Advisory Line Can Get You Through a Tough Spot

Today we’re excited to announce the launch of the Single-Sourcing Solutions Advisory Line. The Advisory Line is designed to help resolve issues for customers who are facing tight time lines or who may have limited resources.

We wanted to provide our customers with a scalable solution that would fit their needs on demand. We think that the Advisory Line is the best way to provide just the right amount of support for customers right when they need it.

Think of it as mini-consulting.

The service is easy to use. Anyone can use the service. Current customers and members of our Mastermind Groups receive 45 free minutes per month and a discounted rate for additional time as well as many other benefits.

The service covers a broad array of topics and tools. We’ve leveraged the knowledge of our staff and combined it with with experts from nearly every PTC product to provide a comprehensive resource all in one place.

Here is a list of some of the topics our expert advisors can help you with:

  • Arbortext
  • Arbortext for Aerospace and Defense, Milspec authoring and publishing
  • Arbortext Content Manager & Windchill integration
  • Antenna House
  • DITA authoring, legacy data conversion, best practices
  • XSL, XSL-FO, XQuery, and other XML Processing Technology

Personally, I am excited to be able to expand our services this way. Our customers are in the SMB market space. As such, they often lack the resources and the budget required for larger consulting projects. The Advisory Line is a great way to give you the support you need to get through.

To find out more about the Single-Sourcing Solutions Advisory Line, please visit http://advisor.single-sourcing.com.

It’s just like riding a bike

by Janice

Recently I have been having several conversations with people about the importance of training and with the Winter Olympics going on right now, this seemed like the perfect time for this post.

Remember the first time you rode a bike?

The first time you get on a bike, you’re not sure what to do and there seems to be so many things to manage. First there the ability to balance on the bike without falling off, then there are petals to pump and handlebars to use to steer the bike, and the breaks, and the gears that need shifting. It is a lot to take in for someone who has never been on a bike. There is a long way to go between where you are at that moment and being Lance Armstrong. With work and determination you can get there.

There are a couple of ways you could go about learning how to ride your new bike. One is to just jump on and figure it out as you go. Sure you will crash a lot, might not learn how to really shift the gears or when you are supposed to shift then at all, but eventually you will get some forward movement. You’ll have a lot of scraps and scratches though and your fair share of bruises.

There is another way. It’s probably the way most of us learned how to ride a bike. We started out with a teacher and possibly some training wheels. As we learn how to master balance and coordination, we eventually remove the training wheels and we listen to the coaching from our teacher on how to safely steer and break and shift. Having someone there to help guide you on your journey to bicycle helps you master the tool without nearly as many bumps and scrapes.

Training wheels
Take off the training wheels when you’re ready

Learning the Arbortext tool set is like riding a bike. At first it’s a bit shaky, you’re not sure of where you are going or how to properly navigate the tool commands to maximize productivity. You make mistakes along the way, but then you get right back on the bike and go again. The more you do the more proficient you become and the faster you can hit your objectives.

Just like riding a bike, there is more than one way to learn how to use Arbortext. You could go it alone and learn through trial and error. Fortunately there is also a large and very active user community out there that is willing to help give you pointers along the way. It may take time, but you will eventually get to a level of proficiency. Problem is, in business we don’t often have the luxury of time for this type of learning.

There is a better way. Most people quickly learn that in order to maximize their use of the tools and to drastically shorten the learning time, they seek out a more formalized training from someone with the expertise to guide them. Good training requires that the instructor guides you through the tool and helps you discover balance and speed through your efforts. They adjust the training based on the needs of the learner offering just the right amount of support just when you need it. That is how Single-Sourcing Solutions designed our Jump Start training program, to offer just the right amount of support you need when you need it while getting you to the highest level of productivity in the shortest possible amount for time.

What do you do with an English degree?

Recently my alumni association asked me the following question:

One of the most frequent questions we get from students in the English Department is, “So, once I get my degree in English, then what do I do?”  We hear if from panicked seniors facing down their last semester at college, from timid freshmen who love English but worry they’re making a risky career choice, and from everyone in between.

Here are my answers:

How has your education in English helped you professionally?

I left USM’s Graduate program in English and went to pursue a Computer Science degree.

Here’s what happened: It was Spring 1992. I was teaching English 102 (writing research papers) and I required my students to have an online resource as part of their references. At that time, the web was in it’s infancy. (Mosaic browser came out in 1993.). My students learned about newsgroups, the web, and bulletin boards. Every one of them thanked me for the exposure, and, more often than not, had questions that I couldn’t answer. They motivated me to learn more about computers. Initially, I went back home and took a C programming course as I applied to instructor positions. I discovered that I loved programming: if you can write structured things well, you can write structured things well. I ended up staying and completing a second undergraduate degree in computer science.

Later, a friend recommended me to a job because I had this combination background — English and Computer Science. The job was for a technical publications department. I was going to redesign their authoring and publishing process and move them from a traditional publishing environment (FrameMaker + WebWorks) to an XML publishing environment. The hiring manager liked me because I was a bridge between the writers and the developers.

At that job, I did data modeling, stylesheet development, and product selection. I designed the mission-critical tools, application customizations, and workflow processes. It was endlessly fascinating to me how much I could improve the lives of the writers and editors in the department and the end user customer’s experience by stepping away from desktop publishing. Writers could write again; editors could edit. Neither was hampered by the constant formatting overhead. And, I could help by automatically creating stub documents that did their research for them. Less meetings keeping up with features that I could track in the software code base and identify for them automatically when they started on the next revision of the documents.

The experience was transformative for me. It launched me into the path I hold today. I’m the CEO and founder of Single-Sourcing Solutions. Our customers rave about our Jump Start program: our strong dedication to mentoring programs and community efforts makes our customers stronger and more self-sufficient faster. They tell us that they are able to sell more and spend less doing it — something extremely important in this economy, but just as important in good times as well.

Q: Any advice you’d like to give to current students majoring in English

Don’t limit yourself.

Understand the profession at which you’re aiming. Know the tools of your profession and understand the direction that your in which field is moving. Learning doesn’t end when you leave school. If you let it, you’ll find your options limited. This is true of every field. People who stop learning and don’t embrace technology change find it very difficult when economies sour.

We’ve found it difficult to find new hires with our skill sets. No one who does what we do is looking for work today. None of the writers or editors who use XML publishing skills are looking either. Everyone who does what we do, learned it on the job or their own time.

Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new.

XML publishing is not desktop publishing. It’s not WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”), it’s WYSIOP (“what you see is one possibility”). I can produce PDF as easily as I can produce Word or HTML or MS eBook or Palm reader, or text or …. It’s all one automated step from the same source content. Who doesn’t want that?

We work with Arbortext. They offer free software to educational institutions. If you want to learn how to author in XML or flash — as several online-only companies do — the get flash and start learning. Don’t expect your employer to pay for you to learn. You need to be motivated to grow your skills. It makes you more valuable to your current employer and any future one you find. However, if you’re still in school, push your university to get you the tools that increase your value. (It increases theirs if you do well.)

One last word: Technical writing certificate programs are few and far between but are not required for admission to the technical writing field.

But it helps.