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Opinion Editorials

How everything can change in a heartbeat – literally

(EDITORIAL) We all know the platitude, but here is one story of the complexities of this life.

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heartbeat

This past December, on a Tuesday afternoon, I left work feeling excited and nervous. I was about to have a first date with somebody that I’d only texted with, and even though I had an inkling that we would be compatible, as a seasoned veteran of the app-dating world, I had experienced enough to know that a right swipe doesn’t really amount to much once you’re sitting across the table from a stranger.

When I got to the coffee shop, my date texted that she was going to be late. I pulled out my computer and did some light work, sipping a beer, trying to calm my nerves. I swear my heartbeat was louder than my fingertips rattling away at the keyboard.

Eventually, my date arrived. Not only did it turn out that we were baseline compatible, but we had a lot in common. We loved biking, dogs, and had strong opinions about breakfast foods. In all honesty, I don’t remember much of the date because I was so nervous and so happy, but when it was over and we’d promised we’d be in touch for a second – my heart felt full of hope and giddiness.

The next day, my sister called me. She and I are best friends despite living on opposite sides of the country, and she’d known that I had a promising date the evening before.

“Hello,” I said, ready to start gushing, “Happy Wednesday.”

“Hey April,” my sister said, her tone flat, “Mom’s in the hospital. She’s had what the doctors are calling a ‘cardiac event.’”

The previous night, while my heart was pounding at the prospect of new love, my mother’s heart had almost stopped.

My sister had been at my brother’s house when they heard a car horn blaring outside. When it didn’t stop, they went outside to investigate and found my mother – grey in the face, struggling to breathe, unable to even stand to get out of her car. My brother’s wife, a nurse, called an ambulance as soon as she saw the state my mother was in.

My brother lives three blocks from the local emergency room; my mom is only two blocks away from the hospital and a short block and a half from my brother’s house. The situation was so critical and scary that they were afraid that Mom wouldn’t make it the five minutes it would take for them to transport her there.

Later, we found out Mom had been pulling up some carpet in the house where she lives alone when she became short of breath and eventually, struggled to breathe.

It was not her first heart “event” – she’d had two minor heart attacks previously, and her heartbeat has become so weak and erratic that a few years ago she had a pacemaker implanted.

At the risk of sounding reductive, when I think about that December Tuesday, at the different ways my mother’s heart and my own were pounding, I think about how each moment, every place in time, there are an unknowable amount of events happening around the world.

Something is always happening; something is always going to happen.

The only constant in life is change. As entrepreneurs, as professionals, as people, we are always at the whim of something larger than ourselves.

Sometimes this is the market, sometimes it’s a technological innovation, sometimes it’s a force as mercurial as the impression we give others as we nervously sip an IPA.

The pacemaker was supposed to stop “events” like the one Mom had in December. But, it is only a machine and machines can break down and fail.

In the face of all these unknowable things and the inevitable changes ahead, we should stop to appreciate the moments that we have.

If they are good, we can take heart – appreciate someone’s smile, the pause after they tell a joke and wait for a laugh. If things are difficult, we can find strength in knowing that the panic will pass, that machines can be reconfigured or replaced, that something else is coming after the pain.

A few months later, Mom is pretty much back to her old self. She’s still a little weak; my brother and sister pulled up the carpet and replaced the floors while she chatted with them. Our family’s love has supported her through crisis and recovery.

I have removed all the dating apps from my phone. My new girlfriend and I are navigating the beginning of a wonderful relationship full of surprises, bike rides, and laughter.

My mother and I, separated by thousands of miles, are moving forward, one heart beat at a time.

AprilJo Murphy is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is a writer, editor, and sometimes teacher based in Austin, TX who enjoys getting outdoors with her handsome dog, Roan.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Charity Kountz

    March 14, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I love this article. Not to be punny but it’s full of heart. Thanks so much for sharing something so deeply personal in an impactful way.

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Opinion Editorials

Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?

(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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Opinion Editorials

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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Job interview between two women.

So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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