequently reimagine dream clients’  products.

“Put the work YOU want to be doing in your portfolio, not the work you think others want to see.” Says Kovalcin. ” If you make fake projects, the trick is to make it look real. Put in context: print it out and photograph it, mock it up however you need to as if it were really a finished product and not just comps/ideas.”

What I’m about to suggest to you is a framework of porfolio project categories that aim to showcase a wide range of your skills. you can do all of these without a client or previous experience. A few considerations:

Okay, now that we’ve taken a few things into consideration, on to the main event, the projects!

SAMPLE PRETEND (but still real) PROJECTS

1. The DREAM client website – A dream client website allows you to showcase how you think in terms of scale. I once interviewed a self-taught developer who learned to code over the summer and had redesigned the New York Times website on his portfolio. It was amazing. He thought through every detail – how it looked on tablets and mobile phones, what the app experience was like, how comments and threading worked in his solution and lots more. It was the only project in his portfolio – but of course it was so thorough and thoughtfully presented, it was all he needed to get the job.

2. The non profit or mom n pop website – A great project to include in your portfolio is the design or redesign of a small local non profit or your favorite neighborhood take-out restaurant. One of my favorite to-go haunts is a delicious Mediterranean place named Sarah’s. I’d love to redesign their website, giving it a completely modern feel (no flashing pointing hands for the special of the day) while staying true to the family’s wonderful sense of community and humor.

I’d also love to design an html menu page because right now the only way to view their offerings are by downloading a PDF (a pain on my iPad and iPhone bc I have to take 3 steps to download & view it). It also looks like they started working on a meet the chefs page – I’d love to see this through. It would be great if newcomers visiting the site could meet the chefs - they’d be so taken by their personalities & warmth they’d never be able to resist a visit (the chefs are a married couple. Whenever I walk in they look at me & gasp and jokingly ask “Deepina you are hungry AGAIN?” It’s hilarious & their joie de vivre really comes across in the spices in their food).

3. Your twist on an icon set – This is a pretty standard project, but its a great way for you to offer something for free to the visitors on your website and go include a project of a completely differently scale in your portfolio. An icon set might seem ubiquitous but if you do it well and use it as an opportunity to define your aesthetic (think Project Runway!) you could really wow people in an interview. Check out Dribbble for examples of icon sets done differently. Or what if you designed a few of your own emojis to add to the next set of releases? Very topical, fun, and creative!

4. Improved mobile product UX – Focus on mobile UX to show how you would improve the experience for an existing client or brand in the mobile landscape. This is a project that allows you to be creative inside some very specific constraints. Do some research here. Perhaps you love a website but think the mobile experience needs an overhaul. Work towards its reinvention and create ux deliverables every step of the way.

5. Redesigned newsletter template – This may sound like a snooze fest, but I did this for my first portfolio while applying for my one of my first jobs in tech. One of the administrative duties of that job was to redesign and send out newsletters about events, interviews, breaking news and other timely items so before I applied, I spent half a day redesigning the org’s newsletter, creating 3 samples and including it all in my portfolio. Needless to say, they were impressed. I got the interview (and two follow ups) AND the job.

There are many other cool projects you could make up and include. The above are my suggestions because they are things I get excited about and LOVE seeing when I’m interviewing developers because they will likely be working on these types of projects once hired. Have additional project ideas? Tweet us your thoughts @skillcrush or post them in the comments below!

This post is Part 2 in a series of posts about portfolios. You can read Part 1 here.

Aug 08

Today on the Skillcrush blog, I’m outlining a simple process that I use to buy tech gadgets with confidence every time and avoid that buyer’s remorse! 
 (via A Beginner’s Guide to Purchasing Tech Gadgets with Confidence | Skillcrush)

Buying tech gadgets can be intimidating. Overwhelming choices, a baffling range of price points, fear of buyer’s remorse, varying degrees of customer support at retail outlets and rapid product obsolescence & depreciation turn even the most zen & decisive amongst us to total mush.

So what’s the best way to overcome decision paralysis and make sure you buy the right computer, projector, portable speakers or fitness band? Let me walk you through the simple process I use in hopes it’ll help you too.
STEP ONE
Identify what you want - Currently, I’m in the market for a projector for the master bedroom in my house. My husband and I are big movie nerds and we live in a loft townhouse. Our bedroom is upstairs and has great high ceilings. We never watch tv in our room but I suddenly have this intense desire to project old black and white movies against one of our large white walls. I know. I’m such a cheese ball. I’ll try to redeem myself by telling you that we also plan to play a LOT of the new Super Smash Brothers video game when it comes out this Fall. I’m quite the champion at that game. I know, I know my humility is unparalleled. Anyway getting this project up and running is my summer dream.
STEP TWO
Identify a budget - This may sound like a no brainer but let me explain the two criteria I use to determine my budget. The first of course, is if I can afford it. The second is if I will feel like a fool spending a certain amount on a gadget even if I can afford it. $100 bucks? Sounds affordable. $100 on a bejeweled iphone case? I’m outta here. I have determined that I am willing to spend about $7-800 on this projector.
STEP THREE
Spend some time on Amazon & Newegg (or other retailer you have had good experiences with) with 2 goals in mind: 1. Familiarize yourself with the features and specifications of several projectors (1 in your price range, 1 above and 1 below for 3 or 4 brands) and 2. read through lots and lots of reviews. This will help you understand what the product you’re in the market for is capable of doing and what the feature tradeoffs are across price points. A lot of times you may find a pleasant surprise - that the product does even more than what you thought it could do and you may be willing to stretch your budget a little bit. You could also find that you don’t need the extra bells and whistles at all and could come in way below what you anticipated. The point of this step is to familiarize yourself with all aspects of your product so you can make an informed decision. If you come across a term or feature you don’t know - jot it down. Once you’re done with this step go through your list and Google anything you aren’t well-versed in.
STEP FOUR
Check wirecutter.com. This site is hands down the best I’ve found for help with purchasing gadgets. They’ve done hours and hours of the research for you and are incredibly practical when it comes to debating money vs feature trade-offs. They have never steered me wrong and every single recommendation of theirs I’ve followed through on has not disappointed me. They break things down in an easy to understand way and usually provide charts and graphs so you can compare products at a glance. Thanks to Wirecutter, I found a $500 projector comparable to their $1000 recommendation and feel great that I could potentially come in $300 under my original budget estimate. Yay!
STEP FIVE
Do nothing for a few days. Seriously! By now you have tons of info swirling around in your head and you’re overwhelmed, exhausted and excited - a strange, heady mix. You need to let your newfound gadget knowledge marinate in your brain for a few days, consider all the reviews and ratings you’ve read about so you can find your footing again, narrow down your choice to the top 2 or 3 contenders and then ultimately make a decision you feel really good about.
Et voilà! Gadget purchased, existential crisis avoided. Enjoy your lovely new toy and go easy on the $4 lattes for a while.

Today on the Skillcrush blog, I’m outlining a simple process that I use to buy tech gadgets with confidence every time and avoid that buyer’s remorse!
(via A Beginner’s Guide to Purchasing Tech Gadgets with Confidence | Skillcrush)

Buying tech gadgets can be intimidating. Overwhelming choices, a baffling range of price points, fear of buyer’s remorse, varying degrees of customer support at retail outlets and rapid product obsolescence & depreciation turn even the most zen & decisive amongst us to total mush.

So what’s the best way to overcome decision paralysis and make sure you buy the right computer, projector, portable speakers or fitness band? Let me walk you through the simple process I use in hopes it’ll help you too.

STEP ONE Identify what you want - Currently, I’m in the market for a projector for the master bedroom in my house. My husband and I are big movie nerds and we live in a loft townhouse. Our bedroom is upstairs and has great high ceilings. We never watch tv in our room but I suddenly have this intense desire to project old black and white movies against one of our large white walls. I know. I’m such a cheese ball. I’ll try to redeem myself by telling you that we also plan to play a LOT of the new Super Smash Brothers video game when it comes out this Fall. I’m quite the champion at that game. I know, I know my humility is unparalleled. Anyway getting this project up and running is my summer dream.

STEP TWO Identify a budget - This may sound like a no brainer but let me explain the two criteria I use to determine my budget. The first of course, is if I can afford it. The second is if I will feel like a fool spending a certain amount on a gadget even if I can afford it. $100 bucks? Sounds affordable. $100 on a bejeweled iphone case? I’m outta here. I have determined that I am willing to spend about $7-800 on this projector.

STEP THREE Spend some time on Amazon & Newegg (or other retailer you have had good experiences with) with 2 goals in mind: 1. Familiarize yourself with the features and specifications of several projectors (1 in your price range, 1 above and 1 below for 3 or 4 brands) and 2. read through lots and lots of reviews. This will help you understand what the product you’re in the market for is capable of doing and what the feature tradeoffs are across price points. A lot of times you may find a pleasant surprise - that the product does even more than what you thought it could do and you may be willing to stretch your budget a little bit. You could also find that you don’t need the extra bells and whistles at all and could come in way below what you anticipated. The point of this step is to familiarize yourself with all aspects of your product so you can make an informed decision. If you come across a term or feature you don’t know - jot it down. Once you’re done with this step go through your list and Google anything you aren’t well-versed in.

STEP FOUR Check wirecutter.com. This site is hands down the best I’ve found for help with purchasing gadgets. They’ve done hours and hours of the research for you and are incredibly practical when it comes to debating money vs feature trade-offs. They have never steered me wrong and every single recommendation of theirs I’ve followed through on has not disappointed me. They break things down in an easy to understand way and usually provide charts and graphs so you can compare products at a glance. Thanks to Wirecutter, I found a $500 projector comparable to their $1000 recommendation and feel great that I could potentially come in $300 under my original budget estimate. Yay!

STEP FIVE Do nothing for a few days. Seriously! By now you have tons of info swirling around in your head and you’re overwhelmed, exhausted and excited - a strange, heady mix. You need to let your newfound gadget knowledge marinate in your brain for a few days, consider all the reviews and ratings you’ve read about so you can find your footing again, narrow down your choice to the top 2 or 3 contenders and then ultimately make a decision you feel really good about.

Et voilà! Gadget purchased, existential crisis avoided. Enjoy your lovely new toy and go easy on the $4 lattes for a while.

Aug 07

How to Make Content Creation a Benefit for Your Team—Not a Burden

How to create a social media marketing plan from scratch

Aug 03

Women at Comic Con & controversy surrounds the first female writer of a Marvel film


According to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, across 1,565 content creators in Hollywood, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female to create the tv shows and movies we watch today.

It’s a long time coming but this ratio is hopefully starting to change with the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, cowritten by director James Gunn & screenwriter Nicole Perlman, the first woman to write a Marvel film (or, at the risk of sounding cynical, at least the first woman to be credited for doing so). Perlman’s credit does not come without it’s share of controversy surrounding the nature & extent of her contributions (more on this as it develops) but one thing is clear - she’s the woman who’s gotten the closest to the top in the Marvel movie hierarchy. Hopefully there are many more to come after her.

While I’ve been enjoying repeat viewings of the film since it’s release (so far I’m at 2 and am working on convincing my husband to venture out for a third viewing, in 3D this time) other nerds gathered in San Diego for Comic Con International 2014. The wildly popular convention has been making headlines this year for also starting to finally change its heavily male-dominated culture. Many are calling this year at Comic Con the “Year of the Kickass Woman”, after the title of one of it’s most popular (and brilliantly positioned) panels.

Remember when Tank from the Matrix couldn’t contain himself and told Neo that this could be "a very exciting time!"

That’s exactly how I feel.

Check out this week’s link round-up to get up to speed with everything going on in Comic Con and in Guardians of the Galaxy.

-
Women totally dominated this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International: http://buff.ly/1o40kvO

Comic-Con’s Year of the Kickass Woman http://thebea.st/1mcGc5b

Women call for sexual harassment policy at Comic-Con http://alj.am/1o40N0X

Comic Con Fans Are Ready For Some Female Superheroes http://onforb.es/1mcGjO4

Women Who Kick Ass do so at Comic-Con panel: The highlights http://bit.ly/1o40SBP

-
#sdcc #comiccon2014 #gameofthrones #guardiansofthegalaxy

Jul 29

Are you interested in learning more about Sass but find that whenever you try to delve in, you’re greeted by a discouraging barrage of technical mumbo jumbo? Are current Intro to Sass tutorials promising help for supposed novices only to assume that this group of (apparently very enlightened) novices has already read every CS book from The Cluetrain Manifesto to the The Pragmatic Programmer and already has an opinion on Less vs Sass?

Is that not you? Don’t worry! It wasn’t me either when I started digging into Sass. It may seem as though Sass requires a handful of traditional computer science knowledge to use, but the reality is that it doesn’t! 

This quick guide will break down all the basic terminology and concepts you need to know before you get started with Sass. And we promise, all you’ll find here are simple definitions of must-know, easy-to-grasp terms and concepts (I’m only assuming you know the foundations of HTML & CSS) that will be a primer to your Sass deep-dive. We’ll even restrain ourselves from throwing around the oft used “Feelin’ sassy?” puns as we explore Sass and convince you to give it a go.

Let’s begin!

Are you interested in learning more about Sass but find that whenever you try to delve in, you’re greeted by a discouraging barrage of technical mumbo jumbo? Are current Intro to Sass tutorials promising help for supposed novices only to assume that this group of (apparently very enlightened) novices has already read every CS book from The Cluetrain Manifesto to the The Pragmatic Programmer and already has an opinion on Less vs Sass?

Is that not you? Don’t worry! It wasn’t me either when I started digging into Sass. It may seem as though Sass requires a handful of traditional computer science knowledge to use, but the reality is that it doesn’t!

This quick guide will break down all the basic terminology and concepts you need to know before you get started with Sass. And we promise, all you’ll find here are simple definitions of must-know, easy-to-grasp terms and concepts (I’m only assuming you know the foundations of HTML & CSS) that will be a primer to your Sass deep-dive. We’ll even restrain ourselves from throwing around the oft used “Feelin’ sassy?” puns as we explore Sass and convince you to give it a go.

Let’s begin!