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PROFESSIONAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

You probably bought this book with the belief that it would contain information that is valuable either to your education or to your career. If you have been employed for any amount of time you know that learning continues as a lifelong process, taking a number of forms. The rate at which technology is moving, and information is being generated, makes the process of personal learning a high priority for everyone. In order to assist you with that process, a companion Web site has been established to present information that either was not available when this book went to press, or was not compatible with the printed format. That site is located at:

http://www.printerport.com/kdp/hbdp

A balanced professional self-development plan consists of various kinds of diverse experiences, solutions and approaches. Reading this book should help, but it is only a small part of your overall professional growth and development plan. Ongoing training and education are essential. Among the several ways in which training activities may be conducted are:

  • Train the Trainer. Companies often send one individual for formal training, with the expectation that that person will return to their work environment and train others. Peer training, while comparatively inexpensive, can introduce unexpected and unwanted results since the quality of the instruction is dependent on the level of understanding of the individual who has been trained, and that person’s ability to communicate accurate information to others. Successful peer training, therefore, can depend just as much on the interpersonal skills of the peer trainer as on their technical qualifications and level of expertise.

  • Consultants. An acknowledged expert may be retained to provide customized on-site training. In such situations the trainer can tailor the training to suit the particular needs of the trainees. An ongoing relationship with a consultant can lead to the development of a longitudinal training program which anticipates the release of new software features, software products, or technologies and begins training, or orientation, in advance of their formal release.

  • Training to Go. Training providers, from colleges and universities, private training companies, and consultancies may deliver packaged training programs at a customer’s site. This method provides many advantages, the most significant of which may be the potential reduction in travel expenses, since, in most situations, fewer people need to be transported. In addition, the trainees benefit from being trained on their own equipment, and may have the opportunity to address existing production concerns. Key production personnel do not have to leave the environment, and the company may also schedule training so that it does not negatively affect production schedules.

  • College Courses. Individuals may attend regular college courses, spending a full academic semester, or quarter, studying a particular software product, or a related area of concentration. The methods taught, and the equipment used, are usually applicable directly to the work environment. The extended nature of most courses, which are taught over ten to fifteen weeks, may, in certain circumstances, make this form of instruction too protracted to be of immediate benefit on-the-job; however, sustained study at this level ultimately makes the employee a more valuable and productive worker.

  • Course Sequences. Training companies, and the certifying bodies of industry organizations, in addition to colleges and universities, usually offer long-term training programs, consisting of a series of formal courses leading to certification in a targeted skill or performance area.

  • Adult Education. Public education programs aimed at the adult learner may address both general and specific computer topics on a short-term basis. These programs are usually modestly priced and offered in the evening, when most adults are available. Such courses may be offered nightly, back-to-back, or for several meetings scheduled over successive weeks.

  • Distance Learning. There are many correspondence courses and distance learning programs from private and public institutions and for-profit businesses. These opportunities transcend the problems of time and space by making the learning fit the schedule and location of the learner.

  • Short-term Training Programs, Workshops, Seminars, and Conferences. Focused training events are sponsored by established educational institutions, training companies, training divisions of industry vendors and suppliers, trade organizations and associations, user groups, and consultant-driven or personality driven events. Offerings of this type are usually directed at identified technologies, either as an orientation or to build specific skills.

  • Community-based Training. Workshops and short courses are offered by community groups, adult education programs, extension services, and other public service organizations. These programs are often grassroots-based, and may lack the sophistication offered by commercial training businesses and accredited educational institutions.

  • Testing and Assessment. A company may contract for skill assessment services that determine the level of technical expertise of an employee and prescribe remedial courses or individual instruction.

  • Conferences, Tradeshows, Expositions, and Conventions. Most trade events have an education emphasis. These offerings usually consist of a series of presentations, demonstrations, workshops, and seminars covering very specific topics. Attendees can usually register for any of the individual sessions, or follow a defined track that concentrates on a particular technical interest. Shows often have an educational program component consisting of industry leaders who present topics of highly focused interest.

  • Professional Organizations and Associations. Professional organizations and associations channel their efforts into meeting the needs of their members, and, by so doing, usually have a formal education or training component. The manner in which they address this need varies, and is based primarily on their size, geographical distribution, and resources. Such groups may offer short courses, product demonstrations, workshops, seminars, conferences, on-line forums and discussion groups, and informal gatherings where members can learn from one another. These groups usually have regular meetings, regionally or nationally, depending on their size, and include some educational element. In certain organizations and associations the members may attain a level of certification based on their knowledge, or demonstrated skill, in a particular area.

  • User Groups. People who share the use of a particular software product, computer platform, or other common interest often organize into user groups. User groups represent buying power, and are, therefore, usually respected by the companies whose products they have organized to support. For that reason, user groups are often used as sounding boards for product planners, and are given advance information concerning new product features. User groups provide their members with programming and publications that support their use of the particular technology that unites their membership.

  • Web Resources. The World Wide Web provides several sites devoted to each major software application and publishing technology. Several of these provide useful tips, tricks and production shortcuts. The Web also offers FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), mailing lists, tutorials, on-line discussion groups, software demos, program updates and fixes, and more.

  • Books. Virtually every major, and most minor, software application is supported by a collection of books (printed or digital), which either replace or augment the documentation provided by the software publisher. Printed books often include accompanying CD-ROMs containing the content of the book (for easy searching), examples and projects from the book, and useful support software and application demos. Some books are supported by on-line Web resources, which update the book content, and/or provide relevant resources, such as links to related sites. In addition, the establishment of a World Wide Web site usually provides the means to communicate with the book’s author directly through e-mail.

  • Print Materials. Print-based publications and materials are diverse, and consist of books, magazines, newsletters, technical bulletins, technical reports and journals, and vendor literature and advertising.

  • Videos. Videotapes covering the use of popular programs are available from a wide variety of sources. Such tapes may consist of an overview, or an in-depth treatment of the steps necessary to utilize particular software applications in the most efficient and effective way. Videotapes have the advantage of being used either in a group, or individually—on the job or at home. In addition, the very nature of videotape provides the advantages of repeating confusing or complex sections, freezing a frame for close examination, and viewing the tape in short increments that fit the user’s schedule. Videotape training courses often include workbooks and computer disks for work-along learning.

  • CD/DVD-ROM Tutorials. Tutorials on CD/DVD -ROM provide the user with a controllable environment in which to watch how each feature (or most features) of a particular software application work. The benefit of such a delivery system is that users can have the actual software application open, and try each feature as it is presented. Some tutorial programs provide exercises for the learner to do under the direction of the on-disc narrator. CD/DVD-ROM tutorials are a convenient way for busy workers to take in a significant amount of information in small units. In addition, the disc can be shared among users, and can be retained in the immediate environment as a training tool, and a reference.

  • Hybrid Training Materials. Print, video, digital, and hybrid training materials are available consisting of multimedia presentations, workbook exercises and projects, and vendor-graded tests and assignments.

  • Resident Training Expert. Depending on the size of the company, one or more people may have the responsibility for determining, planning, arranging, delivering, and evaluating training, whether delivered in-house or at an outside facility. The person or persons with the responsibility for directing the training may themselves be sufficiently competent technically to deliver the instruction, or, alternately, may arrange for others to do so.

  • Peer Training. Informal training sessions may occur on an “as needed” basis. This training, which may be as simple as showing a colleague how to do a particular operation, or answer a procedural question, is an ongoing part of all normal production environments.

  • Mentoring. Skilled users may be employed as mentors. These individuals may be co-workers, colleagues, supervisors and others in the immediate environment who take on an ongoing responsibility to nurture the skill development of others.

  • OJT. On-the-job training (OJT) may be provided by vendors who install new technology, or by colleagues who receive training off-site and bring the expertise back to share. Companies also contract with training providers to have customized training take place on-site. On-site training has the advantages of upgrading the skills of an entire in-house group at one time, in the environment where they work, on the equipment with which they are most familiar, and without employee travel expenses.

  • Vendor-sponsored Events. In advance of, or coincident with the release of a new software version, the publisher may sponsor public demonstrations at user groups, computer shows, or retail stores. Such events often provide for an interchange with those who have been directly involved in building the new software.

  • Vendor-sponsored Publications. There is a multitude of vendor-supplied publications in the form of software application tutorials, reference and training manuals, hardware installation and user guides, and even magazines. Some software publishers, such as Adobe Systems, work with traditional trade publishers to establish their own book imprint, i.e., the Adobe Press published by PeachPit Press.

  • Official Software Publisher Training. Certain software publishers, including Adobe Systems, provide certification to trainers around the world. A certified trainer has met the stringent technical and educational requirements necessary to qualify for the certification program, and has demonstrated an advanced level of knowledge regarding the particular software application in question.

  • Participation in Beta Testing. So-called “power users” may be invited to participate in a software beta testing program. Beta testers work with unfinished, unreleased software and test it with real-world jobs. Testers have both the advantage of seeing how the product develops, and having input into how features are implemented. Beta testers usually file regular reports and receive several beta versions during the course of the testing period. Some beta testers may be rewarded with discounts or complimentary copies of the released application. Some software companies now offer public beta copies through the World Wide Web in order to test their software under the largest possible number of situations.

The relatively short revision cycles of popular software programs requires users to take a proactive position regarding ongoing training. In most production situations it is imperative that users maintain their skills at the highest level, in order to best serve their customers, and to help their businesses remain competitive. It is likely that distance learning programs, offered by a variety of sources, will mature to the point where continuing education will not only become a lifelong endeavor, and a job requirement, but will be accessible from wherever the learner chooses to receive it.

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