Tag

WORKING IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD

Browsing

Today’s interview showcases my talk with Julie Pippert of Artful Media Group who has been in the business of marketing and communications for over 20 years. For the past 4 years she has been doing it digitally which is really exciting. I loved my interview with her not only because I find her job fascinating but also because she is passionate about math, and that wasn’t always the case for her. It gives me hope that everyone can learn to do math well.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I help create strategies and tactics–and sometimes execute these–for clients to promote their product or information to people via the many channels of the Internet. Within this we manage relationships with our community (who may also be customers or potential customers). I don’t use the word “customer” very often because most of my work is nonprofit so it is advocacy, thus we work with members, volunteers and the community. The wonderful thing about modern marketing and PR is that we are able to be very specific in who we reach and how we reach them. For example, for $5 I can reach nearly 30,000 people who I know for a fact are interested in this specific topic. That’s much more cost effective than getting a list of 1 million for tens of thousands of dollars and hoping a few in there might want or need what we’re offering. I have also built influencer programs (people who have highly engaged large communities who are interested in what we do), done trainings, spoken at large conferences, and created tons of online content of all sorts.

When do you use basic math in your job?

Everybody has heard about big data. Well, I rely extensively on that to do my job, do it well, and review if I did my job well. I use formulas in spreadsheets to evaluate rankings and ratings of campaigns and influencers. I measure results through different analytics tools and review results across time to see patterns and trends. I do a lot with means, medians and modes as well as percent and statistics. I have to use basic math to add and subtract as well as multiply and divide numbers to find true meaning. I then take the analysis of the data and report it back to my clients. This is how we measure effect and success.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

Of course! Oh my gosh I’d be lost without spreadsheet formulas (many of which other people developed and set out for free use), analytics tools, and calculators. I also dredge up old algebra to figure out how to calculate some final needed numbers.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

I would have no idea if I was reaching my goal and achieving the results I needed without math! Math is how I evaluate how well my words, and where and how I used them, work!

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

I hate hate hated math in school. I moved frequently and suffered large gaps in my learning which always set me behind. It’s much easier to make that up in other subjects, but continuity is crucial for learning math well. Math and numbers are not my strength, anyway. By the time I hit the job market, I had decided now that I was done with school, I was also done with math! No such luck! It turns out that was a good thing. I’ve learned to appreciate and even like applied math. On a scale of 1-10 (most comfortable), I’d say I hover at a 6-7 on comfort level. I’ve never completely rebuilt my confidence, and I still get some formulas backwards. I have figured out that I can calculate in my head. In fact, modern math curriculum would have done me a world of good. Applied math in my job feels very comfortable, though, and I think math is great now. I am so pleased to see numbers and find ways to add them up to something meaningful. You can’t measure without math!

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I quit math class the second I reached my final credit. In high school I went up through the second year of algebra which I took in summer school so I could get it over with quickly. In college I took a liberal arts math. I felt like an utter disaster at everything except geometry. I did do well with that but feel it hasn’t come up too often in life. I also had a fantastic teacher who noticed I needed a little extra help and was willing to help me. It was the first time ever with math that I had this sense of wonder and awe of “oh wow I GET it, I totally really GET IT,” and it was great.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

I use the basics of what I learned in school with the math I do in my job, but a lot of it is new. I seriously wish I’d studied statistics  and might do that now.

Anything else you want to mention?

Yes, and I think this is SUPER important. You know how we all accept the fact that kids come into reading at different ages? Where is that understanding for math? Some kids are ready for multiplication in 2nd grade and others not until 4th or even 5th. Math is so prescribed. I think that’s why so many kids hate it and feel such an utter hopeless failure at it. You must achieve this level of math by this age whether your brain is ready or not — and it is so quick and easy to label kids as dumb at math when they don’t fall into that model. We have got to offer more paths of progression for math, just like we do for reading.

What we have finally gotten right is allowing different paths for solving math problems in education. Unfortunately, teachers have got that mixed up, and kids are so confused because they’re expected to master EVERY method of problem solving and demonstrate that mastery on exams, sometimes using the multiple methods for the same problems. Why have different methods for different sorts of kids and brains and then expect all of them to do well?

Have comments or questions for Julie? Let me know!

One of the things that excites me the most is seeing someone make a living out of their passion.  I had the privilege of interviewing Susan Weiner today.  She has been in her profession for more than 20 years and is living her passion.  She’s a freelance financial writer and author of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.  She blogs atInvestmentWriting.com/blog. I highly recommend that you check out her work. First, let her tell us a little bit more about what she does and how it involves math.

Can you explain what you do for a living? (Be specific!)

I write and edit white papers and investment commentary for financial firms. You know how some people have great ideas but lack the time or skill to put them into writing? I interview them—and use their data—to put their ideas into persuasive writing. Some of their data include numbers generated using math.

When do you use basic math in your job? 

I use math when I write investment portfolio performance commentary. If you own a mutual fund, you receive semiannual reports about your fund’s performance. Some of that commentary is based on data called attribution analysis. It identifies which investments contributed to positive returns and which investments detracted. This data is reported in percentages.

Let’s consider an example. A stock fund increased in value by 5% over one year. Where did that come from? How much of that was from specific stocks that the fund manager bought or sold? How much was from overall market growth or the performance of a specific industry? The percentages generated by the attribution analysis software explain which decisions helped and hurt the fund. By looking at lots of these numbers and finding patterns among them, I develop an objective basis to write about why the fund performed as it did.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

I sometimes use Excel spreadsheets to rearrange the attribution numbers to make them easier to analyze. For example, I may sort the list of stocks so that the largest contributor to performance is at the top, followed by other contributors in descending order.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Without math, I wouldn’t have any objective data to inform my understanding of fund performance. With math, I can form and test hypotheses by looking at the data. When I get a chance to interview the fund manager, I can ask questions that test and expand on my hypotheses. The numbers don’t tell the entire story, so it’s important to get input from the professionals who manage a fund.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you? (In other words, is it easier to do this math at work or do you feel relatively comfortable with math all the time?)

I don’t love math, but I like how numbers make my job easier by providing insights. I do what’s necessary to obtain those insights.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I stopped after algebra and geometry. I did not take calculus, although now I wish that I had forced myself to struggle through it. Math did not come easily to me.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

The skills that I had to learn weren’t mathematical. When I studied to earn my credential as a chartered financial analyst, a credential held by many fund managers, I learned about financial analysis. I also learned about Excel spreadsheets, which help me format the numbers to make them easier to analyze.

Anything else you want to mention?

Don’t underestimate the power of learning to write well about the numbers generated by math. That got me one of my first job offers in college, when my statistics professor asked me to help students in his class. Today, writing about numbers helps me to help my clients communicate better.

It sounds like even if you don’t love math, you can learn to respect it and get along with it like Susan does.  Interested in knowing more?  Let me know, and I will make a connection with Susan for you.

Photo Credit: humbert15 via Compfight cc

This world is spinning fast, and a lot of things are changing.  Today’s interview is with Kelly Case ofTime on Hand Services.  She is a virtual assistant or VA — in fact, she’s my VA!  Without Kelly, this blog would be empty most of the time. She also lays out my newsletter and does lots of research for me. 

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I have my own business that provides administrative services to other companies.  These companies vary in size and may be located anywhere in the world.  Thanks to the internet, there is less and less need for your assistant to be in the physical office with you.  My clients enjoy the freedom of having a virtual assistant. They don’t have to provide office space, computer equipment, or benefits.  They decide how many hours they want me to work for them each month and then assign tasks to me at their convenience.  These tasks vary widely.  I do bookkeeping, email management, calendar management, blog management, proofreading, data entry, travel planning, transcription, customer service, email marketing, website design, and more.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use math just about every day, for my own virtual assistance business as well as for the businesses of my clients.  I use math when doing invoicing, payroll, travel planning, and bookkeeping.  For instance, when reconciling credit card or checking accounts, I must use math to make sure the credits and debits match the bank statement.  When invoicing, I use math to make sure I’m charging their clients or mine the right amounts or percentages.  A customer of my client may agree to make three monthly payments to the client for a certain product.  I split the payment into thirds and charge at the appropriate time.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

Yes, I use the calculator function on my computer whenever I need to calculate long lists of numbers to prevent human error.  I usually do it twice to be sure I come up with the same answer each time.  I also use Microsoft Excel to keep track of credits and expenses for my clients’ check registers. Quickbooks is used often for the bookkeeping aspect as well.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

I’m not sure that it helps me do it better, but it enables me to do my job.  I wouldn’t be able to invoice, do payroll, or keep books without the use of math.  Numbers are an integral part of our daily lives and work places.  And, where there are numbers, there is math.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you ?

I am extremely comfortable with math.  The type of math I use in my job is very elementary and basic for me.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I enjoy math very much.  In high school, I got As in math and was asked by friends to do their homework assignments for them.  In fact, I enjoy it so much I took math as one of my college electives because I knew it would be an easy A for me.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pickup using the skills you learned in school?

No, I didn’t need to learn any new math skills per se.  I just had to learn the different programs that I use to do the math, like Quickbooks or an online payroll service.

More and more writers, like me, are hiring virtual assistants. This allows us to focus on our writing, and for me, it means having a detail person on my team. Have a question for Kelly or interested in learning more about her services?  Check her out at www.timeonhandservices.com. Wondering how you can use a virtual assistant in your business? Ask in the comments section.

Photo Credit: Philippe Put via Compfight cc

I had the pleasure of speaking with Samantha Volz who has the pleasure of working from her very own home every day. That is one of the benefits of being a freelance designer. In addition to graphic design, this artist also does photography. It seems she is creatively blessed with talent.  I was curious about how she uses math in her work. Let’s take a look at what she had to say:

Can you explain what you do for a living?

I’ve been working as a freelance designer since 2001.  I design marketing/advertising material for companies. In addition, I also design websites and other support files for social media applications. I am a photographer, painter, and artist as well.

When do you use basic math in your job?

I have to use specifications to set up design files. Set up bleed, trim and safe zones so that when the file gets to the printer, it is set up correctly and prints correctly. For instance, if I have a print sheet that is 8.5 by 11 inches for a trifold brochure, I need to divide the paper by three and adjust 1/8th of the 3 panel. Depending on how the trifold folds, I will need to adjust the panels 1/16th of an inch if a panel folds in. Then, on the layout in the software I have to consider set up for a printing press or digital printing if my graphics bleed to the edge I have to add at least 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch of graphics that extends past the actual final layout for being trimmed down to allow for machine error. So my final file that is handed over to the print vendor is 8.5 x11 with bleed 1/8th bleed on all sides. Total graphic coverage is 8.75 x 11.25 trimmed down to 8.5 x 11 and scored for folds indicated on the set up with 3 panels roughly 3.66 ” wide, again depends on the fold design chosen for that tri-fold brochure how it will read, flow and open up to reveal the information being provided.

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

Yes, I use a calculator a lot.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

I could not do my job without it. It is how everything flows from the client to me, the designer, and then to the printer until it is produced as an end product.

How comfortable with math do you feel? Does this math feel different to you?

I am comfortable with normal addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, and fractions. Nothing too complicated.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I took honors math classes.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do the math you use in your job? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

Yes, what I use now I learned in high school.

Who knew that the creative type still need to know their basic calculations and fractions?  Seems like everywhere you go, even in your home, math is sure to follow. I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about Samantha. Let me know if you have any further questions for her. 

Photo Credit: 55Laney69 via Compfight cc

Ron Doyle

Ron S. Doyle is both a web designer and a freelance writer.  In fact, he’s found a particular niche in developing web sites for other freelance writers.  He’s also got a wicked sense of humor and uses math in his work.

Can you explain what you do for a living?

The highfaluting answer: I help clients build or restructure their online presence through web development and design, business analysis, project management, strategic brand management, consultation and training.

The mundane answer: I make websites!

When do you use basic math in your job?

I use proportions, algebra and basic geometric concepts at work every day. Most of what I’m doing involves simple addition, counting pixels. For example, if a website’s main container is 960 pixels wide, I have to make sure that all the margins, padding, borders and boxes inside add up.

The Health*Conscious*Travel homepage above  is 960 pixels wide, but here’s what I see:

2px border + 21px padding + 1px border + 555px feature box + 1px border + 21px padding + 1px border +

334px subscribe box +1px border + 21px padding + 2px border = 960 pixels wide!

This basic addition turns into algebra when a client comes to me and says “I have this 300 pixel wide advertisement that must go here” or
“I want to embed this YouTube video there.” Then all the other elements become variables—and I change them to make everything balance with the ad or video.

It gets even more complicated when I start adding things like drop shadows or glowing edges to an object, which have a specific radius from the edge. A 3px drop shadow spreads 1.5 px past the edge of the object, etc.

Certain objects, like videos, also must appear in specific proportions, e.g., 16:9. For example, if I know I must fit a high-definition video into a space that’s 500 pixels wide, I know that the video will be a little more than 281 pixels tall.

[pmath]16/9  =  500/x[/pmath]

[pmath]16x  =  4,500[/pmath]

[pmath]x  =  281.25[/pmath]

I also use proportions for my favorite design element: The Golden Ratio, 1: 1.618. It’s a proportion that naturally occurs in nature and is used widely in design and architecture. I agree with the ancient Greeks that it’s a beautiful shape and I try, whenever possible, to use it in my designs. Sometimes, it’s a fun little secret for me. For example, Ann Logue’s website doesn’t seem to have many boxes or rectangles at all:

But there are actually seven golden rectangles coded into the layout:

Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? Why or why not?

I use paper to draw initial designs, a calculator to figure out proportions and design software like Adobe Creative Suite to help with measurements and placement of objects before I write any code. I suppose I could do it all while I’m writing the code, but I like to keep costs low for my clients—and I like going outside from time to time.

How do you think math helps you do your job better?

Math doesn’t just help me do my job better, it makes it possible.

How comfortable with math do you feel? 

None of this math feels uncomfortable to me. All web designers use math, whether they realize it or not, but some have a natural ability to see things like the golden proportion without picking up a calculator. I don’t know if I have that innate aesthetic skill—so the numbers make me feel more confident in my design decisions.

What kind of math did you take in high school? Did you like it/feel like you were good at it?

I didn’t develop a relationship with math until the seventh grade. That year, I had a great algebra teacher; things just clicked and I’ve loved mathematics ever since. I took Geometry, Algebra II, Trigonometry, PreCalculus and AP Calculus in high school. I always felt confident in math class, except Calculus; my teacher struggled teaching the subject and I had a bad case of graduation fever.

As a psychology major in college, I didn’t love research but I enjoyed the statistical part of the work (and I took Calculus for Engineers even though it wasn’t required). Before I started my current business, I was a high school teacher. Trigonometry was one of my favorite subjects to teach.

Did you have to learn new skills in order to do this math? Or was it something that you could pick up using the skills you learned in school?

School definitely helped me feel confident with math, but I learned the skills I use today from building things with my father when I was younger. I spent a lot of my childhood with a tape measure with my father rattling off fractions at me—I understood 5/8 and 3/4 and 9/16 on a visual level long before I learned them in school.

Everything else I learned from Donald Duck in Mathemagic Land:

Do you have questions for Ron?  If so, ask them in the comments section below.