People’s Choice Award: Content Experience Strategist — Do you Know Any? | MindTouch

Content Experience Strategist are those that are working tirelessly to enable customer success through content delivery across the customer journey

Source: People’s Choice Award: Content Experience Strategist — Do you Know Any? | MindTouch

Mindtouch is leaving it to the people this year to vote for the top 100 content experienced strategists for 2017. And I’m on the voting list! Cool! It’s an honor to be included.

If you enjoy the topics that I have brought you over the past years, please vote for me. Also be sure to vote for some of the others on this list! There are a lot of great people included on here!


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MeasuringU: Is a UX Certification Worth It?

Certifications provide some indication that a minimum threshold of competence has been demonstrated, which in theory should help prospective employers, customers, and the industry as a whole. 

Source: MeasuringU: Is a UX Certification Worth It?

Bob Watson seems to finding a lot of great articles lately that I wish to pass along. Bob posted this on Twitter the other day, and my mind automatically jumped to the promotion that’s going on with the CPTC certification program that’s being promoted by the STC right now.

In many respects, from everyone I’ve talked to–from those who have taking the exam and have received their certification, to the CPTC instructors, to those running the program through the STC–seem to echo much of the same message as what’s in this article. Certifications as professionals in a specific field or expertise should express that this person has learned and passed some rigorous testing that other experienced professionals in the field have deemed them worthy of being a certified professional.

I have been looking at the CPTC for more than a year now, and while it’s intriguing to me, I haven’t been able to get myself to “pull the trigger” to go to the prep course and take the exam. I have the book, but I’m not good at studying on my own for something like that.

There are three main reasons that I haven’t committed to getting this credential yet. First, cost. It costs $245-495 (depending on whether you are an STC member or not) just to take the test. No guarantee you will pass it, but I’ve heard it’s HARD. That’s a lot of money to blow if you haven’t thoroughly prepared for it to try to guarantee that you will pass it.  The courses are expensive, too. I know at least 3 or 4 of the instructors, and while they are all incredibly capable instructors, the course is still expensive–well over $1000, if I recall correctly. I know there are costs involved, and this is probably competitive pricing to other certification courses of this kind, but it’s out of my budget right now. I would consider it an investment in myself if I did it, but even so, I don’t have the funds to do it right now.

Second, when the certification first came out, it was touted as something for those who didn’t have a tech comm or related degree who needed a credential of some sort. I have an MS in Professional and Technical Communications from one of the best tech schools in the U.S.–NJIT.  And I did very well in that program. So why would I need certification as well?

Third, and this is a big part of my hesitation, what guarantee do I have that earning this certification will help me find employment, whether with a company, as a contract, or otherwise? The impression I’ve gotten is that in some industries, as mentioned in this article, certifications are EVERYTHING, so having an CPTC would be worth it. But how many people or companies actually KNOW about it? And what value does it really have? This article says that it doesn’t yield much more–if at all–in income. For me, it would be whether having this certification made me a more attractive candidate to an employer or client that would put me either near the top or at the top of a candidate list. At this stage of the game, no one can say for sure. Eighteen years ago, when I broke into the IT field, you didn’t need any kind of certification to be a project manager.  After a few years away being a stay-at-home mom, I found that the only way to find a project manager job was to have a PMP certification. Even now, that’s still true.  Is it worth it for me to go back and learn how to formally be a project manager and get that PMP certification? I’m not sure. Would getting a CPTC certification bring a higher value? Again, not sure.

Read this article. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from taking the CPTC or PMP or any other certification at all. I do see some value in it. My only point is that it’s a big investment, and it’s a risk since there’s no guarantees in some cases. Even if you have the certification, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get the position–or even do well on the job. So, just be careful out there, and choose wisely!

What do you think? Do you have insights that I’m missing? Include your comments below.


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You get what you pay for, yet you want quality. Try again.

Audrey Hepburn questions someone's motives.

Even Audrey Hepburn questions this.

One of the things that I try to do as I build up my business is get an idea of what kinds of positions are available out there for someone with my skill set. I scour through Glassdoor, Indeed, and Startwire adverts to see what people need, and then see if I qualify. One thing that I find most valuable is when the employers or recruiters post what the yearly or hourly salary is.

Let me start out by saying one of the patterns I’m seeing is something I have mentioned before. Employers are looking for “unicorns”–people with an impossible or impractical collection of skills. But I’m finding that the same job listings are posted over and over and over, with a duration of months of these jobs being unfilled. Now, there are some occasions that the companies who have posted these jobs have forgotten to pull them down once they’ve been filled, but I’ve had occasions where I’m called up by recruiters or see the same positions posted month after month, and nothing new is posted. That tells me a few things. First, their search for a “unicorn” is going badly because they can’t find this unique individual. Second, I have found that even if I have applied to these position because I fulfill most of those requirements–but not all–they still dig their heels in and want the “unicorn” instead of seeing individuals with good foundations as potential investments with a little training. Third, many employers are unwilling to yield to telecommuting workers. Many technical communication jobs lend themselves easily to remote work, and if these employers are not willing to yield to that, they are going to continue to have employee shortages.

But today, I realized another big thing that employers are not realizing. It’s often said that with almost any kind of content work, clients are looking for quality, speed, and low costs to do it. You can’t do all three, and something has to give. The problem is, most employers–understandably–are looking at low costs and concentrating on that. As a result, they are pricing themselves out of finding quality workers, and quality work. For example, today I saw a job advert for a Web Content Coordinator. They were offering $14-16/hour for this full-time job. I could make more money as an unskilled clerical worker than doing this skilled job. That’s an insult to anyone who is applying for this job! Other jobs I’ve looked at, whether they are showing hourly or yearly salaries, are WAY underpriced for the skills they are asking for. Are they trying to get the younger generation to apply? It’s hard for a 23 year old to have 10 years of experience doing a certain skill, after all.

Technical communicators are skilled workers. Many of us have gained our specialized knowledge through many years of experience, certification, or schooling. We’ve worked hard to not become just any technical writer or content specialist. We shouldn’t be undervalued for what we do. When I’ve talked to recruiters and they offer a certain hourly wage, I’ll often tell them that it’s too low for the skills that are being asked for. I will tell you that just about every time I’ve said this, they will often agree, but they have to work within the confines of what their client is willing to offer, and what amount of the cut they are willing to sacrifice. Even for permanent positions, companies are offering tens of thousands of dollars significantly under what would be appropriate. They are offering entry-level wages for jobs requiring ten or more years of experience. Seriously?

I know that it’s hard finding work in a lot of areas because of these employer inflexibilities. Most companies don’t want to pay a premium. But here’s the thing–they are getting what they pay for. If they pay lousy wages, they are probably getting lousy work because that worker doesn’t understand the value of content. If you understand the value of content, then you need to know that like any other product or service, a premium product earns the right to cost more. As a profession, we should not sell ourselves short. We are told that the need for technical writers is increasing, and there’s probably a shortage. Simple economics prove that supply and demand are at play here–if the demand is high, but the supply is low, employers have to give those who are qualified some sort of incentive to work for them. We don’t need the free lunches or the fooz ball table for breaks. We just want the ability to earn a fair wage, and if employed full-time by a company, to get all the normal perks everyone else gets.

It all starts with paying a normal wage for what you should be earning. As a skilled technical communicator, you should not be making clerical hourly wages, even if you are an independent consultant or a contract worker. That’s insulting. Companies need to get on the ball, and pay fair wages for our skills, and not start cheating us now. Content is more important than ever, and with our knowledge of how content and UX works together, that helps to provide companies with the ammunition to gain and retain their customers. We are valuable, and they should remember that.

If you are looking for a quality, customer-centric technical communicator, contact me through my consulting website, Dair Communications.

Do you agree with my assessment? Include your comments below.

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Ashton Applewhite: Let’s end ageism | TED Talk |

Here’s my big disclaimer: I admit it–I’m ageist myself. But as this video that Bob Watson forwarded to me pointed out, we all are. I suppose that since I think that I am up against both sexism and ageism myself lately, I’m more keen to it. But I’m just as bad about going with some of the ageist “norms” and dishing it out as well, and I need to learn to adjust my own behavior as well.

Nonetheless, there’s some great points in this TED talk, and it’s worth taking the time to watch this. Let’s do our best to end ageism. This is something that affects all of us in some way or another, and as it gets worse in the tech field, we need to stamp it out before it gets worse.

(Thanks again, Bob, for your great insights that we can share! You are one smart guy, and I’m learning so much from you right now!)

What do you think about Ashton Applewhite’s statements? Include your comments below.


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Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey – TechRepublic

Tech employees over age 55 are actually less stressed using technology in the workplace, and better at using multiple devices than their younger peers.

Source: Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey – TechRepublic

I have to thank Bob Watson for sharing this with me on Twitter.  I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!  Granted, I’m not quite in the age 50+ range just yet (I turn 49 next week), but everything in this article–the video and text is all true.

I’ve been having conversations with several people, especially some female friends, who are about the same age as I am. All fairly accomplished, educated people who have either technical skills or are even tech savvy (or both), and even in our mid-to-late 40s, we’re finding this problem.  Companies are not willing to give us a chance, even though we all felt we are extraordinarily good learners and we learn fast– just like the gentleman in the video talks about. We usually have skills that we can easily base our learning on that younger people don’t have, and bring a different perspective to ensure that the tool used is used appropriately and efficiently. We are used to both being with tech and without tech, so we know how to adapt. But we’re not given a chance.

There used to be a time when I was younger that companies were willing to be more flexible in taking on employees. They were at least willing to interview them and get to know them to see if they had the potential to learn the things they couldn’t bring to the job.  Many of us older people–and it’s not like we’re anywhere near retirement at this point–have many of those same capabilities and more.  Gen X people are truly in a weird position right now. We’re flexible to learn, just like this article talks about, yet we’re not given the chance because we’re “old”, or companies aren’t willing to put out the money, time, and energy to train us to be solid workers for them.

I know Bob was posting this article on Twitter for me to see as his response to my previous posts to the notion that people over 40 CAN be innovative and can learn. I agree!

What do you think? Include your comments below!


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They Want You Back: A Push Against Remote Employees

Many companies have embraced flexibility in the workplace, either through scheduling, laid back dress code or allowing remote work. However, a recent surge of big companies taking a step back on allowing employees to work from home is bucking that trend.

Source: They Want You Back: A Push Against Remote Employees

The IEEE seems to have a lot of good articles out this week about the topic.  I think the paragraph in this that struck me the most was this:

Managers note that remote work allows employees to set their own hours and work style, which can hinder progress if everyone’s not on the clock at the same time.  Set meeting times and offices with open floor plans are intimidating to those employees that are used to working in solitude at home, research shows. Striking a balance is key, but an obstacle for sure.

How is that so different that working in an office, but working with other branches or global offices around the world? I’ve worked with European companies whereby people got up very early in the morning in the US to accommodate a meeting, or someone in Europe stayed a little late at work. I used to have early morning meetings with India with someone who would conduct our meetings from home. Or heck, just within the US, we have four time zones to content with. How is that so different whether you are in the office or at home? And don’t even get me started on the open floor plans. I’ll just say that I see them as a writer’s nightmare.

The problem is that most managers don’t know how to find that balance. This is something that needs to be addressed in the corporate world.  We’ve become a world that lives to work, and not work to live.  That’s not right. If you enjoy your job, that’s fine, but there’s more to life and more to who you are than your job.

What do you think? Include your comments below.


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Are You Flexible? Flextime Schedules are Growing in Popularity

If telecommuting is off the benefit table, what can job seekers ask for instead?

Source: Are You Flexible? Flextime Schedules are Growing in Popularity

While most people know that I’m a huge advocate for remote work, I also advocate flexible schedules. I’ve been fortunate enough that in most cases in my career, I’ve been able to benefit from this, even before I was married and had my son.  I’ve always been an 8-4 person rather than a 9-5 person. I always want to beat the traffic by a little bit, and have most of the evening to myself. I think these hours reflect most of my school hours as a kid, which just always stuck with me. Sure, there’s been some variations, but I don’t remember too many instances where I actually worked from 9-5 in my entire life.

Just like remote work, there are many positions that can benefit from this kind of flexible work schedule. It helps so many people find that work-life balance as they care for their families and themselves! In some instances, it’s also better in certain departments, as that way there’s longer continuity during the day. I remember when I started my career MANY years ago as a consumer relations representative. We had people come in for the 7-3 shift, an 8-4 shift, a 9-5 shift, and a 10-6 shift. This way, during the main hours, we were fully manned, yet we could be manned during most business hours for most American time zones.  Most customer services places have it stretched out even more, depending on the business.  Even the last job I had in an office was one where I was allowed to work from 8-4, and that way I could get home at a reasonable hour before the worst of the traffic hit, and be home for my family.

Read this article, and include your comments below as to what you think about this kind of work arrangement. Is this a compromise for those who want to work remotely, but can’t for whatever reason? I think in some instances (not all), it could be.


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