Basecamp perks are next level

My fav podcast, Gameplan, is back at it again with a fab episode on employee benefits. In Your Company Could Be Tricking You with Perks, the hosts speak with CEO and Founder of Basecamp Jason Friend to get his take on employee perks. In this episode you can forget ping pong tables and unlimited vacation, because Basecamp is killing it with employee perks that encourage employees to get out of the office and have a life.

“I don’t like benefits that encourage people to stay at work. Many companies have a lot of perks that are about keeping you in the office. It’s actually kind of a subversive effect. They’ll have an on-staff chef and they’ll make dinner for people. That to me, you shouldn’t be eating dinner at work. That’s the wrong place to eat dinner. So we do stuff that’s go home and do stuff.”

Among the many many many perks they offer:

  • Charity match
  • $100/month for massages offsite
  • Fresh fruits and veggie CSA share at home
  • Pay for hobbies that aren’t related to your job

On top of that, they offer summer hours: a 4 day, 32 hour work week. And they do it without reducing pay.

It’s worth listening to the whole episode to hear more about Jason’s take on what it means to be an employee, not offering equity, and not using perks as a recruiting tool.

The biggest perk according to Jason: having your full work day for yourself without coworkers “stealing” time.


Chatbot Conversation Design: The future of English major jobs?

“So what’re you going to do with an English degree?” – Clueless relatives and friends of English majors everywhere. 

English majors have skills. They create narratives. They’re creative or at least understand the creative process. They’re comfortable with ambiguity, critical thinkers, can make sense out of massive amounts of information, and have damn good command of the English language.They’re good at thinking from difference perspectives (the foundation of UX!). Yet English majors get a lot of shit for their pursuit of words and language despite the fact it’s going to be English majors with mad soft skills who will survive the future robots-take-our-jobs-apocolypse.

Soon the answer to WTF-are-you-going-to-do-with-an-English-degree may just be: conversation design. Chatbots are everywhere which means there’s a need for people who can write the scripts and design conversation flow. There’s not a steady stream of conversation design jobs yet but I’m seeing more pop up. Yesterday I saw the job post above and it screamed English major (albeit and English major with UX training but hey that’s what GA is for). Excellence in English writing and communications? Check. Copywriting and content creation? Check, easy to come by for any English major whose ever had a blog, run a club’s social accounts in school, etc. Knowledge of current conversational bots? Check, they’re everywhere. The rest can be gained with a little YouTube tutoring and Googling. Chatbot conversation designer for english majors

I’m a bit obsessed with chatbot design right now. I was super impressed by Cindy Gallop’s negotiation chatbot. Mostly though I’m curious about the people who design the conversations, how chatbots improve, and the fine line between shitty and helpful. I also think there’s great potential for chatbots in the career advising space. I’d love to work on a project designing a chatbot for career changers. So if you’re a chatbot company interested in exploring this area, get in touch with me.

Working abroad: not just for the elite

One of my fav podcasts, Game Plan, just did a show on living and working abroad. Their guest, Suketu Mehta, discusses his op-ed in the New York Times, Go East, Young American, and why more Americans should consider the expat option.

“You can have a car, an apartment, and live a middle class life if you are entirely unskilled. I see lots of American security personnel and fire fighters in the countries I go to around the world. It’s still mostly for the elite, but there’s more and more of these non-elite jobs that are opening up for Americans and Americans are going abroad to take them because they’re drying up in America itself.”

During the interview, Suketu covers a range of expat topics, from quality of life (i.e. not being an American workaholic), affordable healthcare, lower salaries and the unfavorable U.S. expat tax policy.

I spent the majority of my twenties finding ways to live abroad. The expat life was the reason I chose to do my graduate program abroad (that and it was cheaper and more international than anything I would get in the U.S.). I’m stateside now but I’m still dreaming about it. Podcasts like this are fabulously motivating.


Is $10k for an online graduate certificate worth it?

Northwestern University is offering an online certificate for future international educators (study abroad advisors, international student advisors, global program admins) for the price of $10,624.00. It’s a 1/2 year commitment for full time. The certificate program “prepares students for employment in various sectors of the international education field.”

As someone who has worked on both the university and vendor side of international education, from program management, to communications, to careers, I know the industry well. And I know that you don’t need a $10K graduate certificate to get into international education, especially for entry level roles.

Since this certificate prepares students for employment in international education, let’s take a look at the skills required for work in international education.

Here are the skills and requirements for a candidate seeking a study abroad advisor at North Dakota State University (starting salary: $36,000) :

And here are the skills and requirements for an Inbound Analyst at the Institute for International Education (aka an “NGO supporting these exchanges” as listed on the overview above). This associate-level role “monitors and advises a medium to large caseload of (more than 150) participants coming into the United States” and builds “networks with institutional partners and IIE constituents.” It’s a mid-level role, ideal for someone who isn’t fresh out of college.

So how does a certificate in Global Student Mobility prepare candidates for these types of roles?

It doesn’t.

Though the curriculum offers “a grounding in cross-cultural theories while also exploring the widening range of program types, methods of delivery, and the importance of experiential and service-learning exchanges,” the content doesn’t teach the skills desired in the job descriptions above. Communication skills, project management, and team work rank high, as well as the ability to interact with people from other cultures. These are skills gained from a candidate’s previous work, internships or projects, not from a certificate. While knowledge of the field no doubt helps, concrete skills like communication and prior work experience are what gets candidates hired.

The certificate also offers nothing for career prep (i.e. mentorship, networking, virtual professional hangouts), just a little note on “interesting opportunities.” For a certificate that claims to prepare students for employment in international education, this is disappointing.

So to learn about the field of international education it’s going to cost students $10,624.00.

Fun fact: the average salary for a study abroad advisor is $36K according to Glassdoor.

I know higher education needs (and relies on) revenue generating programs like this. I’m a huge supporter of online education (albeit, reasonably priced online education). I also know the value of cross-cultural theory and its importance in global work environments like international education offices. But this certificate just seems like a rip off for students. Students are likely to get more relevant experience in international education by volunteering or working abroad in an NGO or startup for 6 months instead. They’d likely save money and have a more interesting time as well.

So to experienced international educators: think back to the beginning of your career. What would make paying $10k for an online certificate worth it to you? 

A: Real life experience: completing a project that made an impact on an existing international exchange program

B: Mentoring from experienced professionals in the field, with weekly hangouts, introductions to other international educators, and customized career support for international educators.

C: A 75% discount

D: Areyoufuckingkiddingmenope

Tweet me your answer at @pdxnicolle.



Employers think online graduate certificates are nbd

“Glaser, from Adecco, agrees that the type of credential alone is becoming less important to employers. “It’s more about how they can sell the skills that they learned and really translate that into what’s in it for the employer,” she says.” – What Employers Think of Your Online Graduate Certificate,, Jordan Friedman, US News

Good news for online graduate program students: employers are cool with your credentials as long as you know how to talk about them.

Also bonus resume tip: no need to specify that your program was completed online.