News & Views (Week of 8/11 – 8/17)

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News

Learn about Udacity’s Differential Equations class, and why it’s not as daunting as many make it out to be.

The Programming Languages class from Udacity is now eligible for the full course certificate and coaching option offered by the company.

One edX MOOC’s creation spanned all the way across the globe from California to China. The edX blog has the full story of how Engineering Software as a Service CS169.1x came into fruition.

edX recently participated in OSCON, the O’Reilly Open Source Convention held each year in Portland, Oregon.

Futurelearn is giving away 20 flags to students who tell them why they deserve it. Learn more on their blog.

What is Team Accredible learning?

Make music with MOOCs! Check out these courses, offered by Coursera and Open2Study, on songwriting, history of rock, music technology and world music.

Around the World in 62 Days continues with Days 43-49. Featuring many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, this week’s look includes Bahrain, South Korea and the Central African Republic.

Guardians of the Galaxy just came out, and with that comes Accredible’s critique of the auto-didacticism in the film. Read about how Star-Lord fends for himself when it comes to surviving in the mysterious world he lives in.

Upcoming Coursera Specializations

smiling Graduate woman Holding Degree with cloud background

Want a way to get certified for a group of knowledge that represents more than a single class? Then Coursera‘s specializations might be just right for you! They are sets of MOOCs which upon completion grant you a special certificate indicating more in-depth knowledge in a subject.

  • Each specialization is made up of MOOCs from multiple universities
  • Available in 10 subjects, ranging from teacher education to CS to music
  • Cost: $29 or $49 per course plus a $49 capstone fee
  • Financial aid available

Here are the upcoming ones:

Data Science

  • 9 4-week classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics covered include the R language, regression models, cleaning data & more
  • Taught by Johns Hopkins University
  • Next session starts Sept 1
  • Cost: $490

Systems Biology

  • 5 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics taught include experimental methods & network analysis in systems biology and more
  • Taught by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Next session starts Sept 2
  • Cost: $294

Cybersecurity

  • 4 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics include software & hardware security, usable security, and more
  • Taught by University of Maryland, College Park
  • Next session starts Sept 15
  • Cost: $245

Fundamentals of Computing

  • 3 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics include Python, algorithmic thinking, and more
  • Taught by Rice University
  • Next session starts Sept 15
  • Cost: $196

 

Mobile Cloud Computing with Android

  • 3 classes and Final Capstone project
  • Topics include pattern-oriented software architectures, cloud services for Android, and more
  • Taught by Rice University
  • Next session starts Sept 26
  • Cost: $196

Learning to Code? Check Out These Awesome Treehouse Features!

Treehouse Home

Learning programming skills has become commonplace and, in many cases, necessary for certain jobs.  Responding to this demand, efforts to teach a beginner to code have been popping up in different forms all over the world.  From free online tutorials to expensive boot camps cost up to $20,000, there are a myriad of options to choose from. One of the most popular such endeavors is a website called Team Treehouse that offers high-quality tutorials and workspaces for an affordable price (starting from $25/month).  If rave reviews about Treehouse’s Front-End Web Development track and teaching style aren’t enough, you can even try the platform for free for 2 weeks before deciding whether it is the right place to invest your $25. Considering the average web developer in the United States makes $81,670 and the industry is predicted to grow by at least 20% in the coming years, the investment is probably more than worth it. If you aren’t convinced yet to give Treehouse a try, check out these awesome features:

Tracks

There are 8 available tracks on Treehouse: Web Design, Front-End Web Development, Rails Development, iOS Development, Android Development, PHP Development, WordPress Development, and Starting a Business.  Each track teaches units of information including languages (like HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax, Ruby, etc.) and allows you to work through examples as you watch the tutorials.Treehouse Tracks           Treehouse Co-Founder Ryan Carson’s favorite feature within the Tracks is the Scheduler.

“Once you pick a Track, you can choose how long you’d like to take to complete the Track. We then calculate how much time you should spend on Treehouse every day and then help keep you on schedule”

 

WorkspacesTreehouse Workspaces

As you follow along with the videos, you can also code along in a workspaces window that allows you to preview your work at any time.  There is no downloading or desktop work necessary.

Forever Expanding Library

One of the best things about Treehouse is their ever-expanding library of tutorials.  Even if you get through all of the tracks, there is always new content being added to its library that you can use to improve your development skills whether you are a novice or expert. Just in the past few weeks, they have come out with several new tutorials, from Git Workshops to Android Animations.  Its candyland for an autodidact!

Forums and the Gamification of Learning

Many online learning platforms employ the use of gamification as an incentive to continue to learn, and Treehouse is no exception.  Users earn points and badges that lead to reward videos that tell fun stories and are great mini-breaks before getting started on the next track. Another one of Ryan’s favorite features falls into this category:

“…getting your answer marked as “Best answer” in the Forum. You get extra points!”

The forums not only provide a space for students to interact as they learn and help solve each other’s issues, they also play into the gamification aspect of Treehouse to inspire users to remain active. Treehouse GamificationSo after reading about all these great, ever-growing features, are you reading to become an awesome developer?  Sign up for your free trial here!

 

“With Treehouse and a little imagination, you can go anywhere…” – Author Unknown

The Most Important Thing Employers Want From You

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It isn’t the ability to code like a champ or your beastly social media savvy (although those are increasingly attractive attributes for many positions) – what employers really want from you is ‘teachability’.  They want to be able to teach you how to do the job their way quickly and efficiently.  To accomplish this, you will need to prove to them your ability to learn things very quickly.

Were you praised for picking things up quickly, ever since you were a child?  Great!  Now do better!  There’s always room for improvement and little more satisfying than being able to tell your boss that you finished the job perfectly- and in a fraction of the allotted time.  It would be great to be able to train yourself to become a more efficient learner so you can pick things up faster on the job, but learning velocity is largely inherent.  Luckily, the trick here isn’t to increase your learning ability.  Instead, the focus should be on preparation.

If you need to write business plans as a part of your job, for example, you should learn how to write a standard business plan on your own first and spend office hours recognizing your company’s unique twist instead of spending extra time to learn from step one all over again. .  Now the job is easier and will get done faster – and you can show off to your supervisor how quickly you picked up their way of doing things.

 

You are your own Yoda.

It’s true – you know yourself better than anyone else.  Why not take advantage of this fact and teach yourself a thing or two about the skills you know you will need for your job?  If you arm your mind with the basics, picking up your company’s twist on things will be easier (and quicker!).

You can learn awesome stuff from all over the internet now – from tutorials on Lydia or YouTube to full blown free Ivy League classes from Coursera, teaching yourself is the thing to do!

The first step is to narrow down the skills you should master for your industry.  A visual designer, for example, might benefit from learning HTML basics while a marketer could take their work to the next level by building solid creative writing and copywriting skills.

Figuring out what exactly you need to learn is the hard part – now, you can just Google it and decide which resource (tutorial, class, article, e-book) you like best and get started!

 

Be the Tortoise.

Remember that story about the tortoise and hare where the hare gets really arrogant and ends up losing a race to the tortoise?  It actually applies to your career progression really well.  The worst thing you can do is to come off as being full of yourself to your co-workers or boss.  Not only does that essentially flash a bright neon sign saying ‘Not Willing to Learn’ above your head, it also sets you up for a whole lot of lost opportunities.

Learning can come in the form of actively seeking knowledge by studying or taking a class, but it can also happen simply on the job if a good mentor takes a liking to you.  A mentor at work can provide important insight, fast-tracking tips, and invaluable feedback – but no potential mentor is going to take interest in the new kid who thinks she knows everything.  Remember to project the humble student within!

 

Be Proactive.

Being able to pick things up quickly, having great tech skills, and busting through assignments are obviously amazing achievements to have under your belt – but keep in mind that everyone on your team will try to display these things.  Going out of your way to add value even when you weren’t specifically instructed to do so shows that you care about the team’s performance as a whole, not just your own.  If you are a copywriter at a startup and you know about an upcoming feature-release or company re-branding, offer up your ideas right away and even provide samples to show that you’ve really thought about it.

Of course, it is always important to keep in mind that your ideas are suggestions that your supervisors can choose not to take and you shouldn’t overload them either.  Imposing on someone else’s pet project can become annoying, even though you’re really just trying to help.  Just remember, be humble and realize that you are the student.  Soak up the experience of your co-workers and throw in some of your own fresher ideas without overdoing it.  You will have impressed your boss before you know it!

Buzzwords Decoded: Synergy

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Welcome to another week of Buzzwords Decoded with Accredible!  Last week we cleared up the ruckus around ‘dynamic’ and are back again with ‘synergy’ to take your resume up another notch.

 

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1: synergism; broadly : combined action or operation

2: a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (as resources or efforts)

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

Synergy is pretty much what happens when two things are combined to make something better – at least that’s what its supposed to mean.  The ‘synergy’ of ‘your leadership with your innovative team’s dynamic skills’ bringing about a positive change on your project is just a long and annoying way to say that you led a solid team to achieve an awesome outcome – which can be shortened to you being a good leader.  Period.

Whenever a word is unnecessary, it is being used incorrectly.  More often than not, ‘synergy’ can be replaced with ‘teamwork’ or ‘together’ which are words that are heard more often in conversation and are therefore easier for the brain to process and move on from.  Throwing ‘synergy’ on your resume for the sake of showing off your beautiful corporate jargon will bring about a few sniggers and the trash pile.

 

How to Use it Properly

Just don’t.  ‘Synergy’ could still belong in a high-level corporate meeting when discussing a merger or acquisition, but there are very few ways it could work on your resume.  If you are trying to talk about the synergy of your dedication to maintaining a certain profit and passion for green initiatives, just use ‘and’.  If you want to mention leading a synergy of two teams within your company, just use ‘collaboration’.

Synergy is not a word used in everyday conversation, so it will likely force a recruiter to pause on your resume, think about the word, and then move on after wasting precious time necessarily.  Any reader should be able to glide through your resume as though they are reading a story.  Words or phrases that make them stop and think about the term instead of the accomplishment its describing is useless.

 

Take Away

Don’t use ‘synergy’ unless you have a really, really good reason for it.  It will either get snickered at or ignored – neither of which are desirable reactions to your resume!

Do you have a resume cliche you’d like to see addressed in this series?  Leave a comment below with your word and the Accredibles will decode your cliche as quickly as possible!

Ultimate Autodidacts: Einstein to Moffat

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The Guru

Going from a high school dropout to one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Albert Einstein was the embodiment of autodidactism.  His idea of a perfect date was to read physics texts for fun with his girlfriend – enough said.

Einstein’s introduction to science and mathematics by a childhood friend established an interest in a topic far beyond what he was learning in school.  He taught himself calculus by the age of 13.  Thirteen!  Thus began his foray into the world of self learning; It was simply far more interesting than the grammar and basic mathematics he was forced to sit through in school.

Perhaps Einstein’s greatest secret for success was his approach to learning.  He said:

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

He always believed in imagination, individuality, and inquisitiveness.  This is likely the reason (along with his accomplishments in the field of physics, advocacy for civil rights, and general good human-ness) why he became so widely admired.  This is also likely how John Moffat came to regard him so highly.

 

The Disciple

In the 1950s, Albert Einstein’s career had taken a nose dive.  He had written and spoken about theories that he had been unable to provide proof for over the last several years, which caused his reputation to take a tough hit.

At this point, a Danish painter by the name of John Moffat had just depleted the funds he was living off of in Paris as he honed his art.  He returned home to Copenhagen, Denmark where he returned to his love for reading at a nearby library.  Moffat devoured book after book about mathematics and physics, in mere months learning what took years for the average student to learn at University.

As he absorbed the knowledge, he became a fervent follower of Albert Einstein and his writings.  Familiar with the genius’ slump, Moffat (a high school dropout and painter with no credentials in physics) wrote Einstein a critical letter that analyzed all the things Moffat believed Einstein was doing wrong.  He didn’t expect a reply, of course, from such a famous and admired physicist.

Lo and behold when several weeks later, a hand-written letter in German came addressed to Moffat.  His lack of fluency in German forced Moffat to ask his local German barber for help translating the letter, which proved to encourage his efforts in physics.  Einstein took Moffat and his thoughts very seriously, pointing him to his newer writings and encouraging further replies.  This conversation continued for several letters during which Moffat successfully pointed out a poorly based mathematical assumption in Einstein’s calculations.  This interaction expanded into meetings with other great scientists of the time including Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrodinger.

It was Schrodinger’s recommendation, along with the extensive knowledge Moffat had amassed on his own, that allowed him to become the first accepted PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge without completing an undergraduate (or even secondary school) degree.

 

The Ultimate Autodidact

Albert Einstein is an undisputed genius who took on autodidactism as a fortunate hobby in addition to his more traditional education and work at Princeton University.  John Moffat took his Guru’s efforts a step further and forwent 8 years of (usually) compulsory formal study on the path to his own prestigious PhD.

Einstein and Moffat didn’t even have the beauty of the Internet at their disposal back in their times.  Imagine a modern day Moffat immersed in a MOOC with a Physics e-text on his Kindle in one hand and his online mind map on his tablet in the other.  Now that would be a force to be reckoned with.

How to Get Your Dream Job Without the Required Experience

Ambition of a young architect

Right major?  Check.  Enough software knowledge?  Check.  Cultural Fit?  Check.  Sufficient years of experience?  Uh-oh.

You’re looking at the job listing for your ideal gig just a little while after graduation and feel the excitement mounting inside of you with every requirement you know you can fulfill.  Then you see that you need 2 years of work experience – which you don’t have as a new grad.  Ugh.  Do you pull back and look for a position that you don’t want as much?  Do you resign yourself to a job you know will bore you for the next couple of years?

No.  Stop and think like a hiring manager. They are looking for candidates who know their stuff.  It just so happens that the general consensus says knowing your stuff requires some experience in the industry.  This study by McKinsey & Co. and Chegg even says that college graduates are under prepared but overqualified for employment…a finding that will naturally push hiring managers away from hiring recent grads.

So clearly, your next step should be to prove that you are sufficiently prepared for employment.  How?  Build a portfolio of work similar to what you would be doing on the job and submit it with your job application.  Refocus the potential employer’s attention on your skills and potential and away from metrics that don’t necessarily describe what you can do properly.  Here’s how.

 

Step 1 – MOOCs:  Learning the Skills

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are classes from well known Universities that professors modify for distance learning to allow access to any student for free.  Many of these courses teach exactly the same material as what the professors teach in their traditional classes, but you can take them in your spare time without spending money to build your knowledge and skills base.

Keep in mind that your major and college classes are not the full span of your capabilities.  An English degree is a great base for a copywriting career, but taking a few classes on your own time in marketing techniques can give your writing the boost you need to land that job at an ad agency.

Websites like Coursera and EdX provide great platforms for MOOCs.  It is important, however, to record your work for the class.  The assignments and projects you complete are great additions to your professional portfolio, as they legitimize the coursework you do through MOOCs.  You can keep track of all this by downloading your work as you complete it, or by using websites like Accredible to transfer all of your online coursework to one place that can be linked to the rest of your portfolio.

 

Step 2 – Speculative Projects/Case Studies:  Applying the Skills

There are case studies all over the internet – taking a few and using skills you learned from college and your MOOCs to write an analysis for each can help get your feet wet in the kind of thinking you need to solve problems in your industry.

Speculative or freelancing projects are also great ways to simulate what you will be doing later in a full time job.  Telling a small or mid-sized business or nonprofit organization that you are willing to help them out for free or little charge is an easy way to land some of these projects – this is time you are spending building work experience regardless of the amount you are getting paid.

Specifically working with nonprofit organizations in a volunteer position not only gives you the added experience for your newly developed skills, it also shows a more human side of your personality.  Maybe your volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity relates to your passion for fighting poverty, or perhaps your commitment to proper healthcare is showcased through your extensive work with the Red Cross.  Talking about your volunteer work in an interview is also great way to transition to you personal qualities and cultural fit.

 

Step 3 – Research:  Effectively Showcasing the Skills

Know what’s going on!  Read the news, find new articles on techniques and technology, and learn to use the newest software.  Once your profile gets you to an interview, you still need to prove that you can hit the ground running upon receiving an offer.

Having background knowledge about developments the company and its industry can help you come up with possible solutions to their problems before you are even working there – there is no better way than that to show that you would be an asset to the team.

Follow those three steps and you can show the hiring manager that you are perfect for your dream job because even though you don’t have years under your belt, you have the necessary skills and can demonstrate initiative to continue building more in the future.

Buzzwords Decoded: Dynamic

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Welcome to another week of Buzzwords Decoded with Accredible!  Last week we cleared up the ruckus around ‘motivation’ and are back again with ‘dynamic’ to take your resume up another notch.

 

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

: always active or changing

: having or showing a lot of energy

: of or relating to energy, motion, or physical force

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

Saying that you are a dynamic person can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different contexts.  Usually, ‘dynamic’ refers to something that changes.  In the workplace, that may not necessarily be a good thing.  Flexibility?  Yes.  Employee who randomly decides to change his approach to work?  No.  Are employers really that nitpicky about the word and its exact meaning?  Probably not, but if your usage of a word doesn’t click immediately, someone who has mere seconds to look at your resume will just gloss over it and you will have lost an opportunity to make an imprint in their mind.

Unless you have an extensive amount of work experience full of career moves and advances, your resume usually will be limited to 1 page.  Cramming your entire personality and life experience onto a single page is difficult and every word is precious.  Losing the chance to shine because of a poorly used word in an unfortunate opportunity cost.

 

How to Use it Properly

Like any overt claim you make about yourself on your resume, it is important to back it up and provide context. If the executive summary of your resume refers to you as a ‘dynamic go-getter’ and never goes back to explain why later, the word is lost and has no meaning.  Assuming you absolutely must use the word, talk about how dynamic your ideas were on a project.

Still, ‘dynamic’ is simply an overly vague word.  If you mean that you are a flexible person, use ‘flexible’.  If you mean energetic, just use ‘energetic’.  The person reading your resume is probably a person (or sometimes a computer, but that’s just another reason to keep it simple) who doesn’t use flowery vocabulary themselves in real life.  The easier you make it for them to get through your entire resume quickly, the more likely they are to get the impression you originally intended from your application.

 

Take Away

‘Dynamic’ is an odd word that doesn’t usually describe a person clearly without direct examples.  Even with a lot of context, it can usually be replaced with a much more simple and straightforward term.  Just Keep It Simple, Silly!

Do you have a resume cliche you’d like to see addressed in this series?  Leave a comment below with your word and the Accredibles will decode your cliche as quickly as possible!

He Flunked, Was Rejected, Went Bankrupt…And Then Founded The Walt Disney Company

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An actor, animator, filmmaker, and wildly successful businessman, its kind of shocking at first to hear that Walt Disney only had around 9 years of formal education.  He started school at the ripe old age of 7 and dropped out at 16 to join the military.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) for him, he was rejected for being underage and spent a year in France with the Red Cross instead.  After returning to the United States, Disney received his first job as a cartoonist in 1919, and the rest is history.

 

“Children have got to be free to lead their own lives.” – Sebastian, The Little Mermaid

small_2917335255Despite having strict parents, Walt grew up doing what he wanted when he wanted.  He was a shrewd businessman even as a child.  After his father, Elias, bought a newspaper delivery route, Walt was made to work for him without pay.  He knew how to make the best of his situation, though.  From delivering medicines for the local pharmacy on his route to selling extra papers without his father’s knowledge, Walt developed a thriving business of his own without any help, encouragement, or formal education.  This continued throughout his few years in high school and, of course, eventually led to exemplary management of the Walt Disney Company.

 

“The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.” – Timothy Mouse, Dumbo

Classes came second to work for Walt during his schooling years.  His exhausting work schedule left little time to study, which had a heavy impact on his grades.  Even as he worked such a demanding schedule and small_6635533755trudged through school, however, Walt always found time to indulge in his passion for drawing.  He traded his cartoons for haircuts, became the cartoonist for his school’s newspaper, and later submitted to magazines and drew for his co-workers in Paris – all learned from just a couple of brief stints in art classes.

All the work, discipline, and cartoons did very little for Walt’s grades as a child, but he grew up to build The Walt Disney Company – so it is difficult to argue against the merits of his childhood activities.  He learned how to run a business, work with colleagues, and develop a skill that would redefine animation and serve as a catalyst into a new age of cinema.

 

“If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.” – Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio

Walt’s success can really be attributed more to his attitude than any form of education (and perhaps even small_2486345776experience).  “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”  This was the philosophy he lived by: to achieve excellence and watch the theaters fill up as his reward.  This attitude inspired Walt to take risks (like starting a business) that sometimes caused him to fail (he had to declare bankruptcy in 1922), but then he got back up again and made Alice in Wonderland.  

Teaching yourself anything can seem like an insurmountable challenge when you get a good look at just how much there is to learn, but the real magic is in the learning, not the teaching itself.  A teacher (whether its a person, software, book, or audio recording) can only teach as well as its student can learn.  Walt is an ultimate example of a sponge learner – he soaked up his experiences so well, he never even needed a teacher to hold his hand.

 

“You just need to believe in yourself.” – Rex, Toy Storysmall_9594201177

So basically: Walt Disney went to school for 9 years, flunked most of the time, dropped out of high school, never went to college, taught himself to be a businessman and cartoonist purely by learning while doing, and became the roots of one of the most admired companies in the world.  He must have done something right.

 

“Hakuna Matata!” – Timon and Pumbaa, The Lion King

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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/expressmonorail/3108405260/”>Express Monorail</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
 

Buzzwords Decoded: Motivation

Innovation - Ideas Light Bulb Hatching

Welcome to another week of Buzzwords Decoded with Accredible!  Last week we cleared up the ruckus around ‘innovation’ and are back again with ‘motivation’ to take your resume up another notch.

Definition: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1a :  the act or process of motivating

1b :  the condition of being motivated

2:  a motivating force, stimulus, or influence :  incentive, drive

 

How to Use it Incorrectly

Ever since we learned what a resume was and its importance in the job search, we have been taught to toot our own horns.  Obviously, displaying how awesome you are is essential to getting a hiring manager to look twice – but being obvious about it can actually be off-putting, believe it or not.  Your goal should be to make your horn so attractive that people are drawn to it without requiring obnoxious pleas for attention.

The art of ‘humble self promotion’ is difficult to grasp because it is done differently for each person, but taking out the ‘humble’ can make you sound like a bad salesman – and that will put off anyone who is looking at your resume.

 

How to Use it Properly

Going on and on about how motivated you are as a professional doesn’t actually say anything about you without some solid context demonstrating why you think you are a motivated person.  If you want to show that you are motivated, a quick description of a time when you overcame several challenges to get something done on time could be very helpful.

Another way to show you are motivated is to say why instead of how.  Giving examples of instances when you have shown motivation can take up valuable space on your resume.  Instead, you could demonstrate why you are motivated.  Maybe you have a career goal you are trying to reach or believe strongly in the social mission of the company you are working for.  These things can help to not only eliminate annoying buzzwords, but also humanize you out of a pile of robot resumes.

Asking someone to vouch for you is also a great way to show off your horn without tooting it.  Someone else has nothing to gain by praising you.  So when your former supervisor takes the time to write a great LinkedIn recommendation about how dedicated and motivated you were to accomplishing your goals, a future hiring manager is bound to take it seriously.

 

Take Away

Saying that you are motivated tells an employer or potential mentor nothing of substance and makes you sound robotic.  Solution:  You must prove it with an example, reason, or recommendation.  These things will help your work speak for itself and you won’t need cliched buzzwords that people glaze over anyway.

 

Do you have a resume cliche you’d like to see addressed in this series?  Leave a comment below with your word and the Accredibles will decode your cliche as quickly as possible!