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.