Your Professional Digital Identity

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-8-15-18-amThis Guide should take about 30 minutes to read. You may view this Guide on all size screens or print it out for future reference.

Introduction

While enrolled in the UNE Academy, we recommend all learners create and continuously improve upon their online professional presence and/or digital portfolio. These can be one and the same or separate entities. It is up to you to decide upon how you wish you present yourself, the level of detail and which items you will include to create you digital identity. Some common artifacts to consider are: past or current employment, educational background, skills, certifications, and organizational memberships.

You may already have a LinkedIn profile, a GitHub account, a WordPress portfolio, or an other online presence. We encourage you to use our Discovery Project Cycle process to improve it and more clearly define your current professional identity. Sharing your work and thoughts with others will help you refine your profile to represent yourself most effectively.

Working on your Professional Identity may spark some questions and problems. We will work through the following “spark problem” to demonstrate how the Project Cycle works.

Spark Problem Statement

“My cover letter, resume, and online presence don’t capture all of my knowledge and skills and do justice to me as I’m moving forward as a professional. Because of that, future employers really don’t know what my passions are, what I know or what I can do. My active digital footprint is not working for me.”

Phase A: Analyze and Define

Instruction

The first step of the project cycle is to understand the problem through analysis and then to clearly define the problem.

For this particular Discovery Project, the analysis can include questions you answer yourself, such as:

  • How (where?) is your professional identity visible now?
  • What materials have you chosen to represent your professional self online?
  • What happens when you Google search yourself? What about other search tools?
  • Are there items that come up when searching that need improvement?
  • Are there items that come up when searching that need to be removed?

Then, there are questions about the careers and professions that you are interested in:

  • What are some common phrases and terms that are used by major companies?
  • What are common skills and requirements for jobs that you are interested in?
  • What national and widely accepted data and trends can you base research on?

Now let’s focus on your professional identity:

  • Do you have a Professional Digital Profile already?
  • Does the platform (portfolio or website) best represent your experience, abilities, and potential?
  • Is there a photo of yourself that is clear, friendly and professional?
  • When given the opportunity, do you use numbers in order to represent improvements that you have created in previous (and current) jobs?
  • Do the details in your profile exhibit any of your passions, excitement or achievements?
  • Are you a part of any groups? Are you connected with the right people? 

Remember to document your work and thoughts as you go through this process! This documentation is part of the iterative process of the Project Cycle, where you can go back and review what you have done and how you might improve. As well, you can use components or the entire record in both your Reflection and Project Charter documents for the UNE Academy.

Once you have a deep understanding of the initial problem through your analysis, then it is time to clearly define the problem as it makes sense to you.

Assignment

Analyze your active digital footprint and document it within the Project Charter document.

  • Write 1 – 3 paragraphs about the source and results of the analysis in the Project Charter Document along with your clearly defined problem that will initiate the rest of your work for this project.
  • Write a 1 – 3 paragraph personal reflection about the processes, research and findings in the Reflection Document.

When writing both documents, keep in mind that your Professional Mentor will be reviewing your work using the following competencies:

Competencies assessed:

  • Critical & Analytical Thinking: Uses logic, reasoning, and analysis to address problems.
  • Situation Analysis: Presents sufficient and appropriate data/information. Analyzes data/information for accuracy, relevance and validity.
  • Problem Clarification: Identifies most or all key issues and/or problems. Details problem with clear scope and output definitions.

Turn both documents into the appropriate discussion board in Week 4 on Blackboard.

Phase B: Plan and Prototype

Instruction

You have now analyzed and defined the problem. In this case, you have developed an in-depth understanding of your active digital footprint and clearly defined the problem. The next step is to design a plan and execute it.  As you develop your plan, keep the 10-15 hour scope in mind. You have already spent some time on Phase A: Analyze and Define, with the remaining steps including Phase B: Plan and Prototype, Phase C: Test and Evaluate, and Phase D: Revise and Evolve. The problem has been identified as an ineffective digital footprint and your solution is to create or refine your professional identity by creating or improving your digital presence. You will now identify and go through the steps needed to achieve success.

The Project Cycle is designed to be used multiple times on each project you work on as you continuously improve the project. You are not expected to have a completed project by the time you’re done each cycle, but rather you have something that allows work towards the completion of the larger goal and intend to come back to it later. Think about it like coats of paint on newly hung drywall, drafts of a book or making Grandma’s lasagna over and over again until you get the recipe just right.

Now it’s time to start the process of defining the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to reach your identified goals. Keep in mind that this will be something that you’ll come back to often once you learn more and start to fill in gaps. Here are some things to consider:

  • What exactly needs to be done?
  • How long will it take?
  • Who will be working on it?
  • Are there certain tasks that depend on others in order to get things done?

Here’s a snippet from an example of a Project Plan:

# Name Time Estimate
(hh:mm)
Who Dependencies
1 Research platforms and portfolio options :30 Me
2 Identify components of my professional identity that need to be included  :15 Me, Bill #1
3 Research phrases and terminology to best respresent myself :30 Me #2
4 Draft rewrites of identified sections :15 Me #3
10 Identify metrics that will be captured during feedback and testing process :10 Me
20 Final Milestone: Create or improve digital presence with 4 identity sections that best represent experience, ability, and potential Total time estimate: 3:15

Once a plan has been established, start working on it! This is the prototype section of Phase B. You will work through the prototype and decide what works and what might need to be changed. This is the iterative nature of the Project Cycle. Also important to keep in mind is that your work should be recorded and/or designed to be shared with others. Keep records in a way that can be saved and shared easily.

Prototypes are preliminary models that can take many forms. A prototype can be an interactive piece of software, a drawing on a napkin, a wireframe model, an algorithm with made-up data, a descriptive paragraph or anything else that allows someone else to really understand what you’re working towards. It should be tested by other people. They interact with it on some level and share feedback for improvements.

For this project, an example of prototyping could be in the form of a shared Google Document. You would share a mock-up of your profile with a colleague or friend and they would offer feedback on what you wrote, the details of your artifacts, and any other reactions or comments they can offer. There are other prototype modes you could use, such as mocking up your profile on a website such as https://moqups.com/ or https://wireframe.cc/ and share it from there. Which prototype method you use is completely up to you.

Once shared, “testers” must have an easy method to give you feedback on your creation. To garner the best results, we recommend that you provide leading questions about specific topics that you’re working towards and give opportunities for “testers” to give off-topic suggestions as well. You can gather feedback in a number of ways; some commonly used methods include email, chat, video conference or in person. Regardless of how people give you feedback, be sure to capture and record it as it comes in.

Assignment

  • Create a Project Plan that identifies tasks that need to be completed in order to accomplish identified goals and help solve the problem defined in Phase A.
  • Develop a prototype based on the steps in the Project Plan. The prototype needs to be able to be shared with others and feedback captured.
  • Write 1 – 3 paragraphs about your Project Plan and prototype in the Project Charter Document. If possible include the plan and prototype you created.
  • Write a 1 – 3 paragraph personal reflection about the processes, research and findings in the Reflection Document.

Turn both documents in in the appropriate discussion board in Week 5 on Blackboard.

Phase C: Test and Evaluate

Instruction

Congratulations! You have reached the halfway point in the Project Cycle. It’s time to share your work with others, gather feedback from them about your progress towards solving the initial problem you’ve identified and then evaluated the feedback to help you gain perspective on your project.

There are four primary considerations when setting your project up for effective testing:

  • What metrics you have identified and need feedback on in order to quantify effective testing?
  • Who will test your prototype and what is their commitment to testing?
  • How will you share your prototype and communicate with testers?
  • How will you capture and store tester feedback?

What metrics have you identified and need feedback on in order to quantify effective testing?

Through your research and development up to this point, you have directly or indirectly identified focal points and areas of interest for your prototype as well as developed an understanding why they’re important. Those areas of interest help define some of the metrics for testing. In order for people to come in and test your creation, they need to be educated on what to do and why.

Applying this to the creation or enhancement of your Professional Identity, you may have determined that your profile image is not professional and clear. You can identify this as a metric that you want testers to give feedback on. You could evaluate this by asking testers to rate your new image on a scale of 1 – 5 from least to most professional and a justification as to why they selected that option. The metric you are using is the scale of 1-5. You can use a metric scale of 1-10 or a multiple choice answer metric or any other method of collecting data.

Who will test your prototype and what is their commitment to testing?

It is important to identify who is going to interact with the prototype and what data type you are looking to collect. Will you share it with family and friends? Are there co-workers that can provide insight? What fellow learners in the UNE Academy have you contacted to test your prototype? Who could provide the best feedback and data? Who would best understand the problem and the proposed solutions? There are numerous data points and views that would be helpful to the evolution of your project. Reflect on how you might gather the most useful and diverse feedback.

Once you’ve identified who you’d like to test your prototype, you need to communicate with them what your expectation of their time and effort. If you estimate that it will take 2 hours to understand the prototype and metrics, completely test and give feedback and you need results back in the next 5 days, can they commit to that? Are they available for follow-up if there’s feedback that’s unclear or is incomplete for any reason? You must take these factors into account as you develop your feedback loop and reach out to a diverse audience.

How will you share your prototype and communicate with testers?

The testing that people will be doing for you is not effective if they can’t access your prototype or communicate feedback. If your prototype is digital, is it in a format or location that has the least amount of barriers? Is it on a webpage where people need to sign up for an account before they can access your information? If your prototype is a particular file format like a .docx (Microsoft Word) file, what happens if a tester doesn’t have Word? Are there alternative versions of your prototype that are available if barriers exist?

Not only do you need to communicate directions for your testers about what to do with your prototype, where to focus and why, but you must also consider the feedback loop. You must carefully consider the method in which they record and share their feedback. It can be something as simple as a conversation with you taking notes using pencil and paper, a copy-and-pasted set of instructions and questions that you send along to people or an online form your tester complete. Whatever method you establish, be sure to keep the tester experience easy and that the feedback loop is a cycle. This means there should be multiple chances and multiple entry points for more than one person.

How will you capture and store user feedback?

All feedback data must be recorded, stored and accessed in a way that allows it to be quantified. If you decided to use an online form to capture feedback, then the data might already be a spreadsheet type format. If not, you will need to enter the data in a format that can be easily compared and understood. Keep this in mind as you structure your feedback system.

Once the communication, testing and feedback are complete, what happens next? What did you learn about the metrics that were previously identified? Were there any results that came back that were unexpected? What are some overall trends that emerged from the data? What are some anomalies that skew the data set? You must consider these questions and more as you process the data from your testers. There is a strong likelihood that you will modify your prototype and ask your testers (or new testers) to go repeat the process. This is the iterative nature of the Project Cycle and is critical to the design and implementation of successful projects.

Applying this to your Professional Identity profile, the feedback may indicate that the majority of your testers did not understand that you’re a natural leader. What personality traits did most people understand instead of you being a natural leader? How did they come to that conclusion? Are you satisfied with what they did understand or do you need to modify your summary section writing? What modifications would help reviewers best understand your natural leadership ability? These answers and how you modify your prototype are completely up to you and inform the next steps of the Project Cycle.

Assignment

Share your prototype with as many people as you can to collect effective feedback in a time frame which allow you to complete the project. Capture and store the feedback in a way that can be tabulated and shared.

Evaluate and quantify the feedback given by people testing your prototype.

  • Write 1 – 3 paragraphs about what happened in Phase C in the Project Charter Document. If possible, include the feedback data that you captured.
  • Write a 1 – 3 paragraph personal reflection about the processes, research and findings from Phase C in the Reflection Document.

When writing both documents, keep in mind that your Professional Mentor will be assessing your work against the following competencies:

Competencies:

  • Interpersonal Skills & Teamwork: Works cooperatively with others from diverse backgrounds to complete work assignments.
  • Systems Thinking: Acknowledges multiple approaches, synthesizing perspectives, and acknowledging context.

Turn both documents in in the appropriate discussion board in Week 6 on Blackboard.

Phase D: Revise and Evolve

Instruction

Once your testers have interacted with your prototype, it is time to gather and process all the data to inform what you will do next. You will decide how to revise the process and best move your project toward completion.

Was your initial analysis flawed because of personal bias that surfaced after your prototype was tested? Could the problem that was identified be altered to better focus on a particular outcome? Did you underestimate the time frames to complete tasks in the Project Plan? Was the prototype that was developed ineffective for a particular metric? What did you learn about all the great work that was done in Phases A, B and C?

Take a step back from your work and look at it as objectively as you can. If you’re having a hard time doing so (or if not), this is a good opportunity to reach out and talk with other learners in the UNE Academy and/or your Professional Mentor.

It is always a good idea to gain a fresh perspective on projects as they move toward completion. We can get lost in the details and new eyes can open our minds to weaknesses and strengths of which we have lost sight.

Next, consider where to go next with the project. If you were to continue on with this tomorrow, where would you predict the next area of focus should be? What would be the new or next problem statement? Should the project continue to go down the path you’re going down, or should it pivot to a new direction? Why or why not? If another team were to pick this project up and run with it, what advice would you give them?

In this example, maybe you concluded that Google Sites simply doesn’t have the right tools or opportunities to showcase your success in a way that you feel does you justice. Because of that, the next time the project is tackled it needs to be done in a hosted blog or on your own website. Alternately, maybe you feel that Google Sites does a great job of hosting your digital footprint and the next iteration of the project should focus on expanding your social circle and getting recommendations from other professionals. Either way, you have completed the first iteration of solving the problem. Congratulations!

Assignment

Assess and understand the steps, processes and data that occurred in Phases A, B, and C. Evaluate their effectiveness for each phase and the project as a whole. Conclude what should be done in the future to improve on them in the future.

Decide what should happen next with the project. Evaluate all the project as a whole and predict future iterations.

  • Write 1 – 3 paragraphs about what happened in Phase D in the Project Charter Document. If possible, include the feedback data that you captured.
  • Write a 1 – 3 paragraph personal reflection about the processes, research and findings from Phase C in the Reflection Document.

When writing both documents, keep in mind that your Professional Mentor will be assessing your work against the following competencies:

Competencies

  • Initiative & Flexibility: Demonstrates a willingness to work with and capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.
  • Continuous Learning: Demonstrates willingness to learn and apply new knowledge and skills.

Recommend: Presents recommendations for revision that are mostly logical, complete, and consistent, and demonstrates some unique or creative insight.

Turn both documents in in the appropriate discussion board in Week 7 in Blackboard.

Finalize

Now, it’s time to go back through all of your work on your Project Charter and Professional Reflections and integrate all of the feedback you’ve received and ideas you’ve had over the past 8 weeks.

Finalize your documents and submit them during Week 8. Be ready to share them with employers at the next Academy Roundtable.