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#Developer: Reimagine Communities 2018 – The Full Retrospective

#Developer: Reimagine Communities 2018 – The Full Retrospective

I recently visited Capital One’s Conference Center in Plano to attend the Reimagine Communities symposium on the topic of Harnessing Technology to Increase Access to Opportunity. If you missed my last post with an overview of the symposium, you can check it out here. In this post, […]

Instagram: Getting a Cease and Desist Order

Instagram: Getting a Cease and Desist Order

24,522 Followers Things that make my list of “unpleasant but necessary things to deal with” include: taxes, insurance of all kinds, making doctor appointments, and anything involving legal action. Which is why when I got an Instagram message from an account telling they had a […]

#Developer: Reimagine Communities Symposium 2018

#Developer: Reimagine Communities Symposium 2018

As a born and raised Alaskan now living in Texas, I get a lot of questions about why I came to the Dallas area and why I’ve chosen to stay. Though I initially moved south to attend university as a student, I’ve stayed because of the breadth of job opportunities and the tech community that seems to be growing more every year. As part of that growth, I got the chance to attend the Reimagine Communities symposium powered by Capital One on the topic of Harnessing Technology to Increase Access to Opportunity as part of its Future Edge DFW initiative, and I was excited to find out more about the city that’s quickly become my second home.

What made Dallas the right choice for me?

During high school I knew I’d end up going to college. The big questions revolved around what I would study and where I would go. The former was the easy part: I’ve never had a problem finding things that interested me, and in the last couple years of high school I discovered that I had a passion for programming which made computer science an obvious course of study.

The “where” was the hard part. I knew I wanted to study somewhere in the Lower 48 (a.k.a. what Alaskans refer to as the continental U.S.), because there were more opportunities, but I didn’t know where I’d end up. I needed to attend a college that would let me study Computer Science, Psychology, Russian, and Chinese which narrowed down the options: my father and I toured schools in Boston, New Haven, Newberg (Oregon), San Francisco, and finally, Dallas.


I fell in love with a private school in Dallas that offered me a scholarship that would allow me to study everything I wanted to and get out of school debt-free; but as much as I liked the school, I never expected to stay in Dallas. While my classmates were planning city-wide hackathons, I was still looking for a job with international travel and the chance to act as a freelance web developer.


After a tech internship in Dallas at a company I loved (and still work for), I knew I couldn’t move. Many of my schoolmates in Computer Science stayed in the city, and as I’ve been working full-time as a technology consultant, I’ve started discovering a growing tech community that I never knew existed through a series of meetups and events.

What I didn’t know when I was making my choice

Capital One released a survey today on DFW residents’ perception about the future of North Texas as it relates to technology and innovation and, as someone living in Dallas, the responses are definitely encouraging. The survey results highlight the access to digital skills training and the attractiveness of Dallas to tech companies.

Capital One released a similar survey in 2016 and in just two years, some of the stats have changed tremendously. For example, 85% of DFW residents believe their area is a great place for tech-related jobs and innovation – that’s six percentage points higher than in 2016! That’s reassuring for a company like Capital One that launched its national Future Edge initiative in 2015 and made a $150 million commitment over five years to help prepare more Americans with the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed in an ever-changing, digitally driven economy.  Capital One’s commitment came to life in DFW in its partnership with community organizations to support the area’s continued growth, innovation and economic vitality.

Disclosure: I attended the Reimagining Communities Symposium as a Capital One Partner. Nothing in this post, including the links to outside sites, is meant to be seen as an endorsement from or affiliation with Capital One.

How Companies like Capital One are Investing in the Community so Dallas Continues to be the Right Choice

I was excited to attend the Reimagine Communities symposium powered by Capital One where nonprofits, government representatives and local leaders convened to learn more on the topic of “Harnessing Technology to Increase Access to Opportunity.” The symposium was time-blocked into four sessions that covered some interesting topics, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to choose which ones to attend since many of the topics have become passion points for me over the past year. Instead of choosing myself, I left it up to Instagram polls.

  • Session 1: Workplace and Evolutions vs. Education & Learning (63% voted for this)
  • Session 2: Creating Places of Opportunity vs. Big Data & Analytics (74% voted for this)

For an event that was scheduled over a single day, it covered a lot of topics in a short amount of time: the evolution of the workplace with jobs being both created and mechanized, the impact of technology on education, specific applications that can be used within a community to identify needs, and how big data can (and should) be used appropriately to promote inclusion.

If you want specific information on any of the sessions, you can check them out here.


Even though I never expected to come to Dallas for college (or to stay after graduation), I’m happy I did. One of the reasons is that big companies, like Capital One, are making it a point to invest in the city and surrounding communities with initiatives like Future Edge DFW. As part of Capital One’s Future Edge DFW initiative, I attended a symposium on the topic of “Harnessing Technology to Increase Access to Opportunity,” and I look forward to sharing more about the conversations that came out of it!

Amazon Reviews: Vine Voice and Unusual Reviewing Activity

Amazon Reviews: Vine Voice and Unusual Reviewing Activity

Amazon Ranking: #12,153 I purchased a beard-care gift-set for my bearded male associate, and after two weeks (and several tests of the product) wrote an extensive amazon review detailing the loves and eh’s of the product. I went to press “submit” and an Amazon error […]

Programming with the Sphero BOLT

Programming with the Sphero BOLT

My first exposure with robots was at an engineering camp I attended when I was 15, and let me tell you: it was not love at first sight. I loved the programming aspect of it (that camp was also where I was introduced to programming), […]

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification: A Retrospective

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification: A Retrospective

One of the things I love about being a technical consultant is that I’m encouraged to learn new things, even if they don’t directly relate to my projects. Over the past year one of those technologies has been Salesforce: first with my Platform Developer 1 Certification, and now with my Salesforce Cloud Marketing Email Specialist Certification.

What is Salesforce?

At a very high level, Salesforce is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that companies use to keep track of customer interactions

What is the Marketing Cloud?

Marketing Cloud is a Salesforce product that allows companies to create targeted marking campaigns over email, mobile, social media, and web channels.

What Does it Mean to be an “Email Specialist”?

It means that I’ve done training related to creating email campaigns through Salesforce! All of the emails you get from companies that are newsletters, discount codes, or “you forgot something in your cart” emails? Those kinds of content.

What does the Certification Look Like?

Structure: It’s 60 multiple choice questions, broken out into several different focus areas (like design, standards, etc.) and you have 90 minutes to answer them

Cost: Taking the test costs USD $200 (a retake is USD $100)

Passing Score: 65%

You can download all the information about the 2018 Summer Exam here

What Preparation Did You Use for the Certification Exam?

Honestly, my preparation was pretty awful, so I’ll tell you what I did and then give you some supplementary advice as well.

Study Time: Probably less than 10 hours total

Youtube Videos on Marketing Cloud (1h-1.5h):

These Youtube videos created by Salesforce helped me a surprising amount in regards the best practice answers regarding Content Builder because they’re focused on working with it within your company and between business units

Quizlet (60 questions)

The Quizlet is not a 1:1 to the test and I would have failed if this is all I had looked at, but it particularly helped me to figure out how questions would be laid out and in solidifying the best practices for email design (I tend to get a little bit of test anxiety, so it was nice being to run through it a few times)

Trailhead Courses

Trailhead courses are Salesforce-create-and-approved training modules that you can use to brush up on your Salesforce expertise

  • Marketing Cloud Basics
  • Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification Maintenance (for fun)
  • Marketing Cloud Studios & Builders
  • Email Studio Basics

Additional Courses you could take (but I didn’t):

  • Marketing Cloud Connect (I did about 25% of this one and then forgot about it)
  • Email Marketing Strategies
  • Audience Segmentation
  • Email Creation and Sending


I passed the first time!

At the end of the test I was unsure about 23 of the questions, and after going through them again, there were 9 questions that I clearly had no clue what I was doing.

You will immediately receive an email telling you the percentages you received in each “category” of the test, mine were as follows:

My results:

Tracking and Reporting: 50.00%
Marketing Automation: 72.72%
Subscriber Data and Management: 70.58%
Content Creation and Email Delivery: 72.72%
Email Marketing Best Practices: 88.88%
Email Message Design: 87.50%

I killed it in email marketing best practices and design and did less hot in the tracking and reporting section. My coworker, who took it before I did, had inverse scores to me (he didn’t do great in design and practices but did very well in automation and reporting) – I think the trailhead courses I skipped over would have likely filled in some of those gaps for me.


The Marketing Cloud Email Specialist Certification was a lot less arduous in terms of studying and time commitment compared to the Platform Dev 1 Certification. It focuses on Salesforce’s Marketing tool set and creating effective email campaigns. After approximately 10 hours of studying a variety of sources (Youtube, Salesforce Trailheads, Quizlet) I took the exam, and, while I was nervous when I clicked the  “submit” button, I passed!

Instagram: Unexpected Collaborations Vol 1 – That Time I Went to a Martial Arts Studio for Social Media

Instagram: Unexpected Collaborations Vol 1 – That Time I Went to a Martial Arts Studio for Social Media

23,833 Followers Would I, unprompted, ever go to a kickboxing gym? Probably not. Would I do it for Instagram? Absolutely The Approach I received a message from a mixed martial arts studio in Dallas offering free classes to influencers. I thought this was an interesting […]

Developer Book Club: Weapons of Math Destruction

Developer Book Club: Weapons of Math Destruction

Good writers make you think, great writers make you want to change the world around you. I would argue without hesitation that Cathy O’Neil is a great writer, and with a PhD in Mathematics from Harvard you can rest assured that she knows what she’s […]

Amazon Reviews: Reply-All Podcast Features Amazon Reviews

Amazon Reviews: Reply-All Podcast Features Amazon Reviews

Amazon Ranking: #11,008

Do you listen to Reply All?

Did you listen to today’s?

Weren’t you blogging about how amazon reviews are rigged?

Well, that’s today’s episode!

This was the series of texts I got from one of my friends who keeps up to date with my Amazon Review hobby. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Reply All podcast by Gimlet Media, a lot of their episodes involve debugging real-life tech problems or general internet culture and trends. The hosts explore different stories and problems – some that might sound familiar, and some which you hope will never come to you.

Reply All: Episode #124 The Magic Store

This particular episode starts with a brief overview of Amazon, and discussing how people have come to appreciate it for its convenience. It’s so easy that “it feels like you don’t have to research [on products] anymore” because of the reviews.

It follows up by delving into a recent trend of what seems like sketchy sellers selling products that aren’t totally authentic and references the fact that while Amazon once maintained and distributed all of their own inventory, they opened up the website the third party sellers which changed the whole game.

They go on to talk about how sellers, in an attempt to get their products ranked higher in search results, will hire marketing companies to reach out and engage in a variety of questionable practices (like paying for reviews) which helps their products sell faster and their business grow. One of the approaches they reference specifically is Facebook groups (something I talked about in a previous post).

Overall the podcast is really well done, as they all are, and is much more of an awareness episode than it is a problem-solving one. You can listen to the full podcast below or find it on the Reply All feed!

My Takeaway

Since I’ve been working in the Amazon Review space for a while, a lot of the information wasn’t particularly new to me. I avoid Facebook groups like the plague largely because I don’t like the idea of my name and personal profile being accessible to tons of marketers.

What was interesting and new to me was the idea that the influx of third-party sellers (who are in many cases selling identical products) is what’s caused the surge in the review black market. Since presumably each sale still somehow makes Amazon money, they probably won’t be nixing third-party sellers any time soon, which means the review black market will continue to thrive for the foreseeable future.


Great podcast about Amazon reviews and third-party seller. If you’re a podcast-person I would highly recommend both the individual episode and the podcast as a whole.

You can find this episode and others on the iTunes store here

Instagram: Milestone – The first post to get over 5,000 likes

Instagram: Milestone – The first post to get over 5,000 likes

22,300 Followers As with all of my posts that seem to be popular: I didn’t expect this one to be such a hit. It was just another morning before work as I frantically tried to think of a question that I hadn’t already asked before […]