Thursday, 28 February 2013

Employers and Social Media!

Searching for a job now, is not limited to certain career title, and not bounded by the country you live in or the language you speak. Nowadays, you can literally, search the world for a job. In the same situation, the employers are also searching the globe for job candidates. I totally agree that the online representation of employees helps to give a good impression. It also allow you to emphasis on the skills and experiences that can help market yourself. The competition out there started to be very difficult. Am I ready for that?!

I think that there should be a separation between our use of social media websites in terms of professional-wise and social-wise. I'm sort of person who can play a game on a Facebook, or like a page for a fashion designer or even writing something friendly on a friend's wall .. and I think all these things are not relevant to any kind of career I'm doing or willing to do. For me, Facebook is a social network that employers shouldn't be using for building a decision about a future employee. Unless the employer wants to know if a certain employee was using the social networks during work hours or not! However, there still sites and applications that help you clear up the electronic mess you have done before.

On the other hand, I would recommend using a "professional" website or network, like LinkedIN or ResearchGate, where the main goal from joining it is building a professional presence on the Internet. One can connect to work colleagues, classmates, or people met on a conference or a workshop. My colleagues can recommend me in doing certain kind of jobs based on real documented experiences, i. e., projects we have done together. Also Twitter, is a good option for employers to look at. It allows short posts a time, so it enforces you to think about what you are going to tweet. Moreover, it is a more general purpose social media means which can give the employer a good idea about the potential employees as well as following their up-t-date opinions (short opinions). It will not neither waste the time of an employer nor the employee.

To be honest, my own accounts on Facebook and Twitter are not ready at the moment to be viewed by any kind of employers. I used the first for family and friends contact means and I'm not using the second actively. Although I don't recommend that employers look for me on Facebook, and I'd prefer if they do the search on a more professional sites, I still need to polish my online presence to be more professional, may be by using privacy options to get more privacy and know who see what on my profile. Personally, I like the idea of making a new CV style, that you can upload a video about yourself, some artists upload cartoon video about themselves. A picture web page is another attractive idea for a CV, with some logos for the companies I worked for and the photos of me giving a seminar ... etc. I thought of something like using Prezi for an idea presentation about me in a nut shell. This will be attractive, take small space and accessible by employers. Moreover, as a lecturer-to-be, it will be a good introduction about me to my students too. This can help me get some students who are willing to do some research in an area which I like or I already doing research in. This kind of information will be part of my online presence.

Social Media and Me!

The only social media means I used for three years (2004-2007) was Yahoo! Groups, where using yahoo email account, you can create a group and invite members to join and start exchanging ideas, news, and files. I started by being a member in some groups (i. e., funny ones, course-related ones). Then I became a moderator in a group which was basically talking about the need to have a profession syndicate for Software Engineers in Egypt. This one was the seed for the recent law (waiting for a Parliament decision) for establishing the Egyptian Software Engineers Syndicate. I was organizing the emails exchange, control memberships, sending announcements to avoid spam and irrelevant emails. After sometime, I joined many groups and I started to receive tones of emails, which made me leave some of them. When I discovered Facebook by invitation from a friend, I started to use it and even play on its application games, which keeps you playing for months and years!

Being in the UK, I use Facebook basically everyday to connect with my family and friends in Egypt. I added some of my students who are working now in different software companies worldwide. I don't think my Facebook account is representing my professional career, though I'm using my real details and added some profession history on the profile.

I built an account on LinkedIN to be connected with my career friends and the professionals in my field. It is really helpful to present your CV, work history, and all this can be supported by recommendations from others. Doing the PhD in computer science, I used it to connect to people I may not be able to meet at all. Researchers and other PhD students in the same area of research can accept your invitation immediately or through others introducing you to them. Though, I didn't use it to look for a job, yet. In LinkedIN, people can endorse your skills and expertise that they know you have, or they worked with you before and you showed that skill at that time. I have more than 250 connections and they are increasing!
I have already accounts on: Twitter (which I'm not very active using it), and ResearchGate (to follow research in my field of study). I do believe that having accounts on several network is  good in keeping the one updated with what is going around, however, it is really annoying to get the same ad or message (email) from the same contact in each network you use. This is really not a good thing and consumes, space, time and efforts too. I would like to have one professional network and one social network, so it will be one place to look for my career/research staff, and another one to play and communicate with friends and family in an informal way.

At the same time, you are not going to be guaranteed a job once you published your CV or connected to employers, it is just opening a new window on you that employers can use to learn more about who they are going to employ. It gives them the confidence that you can represent yourself as a professional (than others). It gives you the opportunity to express your ideas and reactions towards different parties in different situations that you may not be able to express publicly in the scene. Personally, I need more academic work to be added to my experience, as well as more research publications. These are perfect representatives for an academic like me. 

On Defining my Personal Brand

When I decided to join the Leicester Award, I thought it will be some extra seminars or lectures that I have to attend, read its material, have some assignments to fill and get grades and then .. forget about it! Heading towards the end of the second unit, about two-thirds of it, the whole idea I had is changing. I found that I'm really involved in discovering myself and my online brand. Moreover, I'm interested, more than have to, in reshaping my online presence.

During my study (and work) life, I attended many courses and seminars about self development and other soft skills. Some were part of my study and others were just because of my curiosity about is it possible to -somehow- control your life. I even, organized some human development courses in my university back in Egypt, where as a team leader to a student community in the faculty, I used to prepare a background about the event we want to hold, i.e.,
  • what topic is interesting for the audience (students) at that moment, 
  • who to invite as a speaker, 
  • why we should so that,
  • when it is possible to hold the event,
  • where could such event being held,
  • who is going to volunteer to help in the day,
  • how the event is going to be announced and advertised,
 I asked for a meeting with the student community I lead, and we hold meetings with the interested students, put the initial plan and started working. The day went smooth and got many audience who were really pleased and happy to go through such experience. I remembered that event when I searched for my name on the Internet, as I found one of the results is the news about that event back in 2008 on the community page.

To be honest, I googled my name and I expected to get many results as I used to  join almost all the social and professional networks I could reach, in which I used my real name and profession. After seeing it, I am surprised of the number of results appeared in both English and Arabic. I used to communicate with my friends, students and other experts in my field through the Internet for more than eight years now. I realized that there are many information that shouldn't be available today about me and I believe the fact that If someone else wants to know more about me, I should provide them with a single reference for my work aspect and another one for the friends and family.

Some people would think this is affecting the privacy of yourself, and I think it is not like that. If you want to know somebody, you google them and trying to find more about them and how to contact them, e.g., a professor, a role model, an old friend and most importantly an employer who would search for you (as a potential employee). I'm still cannot see why an employer would look for my page on facebook or following my tweets if I will not be using them as part of my job! However, I should start to tidy up. I know it would be difficult with having everything scattered around, but it worth trying.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Teaching young people

I do believe in classroom participation, so the students should join and think about what the teacher is talking about. An interesting challenge to a teacher to make the students attracted and take them to the land of science where most things have explanations and can be tangibly understood. Even the matters that still uncovered and not discovered seem to be challenging to discuss and get different ideas from the pure unbounded minds of people who know it for the first time. This is a point when there is no right or wrong answers, all are attempts to explain and predict. However, innovation is not easy to handle in our university education life. It is sometimes bounded by resources, time, mentors, and of course attendance sheets, exams, assignments, ... etc.
Although I'm teaching in the university for five years since my graduation, I have never ever imagined myself teaching young children. May be because I always thought that I'm not patient enough to make children set and listen to something they consider boring in advance. Furthermore, making a piece of information abstract and easy to digest by young people with their endless questions about everything .. what? how? why? who? which I don't know how to give a meaningful kids-way answers to them. Besides, it is better to get experience in teaching undergraduate students only and focus on my future career as a lecturer. 

All these thoughts came to my mind when my husband first told me about that online ad he saw. The ad asked for a female Arabic teacher to teach science subjects to children before college age (and from primary school age) in the Saudi school in Leicester. My husband encouraged me to go for the interview, "we are not going to lose anything", he said. I went to the interview, part of which was to prepare any science lesson from the students book for 15 minutes and then teach it to the first secondary school students (aged 12-14). I chose a science lesson about Newton's laws of motion. Going into the classroom with my interviewer, I started by an example situation to attract the students' attention, proceeding to ask who does know Newton, and what did he do to be famous. I got very good answers with variety of responses which formed the basics of the lesson. Then they were ready to, sort of, formalize the knowledge they had in the form of laws. We discussed the meaning of each law and how they are related to the situation we started with. Although I didn't have the material before and didn't get the time to prepare some illustrations for the topic, I was able to guide the students to talk and conclude the main points of the lesson. The students were very happy and didn't want to finish the class, and my interviewer told me she was attracted to the lesson and got all the ideas smoothly. 

It was my first experience in teaching students in this age. I got that part-time job, and I really enjoyed it. Every time I prepare myself to be innovative and bring the students attention to new ways of how things are working, or why they are acting that way. It gave me the confidence that I can teach no matter how old the students are. Next term, I went to teach even younger students in the primary school age, and that was challenging. They were jumping everywhere, screaming and asking me silly questions. I managed to attract them after ten minutes (yes ten!), by using a story kind of illustration, I brought some sweats  (healthy ones!) and gave everyone who answers my questions. Of course I tried to give them different levels of questions and make a small analysis study about the levels of understanding and study they have. This helped me to give each one of them the attention they needed to be in the same success levels as supposed to be in this grade.  Overall, it was a very good experience for me and I hope to make it again if it is possible.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Blogging and me!

During my working at the university in Egypt, I used to be an active team player and a contributor to the community. I had organized many seminars, job fairs, training sessions and social activities within the faculty. I was popular and caring teaching assistant staff member, in a small still-growing faculty for computer science and information systems. Yes, a small software technology factory, which aims to educate and prepare undergraduate students to face the life. Using the technology in such an environment is a must. That's why I used emails social networks and groups to communicate with the students and to stay connected with friends. Of course, I know about blogs and how brilliant they are in expressing your views and ideas and I tried to build one. However, I didn't use it! I think this is because of not having the time to set down and write about something I'm interested in or something I hate. I always had this idea of doesn't have the time to do that!
Now, by taking part of the Leicester Award, I'm going to change this. Honestly, I had many ideas before that I wanted to talk about, not necessary with people you know and talking to them  face to face, but also with other people who you may not reach by direct contact as your friends. Blogging opens the door for me to be heard world-widely and makes me feel better by writing about what I know.  Actually, it can be an effective means of communicating ideas. I found some useful Blogs in my field of study and I found it interesting to be able to update your thoughts and believes, and to see how they are developed overtime. This gave me an idea bout how to use the blog in academia and for learning purposes too. I'm planning to use it to communicate with my students back in Egypt. May be by designing a dynamic blog for the courses I'm going to teach, in which the students can find material about the course and some other general links that will help them improve their computer science culture.

In some posts on my blog (this one), I expressed my views in Egypt's political conflicts that arisen after the Egyptian revolution as part of the Arab Spring. Some people doesn't like the (Arab Spring)  as a title for a very difficult time that these countries facing in order to gain freedom and democracy, however, I like it. It is just like an Arabic Spring, when you have windy days, dusty storms, some rain, some sunshine, and most importantly, asthma and allergy sufferers  who hate this season. Among all that disturbing things, you find flowers grow and trees flourish. I blogged about my opinion in the new Egyptian constitution and how it is not well-formed enough for Egypt. I wrote about my passion for cooking, and how I was so happy to buy cooking books. I even try anew recipe every weekend. BTW, the last one was pizza (that is in the picture).
my mini pizzas
What I wanted to say is, no matter I'm busy, I can find sometime to express my ideas and communicate with others about what I do and what I want to do while blogging.