Looking Inside Intel: First Week on the Job

Boss Lady's Car

Day 5 to 9 of #100inPDX

New Employee Orientation ActivityI started working at Intel this week!

The week started with New Employee Orientation for all interns, new graduates, and new employees — but you could’ve figured that out. We went over the standard introduction points, took badge photos, set up laptops, and did a group activity to build the tallest structure using cups, plates, and popsicle sticks. My team did well working together and engineered an Empire State Building top!

On Tuesday, I went to the office and started contributing from the first meeting. I was shocked, but I suppose this is what it means to work an internship as a grad student. I’m an adult, I have experience, so let’s get things cracking!

TALKING POINT. I am a User Experience Intern on the Mobility Client Platforms group at Intel Corporation. We work on improving mobile platforms with a strong product and marketing focus. Go ahead, tell your friends!

Boss Lady's CarBOSS LADY. (First things first: my boss drives a wonderful retro car. Glad we got that out of the way.) So far in my career, I’m 2-for-2 lucking up with the opportunity to work for sharp, brilliant, bad ass women. My boss at Intel is a passionate Italian woman with a strong desire to see me succeed in this space. We talked about ongoing projects and ways I could contribute, but more than that, she wants me to explore something I’m passionate about. I see it as an opportunity to work with new technologies (e.g., wearables, mobile form-factors) or populations (e.g., women, minorities) that I’m passionate about. It’s refreshing to be so supported from the beginning.

FOCUS GROUP. Short story: I geeked out at a focus group session!!

User Testing Facility

Long story: One of the current projects involves user research to understand how consumers feel about their mobile technologies. The Scheduling Gods have been good to me, as I started my internship just in time to observe the first focus group session! The session was conducted in a professional user testing facility, so there was an observation space in the back of the main room, separated by a soundproof 2-way mirror. Outside of feeling super official and secretive, it provided the opportunity to take accurate observational notes without disrupting the process with my presence. The facility aside, it was rewarding to watch my boss conduct the focus group. She controlled the room, listened to all participants (even the quiet ones), dug deeper on interesting comments, and miraculously stayed on schedule.

Boss meets 2-way mirrirThough, I was most impressed by her ability to get the participants contributing in meaningful ways. The focus group included a fair amount of brainstorming about alternative uses (e.g., how would you use this at home versus at work) and I was concerned about the participants aligning with one example and not venturing past that to introduce new concepts. But I suppose when you have a good facilitator, the ideas are clearly explained so participants grasp the concepts and then contributed their ideas to the brainstorm. They came up with very creative solutions that I hadn’t considered – what more can a UXer ask for?!

CORPORATE FIRST IMPRESSIONS. My first impressions of corporate life are surprisingly positive. Intel is ginormous, so there’s no way to get to know all of the people at work. You know what that means: STRATEGY! I’m still working on the details, but I plan to spend as much time in the office (for face-time) and scheduling strategic 1-on-1s with people throughout my team and the company. My goal is to build a substantial professional network at Intel because…why on earth not?!

Intel-life is also helping my healthy-eating life! Every day, Intel stocks the cafeterias with free fresh fruit and fruit-infused water. I could get used to sipping raspberry-pineapple water while snacking on apricots and finalizing user testing surveys. Just saying.

.what I learned in the first year of grad school

Before I began graduate school, I knew that in order to justify thousands (and thousands and thousands…) of dollars towards an advanced degree, I had to have a plan. So, I set some goals and decided to hit the road running towards them. This is a post I started at the beginning of my master’s program and was originally titled what I learned in the first five weeks of grad school. I could lie and say that I waited to publish this until I had a year of graduate school under my belt, but the truth is that I got busy, forgot, and then stumbled on this in my drafts.

I’m happy it worked out this way. My first semester was a breeze and my second semester was a tornado, but these two experiences balanced my first year allowing me to now tell a complete story.

PERSPECTIVE. Understanding how concepts can be applied to the real world is an advantage. For me, that meant working for four years and returning to an enriching environment with endless opportunities to better myself. Now, when people ask about my interests, I use it as an opportunity to discuss my intermediate and long-term professional goals. When pouring over the course catalog, “This looks cool!” wasn’t good enough; classes have to contribute to the skills I want to develop in the course of my program. Having perspective means understanding how the program, the education, and your skills fit into the bigger scheme of things.

NETWORKING > HOMEWORK. Graduate school is about expanding your professional network and establishing yourself in the industry you want to pursue after graduation. Sure, grades, projects, and exams are a thing, but being able to connect to the professional world and pick experts’ brains about the things you’re studying adds another layer of perspective. Atlanta has a unique vibe, with a budding start up environment. This means there are lots of creatives (designers, user experience professionals, developers) looking to establish and maintain a community. You know what happens when you start going meet ups, talks, exhibits, and lectures? You see familiar faces, you run into people that want to introduce you to more people, and they ask your opinion about their ideas. You start to feel like a part of a real professional community. Of course, when you get home there’s reading to be done, but overlapping your social life and professional interests is a great time saver and a good way to stay sane in the mix.

MAKE EVERYTHING COUNT. TWICE. Speaking of time-savers, leverage the things you produce in graduate school for other purposes. Team project? Make it good enough to add to your portfolio. Writing critiques? Publish it on a blog. Attending a guest lecture? Tweet about the key points to connect to the social community. If anything you’re doing can be re-purposed, do it!

PROTECT YOUR SANITY! You’ve got to protect and fight for the things that matter to you, in general life but especially in grad school. There’s never a convenient time to do the things you love so you’ve got to make time for them. Once a month I blocked off a full Saturday to bake to my heart’s content. My boyfriend travels for work during the week, so it was important that I reserved weekends to hang out with him. Some people in my program started bi-weekly dinners to get together, eat good food, and get away from school for a bit. The possibilities and combinations are endless, but the bottom line is that sanity is important. I found that leveraging networking opportunities for sanity purposes was a great way to make everything count twice. I can’t tell you how many General Assembly events I attended because I needed a (free) beer while talking to young professionals to get my creative juices flowing.

Sure, grad school can suck you up and take over your life but this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Make everything count, keep your eyes on the prize, and take care of yourself – it will all work out just fine. If you’re in graduate school or considering it, best of luck! I’d love to hear other perspectives and lessons learned.

#100inPDX

Flight to Portland

I am spending the summer in Portland, OR interning at Intel Corporation with the Mobility Client Platforms group. The summer will last from mid-May to mid-August, a total of 100 days!* I want to remember every meal, feeling, trip, moment, and laugh to the best of my abilities. What better way than to blog my way through the summer?

* Technically, I will spend about 103 days in Portland and I haven’t purchased my return ticket. But, 100 is such a great, even number – let me have this.

CRA-W 2015 Grad Cohort

Monet at CRA-W

My relationship with technology is intimate and deeply integrated in my thinking and view of the world around me. I could not imagine existing outside of the tech bubble, and am fortunate to know that I belong. Women in computing are brilliant, powerful beings that deserve supportive experiences to network, engage, and be inspired by other women in computing. I often assert this opinion to already agreeing crowds – preaching to the choir, if you will – but in my experience, this point can’t be stressed enough.

As a Black woman in this field, I often have to compartmentalize my identity and network with women or African Americans in a small, technical spaces to see myself validated in pieces.

I studied Computer Science at Wellesley College, an all women’s college in Massachusetts. This means that my education was cultivated in a bubble of support and validation by people that strongly supported women in computer science. The best part about attending an all-women’s college is seeing yourself reflected at the top. At Wellesley, women always held the prestigious titles of valedictorian, student government president, and first author. I saw myself reflected in these accomplishments and constantly felt the affirmation of my abilities and belonging. Upon graduation, I realized that examples of women in computing are not as abundant in the real world, so I have to intentionally seek these validating opportunities, e.g. conferences for women in computing.

The 2015 Grad Cohort Workshop was the first time in my post-undergraduate, professional career that I had the opportunity to meet a large group of women in computing. Among the conference attendees, I easily identified potential mentors, advisors, and peers that looked like me, shared my professional interests, and could understand the details of my experiences. This feeling of community and validation is exactly what I sought in attending Grad Cohort.

Outside of traditional network opportunities, I felt like the community at Grad Cohort was genuinely invested in the professional development of each attendee. My secondary objective for attending Grad Cohort was to answer a personal question: Should I pursue a PhD after my Master’s program? This is something I have been grappling with and trying to figure out in a silo. At my institution, there are brilliant professors and advisors, but without seeing my identity reflected in the roster, I wasn’t sure that pursuing an advanced degree was right for me. At Grad Cohort, I received a variety of opinions and spoke with people that genuinely cared about my decision. I strongly believe in these forums as opportunities for successful women in computing to advocate for the collective inclusion and offer informed advice to other women.

As valuable as seeing so many women in computing was to me and my experience at Grad Cohort, the number of African American women pursuing advanced degrees in computing blew me away. As a Black woman in this field, I often have to compartmentalize my identity and network with women or African Americans in a small, technical spaces to see myself validated in pieces. I met intelligent, driven women pursuing Human-Computer Interaction and working on things I’ve always found interesting. The connections I made at Grad Cohort will follow me, as I am positive that I met the movers and shakers that I will continue to read about and work with throughout my career. I will continue to rave about my experience at Grad Cohort, because I want to spread the word to as many other women in computing as possible. Every woman deserves to feel overwhelming support and validation a professional, research-oriented, computing space such as Grad Cohort.

UX Essentials

MS-HCI Alumni: Monet Spells,  Lee Farabaugh, Jeanie Barker, Florian Foerster, and Erica Newcomb.

I attended a UX Essentials workshop hosted by PointClear Solutions, a consulting company reimagining healthcare technology. The workshop was made possible by a scholarship opportunity extended to Georgia Tech MS-HCI students. Fun Fact: The two workshop facilitators, Lee Farabaugh (CXO) and Erica Newcomb (Director, UX) are graduates of the Georgia Tech MS-HCI program!

MS-HCI Students + Alumni: Monet Spells '16,  Lee Farabaugh, Jeanie Barker, Florian Foerster '15, and Erica Newcomb.

MS-HCI Students + Alumni: Monet Spells ’16, Lee Farabaugh, Jeanie Barker, Florian Foerster ’15, and Erica Newcomb.

A word at a time. To kickoff the workshop, we did a group-story building exercise. We went around the room and each person said a word to build onto the previous words. “I once rode a kitten on a trampoline because magic…” would not be an uncommon phrase from this activity. The primary purpose of this activity was to stress the importance of listening to the story being created so you can contribute in a meaningful way. The same of true of UX design: to understand improvement strategies, you must understand the ways the users and the company understand the product. The secondary purpose is to appreciate the results of a collaborative environment. The story may take an unexpected turn, but diversity of thought is a key to success.

Design Thinking. For the first few hours of the workshop, we did a design-thinking activity to understand an empathetic approach to product planning and design. For the activity, we broke into pairs to understand how our “client” navigated the gift-giving experience to design a product based on their wants and needs (pulled from a series of 4-minute interviews). This fast-paced activity gave the perfect glimpse into what it means to take an empathetic participatory-design approach. This activity is based out of the D-School at Stanford.

Lean UX. We created proto-personas to make educated, empathetic guesses about target users in a Lean way. A proto-persona is an educated guess about a user type based on the designers’ personal experience. While it isn’t based on real information collected from users, it offers the opportunity for quick-UX research that allows for user reference-points throughout the process. Of course, putting a concept or prototype in front of users is imperative throughout the process, but proto-personas can start the ball rolling.

Mobile UX. I have a confession: I was once very skeptical of the value of the mobile experience. Throughout my time in Georgia, especially in this HCI program, I understand that one should consider the implications of any design decision they make – mobile versus desktop experience included. In the workshop, we discussed the process of evaluating the need for mobile and the various possibilities for mobile development (native, web app, hybrid). Each of these impact the user experience and should be taken into consideration. For example, native apps can access phone-features such as GPS and tilt-functionalities but updating requires a user-download, so the releases should be well tested and strategic. Web apps can’t take advantage of phone-features, require wireless access, but have the benefit of continuous deploys, so releases can be small and highly iterative. There are pros and cons to everything, so consideration and informed decisions are key.

The workshop was informative, interactive, and well conducted. The participant group was professionally diverse (product managers, developers, entrepreneurs, medical nurses, UX designers and researchers, etc.), providing a great backdrop for the workshop discussions. It’s refreshing to see that so many people are interested in and understand the value of user experience! It also provided context for the things I’m studying in HCI. We constantly talk about the value of empathy, users, research, usability testing, etc., and it’s refreshing to see that these concepts are still valuable in an industry setting.

This post is based on a Facebook summary post by Florian, the other workshop scholarship winner. Thanks!