Archive for the ‘employment’ Category


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 (more…)

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Marine Biologists at Work

In an act of full disclosure, I have to tell you that today’s Cool Jobster, Lynne Barre, is my sister. I’m letting you in on this because one of the things that I think makes her current job seem so cool is the long journey I’ve watched her take over nearly the last two decades to get to where she is now.

While I myself have never had a clear idea of “what I want to be when I grow up”, Lynne knew from a tender age (i.e. there was a Shaun Cassidy poster on her bedroom wall) that she wanted a career working with marine mammals and has spent her time ever since not only studying hard (and reading the parts Moby Dick that I skipped), but traveling literally all over the world in order to further her career and her knowledge of marine mammals.

If you remember the news coverage of Springer, the orphaned killer whale rescued from Puget Sound and returned to the wild in 2002, then you are already familiar with Lynne’s work. She was a member of the National Marine Fisheries Service team that helped to bring an ailing Springer back to health and return her to the wild in the Johnstone Strait near Vancouver Island.

Despite (or maybe because of) the stories she’s told me about contracting a tropical disease doing fieldwork in Hawaii, diving out of a boat to rescue a sea turtle in Australia, and the difficulty of traveling internationally with a spear gun used to collect dolphin DNA samples…I definitely think Lynne has a very cool job!

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
I am a Marine Biologist and I work for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Recently I’ve been working on endangered Southern Resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest (see link).

What are the things about your job that you love?

I love being part of the solution. I’m not buying anything, selling anything or processing anything….. I work on conservation of marine mammals. Saving the whales is more challenging than I imagined and I get to work with a diverse group of government and non-profit groups, the research community and concerned citizens. I also get to work with cool animals that are like us, but have made some amazing adaptations to living in the ocean. You’ve got to love the charismatic megafauna.
What are the things about your job that you hate?
I currently work for the federal government. The paperwork, politics and general bureaucracy can be a drag. On the bad days, I remind myself that sometimes you have to work within the system to make things better.
What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
If you can survive the organic chemistry and get a degree in science, that would be a good start. I have B.S. in Biology and an M.S. in Animal Behavior. I spent a few years working on research projects in Australia with dolphins, sea turtles and tiger sharks. I think a combination of science education and time in the field gives you a good perspective to tackle conservation problems. It also helps if you don’t get sea sick.
What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?
Whenever I tell someone I’m a marine biologist, nine times out of ten the response I get is, “I love that Seinfeld episode where George pretends to be the marine biologist.” I find it amusing that George Costanza has replaced Jacques Cousteau as the icon of my profession. The sea was angry that day my friends…..

If you don’t recall the classic Seinfeld moment mentioned above, please be sure to click on the link to George Costanza for a clip from the episode. And because my mind is a repository of random facts, I would also like to mention that Jacques Cousteau’s research ship of the same name inspired John Denver to write Calypso in 1975.

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Mike Tockstein of Pyro Innovations

Every year on the 4th of July there is a spectacular fireworks display in my hometown. And every year I watch the crew set up the display and wonder, “Where do these guys learn how to do fireworks? Is there a school where they learn to do this? Do they need a license? Are they nuts to be standing so close that huge array of explosives?”

Now all of these questions and more will finally be answered by Mike Tockstein of Pyrotechnic Innovations. Mike has been making crowds say, “Ooooh!” and “Aaaah!” for years, in addition to providing information through his website about careers and training in the field of pyrotechnics for those few brave souls who like to make things go BOOM!

We all love fireworks, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s wondered what it’s like to work with them. So is it just as simple as making things go “BOOM”? Or is there just a bit more to the cool job of Pyrotechnician? Let’s find out:

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
I supervise the setup and discharge of public fireworks displays. I am responsible for training/recruiting my crew, knowing all applicable federal, state, and local laws, and most importantly ensuring the safety of my crew and the public.

What are the things about your job that you love?

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Sarah Lawless

For thousands of years, religion and spirituality of all kinds have inspired great art — and I think you’ll agree that both Michaelangelo and the designer of the Parthenon had pretty cool jobs. In that same tradition, Sarah Lawless of Skyclad Crafting draws on her own personal beliefs to inspire her many creations.

Sarah has taken her creativity and turned it into a reason for sharing with others, traveling the US and Canda, and having wonderful new experiences (like being featured on My Cool Job…)

Making one-of-a-kind items that will be treasured and used by their owners for years definitely qualifies as a cool job in my book!

What do you do?

I am a Pagan Multimedia Artist – meaning that I follow an earth-based religion and base my crafts upon the mythology and folklore of my faith. Multimedia means that I work with many mediums including woods, jewelry-making, textiles,and pottery. I craft practical artwork (as in has some kind of use) from handcarved wooden ritual tools and sacred jewelry made with magical woods that I wildcraft, to ritual robes and everyday clothing with a touch of magic as well as quilts based on folklore and mythology.

What do you love about your work?

I love my work because it allows me to express myself and be creative – which as an extremely right-brained person is very necessary for me to be (more…)

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Ross Janes

One of the things I’ve noticed in reviewing the posts of the last few weeks is that speaking a few different languages can be a great route to ending up with a cool job:see Diplomat, Social Anthropologist, and Sign Language Interpreter. However, if none of those careers suits you, consider teaching your native language to others in a foreign country.

Today’s contributor Ross Janes is originally from Canada, but has spent most of the last decade teaching English in Japan to students of all ages. It is clear to me from reading his blog, and seeing this picture of him at work with his students, that he’s a great communicator (and very silly) in both English and Japanese.

So…bored where you are and ready to see the world? Let’s go to Japan and see what it’s like to teach English there!

When people ask you ‘what do you do?’ how do you describe your job?
My first response is usually, ‘as little as possible for the most money’. Then I say that I teach English to students from 3 to 80 years old, individually or in small groups. I mainly teach conversational English; but I also have Business English classes, English Proficiency Test practice sessions, and visit 2 kindergartens. I co-host a travel show at the local radio station as well.

What are the things about your job that you love?
I love talking to people and finding out what they are interested in. Among my students there is a small aircraft pilot, an equestrian dressage rider, a Teddy Bear club president, a sparkling water connoisseur, and a support member for the Hino team in the Paris to Dakar race.

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When I first visited the website of Jamaica Vawter I was blown away (and made quite hungry!) by the fantastic wedding and special occasion cakes she designs. Discovering that her Los Angeles bakery Jamaica’s Cakes uses only the freshest ingredients and doesn’t take any shortcuts made my mouth water even more.

Running a business is challenging in any industry, but running a business that requires creativity every single day definitely transforms it into a cool job of the highest order. And besides…you get to taste your own creations!

Have you got enough passion for pastry to be a cake designer? Read on and find out!

Jamaica Vawter

When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
I always let people know that I have my own business, a bakery in West LA called “Jamaica’s Cakes”. The very next thing I have to explain is that my name is Jamaica and that there is nothing Jamaican about it 🙂 I like to blame my parents for that confusion! We offer many varieties of desserts and pastries including bars, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, eclairs, cream puffs, tarts, morning pastries and most importantly… CAKES 🙂 We do cakes for any and all occasions… birthday cakes, artistic baby shower cakes, and original wedding cakes! We do a lot of cakes for weddings in Los Angeles, as well as the surrounding areas. We make everything from scratch which seems to be a unique thing with us. It seems that most other bakeries add preservatives to their product to make them last longer. Many of them say they freeze their cakes for (more…)

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Welcome to Casual Friday here at My Cool Job. We’re going to put on our jeans, relax, and do something a little different today.

Most of the careers that have been featured on the site so far require decades of training and practice, years of education, and total dedication to a lifelong career. But what if you’re just not up to all that commitment and hard work? Is there is a cool job that doesn’t require years of training and only lasts a few days?

Of course there is! Fellow blogger and cool jobster CurlyWurlyGirly has arrived with all the information you’ll need to decide if jury duty is for you! Pull up a seat Law & Order fans…it’s time to read about the adventures of Juror Number 7.

Perry Mason makes his case to 11 Angry Men...and Juror Number 7

My job title and a short description of what I do:

For 4 days in February 2008, I enjoyed a brief stint as Juror Number 7 on a civil case. Said ‘job’ included being selected from a crowd of 300+ people, being subjected to hours of tedious questioning by lawyers to determine my worthiness to serve on said jury, trying to keep my yap shut when dining with the other jurors before it was time to deliberate, and fearing for my physical safety if we didn’t find for the Plaintiff (he was a behemoth of a man and happened to live 2 miles from my house). I was also able to put my referee skills (in real life I work in a high school) to work to prevent the other jurors from fighting during deliberations. With 12 Angry Men in mind, I played the devil’s advocate after all the other jurors had determined that they thought the defendant was not guilty. It was a grand time!

What I loved about the job:

I loved going to the judge’s bench for a sidebar! I felt so special whispering to him and the other lawyers about an issue that might have precluded me from jury service–luckily it didn’t. I also enjoyed (more…)

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astronaut.jpgI’m not sure how soon I’ll be able to track down an astronaut for this blog (although of course I’m trying, because it’s one of the coolest jobs ever). 

Fortunately, Ira Glass has managed to track an astronaut down as part of a wonderful episode of This American Life” entitled:

Nice Work If You Can Get It

In addition to the astronaut interview, the episode also contains four other stories relating to very unusual job situations.   Give it a listen!

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If you’re curious about other cultures, love to meet new people, want to travel to Vanuatu and Tibet, and the occasional bout of malaria doesn’t daunt you, then you’ll definitely agree that Carlos Mondragón has a very cool job. I found his blog not too long ago, and I’ve been an “armchair traveler” following his current field work in the Torres Islands of Melanesia ever since. This is a long post, but it’s a great read and I guarantee by the end of it you’ll find yourself saying, “I never thought about it like that before, but being an anthropologist is a cool job!”

Carlos Mondragon

Carlos writes:

I am a social anthropologist and I specialise in the study of small-scale societies in Island Melanesia and the central Tibetan plateau.
Throughout the past ten years I have chosen to focus my research on
the environmental concepts and relations of Melanesian and Tibetan
peoples, which is to say on human-environmental relations in those two regions of the world. On the whole, I have tended to concentrate on
Melanesia more than Tibet, because it is the first place where I
began to carry out ethnographic field work and is therefore the
region in which I have developed my greatest skills as a social researcher.
My forays into Tibet only began in 2002 and have been on-and-off, partly because
it takes time, money and concentration to do in-depth fieldwork, and
up until now I have privileged my Melanesian research over other


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Othmar VohringerMEAT. I love it — but if you handed me a dead cow and asked me to turn it into steak dinner or some burgers, I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin. I’d just call Othmar Vohringer, a Master Butcher from Switzerland who is currently keeping alive his family’s traditional profession in British Columbia, Canada. He’s an old school kind of guy, and his pride in his work certainly shines through in this interview . . . even if he’s not too thrilled by vegetarians harshing his mellow from time to time.

One of the points that this site is trying to make is that if you love what you do, and you take pride in your work, then any job you do is going to be a cool job!

1) When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
It depends what sort of people ask me that question. If it is normal everyday folks I will tell them that I am butcher. If the person asking is one of these militant animal rights activists or vegetarians I will tell them that I am a butcher providing society with healthy nutritious food.

2) What are the things about your job that you love?
Everything. A butcher has a very interesting job that involves a great variety of different aspects. Some of these are cutting meat, making sausages and other meat products, dealing with customers and satisfy their requirements. Last but not least to me butcher is a way of life, I have been born into the profession as a third generation butcher. In other words I am following a family tradition and traditions are very important to me.

3) What are the things about your job that you hate?
I hate or dislike nothing about my job. What I do dislike is the attitude and demeanor some people display toward us that are against eating meat.

4) What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
This depends, different countries and global regions have different requirements. In Europe, where I grew up, butcher is a profession for which one has to be trained and schooled. Typically the training lasts for four years. Once the initial apprenticeship isMaster Butcher Seal completed one can choose to continue with further training and schooling for an additional year to archive the status of a certified master butcher. The trades in Europe are organized in trade guilds and members of the guild are respected people in the community, especially butchers and bakers.

Conversely in North America no particular training schedule exists. Some jurisdictions demand nothing more than a course in food safety and hygiene. The rest of the training is one job without any further schooling. There are now efforts been made to give butchers a recognized status as a trade. These efforts are not on a federal level but rather on a state or province level. Neither are these efforts backed up by any particular laws but rather organized by unions.

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

Well there is that one incident I can remember way back in my first year of training. I was called upon to assist with minor chores in the sausage production. The master sausage maker was just getting the ingredients together for veal brats and one of the ingredients was milk or milk powder. He sent me to fetch him a bucket full of milk powder. Arriving in the spice and ingredient room I filled the bucket with the powder and delivered it as ordered to the ingredient mixer. He in turn added, together with the ingredients, the powder to the meat and turned the machine that cuts and mixes the sausage filling on. Not long afterwards he watched in disbelief as the mixture stared to foam.

To make a long story short the milk powder was actually laundry detergent powder. The person in charge of the laundry ripped the laundry detergent bag. As a new laundry detergent storage container he took and empty milk powder bag. Someone seeing that “milk bag” in the laundry room thought that this indeed was milk and put it in the ingredient storage room.

My father, the owner of the meat plant where this took place, made the laundry person pay the damage in full. For the younger folks reading this: back then it was normal standard that if an employee made a very bad mistake against better knowledge or broke equipment by being careless was made to pay the damage in full. In other words workers where held fully accountable for their actions. I only can wish that it still were like this today. We would get better work quality and better service

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