Can We Have a Re-Do?

Crooked Pool Tuesday Tidbits

2016 was a rough year for me professionally. I still haven’t answered some of the questions posed to myself and the internet universe in my 2015 blog posts. I do know that one of the best ways to get unstuck is to take action. In this case, making some minor edits to this site and scheduling a blog post. (I’m writing this on a Monday during my lunch break).

Though major career decisions will continue to stay on hold as I plan a wedding and enjoy some much needed stability this year, I am determined to spend some time learning new skills this year & exploring opportunities. If you need help with social media, have a creative writing project, or anything that falls into the digital communications realm, I’d love to chat.



Portfolio Highlight: The Golden Rules of Resumes

Though I produced this video three years ago, several of the tips are still relevant. If I had this to do over again, I’d drink a cup of coffee to appear more animated, and I’d produce the video on an iPhone (which I did not yet have at the time). I’m still proud of the fact that I learned a new software to do this (Windows Moviemaker), and found a new way to share key information with students. Enjoy!

I have five years of experience in resume writing and providing career services assistance to adult learners, in a variety of fields. In addition to my communications services, if you or someone you know is job hunting and would like assistance with resume or cover letter writing, e-mail me! I provide very affordable services (you’re job hunting, so I totally understand that you may not have a huge budget for career services).

Update: Branding Update, First Client, and More

Crooked Pool Tuesday TidbitsFirst, up, some thoughts on my branding experiment. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m not sure The Crooked Pool resonates in the way I’d like it to. Just because I think the definition of my maiden name is cool, doesn’t mean it makes sense from a branding perspective. I don’t need to change much, since I haven’t trademarked anything at this point, but I think I’m going to move away from using The Crooked Pool as my brand name. I’ll stick with my name itself, and when I become Lisa Fitz-Coy, I’ll change my brand accordingly.

The Crooked Pool

Next, I’m excited to announce that I am working with the founder of Keep it Simple Syrup (KISS), to consult on web, digital marketing, and communications. I met Susan Martinson through my previous job at Stratford University, and I’m excited to be working with her in a more formal manner. Though I’ve volunteered and helped out various folks with a lot of projects, she’s my first official “client.”

Keep it Simple Syrup KISS

Lastly, I’m feeling ultra creative and relaxed in a newly cleaned/reorganized home office space. My fiancée and I have grand plans for improving it even more by purging more of the “stuff” we have, getting new furniture, and upgrading technology, but it’s a good start. My desk is cleaned off, and I now face the window.

Lisa Dalrymple home office

Coding Check-In: How I Improved Functionality on ConnectVA

Crooked Pool Coding Tuesday Tips

When I attended a week long development bootcamp earlier this year, which was really a career orientation program, I knew I might be doomed when the icebreaker activity was a math problem. I’ve never considered myself a “math person”. I do, however, like learning new languages, and I took really well to learning basic French in high school. Learning HTML/CSS feels more like learning a new language than it does solving complex math. I know that will change should I choose to learn complex programming, but for now, I’m in my comfort zone.

When you’re learning a new language, you can gain a lot from reading the language, so in this case, reading the code. Reading code is how I’ve taught myself new tricks thus far. I may not be to the point of being able to mock a website from scratch, but I can problem-solve. For example, a few of the pages on ConnectVA had a lot of long, bulleted content. So I figured out how to apply the accordion code we were using on another page to the rest of the resource pages to make the content more organized and easier to read.

Nonprofit Technology Tools on ConnectVA

At that bootcamp I attended, the lesson of the math question wasn’t to test our arithmetic skills, but rather to teach us the value of Googling something when we don’t know the answer. Googling is how I learned how to add anchors to organize FAQ pages:

Using Anchors on ConnectVA

Having real-life problems to solve at my day job has really helped me grow my coding skills in a practical way.

Three Writers I Admire

Writing- Three Writers I Admire

1. Alexandra Franzen

If I lived in Portland, I’d be attending Alexandra’s workshops and eating at her SO’s restaurant ALL THE TIME. She is the master of succinct, engaging, emotionally impactful writing. She pretty much represents everything I want out of a career and of life. If you aspire to freelance write, or just want some creative inspiration, subscribe to her e-mails and download her e-books.

2. Jewel

An unconventional choice, to be sure, but Jewel’s lyrics and poetry have influenced me tremendously. In my college poetry classes, Jewel’s A Night Without Armor was a compass that I would follow when I needed direction. I know “Pieces of You” by heart, and her songs are on the soundtrack of all of the important chapters of my life.

3. Miranda July

I recently listened to The First Bad Man on audio on the road from Virginia to Florida to participate in my sister’s wedding. It is by far her best work to date. July is also a filmmaker and artist. Her first film, Me and You and Everyone We Know is in my top three movies (along with the Star Wars saga and The Hours). Her stories are bewildering and intense, but her characters are my kindred spirits.

I haven’t been inspired to write creatively for a long while. The old spark seems to be gone. I keep waiting for some cataclysmic event to kick-start my creative endeavors again. I’m not sure what or when it will be. These days, when I force myself to write, the experience feels less cathartic than it used to.

Should I Pursue a Coding Bootcamp?

Crooked Pool Coding

So, if I opt not to pursue my Masters in Library Science, should I pursue a Masters at all? There are honestly three career paths I could pursue, and becoming a librarian would require the most investment in time and money, and therefore, the least likely for me to pursue in the short-term as Skylor and I prepare for our next chapter. Another option is continuing along my current path of digital communications, specifically in the nonprofit or public sector, many aspects of which I really enjoy, but the income potential is relatively flat. The third option is completing my coding knowledge, building a portfolio, and pursuing some sort of web development career, probably front end or UX, since that’s the next logical step to the knowledge and experience I have gained thus far. The income potential for that is much higher. The reality is that in the short-term, I will continue to pursue roles in digital communications and web content creation/management, until I’ve taught myself enough code to begin building websites from scratch.

From what I’ve gathered from my research, Coding Bootcamps are best for those with some good foundational knowledge. Because of their intense nature (they last a few months to a year, depending on the program), I have held off on enrolling in one because I don’t think I’m ready. When I can wireframe, build, and deploy a website using basic HTML and CSS on my own (without having to refer to tutorials every line of code), then I think I’ll be ready to take on the challenge of a Bootcamp. I’m attracted to the idea of enrolling in a Bootcamp because the tuition is much lower than grad school and I’ll be done much faster. Many Bootcamp schools offer mentoring and career coaching as well.  A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend an orientation for a local apprenticeship program in Richmond. The orientation was designed to give attendees an overview of careers in development and IT security, to seek potential apprentices, and also to intimidate people into realizing that entering this world is not just as easy as taking an 8-week Bootcamp. It gave me a lot to think about. I still want to pursue a Bootcamp, but it did help me realize that I need to spend more time teaching myself before I do so, and to make sure I seek out projects that give an opportunity to get hands-on experience. Right now I’m using Free Code Camp, which takes you though various challenges, and once you get far enough, you can work on actual projects for nonprofits.

Thoughts? Have you, or do you know anyone who has pursued a Bootcamp?

Should I Get My Masters in Library Science?

School Rules- Should I Get My MLS

I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school. It’s something I’ve been thinking about (and doubting) for a long time. I usually run into two major issues:

  • What should I study? How do I reconcile what I want to learn with viable career growth opportunities?
  • The cost. Student loan debt isn’t the worst debt to have, but I already have a lot of other debt, and it just feels very risky to take more on.

One of the ideas I keep coming back to is becoming a Web Services/Digital Librarian. This would combine a lot of things I prize: learning (and the facilitation of helping other people learn and better themselves), creativity, and technology. I could work as a school librarian if I chose to, and have the summers off with my teacher fiancee, or work at a university or public library. I’d also have to continue to learn coding, as web librarians often need knowledge of programming. There is a lot of competition for library jobs, but maybe I could set myself apart with all of my other valuable skills as a career-changer. I think my experience in digital communications, higher education, and the nonprofit sector would all help me in this new career path, but I’m not ready to commit. I could continue to pursue a career in web development/communications without much more schooling (I’m teaching myself to code, slowly but surely). I’ve also had conversations with a colleague in the industry who changed careers just as I’m thinking of doing, and he expressed frustration at career librarians’ resistance to change, in terms of how technology is impacting libraries. BUT, I have bookmarked a couple of universities that offer ALA approved online Masters in Library Science degrees and am going to spend more time researching them.

Should I take the plunge? Tell me what you think in the comments.