Grad School, Part Two!

I still can’t believe it’s already been a full year since I moved back to Atlanta from Pittsburgh. I have met extremely talented undergraduate and graduate students who I’ve befriended. Georgia Tech is very similar to CMU. Both are pioneers in HCI and it’s amazing to see the projects going on here. 

I’m also very lucky to get to work with my advisors Gregory Abowd and Rosa Arriaga. I was nervous at first coming to Tech because I was unsure where my contributions would fit in. Psychologist by training, developer and musician by personal exploration, I’m glad that I’ve been able to use all three of these skills so far in grad school. I look forward to continuing to grow in all three of my talents.

The summer internship was another excellent experience. I improved as a researcher, designer, leader, and team player. It was my first venture outside of industry, and it may not be the last.

This next semester is going to be tough, and that’s saying a lot.

My first year resulted in

  • a working Android app and paper which, even though it did not make it to publication, should still result in a successful submission.
  • an invitation by NASA in Houston to showcase a course project, a wearable device to aid patients undergoing knee rehabilitation
  • a video game available on Kongregate
  • a second Android app. It was a finalist in the Convergence Innovation Competition and almost a top-two finisher (as determined by judge voting)

 

The plans for this new school year, so far, include:

  • working with the Georgia Women, Infants, and Children organization that provides services to over 300,000 families in underprivileged communities. I’ll be designing a system to effectively communicate information about developmental milestones and disorders
  • continuing user testing and developing of the second Android app and (hopefully!) working with the Startup Semester, hosted by industry mentors affiliated with Georgia Tech
  • further research with the knee device in order to enter the CHI Student Design competition
  • composing music for the Emergent Game Group
  • user testing for an iPad app to accompany the viewing of Game of Thrones

 

On top of all this, I need to make the final decision on joining industry or getting a PhD after graduation. I’ve leaned towards industry since starting and am pretty sure that is the right option for me, but I may be biased since I just finished my first experience outside of academia (and an awesome one at that). The first decision, of course, is whether or not I am willing to apply to schools at all or if I am committed enough to joining the work force.

Busy, but awesome, year coming up!

 

 
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Recruiting Redesign – Project Management

Shifting our team structure has been very challenging but enjoyable. The biggest change that has affected me personally is my new role as project manager for our intern team of 14. In many of my projects as an undergrad, and in all of my projects so far in grad school, I have served a similar role.

Since those teams were small, each person usually was in charge of a general area of tasks. For example, in my collaborative work with the CDC, we had two programmers, a UX Designer and Researcher (myself), and a Visual Designer.

This work with the IBM Design intern team has been especially challenging because each person has a varied skill set. Of course, some people are more specialized than others, but every person is capable of helping with every aspect of the project.

To make sure a project runs smoothly, here are the things I have found key from my own experience:

  1. Establish a common ground of understanding, trust and respect
  2. Determine a measure of success for the team
  3. Keep notes on the team’s progress
  4. Work together when possible
  5. Communicate with all team members

These may seem like straightforward keys to accomplish, but think back to projects where a task is given, team members are assigned, and everyone splits up the work and meets up only occasionally. There is no team identity, only the identity that each person brings to the team.

Not all people get along in life, and that’s alright since we all spend our lives as we want with the people we want. But in the workplace, we do not have this luxury and must work together, even if we may not want to be best friends with our coworkers. The first key is difficult to achieve sometimes, which is why the fourth key is so important. By working together when possible, team members can get to know each other better and build that team identity.

I must mention that these keys may not be the first things that come to mind when one thinks of “project management”. Yet the most important thing needed for a project to succeed is a strong team that will work together.

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