2019: A Great Year For Tech Pros Over 50 Years Old?

Over 50 and working in tech? 2019 might be a pivotal year for you. First, some not-so-great news: The average tech salary has continued its plateau,

Source: 2019: A Great Year For Tech Pros Over 50 Years Old?

As a person who just passed the half-century mark this past year (I would rather still be forty-something, thank you), this is encouraging news.  One of the things I already struggle with–and I know other people who are near my age or have a few extra years than I do–is getting what’s fair. The market is already fickle due to ageism, but it’s also fickle as employers do what they can to keep older applicants at bay through attempts to underpay and limit us to contract work. (Maybe that’s just our industry, I’m not sure. Just basing this on my own experiences.)  So, let’s hope that what’s being said in this article is true, and we have a means of getting ahead this year!

What do you think? Is this the year for Gen-X and Baby Boomers? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Older Job Applicants Not Protected By Age Bias Law, Says U.S. Appeals Court

A divided federal appeals court restricted age bias claims to employees, ruling that age discrimination protection does not apply to external job applicants.

Source: Older Job Applicants Not Protected By Age Bias Law, Says U.S. Appeals Court

See?? It’s not in my imagination, or the imaginations of anyone approaching 45 years old or older.  I remember for my current job, I openly voiced my concerns about age discrimination to the recruiter, who assured me that bias wasn’t prevalent in this particular company, and fortunately, it’s a company that values for…ahem…more experienced workers.

However, this proves that it’s not unique to the tech comm community. We already know that ageism runs rampant in the tech world, and now we have some precedence that HR people will have to keep in mind.  The economy of the last 10 years or so have forced so many more people who are not millennials to have to either start over or even do drastic makeovers on their careers as technology–which we helped develop in some cases. I understand that millennials need jobs, too. But employers need to get realistic about what the job market is about.  Don’t offer someone who is generally more experienced an entry-level job for peanuts that requires the amount of experience you have. Likewise, don’t expect an entry-level person to have multiple years of experience in something.  I’ve seen it played both ways, and it just doesn’t work.  Just find what you need exactly, and properly pay for what you want. We all understand businesses watching their finances, but something will suffer in either scenario. You’ll either have an experienced person who is underappreciated and miserable for having low pay that doesn’t line up with their experience and skill value, and you’ll have miserable entry-level people who will be overwhelmed because they don’t have all that it takes to do what is required.

There are so many antiquated practices in HR–especially in the IT/tech comm world that need some major adjustments, and ageism is a big component of that.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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What Is Content Engineering?

Content engineering is the practice of organizing the shape, structure, and application of content, and is broken down into seven primary disciplines.

Source: What Is Content Engineering?

The company Simple [A] has come up with a really good way of explaining the difference between content strategist and content engineering, and how it all fits together. Joe Gollner has been talking about content engineering for years–I think I first heard him talk about it at least five years ago, if not more. (Now, Joe works for Simple [A].)

Based on the definitions given here, I would categorize myself as solidly a content strategist. But I aspire to be a Content Engineer someday! It’s kicking the details of the full experience of content to the fullest. As always, I’m still learning these kinds of details, and always willing to find ways not only to expand my own knowledge, but bring that to what I do for clients.

What do you think? Are you a content strategist, or a content engineer? Or do you aspire to do either of these? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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The Myth of the Skills Gap – MIT Technology Review

The idea that American workers are being left in the dust because they lack technological savvy does not stand up to scrutiny. Our focus should be on coordination and communication between workers and employers.

Source: The Myth of the Skills Gap – MIT Technology Review

Liz Ryan, a popular HR expert on LinkedIn, posted this article from Fall 2017. The main thing that I gathered from this is that the “lack of job skills” line is hooey.  What’s truly lacking, according to this article’s author, is soft skills like being able to read and write well.  While this is seemingly a universal gap, it’s something that technical communicators should be able to fill the void. High level reading and writing is a huge part of what we do, so this could be a reason why technical communication is growing.

So, when you are job searching and feel like you can’t find anything suitable, don’t despair (or don’t despair completely). If you are a technical writer or communicator, then you have the soft skills that a lot of STEM jobs are lacking, but you have some of that, too. You can fill a need somewhere–it’s just a question of what’s the best fit.

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

–TechCommGeekMom

 

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How Your CCMS is Just Like an Instant Pot – Content Rules, Inc.

Learn why moving from unstructured authoring to structured authoring and using a CCMS is very similar to learning how to cook a meal using an Instant Pot.

Source: How Your CCMS is Just Like an Instant Pot – Content Rules, Inc.

Val Swisher has done it again. You have to understand that over the years, I’ve learned to consider Val’s words as gospel. I’ve used her analogies over many years in discussions and even job interviews to show that I understand how content strategy works, how localization needs to be approached, and so much more.  (Don’t worry–I give her credit for the ideas, since they aren’t mine.)

And now, she’s given us a new analogy that I know I can definitely appreciate, as I am also a relatively new Instant Pot owner, too.  Her analogy is simple, it’s clear, and it’s relatable (which are three touchstones I feel make good content).

It’s not a long article, but it gets to the heart of how we can explain what the use of a CCMS and structured authoring is all about to non-tech comm’ers. I urge you to read this, and you will smile from ear to ear as much as I did, along with the requisite, “A-ha!”

What do you think of this analogy that Val has proposed? Does it hold, or does it blow steam? (See what I did there?) Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Older Workers in Tech Can Fight Against Ageism’s Impact

Older workers complain that ageism is rampant in tech, and survey data suggests they’re onto something: A recent study by ProPublica and the Urban

Source: Older Workers in Tech Can Fight Against Ageism’s Impact

This is a good article that Dice.com put out this week.  And it validates what many of us, even in the technical communications field have said for a while–there IS ageism in the tech field, and we feel it too!  There are some good recommendations on how to avoid hiring problems if you are let go and you are looking, and of a more–ahem–advanced maturity. (Hey, I fall into this group now, too!) Most of these are common sense if you are used to actively looking like I usually am, but if you’ve been in the same job for a long time, it’s worth taking a look at the measures they recommend.

Technical communicators have a lot to offer at any age, but in the end, it’s the skills that you can bring to the job that will get you in the door.

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

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So, how did 2018 go for you?

As the year 2018 draws to a close, I find I’m trying to assess the year and where I am in my life and career. 2018 was a milestone year, as I turned 50, and so that’s a pretty big indicator that I’m definitely in the second half of my life at this point.

I’m having a difficult time determining if 2018 was a good year or a not so good year. My gut feels like it wasn’t so great, yet when I try to look at it a little more analytically, it wasn’t so bad. So, I’m going to look at both sides, although I think overall, it’ll probably lean more towards good.

I had decided a year ago that my mantra for the year was going to be “persistence”. No matter what I did, I would just stay the course, and forge my way through what I wanted from myself and the world. Well, in that respect, I think I did okay. I got through some rougher times of the year through my persistence, determination, and ambition in some cases. But I wonder if I was trying too hard to be too many things, or try to be something that I thought was better, but I was already there.

A big part of my identity is my career. I know, you aren’t your job–I’m the first to say that, but when you aren’t working, and you want to feel like you are contributing to your field or just being productive, you feel lost not having something. I had another gap in employment (again) that made me doubt myself. In the last eight years, I’ve been learning and validating everything I could take in about tech comm. I went to grad school, taught in the same grad school program, have done all sorts of different jobs, yet had a difficult time finding something. I started the year with something that was new and felt promising, but fell apart in the end. I spent a good part of my summer trying to figure out how to get my next gig, and was fortunate that I only had the summer off. Even since starting my current job, I feel like I’ve been tested about what I know and don’t know, and there are times I feel confident, and other times I feel like the dumbest person in the room. It tears at you from either end. I don’t feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be in my career. I’m in a pretty good spot–don’t get me wrong. Perhaps this is my constant desire to learn and do more to challenge myself to be more. I’m constantly trying to figure out what I should be studying or learning next to amplify my skills. I can’t quite figure out what my next step should be, and that bothers me.

I’ve also found that I’ve lost myself in the process. Between finding my last job and this job, and juggling a number of other things, I’ve let myself go in some respects, especially with my health. I had worked so hard to lose a lot of weight and get healthy, and I stopped watching what I ate and stopped exercising, resulting in me gaining a good chunk of the weight back. Some of that was due to injury, but in the last year, it was mostly out of being overwhelmed by other things that I felt like sleep was more important that getting that workout in. I’ve also not written in this blog very much, and that got away from me, too. It’s hard to squeeze in when you are juggling a million other things.

Now…for the better parts of the year. I learned that I had some good analytical skills and was looked upon as the “expert” at work at two different jobs. I still got to work at home all year. I helped bring my STC chapter the “Community of the Year” award that it received at the 2018 STC Summit (which I missed!). I was a keynote speaker for the first time at the STC Interchange conference. I worked for three of the largest companies in the world, and I’m still working at two of them. I’m making the best hourly rate that I’ve ever made. I was invited back to be a “resident blogger” for an Adobe event. I became an STC Chapter President–I’ve never been given that kind of responsibility before! I also took a bold move, and helped my chapter move its conference to a new location for 2019–at a Philadelphia landmark, no less. I taught my second graduate level tech comm class (and survived). I took a trip to Canada and Maine with my family–new adventures. These are just some of the ways I tried to push boundaries, and perhaps fulfilled that goal of being persistent over the course of the year.

So now what? I’m at a point where I still feel a little lost, but perhaps it’s a good thing. I feel like I’m constantly setting goals, and I’m starting to feel that maybe I should stop making definitive ones. For example, I know what I need to do to get control of my health again–I just need to do it. No setting weight loss goals. Just do it. Same with professional development and career. Keep trying to reach higher, and perhaps what I should be learning or reaching for will become more evident. I have different interests, and it’s hard finding the time to pursue any of it (I’m only one person, after all). Maybe if I just do what Elsa sings in the movie, “Frozen” (Let It Go), then maybe things will fall into place without me feeling like I’m constantly spinning my wheels. 2018 felt like a year when I was overextending myself to prove to the world that I was worthy. Perhaps I need to stop trying so hard. It’s not like I’m going to stop trying, but rather ease up, and see where things take me. That’s a tall order for an Aspie who thrives on creating and following structure.

I can already tell you that 2019 is going to be a busy year, and some of it will hopefully entail letting some things go. I don’t think I want to teach at the university level anymore. It’s a little too stressful for me. This past fall, I was working three jobs (one almost full-time, two part-time, and then there’s my STC responsibilities, which I’ll get into in a minute), and it was overwhelming at times. While I enjoy being the president of my STC chapter, also being the conference chair AND the sponsorship chair is just a LOT to handle. I’ve delegated some things for the conference, but there’s still a lot I’ve had to do on my own. Something will have to give in the latter part of the year. Either I stay on as president of the chapter and someone else takes up the conference mantle (my preference) or I give up the presidential seat and only do the conference (not my preference). We’ll see if I can pull that off. If I can concentrate on one main job, and my occasional part-time job, and the STC-PMC presidency, that’s plenty to deal with.

This year, my son will also be graduating high school. It’s a big deal, and it’s already been a long journey to get this far. Last school year, we had moved him back to our home district after several years at a special ed school that was far from us, and bringing him back has brought him some peace. This year has generally gone far better. The big question was what he’ll be going next, and our district already proposed a plan that seemed like a good opportunity for him to take advantage of. He’ll be doing a transition program that allows him to take job skills classes and some electives for half the day at his local high school, and then the other half of the day will be at a technical school or the local community college–at the expense of the school district. We haven’t ironed out the details yet, but it seems like a good way for him to go, so that’s going to be a big deal in the next year or so.

I feel like I have a good idea of how the next six months will be going (more or less), and some hints about nine months from now (when my son starts his new program), but where will I be this time next year? It’s truly hard to say, but I’m thinking that’s okay. I will still be fierce and persistent in what I do, but perhaps taking a step back here and there. I keep saying that 2019 is going to be a rebuilding year for me, and so perhaps that’s my mantra for the year–rebuild. Rebuild who I am with my health especially (lose that weight! Get some health issues fixed!), but also determine where I want to start heading for the second half of my life. I need to figure out the delicate balance in taking risks and learning new things while finding some safety and comfort in what I do. The last few years have been fraught with instability for me, and I just want some stability to come my way. Perhaps 2019 is the year.

What do you think is ahead for you in 2019? Include your thoughts below.

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