Success at Work: Techniques: Computer Literacy

It’s hard to believe that there are people in today’s workforce who don’t know how to use a computer. In today’s society, being computer illiterate is equivalent to being functionally illiterate. Obviously no one reading this article is computer illiterate, but maybe you know someone who thinks they can avoid computers and still be successful at work.Let me tell you a story about a good friend of mine back when I worked at Motorola. The company moved the manufacturing of automobile alternators offshore, resulting in his transfer to my department. Although he had about 20 years with the company, this was to be his last stop before being booted out the door.He was assigned to me as an Electronics Technician, and the first assignment that I gave him was to lay out a small printed circuit (pc) board. It was a tiny circuit for a tester, so computer drafting was not required. He could just sketch it out on paper. After several days, he came back to me explaining that he didn’t have the technical ability to lay out a pc board.An Electronics Technician that couldn’t lay out a simple pc board? Don’t all Electronics Technicians make little hobby circuits at home? At least all the technicians I knew did.I explained that he needed to draw outlines of the components and then use the schematic to draw lines between the components connections. Then, maybe rearrange the components if that would result in fewer crossing paths. I also explained something much more profound, how to deal with the complexity of technology.Many people, when they come into contact with technology, consider themselves too stupid to deal with it. Technology is only for geniuses and geeks. Sometimes technology is too complex, but it’s not because people are stupid, it’s because the technology is poorly designed.For example, take software, like a graphics program, spreadsheet or database. Is the intended user of the software a computer programmer, or an average person? These applications are intended for use by an average person. If an application is too complex for the average person, the application is at fault – not the user.Why are most computers and software applications too complex for the average person? Because they are designed by programmers who are under pressure to get the product out the door. Does the application have simple, easy-to-use help files? Software developers consider help files even less important than application usability.- The bottom line is, people are not stupid – computers and software applications ARE too complex.In today’s world, where workers are required to use computers and technology, how can they deal with the complexity? Back to the story about my friend at Motorola.After receiving my instructions, he successfully completed the pc board layout. I then introduced him to Computer Automated Engineering (CAE). I showed him how to drag electronic components from a library, use the mouse to draw circuit paths, make the computer simulate the function of the circuit, and then make the computer layout a pc board for the circuit.He was able to easily master complex technology because he now understood that he wasn’t stupid. Computers ARE complex. When he needed help, he studied the help files or asked someone for help. Eventually, his CAE skills became known and I lost him to another manager. “His last stop before being booted out the door?” I don’t think so. There’s no way Motorola is going to let this valuable employee get away.Even though it’s the programmers fault that computers and software are too complex, that doesn’t relieve you of all responsibility. You must make an effort. Like my friend at Motorola, you must study the help files or ask someone for help when you need it. Not only must you study the help files, but you must also be willing to “try things”.Many people fear that if they click on the wrong thing, the computer will blow up and they will be blamed for it. A properly designed software application prevents the user from making a fatal mistake, either by making it impossible, or by providing a warning message. A properly designed application lets the user “back out of” or reverse any action. One of the best ways to learn is to “try things”. If the computer blow ups because you made a mistake, you’re using improperly designed software.When you’re learning how to perform a function with a computer, if you expect you may need to perform that same function again, take notes. No one will think you’re stupid if you take notes. But if you keep asking over and over again how to perform the same function, they will think you’re too stupid to take notes.When I worked at Motorola, I used a technique called “strokes” to make symbols appear and move around the computer screen like magic. Some people called me the “Electronic God”. How did I get so good? I tried things. I failed. I studied. I tried again. I understood that technology IS complex. So what?In today’s society, being computer illiterate is equivalent to being functionally illiterate. Make the effort to study the help files and to “try things”. Don’t get discouraged or blame yourself if you don’t succeed on the first try. The computer won’t blow up if you make a mistake. You can’t be successful at work if you fail to embrace computers and technology.Copyright(C) 2004 Bucaro TecHelp.Permission is granted for the below article to forward, reprint, distribute, use for ezine, newsletter, website, offer as free bonus or part of a product for sale as long as no changes are made and the byline, copyright, and the resource box below is included.

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