Snowboarding and more

Interview Questions

I found Sam Daugherty’s questions to ask during the interview process to be helpful; therefore, I wanted to repost them here:

Task-related Questions

  • What is the skills gap you’re trying to fill?
  • What are the ideal skills or experiences for someone in this role?
  • What does the day-to-day look like?
  • What are some high-level problems I’ll be working to solve?
  • What are the backlog problems I’ll need to solve?

Job-related questions

  • Is this a backfill position or a growth position?
  • What does success look like in this role?
  • What does collaboration and communication look like on your team and between teams/departments?
  • What is the average timeframe allotted to research/design a solution?
  • What is the makeup of the team and how are tasks divided?

Long-term questions

  • What kind of growth opportunities are there?
  • Where do you see this role/team in 3 years?
  • Are there opportunities for mentorship?
  • Do you see the team growing and what sort of growth do you expect?

Company questions

  • Describe the culture of the team and the company for me?
  • What made you want to work for [company] and what’s kept you here?
  • How often do you have to work late, on weekends, or feel compelled to respond after hours?
  • What does taking time off look like and are you expected to respond to messages during vacation?
  • Are there opportunities to travel and meet the team in person (if remote)?

More tips in the comment section from Jared Spool:

If you open with “When you hire the right person to join your team, what would y’all be able to accomplish that you’re not accomplishing right now?,” you’re showing that you’re very interested in the team’s success. It gives you an opening for many of the follow-up questions.

Chances are, from the answer, you won’t even have to ask many of them. For example, you’ll likely learn if the reason they’re hiring is that there’s a skill gap or that they’re just shorthanded. You’ll learn if it’s work on the backlog or if these are high-level problems being solved (or high-level problems on the backlog).

You can even ask what they’ve tried in the past to accomplish these things and explore what didn’t quite work out. That’ll give you good insights into the history of “how did you get to this moment” (something that lots of folks forget to ask about), which can be quite telling about how the team and organization works.

With every follow-up question, you can mentally build up a case as to what’s in your history that would make you an ideal candidate. You can wrap things up with a summary of that.

Self Review for 2021-2022

It’s the time of the year when I dread the most. This year, I have a new supervisor and I also have to review the Web Content Specialist who is reporting to me. I am not good at writing review of my own performance, but I am just going to plow through it. Here we go.

Job Function 1

My main responsibility as Director of Design and Web Services is designing, updating, and maintaining the main law school website.

  1. The contents on the main school website are being updated on a daily basis. I work closely with our Web Content Specialist to make changes according to requests. We also make sure the contents are accurate and accessible.
  2. I make incremental rather than drastic changes to the design of the main law school website. The small changes improved the user experience without catching the users off guard. Redesign is in progress and it is being rolled out in components.
  3. Maintaining the backend server is the crucial responsibility in this role. Keeping the technologies up‐to‐date is essential in longevity as well as security. I implemented content delivery network (CDN) to speed up the site performance and web application firewall (WAF) to prevent hacking attempts.

Job Function 2

My second responsibility is maintaining a network of websites for the Scalia Law community. The WordPress Multisite is powering almost 50 sites ranging from intranets to centers to institutes to faculty members to student organizations to marketing sites. We let stakeholders updating their own sites, but we assist them when they need new functionalities or troubleshooting WordPress issues.

Job Function 3

As Director of Design and Web Services, I serve the Law School community with their websites, print marketing materials, and content updates. I work with outside agencies and vendors on their behalf to make sure they have all the resources (web servers, social media access, analytics) to do their job.

Accountability

  • I take full responsibility for my role in keeping our web presence attractive, up‐to‐date, accessible, readable, and secured.
  • I take my supervision responsibility to make sure we’re on the same page. For example, our HTML markups and coding must be cleaned, organized and readable. Our content on the web must be clear, accurate, and error‐free.
  • I take full accountability in all of my areas of responsibility in order to meet the mission and goals of the law school and university.

Collaboration and Civility

  • I work closely with everyone at the law school as well as colleagues in the University to provide the highest services to meet the Mason standards.
  • I am a team player and I always listen respectfully to others.

Self-Development

  • I always seek to learn latest web developments.
  • I continue to hone my writing skills.
  • I reach out to colleagues within our department or the university for projects we can collaborate.
  • I always stay on top of new technologies in my field.
  • I seek out new, exciting projects, which benefit the law school and also enhance my self development.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • As a minority member, I understand the important of inclusive and diversity.
  • I listen, respect, and contribute to diversity and inclusivity.
  • I have a strong and deep understanding of the value of diversity and models inclusiveness in working with our diverse staff and all members of the law school and university community.

Leadership

  • I encourage my web developers and content web specialists to reach their goals. In addition to the work for the law school, I encourage them to take on projects that will help them grow their career.
  • I provide leadership to the law school community in my areas of responsibility. I make sure that my goals for the school’s websites and print projects align with the goals and mission of the law school and university.

Mentors and Coaches

  • I am always opened to help others who need feedback on graphic design and web development.
  • I continue to update the web design and development blog to provide in‐depth documentation on MODX and all of the special features that I have implemented over the years.
  • I also encourage the staff who work for me to contribute to the blog, which allows them to improve their analytical skills.

Stewardship

  • I look for resources offered by the university before considering outside vendors.
  • I maintain confidential information related to work.
  • I maintain the highest integrity in his work and interactions with others and adheres to law school and university core values.
  • I hold myself to the highest ethical and professional standards and encourages and inspires others who work with me to do the same.

Director of Design & Web Services

I updated my bio for on the Law School website

Donny Trương leads the Scalia Law digital experience with the focus on accessibility and usability. He takes the helm of the Law School content management system, MODX, to ensure security and scalability. He took the initiative to recode and redesign the main Law School website from the ground up with the mobile-first approach when responsive design was still in its early stage of adoption.

Trương has spent over a decade at Scalia Law building the brand, transforming the user experience, and improving the backend codes. In collaboration with the university information technology services, he heads the WordPress Multisite project for the Law School community. Since launched, the WordPress Multisite platform has powered over 50 sites ranging from research centers to economic institutes to student organizations to faculty personal websites. In addition to digital designs, Trương extends his creative services to print materials designing brochures, postcards, large-scale banners for the school departments including admissions offices, research centers, institutes, and events.

With more than 20 years of designing and developing web experiences, Trương has a deep passion for typography. When the web began to support typefaces beyond the system fonts, he could not find much resources for designing with web fonts; therefore, he wrote Professional Web Typography to fill the void. He also recognized the missing diacritics for Vietnamese in typefaces. As a result, he published Vietnamese Typography to expand language support in type design. Since the release of the web book, he has been working with type designers and foundries around the world to include Vietnamese diacritics in their type families.

Trương received an MA in graphic design from George Mason University School of Art and a BA in digital art and multimedia design from La Salle University. When not designing digital experiences, he enjoys ice skating, rollerblading, and skiing with his family.

Two-Month Feedback

The new web content specialist has been working with me for two months and she asked me for feedback. I couldn’t be happier. She hit the ground running and learned all the responsibilities. She is reliable, detail oriented, and independent. In addition to making updates according to requests, she spots issues including broken links, spelling errors, and outdated markups.

The truth was that I wanted to hire her after the round of interviews. She was highly recommended by a friend of mine. I had to go with the committee to hire someone else even though I predicted that she wouldn’t stay for too long. She left after nine months. Before she left, she trained her successor.

The current web content specialist had been out of the workforce in a while to raise her kids. As her kids grow older, she wants to get back to work for a bit. This position fits her schedule because I offered her flexibility. My management style is easygoing. She is working 100% remotely and we are working well together. My colleagues, including my new boss, have complimented her on her work as well. I hope she will stay for a while. I really appreciate what she has contributed to our team.

New Boss

The restructuring is inevitable. I will be taken out of the library and reporting to the Assistant Dean of Strategic Communications and Marketing. I have been part of the library staff for ten years and have always enjoyed working with my colleagues, but it makes more sense that I will be part of the communications and marketing department.

My new supervisor is also new to the school. His position was just created recently and he needed a team to support him. Both myself and my web content specialist will be on his team. He will also be hiring a Director of Communications to work on external communications.

I have been working with him for a few months and he is great as a coworker. I hope he will be an easygoing supervisor as well. I stayed around for a decade because my supervisors were flexible, understanding, and hands-off. I hope those things won’t change. I am looking forward to the new change.

Personel Changes

My supervisor’s position has been filled. I am so happy that one of our colleagues has stepped up to replace our previous boss. She is the new Assistant Dean for Library & Technology. She is young, flexible, and understandable. I have had a great working relationship with her; therefore, my position won’t change much.

My Web Content Specialist is moving on. I had a feeling that she wouldn’t stay long, but everyone loved her. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to the candidate that I wanted to hire and make the offer. She accepted the position. Unfortunately the Web Content Specialist position might vanish in the future.

We’re going through changes and turnovers. For now, I am still part of the Library and Technology group. I hope it will stay that way, but I am just a small fish in the pond. I don’t know where I will be moved next. I am not going to stress over it though. I’ll adapt or move on if necessary. Once the kids all grow up, I’ll have more options since I wouldn’t need the flexibility anymore.

The Law School, the Library and Technology group in particular, is still a fantastic place to work and raise my family. At this point of my life, my only concern and responsibility are my family. My career takes a backseat in term of trying to move upward. I am content where I am at.

Home Office

After two years of working from home, I finally put together an official office in my bedroom. During the pandemic, I just plopped my MacBook Pro on my ironing board, sat on a high stool, and worked. Last year, I broke the ironing board. I replaced the ironing board with a small glass table and the high stool with an Ikea’s stepping stool. I didn’t want to take up my entire bedroom with office desk and chair since I only work two days a week at home. I also want my bedroom to have as much space as possible.

Last week, my wife bought a used kitchen cabinet to replace another cabinet that looks like a table. The shorter sides of the the cabinet were narrow and the height is just right for a tall stool. I brought it up to my bed it flushed it right next to the dresser. Then I setup the Panasonic Home Sound System my next-door neighbor threw away last year before he moved.

I am using the sound system to play music and I am surprised how good it sounds. I like a bit of background music while I work and I also wanted some soothing jazz when I sleep. I have been listening to Bill Evan’s solo piano albums at a low volume at night. I was actually looking for a used CD player to play my CD collection and the sound system was just perfect.

I am now loving my simple office.

Work-Life Balance

I work Monday and Friday from home and Tuesday to Thursday at the office. On a typical day, I wake up at 7:00 am sharp to start my routine. Around 7:15 am, I wake up Đạo then head down the kitchen to prepare lunch for him and myself. We go out the door by 7:40 am.

On Monday and Friday, I drop Đạo off school then go back home to get Đán and Xuân ready for school. Then I take them to school as well. I then return home again to start my job. I work straight to noon then take Vương out to lunch and the playground during my lunch break. Then we return home. He takes a nap while I continue my work. Around 2:45 pm, I pick Đạo up from school then go back home to do more work until 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm.

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I drive to work after dropping Đạo off to school. I arrive at the office around 8:30 am. I drop my lunch off the fridge and make myself a cup of latte. I head into my office and work until noon. I heat up my food and head back to my desk. I have a quick lunch and watch some YouTube, mostly on figure skating or rollerblading tutorials. Then I get back to work to 2 pm. If the weather is warm and sunshine, I use my lunch break to go to the skatepark to rollerblade. If the weather is cold or rainy, I go to the ice skating rink. Both places are about five minutes from my office. I skate for an hour then head back into the office until 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm. That one hour of taking a break and getting some exercise has motivated me to come to work. It helps me stay healthy and rejuvenate my mind. I am grateful for that flexibility.

The best part of skating at 2:00 pm is that the skatepark or the ice skating rink is mostly empty. I get plenty of room to practice. Sometimes I skate with home-schooling kids. A while ago I met a mom who took her daughter to the skatepark to skateboard. After talking to her, I learned that her seven-year-old daughter snowboards and she has a big goal for her—like Chloe Kim. This afternoon I met another mom at the skating rink. Her kids had private hockey skating lessons. I asked her a few questions and learned that the private lesson cost $90 an hour. That’s not including ice time. The public session cost $15 per person and I thought it was already expensive. The money we spend on our kids is insane. We are spending the same amount each week for Đán and Xuân to take private piano lessons. Đán seems to be into it. He practices regularly. Xuân doesn’t practice that much. Last summer, I let Đạo and Xuân take private figure skating lessons. Unfortunately, they showed no effort or interest. I ended up dropping the lessons. Now they don’t even want to go ice skating for fun. I am debating whether I should take some private lessons for ice skating, but I don’t want to pay $90 an hour. I am learning to skate on my own because I am a cheapskate.

Work’s Going Well

My supervisor exited the building for two two weeks. I miss her every time I walk by her office, but my role hasn’t changed much. In retrospect, she had been hands off in the past few years and let me handle my business. My interim supervisor is one of my colleagues. She is super chill as well. I hope she will take over the role to lead the talented team that I am proud to be a part of.

One of my colleagues who works closely with me on a day-to-day basis is technical savvy, detail oriented, and reliable. She only started a few months ago, but she already knows the ropes and how we operate. She handles most of the tasks on her own, unless she has questions for me. I am so happy that she has come on board and I hope that she will stay. We work so well together.

So far my role and responsibilities seem to work out well. I am not sure about the future, but I am treating my job as a job. Everything happens for a reason. I can’t control what I don’t have the power to control. I am just going with the flow to see where life takes me.

A Letter to My Leader

Dear Deborah,

According to my LinkedIn profile, I have been working at the law school for 10 years and 4 months. In the web industry, a decade is eternity, but my work here feels just like yesterday because of you and your leadership. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done, not just for me, but for all of us at the Law Library.

When I applied for the position of web services developer at the Law Library, I was desperate to get out of a hostile, stressful environment at my previous job. During the interview process, I didn’t think I could handle the server administration part of the job and I was being completely honest with you about it in our conversation, but you took a chance on me. Through training and learning on the job, I picked up a new set of backend skills I would never have learned on my own. Thank you for placing your trust in me.

From day one, you gave me the flexibility I needed to achieve my professional goals as well as my personal life. When I wanted to pursue the graduate program in graphic design at Mason’s School of Art, you gave me support and motivation. As a result, I was able to apply my design skills to my job by offering print design services to the law school. When I took on this position, my wife and I had one son. In seven years, we grew to four. Raising young children while working was challenging, but your understanding and accommodating made it less stressful. I could take the time I needed, especially when one of our kids got sick, to tend to my family. In return, I always made sure that I was on top of my responsibility and productivity at work.

Your management style has made my time here enjoyable. By allowing me to take responsibility for my own work, I put my time and effort into areas that met the law school expectations and improved our user experience. I prioritized projects that needed the most attention as well as tasks that weren’t urgent but necessary. When it was my time to manage others, I treated them the same way you have treated me: trust, respect, and compassion.

Through your caring nature and fostering guidance, you have put together a diverse, dedicated, and talented team. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with and learning from my wonderful, friendly colleagues. We appreciated each other’s area of expertise and worked together to come up with the best solutions for our projects. When I needed help, I could reach out to any of my colleagues—not just work-related, but also personal development. The fact that our team feels more like an extended family than just a group of co-workers and the low turnover speaks volume about your leadership skills and your accomplishments. We stick around because we have an amazing leader. It will be hard without you at the helm.

While I am sad to see you go, I am happy for your retirement. Your dedication to this job and to all of us is deeply appreciated. You deserve the time off to focus on your life and your family. Your presence and influence will truly be missed, but I wish the next chapter of your life filled with joy, relaxation, and great health. Please stay in touch.

Sincerely yours,

Donny Truong

Snowboarding and more