Meet the Teachers: Alice Truong
Meet Alice Truong, the instructor for our brand new Tech Writing course. Alice is a a tech journalist with passion for gadgets, gizmos, and, of course, technology. She says job perks include “testing out new gadgets before they hit the market.”
Our full interview with Alice:
MB: When did you start writing and how did you know you wanted to do it professionally?
AT: I grew up reading and idolizing the Los Angeles Times and seized every opportunity to immerse myself in journalism. I joined my middle, high school and college newspapers; attended a number of journalism workshops and conferences as a student; majored in journalism as an undergraduate; and completed a master’s program specializing in business journalism and interactive storytelling. Somewhere along the way, perhaps under the notion that this was a glamorous field (and it can be), I decided I wanted to do this professionally.
MB: What was your first big break?
AT: As an intern at the RedEye, a sister publication to the Chicago Tribune, my editors saw how hungry I was to write and gave me many opportunities to do so. Since this was a publication geared toward “news you can use,” a cover story I wrote on DIY weddings got a lot of positive feedback and was picked up in a number of Trib publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and most exciting of all, the Los Angeles Times. My clips at the RedEye would later help me secure an internship, and eventually a job, at the Wall Street Journal.
MB: What is your favorite tech news outlet?
AT: I, of course, have loyalties to the publications that have employed me, including the Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY and the Trib. Since I write about technology, I spend a lot of time reading tech blogs. I’ve always been a fan of Gizmodo’s brazen style, but some new favorites include the Verge, the Wirecutter and Gizmag. I’ve also admired how absolutely nerdy the writers at DVICE, the SyFy Channel’s tech blog, are and eventually became one of them.
MB: Where do you see yourself/hope to be in your career in five years?
AT: I started my journalism career covering real estate in Hong Kong for the Wall Street Journal. The job didn’t last with my moving to San Francisco, but my love for the city did. In five years, I imagine being a tech correspondent based there, collecting passport stamps in my free time.
MB: What do you think is the coolest, most interesting gadget out today?
AT: This is a trick question, right? Because I know as soon as I decide on a toy, a newer, shinier one will come out tomorrow — that’s the world of gadgets for you. At the end of last year, I considered Belkin’s WeMo as one of the top gadgets of 2012, and that’s because the simple $50 device can turn anything into a smart appliance with programmable rules thanks to an iPhone app. My current favorite is the Philips Hue, an LED system that connects color-changing bulbs to a wireless network. With an open API, Philips is really positioning itself as an App Store of high-tech LEDs, encouraging developers to build some very interesting apps for Hue, such as changing the colors of the lights based on a playlist.
Pictured above: Belkin’s WeMPicture above: Philips Hue
Pictured above: Phillips Hue
MB: What do you hope for students to get out of your class?
AT: As a student, I’ve always appreciated professors who structured their classes so that new lessons built on prior ones to complete a project or achieve a tangible goal. Ideally, my students will have solid story ideas or works in progress to pitch at the end of the course.
MB: Any advice for aspiring tech journalists?
AT: To understand the tech landscape, read as much as you can in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Over time, the topics and jargon won’t be so intimidating. The other is to get to know people in the field. Yes, that means networking with CEOs, entrepreneurs and PR folks, but even making friends with techies, such as software engineers, is helpful to get insight and develop story ideas.
MB: Any other fun stories/events in your career that you’d like to share?
AT: Let’s start with an embarrassing story. Once, when I was having dinner in Mountain View, I was talking about my visit to Smugmug’s office earlier in the day. The co-founders, who were avid photographers, had told me about their experience with Lytro, the camera that made headlines for letting you shoot first and focus later. Though Lytro’s technology is genuinely ground shattering, there are a number of limitations that make it impractical, especially for professional photographers who want large, detailed and stunning images. I went on and on at dinner, adding my own opinion about the closed ecosystem, awkward form factor and more before I was interrupted by the person at the next table in this tiny ramen restaurant. Turns out it was the CEO and founder of Lytro, who a day later would step down as chief to take on the role of chairman.
Overall though, covering technology comes with its perks. I attend fun conferences. I talk to inspiring movers and shakers. I test new gadgets before they hit the market. Really, a large part of my job is to play with toys and write about them.