Job Security Is Disappearing — What Does It Mean For You?

Job security is a thing of the past, and we are all entrepreneurs now whether we work for ourselves or someone else. Are you ready to navigate the new-millennium working world? Here are ten ways to get there!

Source: Job Security Is Disappearing — What Does It Mean For You?

This is an important article to read, especially as a technical communicator. I know that for me, the idea of a long term position and job security was gone by the time I got out of college almost thirty years ago.  Just as this article says, the idea of working in the same place for a long time is almost unheard of. I’ve never worked anywhere full-time for more than three years. (The next longest gig, that wasn’t a volunteer one, was two and a half years with a three month break, and then brought back on part-time for a couple hours here and there for the past year and a half. Not quite the same.)  I have been looking for a full-time technical communications position for MANY years. I have never known job security, so when I am unemployed or “between jobs”, I truly get restless and feel freaked out, because I know that you have to be able to grab whatever you can get in a fleeting moment. Full-time, employee positions are very rare, especially where I live. If you find a tech comm-related job, it’s practically a guarantee that it’s going to be some sort of contract job for short-term or long-term (long-term being a year or more). I’m aware of companies that have contractor policies that contractors can’t stay more than 18 months, so they’ll hire a person for 18 months, give the person a three month break, then rehire them–rinse, lather, repeat. The longest corporate limitation I’ve heard is three years.  On rare occasions, you do hear of contractors who have gone “temp to perm”, being hired as full employees. I’ve rarely seen that happen. I almost experienced it, but instead the company had layoffs just as they were about to bring me on full-time, and laid me off instead.

The point is that with tech comm work these days, a lot of it ends up being contract work, and unfortunately, most companies still haven’t figured out that tech comm people aren’t expendable. We are always needed for something. Just like the remote working issues, undercutting workers without some sort of job security is just…difficult.  This article talks in depth gives a few pointers on how to put it all in perspective.

What do you think? Do you think there’s still job security in tech comm? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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IBM Just Committed Cultural and Creative Suicide | Inc.com

IBM has told its employees that they can’t work from home. The end of Big Blue is nigh.

Source: IBM Just Committed Cultural and Creative Suicide | Inc.com

Thanks to Larry Kunz for finding this appropriate follow-up to my last post about IBM discontinuing its practice of allowing remote work.  The author of this article sums it up much better than I could. Read this; all I have to respond to it is, “AMEN! EXACTLY!”

Yahoo and IBM have now set a bad precedence, and it has already started to affect Yahoo, as there is a current business rumor that both Yahoo and AOL are going to be acquired by Verizon.  Could it be that due to all the reasons listed in this article, Yahoo continued to decline? You be the judge.

What do you think of this article’s points? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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IBM tells thousands of remote employees to come back to office or find new jobs | Ars Technica

While selling benefits of “telework” to others, IBM forces relocation in stealth layoff.

Source: IBM tells thousands of remote employees to come back to office or find new jobs | Ars Technica

Thanks to Cheri Mullins for posting this article on Facebook.

Reading this makes me angry. How is it that, first, Yahoo sets a precedence of not allowing employees to work remotely, and yet, it’s an internet service! Now, IBM, one of the oldest, largest, and most established companies in the world is now pulling the same crazy move? It’s a nasty move (I’m trying to avoid using profanity here), because there are probably a lot of really good workers who can’t find a job other than something like this in their areas.  I read the very last line of this article, and said, “Yeah, that’s me!” I’m one of those people who actually lives closer to New York City where SO many jobs are, but it’s a two-hour commute! And yes, with a family settled here and special education needs here in New Jersey, I cannot afford to move closer to New York. Even Northern New Jersey is much more expensive than where I live, and I live in a pricier area of New Jersey (Princeton Metro area).  Yet, New York City is where all the jobs are. We all can’t move to NYC or Silicon Valley, or some of the other major metropolises.

This is unfair to anyone who doesn’t live in a major city. There are LOTS of capable people who can do the job remotely, and there are lots of jobs that really can be done remotely. Need I remind people again that there’s email, telephones, instant messaging, and other connectivity programs like Skype, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Jabber…shall I go on? It’s OLD thinking that all work needs to be in an office. I hate working in an office. I get more done at home, I can concentrate better at home (cubicles and open office space are the worst), and I can connect to the world exactly the same ways globally as if I were in the office.

Major companies really, really, really need to get with the program. The future is now, and you need to learn how to work with it. Don’t go backwards.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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From competitors to colleagues: STC as community – Ed Marsh

I considered everyone else in my field the competition early in my career. I had to fight them for jobs; they were the enemy. I didn’t really get the value of professional memberships or conferences. I didn’t join STC, the Society for Technical Communication, until I was laid off from my first job, after 12 … Continue reading From competitors to colleagues: STC as community →

Source: From competitors to colleagues: STC as community – Ed Marsh

I was thinking of writing a similar post about my general experience and thoughts about attending the 2017 STC Summit, but my good buddy Ed pretty much did it for me, so I defer to his words and sentiments in his post. If he feels isolated in his big company and small team, imagine me who is usually a lone writer/consultant, and far from others in my immediate area who do the same! Joining has made a big difference to me, and I echo Ed’s sentiment that it really is a community more than anything else. Once you are able to attend–either in person or virtually–to an STC event, you start to become to other people who “get it”. STC members are generally very warm, friendly, smart people with a wicked sense of humor.  Hanging around them recharges you. You get support. You get validated. You get advice. I joined up about 6.5 years ago, but didn’t really become active until 5 years ago, and I’ve been building up my contributions ever since, and continue to do so. Becoming more active is starting to seriously pay off with my connections in my mind, both professionally and personally. Many have become friends as well as colleagues.

Read Ed’s article.  If you went to the Summit, include your comments and feedback below. Or, even if you didn’t go to the Summit, include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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9 Recommended Tech Tools for a Conference Attendee

tech organizer for accessoriesI don’t attend as many conferences as some people, for sure. There are those I know who whisk off to different parts of the world to attend such conferences–I’m not quite one of those.  I’m usually going to at least 1-2 local conferences, and 1-2 not local conferences a year on average.  This year, at this writing, I’m only planning on one big conference, and namely that’s the STC Summit in a couple of days.

While I’m on these trips, I usually try to put some careful consideration into what I’m bringing with me. This year, I have my car (an SUV, no less) with me, so I can load up the car as much as I want.  But in other years, like many, I usually have to get on a plane to get to the conference destination, so taking as few things–and lighter items–is necessary.

Liz Fraley wrote an excellent article about a year ago about her Presenter’s Tech Travel Kit, and it’s pretty comprehensive.  I have most of the same items as she does. Some I don’t travel with, and some are items I still desire to add to my travel tech.

But that was written from the perspective of a frequent presenter. What about some recommendations for those who aren’t presenters, but still want to bring some basic tech with them?

I’m looking at this perspective myself, as I’m not a presenter this year. I usually have one big suitcase for clothes, shoes, things I picked up at the conference, but I also need to bring tech, since I am either taking notes, or sharing my experiences on social media during a conference. I’m still developing what works for me best, but there are a few things that I usually bring with me no matter where I go, whether I’m a presenter or attendee. There are also a few (hopefully) clever solutions to help lighten my load, but maintain some good tech.

  1. My iPad/tablet
    My iPad comes with me everywhere. I have a large, 17 inch laptop, and while it’s one of the “lighter” ones, it’s still rather heavy, and it’s a pain (literally and figuratively) to carry places.  In most instances, I don’t need to bring a full laptop computer with me, as I’m only accessing  my word processing programs (Notes or Word) for note taking, I have full access to social media apps, I can still get my email, I still have Skype–I have most of what I need to record what I need and still communicate with the outside world in my iPad.  My iPad is thin, and it’s lightweight. It’s as good as having a paper notebook in size and weight, but better.

    Someday, I hope to be able to afford one of those super sleek, thin, streamlined ultrabooks that I can bring anywhere, but in the meantime, this will do nicely. If you don’t have an iPad, an Android or Fire or other equivalent will probably do just as nicely.

  2. My Wireless Keyboard
    This is an optional one, only because I don’t have an iPad cover that is also a Bluetooth keyboard. But having my wireless Apple keyboard–or for that matter, any Bluetooth keyboard–is great because then you feel like you do have a very compact laptop with you. I keep it in a special case (similar to this one–same manufacturer, older model) that has some extra storage. (Waterfield has some nice travel bags as well.)

    But what if you have to access a “power” program due to a workshop, and there isn’t an app for that? Well, I’ve figured that out too, but it’s on a case-by-case basis (meaning there are some exceptions when I, unfortunately, do have to lug my laptop with me). I hate bringing my laptop just for one workshop or one session, when I know I’m not going to use it for the rest of the conference.  I have a solution that might work for you, and it’s worked for me.

  3. Remote Machine apps
    Yes, if you pick the right one and play with it a little bit first, there are some decent remote machine apps that will connect your tablet (in my case, my iPad) to your laptop at home. You just have to install the app on your iPad, make sure the app is installed on your laptop at home, and remember to leave your laptop on at home before you leave! I’ve played with a few.

    TeamViewer is a popular one. My husband likes that one. It’s free for individual use. There’s also Splashtop. That one, if you are travelling, is about $3/month, but it provides a good connection. I used that last year, and it’s another popular one.

    This year, I’ve switched over to a free one that’s available, and I like this one the best. It’s called VNC Viewer. There’s an app for it on iTunes, and it’ll give you directions on how to make your laptop the “VNC Server”. The beauty of this one is that it’s mostly maintained on the cloud! And it’s free for individuals! I also liked the screen resolution on this one, because it showed what’s on my laptop screen better than the others, and I could get the tapping tasks down easier than the others.  I could access those “power” apps (like various XML editors) from my home laptop from my iPad, and still do the same actions as if I were using my laptop. There might be a few tricks to use it on an iPad, but the work itself is being done on my home laptop. Cool!

  4. Skyroam Personal Hotspot device
    This is a new item that I’ve added to my collection. It’s a personal hotspot that doesn’t work off your phone, and it works internationally in most major countries.  You buy unlimited connectivity passes which last the full 24 hours.  If you buy your passes in bulk, they come out to be about $8 per day, and you can connect up to 5 devices at a time. The device is usually around $100, and comes with 3 free day passes to start. You can also rent them at airports and–I think–through the website at skyroam.com.

    Why would I need that? I bought it for a few reasons. First, during my last international trip, I found I was using the data that I had bought through my phone contract wasn’t enough for when I was out and about. It was a lot of data just trying to pull up a map and figure out where I was going! And wifi wasn’t always perfect trying to glean it off of stores or other public places. This way, in the future, I’d have this small device with me, and not have that problem anymore. Second, when we travel, my son is ALWAYS using up a lot of data so he can play games on his phone. This, again, eliminates the huge cost. The last reason I got it was that even though certain conferences offer wifi services, sometimes, well, they just aren’t great wifi connections.

    Since I do a lot of Twitter feeds and such during conferences, it’s important that I have a solid wi-fi connection. This solves this problem. I used my Skyroam at the CONDUIT conference last month, and it works GREAT.

  5. My Smart Travel Router and International Power Converters
    This one is especially helpful if you are travelling internationally, but I still bring them with me on domestic trips as well.  They not only provide international outlet adapters for other countries, but they usually have 2 USB outlets on them to charge my devices. I use these heavily– I have 3 of these, so I can charge up to 6 devices at a time if needed! One of these three is my smart travel router. The one I own is a Satechi Smart Travel Router, which you can find on various websites to order. If you have access to a network cable, this little device is marvelous. It’s not only a outlet adapter that has USB outlets on it, but it also acts as a mini wifi router when connected to a wired network.

    I’ll give you an example when it came in handy. When I went to IEEE ProComm, I stayed at one of the dorms at the University of Limerick. They had no wifi available in the rooms. HOWEVER, they did have network outlets. All I did was connect my networking cable to that outlet, plugged the other side into this Smart Router, and VOILA! I was the only one who had wifi! I was able to talk to my family on Skype at night and check on other things that required internet connectivity.

  6. Battery packs/Power banks

    Portable batteries/power banks come in all sizes. I actually bring three– two small ones and a big one. Why? I don’t want to be lugging a charging cord and power adapter for my iPad or my phone and trying to be near the nearest outlet.  These batteries can easily charge overnight, so I will charge the big one (which has two outlets for two devices) one night while I use the smaller two, and then switch off the next day.You can find smaller ones under US$10, and some of the larger, more powerful ones can get to cost as much as $70. Pick what’s whatever in your budget, and you’ll find it’s handy to have just in case. My two little ones were gifts, whereas my bigger one is one I bought for about US$25-30.  You can get fairly powerful ones these days, and find them almost anywhere that they sell phone and tablet accessories.
  7. Cables/Power Cords
    This is an obvious one. You can’t charge any of these devices up with a plug, battery, car power adapter, or wall power adapter unless you have all the right cables and cords! I always ensure that I have one for each device (for me, that’d be 2 Apple lightning cords), and at least 1-2 USB-C cords that will charge the battery packs. Sometimes you can get a power cord that powers multiple devices–a multi-port cord. I have one of those that one of the vendors gave out at a past conference that works beautifully, even with my fickle i-Devices. I keep them all together in a Skooba Design cable wrap case so I can find them easily, and it’s compact. (Skooba Design also has some nice travel bags as well.)
  8. Earphones of some sort
    I tend to bring a few things redundantly, so I do bring my regular Apple earphones with me, but I also bring my fancy Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones with me as well. The second ones are for the noise cancelling feature. Sometimes I just need to tune out, you know? (Introverts, take note!)
  9. Extra batteries
    If my Apple keyboard or the noise cancelling feature of my Bose headphones die, then I have at least one set of backup batteries (2-AAs, 1-AAA) with me. I keep them in the small case I keep my keyboard in.

That seems to cover the basics of what I find I need as a conference attendee. I don’t run out of power. I have something to take notes electronically or connect to the outside world. I have devices to help me connect to the Internet. I’m pretty much set, and it can all easily fit in my messenger bag or backpack, and still have room in my bag to collect some goodies from the Exhibition Hall.

As a presenter, I think the only other things I would bring would be some sort of an A/V adapter (see Liz’s article for suggestions–I just hook up my iPad with my adapter, and I’m good), or as is often suggested, I bring a thumb/flash drive with my presentation on it–just in case.

Between my list and Liz’s list, can you think of other devices, tools, or other tech accessories that you find that you absolutely need to bring with you to a conference? Include your comments below.

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Making a difference, forever | Leading Technical Communication

Be careful what you post on the internet, they say, because once you do it’s out there forever. I suppose that’s true. In fact, it’s been true since before we had an internet. In …

Source: Making a difference, forever | Leading Technical Communication

This is a great story from Larry Kunz.  I can relate to his story, although mine doesn’t go quite as far back as his does. I found that when I was working at a part-time position years ago, the system they used was what I call a Franken-system–something that had been built using several different method sewn together to work in its clunky way. As long as it functioned, that’s all that mattered. (I know the original developer of that system has since retired, and the webmaster I worked for has been slowly converting everything over to Drupal instead.)  But because there were so many quirks with this system, I found it necessary to write a lot of notes on how to use the system. I found the notes to be very helpful when I was initially using the system, especially if there were actions that weren’t done often and I needed reminders.  Flash forward to a few years later, and I’m hired back part-time temporarily to the same job.  My notes were still in the desk! I found that 98% of the information still applied, and I still understood what my notes meant, as they were clear and organized. It was a moment that I knew that I was cut out to be a technical communicator. I know that my notes also helped two other people learn the system as well, so I think that’s “mission accomplished”.

How many times have you tried to do a web search to find something about an old product to come up short? How often is older documentation on an old product worth its weight in gold when you find it? It’s amazing how much things that we think are minor or mundane now can make a difference later, and I’m sure that’s part of what Larry was experiencing as well. He helped many people with his co-written newsletter, and how do we not know that these notes helped people who could later build other things or understand other concepts better in later products?

Do you have a similar story? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

 

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Microsoft Surface Laptop announces – INSIDER

Meet the Microsoft Surface Laptop, a $999 laptop aimed at the college student.

Source: Microsoft Surface Laptop announces – INSIDER

OK, if anyone REALLY knows me, they know that I drool over laptop models the way that some people drool over cars. (In the case of my son, he does both with gaming computer components and cars.)  For me, it’s all about the power, speed, storage…I could go on.  But, like most people, I have a budget. I can’t be buying a new laptop every year.  I try to get something that I can afford and will last me a few years if I can. My current laptop is doing great for now, but it has one drawback–it’s HEAVY. It’s a 17″ laptop, and compared to the last 17″ laptop I had, it’s lighter, but it’s still not great in that respect.

So, I like to ogle at thinner laptops, hoping to find the elusive one that can run Windows 10 (sorry Mac peeps–more software runs on PC, and I’ve heard horror stories about Parallels), has the power, memory, and storage space that I want at a price that I can afford.  Even until now, the most souped up Surface book was out of my price range, as were some Asus Zenbooks I’ve been looking at.

But seeing this new Surface laptop? Okay, so it might be aimed at the college student, but I’m hoping that it’s for the computer science major college student who needs the power apps.  This machine mentioned in this article is very tempting. It has that lightweight factor that I’m looking for, and it’s supposed to be the PC version of what I want I like about a Mac’s design. Could this be my machine in the future? Perhaps. Time will tell.

The only downside is that I would have to pay the US$49 to have regular Windows 10 instead of Windows 10 S, which I’m willing to pay, because I have a lot of apps that aren’t Windows (Hello Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe TCS, among them!)  It does bring up a concern that I remember RJ Jacquez bringing up at least 5 years ago–when are some software companies going to realize that they need to figure out how to streamline their coding so that they can be apps on tablets or tablet-like devices? I would buy an iPad Pro, but I can’t run FrameMaker on it, can I?

So, we’ll have to see if I eventually get this new Surface–or the next iteration of it–in the future, and if software companies get the hint that their apps need to be either more streamlined to be saved on these streamlined devices or that they make them more cloud based.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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