02 May

Course Review: UX Design from a Print Designer

This past February, my fellow pepper, Dave Meade, and I wrapped up a 10-week User Experience Design course through General Assembly. It was quite an experience, with many highs and lows, but we both walked away with a greater understanding of the complex UX field and a fun final project. I came into the class with a print design background, and it was exciting (and a little terrifying) to translate those skills into UX design. There are many takeaways I could share from our experience, but here are my top three:

It’s all about PEOPLE.

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that user experience design is about the user. As designers, we’ve all been enthusiastic about the next big idea only to have the client not understand it. That scenario can be even more crushing when a user can’t actually use your product efficiently. It’s the UX designer’s job to listen to and observe human behavior (especially things they struggle with), and then make design decisions that will ultimately solve people’s problems. No sweat, right? It’s a challenge, but the end result is worth it. Bottom line: you are not your user.

Try something NEW.

No matter what point you’re at in your career, you should never stop learning. The design field in general is always moving and changing, and it’s our responsibility to move and change with it. User Experience Design seems like the hot new thing, but really it’s been around for a long time…it just has a fancier name now. Humans have been trying to optimize their surroundings for maximum user comfort for centuries. Today, we are focused on doing this through technology (apps, web sites, etc.). For me, it was the technology that was intimidating. But once I learned about UX’s history and how it’s impacted our culture, I started to think about the field in a more accessible and enlightening way. I still have a lot to learn, but I am more confident in my approach and what I can bring to the table. You’re never starting at ground zero; we all have a unique perspective that can be applied to any new skill. That doesn’t sound so scary, right?

Stay CONNECTED.

I was hesitant about taking an online class. How would I interact with my classmates in a meaningful way? While relying on technology to run the class had its’ challenges (dropped audio, trouble sharing screens, etc.), it turns out there are other benefits to online classes than being able to attend in your pajamas. We were all so used to connecting in a virtual space for the class, that the conversations continued in that space after the lectures were over. Slack message chains were developed, where classmates could post links to resources and funny memes. It felt natural to connect on other virtual platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. And even though there were people in the class from all over the country, Dave and I found there were a few classmates in Maryland (and very close by!). I’ve already met with one such classmate for coffee, and we talked for 3 hours. Expanding your personal and professional network is possible in any setting if you are open to it.



WRITTEN BY

Audra Harvey
Designer at 11p, Avid Traveler, Miniature Golf Pro, Baker of Delicious Treats.

 

 

29 Apr

Celebrating 5 Years: Ryan Kelly

Today we are celebrating another five year work anniversary, Ryan Kelly, Senior UX Designer. Ryan has been a critical part of our UX team for the last 5 years, sleighing any UX task that comes before him, and known for his friendly, upbeat personality. He’s also a talented illustrator, often seen with a sketchbook in his hands, doodling or drafting up the next logo or practicing his hand lettering. Check out this graphic for more info about Ryan, and read our incredible interview:


 

 

1: What do you like most about working at 11P? Simple. I love the people! We’re fun, exciting, and freaking talented! I have never worked with such a diversely talented group of people. That alone, is inspiring…and motivating! Our company is run by wonderful people who make it their priority to put us first no matter what. I’ve worked for both small and large companies and by far, Kristen and Bryan got it right.

 

2: What is a favorite 11P memory? Visiting Atlanta for the HOW Conference. So many memories made during that weekend! From spending time with friends to walking away truly inspired and ready to crank out some awesome creative stuff!

 

3: What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P?  Technically the Squatty Potty was an employee white elephant gift. So probably the Disney trip. Duh!

Jesse Evans brought a Squatty Potty to our holiday party white elephant gift exchange. I got it. Someone stole it from me. Luckily, Albert also brought the same gift! But unfortunately someone stole that one too. I think I ended up with some Goslings Rum.

So yeah, Disney.

 

4: What is your favorite 11P event? Needless to say that our holiday parties are always fun. Especially when you win big at blackjack! The Parks definitely know how to throw a party. It’s great to get all the peppers together since we don’t get to see each other all the time.

 

5: If you were a pepper, what type of pepper would you be and why? Poblano. It’s mild and versatile. Everyone likes a poblano. You can stuff it, chop it, stick ’em in a stew.

 

6: Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice: Krista Cochran.
Krista’s the type of person you can totally open up to. She became a pepper in 2015 and went straight to work on our UX team and instantly, a life-long friendship was created. We might have been regulars at a local sandwich shop for lunch. Codename: DOGPOUND

 

7: Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you: Melissa “the Don” London.
The Don’s work ethic is legendary. I hear her name whispered from time to time between our customers. No joke, the new team I’m on brought me an example of a brochure she designed and asked us to “do something like this.” Now those were big shoes to fill.

 

8: My spice meter :

  • Complete wimp
  • Will proceed with caution
  • A subtle flame!
  • A little sweat never hurt
  • The spicier, the better!

 

Get to know Ryan a little bit better…

1: Favorite Star Wars character and why?
Chewbacca. Well, I can do a pretty good Chewbacca roar.
Other reasons:
Chewbacca sounds from everyday objects
10 best Chewbacca quotes

 

2: You’ve just brewed the perfect IPA. Describe the flavor. What it’s called?
*the perfect hazy NEIPA…
It’s called “Floccinghell, this is good!”
The reference is from yeast “flocculation.” And I might sometimes say this after sipping a perfectly crafted NEIPA.
The description: A fluffy mouthfeel with a citrusy burst of tropical fruits and maybe a subtle coconut.
Thirsty now aren’t you…

 

3: Favorite local brewery? Favorite national brewery?
Local: Sapwood Cellars in Columbia – the owners are known nationally for their skill and pushing the limits. We’re lucky to have them so close!
National: The Veil in Richmond – Every single beer they put out is perfect. And their taste in artwork is pretty cool too. They put on the best festival I’ve ever been too called the Forever Summer Festival. You must attend if you like craft beer!

 

4: Name your favorite all-time Orioles player.
This may be a shock to some people, but no not Ryan Flaherty (or Ron Flattery as he’s called by some lower shoremen). Eddie Murray – He played first base and could hit from both sides of the plate. His stats are amazing. He’s why I chose to play first base growing up.

 

5: If you were a pro baseball player, what would your up-to-bat walk-up song be?
Wake up, Rage Against the Machine

 

6: Favorite daddy/daughter time event?
She is a dancer. It doesn’t matter where we are. Out of nowhere she will come up to me, grab my hands, and get me to do a quick dance move (usually spin her) and go about her way. It could be while shopping in the mall, the middle of Baltimore Inner Harbor, or on our way to her teeball game. I love this and hope that she never stops doing it.

 

7: How many times have you watched your daughter’s favorite movie (estimate), and what is it?
Well, her favorite movie changes from time to time…but we have watched “Dolphin Tale” over 1,000 times. She loves dolphins (probably because her god-mama, Aunt Erica does as well). We went to the Baltimore Aquarium during Fleet Week one year and she wanted to go down to talk to the dolphin trainers. She asked 100 questions and told them she wanted to save dolphins one day.

 

8: Favorite movie of all time?
Usual Suspects. “I’ll flip ya fa real.”

 

9: Any secret talents or hobbies? If so, what?
I consider myself a craftsman. I tear stuff apart and put it back together. I like woodworking, maintaining my car, and creating something from nothing to hang on a wall. Side note: my jetta currently has 275,000 miles and I’ve done all the maintenance on it. I’m a little proud of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Apr

Pepper Talk with Debbie Williams

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting up-close and person with Deb. Just a little background before we get started, Deb has been with Eleven Peppers Studio for about 3 years. She currently works on UX projects for the government sector but also has a lot of experience working as an Instructional Designer. Read her Q&A below!


1: Do you have any nicknames?
Just about everyone close to me calls me Deb…

 

2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Make coffee! I’m a morning person but no conversations until coffee. Shortly after, I’m also scrolling through text messages from my kids and then jumping online to catch up on emails or see what’s going on in the world.

 

 3: How would you describe your design style?
I like clean, simple designs. My writing style is conversational and I enjoy incorporating elements of story-telling into my writing.

 

4: How did you get started?
I graduated from Penn State (yay Nittany Lions) and began my career working as a systems engineer. After staying home with my kids when they were little, I decided to enroll in a master’s program in instructional design where I could combine my passion for teaching with my interest in technology. Since then, I’ve worked on all sorts of instructional design projects including serious learning games, simulations, web-based training courses, and instructor-led training. I’m really interested in finding out how people learn and thinking about how best to use multi-media to express an idea or explain a complicated concept.

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorites: I like anything Adobe.

Worst: PowerPoint, SharePoint.

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I’m a research junkie so when I start a new project, I love to research the audience. I also like to draw inspiration from other ideas and will spend time seeing what other people are up to.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
I would have to say my kids often provide my greatest inspiration – Lauren (25), Allison (23), and Michael (21). They give me lots of ideas to draw from and they keep me young! For style and color inspiration, I look for ideas in fashion and interior design.

 

 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Caffeine…coffee, lots of it.
Sweet or Savory: Sweet…any kind of chocolate
Favorite Movie: The Shawshank Redemption.
Guilty Pleasure: Watching old episodes of The Office
Hobbies: Hiking, reading, crafts, any activity near the beach!

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
The yellow smiley face…it’s simple and make people feel happy.


Thanks for meeting Deb. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

29 Mar

Insiders Guide: Tips for Working Remotely

Did you know that a good chunk of Eleven Peppers work remotely? Thanks to technology in our digital era, 50% of the workforce in the United States has some kind of telecommuting role, according to Global Workplace Analytics. While it has numerous advantages, there are also easy traps employees can fall into while working remotely. These, if left unchecked, can reduce productivity and lead to discouraged employees.

That’s not what we want, so we interviewed some of our most effective telecommuters and got their best kept secrets (not secret anymore) for anyone venturing into remote work. Here are some tips for working effectively and efficiently outside of the office.

Dress for Success
No need to suit up when you’re at home but it is best to change into a different outfit than you slept in. Even if you only switch into a different set of comfy clothes, it will signal to your brain that it’s time to start working. Some people have specific clothes that they only wear while they are working to help support a separation between home and work life.

Create an Office Space
To further distinguish that feeling of separation, we suggest creating an area in your house that is just for working. If you don’t have the room, rearrange your furniture in a way that establishes your work and non-work space. This could be as simple as clearing off your coffee table so that you only have work “approved” items– coffee cup (of course), laptop, favorite motivational quote, all of the sticky notes, and don’t forget, tons of light to keep you awake.

Keep Regular Hours
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being connected 24/7 while working from home. To avoid burnout, we recommend instituting regular working hours as you would if you reported to the office. Come up with a morning ritual that signifies the start of your work day and create a routine at the end of the day that will allow you to mentally unplug from work. One example commonly used among our pepper family is taking an exercise class every weekday at 5:30 pm.

Set Goals
Prioritize your work day and set realistic goals for yourself. In a remote setting, without anyone coming by your desk checking up on you, it’s vital to hold yourself accountable. Stick with your daily and weekly goals by creating a master to-do list to pull from. Items should be listed by level of importance, the highest priority goes at the top of the list. We also suggest scheduling regular check-ins with your supervisor or success partner  to help you stay on task.

Get Up, Stand Up
Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you should skip taking a break. Studies have shown that it is beneficial for employees to take short breaks after accomplishing a task or goal. So get up and stretch, do something to reward yourself, make some coffee, take your dog for a short walk, or play your favorite song and air guitar your way into your next to-do item.

Stay Connected
Don’t forget the human element. When you can, step away from your laptop and attend a workshop or conference. If your company has in-person meetings or events, make an effort to attend in order to stay connected to the company and your fellow employees. On a day-to-day level, try working in a coffee shop to break up your technology-only day with some human interaction, even if it is just the barista asking if you want another venti soy latte– joking, we’re espresso people.

14 Mar

Celebrating 5 Years: Theresa Santelli

Today we are celebrating another five year work anniversary, Theresa Santelli, Director of Creative Services. Theresa has been instrumental in leading one of our award winning private-sector teams and has rightfully earned the respect of her teammates, and of course, her customers. She recently transitioned into her new Director role to support the strategy and operations of ALL of our creative services. Check out this graphic for more info about Theresa, and read our special interview:


 

 

1: What do you like most about working at 11P? The lack of BS… and the trust. The trust I feel is put in me and the trust I have in my bosses and co-workers alike.

 

2: What is a favorite 11P memory (in words or in sketch)? The second 11p Holiday Party. It was the point in my mind when symbolically it all came together. To look around and see how far we had come since the year before when we all fit at one table (and I was still waiting for a start date J). Kristen had such a look of gratitude on her face when she looked around the room… it was like …Look what we did!! Amazing!

 

3: What is your favorite Christmas present ever received from 11P? Disney World! It was the best! I love Disney World! I even reached a new level of Disney nerdom on that trip when a few of us (Albert and his now wife and Popka and her family were there with me) got on a bus before the sun even rose to catch an early magic hour at Animal Kingdom to get in line for the new Avatar Flight of Passage ride. Yup! New level! This girl, not a morning person. Good thing we did though. Later that day the line was like 4 hours long.

 

4: What is your favorite 11P event? I don’t have one because I can’t choose. We are always trying new things, which I LOVE trying new things and many times just a simple happy hour turns out to be so much fun too.

 

5: If you were a pepper, what type of pepper would you be and why? Thai Chili because it’s with an “H”

 

6: Name a Pepper you can always lean on for support or advice: There are so many! I’ve been lucky enough to work directly with several peppers all of which have been amazing people as well as co-workers. To name one though I have to say one I haven’t worked with, Dave. He’s my partner in crime (disclaimer: not real crimes). He listens to all my things (or at least acts like he’s listening 😉 ), tells me things will be okay when I’m upset, and is happy when I’m happy.

 

7: Name a Pepper whose work or work ethic inspires you: Debbie. It’s inspiring how dedicated she is to how a project will turn out.

 

8: My spice meter :

  • Complete wimp
  • Will proceed with caution
  • A subtle flame!
  • A little sweat never hurt
  • The spicier, the better!

 

Get to know Theresa a little bit better…

1: Where is the furthest you’ve traveled from home?
Cusco, Peru (that took some serious googling, with London, England coming in a close second with only a 13 mile difference between the two).

 

2: Where do you want to travel next?
We have a trip to Zion National Park planned for next month. I love going to national parks, and love traveling in general.

 

3: How many trails have you hiked (estimate)?
How many hikes and how many trails is different. I’ve hiked the same trails several times and couldn’t possibly come up with a number of hikes (in the hundreds). But the number of trails not hikes, hmmm, probably about 75 spanning various states, countries, and continents.

 

4: What is your favorite hike so far?
Inca Trail (Peru), but other top tier are Iceberg Lake (Glacier/Montana) and Half Dome (Yosemite/California).

 

5: If you could be ANY superhero/have their powers, who would it be?
So, I feel like saying Wonder Woman is cheating because who doesn’t want to be a demigod raised by Amazons, so Logan/Wolverine. If I had super healing I could get really good at so much stuff!! No injuries, no recovery time, no illness!! I would have so many more black belts!

 

6: If you had to pick one wine to drink the rest of your life, what would it be?
Whoa, this question hurts my heart a little, but pinot noir. I miss the others already and this isn’t even real.

 

7: What is your favorite type of yoga practice?
Hatha is my favorite and the one I couldn’t live without but I like it all.

 

8: If you were a type of coffee, what would it be?
Espresso.

 

9: Any secret talents or hobbies?
Yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Feb

Pepper Talk with Jill Nemec

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re snooping into the inner-working mind of Jill N. Just a little background before we get started: Jill is a Senior User Experience Designer and has been with Eleven Peppers for a little over 4 years… get ready for her 5 year anniversary interview in September! If you’re ever in the need of someone for a Murder Mystery party, she’s your gal! Read her Q&A below!


1: Do you have any nicknames?
Oh lots and lots – Jilly, Jill the Pill, Jilly Bean, Jillian, Jill the Thrill and what I call myself when I’m irritated or exasperated with myself… Bean.

 

 2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Look at all the texts that have rolled in throughout the night from my 19 family members (mostly nonsense, but sometime emergencies), open up the blinds for all my high maintenance plants, drink hot water, and start getting dressed.

 

 3: How would you describe your design style?
Simplicity.

 

4: How did you get started?
Started at Seattle University pursuing a degree in Social Work and after two years I reevaluated and took a hard turn transferring far away to Virginia Tech and into their Architecture program. After receiving my BS at VT I decided I still needed some more education (my parents were of course overjoyed) and headed to Savannah, GA to SCAD to get my MFA in Graphic Design.

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Favorites: First and foremost my retired type A personality Father/My Personal Assistant aka Papa Joe (gotta keep him busy). Along with Google Calendar, Timers, ibooks and Nook, Alexa (when we aren’t in an argument), and my first love AutoCAD.

Worst: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram… sensing a trend!?!?

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Ask lots of questions, research, ask questions again, get some hot water, and then jump in.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Architecture mostly, patterns, and textures (I have to touch everything so museums can be extremely frustrating).

 

 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Moderate Caffeine via Nespresso or fellow pepper, Albert–my favorite Barista
Sweet or Savory: Savory
Favorite Movie: Field of Dreams
Guilty Pleasure: Psycho thrillers/Murder Mysteries
Hobbies: Skiing (snow and water), paddle boarding, cleaning and organizing (seriously), screen printing, reading, rock collecting, hiking

 

9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
The Roomba!


Thanks for meeting Jill N. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

13 Feb

PCI Logo Development Deep Dive

A logo is a key element to a successful brand identity. For most potential customers or clients, it’s the first impression they have with a company. Immediately, many judgements can be made, though they might not all be true. A company’s personality or energy, the type of experience a customer will encounter, the level of quality of advertised service or product, even what this service or product will cost, can all be reflected in a logo. For these reasons, it’s vital to ensure your company’s logo embodies your corporate personality and product or service being sold.

When embarking on a logo rebrand, like the one we created for PCI, Eleven Peppers Studios (EPS) meets with our clients to gather as much data we can to help influence or design decisions. Most times we like to know: Who is your primary demographic? What is your corporate culture? How would you like to see your business grow? How would you like your business to be perceived? How does your company differentiate from the competition? Along with many more questions…

PCI was facing a pivotal moment in their history. Not only were they about to celebrate 10 years in business but they had outgrown their name, formerly PCI Strategic Management. Their old name did not accurately encompass all of the unique services they provide and could mistakenly pigeon-hole them as “just” a strategic management company. This combined with a logo design that could be perceived as outdated, is a perfect recipe for a rebrand!

Lucky for EPS, PCI was completely open to our creative process. After doing extensive research and gathering information on PCI, like an Autumn squirrel hoarding nuts, EPS begins the mind mapping and sketching phase. It’s best to get several Peppers involved in this process since designing a logo is no easy feat. A simple solution can take months (and months) of sketching and revisions. Below is a snapshot of some of our sketching and logo development process.

 

 

PCI’s initial logo was conservative, unimaginative and most importantly did not reflect their corporate brand. The final PCI logo solution incorporates the flame symbol that was subtly visible in their previous logo but now in a modern and energetic way. The dynamic nature of the flame represents PCI’s expansive capability offerings and reach as a firm. This dynamic mark combined with the movement of the typography, represents the role PCI plays in overcoming challenges. Overall, the forward motion of the logo is a fitting metaphor for PCI’s ability to adapt to the evolving needs of their customers.

 

 

We’re so pleased with how we’ve been able to evolve this brand and look forward to expanding this style and this energy to the rest of their marketing collateral and website.


WRITTEN BY
Melissa London
Art Director at 11P, Toddler Influencer, Wine and Cheese Enthusiast, Maker of Crafty Things.

 

 

09 Feb

Celebrating Women in Tech Through the Years

In recent years, it’s been noted that we need more women in the technology field. The truth is, women have been involved in technology for decades. Unfortunately their stories haven’t made it to the forefront of our history lessons. To encourage more women to join the ranks of these pioneers, it is vital that we recognize those who have forged ahead and made advances in the tech industry. We need female role models in order to inspire young women to dive into technology at an early age.

Below is a brief history and timeline of women over the years who have shaped and impacted the tech industry. From designers to mathematicians, these women changed the world we live in with their innovative spirits and groundbreaking inventions.

Ada Lovelace – 1800’s
Recognized as the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” design by translating lecture notes from French to English. During her work, Ada discovered many errors and realized the machine could be used for more than calculation. In 1843, she created the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine – thus creating the first concept of a computer operating system.

 

 

Edith Clarke – 1920’s
Known as a human computer, Edith Clarke was the first woman to earn her master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She invented the Clarke calculator which computed electrical systems equations 10 times faster than existing methods and worked on the construction of the Hoover Dam. In 2015, Clarke was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 

 

Grace Hopper – 1940-50’s
Admiral Grace Hopper was a huge believer in change and fought the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way,” her whole career. Prior to language-based computer programming, computers used binary code. Enter Grace, who took on programming in English which sparked the development of the common business-oriented language (COBOL) that is still widely used today.

 

 

Katherine Johnson – 1950-60’s
Ever since she could remember, Katherine Johnson loved math. It was this love that eventually lead her to NASA where she worked on crucial missions including the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. At NASA, Katherine calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for numerous missions. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and recently NASA renamed a facility after Katherine to honor her efforts.

 

 

Susan Kare – 1980-90’s
Graphic designer Susan Kare is responsible for developing some of Apple’s signature graphics. Although the graphics look simple, they are incredibly difficult to design. Think about it – she created a way to communicate different technologies via pictures, making them crystal clear to each user. These innovations are still used as icons to this day. Susan was honored for her efforts with an AIGA Medal, a prestigious award in the design world.

 

 

Megan Smith – 2010’s
First female Chief Technical Officer of the White House, Megan Smith is a huge advocate for women in STEM fields. Before working at the White House during the Obama Administration, she served as Vice President of Business Development at Google and CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community. Megan is currently the CEO and founder of shift7, an organization that works in partnership on systemic economic, social, and environmental challenges.

 


WRITTEN BY
Cindy Madden
Contributor at 11P, Wordsmither, Lover of Foods Wrapped in Dough, Proud Cat Lady.

 

 

 

Ada Lovelace. Digital image. Scientific American. 10 October 2017, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/image.
Edith Clarke. Digital image. Wikipedia. 27 January 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Clarke.
Grace Hopper. Digital image. Vassar College. 06 July 2017, https://stories.vassar.edu/image.
Katherine Johnson. Digital image. NASA. 24 November 2015, https://www.nasa.gov/image.
Susan Kare. Digital image. PLOS. 22 November 2011, https://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/image.
Megan Smith. Digital image. NPR. 04 November 2014, https://www.npr.org/image.

30 Jan

Pepper Talk with Katie Long

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we’re getting cozy with Katie L. Just a little background before we get started: Katie L is fairly new to Eleven Peppers Studio. She mostly works on projects for the government sector but occasionally contributes content for 11P blogs and social media posts. Read her Q&A below!


1: Do you have any nicknames?
KT, KTor, Cyber Mama, Buckaroo, Auntie Shark

 

 2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Hit the snooze button! Then I lay there either dozing until it goes off again or sleepily telling my cat I’ll feed him in a minute. I’m definitely not a morning person so I’m slow to wake up. I like to enjoy my coffee at home before I hit the road. That’s really for the safety of everyone.

 

 3: How would you describe your writing style?
When it comes to what I contribute to the 11P blogs and social media posts, I like things that come from my own personal experience and/or my heart. If I’m writing a blog post, I’m going to pull from something I’ve seen or dealt with even if it’s not directly talked about in my writing. In the work I do for the government, I’m all about creating content that is clear and concise. I write documentation for software so I have to make sure that the customers that will be using it can use what I’ve written to navigate through the software when they’re learning to use it instead of needing to call for help. I end up doing a lot of translating from developer speak to English.

 

4: How did you get started?
Wow… that’s a long story. I went to Towson University for Mass Communication with a focus in Public Relations. I really wanted to work for the Washington Capitals (back before they were the STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS) in their youth hockey outreach program, but I ended up as a front desk receptionist for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. I moved from that Commission to an administrative position with the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves and when that wrapped up I got an administrative job at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL). This is where I really gained the experience for what I’m doing now.

 

The group I was working with developed software that was being used at military cyber exercises – think war games or capture the flag, but in cyber space. I started traveling with a large group of people (25+) from APL to logistically support the team on site. I had to fill my time somehow so I started getting familiar with the software and then I was helping run between teams to get information on issues they were having and moved on to troubleshooting issues. By the time I moved on from APL (9 years after I started there), I was going to smaller scale exercises as the only person on site from APL to help install and run the software and I was running software training for everyone at the larger exercises.

 

5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Pen and paper. I take TONS of notes in meetings. Anything that I’ll share with my team is written on the lines, but the things I’m noting for myself (something I want to research more or something I need to do) goes in the margins.

 

The team I’m on now does agile software development so we use JIRA a lot. Before joining my current team I hated it, but I have to admit it’s growing on me.

 

6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
Devour as much background information as I can get my hands on and then hit the ground running.

 

7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, news articles… as previously mentioned, I like to devour as much information as possible and that Google search bar is my bff.

 

 8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Coffee coffee buzz buzz buzz
Sweet or Savory: Sweet… I’ve never met a dessert I didn’t like
Favorite Movie: Fried Green Tomatoes
Guilty Pleasure: Snarky memes, Downton Abbey (obviously the Dowager is my favorite character), true crime shows/podcasts
Hobbies: Genealogy, obstacle course racing, working out, reading (although lately it’s mostly audio books for me)


Thanks for meeting Katie L. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

23 Jan

Insider’s Guide to Social Media: Tips for 2019

Social media platforms across the board faced many controversies in 2018 including multiple privacy and data issues. Per Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Report, 60% of people no longer trust social media companies. So what does this mean for you and your social media marketing plans for 2019? There are several ways you can still connect with your audience to build or regain trust in the current climate. Here are some you can try in the New Year:

Building Trust

Audiences are looking for authenticity and do not want to be fooled by advertisers. It is, therefore, extremely important to properly label paid advertising posts and not go overboard with targeted ads. All of your content needs to be authentic. What does that mean? It means the voice of your organization needs to be genuine to reflect the values of your business. Find ways and avenues to connect with your audience and have meaningful conversations. Or, allow your audience to have those conversations with each other by creating a Facebook group outside of your business page. This encourages engagement about your brand without having to include heavy-handed advertising.

Human Connection

Another way to establish a good rapport with your audience is bringing in the human element. No one wants to interact with a generic automaton – your audience wants to know that there is a real human behind your brand. To add the personal touch to your social media feed, try a blog, podcast, or webinar series from your organization’s owner or another prominent leader in the business. This will give your business a face and a voice that people can relate to on a personal level as well as provide you with an opportunity for strengthening your brand’s reputation.

Storytelling

While not new to the social media scene, stories allow organizations to present a real, immediate, and personal look into their brand. Stories are also gaining momentum in recent years. Their creation and consumption is up 842 percent since early 2016, according to consulting firm Block Party. The best way to share stories is to keep them in their raw, unedited form which will lend to their authenticity. Stories also work most effectively when multiple medias are used within them including text, images, and video.

Now that you have some tips for social media in the New Year, go forth and post on.


WRITTEN BY
Cindy Madden
Contributor at 11P, Wordsmither, Lover of Foods Wrapped in Dough, Proud Cat Lady.