Monday, July 15, 2019

Spotlight On: Brian Kinsley

Unlike many students in the Center for Digital Engagement Clinic, Brian Kinsley is already steady on the path of breaking into the tech industry in Ann Arbor. After finishing up Washtenaw Community College’s Design and Development program, he had many offers for various short-term assignments and already had a significant amount of experience in the field. On the side, he also runs a profitable bike shop in Ann Arbor while searching for full-time employment. 

Kinsley has been highly proactive in his pursuits, attending every networking event he can. He remarks of the job search, however, “If you don’t already work in the tech industry or are currently a tech student, you ain’t getting that job in Ann Arbor,” noting the challenges of breaking into a saturated market.

At the 2019 Student TechWalk, Brian met Bud Gibson, the Director of the Center for Digital Engagement, at a speed-networking event. Although he had heard of the CDE Clinic before, he was unaware it was open to non-EMU students. After telling Bud his life story, Brian was eager to apply to the clinic. He was admitted and has since been paired with, where he works developing customer experience solutions. Kinsley is one of 5 WCC students and alumni participating in the 2019 Summer Clinic. 

Kinsley credits the clinic for providing additional networking and support for him in his journey.

Brian Kinsley is a tenacious freelance UX Designer, familiar with OmniGraffle, Pencil Project and Blasamiq for site diagramming,site deconstruction and wireframeing. He’s taken coursework in and obtained excellent marks in two different User Testing, UX Research and UI Design and completed several projects, including two different Responsive Websites; Intrigue Escape Games, including two wireframes and South Rockwood United Methodist Church, also involving multiple wireframes and full-color mock-ups. He can be contacted for future collaborations at:

Twitter: @brianjkinsley
Website/ Portfolio:

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Student Intern Spotlight: Jessica Finley

In the CDE, there are many different personalities and working styles between the interns. Some people are so confident in themselves that their personalities show anytime they speak. One of those people is Jessica Finley. A marketing major from EMU that switched from entrepreneurship. I recently got a chance to talk to Jessica about her CDE experience and experience with her company Teckstak. 

The first topic we discussed was her schedule. Jessica works remotely for the most part and meets up with Techstak members once a week for 2 hours. She’s expressed how blessed she was to be able to work from anywhere. Mainly because her brother and sister live in Saginaw so it gives her time to keep a strong relationship with them and work at the same time!

Jessica was actually a student of Bud Gibson before the CDE Clinic so she was already aware of the program itself. “Bud told me that it would be beneficial if I joined and he was right.” Having Bud as an instructor prior to the Clinic helped Jessica out because the procedures in the Clinic are some of the same procedures in Bud’s class. Jessica tells me that it’s a “confidence booster” and that she was able to be herself when she got more comfortable speaking to an entire room of people. 

We also talked about her role at Techstak. Techstak pretty much matches companies with tech companies that can help with their work. One challenging part about being a marketer in a tech company is becoming comfortable with what is going on. “I’m a marketer in a room with a web designer and the CEO. Marketers need to learn web design lingo.” Jessica is the person that has to constantly think about how the customer can gravitate towards their services. 

Techstak is helping Jessica because she has big plans for the future. She’s an “entrepreneur at heart.” Jessica wants to start a blogging business and tells me that the things that she’s learning while interning are helping her with ideas for her business. Jessica then said something that I haven’t stopped thinking about since she told me: “Wherever you work, you should do it for free.” This is how the CDE Clinic helps future professionals. It helps them build their confidence, teaches new skills, and inspires them to carve their own path in their careers.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Being Creative in Constraints

We are all "a creative" in some way or another.  Creative problem solving is a skill that will get you far, and we learned even more about that this week from Hien Lam, co-owner of Huck Finch.  One of the things that Hien mentioned that really stuck with me was the phrase be creative in constraints. 

Working in start up culture, we all know that rolling with the punches is just a part of the gig.  As an intern, there are constraints.  Hien shared some helpful insight when it comes to using those set backs to turn into major come backs. "Let your problems be differentiators," he mentioned.  Taking problems at surface level and giving up is so easy, but to become great at what you do, it takes some innovative thinking.

I decided to share some of the things I took from Hien's chat with us, and how I think it can help students not just now, but in their career (and personal) development for years to come.

1) Collaboration is your friend.  As much as I love to do things myself, putting many minds together can often result in magic.  Tackle a problem with some coworkers, or have a fresh set of eyes look at it.  Sometimes you can be staring at a solution and not even realize it.

2) Think outside the box.  Problems are going to arise in any job, especially working with start ups.  None of us have it figured out, so this is a perfect way to show your leaders what you've got and make the most of a set back.  Brainstorming is a great way to think about your ideal scenario in a new light.  What is something you could do to make it happen in an untraditional manner?  Sometimes, these end up being the best ideas yet!

3) Pursue problems positively.  It's amazing what can get done when you have a positive attitude.  Dropping the word "problem" and switching it with "opportunity" can make a world of difference.  When you are thinking of opportunities for improvement, that shows that you are pursuing greatness, instead of just defining something as it is.

While Hien was able to share a wealth of knowledge, I hope this shed a little light on how to think creatively within the constraints you may be facing.  The last thing I want to leave you all with is a quote from Hien that I loved; Be Bold, Be Italic, but never regular.

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3 Lessons to Live Life on Brand

Welcome Back! Our most recent cohort speaker, Hien Lam, is co-owner of Huck Finch, a brand agency for start-ups and designers. Hien was a passionate and captivating speaker that made the whole room want to hear more! He started off with a quote that read, "The act of dying is one of the acts of life" by Marcus Aurelius. This took everyone by surprise and made us interested in the deep life lessons he was about to teach us. Hien chose three quotes from friends whose life lessons were worth sharing.

Lesson #1: "Life takes the right amount of stupid" -Dina Wojcik

Dina is an entrepreneur who owns a mushroom factory and sells mushrooms to restaurants in Detroit. When she first got into the mushroom industry, Dina didn't know how to sell her mushrooms to restaurants. She marketed her mushrooms the only way she knew how, going restaurant to restaurant asking if they wanted to buy her mushrooms. Luckily, Dina was successfully able to get clients throughout Detroit, but in times when she was not successful, she would ask for constructive criticism on how to improve. Hien pointed out that by asking ourselves "what's the worst thing that can happen?" it takes away some of the worry that comes along with taking career risks and not knowing every detail along the way. Life takes just the right amount of stupid in order to succeed. We must admit to ourselves that we don't know everything, there is always room for growth and everyone has to start somewhere.

Lesson #2:  "If time is money then letting people take your time is like letting them steal from your bank account" -Jason Fried

Jason is an entrepreneur and author who hates shared calendars. This is because those who have access are able to schedule an appointment without your permission at any time. He believes that if time is money, why would you let someone steal your time? Learning to say no is also an important part in protecting your valuable time. If we say yes too often, we will spread ourselves thin. Overall, our best advice is to spend your time wisely.

Lesson #3: "Invest in social capital" -David Klingenberger

David is the founder and CFO of The Brinery whose fermented products are sold in places like Whole Foods. David believes that his ability to create and invest in relationships (aka social capital) played a huge roll in his entrepreneurial success. Some ways Hien suggested to build social capital were to reach out to someone in the community, maybe someone you admire, and ask questions. Building relationships that have the potential to help you network can help you answer questions, find a job and overall, help your career. Make sure when investing in a professional relationship to follow through on one thing that they suggest. Make sure to let them know that you followed through with their suggestion and how it went. People love to feel heard and letting people know you took their advice is a great way to build social capital.

A HUGE thank you to our speaker, Hien, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to come to the CDE's cohort meeting this week! If you would like to check out Huck Finch's website and social media the links are down below. Also, make sure you are following the CDE on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the links are also down below!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Spotlight on: Alumna Gabrielle Miller

Gabrielle Miller graduated from Eastern Michigan University in December 2018 with a major in Communication and a minor in Marketing. While in school, Miller was President of the Multicultural Greek Council, Vice President of Zeta Sigma Chi, and held numerous other volunteer positions. She also worked as a Marketing Communications Coordinator at the Student Center and did both graphic design and marketing for the Center for Digital Engagement in addition to her startup placement at TrueJob.

Miller credits the Center for Digital Engagement Summer Clinic for putting her in a unique position as she embarked on her job hunt. “For many of what jobs had as requirements I was able to use my summer experience as talking points. In doing the summer internship you leave with many new things under your belt. New connections, knowledge, and you have reputable certifications under your belt,” said Miller, speaking of her experienced in the clinic. She also cites major improvements to her online profile, including her LinkedIn. “I had professionals asking me for business advice while I was still in college.” 

Within six months of graduating college, Miller landed her dream job at Nachi Robotics, where she is now a Marketing Specialist.
To current and future clinic participants, Miller says that persistence is key. “Don’t give up, and never settle. Be patient and persistent, and know your worth.” 

Miller also encourages students to realize the value of connections, and of networking. She expresses her sincere gratitude and thanks for the connections she has forged with other CDE participants, CDE Director Bud Gibson, and with the other professionals she’s had the opportunity to work with as a result of her internship.     

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Student Intern Spolight: Celia Arsen

Welcome! An internship gives you the practical skills, workplace knowledge and greater knowledge of your industry necessary to move up in your career. There are so many more reasons to take on an internship such as, building your confidence, growing your communication skills and getting a feel for different industries. Most people have so many questions before starting an internship such as, what are other students doing, how should I connect with my company, and what does an internship really look like? 

Lucky for you, we are about to answer all of your questions! Currently, the Digital Summer Clinic Internship is in session for the summer, and 40 interns have been paired together and are currently working with their assigned company. This week, I decided to interview one of our interns, Celia Arsen! Celia is from Ann Arbor who is working with Dynamo Metrics. Celia is an amazing 21 year old rising senior attending Barnard College studying Information Science. She currently lives in Michigan for the summer, but Celia lives in New York during the school year. 

Surprisingly, Celia heard about the Digital Summer Clinic Internship through an email chain! It just goes to show that opportunities can pop up anywhere. She was interested in the opportunity to make connections in Michigan since living in New York, and if she decides to come back to Michigan after graduation, having connections here will be very valuable.

What are other interns doing?

Celia Arsen is an intern for Dynamo Metrics, a start-up company that focuses on decision support through actionable analytics for local governments. Dynamo analyzes city data to help political leaders and public administrators decide which investments in their city will provide the greatest returns in terms of property value. Most of the work that Dynamo does is based on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and that is what Celia is currently working on. 

Celia has been learning to use mapping software and Relational Database Management Systems (RBDMS) to create maps that help clients understand the current state of their city. She is also learning how to take the maps and show clients what would happen if they made different policy decisions. This type of work reaffirms the fundamental idea that investing in the revitalization of abandoned buildings tends to pay itself back by raising the values of surrounding properties. Especially in the mid west, where so many neighborhoods have had issues with depopulation and abandonment. 

Celia talks about her work by saying, "The work that I'm doing with Dynamo has an important impact because it shows that investing in our cities can be a much better option than giving up on them." 

How are interns connecting with their company?

Making the most out of her internship is Celia's goal, and she has done that by building connections with the CEO and Co-Founder, Nigel Griswold and his Co-Founder and CTO, Benjamin Calnin. Celia's positive attitude and hard working spirit had Nigel talking about potentially hiring her after just meeting her. This connection could be extremely beneficial if she decides to return to Michigan after graduation. During her 10 hours a week, Celia spends her time working in the office on a Dynamo computer, and she prefers working with the Dynamo team because it is nice to be able to ask for help and guidance when necessary. 

Celia's advice to future interns, "I think future interns could really benefit from seeing how their communication and technical skills can be put into action to help make important decisions."

What does this internship really look like?

On a normal day, Celia works mainly with the CEO and Co-Founder, Nigel Griswold and his Co-Founder and CTO, Benjamin Calnin. She goes into Dynamo on Tuesday's and Wednesday's and is usually given direction by Ben when she arrives. Celia has been focusing on being proactive and putting her efforts where they are needed when she can. The most difficult part is that there is still a small team when working with a start-up, so if there is a bug no one can figure out or if the server fails, it can be difficult to get back on track and complete a certain task. With a limited amount of employees, that means there is no IT department to help fix anything that may go wrong.

Celia wanted to let others studying Information Science know, "When I applied for the internship, I wasn't sure that there would be a position available that really fits my interests. I like data analysis, especially with GIS, and I thought that the Digital Summer Clinic Internship focused only on Marketing. However, I was wrong. I was able to find an internship that focused on applying computer science to real world situations."

Thus far, Celia has learned that everyone at her start-up company (and any company really) is always going to be busy, so this is pushing her to grow her self-management skills. Taking initiative and figuring out where she will be the most helpful is something that was unexpected, but Celia was happy to have gained this knowledge from her internship experience. Overall, Celia is so grateful to have this internship, and to be getting the beneficial work experience that she is receiving. 

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Ann Arbor Tech Track: American Center of Mobility and the Mobility Tech Industry

When it comes to high tech businesses, there has never been a better time to be in Ann Arbor than now!

What I mean by that is there has never been more opportunities to work, experience, and connect with high tech businesses in the city of Ann Arbor. The city has carved its own path through high technology that has many different categories of work. Ann Arbor proudly hosts its Tech Trek event every year highlighting some of the leading technology companies in the entire world. One of the most popular forms of technology that Ann Arbor dominates is mobility.

So you're probably asking yourself how Ann Arbor is the nucleus of mobility tech  I'll start with a brief background of myself. I'm actually from a city almost an hour away from Ann Arbor called Detroit. If you're not familiar with Detroit, its nickname is the Motor City because of its history with automobiles. So, it would be reasonable for Ann Arbor to be influenced by Michigan's automobile history correct? So, it would make sense if I told you that companies like Toyota make $5 million investments in research centers in Ann Arbor correct? One of the biggest testing centers in the Ann Arbor region, the American Center for Mobility, uses its multiple research environments to help automobile companies with not only testing new ideas, but ensuring the safety of these innovative ideas.

This is simply ONE reason as to why Ann Arbor is taking over high technology companies. Stay tuned and we'll go over some of the other categories in technology that Ann Arbor will take over!