Self-education to break into software doc development--Thanks/Summary

Subject: Self-education to break into software doc development--Thanks/Summary
From: Rick Lanser <rickl -at- SLIP -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 08:07:21 -0400

Techwhirlers, a big THANKS to those of you who gave me input on the above
subject a little while back. Sorry for the delay in expressing my
appreciation; things have been hectic in my corner of the world lately, with
vacation just around the corner and lots of loose ends to tie up.

To summarize the info:

GENERAL SKILLS: The skills most in demand seem to be in the area of on-line
documentation, including help files, multi-media skills, and incorporating
video, graphics, animation, sound, and text into the software products.

SPECIFIC SOFTWARE: Microsoft development system capabilities seem to be
valuable, like C++. Also Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint skills are in
demand. Framemaker is also popular, as is CorelDRAW for graphics. Unix
knowledge can be helpful on occasion, but is not essential; you can learn it
by installing Linux on an MS-DOS computer, if you've no access to a true
Unix box. RoboHelp is popular for writing Windows help.

GETTING TRAINING: Brief seminar-variety courses in using software not used
regularly probably would not be worth the cost. (What company would be
impressed by knowing you'd worked two days with a product? And if you don't
regularly use it, you'll lose the skills you forked out big bucks to get.)
Night courses are better than seminars, since the learning takes place over
a longer time and is retained more easily. Even better, invest in the
specific software you want to learn and a good book or two, and take the
time to really learn it. If you don't have your own machine, perhaps a
library or nearby university with a computer lab would make one available.
Obtain some shareware Winhelp authoring tools and learn how to use them.
Winhelp files can be used as free-standing electronic documents, so you
don't need to actually be documenting a program to use them.

GETTING REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE: Get your feet wet, at all costs. Be willing
to volunteer your work, with no reward other than the learning experience.
If you can actually work on a project with an unfamiliar software tool,
learning as you go, you can use the experience on your resume later. If you
can't volunteer as a moonlighter, be willing to work for a cheap outfit just
to get the experience.

In an unrelated thread, but still having a bearing on the issue, Arlen P.
Walker wisely advised:

>Now, having said that, I must say I try harder to stay current at home than
I do
>at work. My system at work is for my employers' needs. My system at home is for
>*my* needs. I can try out new OS features and new application versions at home,
>and see if the benefits can transfer to work. And I can use skills which my job
>rarely calls for, to keep them sharp (such as graphic design -- even

>...I keep my skills current for the marketplace and am more employable by
>companies other than the one which employs me now.

Thanks again for all your input. I love this list!

Rick Lanser
Publishing Specialist, Graco Children's Products, Inc.
rickl -at- slip -dot- net
Don't put a damper on my metaphors.

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