Aya Katz was recently interviewed for the HubPages newsletter and suggested that we give a bit of a behind the scenes perspective every now and then by sharing interviews with HubPages staff members. I’ll agree that the folks at HubPages headquarters are a smart, fun, and colorful group, so we’re kicking off a series of staff interviews!

Aya Katz is launching the series by asking me some interview questions. I’ll continue the tradition by interviewing a fellow staff member next week. If you have any questions you would like me to ask specific staff members, send me a message through my profile or tweet @harukosama.

Q&A With Aya Katz and Simone Smith


Aya: Ever since you joined the HubPages team, I’ve been curious about two things. One, why the big bow in your hair? Two: how did “Haruko” become part of your name? What is the provenance of this name? Is it your middle name, your maiden name or a name you gave yourself? What does it mean?

Simone: Over the years, I’ve developed a reputation for wearing (and loving) bows. I have a collection of over 40 hair accessories, most of which incorporate bows, and if I go out without a bow, folks will give me a hard time (or not even recognize me!). One of my favorite bows is a giant black bow which has ended up in various photos and profile images. Whenever I feel irritable or stressed, putting that crazy thing on my head gets me back on track. Silly accessories are a great way to add perspective and humor to one’s life.

Haruko is my middle name- I was born in Japan and my parents thought it would be fun to commemorate the logistical curiosity by giving me a Japanese middle name. Haruko means “spring child.” My parents chose it because they found out they were pregnant just as the cherry blossoms were blooming.

I noticed that you have a book out on Blurb: Trend Photography. Tell me a little about the book, what it’s about, what prompted you to write it, and how you chose to publish it on Blurb, rather than some other site, such as CreateSpace or Lulu.

That book was created as part of a photo book class I took in college. At the time, Blurb was known for having the best paper quality and user experience for people out to make custom-formatted photo books. Creating that book was a deliciously fun experience, and it gives me a much better idea of what Hubbers are going through when they self-publish. It’s a lot of work!

You describe yourself as an extremely driven generalist with a strong desire to learn what makes people tick. How do you approach the task of finding out what makes people tick? How do you avoid being sucked into a specialty? Are there good job prospects for generalists?

I ask a lot of questions and love observing small details- the way people move, react, blink, dress, talk, and react. As much as I would love to have the ability to develop a specialty, it seems to be my curse in life to feel like I can never really “belong” to any one cause, following, person, or group, so while I love to discover new things and people, I always do so from the perspective of a polite visitor looking from the outside in and never hang around long enough to completely fall down the rabbit hole.

There are many good job prospects for generalists, because these types can quickly adapt to new situations and social dynamics. I’ve found that it’s passion, persistence, and a willingness to learn that lands people jobs- not expertise. That is, unless you’re working in a training/education-heavy field!

You mention international travel as one of your interests. How many countries have you visited? How long did you stay? What languages do you speak?

I’ve visited (for longer than three days), China, Japan, Mexico, England, France, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic, and have spent (collectively) at least a month each in China, Japan, and Mexico across multiple trips. Alas, I only speak a bit of Spanish and enough broken Japanese to be able to travel through the country without any serious trouble. Someday I’d love to learn Japanese properly.

You’ve written some Hubs about the benefits of playing dumb and of not being too attractive. Do these strategies for appearing less competitive in order to get along with others work equally well for men as for women?

Good question! Though women seem to be more likely to leverage those heuristics, men can use them equally well. It’s all a matter of honing in one’s personal style of playing dumb- a style that plays in to the (often inaccurate) judgments placed on oneself by others. Perhaps women are better at doing this because they’re more likely to be misjudged by people who assume they’re less aggressive, weaker, and dumber.

What is it like to work at HubPages? Did the aftermath of panda create a lot of changes? Do you feel that traffic to HubPages is equally strong now as it was before the panda update?

It’s a dream come true! The people here are cool, smart, creative, and passionate about making HubPages the best possible place to write online. It’s fantastic to work with a company whose employees care so much about the product. It’s also great fun to work with people that I genuinely feel happy to see every day. I’m a somewhat reclusive person, so when I began hunting for post-grad jobs I was looking as much for a social set as I was for a steady income and occupation. When I interviewed at HubPages, I knew I was home!

When Panda hit, the office was obviously an intense place as everyone worked extremely hard to figure out how to help the site recover. If anything, my respect for the company and the people working here grew after that traffic kerfuffle because it became perfectly apparent just how dedicated everyone was to remaining true to Hubbers and the site’s integrity.

What one thing would you like people to know about you that you feel most people overlook?

While I love things like skydiving and intentionally getting lost in remote regions of foreign countries, I’m horrified by very mundane things like going to parties and grabbing a meal with friends. If you see me smiling and laughing at a party, keep in mind that I AM SCREAMING IN ABJECT TERROR ON THE INSIDE.

Posted by:HubPages Admin

21 replies on “Meet the Staff! An Interview with Simone Smith

  1. What an interesting story! I also feel a little cursed and a little blessed at having so many likes and interests. Glad I read this interview. Take care, Kelley

  2. When I did a 20 part interview series last month, Simone was in my mind.
    But anyways, it was good to know more about the HubPages staff I have been reading, watching and listening.

  3. What a wonderfully honest and interesting interview! Thank you for your bravery in sharing a little of yourself with the community, Simone. I can absolutely appreciate your “generalist” approach to life.
    Thanks for everything you do for the HP community.
    Respectful HubHugs~

  4. Awesome! This interview covers most everything I wanted to know, but never had the courage to ask. What’s not in Simone’s User Manual is disclosed here. I hope you find a way to “belong” soon!

  5. Aya

    You expressed a lot of how I have always felt except that I was stuck in a career where there was mandatory social stuff and I was in sales so I was a very good actress because I was good at my job. I am very comfortable more as an observer of people than actually interacting with them on a personal level. Like you, I would be much more content lost in a remote region than at making idle chit chat and watching people get drunk or high. I, am, content with my own company if that makes sense. My question to you is whether you have a special place in your heart for animals. I am older than you and from my experience it would seem that many with people who are not the big social or click group types have a special affinity for animals? Just curious if you don’t mind me asking. If you mind, that’s cool too!

  6. Great interview, Aya and Simone! Interesting questions and fascinating answers. This will be a fun series to follow. Thanks for kicking it off so well.

  7. To Aya,
    Thank you for suggesting this new series and for a great kick-off interview with Simone.

    To Simone,
    I’ve always wondered about the bows and wasn’t sure if it was a “branding” kind of thing that you came up with for your HubPages persona. Now I know it’s just part of who you really are-
    someone who has a lot of creativity and individuality.
    I loved hearing the story behind your middle name, Haruko. I could just picture the joy your parents felt walking among all those blooming cherry blossoms and anticipating your birth.
    It was also refreshing to hear how highly you spoke about your position at HubPages. You are the ultimate professional in the way you do your job, plus the hubs you write are an excellent example of what should be included in a quality hub.
    Thanks for all you do on a daily basis to make HubPages such a great place to write.

  8. I really enjoyed this interview! Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself Simone and I can’t wait to read about the rest of the staff!

  9. Most interesting. I share with Simone the ‘generalist’ personality and mentality. I consider myself a “Jill of all trades; master of none.” Many, many things interest me, and I dabble until I get bored and move on. No one thing has ever pulled my interest long enough to spend 4 years in college for a degree in the subject.
    My degree is an AA in Liberal Arts–which I consider the dabbler’s degree for those of us who cannot make up our minds what we want to be when we grow up. At 64, I’m still searching…. … 😉
    Very well done and interesting interview.

  10. Thanks for reading the interview, everyone! Aya sure did ask some fun questions.
    And Aya, about me and animals- while I love them, I’ve never had much of an opportunity to be around them!
    If anyone has specific questions they’d like to ask other staff members, let me know!!!

  11. I enjoyed reading this and learning more about the home office folks at HubPages. Nice job, Aya and Simone. Keep wearing those hair bows Simone! Makes you stand out from the rest in a fun, funky sort of way. It suits you. I’ll just bet that your friends love hanging out with you!

  12. Haha! Great interview! We share some reclusive characteristics, particularly the party-going one. : )

    Having just been accepted to the Hub Pages apprenticeship program, I really look forward to working with you, o lofty mentor! Hopefully we all can share a few laughs while we work hard over the next 6 months. Can’t wait!

    LOVE your bows, you got style, sista! ; )


  13. I loved reading about you. It makes Aya real. By the way, in chinese -when I say Aya it means,OMG! so if you hear some asians saying AYA, it is like using an expression. That explains the fashion hub you wrote awhile ago. I showed that to my girls.
    It is nice you found your dream job.
    How do you get to travel so extensively and so long (a month). is there a hub secret to the kind of work one can aspire to if they love travel? What about costs. Where do you stay to keep costs lower.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of you…bows and blossoms!

    1. Hey alphagirl! Thanks so much. Travel-wise: I’ve managed to keep costs down by staying with friends and family in other countries and not eating out. By buying my own food from stores and not having to pay for most of my room costs, all I’ve had to worry about, for many, many trips, is transportation costs!

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