Notes on a Job Search

Posted on January 21, 2018


Study the Market

Understand what is available in your market. What is the business and competitive landscape? Who is hiring? What type of roles and skills are in demand? How are job descriptions worded? Sign up for job posting alerts (e.g., LinkedIn, The Ladders, company websites, etc.) to monitor market activity over time. There is a wealth of information available online that can help you get a sense of the market, and just seeing what is available will help you align and target better.

Determine the Ideal

Develop a perspective of your optimal job profile. What are the ideal job characteristics? What does an average day look like? What personal differentiators or constraints do you have to consider? Think about job basics as well as cosmetics (e.g., work environment, travel requirements, ways of working, etc.). Consider how you would write your own job description. This will help you identify job characteristics that are important and help you evaluate pros and cons.

Focus your Connections

Target actual decision-makers. What is the best path to the person(s) making a hiring decision? Who are the gatekeepers? How meaningful are the interactions along the way? Seek specific professional interactions. Avoid recruiters with generic, poorly-worded, let’s-have-a-chat solicitations. A simple path is: a company recruiter with a specific role to fill connects with you through LinkedIn (based on experience match) and then screens you to the hiring manager. This gets you into the discussion quickly.

Tell the Value Story

Articulate the value you bring to the role. Why are your skills so valuable to the hiring team? What do you have that will make others’ work life easier? How will you positively impact financial performance? Polish your job profiles and social media presences, and have your experience detailed to highlight the areas of interest to you. Same for resumes or portfolios, but of course those should be customized even further to each job you consider. Focus more on the succinct stories of value you provided than the ‘label’ of prior titles or internal jargon. Consider what you would do in the role if you had no one to tell you what to do. If you’re confident with that, share it.

Make a Decision

Analyze and decide the path forward. What are your options? What are the trade-offs of each? What is most important to your work-life? Consider your gut feel in addition to any rigorous analysis. Evaluate trade-offs within and across opportunities. Remember that not making a decision is actually making a decision to continue the status quo. Just going through the evaluation process is enlightening.


Marfa Again

Posted on January 13, 2018


I went to Marfa. Again. During my first visit, I had a sense I would return eventually. And so I do in October 2017, flying into El Paso, driving I-10 through a seemingly permanent border patrol checkpoint, then taking US-90 past Prada Marfa. After an enjoyable five days in New York, I’m ready for more open space, slightly less noise, and continued inspiration. Marfa once again delivers.

Upon arrival in Marfa, my first stop is Judd Foundation downtown (of course here, downtown means near the traffic stop). I pick up a current Marfa map, ask about happenings in the area, and confirm previously-made reservations. Judging from the visible staff and guests, the primary demographic in Marfa is self-selected. If you’re here, you probably want to be.

Don Judd

Over the next few days I have a casual Don Judd focused immersion as I visit The Block, The Studios, and Chinati. Each presents a slightly different perspective of Don’s art and vision. The Block is more of a private space with a gravel courtyard surrounding his living quarters, expansive personal library, and selected early work. The Studios contain work space, including what Don called a cerebral laboratory, across multiple buildings. And Chinati provides more of a public space for permanent installations amidst a repurposed military base that housed German POWs during the Second World War. DEN KOPF BENUTZEN IST BESSER ALS IHN VERLIEREN.

Balmorhea State Park

On the warmest day in the forecast, I drive to Balmorhea State Park for a swim. The mid-day roads are empty of cars, and the spring-fed pool is populated by fish. I drive fast and swim slow before lounging in the sun with my book. I think it’s a Tuesday.

Around Town

And Marfa keeps evolving. There’s a proper gym now. Stellina and Al Campo are new to me. The Hotel St George is open. Another whorehouse for the millionaires, a seasoned local slanders it. But I enjoy a hamburger at the bar without being solicited. And I like the mainstays: Buns n’ Roses, Capri, Cobra Rock, Cochineal, Food Shark, Mirth, The Get Go, and gallery pop-ins around town. I depart quite charmed. Again.



Posted on January 6, 2018


As I look back on 2017, I notice the distinct absence of linearity. Progress comes in fits and starts. Certain decisions and certain moments have bigger impacts, just like certain periods in the stock market dramatically swing investment returns. Challenges and opportunities often arise in unpredictable ways. Like a sprinter in training, long months of unnoticed preparation can lead to a short visible accomplishment. The absence of linearity is exactly why recurring analysis and recurring improvement are so important to advancing in a changing ecosystem, and we all live in one. Let’s all make intentional progress in 2018, even if it’s not linear.

“Design does not progress in a straight line. Design grows in response to the same essential forces of breaking down and building up that inform all innovation.” -Esperanza Emily Spalding


Five Days in October

Posted on December 31, 2017


For five days in October, I seek inspiration among the galleries, museums, streets and tabletops in New York. I have plans to tour Don Judd’s 101 Spring Street and visit as many Dia locations as reasonable, otherwise I expect my days to fill up with whatever strikes my interest at the time. There is certainly no lack of things to do.

Wednesday, October 18

On the day of arrival, my primary objective is to settle into the immediate environment. So after dropping luggage, I walk the High Line to the Chelsea Market for a late and leisurely lunch. Feeling refreshed on a nice afternoon, I spend the rest of the day flaneuring in parks, through Chelsea galleries, and in the book collection at Hauser & Wirth. Extra time on an efficient travel day always seems like a bonus, and I linger at the Dia:Chelsea Rita McBride exhibit until my senses are saturated.

Thursday, October 19

Today is anchored around a DIA:Beacon visit which I hope to find quieter on a weekday. A scenic Metro North train ride along the Hudson, and a short walk from the Beacon station, brings me to the manicured grounds. The building itself (a former Nabisco box printing factory, circa 1929) is worth the trip, and the galleries do not disappoint. I appreciate the Walter De Maria installations more after my previous visit to The Lightning Field, and I find Robert Irwin an absolute master at his craft. I wander around Richard Serra’s torqued ellipses, Bruce Nauman’s lights, and Robert Morris’s detritus. It is A LOT of contemporary art, and I continue with Smithson, Chamberlain, Heizer, Flavin, Lewitt, Kawara, Ryman, and more.

As I repeatedly view my favorite pieces and check off the remainder of the collection in the afternoon, I witness an amusing scene. A guest harangues a gallery attendant: Where’s the art? Paintings like Picasso or Rembrandt! It’s like asking for lasagna at a sushi restaurant. And you could have checked the menu in advance buddy.
Since I opted for more gallery time over a walk through Beacon proper, I have an excuse for a return visit to the area, and I decide to leave. A reverse commute back into the city brings me from the sunny calm of Beacon to the glowing bustle of Times Square in the evening. I loiter by the Max Neuhaus installation in Times Square, and in another contrast to the day, no one else notices the art.

Friday, October 20

With only an afternoon appointment in SoHo before dinner, I have the morning to myself. I pop into the respectable study at The Morgan Library and Museum and pause behind Pierpont Morgan’s desk. Sitting in his lion foot chair, with his fingertips poised by spring-loaded drawers and a view of the book vault, he must have felt pleased in his day. Today I’m not so sure. Is there a difference between voracious collecting and obsessive hoarding when the results are the same? A mountain of things are pulled from their original context, aggregated for a time, and then scattered to their next destination. After his death, pieces from Morgan’s collection went to The Met, The National Gallery of Art, The Frick Collection, and The Wadsworth Atheneum. All thanks to The Magnet:

“The Magnet”, Joseph Kepper, Puck Magazine

I transition to SoHo with lunch at Quartino (Bottega Organica), and then stops at two hidden gem De Maria installations: The New York Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer. The Earth Room presents a dirt-like aroma on approach, it must be interesting to have this as a neighbor, and the light on The Broken Kilometer presents a shimmering effect between the rows of brass rods. I’ve covered all senses again today.

My afternoon appointment is a tour of 101 Spring Street, a five story cast-iron building constructed in 1870 and purchased by Don Judd in 1968 for $68,000. Judd immediately replaced the boiler and made repairs consistent with the simple given circumstances:

  • The floors must be open
  • The right angle of windows on each floor must not be interrupted
  • Any changes must be compatible

The design of the space led to a primary function for each floor: 1st exhibit, 2nd dining, 3rd studio, 4th parlor, 5th sleeping. Everything was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent. On its own, and as a precedent for larger Judd locations in Marfa, it is a remarkable space. Following the tour, I re-immerse into modern culture by people watching at the Apple store, fabric perusal at Brunello Cucinelli, and a rousing social dinner in Tribeca.

Saturday, October 21

Following a workout penance for my late Friday evening, I dive into fashion with 111 clothing and accessory items at MOMA and a Force of Nature exhibit at FIT. From cultural appropriation of materials, shapes, and colors to sensory exploitation of feathers, flowers, and fruit. By the evening, drinks and a DJ near the East Village are most welcome.

“Those who are inspired by a model other than nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.” –Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, October 22

I start a quiet Sunday morning on the Upper East Side at the Cooper Hewitt, one of my favorite museums in New York City. Today the exhibit concepts range from sound to the seven deadly sins to design in the digital age. What Joris Laarman has done (and is doing) with natural-informed designs and MX3D digital fabrication is absolutely amazing.
After a late brunch, some stumbled-upon browsing, and another long walk, my five days are coming to an end. The sunset air has a slight tinge of cigar smoke as I sit with my notes and thoughts in the courtyard of the Palace Hotel. Tucked behind Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I’ve always found it a bit of an oasis in the city.


Which Risk?

Posted on December 22, 2017


It’s common to hear concerns about risk. That’s too risky. We’re risk averse. Give me the safe choice. It’s important to remember you’re not choosing high risk or low risk, you’re choosing which risk. An option that seems safe in the short-term may have massive risk in the long-term. A little risk in the present may greatly benefit the future you. Or mitigating risk in one dimension – like cost, quality, or time – may raise risks in another. It’s all trade-offs.

“You’re not choosing high risk or low risk, you’re choosing which risk.”


Sounds Extreme

Posted on December 10, 2017


The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum sits on New York’s Upper East Side in a renovated Andrew Carnegie mansion. When Carnegie purchased the land in 1898, it was more than a mile north of what was then considered fashionable society and many levels removed from the deafening steel mills that accelerated his fortune. It seems he wanted space for a garden.

On a sunny Sunday morning in October of this year, the Cooper Hewitt galleries are quiet with only a few visitors at such an early hour. I break the silence by tapping a few keys on a dot piano in the Designing with Sound exhibit. The notes present a stark reminder of how sound surrounds us, how sound influences us, and how sound is often most noticeable in its extremes – the overwhelming excess in its presence or the overwhelming quiet in its absence.

“It’s this hidden actor in our lives that changes our mood in an instant, guides our choices and makes or breaks emotional connections.” –Joel Beckerman

Discovering Sound: Max Neuhaus in Times Square

In an understatement, artist Max Neuhaus described Times Square as a “rich and complex” aural and visual environment. From a sound perspective I’d call it noisy. Vehicles rumble by with horns honking, tourists wander through excitedly chattering, and commuters stride across metal clattering. It’s a veritable Dr. Seuss soundscape.

So it’s really no surprise that Neuhaus’s Times Square sound installation often goes unnoticed or is easily dismissed as machine noise emanating from underground. Standing by it on the 46th Street and 7th Avenue pedestrian island, 2.5 miles south of the Cooper Hewitt, I see no one else acknowledge the installation or the sound. While for me, the sound anchors my environmental perception in the area, and the island is a different place.

“It’s meant for people who are ready to discover” –Max Neuhaus

Exploring Sound: Aki Onda and Akio Suzuki

Four days later Aki Onda walks past me in a dark performance hall rapping an object on the wall. Akio Suzuki, an older artist who first explored how sound can be part of a performance by throwing “a bucket full of junk down a staircase” at Nagoya train station in Japan, stands at a table in the middle of the hall. Suzuki and Onda are sound artists on their fu-rai North American tour, and I’ve happened on a performance in Marfa, Texas.

Rocks click, bottles tap, rubber squeaks, and amplifiers hum into space as Suzuki and Onda explore the “infinite and variegated possibilities” of sound. In an otherwise hushed room (an extreme away from the Times Square environment), each isolated sound dominates the senses, and the crowd appears transfixed. Walking into the evening afterward, the crunching gravel underfoot sounds at least twice as loud as usual, and I consciously slow a few footsteps to hear the variety.

“Some musicians, when they play, they imagine the notes, but I’m the opposite, I imagine the soundscape.” –Aki Onda

Integrating Sound: Artists at Work

I continue to notice sounds and extremes over the next month. In New Orleans, I see how some venues are structured around stages (and all that jazz), how some performers integrate into existing structures, and how The Music Box Village in the Bywater neighborhood serves as a musical playground of sorts:

At home in Minneapolis I hear the different ways conductors announce the arrival of light rail stops, the extended way sound carries across theater stages, and the flow of DJs working holiday parties. I’m reminded that some designs are intentionally constructed around sound – Warner Brothers drew full animation cartoons around Mel Blanc’s voice, after the voice was recorded, to better synchronize lip movements – while other designs treat sound as a byproduct. You can guess which designs work better.

“Sound design is part of the interaction design process, and not something to be tacked on to the end.” –Aaron Day