While Trent is out on site with a client, we Cool Jobsters get a peek at his workstation circa 2003...

At long last, after many months of  — well, let’s just call it “research” — Carrie, your intrepid guide to all things weird in the world of work, has resurfaced at “My Cool Job” to bring you an interview with Usability Tester and Web Designer Trent Faust.

I’ve known Trent since the 1980s, when David Lee Roth was the frontman for Van Halen, ATM cards and cellphones were new and exciting (and only us geeks had them), and our mothers all dressed us funny.

These days, Trent not only dresses himself, but in addition to his freelance work is a co-founder of the St. Pete Skeptics Society, which meets regularly in St. Petersburg, Florida to discuss claims of the paranormal, cutting edge science, and many other topics of interest to anyone with a skeptical view on things and a soft spot for pub grub.   If you’d like to learn more, are in the area and would like to join a discussion, or simply wish to discover what ‘skeptics’ actually talk about, click on over to the Society’s website and find out!

Of course, none of the above is telling you much about what a “Usability Tester” actually does (and I’ve been wanting to find out myself, which is usually why I ask someone interesting like Trent to tell me all about his Cool Job)….so let’s all find out together, shall we?

1)  When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?

This reminds me of when I would get the stereotypical “what’s your major” question in college.  I got tired of trying to explain “astrophysics” to people at parties or the chick cutting my hair, so I started just answering “English” to bring an end to that line of questioning.

It’s sometimes similar with my current occupation.  Most of what I do is usability testing and troubleshooting for websites, though I also still do some web design as well.  But most people have no idea what usability testing is (I’m looking at you Microsoft), and it’s often just easier to say that I do web design.  I do have a background of several years in web design, and that allows me to Continue Reading »

Carrie: Your Wayward Guide to Cool Jobs

Carrie: Your Wayward Guide to Cool Jobs

Howdy folks, and welcome back to “My Cool Job” which has been on hiatus for some months now.

It’s funny how many times I have mentioned this blog to people in the last few months…and yet it is only in the last few days that I’ve come to realize:

a) How long it’s been since I posted anything, and how much I miss the fun of finding my interviewees and learning more about them;

b) How much I miss my WordPress pals:  for a while now I’ve spent more time in ‘real life’ than online, but it seems that I need the creative outlet that this blog provides and the awesome interactions that come from it.  Having a few of you peeps on Facebook just doesn’t seem to satisfy so I’ll humbly ask you to let me back into the blogosphere; and

c) I’ve committed a faux pas of the highest order by wheedling a dear friend into providing an interview, which somehow never got published, and it’s time to make that right!

Hopefully, all of the above will be corrected within the next 24 hours when the secret of what a ‘Usability Tester’ actually does is revealed in detail…

Stay tuned and tell me you missed me.  I have certainly missed all of you!

Political Organizer


According to my research, the 2008 election had the highest voter turnout as a percentage of the voting age population since 1968.

132,618,580 voters arrived at the polls and one of the many, many hardworking people responsible for that historic voter turnout last November was today’s Cool Jobster, Political Organizer Mary McClelland who works for Rock  the Vote.

If you’re looking to turn off your computer and go home at 5pm every night, then working in the field to organize voter registration may not be the Cool Job for you.   However, if you have a passion for politics and think it is especially important to help young people become active in the voting process then you’ll not only enjoy today’s interview — you may just stop by at Rock the Vote and ask what you can do to get involved!

With a presidential inauguration just days away, the timing couldn’t have been better for a peek  behind the scenes at the type of effort and dedication it took to actually “rock” the vote.    Thanks for being today’s Cool Jobster, Mary!

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?

I work for Rock the Vote which is an organization who’s mission is to engage and build the political power of young people.  We use music, pop culture and new technologies to bring (and keep) them in the process.  My official title is ‘Deputy Political Director for Field Operations’ at Rock the Vote or as I lovingly refer to as the DPDFO (pronounced ‘dipped-fo’) – but rarely use that title as in my tenure here I’ve seen the organization grow from 4 people to 20 in the midst of the insanity that was the ’08 election, so my role and responsibilities shifted constantly.  In my day-to-day I oversee our field operations which means in election years I organize large scale voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts and work with our volunteer base around the country.  Within that there is a lot of partnership work with other political organizations as well as implementing new technologies in our effort to organize 18-29 year olds in the political process.  Now that the presidential election is over we are shifting our focus to issue advocacy to make sure the issues we care about get implemented.

What are the things about your job that you love?

I love the ability to be creative and implement new ideas – we have to break through the clutter to reach a younger audience and we can’t be boring.  I love thinking about how to use new technologies to politicize people. The partnerships can be hilarious everything from WWE (yes, the wrestlers) to NFL players to actors and musicians.  And of course the added bonus is I get to go to a lot of concerts for ‘work’.  There are worse things than having to go to South by Southwest and having an all-access pass or having the Beastie Boys perform at your Inauguration party.

What are the things about your job that you hate?

Rock the Vote has been around for 19 years and is a name that people have usually heard of (I was actually caught off guard recently when a younger person hadn’t heard of us – a nice lesson) – with that comes some unrealistic expectations.  Many people believe we are an arm of MTV but we actually have always been an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization with a limited budget – I constantly have to say no to people who think we are flush with cash or expect some merchandise or staff to attend their event.  At our peak in the election year we had 20 people to run a program that registered over 2 million people and implemented huge programs so the strain on resources is constant.

What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?

For me it was luck and a passion for the issues.  I have a B.A. in English Literature which does not scream political organizer but when I graduated I ended up with a position in California working for an environmental organization, when I moved to DC a few years later I stayed in the political field working for a non-profit that focused on campaign finance reform.  Once you are in the DC political community it becomes quite small and through various networks you are able to work for different organizations on different issues.  I ended up working for a group called Young Voter Strategies in the ’06 election cycle and coming out of that the two organizations decided to integrate to add a political and research departments to Rock the Vote – I was in the right place at the right time and feel incredibly lucky.

For someone who would like to get into politics there are so many opportunities to get involved in campaigns if you are willing to start towards the bottom.  There are many organizations that train organizers and give you entry into the political sphere – even volunteering with a campaign to learn the ropes could score a position.  The type of degree you have is not as important as the type of passion and work ethic you have – these are not 9-5 positions and most likely don’t pay very well, but you can go home at the end of the day and feel like you did something.

What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?

There are so many it’s hard to pick just one!  There could be the time where I went to the Baltimore Raven’s training facilities to register their players to vote or the time I ended up driving around Jack Johnson through the city of Richmond talking about environmentally friendly burial processes or getting mobbed at a festival in Venice Beach doing voter registration with WWE wrestlers or being a part of ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ on Super Tuesday.  A seriously crazy year.

Happy New Year, readers!  It’s taken longer than I thought to rustle up another job cool enough to made the grade here, but thanks to loyal reader Susan we’ve got one coming up in the next 24 hours!

I know I promised a video interview, and I assure you that it’s in the works, but technical difficulties with camera and software have set me back.   I think I’ve got the camera, the software and the PC all playing nice together at last so you should see my video interview debut by the end of next week.

In the meantime….of course you can always stop by Carrie Like the Movie and see what subject I’ve become addicted to knowing all about lately.  This week’s theme is dance in all of its many forms — go ahead and check it out (you know you want to…)!

…why not visit my other blog, Carrie (Like the Movie) and enter the Holiday Contest?   You know you want to….

Makeup Artist

Todra Payne, Makeup Artist

Todra Payne, Makeup Artist

Today’s Cool Jobster arrives via my Twitter feed (you do have a Twitter feed, don’t you?) When someone new starts following me on Twitter, I always take the time to check out the follower’s home page and see what he or she is all about, and in the case of Makeup Artist Todra Payne I’m glad I did and I’m happy she agreed to be interviewed for My Cool Job today!

I must say right up front that I’m not a “can’t leave the house without my face on” makeup wearer these days, although I suspect I did severely impact the world’s supply of black eyeliner back in my teens and early twenties (see photos of Joan Jett circa 1985 and you’ll get the idea). I’ve never had much of a knack for applying makeup to my face, but I have been lucky enough to have been “done” by a professional makeup artist a time or two and I’ve always been blown away by what a huge change in my look and my attitude a small amount of mysterious “goo” makes when applied by someone with experience, artistry, and a passion for helping people to feel good about themselves.

Todra Payne is certainly one of those people with a passion for what they do, whether she is conducting a teaching seminar for company employees on how to look their best, working one on one with a spaz like me that can’t figure out the difference between a bronzer and a brow pencil, or glamming up celebrities and models for a magazine photo shoot.

So is being a Makeup Artist as glamorous and exciting as they make it look on the reality show “Blush” (and am I the only one that wants to drown contestant Maxi in a vat of foundation)? Let’s find out from today’s Cool Jobster, Todra Payne…

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?

I usually say, “I’m a displaced celebrity makeup artist.” When I lived in NYC, I worked with celebrities, top models, and skinny, rich women who were always “on the scene” – the ones who don’t actually do anything, but are always photographed by the media for being fabulous. Now I work a lot with “regular” women (and men) – people like myself – who want to learn how to bring out their best look, but don’t have $1,000 to pay for a Continue Reading »

Turkeys Beware!

Hello readers!  Rather than beat myself up that I haven’t taken the time to write a blog entry, I’m going to just admit that it’s not going to happen before Monday, and spare you all any anxiety about where I might be….just imagine me eating too much and then burping softly as I doze on the couch afterwards!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  See you next week!

P.S.  As always, if you’re looking for something silly while I look for more cool jobs, stop by Carrie (Like the Movie) and have a little holiday fun, Carrie style!

My new camcorder has arrived, the battery has been charged, and I’ve shot a few test clips to play with…HOORAY! However, getting the clips from the camera to my PC hard drive to Windows Movie Maker to YouTube is turning out to be more of a challenge than anticipated….AWWW!

I would hate for you all to despair of me not putting up a post at all until I have my technical difficulties sorted out (which could be a few more days and involve much hair-pulling on my part), so I’m going to take a cue from my other blog and just post an awesome music video….and since the word “working” is in the title, I feel that this is the place to post it.

“Mature” readers please cast your minds back to 1981 when no one had ever heard anything like Devo before and relive the original mind-blowing that you got when you first heard it. “Youthful” readers will be amazed to learn that Mark Mothersbaugh, the lead singer of this very silly (and very ground-breaking!) band went on to write the theme song and show music for “Rugrats”, “Clifford the Big Red Dog”, and even “The Sims 2” game!

But enough random facts already…close the door, turn up the speakers, and dance your butt off to Devo’s amazing version of the 1966 classic “Working in the Coal Mine“:

I promise to keep you posted on my progress with the new camcorder, and as always, if you get here and don’t see a new post, check out my other, much more silly blog for the latest!

Meet my new baby, arriving next week via UPS!

Meet my new baby, arriving next week via UPS!

Hello readers!

I know it’s been a few days since I last posted a Cool Job, but I’ve got a project in the works that I hope will be worth the wait. I’m going to combine my new cinematic “skillz” with my love of cool jobs and if all goes according to plan, in a few days you should be able to WATCH the next Cool Jobster answer the interview questions right here!

Please be patient, and while you wait for this new chapter in MCJ history to begin, you can check out The Complete Cool Job List above, or just click on over to Carrie (Like the Movie) where you can watch a few videos and have a little fun! I’ll keep you posted on my progress with the movie: Step One is waiting for my fancy schmancy new video camera to arrive, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sit by the mailbox!

celine-in-france“Hey, Jimsmuse!” you’re saying to yourself after reading the job title above, “Didn’t you already feature this cool job when you interviewed Douglas Dunn who works with English and American Sign Language?”   Interestingly, and lucky for me as your guide to the world of work, the answer is no.   Although many people use the words “interpreter” and “translator” interchangeably, to those who work in the field they are very different occupations.

An Interpeter is someone who provides live, spoken communication between people who speak different languages, and a Translator provides that communication through the written word.   Today’s Cool Jobster, French to English Translator Céline Graciet, has even written a blog post on this very subject, which makes clear not only the difference between the two jobs, but her preference for translation!

I love the English language and have always been a “word freak”, but didn’t become interested in the subject of translation until I read Douglas Hofstadter’s incredible book Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language.   While the main text of the book deals philosophically with what constitutes a “good” translation between two languages (or if a “good” translation is even possible), he also explores some of the most challenging translations ever attempted and the thinking and creativity that went into them.

For example, Hofstadter spends quite some time considering the translation of “La Disparition” by Georges Perec, a novel written in French that does not contain a single use of the letter  “e”.   What is the “right” way, Hofstader wonders, to translate this novel into English?   Would a literal, word for word translation into English (which would surely contain many instances of the letter “e”) be the best way to convey the original Continue Reading »