All posts by gknoop1

Blog #6 – “English, please” (The Power and Purpose of Plain Language)

Being technically inclined is a blessing and a curse; I’m able to troubleshoot my own issues with computers, but people sometimes ask for my help. It isn’t that the request for my help is a problem, but it irritates me to no end when I try to explain something in simple terms and it’s requested that I give directions “in English”. However, I understand the nature of the request. Plain language is vital when it comes to teaching a skill to people who lack fundamental knowledge about a specialized area within STEM.

A year or two ago, I was trying to teach my grandmother how to use a computer. I had to break everything down using simpler terms. She knew what I meant when I said she had to “click” an “icon”, but she didn’t know the names for things. She could grasp the concept of a “browser”, but she knew programs better as just that – programs. She knew each program was used for a different purpose, but she didn’t know them by name, as she doesn’t have much experience with computers. Plain language is especially helpful when explaining concepts marked by generational gaps (e.g. how to use a modern OS on a computer).

What I was saying earlier about being asked to use “English” when explaining how to troubleshoot an issue – that was something my aunt said to me when I visited her in Texas recently.  I’ve realized time and time again that it is absolutely crucial to use plain language with people who possess a basic understanding of computers. As a Computer Science major surrounded by technically inclined people, it’s easy to forget. People lose interest in what you’re talking about and get frustrated when you don’t use plain language. In the context of the general public, it is especially important to use plain language when speaking about STEM concepts because it serves to inform people in terms they understand. Now, there’s also a time and place for more technical/advanced terminology, but that is only with people who have an intermediate or advanced understanding of the topic you speak about.

Using plain language to explain computer science concepts to a beginner is extremely different from using plain language to explain the same concepts to say, a database administrator. Plain language, while helpful to beginners, can serve to irritate advanced users and also slow down the process of learning/teaching. If you are aware that a person understands the more advanced concepts of what you’re speaking about, then it’s important that you use vocabulary effectively in order to explain things in a reasonably succinct fashion.

I strongly agree that the author is responsible for using appropriate language when speaking to their audience. Before you even begin to write a piece, it is your responsibility, as the author, to know who your intended audience is. If you’re speaking to people who work within the same field, use the language you’d normally use. However, if you’re speaking to beginners or if there’s any doubt about who will see what you’ve written, use plain language! The audience bears the responsibility of asking questions when instructions are unclear.  Now, the author should write in a manner that enables the audience to understand what they’re talking about, but if uncommon/advanced terms or concepts are left undefined, then they might be doing more harm than help by leaving the audience in the dust, so to speak. The reader has the power to inform the author of the effectiveness of the piece. If there are any errors or if the piece lacks clarity, then the audience is able to inform the author and vicariously (through the author) ensure that future readers will be able to attain the understanding of the concepts that they seek to understand by reading the writer’s piece.

In conclusion:

  • Plain language makes STEM subjects more appealing to beginners because it makes it easier to understand them.
  • Plain language can work against a technical communicator because it can slow down communication between two people who are well-versed about the same subject.
  • It is the author’s responsibility to know their audience and it is the audience’s responsibility to inform the author of any flaws in the writing.

Blog #3 – Beyond the Resume / Using the Internet to Improve My Image

Currently, my online/professional identity is presented in a pretty generic format. I have a website set up with some basic information about myself that includes a link to my resume. Eventually, I’d like to create a video resume and a portfolio to show off what I’m capable of. Additionally, I’d like to revise my existing resume to be more interesting and also more specific.

Right now, my resume is pretty basic. It lists my job experience, the schools I’ve attended, and the organizations I was involved in during high school. I use a template that I found in the Microsoft Word template library; it forces all-caps for titles and the text is blue. I don’t feel like it really stands out. It would probably be in my best interest to create different resumes for different types of jobs; I’m not sure that it makes a good impression for potential employers to see I was working at a skating rink called “Fun Galaxy” at one point.

Hmm, yes, the smell of sweat masked by the smell of Lysol. Potential employers will definitely want to hear about this.
Hmm, yes, the smell of sweat masked by the smell of Lysol. Potential employers will definitely want to hear about this.

I think using a QR code would be wise for a more “modern” version of my resume; the code could be a link to my website, which, ideally would have  a portfolio showcasing different projects (i.e. code samples from programming classes, contributions to my high school’s yearbook, and some of the music I’ve made).

Scan it if you're feeling bold.
Scan it if you’re feeling bold.

Using a video resume would be beneficial because video is inherently multimodal and using this format would allow employers to get a glimpse at who I am, as well as how I present myself. Video allows applicants to showcase something that typed resumes can’t: their personality.

In the video below, a man uses video to inform and entertain viewers, in hopes of getting hired at Google.

Ultimately, I want to present myself as being multi-faceted, and I believe a video resume is probably the best way to accomplish this. I’d be able to show off my personality and also, since video is multi-modal, I could use the format to present brief snippets of non-written work from my portfolio (e.g. music).

In conclusion, I think my image would benefit from excluding irrelevant information about my prior work experience and using the internet to create a more interactive and multi-modal piece for employers to review.

Blog #2 – On Resume Ethics, Personal Identity

Due to the discriminatory process of sorting applications and the extremely competitive nature of the application process, I believe that it is completely justifiable for people to alter their identity and exaggerate their qualifications for the purpose of getting an interview.

Discrimination is still very real. Studies have been conducted to measure the correlation between ethnic names and callbacks for job applications. A lot of the time, people with more distinct, ethnic names won’t get callbacks, while people with more common names (e.g. “Caitlin” or “Cody”) will. Beyond race, there are gender-related issues that go beyond the binary. Women often tend to have trouble getting jobs in male-dominated fields, and it’s especially difficult for transfolk to get jobs pretty much anywhere. I don’t think it’s dishonest to alter your identity by using initials or even changing your name on the application. Hiring managers look at the names and use them to make assumptions about peoples’ identities.

Normally, peoples’ names might exclude them from the interview process entirely, but I’ve considered that their names might create expectations for the interview, if they are called to do one. For example, a transwoman named Jane might be called for an interview; the hiring managers will likely expect a ciswoman. Alternatively, if a Black man were to change his name from D’Angelo to Adrian on his application, the managers may be expecting a white man for the interview. Obviously, the managers are at fault for any prejudices they may have, but I feel like it’s worth considering that “resume ethics” aren’t the real issue here; it often tends to be the morals and expectations of those who conduct the interviews and look through the applications.

Example of a job post with a long list of skills – applicants are likely to have a few of these, rather than all of them.

Additionally, the job market is extremely competitive. I have a lot of friends who are technical majors or work in a technical field and several of them have explained that when hiring managers are looking to fill a position, their listings are unrealistic. Oftentimes, HR departments post descriptions for what would be a perfect candidate for the job (e.g. “x years of experience with A-type programming”, “y years of experience with B-type programming”, “z years of experience with C-type programming”). The majority of the time, they wind up hiring someone who has some of the qualifications listed in the description.

I have a friend who never finished college and has a job that pays close to 100k a year. He works within a group that works for the Department of Defense. He taught himself some of the skills the job required, but for the most part, he was just very good at interviewing. He is probably the best example I can think of for why it should be okay to bend the conventions for writing a resume. He wasn’t truly qualified for the job, but he was proactive in teaching himself some of what he would need to know and becoming the best employee he possibly could become after getting the job. My understanding is that he came from a low-income family and worked his way up. Some may argue that more qualified people should have these positions “reserved” for them, and I don’t completely disagree, but I think that the people who make the effort to secure positions like this shouldn’t be excluded. I understand that this might be harmful to people who are totally qualified for certain positions and I have trouble justifying it when considering that. However, I feel that there should be preference given to people whose groups are underrepresented (as long as they are able to perform the job well), examples being women, racial minorities, and people of non-binary genders.

In conclusion, I defend the approach of stretching the truth to get an interview because it tends to yield workers who are ambitious and proactive, while also circumventing the biases of the people who review applications and resumes before interviewing applicants.


Blog #5 – Statement of (General) Interest (Technical Coordinator, Copywriter, Project Manager)

For the project, I would like to be considered for the role of Technical Coordinator. I am a Computer Science major and am obsessed with technology. I can learn pretty much any software I’m needed to. I spend a lot of time organizing data in Excel spreadsheets for my job. I would say that I’m obsessed with data; I’ve been obsessed with the metadata of my music collection since middle school. Last week, I spent several hours creating a form in Google Docs, mostly for the sake of familiarizing myself with the tools.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m pretty versatile. During late elementary school, I developed an interest in building websites. Throughout middle school, I created several blogs and web forums, some of which were mildly successful and used by both classmates and friends. During high school, I founded a film production club, created a song from vocal stems that I recorded for a friend’s choral group (so that he could submit it for a national competition), and also managed the social media pages for two bands and my uncle (during his 2012 Congressional campaign).

I feel that my familiarity with various software applications combined with my experience in working with people in different fields makes me a good fit for this position. I already have ideas for how I can create a collaborative work environment for my team and ensure that the final product is the best one we, as a team, are capable of creating.

If I’m not elected for the position of Technical Coordinator, I’d be just as comfortable working as a Copywriter. In my senior year of high school, I was a (brutal) body copy editor for my school’s yearbook; there was one occasion where I made a student rewrite the content on their page because I didn’t think it was good enough. I may seem unpleasant and even a bit pretentious, but I have very high standards for the content that I produce. I would honestly be fine with any being assigned any of the roles except for the role of designer – I’ve never been much of a visual artist.

I can be reached via Skype, Google Talk, LinkedIn, e-mail, and text/iMessage.
My schedule is extremely flexible, so feel free to contact me any time.

Awkward Freshman ID
Contact Info
Skype – asubtlewind
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Phone – 678-982-6194