Change is Good!
Posted by Rebecca Snyder
This week’s reading was very nostalgic for me! During the last semester of my senior year of college, I began an internship with a software company where my role was to work with RoboHELP to develop online help for their medical software. In May of 2001, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English with a focus in Technical Communications and went to work within the next three months as a Technical Writer at a small water heater manufacturer in Tennessee. I was quickly trained on using Freehand10 to create and edit their use and care guides and installation manuals. During this same time-frame, I had a local bank contact me and offer a freelance project to re-write all of their training guides.
I remember recommending Macromedia Freehand10 and they actually purchased the software and I did the work transferring all of their documents in the new program. I cringe a little now when I think of that. I was new to the field, and I had no idea how much software would change over the next decade. In my defense, Freehand10 was a great program for layout and design work when compared to their previous software choice, Microsoft Word. It made page layout so much easier by having each part in an easily movable “box” – text boxes, photo boxes, etc. It eliminated that (still present) issue with MS Word where everything adjusts itself to the next page the second you close and re-open or print the document. In “Digtal Literacy for Technical Communication,” Chapter 1 writer Saul Carliner says that, RoboHELP was… “later sold to Macromedia which was sold, in turn, to Adobe” (Spilka p. 37) Today, Macromedia Freehand10 is a thing of the past – and had been replaced by Adobe inDesign – at least at the water heater company where I first learned the ropes of Freehand10.
Failure to Evolve with Changing Technology
In 2003, I put my career on hold to stay home with, and later home school, my two sons. The oldest graduated in 2017 and the youngest will follow in 2022. As I begin to consider re-entering the work force in my field, my biggest worry has been whether or not I will be able to learn the new technology. Last year, when my oldest graduated from our home school, we participated in a co-op style graduation ceremony with a local home school group. Because of my background as a tech writer, I was asked to create the graduation programs using inDesign and get them sent off to the printer. I was able to get a copy of inDesign and I set to work – only to realize (very quickly) that my learning curve was going to take a bit longer than the time I actually had to reach the deadline on these programs. I had to ask a friend who works in the field to do the layout for me and then I was able to plug in the photos and information. It was disappointing to me and added fuel to my fears of whether I am going to be able to survive in this field given how much the technology has changed over the last 15 years. Initially, I chose to work toward my masters degree in hopes that I would somehow get back up to speed with regard to technology as well as everything else. Unfortunately, that has not been the experience thus far. “Digital Literacy…” Chapter 2 author, R. Stanley Dicks says,
For academic programs in technical communication, a primary issue is the extent of training they need to provide. Most academic programs have limited resources to purchase costly publishing software; especially prohibitive financially is complex enterprise software like content management systems. More significantly, the purpose of an academic degree is to serve the student for decades after graduation by providing durable skills and knowledge. Technology skills and knowledge are perishable, often outdated within five years. On the other hand, employers expect students to develop skills with publishing technology as part of the education process, so avoiding technology altogether in the academic curriculum is not an option. Each program has to find its own balance (Spilka p. 47).
Distance education has made it even more difficult for students (like me) to learn technology skills as part of the education process as it is impossible for me to utilize any of the software that may be available on the UW Stout campus because I am in Tennessee. Likewise, it would be quite costly to purchase a personal copy of each software that I may want to learn, and, as I found out quickly when trying to work on the graduation invitations, difficult to teach myself these new programs. I hope that employers will take this into account as I return to the work force and allow for the training I will need to get technologically up to speed. The good news is that I have stayed current on using technology when it comes to e-mail and social media, and I do tend to learn new programs easily when I have the time to “poke around” with it.
A Whole New Way to Work
In his section on “Distributed Work,” R. Stanley Dicks says that, “Improved communication technologies mean that workers can collaborate without being co-located (i.e. without being in the same physical space, such as an office” (Spilka p. 73).
In the early 2000’s, when I was working in the technical communications field, the idea of “working from home” was not quite yet available. Although my company had considered this and was beginning to consider the idea, technology had not yet advanced to the point where my they felt comfortable allowing it just yet. Now, my husband works for this same company as an Engineer Manager and he often holds meetings with company executives across the globe. He went into work at 6AM last week so he could have a teleconference with the folks in Japan! Had this been an option to me, I may have never had to put my career on hold to raise my kids; perhaps professional parents in 2018 can now have the opportunity to simultaneously do both!
About Rebecca SnyderI am a grad student at UW Stout, a mom to 2 sons (one grown, one almost grown), a homeschool mom, and a pearl girl @ Vantel Pearls. #gradschoolpearlgirl
Posted on October 27, 2018, in Blogs, Digital, Literacy, Social Media, Technology, Workplace and tagged Distributed Work, internet, Software Changes, Technology, Work from Home. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.
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